I Join The Illuminati

“Wow, it’s so great you guys finally let me in.”

“Your qualifications were…adequate.”
“Yeah. Well. You know what the unwashed masses call a guy who just barely gets in to the Illuminati?”
“Nothing, because those poor bastards have no idea who we are! HA!”
“OK. so, this is your desk over here.”
“A desk? I get a desk? I figured there’d be, like a banquet table or maybe a grotto…”
“There are, but you have to start somewhere.”
“And that somewhere is a desk?”
“That somewhere is Help Desk.”
[some time later]
“Hello, Illuminati Help Desk. How may I help you control the world today?”
“You want to devalue a currency?”
“Oh, the yen! The Chinese yen, even? Very advanced. Are you upgraded to the current ver–”
“Very good. OK, go to Actions menu, Economic sub-menu, Currency sub-sub-menu, and click Fluctuation. That should bring up the Monetary Shenanigans dialog.”
“Now, from there, you –”
“What do you mean you don’t have that menu?”
“You’re using the latest version of Illuminati Pro World Conquest Special Edition?”
“You think so? OK, do me a favor: Click on Windows+O. That should take you right to the Overthrow window.”
“You what?”
“You don’t have a Windows key? What kind of keybo-”
“It’s an Apple key? Lady, you’ve got the wrong number. You need to call the Tri-Lateral Commission Help Desk!”
“OK, yeah, I can give you the number.”

Happy Thanksgiving From The ‘Strom

Another movie review shortly: Fantastic Mr. Fox! What if Wes Anderson made a kids movie?

Also, some more home DVR stories.

And I made the ultimate sacrifice* and bought the next three Friday The 13th movies off of Ebay so I can continue my series. (*Sacrifice totaling $8.)

Also I’ve been notified I’m going not be an employee much longer. So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

Happy Thanksgiving To All!

Insomnia’s Invisible Casualties

I find things on the ‘net. I mean, sure, we all do. But I find stuff that makes people go “How the hell did you find that?” Weird combinations of words, mostly, or very specific combinations of words. But most people who I have any call to share my surfing habits with end up with links that they never would have expected to find.

I should make a career out it. “Links for those suffering from Internet ennui.”

Anyway, the last few nights I’ve had trouble sleeping. My numbers aren’t good and that means I’m supposed to rest, but if I’m doing a lot of resting, I end up unable to sleep. (I plan to remedy this, but it’s too late to handle this particular night.) And, hell, Thursday is the Halloween Haunt! So the late night awakeness isn’t so bad and it’ll wear me out so that I can sleep.

Tonight I stumbled upon a Cosmopolitan link. You remember Cosmo: It’s what women read in the ’70s to be “liberated”. It’s 80% sex on the cover, and 80% ads on the inside, if memory serves. They have a website. And the thing I stumbled upon is the description of a sexual position.

It’s not NSFW (SFW?), and I’ll leave it to the less delicate of you to discuss the merits of the sexual position discussed (link), but what caught my eye was this one line of copy: “Raise your legs to an eye-popping 90-degree angle…”

Now, my first thought was, “How the hell can a 90-degree angle be eye-popping? A 90-degree angle is a 90-degree angle!” I realize that these things are supposed to sound exciting, but do we really need to try to dress up basic geometry?

Maybe it’s eye-popping, I thought, because it’s exotic? But, really, there’s nothing very exotic about an “L” shape. It’s half a square, for crying out loud! It’s hard to imagine a less daring (and more non-committal) angle. Neither acute nor obtuse, neither this way nor that. Two line segments in search of a hypotenuse.

And then I wondered if it was eye-popping because it required limberness. I could imagine an extreme stretch causing my eyes to pop-out. Though usually it’s the muscles that start popping first.

But once again, 90 degrees is about as unchallenging an angle possible, stretch-wise. That’s basically called “sitting up straight”. If you can’t do it, consult your physician. Hardly seems very sexy for a sexy magazine that’s obsessed with sex.

Other things observed: They have a whole mess of these sex positions. By my calculations, given that each print issue of Cosmo offers 101 new positions, and they’ve been in print for about 40 years, they should be able to come up with about a billion positions in toto.

