Friday, March 27, 2009

Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea

I have a copy of this dvd but I'm doing a lot of overtime these days, so I can't watch it any time soon.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Flash Shape Tweens

Flash shape tweens are a lot like flying trapeze acts or dangerous stunts. The can be spectacular...
...but if something goes wrong they can be horrifying.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Dumb and Number

You'd think I'd be better at math. It's reliable and logical.
Math problem you don't ask you to determine what the author was "really" trying to say or worry about subtle themes, metaphors, allusions or motives. There's one answer.
My problem? It didn't help that I had poor clerical skills and the random access memory of a toaster. Worst of all:
Numbers look alike to me.

Single digits are recognizable, but strings of them are trouble. For example, 520, 502, 512 look like the same number. To complicate things, I strongly associate each digit with a color*:

Thus 520, 502 and 512 are pink all yellow. And easy to confuse.

This brought trouble through school. My 6th grade teacher told me she gave me a C in math when I "really deserved a D. " A standardized test later that year put my math skills at the 2nd grade level.
Then came college.
Like all freshmen, I took placement tests to see which math class was appropriate. Would I be smart enough to get into Math 004? Or would I be stuck in no-credit Math 003 (a.k.a. Dumbbell Math)?
I knew I was in trouble when an adviser wanted to discus the results test results with me. How dumb was I? I'd gotten almost everything wrong. I was too dumb for Dumbbell Math!
The adviser said I should hire a tutor to get my math up to speed. Then, maybe I'd be ready for Dumbbell Math. I don't remember the details, but the idea seemed like a bunch of trouble. Maybe I could do Dumbbell math, I thought, but why spend money on a class I won't get credits for? What if I signed up for Math 004...?
I signed up for Math 004. It wasn't slide rule stuff. Just word problems and maybe some algebra. Could I pull it off? Was I crazy to try?
I remember the final exam well. Most people finished much earlier than me. I sat in the near empty room, slowly bushwhacking though the test. If train A leaves at 5 am at 30 miles per hour... If Susie is twice Cathy's age but half of Billy's age... Blah blah blah...
"Only two kinds of people take so long," the professor told someone outside, "Those who do well and those who fail." Uh oh.

Guess who got a B+?!

*1 and 0 are colorless. The other colors aren't an exact match but you get the idea.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Carpet Beetles

Most houses have a few of them. They look like tiny ladybugs and their larvae look like tiny, pokey fuzzy caterpillars. Their mission: Eat your clothes and furniture.

I never get normal pests. No ants, no roaches, not even a crummy silverfish.
Instead I get destroy-your-stuff pests like mice and carpet beetles. Can termites be far behind?

Last March they moved in. In a day.
I came home from work to a dozen of them flying around. The last thing I needed was for them to turn my stuff into their food court. What if they laid eggs and had kids? Would they chew up my wardrobe? My bedding? The curtains? No trap 'n' release tactics were considered. This was war.
I sprinkled Borax* on the carpet. I sprayed the furniture (and the window screens) with pet-friendly** orange oil bug killer . The invaders succumbed.
This year I planned ahead. Borax was sprinkled, orange oil was sprayed. Would they return?
So far I've found a few, but they weren't flying around. Most have been dead with their feet in the air. Suckers!

*It kills bugs! It's less toxic than most insecticides (not that I recommend sprinkling it on your cornflakes!)
**I didn't want my harm my bird.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

How Do You Sleep?

I heard John Lennon's How do you sleep? on the radio and threw this sketch together.
It was written after the Beatles broke up. The song oozes with contempt for Paul McCartney.*
  • Those freaks was right when they said you was dead
  • The only thing you done was yesterday/And since you've gone you're just another day**
  • A pretty face may last a year or two/But pretty soon they'll see what you can do
  • The sound you make is Muzak to my ears

Don't get John Lennon mad at you.
As I said elsewhere, I kinda like this song. His "nicer" songs like Imagine sound preachy too me. I like Lennon best when his work has a hostile, wacko bite, like I am the Walrus or Glass Onion.

*According to Songfacts:
  • To be fair, McCartney had taken some shots at John in the album Ram
  • Later John claimed a lot of the contempt in the song was actually aimed at himself.
**Another Day was McCartney's first post-Beatles hit. It's Muzak to my ears too.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sine Wave Speech

Ever heard of Sine Wave Speech? It's where they take a clip of speech and distort it into a weird mess of mechanical squeaks.
Here's the strange part:
The distorted version doesn't sound like speech at all...
...until you hear the undistorted version. Then you can make out the words in the garbled sentence. It's weird!
Click "Play Garble" to hear the garbled sentence (you may need to boost the volume). Then click "Play Nice" to hear the ungarbled version. Then replay the Garble version to hear what you didn't hear before...

More examples (including the one I used) here.

p.s. I'm still working on my cartoon, this was just a quick diversion.
p.p.s. Yes, I know the "sound waves" on the screens aren't sine waves.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Land of Duh

I could really use an extra 20 or 30 I.Q. points.

Complicated written instructions grind my brain to a halt. When I bought my Hav-a-Hart mouse trap, the instructions made little sense. They may as well have said:
Take part you can't find A and put it [preposition that makes no sense in context] part you can't find B blah blah and then refer to something mentioned a few sentences ago that's already fallen out of your head blah blah...
I gave up on the instructions, played with the trap and figured out how it worked right away.

My latest trip to the Land of Duh was a "quick" Flash thing I wanted to throw together: There'd be two buttons, each triggering a sound and short animated clip. How hard could that be?
Two problems:
  • I was out of town and away from my reference books
  • The missing thirty I.Q. points
The Action Script baffled me. What the...? Where does...? How the...?
There was no way I could do this from scratch.
Thus this post instead of the "quick Flash thing I wanted to throw together."

Wednesday, March 04, 2009


Remember when you ordered a salad and and it came on a salad plate?
A salad used to be what you chose when you wanted something light and healthy.
Order one today and you'll get a pile of lettuce the size of your head,
topped with one or more of the following:
  • A shredded wheel of cheese
  • Two scoops of bacon.
  • A bazillion beans.
  • A pile of greasy, shredded (or ground) meat.
  • A slab of meat, often battered and deep fried.
  • Fried onions or tortilla chips.
  • Croutons the size of ice cubes (remember when they were smaller than sugar cubes?)
Plus it's oozing with dressing. Yep. Light 'n' healthy.
These things should be served in a trough. There's probably a day's worth of calories in them. Yet you'll still hear people say things like "I'm trying to lose weight, so I'll have the southern fried chicken biscuit 'n' gravy salad" or "I'm eating healthy so I had the taco salad with extra cheese."

p.s. I incorporated a famous (but unrelated) piece of artwork into the picture. Can you spot it?