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I need to stop watching Disney movies

As part of my ongoing babysitting duties, I mean.

Because, while I understand that they're intended for children, in my opinion that doesn't mean they should throw all logic out the window.

Saw Aladdin again, with Jayce. As always, I liked how Aladdin tricked Jafar into becoming a genie "and everything that goes with it". They set that one up nicely, I admit.

But the ending? Aladdin has one wish left, okay... but Jasmine's standing right there! "Here Jasmine, take the lamp!" "Okay. My first wish is for Aladdin to be a prince again... and I don't need any other wishes, thanks: I'm already a princess. Take back the lamp." "Thank you... aaaaaaand my third wish, Genie..."

See how simple? No tears, no muss, no fuss. Everyone gets what they want.

Instead, Disney doesn't even consider that the Princess could be useful here. But even if there was only one wish left on the lamp, that still doesn't explain the ultimate deus ex machina in the film: Jasmine's father arbitrarily changes the law so that Jasmine can marry whomever she wishes (i.e., Aladdin).

Why in hell wasn't that, like, the first thing he thought of, and not the last!? If the Sultan could change the law on a whim, why was there such a fuss about the demands of the law, all through the film?! Bad enough when a story has dumb characters -- but I hate stories where the characters have to be made dumb for the story to happen at all! (My biggest gripe about Book 7 of the Harry Potter series, BTW.)

Anyway, we haven't exhausted our DVD repertory yet, so maybe there's something else Jayce and I can watch that won't drive me up the wall.

iPad thoughts

I've identified my main objection to the iPad. I acknowledge that it's an utterly cool bit of software and hardware, and if one were to materialize in front of me now, absolutely free, I wouldn't say no to it. But my objection to the iPad can be summarized in a single sentence: It's not made to create.

Oh, you can get it to create, a document or an email or a worksheet or whatever, but it's a pain. The iPad isn't for creating content, but for receiving content: surfing the web, watching videos, listening to music, reading ebooks. It is totally passive, and totally non-creative.

"So's a book, or an mp3 player," you might say. Yeah, but most books don't cost three or four hundred bucks. For that kind of money, I ought to be getting a tool I can do something with.

Given that I don't watch television, rarely go to movies, rarely listen to my iPod (except when traveling), and in general would rather be writing, the iPad remains a non-starter for me. Unless, as I said, I could get one free, in which case, why not.

But if someone could combine the sleek sexy coolness of an iPad with the functionality of the average laptop, I'd snap one up in a hot little minute. Are you listening, Apple?

Long-overdue update

I've been very remiss in not posting more often here on LJ. If it's any defense, I'm not posting a whole lot anywhere else, either. Stuff Happens, but it's not the sort of stuff anybody else would be interested in reading. Does anybody really care about what I had for dinner, or what I got for Christmas, or suchlike? It seems doubtful to me.

But January is turning into Travel Month for me, so it seemed like a good way to reinitialize my LJ account.

The New Year started with a drive to my parents' home, just south of Carson City NV. We arrived just before the snow started to fall. Depending on your source, that part of Nevada was slated to get either no snow, or a "light dusting" of snow. We got 6-8 inches overnight.

So I shoveled the snow off their driveway (a new experience for me!), and spent New Years warmly nestled indoors. Oh, we took my folks to see "The King's Speech", which was an event in itself: only theatre playing it was in Reno, about 45 minutes drive away. Still, no problem...

Until it came time to drive home. Highway 395, which we'd planned to take? Chains required. I have chains, but I'd rather not use them if I don't need them, thanks. So we took Highway 50 to Interstate 5. And then we learned that Interstate 5 was closed on the Grapevine (final approach to LA from the north, for those non-Californians reading this), so we had to detour west to the 101 for the last leg of the journey. Thereby turning an 8-hour drive into a 12-hour drive. But we got home safely.

This weekend, we're driving into the mountains again: Winter Weekend, an annual snow event. I'm bringing chains along, but I'm really, really hoping not to need them. I probably will.

But next weekend, ahhh, no snow at all. I'll be flying away on a business trip. To, um, Pago Pago. In American Samoa. For a couple of weeks. Returning in February. I will, as always, be working long hours and trying desperately to complete the installation in the time allotted -- which is never enough, somehow -- but I suspect I may get a few hours to myself. In the tropics. While the rest of you are freezing.

I'm still being threatened with more travel in coming months (e.g. Ottawa), but for now, this will do.

And on an amusing note: The Monday after my return, I have jury duty. Yes, the days are just packed.

Something that's long bothered me

(And, yes, I'll grant you, among all the things that might bother me, this one's pretty trivial, but there it is.)

As part of our ongoing duties as Baby-sitters In Residence, this weekend we watched Disney's animated Beauty and the Beast. (Which is, hands down, one of the finest animated feature films ever.) And it struck me again, as it has since the damn film came out:

In the prologue, the Enchantress transformed the Prince into a Beast for, essentially, being a self-centered prat... and gave him a rose which would stay in bloom until he was twenty-one. Then in the "Be Our Guest" cabaret number, Lumiere notes that they've been under the enchantment for ten years.

So the Enchantress punished the Prince for being a self-centered prat -- at the age of eleven.

Aren't the vast majority of eleven-year-old males self-centered prats? I mean, seriously, punishing a child for being childish?! Give unto me a break!

And while we're at it... Chip, the little cup, looked to be younger than ten when he changed back to human at the end. (And he certainly acted younger than ten throughout the film.) Which means he was born after the enchantment was laid on the castle. So, um... not to be indelicate, but just exactly how does a teapot give birth to a teacup? (That's not even thinking about the impregnation process itself. Come to that, why don't we ever see Mr. Potts? What household object did he become? It might explain a few things.)

New glasses

I've been getting increasing eyestrain headaches at work; driving at night is becoming more and more difficult (images blur when pupils dilate); I can't focus enough to draw. It was time and past time for a new prescription.

I also had a new optometrist, the old one having moved, so it was a chance to start fresh.

The exam was straightforward: no signs of glaucoma, retina's fine, and oh yeah, the vision's gotten worse, especially in the left eye. No problem there.

But the doctor (a good deal older than me) gently suggested that I may have reached the time in my life where I need a separate pair of glasses for close work, like computers and text. He didn't come out and say "reading glasses", but he might as well have. Okay, fine.

Next problem: I wanted the style of my frames to be the same round frames I currently have. I like their look, I like how they make my face look, and I like the image they project ("professorial"). No such luck; nothing like that was available. I could have searched online and found a set, but they'd have cost a pretty penny. In the end, my current frames are still in excellent shape, so they'd put the new lenses in them.

But that means I can't have any of the nice magnetic sunshades, since they aren't made for my frames, but only for those ugly modern frames that look like they were designed by Geordi LeForge. Dear god, those things are butt ugly.

Okay, fine. I made my order. The new lenses were supposed to be in this week. They duly arrived. My computer glasses are as advertised.

My new lenses for my round frames? Totally screwed up. Not to bore you with optics details, let's just say they would have been fine if my eyes were an inch or so further up my face.

Is it too much to expect a simple pair of corrective lenses? In this day and age? Evidently.

Recurring thought

The greatest of the virtues is fortitude, to endure through the thing called life.

Murphy's Law and the anthropic principle

Yes, I am firmly convinced that the anthropic principle is the causative force behind Murphy's Law. I posted a blurb about this on Facebook, but that medium is only really good for one-liners. Here, I offer a more detailed explanation, using a common manifestation of Murphy's Law:

The toast always lands buttered-side downCollapse )

Murphy's Law is a generalization, pure in its expression: Anything that can go wrong, will. But once you start examining a specific application of the Law -- and there are many, this is but one of them -- you'll see they're dictated by the fundamental nature of physical law, the ones so carefully tailored to allow our very existence. If the laws of physics were different that what they are, we would not exist -- and falling objects the size of a piece of toast would land with their "buttered" sides up.

This weekend's saga

I think I've recovered enough to write about this... save it for posterity, as it were.

For some weeks, I had been considering shaving off my beard and going clean-shaven. My lady wife assured me that the beard made me look older than my actual age (which, considering my actual age is fairly advanced, is saying something). Most of the friends I consulted, however, freaked out at the possibility: I've had the beard for so many years, it's become an integral part of my gestalt.

On an unrelated topic, I've been getting back into my morning runs, and was about to breach the plateau from 4.5 miles to 6 miles. Those of you into metrics will recall that 6.2 miles = 10 kilometers.

So, to spur myself, I signed up for a 10K run to raise money to combat world hunger: the CROP Hunger Walk, only in my case I was going to run. (Certain disparaging remarks by our assistant pastor anent the infirmity of age was an added spur, I admit.)

My brilliant wife had the idea to combine these two events. I shaved off the beard, and my clean-shaven visage was posted along with the message: "If Bruce raises enough money, he will grow the beard back."

And my God, how the money rolled in.

I have some of the most generous friends on the planet. Seriously. Either that, or the most hideous face, so I'll go with the first hypothesis. Okay, it was a humorous ploy, but humor alone wouldn't have taken the trick. They pledged, and gave, and it was both wonderful and humbling. (I'm in the process of growing the beard back, by the way. Fair's fair.)

But in the meantime, I still had the 10K run to run. Which I did, on Sunday, 25 April. But I hadn't taken two things into account:

1) Downtown Ventura, where the 10K was held, is a good deal hillier than the flat park where I usually run;
2) The other two runners were training for a marathon, and they set the pace.

So I finished 10 kilometers in 65 minutes, which is pretty darn good, all things considered. And I was feeling pretty darn good when I was done, too. I was doin' my little happy dance around the courtyard, and feeling no pain.

On Sunday.

Monday, an entire n-dimensional manifold of pain descended on me. And today, it's leveled off to a mere world of hurt. By tomorrow, I should be ready to... to... to run in the morning again.

But with about a thousand hungry children getting fed for a year.

And with the beard still growing.

This time for sure! Presto!

So a couple of years ago, the editor of Ars Caidis (our local A&S publication) asked me for an article. I'd been doing considerable research for the Pictorial Dictionary, and I kept finding charges that had never been registered in the SCA. So I wrote up an article with about a dozen such charges, including their dates, sources, and emblazons (drawn by yours truly), and submitted it.

Ars Caidis proceeded to sink like a stone. No further publications... and my article never saw print.

For last year's Symposium Proceedings, I submitted the article again. I knew I was pushing the publication deadline, and evidently I was too late... in any case, my article wasn't included.

In the meantime, I've been sharing the article with a couple of interested parties, but nothing seems to have come of it. Certainly, no one's been submitting new charges based on my research.

This weekend, I was contacted about this year's Symposium Proceedings, and I tweaked the article slightly and submitted it. With my luck, of course, the Symposium will be canceled, due to another eruption of Mt St Helens or something equally catastrophic -- whatever Fate has to do to keep my article from seeing print, that's what Fate will do.

We'll just see..

A bit of motley heraldry

No sign of rank, nor painted shield,
Duke William bore on Hastings field,
But in a hauberk plainly dight
He looked like any other knight;
While from his pointed helm projected
A nose-piece that his face protected,
Revealing only cheeks and eyes --
It made him hard to recognize.

So when the awful rumour spread,
"The Duke has fallen -- he is dead",
And through the Norman host there ran
Cold-footed fear from man to man,
William some difficulty found
In proving he was still around.

"I live!" he shouted; but his word
Above the tumult went unheard;
Wherefore, though arrows came apace,
He thrust the guard from off his face,
To cheer his men and daunt his foes
With sight of his portentous nose;
And all the Normans gave a roar:
"Here comes the Conk -- the Conqueror!"

Now, had he borne a scutcheon famed
That by its cognizance proclaimed
Him Duke of Normandy -- none other --
He'd been spared a lot of bother.
But in Ten Sixty-Six A.D.
They'd not yet thought of heraldry.