My favorite part about this feature, besides the bombast (which perhaps explains why some women are dissatisfied in the first place) is a little blurb after each description called “Why You’ll Love It”. They have that in the guy-version of Cosmo, too, and it says the same thing after every position: “Because it’s sex.” The girl version is way more complicated, including things like, “You can freely imagine George Clooney” or “You can balance your checkbook without being harassed.”

Sometimes I wonder if their heart’s really in it.

I poked around a bit more, feeling somewhat like I’d snuck in the ladies’ lavatory. There was an article about what “cuddling body language reveals”. I was surprised that there was only four options. And, it had not occurred to me until reading that one was supposed to pick one of the four forms of cuddling and stick with it, so as to be readable by body language experts. What I really didn’t get, looking at the slideshow, was why they used gay men to demonstrate things.

Then there was another article on the sex scenes they wanted to see in the new television season. Ten shows. I haven’t seen any of them.

Maybe I’m not the target demo?

This is the sort of rambling that occurs when one should be sleeping, but isn’t. My blog is one of insomnia’s invisible casualties. And if you’ve read this far, so are you.

Odds and Ends

From around the Intarwebs:

Ed Driscoll has dug up an old review of Michael Moore’s movie Roger and Me. I found it interesting because she exactly describes what took me years to figure out. Blatant lies notwithstanding, the key quote is:

It does something that is humanly very offensive: Roger & Me uses its leftism as a superior attitude. Members of the audience can laugh at ordinary working people and still feel that they’re taking a politically correct position [242-245].

Yeah. And doesn’t that seem to be common these days from the left? Disagree and you’re a rube, worthy of contemptuous mockery.

Freeman Hunt links to a thorough take-down of the Penn and Teller “Vatican” show that I found so appalling. Seems they were more than a little factually challenged. Confirmation bias is the enemy people: Take a chainsaw to them hobby horses.

This Doctor Zero guy at HotAir is pretty dang good. Here he’s talking about confidence, and talks about the way the government bumbling through the private sector tends to undermine it. These talks of health care nationalization—well, not so much the talks as the fierce drive that always seems on the verge of achieving it—undermine the medical sector. I suspect we’ll see some shortages even if it doesn’t pass. (If it does, shortages are a certainty.)

My old pal Nick Hodges re-tweeted Jeff Atwood (of Coding Horror) about the apparent increasing effectiveness of placebos. I tend to be cynical about this stuff and just assume the pharmaceutical companies were lying about the effectiveness of anti-depressants.

Chuck B. (back40feet on Twitter) tweeted about this cool book, The Math Book: From Pythagoras to the 57th Dimension. Total nerd moment here.

Finally, I’ve been sitting on this post from “Cloven, Not Crested,” a blog I occasionally read, entitled “Are Women Unhappier?” I suspect that, on the whole, they are (as I suspect men are, on the whole), but a segment is probably far happier than they ever would have been. But I haven’t had the time to do the topic justice.

Check ‘em out!

I Bought A Used Car Off Of Craig’s List

The above phrase strikes me as emblematic of the Internet age. Buying a used car is bad enough. Buying one off the Internet? Buying one off of Craig’s List?

What am I? Stupid?

I did, in fact, get ripped off. Or, more accurately, the guy who sold me the car intended to rip me off. Did he succeed? Interesting question. The car in question is a ‘91 Geo Metro convertible, which had 92,000 miles on it. I paid $940. It ran well enough, but it needs some cosmetic repairs. (Both “needs” and “some” should be regarded as a casual use of English.)

I was careful. The guy did a vigorous test drive. He put the top up and down. I had him take it to my mechanic. The guy fed me a lot of lines, including about how good the gas mileage was. I didn’t take those too seriously. (I ended up being a bit disappointed anyway, as it only gets 27mpg. It should get mid-’30s at least.)

My mechanic checked out the engine the next day and said the only thing that looked potentially bad was an excess of transmission fluid. I figured that was a calculated risk and told the guy’s friend—who had been sent to close the deal—that I would still take the car, but for less money (to $940 from $1,000).

Later, I remembered that the guy had told me that he had overfilled the transmission, and e-mailed him to tell him I wanted to give him the $60 (and also some pants left in the back seat) but never heard back from him.

I soon found out why. I had noted the tags on the back of the car were up-to-date and didn’t think anything else about the registration. When I took it to the DMV to get the registration in my name, it turned out the car had not been registered for four years. Far from a standard-issue used-car lie, my Craig’s List pal actually lifted the tags off a properly registered car. (Even my mechanic was surprised by that one.)

Now, it’s not my intention here to draw a parallel with the socialization of medicine, which I understand is causing something of a ruckus these days, but I’ve always been impressed by the degree to which governments show their lack of concern for anything other than collecting their money.

Like, I got hit hardest with taxes when I was self-employed and starving. There was no recourse, no concern, no need to justify the government’s desire to see me work for someone else. You can see it in public schools, from the lowliest Head Start program to the biggest University: The System Just Doesn’t Care. Even if you find individuals who do care, the rules are the rules (except when you’re “important” or some bureaucrat wants to make your life hell).

Even now I’m wrestling with a government-based health payment issue, where the sliding scale is free-$50-$800 for a 30 minute consult. I can’t get a single breakdown for the $800; that’s simply the arbitrary price It Has Been Decided I Should Pay.

Anyhoo. Needless to say, the DMV—which, by the way, is quite efficient if you call ahead and make an appointment—does not care that I was swindled. They do not care to find the malefactors who operated this vehicle for four years. No, they simply insist that I pay all the past due registration fees, along with any late penalties or whatnot they decide to levy.

Back fees? $441.14, bringing my total cost to $1,381.14. That kind of hurt, considering it was Christmas.

That wasn’t all. The guy had tweaked the engine in such a way that it had a lot more oomph than you might expect out of a 3-cylinder engine, and the upshot was that when it was cold—which, of course, I never saw before buying—it would stall.

This one drove me—and my mechanic—nuts. It wasn’t just “it’s cold, it won’t start”. It would start perfectly and then as you drove, it would get slower and slower, no matter how much you punched the accelerator. Though you could sometimes get it not to stall if you could start it, floor it, and then keep it floored. This was a challenge leaving the driveway.

My mechanic tried a few things and then stopped, figuring he didn’t know what was causing the problem, and figuring there was no point throwing a bunch of money at trying to figure it out. He told me to wait for it to get worse, and so I lived with it for a while.

And then, a few months later, the problem went away, never to return.

Weird, eh? Maybe evil spirits. Exorcised by my sunshine-y nature.

Anyway, all-in-all, the car cost me about $2,200. Maintenance has been cheap, just piddling things, maybe costing me another $300 over about two years.

Now, the reason I bought it in the first place is that, even though I don’t go into work much, when I do, I have to park in this really cramped underground lot. And when I took The Airplane—our massive mini-van—it was like trying to navigate the Queen Mary through the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Only with the other SUVs, kind of like trying to navigate Pirates simultaneously with the Lusitania, the Titanic and the QE2.

I hated it. I figured I had enough cash to buy a hunk-a-junk that: a) would be tiny, and b) wouldn’t matter what happened to it. I’m way more comfortable with small cars than I am with big ones. The Bumblebee (as my mechanic christened it) more than fits the bill. I can practically do doughnuts in the underground parking lot.

But the funny thing is that everyone loves this car. The convertible is probably the key thing. Hunk-o-junk though it be, the convertible-ness gives it a certain cachet. The kids, as you might imagine, love it.

And though it needs a bunch of body work, it constantly draws favorable comments. Well, the first one I got was, “HEY!!!” from some guy at a stoplight who had just followed me off the freeway. When I turned, he said, “I have to take your picture! You’re so funny-looking!” I’m probably on some jerk’s blog or Facebook page right now.

I can’t really argue with him. With the hat and sunglasses and—well, you’d have to see a picture to understand, and that ain’t happening—but let’s say I wouldn’t disagree.

Over the past two years, I’ve gotten a dozen comments on this car. Some people telling me they have one just like it, others saying they used to, some inquiring as to gas mileage, even offering to buy it.

I’ve put about 10,000 miles on the car. And will probably have about 12,000 on it by the two year mark, which means that each mile will have cost me less than 20 cents a mile, factoring in the base price and extraordinary costs. (The insurance is ridiculously small and lowers the insurance on my other car, for reasons I don’t understand.)

When you think about it in those terms, The Airplane will need to have over 60,000 miles on it to catch up. And it was cheap, too. A modest $30,000 car—hardly an extravagance these days—would need to be run for 150,000 miles to catch up with that.

And that’s assuming The Bumblebee falls apart at the 12,000 mark, which I suspect it won’t. I think I’ll be able to get 50,000 miles out of it without taking any heroic measures.

The only downside, really, is that we’ve become sort of attached to it. I’m inclined to fix it up a bit. I actually think, despite the guy’s attempt to rip us off, we got a great deal.

But the kids hate it when I say, “Buddha says, ‘All life is suffering. The origin of suffering is attachment.’” They have some choice words to say about the Buddha.

But it’s still spectacular driving down the Pacific Coast Highway at sunset in a convertible.

Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream

I don’t generally dream. (See footnotes.) Last week, though, I had a strange dream where I went to buy a package of Hostess cupcakes from a vending machine in one of those big banks of machines. After having some difficulty putting in my money, I realized there was already credit on the machine, so I got myself some free ones.

Then I noticed that all the machines were just giving out their wares and I methodically started emptying the machines out, carrying so much junk food that I was dropping it.

And, as is always the case with my transgressive dreams, I felt guilty.

  • I don’t like most junk food, including Hostess cupcakes.
  • I can’t eat stuff like that right now anyway.
  • I was stealing.
  • And I was stealing cheap things.

I mean, like my Pappy always used to say, it’s one thing to be bought, it’s another thing to be bought cheaply. (He always talked about that in terms of people stealing office supplies.) And finally, perhaps worst of all:

  • I knew I was dreaming.

When I was about five or six, I had a nightmare, and I went–as children do–into my parents’ bedroom. They were still awake and my father was rather annoyed. When I told him it scared me, he scowled and told me it was my dream, so I was in charge, and stop wasting his time with such nonsense.

This, perhaps surprisingly, was effective. (At least with me. I’ve never been able to sell my kids on it.) And the upshot is that when I do dream, I’m always aware that I’m dreaming. I’ve never had any kind of extended nightmare since, because I’m aware that I’m in charge of what happens. This eliminates any sense of fear. (I did have a night terror once, though. That was amazing.)

The opposite side, though, is that I also always carry whatever moral baggage I have into my dreams: So I can’t engage in any of the wanton behaviors that we’re generally prohibited from engaging in in day-to-day life. So, not only could I not steal in my dream, I couldn’t even bring myself to eat any of the junk food. Which is a shame, because I could’ve enjoyed dreaming of eating it, even if the reality would’ve been disappointing. I even had a pretty good mental justification worked out, since I’ve been robbed by so many vending machines over the years, I figured this was the cosmic karmic scales finally balancing.

But I shut the whole thing down when I found myself trying to figure out how much money I should leave to compensate the vendors.

Sad, really.

This is part of the reason I don’t dream: no percentage in it for me.

Footnote: And for those of you pimping the idea that everyone dreams, I say prove it. I don’t deny that I go into REM sleep, of course, but I am unconvinced that that necessitates having a dream. The whole “you dream, but you don’t remember it” strikes me as unfalsifiable.

My Preoccupation…

You guys have left some great comments, much appreciated. I hope to address them in a bit when I catch up on things.

Unlike some quitters, though, I’m not going to be running away to worship God. (He pretty much told me he needs me on the front lines. I think I’m supposed to be fodder.)

It’s crunch time, diet-wise for The Boy. The doctor has reduced his meat intake dramatically, so he has little choice but to eat veggies or starve. (And starving’s not an option.) I’m showing my solidarity here, so I’m also downing the rabbit chow.

I’ll have a review of I Love You, Man soon. (Executive summary: Romantic comedy where the principles are straight males. Surprisingly charming and female friendly.)

Also, the refrigerator broke, distilling water is more complicated than it seems, the pilot light on the water heater keeps going out, and (on the positive side) I’ve apparently won Darcy.

No, don’t tell me it was April Fool’s Day. I don’t wanna know.

Random Thought

As I (and the rest of the world) eagerly await the arrival of its newest champion of Freedom, I noticed this list tweeted by Mary Katherine Ham.

And I wondered, is Man the only mammal that enjoys bathing?

But then I remembered the elephants. They always seem to have a good time with it. Hippos, too.

It’s the hairy mammals that don’t like to bathe (you know, like Trooper York).

Keep watching the skies for Freeman Hunt’s announcement!