Mind Candy

First off, I’ll admit something that I’m not necessarily proud of: I watch Smallville and enjoy it. I watch it in batches. We don’t have cable, and our reception at the old place was terrible; we only got in Fox. We get a few more channels now, but it requires effort, and I don’t really have time to watch any TV anyway.

Except that every once in a while, a coworker of mine loans me a VHS tape chock full of Smallville episodes. Recently he gave me one with 8 episodes. I know it’s a stupid show with poor dialog, but I enjoy seeing how they’re retelling the story of Superman. Some of it is fairly clever.

My point in admitting this is because a part of an episode we watched last night irked me. Consider this exchange:

Lex has gone into the IT lab of luthorcorp, and meets a sexy IT woman (she’s actually not an actual employee and has broken in, but that’s not germaine)

Lex: I’m trying to do some work, and my program keeps crashing.
woman: Hmm… It sounds like a virus.
Lex: That’s what I thought.
woman: Here. (handing him an unlabeled CD) This gets rid of viruses.

Is that not just the most generic, ridiculous dialog you’ve ever heard? I mean, aside from Star Trek: Next Generation, where every problem was solved with tachyon pulses?

It really irks me for no good reason when movies and tv shows don’t even try for verisimilitude concerning technology. I’ll bet there’s a website out there that tracks the egregious misrepresentation of technology in fictional media. I’m going to find it.

WOTD tail wags the LJ Dog

I’m a heterodox libertarian in the sense that I like firestations.

And public police. Water pipes, roads… I love public sector infrastructure.

I kind of explain it away by saying I’m for Large Scale Libertarianism, Small Scale Socialism.

On the other hand, wouldn’t it be cool if there were a private highway that was equivalent to the autobahn? Pay your toll, drive as fast as you like. I don’t know if I’d ever drive on it (65-70mph is just fine for me), but it would be comforting to know it was out there should I want to.

The Green Party is certainly a nice alternative. They seem to have a lot of the same social goals as libertarians (specifically abolishment of consensual or victimless crimes). Their heart is definitely in the right place.

I just worry that government organizations are inherently problematic, prone to corruption and inefficiency. Private charities and not-for-profits seem to be better at getting things done. At a not-for-profit, you find passionate people willing to work for less-than-corporate wages to accomplish a task. They’re willing to reuse paperclips, for goodness sakes.

“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

yeah, yeah… but could you be more specific on HOW?

Books – Stolen from StochasticGirl

books
College Board’s 101 Greatest Works of Literature:

Bold those you have read.
Italicize those you want to read.
Underline those you started, but haven’t actually finished yet.
* indicates personal favorites.
+indicates having seen on stage

Beowulf (a translation)
Achebe, Chinua – Things Fall Apart
Agee, James – A Death in the Family
Austen, Jane – Pride and Prejudice
Baldwin, James – Go Tell It on the Mountain
Beckett, Samuel – Waiting for Godot
Bellow, Saul – The Adventures of Augie March
Brontë, Charlotte – Jane Eyre
Brontë, Emily – Wuthering Heights
Camus, Albert – The Stranger
Cather, Willa – Death Comes for the Archbishop
Chaucer, Geoffrey – The Canterbury Tales
Chekhov, Anton – The Cherry Orchard
Chopin, Kate – The Awakening
Conrad, Joseph – Heart of Darkness
Cooper, James Fenimore – The Last of the Mohicans
Crane, Stephen – The Red Badge of Courage
Dante – Inferno
de Cervantes, Miguel – Don Quixote
Defoe, Daniel – Robinson Crusoe
Dickens, Charles – A Tale of Two Cities
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor – Crime and Punishment
Douglass, Frederick – Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Dreiser, Theodore – An American Tragedy
Dumas, Alexandre – The Three Musketeers
Eliot, George – The Mill on the Floss
Ellison, Ralph – Invisible Man
Emerson, Ralph Waldo – Selected Essays
Faulkner, William – As I Lay Dying
Faulkner, William – The Sound and the Fury
Fielding, Henry – Tom Jones
Fitzgerald, F. Scott – The Great Gatsby
Flaubert, Gustave – Madame Bovary
Ford, Ford Madox – The Good Soldier
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von – Faust
Golding, William – Lord of the Flies
Hardy, Thomas – Tess of the d’Urbervilles
Hawthorne, Nathaniel – The Scarlet Letter
Heller, Joseph – Catch-22****
Hemingway, Ernest – A Farewell to Arms
Homer – The Iliad
Homer – The Odyssey

