Saturday, January 29, 2011

Assault With a Breadly-Weapon

My wife, Donna, loves to bake. She bakes cakes. She bakes cookies. She bakes pies ...She bakes all sorts of things. Most of all, she bakes all sorts of breads (we haven't bought bread from the store in years). 

Recently, she'd made a couple of baguettes from which to make garlic-bread to go with a pasta dinner she'd prepared. Normally, for just the two of us, we eat maybe half a baguette. The dogs normally get the other half chopped up in their next meal.

Normally, a batch of the baguette dough makes two loaves - one of which she bakes off, immediately, the other of which she wraps up and freezes. This time, however, she baked up both loaves. The second, unused loaf, she apparently lost track of, as I found it, a few days later, buried on one of the kitchen counters. Left to sit exposed to the air, it had hardened up quite a bit. I chose to alert her of my find by tapping her on the head with it. I don't think it would have been any more effective had it had "Louisville" branded into the side of it. She was not pleased, but I was rather amused by it.

Milestones of Aging

I dunno why, but, tonight, it suddenly occurred to me, "people born in 1990 will be legal to drink this year". It was a realization that made me feel old. It made me feel old, in part, because it means that, in just shy of one year, there will be kids in the US taking their first legal drinks who weren't even born, yet, when I took my first legal drink.

There's a lot of commonly recognized age milestones in life. For someone born in the US, those are typically things like:

  • Turning 16 and being allowed to drive (though, it seems that's getting delayed in some states)
  • Turning 18 and being allowed to vote, sign contracts, be tried as an adult (without special legal considerations)
  • Turning 21 and being allowed to drink
  • Turning 25 and being able to rent a car by yourself (and, in many cases starting on the downhill curve of auto insurance rates)
  • Turning 30 ...because you're now "over the hill"
  • Turning 55 and, at least according to AARP, joining the ranks of "senior citizens"
  • Turning whatever age you're eligible to start receiving Social Security
In addition to these, there are also other less well recognized milestones. These are the kinds of milestones that make you say, "fuck: I'm getting old".
  • The first time you open up a Playboy and realize, "I'm older than the Playmate of the Month".
  • Remembering sneaking your dad's porn mags when you were a kid looking for porn
  • When you get hit by a driver who wasn't even born when you first got your drivers license.
  • Looking around, at a concert or nightclub, and being astonished at the younger elements of the crowd being old enough to drink
  • Realizing that the T-shirt you're wearing is older than some of the adults in the room
  • Having the original versions of several of the T-shirt being hawked by Hot Topic (et. al.)
  • Watching a sporting event where the teams are wearing their "throwback" uniforms and remembering when those were the uniforms were current
  • Realizing that the "underground" music you love(d) is now twenty or more years old
  • Realizing that the band Tshirt some kid is wearing was from a band who's lead-singer (etc.) died before that kid was even born.
  • Realizing that so many of the things that are "retro-cool" were things you grew up with or came of age with.
  • When your first relative dies of natural causes
  • When your first parent dies of natural causes
  • When your first peer dies of natural causes
  • Realizing that you've been working for a living for nearly two decades ...and that you still have two (or more) decades yet left to work.
There's tons more. It seems I discover more and more of them each day. And, for better or worse, there's many I won't get to experience (e.g., unlike my mother, I'll never have the sobering realization of having a child who's 30, or 40 or has just reached retirement-age).

Friday, January 28, 2011

Maybe GV transcription would improve if they let us submit vmails with corrected transcriptions?

So, I use Google Voice as a call-direction and answering service. When calls go to voicemail, they get transcribed. Once transcribed, I get an email with the transcription and a link to the  recording of the call. Today, I got an email with the following transcription.
Hey Tom, It's Lauren. Mike. Share want to be there, call me. Sometimes Florida. I completely forgot. So I wasn't sure what that was about anyway, gimme a call back when you get a chance. X XX X:XX XX. Thanks. Bye. 
Now, if the above doesn't make a lot of sense, it's because it's only slightly close to the audio content of the message. Basically, it's close enough that I can sorta understand how it might be transcribed that way (I can only assume GV's transcription software doesn't have good lexical/contextual engines).

