27 February 2013

Six Reasons Pancakes Will Continue to Get Worse While Laughter in General Declines and Fake Smiles Fill the Void

Unlike most websites (on today's modern internet), which would try to earn six to eight of your clicks via another inane list, we care enough about your physical and spiritual well-being to give you the whole fluffpile on one page.
1Rising grain prices could lead to skimping on flour quality or the substitution of 'milk flour' (calcium bicarbonate) or 'swine meal' (powdered porkbone).  This trend will affect not only pancakes but also oatmeal and meals in general.  Misnourished humans laugh less.

2Divorce is up.  This is due to four sub-reasons I'd rather not go into, suffice to say that more and happier marriages are generally positively correlated with pancake volume and fluffiness and negatively correlated with an asphyxiating sadness and loss of purpose.  It is true that many divorced daddies make excellent pancakes, but their numbers are swamped by cereal and frozen burritos.

3. It's all been done before.  So much good comedy has already been produced, it's pretty much enough.  We've seen it all already.  When you see something for the first time, you laugh harder than when you subsequently see it again (or another joke derived from the same premise).  Since the old stuff is of higher quality than the new stuff, and we've seen most of it, the quality of comedy is bound to decline and with it happiness and genuine mirth.

4. We are running out of water.  Though pancakes are normally made with milk, the cows need water to produce it plus we need it to help wash them down.  Water is a fundamental ingredient of eggs, butter, coffee in both bean and liquid form, and everything else including beer.  As prices for these things rise, we will see more parched throats and thus fewer episodes of explosive gaiety.

5. The increased reliance on pancake mixes has precipitated a precipitous decline in the pancake-making skills of the past three generations.  Left to make pancakes from scratch, kids these days have little idea how to proceed, and since the unpalatability of their first efforts is likely to discourage further experimentation, there is little hope that they will ever learn.  God did not invent pancakes in a vacuum.  We need to get more young people making pancakes and making pancakes now, and if that means taking time from education in the arts and sciences, maybe it's time to re-think where our priorities really lie.

6. Global warming means shorter winters and more picnics, the combination of which could spell doom for the pancake industry.  It will also bring a rise in social conflict and aggressiveness, which will be attacked at its root by an ever-increasing number of fake smiles.

None of the above will necessarily prevent elves from making crepes, or avert a catastrophic surge in blini production in the developing world – but that is a topic for another day.

21 February 2013

Running Robots: Just Say Hey, Like I Don't Know Man

I am sorry as I know that my decision may affect the livelihoods of some goodhearted, decent people, but I am going to have to ban all further research on running robots until I hear a good reason we need robots that can run. 

I've seen several movies with running robots; not one was a comedy, and although they generally ended happily enough for our heroes the humans, the carnage in the middle was off-putting to say the least.

The main application for running robots seems to be military, and this is precisely the reason the whole thing must be banned.  Is it not obvious that 'the elites' dream of creating robot armies so they can exercise their power more conveniently?  So why is any intelligent prole working toward the fulfillment of this dream?  Two obvious answers: money (I can live well doing this and possibly squirrel away enough to get on the other side of the fence when the robots are complete and programmed to wipe out the volkspeople), and it's an interesting problem to work on (I get to create and tinker with the coolest toys ever, my toy can smash and kill your toy and then you, etc).  Understandable perhaps, but nevertheless unacceptable, therefore hereby herewith and heretofore banned, ipso facto and by post haste (res ipsa loquitor).

Why are we spending so much energy trying to make an artificial human?  Do we hate ourselves that much?  We know how to make a real human – it's free, a little tricky but not undoable, and it feels terrific. 

Now if other harmless or amusing applications can be found for running robots, a limited amount of research funding may be appropriated for specific applications based on their value to society.  A few possibilities are raised below; the reader may use the Comment box to suggest others.

One allowable application for advanced running robots would be in slapstick comedy.  They could run full speed the wrong way into turnstiles or casually back off subway platforms to entertain us without costing a single human life.  (Note to self: write a comedy screenplay about running robots, perhaps involving a summer camp for robots or a robot who walks funny moving to a new high school, making friends and overcoming bullies by defeating them at some sport there hasn't been a big movie about yet but which robots could really rock, say pole-vaulting.)

Running robots could also be employed as intelligent targets for hitman practice, as dance partners for the congenitally unattractive, jogging mates for widows or dogs without masters, or imagine a tackling dummy that could cut on a dime or extend a vicious stiff-arm, it could greatly improve the open-field tackling skills of our nation's youth.  We could race running robots for betting purposes and eliminate the cruel horse- and vole-racing industries.  But such educational applications are among the very few that should be permitted. 

Of course we must not overlook the major legitimate application of this technology, the multi-billion dollar prosthetics industry.  Robot hips could turn even the clumsiest oafs into salsa kings.  With robot legs Detlef Schrempf could have played in the NBA for several more years, while Nancy Kerrigan could have laughed off the feeble pipestrikes of Tonya Harding's henchmen.

So maybe there are a few allowable applications.  However, when weighed against the possibility of the robots going renegade on us, our course of action becomes clear.  Further development of running robots engineered for purposes of destruction / warfare, even in a supporting role, is hereby suspended until further notice.  Violators of this edict will be cryogenically frozen in case we are ever invaded by aliens (or overrun by the living dead) and need to thaw them out so they can save us by developing running robots.  (Note to self: screenplay in which scientists are un-cryogenically-frozen to re-invent running robots that defeat aliens and save humanity, sort of Cowboys vs. Aliens meets Ice Man with a touch of Terminator IV: School Daze, etc., etc.).

10 February 2013

High Speed Rail Now

High-speed rail is within our grasp, in fact it is right under our (very) noses.

Consider that California, on its surface one of the richest lands on earth, is effectively broke.

One reason is misallocation of resources.  Instead of investing in critical infrastructure such as roads and Jeff Bridges, large sums continue to be squandered on cookie-cutter housing projects or grandiose amusement parks.

3) The state of California likes to style itself a leading state among the states of the United States.

Carbon emissions must fall, and quickly, lest we be stranded at the (proverbial) ping-pong table without a paddle.

Better mass transportation systems are an obvious need.  High-speed rail would be the ideal (see #3), but it costs way too much and there is understandable concern about the steadiness of demand on some or all of the routes.

So, what is needed is some sort of train system that can propel limited numbers of people over long distances quickly and cheaply.

Wait, what was that above about overinvestment in roller-coasters?  There it is: all roller-coasters are to be immediately converted for service in inter-city rail, and new ones are to be constructed to fill in the gaps until we have a safe fast and affordable not to mention thrill-a-minute transportation alternative covering the entire metropolitan region(s).

Their relatively simple scaffolds will be far cheaper per mile to construct than the ridiculous cost estimates bandied about for actual safe high-speed rail, the smaller cars allow for more efficient scale-up to accommodate wide fluctuations in demand, and they can be safely operated by 17 year-olds working for minimum wage (at least during summers).

They need not be boring, they can still be fun and in fact the repeated steep hills and terrifying drops will provide the speed that will allow them to compete with cars and (in winter) flying bobsleds.  People may not be willing to abandon their luxury sedans to wait hours to crowd into a sweaty train full of troglodytes and teenagers, but for a reserved seat on a quick and exhilarating coaster that empties directly into their office lobby, perhaps they will reconsider.

Why build so many roller-coasters that go in circles and finish right where they start?  Amusing to be sure, but this is exactly the sort of waste we can no longer afford (not to eliminate).  People pay good money to ride a rollercoaster that lasts a minute and a half and takes them exactly nowhere.  How much will they pay to roller(the wonderful pacific)coast from San Jose to San Luis Obispo?  Wait, don't answer that yet, keep thinking good thoughts for now.

We already have high-speed rail, we are simply failing to apply it in the proper context.  Now let’s get out there in the second half and build this thing, America!

This message was paid for by an anonymous donor who just wants to see California back on top of the world again and is not too much concerned about how we get there or how much sense it makes to you clowns from other states.

01 February 2013

Culture Desk: Book Reviews

Although people rarely ask me about what I'm reading, I do like to go on about it nonetheless.  Polished off some good ones lately, mostly on my sofa or in bed but sometimes when I'm driving around parking lots looking for a place to park.  So on this cool winter's morn, rather than bore you with the details of my daily ablutions / herb garden / herniated disc / son's croquet tournament / dreams of country living, etc., here are some, uh, reviews.  Of like, books.

Harry Potter and the Bored Housewife
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.  After graduating Hogwash with crushing debt levels into the softest job market for wizards in 50 years, Harry meets a disenchanted hausfrau working at a coffee shop and takes a break from his ridiculous quests to delve into the delights of the real world.  But when the sheriff's deputy is murdered on trumped-up charges and the pirates of the Caribbean are apoplectic, only one young mage can save the end of the world from the triumph of good over evil.

While not a fan of the first three in this series, this one had me bedazzled.  However I'm only giving it three and a half stars out of a possible five thumbs up, because two of the sex scenes kinda dragged.

Oxygen: History of a Molecule
In this engaging if dumbed-down tale of the untold story of one of the greatest molecules underpinning the development of modern civilization – I mean, what would we breathe without it? – Martin J. Finnucane, professor of atmospheric chemistry at the University of Pfincterville, lovingly relates the long untold and extraordinarily fantastic yarn of oxygen, which is like 80% of everything, but is so often the subject of misunderstanding if not outright animosity.  Present at the very origins of our universe, o the tales oxygen could tell if only we could invent the instrument to decode its catlike purr.  The book is grippingly presented in eminently unreadable prose which in places throws syntax entirely to the winds and adopts a style that mimics the structure of the oxygen molecule itself, with words and phrases orbiting a central nucleus like electrons at quantum speeds and with apparent randomness.  I enjoyed it; others may prefer to wait for the movie.

Otherwise not to pick (on) nit(wit)s but this book could have used an index and also I would have liked some background on protons and neutrons which are really the key to everything oxygen does, but was disappointed to read that Professor Finnucane will treat these topics in a sequel.  That's fine I understand the need to sell books but hey this is how they always do it, they get you hooked in the first one and then you have to buy all the sequels and in the end you've studied the whole thing completely and still have more questions than answers.

Seven Come Eleven is Sonny Kirby's first novel and it is, I am ethically obliged to point out, a patchwork of facile gleanings from the notebook of a mental incontinent, edited and repackaged as the ol' novel within a novel by the aspiring screenwriter who gets caught up in some sort of plot led by a poorly drawn revolutionary that Kirby has apparently modeled on Corbin Bernsen's imitation of Aunt Esther haranguing a Sasquatch. Still the work bears further scrutiny, and, if only for his fluffy pedagogical flourishes and imperial command of the English grammars, Kirby is sure to remain among the up and coming artists reviewed in publications like this, by schnooks like me.

Revolution Delayed by Mortimer Stokes is a historical what-if novel premised on the counterfactual that in 1775 the British take a much more conciliatory approach to the colonies (specifically, adopting the Duke of Grafton's proposal that most of the taxes the Americans regarded as oppressive be immediately repealed) and there is no Revolutionary War.  Of course eventually the revolution comes anyway, but not until 1834, which meant the Civil War had to be postponed and the US timeline was completely thrown off, the Spanish-American War never happened and to this day there is still no TV show called The Sopranos (although Stokes only takes the timeline up to the non-emergence of I Love Lucy, leaving plenty of room for a sequel).

The McCarthy Hearings is a compilation of tweets by an African grey that sat on Demi Moore's trailer throughout the filming of St. Elmo's Fire. Although the tweets mainly dish on the romantic entanglements among cast and crew, the best moments come during its wry David Sedaris-like digressions on lost innocence. Many of the actual words in the book come from the bird's handler, as this was before Twitterer and though the bird could enunciate a number of salty phrases in multiple languages, as often as not it was literally tweeting.