Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Something's Wrong Here....

At lunch today there was a veritable smorgasbord of possible choices in our employee cafeteria. Among the notables were sauteed chicken and mushrooms over rice; a tuna panini grilled to your liking; baked stuffed haddock with rice and fresh vegetables; parmesan pasta with chicken and broccoli...

There was also a delicious looking medley of meats and onions labeled simply as 'Danny's Sausage Fest.'


I kept looking for the hidden camera. I may go back and look again. If I don't find one, I may set one up.

By the way, I opted for the soup and salad.

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Smahtah Than Your Average Bear

"The Smart or Stoopid test is purely meant to be a fun quiz to see how your IQ rates alongside the average, based on the scores of other people who have taken the test. Naturally, only stupid people would take it as a true indicator of intelligence, and only intelligent people would take it as a true indicator of stupidity. Or something like that."

"Hey, don't blame me - that's what it says. But whatevah... I'm wicked smaht. Smahtah than you, anyway."

"Oh, you think so, badass? Care to make a small wager?"


"Spend a few minutes on this. Then pay up."


"Ah'right. Two outta three...."

My scores for the record:

Smart or stoopid: 26
World Map: 42

Although I'm not exactly sure what either of those mean...

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

I, For One, Welcome Our New Google Overlords

Came across this rather fascinating write-up on Google yesterday. It's long, full of speculation and discusses technology, but it's well written and the author certainly knows of what he types. His basic premise - which my summary won't do justice - is that Google, to the degree that it can and still be legal (which is quite a degree) is trying to control the Internet.

No, I don't mean control as in "big brother" where they essentially have free reign over all web pages everywhere, allowing them to censor, promote, and flat out rule with an iron fist (although that's always a potential drawback, I suppose.) Rather, although they'll always be one of any number of options for customers, their presence is/will be everywhere... which, come to think of it is exactly what we have now. This author's educated speculation takes it a step further, however.

Without poorly summarizing the entire article here, he offers forth the idea that Google is planning on taking over cable television and telephone services, and in doing so will position themselves to offer services in all areas that we might use the Internet for. They already control more network fiber (the wire which Internet signal runs over) than any other organization, yet they continue to acquire more. They have huge data centers (the computing brains of any organization that uses technology and the place where most of their servers are kept) in various places all over the country and are building still more larger ones. They have gone from a basic search engine to an entity that offers information goods and services too numerous to count. Basically, they've been growing at a ridiculous pace and show no signs of stopping.

Should we be worried? In some sense, yes, there's absolutely reason for concern. Monopolies suck, and while theoretically there are safeguards in place to prevent their existence, one could very much make the argument that those safeguards have failed. It seems that there are fewer choices out there for consumers than there have ever been. Everything, everywhere, has become so homogeneous. While hanging out with my family over the holidays I asked them (specifically my parents) if they could ever remember a time when there were so many of these "superstore" type place like Best Buy and Wal*Mart? Or, was I just more sensitive to this fact because I've lived in Jamaica Plain for the past four years (perhaps the most liberal section of Boston (and that's saying something) where the residents are never without something to protest - huge corporate conglomerations being a favorite target) and was therefore overly cynical and with cloudy judgment? No, they agreed. Never while they were growing up was there such a sense of staleness. Culture everywhere has lost a lot of its flavor. Sure, places you go on vacation might have all the comforts of home... but that's because they're exactly like home.

But here's the thing with Google. If, in fact, they're taking over the Internet, they're doing a good job with it. They take services that we all use, successfully simplify them in a manner that only they can, and actually use common sense to improve the product. I can't deny that I've become a convert. We all know about their search capabilities, which are second to none. However, I now use their Gmail service almost exclusively because it offers huge storage, is incredibly intuitive and easy to use, and has the best spam filters of any web based email I've ever seen (they literally catch 99.9% of the spam I get - which is significant - and never have I had a legitimate email mistakenly end up in my spam folder.) Their maps service is not only easy, it's ridiculously accurate (at least with driving directions - something Mapquest can certainly not claim.) Hell, even the service I use to publish this blog, Blogger, is run by them (although, to be fair, someone else created it first and Google simply bought it. They have since improved it tremendously, however, and made it such that anyone can start a blog if they want to, yet they also allow enough flexibility that the technically savvy can do what they like with it.) So yeah, I've swallowed the Kool-Aid - every last drop of it, in fact. I thought it tasted real good though and, last I checked, I'm still alive.

Look, I'm not saying they should be the only options out there. Competition needs to exist. But, competition existed before they came along too, and no one was offering a superior product. A lot of Google's success seems to come from innovation and attraction, as opposed to acquisition and forced use due to lack of other legitimate options, which is why I like them. And, although I think their recent maneuvers (which the article explains far better than I could) should definitely raise some red flags, I'm also willing to give them the benefit of the doubt - for now. Unlike others, I trust them not to screw it up.