When you get the transcription, there's usually two little buttons at the end asking you to rate whether it was useful or not. If you select the "not" option, they ask if you're willing to submit it to help them improve their service. Oddly, there's not the option for you to submit your own transcription. So, if you do submit it, it's completely a matter of faith that it will be constructively used - that, if someone else actually does listen to it, they'll hear it the same way you did.

Ugh: not a perfect process.

I Smell Like a Coffee Shop in Autumn

During hockey season, my wife and I go up to Philadelphia about twice a month to catch Flyers games. Each trip is sort of a ritual for us. We drive up early so that we can make several stops while in Philadelphia - some combination of stops: to get a cheesesteak (of the Geno's/Pat's/Jim's troika, I prefer Jim's); to stop at the Italian market for meats or kitchen appliances; to get gelato; to get pastries; or, to get soaps.

When we get soaps, it's from Duross and Langel. I usually like to get mint or citrus soaps. However, I also sometimes pick up some random "flavor". Apparently, on the last visit, I must have picked up a bar of pumpkin-spice soap. Now, I don't specifically remember having bought this pumpkin-spice soap. Having used it, this morning, I now feel like Starbucks smells in October. It's not horrible, just unsettling.

Turn of Fortune

Wednesday night, the DC area received a sudden snow of 5". This snowfall happened right at rush hour, paralyzing the area. My 20mi commute, which, most evenings, takes about 35 minutes, instead, took over 335 minutes. And, when I came home, I came home to a dark house - the snow-covered trees having taken down the lines on my block and my electricity with it.

The power was off all that evening, the next day and into this evening. I didn't want to spend another night at home, in the cold and dark. I wasn't sleepy, so I didn't want to pack it in, early. So, what to do? Donna and I decided to get out of the house and see a movie. We left the cold, dark house to go see Black Swan.

When we returned, we came back to a warm, lit house. The power had been restored in our absence. The heater had kicked on and warmed the house. Every light attached to a turned on switch was lit.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Infinitely Re-Watchable Movies

There are many great movies out there and there are many, many awful movies out there. However, it seems that, in terms of ability to be watched, over and over, without becoming tired of it, a movie has to have some other quality to it that usually puts it closer to the awful end of the spectrum than the great end of the spectrum.

One of the earliest movies I recall attaining that status of infinitely repeatably-watchable was The Princess Bride. It was just one of those movies you could pop in the VCR (or stumble upon while flipping through the TV channels) and enjoyable watch it, no matter how many times you'd seen it before or at what part of the movie you started watching it. It's a pretty good movie, but it would probably never be considered a "great movie" (no one's ever gonna lump it in the same category as The Godfather).

The next movie I found that fell into this "infinitely repeatably-watchable" category is the movie The Fifth Element. It most definitely is not a great movie. Its plot and story are absurd. Its characters are barely two-dimensional, let alone having a quality that approaches "depth" - which, given the cast, is probably to be expected. The special effects are merely 'ok'. In sum, there's little about the movie that makes it "stand out". Overall, the movie is almost a pure style-piece. However, at the end of the day, it's the kind of movie that makes no pretensions about what it is, nor does it meander from trying to be one kind of movie or another. It's almost fascinating in just how "empty" it is. I don't know what it is that does it, but it's the kind of movie I can sit down and watch, over and over, and I can do so, no matter my mood or whether I've watched from the beginning or some mid-point.

Reserved Terms?

It seems that, somewhere along the lines of my cultural acclimation, I have come to associate certain expectations with the term "custom". And, while I realize, at a rational level, that "custom" is a fairly generic term, I can't help but think of the various TV shows centered on "custom choppers", "custom hotrods" and the like.

Today, I got a sandwich from the Wholefoods sandwich counter. I got one of their daily specials. However, Wholefoods frequently uses red onions, which I have an allergy to, on their sandwiches. Indeed, such was the case for the specialty sandwich I wanted to order today. Thus, I asked the sandwich-maker to substitute raw white onions for the grilled red onions that are part of the sandwich's normal recipe. Now, I don't know whether it was this substitution that warranted it or that it was a daily special, but, the price label on my sandwich's bag said, "custom sandwich". Seeing that label almost immediately prompted me to wonder if I should expect the sandwich in the bag to have some kind of flame paintjob or ridiculous amounts of chrome.

Oooo! Sparkly

With NewDawg, when there's arguments, there's now two sets of scary white teeth flashing and clicking: