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July, 2003
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redlight special

because ... well ... why the hell not ...?

it's a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it.

Thursday, July 31st


Like, Totally Tubular:

It's been a tough week all-around for tires. I've gone through no fewer than three innertubes on my bicycle (much to the entertainment of the squirrels, no doubt) and all of them were the new "self-sealing" slime-filled variety.

Near as I can tell, filling bicycle innertubes with green slime doesn't make them any more invulnerable than it does for evil aliens in low-budget horror movies and videogames. They still blow up just as easily, the only difference is that they spew foul-smelling sticky green slime on you when they do.

I can certainly understand why this is a highly desirable feature in low budget sci-fi/horror, but I'm drawing a blank when it comes to trying to develop an appreciation for getting foul-smelling slime spat on me while riding a bicycle. If that were what I'd really wanted to experience on the bike trails, I could have just gone and gotten a camel instead.

Those of you with extensive zoo experience are probably saying to yourselves right now, "you know, a camel is really more high-maintenance than a bicycle and, at least on the south side of the Denver metro area, even a budget-priced used camel is more expensive than an average bicycle."

And that's a very good point--but on the other hand, you don't have to change the innertubes on a camel nearly as frequently, at least if it has a reasonably well-behaved digestive system. So, there are trade-offs either way.

 ...even a budget-priced used camel is more expensive than an average bicycle... 

But, for the benefit of those of you with extensive zoo-related experience who were not paying enough attention earlier, I actually don't particularly like having foul-smelling slime spat on me (you'll note my deliberate use of the oft-neglected subjunctive case up above), so the whole issue is really quite irrelevant. So there! Those of you without extensive zoo-related experience are probably still saying, "a camel?" or perhaps, "hey, what's on TV tonight?"

Which brings us to this past weekend, which not only didn't involve any bike riding, but was also 100% certified camel-free and, in fact, involved no foul-smelling green slime of any kind. Just for a change of pace, we had a two-day stunt driving seminar with Greg Anderson. It'd be a lot easier if cars had brakes like bicycles where you can control the front and rear brakes independently, but we were using unmodified stock cars where that really wasn't an option.

That's probably a good thing, really. Despite the advantages of modified braking systems, you really should be able to do the usual, everyday stunts, car chases, etc., with whatever you've got to work with. The only way we had of independently controlling the front and rear brakes separately was through the judicious application of the emergency brake, which itself can be a challenge depending on where the controls are located and how many other things you're trying to control at the same time.

But unlike my week's biking, even two full days of controlled skids, spins, and simulated car chases didn't blow out a single tire or pop one off a rim. Best of all, nobody got sprayed with green slime, through we certainly had our share of "covered in dust and sunblock" time, depending on what kinds of surfaces we were doing the maneuvers on.

But today I've got non-"self-sealing" tubes on my bicycle, so we'll see how these hold up to an afternoon's riding. Even though I'm not opposed to getting a little sweaty and sticky at times, at least this way it won't involve nasty green goo from a bike tire.

Tuesday, July 22nd


We're gonna route around the block tonight:

After procrastinating for most of a week, I figured I'd get up at four this morning and patch the Cisco equipment out here (I prefer doing these things at relatively quiet moments) against the latest security vulnerability flavor-of-the-week. On the 17th, Cisco released this Cisco Security Advisory: Cisco IOS Interface Blocked by IPv4 Packet which has to be one of the more shocking revelations of late, considering that it affects almost every Cisco-manufactured router and switch out there, which is a honking huge proportion of the hardware that makes up the internet.

It looks to me like a sufficiently skilled and determined person with just a DSL connection could potentially do a decent job of shutting down an area of the internet the size of a country, at least for a few hours. With luck, however, that particular window of opportunity will be closing as everybody gets their equipment patched and, as far as I know, nobody's made any determined effort to shut down the internet through this particular exploit. As much as I'm amazed at the sheer amount of time and effort people will put into creating viruses and other destructive pursuits, I'm at least as amazed by all the things people of that particular bent don't do. The internet is a dangerous place...but it's not half as dangerous as it could be.

Nevertheless, if you have any vulnerable equipment (DSL routers aren't--it's just the gear that runs IOS that you have to worry about), you might not want to procrastinate too much longer yourself.

Monday, July 21st


Monday Morning Mysteries:

I've heard it claimed before that knowing about physics, mathematics, and the like takes all the wonder and mystery out of life. Mysteriously, I've only heard this from people who obviously don't know anything about basic physics, math, etc. It probably won't surprise you to hear this, but I don't agree. I try to maintain a reasonable familiarity with a lot of scientific disciplines, and I don't think it dispells the wonderment and mystery from life at all.

For example, I just went out and bought a bunch of socks. While that might not seem too mysterious by itself, when I looked more closely at them, I noticed that they came in a resealable zip-lock package. Why? I understand why this is a reasonable packaging technique for products like shredded cheese, but why go to the trouble of having a special freshness seal for your socks? Personally, I want my socks to have as little similarity to cheese as possible...and I absolutely refuse to store them in the refrigerator after opening. When unrefrigerated and/or unsealed socks are in danger of spoiling, something is seriously wrong with the universe.

 ...yearning to put them to some abnormal use... 

At least the manufacturer does believe in the quality of these particular articles of footwear--enough to include a money-back guarantee on the aforementioned resealable package: "If you are not satisfied with normal use of this product, return laundered product to [company address]." So I suppose that if I find the experience of putting these socks on my feet to be emotionally unsatisfying and instead find myself yearning to put them to some abnormal use--stretching one of them over my head or, much more likely, someone else's head--I can send it back, at least as long as I've laundered it first, removing any telltale traces or stains reflecting whatever abnormal use I'd been putting it to.

That's fair. It must be an interesting job to have to handle all the socks that get sent back by unsatisfied buyers...but not so interesting that I really want to know any more about it. Think I'll let that particular mystery of life remain undisturbed.

Thursday, July 17th


Reel Life:

The gang over at Colorado Reel sent me a copy of the show I was on today. I haven't watched it yet, but I'm sure I could stand some improvement on the talk show front. Public speaking is easy and is lots of fun, especially if it's in front of a well-packed audience; when you have people more sparsely arranged in a venue with lots of extra space, it's tougher and it usually takes more work to get the audience warmed up.

Whether it's a technical topic or just general rambling about movie stuff, having a whole stage for your stage is a lot of fun and you can get very physical in your presentation, which I think helps keep people interested. Talk shows (and, for that matter, panel discussions) are physically a lot more limited and, of course, you have to time all your remarks and tangents to fit in with the commercial breaks and anything else on the schedule.

But it's another chance to play my own critic and figure out how I should improve...or, at the very least, try to prioritize some of the more obvious areas that I should be working on....

Yesterday was also the 21st anniversary party for the Colorado Film and Video Association. The turnout was pretty good and it was a good event for the ego, too. It felt like every few minutes or every ten feet (whichever came first), somebody had a movie role they thought I'd be perfect for.

It'd be even better if these were movies that already had funding, but you never know what'll come through sooner or later. I don't mind doing trailers and promo stuff on spec, either, and so far it looks like I'll be doing at least two promotional shoots this fall. (That's where you don't have the money to make the actual movie, but you go ahead and shoot a trailer which you shop around to various potential investors.)

If nothing else, it's generally a good time all-around, if often even less organized than a real film shoot. (If you can imagine that such a thing could be possible.)

Sunday, July 13th


But it's a dry heat:

Denver's 100-degree heat today set the new record for the highest recorded temperature on this date, though that pales next to the mercury's ascent to 109 down in Pueblo (an all-time record). Everybody their own way of dealing with the heat, but my favorite is to go out biking. It's got two major advantages: 1) I really enjoy biking in 100-degree heat, and 2) nobody else does.

I don't mean to sound antisocial, but I don't usually go out biking because I'm hoping to run into a bunch of people. You can get hurt doing that, for one thing. So, one of the benefits of the high temperatures is that I pretty much get the bike trails to myself.

Though there are still obstacles out there besides people. Snakes, for example, seem to like coming out in the hot weather and finding someplace inconvenient to stretch out in. Today there was even a snake in one of the public restrooms along the trail, and I figured I'd try to persuade it to go elsewhere before anyone mistook it for a drain snake and it met with some terrible plumbing-related fate.

Snakes, however, are not much like people. If you prod a typical person repeatedly with something the proportional size of a school bus--even the kind of person who might be hanging around a public restroom--that person would probably run away without a whole lot of pondering and internal debate, at least as far as the drinking fountain.

 "pleasepleasePLEASEplease run over my head. just this once" 

Not so with snakes. You can prod a snake with something much, much larger than it is and it'll react with, "huh? what was that?"--except without the words. You can poke it another twenty or thirty times and it'll still react exactly the same way and never notice a pattern or respond in a more novel and/or constructive fashion. If snakes had hands, I'm sure they'd just scratch their heads and look at you funny, but since they don't, they have to be satisfied with looking at you funny. Eventually, though, it is possible to get a snake to move out of the bathroom or off the bike trail before someone comes along who mistakes it for a small, mobile speedbump.

Mammals, at least, display more behavioral variety out on the trails. They might not be any smarter in their reactions, but at least they're faster. Dogs, for example, are nature's masochists. If they see you coming down the bike trail, they'll run right out in front of you, looking straight at you, and doing their doggie-best to beg you, "pleasepleasePLEASEplease run over my head. just this once. come on, you can do it. just drive over my head. plllleeeeeease!" I guess if you have heavy sado-clyclo-bestialist leanings, this could be a major turn-on, but I'm not into pushy doggie-bottoms.

Rabbits, on the other hand, are just plain tired of life and want to get it all over with as quickly as possible. They'll crouch on the side of the trail and, when you get really close, they'll jump out and try to scoot under your wheels. They don't bother making eye contact or begging you to hit them the way dogs do. Rabbits don't want to get to know you or involve you in any twisted S&M relationships; to them you're just a tool they can use to do themselves in, shuffle off this mortal coil, run down the curtain, and join the choir invisible; that sort of stuff.

Squirrels jump in front of you just for kicks. They aren't trying to off themselves, they're going through that phase when they're convinced that they're indestructable. Life is just not exciting enough for a typical young squirrel: jumping off trees has lost its thrill and most squirrels are too young to get into any of the adult hangouts they'd really want to hang out in. So they egg each other on to see who's brave enough to play chicken with the next oncoming cyclist. It wouldn't surprise me if these little squirrel gangs have taken up smoking and engaging in all sorts of other dangerous habits. We're lucky that nobody has yet started making cans of spray paint suited for squirrel-size hands; as soon as that happens we'll see the bike trails covered by the tagging-wars of rival squirrel gangs.

We're supposed to have a couple more hundred-degree days this week. Looks like I've worn through the tread on my back tire (again) and I hate changing bike tires, so I think I'll put off changing it for at least a week or two.

'Course I'm running the risk that it'll blow up (which happens sometimes), but at least the trails will be pretty near empty. It'll just be those unsympathetic gangs of squirrels laughing if it goes.

Monday, July 7th


Rock Your World:

While we're on the subject of "is it real, or is it a parody?" pay a visit to the official homepage of the World Rock-Paper-Scissors Society. To be fair, Rock-Paper-Scissors championship bouts aren't all that much stranger than a lot of official Olympic sports. Most of us are familiar with only the casual player and don't really have a feel for what it's like to be a world-class Rock-Scissors-Paper champion: the training, the strategy, the "inner" side of the sport. It can't be that much sillier than professional golf, and it has the tremendous advantage that it's over a lot quicker.

So here's your chance to get a peek into the upper eschelons of International RPS, complete with posters, video clips, and a message board. Who knows? Maybe, with practice and dedication, it's something you'd want to pursue, especially if the prizes get a whole whopping lot bigger.

Tuesday, July 3rd


Science Unfair:

"Dying is easy, Comedy is hard." These days, at the very least, it's particularly hard to write parody--or even tell the difference between parodies and people who are actually quite serious. You could take the pragmatic approach of not worrying about which is which and simply enjoy them all equally, but therein lies the risk that, while parodists are rarely known to run amok with torches, pitchforks, and letters to their Congressional representatives, the genuinely sincere nutjobs often do.

Case in point: Objective Christian Ministries which features a report on the Fellowship Babtist Creation Science Fair.

It's actually quite funny, featuring such gems as Johnathan Goode's award-winning project, "Women Were Designed For Homemaking":

Jonathan Goode (grade 7) applied findings from many fields of science to support his conclusion that God designed women for homemaking: physics shows that women have a lower center of gravity than men, making them more suited to carrying groceries and laundry baskets; biology shows that women were designed to carry un-born babies in their wombs and to feed born babies milk, making them the natural choice for child rearing; social sciences show that the wages for women workers are lower than for normal workers, meaning that they are unable to work as well and thus earn equal pay

Personally, I think there's something telling about the idea of comparing "women workers" to "normal workers." (To say nothing about the wisdom of drawing teleological conclusions from laundry baskets....)

But you can see how this kind of thing makes life tough for me: most days I have a tough time writing a parody that's this good, and, well, I can't be absolutely sure, but I think these folks might actually be serious about it. Maybe.

I'm definitely not sure, though. Reading through their news page, I just can't decide whether this is a real site or just a truly masterful and elaborate parody. Guess I'll have to keep an eye out for the torches and pitchforks.

. . .

Interestingly, besides declaring war upon any traces of sanity and common sense, the Objective Christian Ministries have devoted a great deal of their webspace to their crusade against the website of the Landover Babtist Church which, I'm pretty sure, really is a parody, though it's pretty hard to tell after poking through the Objective Christian Ministries website. The biggest clue is Landover Babtists' collection of bumper stickers, though the "What would Jesus Do" thong could be another giveaway.

However, just to muddy the waters a little further, Objective Christian Ministries also sells their own Christian thong designs through Cafe' Press. Hmmmmm... Real or parody? How can you tell anymore? The more I read their site, the more pieces I run into that couldn't possibly be anything but intentional parody, and the thing about the toy bear colors on their news page pushed my leanings firmly over to the "it's a hoax" side. Still, if it's a hoax, it's one of the most elaborate and detailed hoax sites I've ever seen on the net and it never steps out of character (unlike Landover Babtist), so I'll have to leave the final "is it real or just a really good parody?" decision as an exercise for the particularly determined student.

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