(Note: I SWEAR I do not work for Google. I'd certainly like to - by all accounts they're a fantastic place to work - but no, I'm not an employee. No, I didn't receive any payoffs either.


Hey, stop it, you cynical bastard! You're the one who asked for a blog post!! Well, this is what you get! I'll make no apologies for my starry-eyed Google adoration... so, shoo.)

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Normal People Blog More

A couple of days ago, a good friend – with a completely straight face, mind you - asked me, “Hey, since you and Goof are courting like normal people these days, does this mean the two of you are gonna stop writing blog posts?”

Several things about his question amused me, most notably his use of the word ‘courting’ (a term my great-grandparents probably thought outdated); the idea that Miss Goofus and I were keeping blogs simply to woo one another (a wonderfully successful side benefit, I’ll admit, but not the reason for writing blog posts – at least not for me, and I’d guess not for Goof either); and the thought that we’re in a normal relationship (sure it’s normal - if you factor out the 2,000 miles between us and the fact that we only see each other every month and a half.)

Regardless (and most certainly NOT irregardless), his point was well taken, even if it was oddly worded. He might just as well have said, “You don’t write enough blog posts, kid.”

Now, this isn't another one of those “Sorry for the lack of posts" posts. Nor is it another "Goofus and Murky sittin' in a tree..." post. I'm tired of writing the former, then promising to write more and not backing it up. As for the latter... well, I was never one to sit in a tree and tell. But, for whatever reason, instead of feeling slightly ashamed at my friend's question, I simply wondered why it is I don't write more posts than I do. At the time, I didn't wonder very long. My infant like attention span only allows me to concentrate on topics for short periods of time before then forcing me to move on to something else - in this case, the excessively long nose hair of the gentleman standing a few feet away (we were in a semi-public area with lots of people around.) This, you would imagine, is part of the problem. You'd assume short attention spans and long blog posts don't go together very well, and you'd be right. But, to say that I have a short attention span doesn't do the issue justice. It's a cop out, and I know it.

"But wait" you say, "why are you even discussing this still? You've already admitted to forgetting about the whole thing." Fair enough, smartass, but as it happens I was reintroduced to the subject again today for a multitude of reasons:

1) It's been over a week since I last posted. I'm well aware of this, just as I'm well aware that the last sentence in my last post was, "Catch you later this week, groovemeisters." That was a fib, plain and simple. Guilt, it would seem, is not a feeling I'm immune too. No need to rub it in.

2) Goofus strikes again. This morning she forwarded me a nicely written piece by N.Y. Times columnist David Carr in which he writes at length about his own blog. In reading it, it becomes fairly obvious that despite all the work needed for it's upkeep he really enjoys writing it - as do I - and that he enjoys the fact that other people enjoy it - as do I. But there, the similarities end. In my response to Goof, I noted that I was somewhat jealous of Mr. Carr because he seems to posses two things I do not - a never ending supply of ideas and a desire to write blog entries at the expense of other tasks. I realize no one can help me with the idea part, and that ideas are all around me if I just stopped for a moment to look and blah, blah, blah... Perhaps that's true, but that still doesn't make them interesting to read. Or, perhaps that too is another cop out, because when you consider the 2nd quality - the desire to write blog posts above other tasks - I find that I have exactly the opposite. As I said before, I like writing posts (really, I do!) It's just that there are certain other things I like doing more. Video games? Check. An episode of 24, Alias or Top Chef? Screw the readers! They can wait another day! Football (the case recently - Go Patriots!)? Blog Schmog, you nitwits. Couple this with the things I ought to do (like go the gym, clean the bathroom, laundry, etc...) and you see what happens. Despite the desire to post, "things" get in the way. It's all a question of priorities and motivation, which leads me to...

3) An industrial psychologist with a brilliant mind and possibly too much time on his hands devised a mathematical equation to explain procrastination. Simply put: Desire to Complete Task (U) = Expectation of Success (E) x Value of Completion (V) / Immediacy of Task (I) x Personal Sensitivity to Delay (D), or U=ExV/IxD. Now, exactly how one quantifies these values is uncertain, but I'll try to apply this to my blog writing prowess (or lack thereof.) My desire to finish this blog post = the degree to which I think it's a well written post and your positive response to it (which by now is probably a negative integer) times the "feel good factor" for having finished it as well as the happiness that I'll feel in finally being able to post this damn thing and play Warcraft divided by the importance of having a blog that has some credibility (one which posts consistently, and well, in other words) times the pressure I feel for not having posted in over a week (larger number than you might think, but one which decreases exponentially the more you guys bitch about it.) Throw all that into the pot, mix it up, and you get... I don't know... 3. Sound about right to you? Good. Me too. After all, Three is a Magic Number, or so sayeth School House Rock and Blind Melon.

Honestly, I could analyze this all the way through until the next post and I still wouldn't be any closer to finding an answer. For now, all I know is that I enjoy writing here and will continue to do so. And, if I find I haven't written in a long time, I can always write about the fact that I haven't written in a long time and it still counts as writing. So there. I even have a list of ready made excuses (what a brilliant idea for a blog post that is. My favorite has to be 'I was busy shooting soccer teams.' Look for it in the near future.) Plus, there's something to this whole creative process, although damned if I know what it is. I can say with near certainty though, that it gets better with practice.

Is that a promise? No way, Jose. But for now, I'll just say that I'm glad to be courting normally.

Catch you later this week, groovemeisters.

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Cooking Calamaties

OK - holidays are over. Everybody back to work.

Err, yeah... the holidays were over a week ago - sorry for the delay. But, for me at least, they were very pleasant. All the family were around, and everyone pretty much behaved themselves. I was also lucky enough to receive a visit from Miss Goofus shortly after Christmas, and we rung in the New Year by doing some First Night things and watching VH1's 100 Greatest Songs from the 80's with friends. Since then, it's been a good deal of football watching, and finding reasons not to post.

But, even though she's made her way back to her native Tennessee, Miss Goofus is still very much here in spirit. In fact, she's the reason for my current dilemma (and subsequent post.) You see, I have her to thank for my rather recent reintroduction (and addiction) to reality television. Up until about a month ago I abhorred the genre, having watched the original season of Survivor before then dismissing everything to follow as copy cat television - even the following seasons of Survivor. And so it went for several years. But, during my last visit to New Orleans, Goof took a break from studying to watch Top Chef on Bravo (think Survivor but with cooking.) I, having nothing better to do, watched with her... and was immediately hooked.

But the show isn't the reason for my problem. The fact that it brought to light my lack of cooking prowess is. I suck at cooking. As I so often tell anyone who bothers to ask, my style consists generally of 1) Pour powder into water and 2) Stir briskly. Wolfgang Puck, I am not. But, as you might remember from last October (when I got all riled up by a cookie recipe I'd seen on Boston.com and then proceeded to try and bake them), the cooking bug got stirred up in me and I decided to start to learn how to cook - or at least make the attempt. I'm a wiz with Trader Joe's prepared foods (which are ASTONISHINGLY good by the way. Much better than your average supermarket TV dinners. Check out their Chicken Chimichangas in the Mexican section. A fantastic quick, cheap meal) but if something other than preheating and shoving the food in is involved, things tend to get messy.

Well, whatever. Messy is the new black, and I will endeavor to learn the basic elements of the craft of cooking. In fact, I've even bought a cookbook (written by one of the Top Chef judges who also happens to be one of the guys from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. What?!? There are good recipes in there! It's written for beginners! Let's just move on.) Problem is, I'm confused with even some of the most simple tasks. For example, one of the recipes calls for '10 fresh basil leaves, chopped.' Call me crazy, but how the hell do you chop a leaf? By their very thin nature, don't they lend themselves to difficult or impossible chopping? These are the things that bother me, and I'm enough of a perfectionist that it would bug me no end if I didn't have it down. Plus, there's all these other things like dice and slice and seed and grate, etc, etc...

So, I think a cooking class is in order. Thankfully, living in a major metropolitan area, there are options aplenty. However, I think I'm going to go the poor man's route which, as it turns out, is still pretty darned expensive. The Boston Center for Adult Education will teach me 'Basic Kitchen and Knife Skills' in a single three hour session this Tuesday for a whopping $87.00. I'll give you time to let your jaw drop...


Or if I want to wait until March (MARCH!!!) I can take a 'Cooking Basics' class which consists of two four hour sessions on the weekend for $125.00. That seems much more reasonable. I'll just have to wait for way longer than I want to. Curse them. Curse them all. Don't they now they're supposed to work around my schedule and budget? Still, I think I may just wait. 'Kitchen and Knife Skills' sound great, but I think my mother could teach me those too, and the only thing I'd have to do to repay her are the dishes after Sunday dinner.

In the meantime, I can at least give this cooking thing the old college try. I'll start out with appetizers and breakfast foods... maybe like corn dogs and cereal. Yeah. And, from there I can move on to oatmeal. Maybe some eggs. Who knows? Gimme a cutting board and a maple tree... I'll be chopping leaves in no time. Until then, if any of you have any advice on where to start, I'm all ears (of corn. Ha Ha... um... ha...)

Catch you later this week, groovemeisters.