Hugo, Victor – The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Hurston, Zora Neale – Their Eyes Were Watching God
Huxley, Aldous – Brave New World*
Ibsen, Henrik – A Doll’s House
James, Henry – The Portrait of a Lady
James, Henry – The Turn of the Screw
Joyce, James – A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Kafka, Franz – The Metamorphosis
Kingston, Maxine Hong – The Woman Warrior
Lee, Harper – To Kill a Mockingbird********
Lewis, Sinclair – Babbitt
London, Jack – The Call of the Wild
Mann, Thomas – The Magic Mountain
Marquez, Gabriel García – One Hundred Years of Solitude
Melville, Herman – Bartleby the Scrivener
Melville, Herman – Moby Dick
Miller, Arthur – The Crucible*
Morrison, Toni – Beloved
O’Connor, Flannery – A Good Man is Hard to Find
O’Neill, Eugene – Long Day’s Journey into Night
Orwell, George – Animal Farm
Pasternak, Boris – Doctor Zhivago
Plath, Sylvia – The Bell Jar
Poe, Edgar Allan – Selected Tales
Proust, Marcel – Swann’s Way
Pynchon, Thomas – The Crying of Lot 49
Remarque, Erich Maria – All Quiet on the Western Front
Rostand, Edmond – Cyrano de Bergerac
Roth, Henry – Call It Sleep
Salinger, J.D. – The Catcher in the Rye
Shakespeare, William – Hamlet+
Shakespeare, William – Macbeth
Shakespeare, William – A Midsummer Night’s Dream+
Shakespeare, William – Romeo and Juliet+

Shaw, George Bernard – Pygmalion
Shelley, Mary – Frankenstein
Silko, Leslie Marmon – Ceremony
Solzhenitsyn, Alexander – One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
Sophocles – Antigone
Sophocles – Oedipus Rex
Steinbeck, John – The Grapes of Wrath
Stevenson, Robert Louis – Treasure Island
Stowe, Harriet Beecher – Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Swift, Jonathan – Gulliver’s Travels*
Thackeray, William – Vanity Fair
Thoreau, Henry David – Walden
Tolstoy, Leo – War and Peace
Turgenev, Ivan – Fathers and Sons
Twain, Mark – The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Voltaire – Candide
Vonnegut, Kurt Jr. – Harrison Bergeron
Walker, Alice – The Color Purple
Wharton, Edith – The House of Mirth
Welty, Eudora – Collected Stories
Whitman, Walt – Leaves of Grass
Wilde, Oscar – The Picture of Dorian Gray
Williams, Tennessee – The Glass Menagerie+
Woolf, Virginia – To the Lighthouse
Wright, Richard – Native Son

I’m actually surprised at the number of these that I’ve read. I don’t consider myself a connoisseur of “great” literature.

Unfortunately, there isn’t as much time these days for me to lay supine on the couch for hours at a stretch and plough through a good book. I grab my reading opportunities a half hour at a time, at lunch or before bed. I guess that’s why it took me 4 months to complete Quicksilver.

deWordization

As I read the “word of the day” entry for today (lucubration), I was ruminating on the fact that my vocabulary has been shrinking at a distressing rate since high school. A while back, when I was unpacking at the new house, I came across an old high school essay and noticed that I no longer knew the meanings of every fourth word I wrote back then, seemingly with ease.

My best guess is that while I read about the same amount now, I write considerably less than I did back then. The knowin’ is in the doin’.

So, my objective is to work the “word of the day” into a daily journal entry from now on.

The problem is, since it is daylight outside (though overcast), I cannot consider this entry a lucubration. So I have no way to work that word in. Oh, well.

Wait! I did it! Awesome.

Torontoin’ Reprised

Just to bookend the passport story, it should be noted that no one made any comments about my passport on the way back in. When I got to the customs person, I dropped the passport on his counter and said “It’s been washed” before he could do the dead fish routine. He just laughed, stamped my customs form and said “welcome back!”

So, ain’t nothin’ all bad. Not even customs.

Baroque Action Sequence

I’m sadly nearing the end of reading Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver (The Baroque Cycle, Vol. 1). It makes me somewhat sad to near the end of a great book, but I am heartened by the fact that there are two more volumes to come, and I saw The Confusion (The Baroque Cycle, Vol. 2) in a bookstore display window in the airport last night.

While Cyptonomicon still tops the list of my all-time favorite books, Quicksilver is humbling in its breathtaking richness of detail, history and compelling storyline and characters. Every so often I have to set the book down and marvel at the amount of research that must have gone into this rather large tome.

I wonder if it is harder to create an entire world filled with rich history (say, The Lord of the Rings) or to meticulously research the real world and weave a fascinating story into it.

It is not so very often that I am reading an action sequence in a book and I am actually overcome with a rush of adrenaline, especially if I am sitting in a cramped airplane seat next to someone who is large enough to have justifiably purchased two seats, but didn’t. Such was the case when I read a sand-sailer action sequence. A sand-sailer (and I hadn’t heard of it) is basically a large skateboard with a sail on it, which is used on beaches. In the novel, William of Orange rides one every morning, and there’s a great sequence with horses, sand-sailers, pirates, muskets and stuff. Woo. I was thinking it would be worth making the book into a movie, if just for that sequence.

Woo.

Torontoin’

So I’m in Toronto.

I’m in a meeting room at our Toronto office. There are 12 guys, some from Atlanta, USA, some from Toronto, Canada, some from Reynosa, Mexico. Very NAFTA. We’re training each other on the various aspects of the product we’ll be releasing over the next few months.

For the first time, I had trouble going through customs. I used to carry my passport in my back pocket, but one time last year I left it in my jeans when I got home and it went through the wash. It wasn’t too bad, to my mind. The cover was gone and the pages were a bit wrinkled, but nothing was smudged. The picture is as bad as ever.

So when I showed it at the ticket counter, the agent held it up between two pinched fingers like it was a dead fish and said “was this… a passport at one time?” I said, yup, it’s been washed. He shook his head and gave me my ticket.

When I showed it to the person who checks your ID before the metal screeners, she held it up between two fingers like it was a dead fish and said “this is your ID?” I said, yup, it’s been washed. She shook her head and let me through.

When I got to Toronto, the customs agent held it up between two fingers like it was a dead fish and said “is this a passport?” I said yup, it’s been washed. He shook his head and directed me to immigrations.

Going to immigrations is the worst punishment they can dole out. Because it takes a long time. I was in line about a half an hour. And when I got to the agent, she held the passport up between two fingers like it was a dead fish and said “this… is not a passport.” I said, “Yup, it is. It’s been washed.” She looked me in the eye and said “This is an insult to the government that issued it. This is unacceptable.”

What I didn’t say was “my government is an insult to me, so we’re even.”

What I also didn’t say was “hey, at least it’s clean.”

The third thing I didn’t say is “bite me.”

Apparently, it WAS acceptable, because she let me into the country, after handing me a “tell us how we’re doing!” comment card.

I’m going to send the card in saying “Your agents let me in even though I was using a dead fish as ID.”