Saturday, November 24, 2007

I'd like to teach the world to whine

We went on a lightning holiday to western Massachusetts and I came back with three tiny little issues to carp about.

  1. Where's my money, Sprint/Nextel? I thought I'd be prudent and rotate out the Sprint phone card that I kept with the jump bag I prepared last summer. The idea was to use it to call my parents in California and avoid the extortionate rates commonly charged by the motel we were staying at. Neither the card nor the folder it was attached to had any date on it, but deep in the fine print was a line about how the card expires "15 months from the date of purchase/activation." When I input the number on the card, a synthesized voice informed me that the account I used was "invalid," so I called up the Customer Service number about this. I was prepared to pay some kind of fee or other in order to recoup some of the minutes I thought I'd bought, or at least be told how I could recharge the thing with more minutes, even at a rate just about as exorbitant as the room phone rate. Instead, I got the voice of a rep nearly as cold as the computer voice, informing me that the number was not in the computer and there was no provision for refund.
    I know the Nextel merger was a costly one, but would it really have been too much to expect them to keep the number on record a month or two longer, if only in hopes of extracting more money out of your consumer? Was it so important to take my $20 and run with it with such unseemly haste? Doesn't it actually make good business sense to put an expiration date on the product if only to encourage a repeat sale when the time draws near? But no, the unfeeling telecom sees fit to do none of these things, and for that they deserve my scorn and rancor, now and for a long time to come.
    In the same vein, only with regard to gift cards, I point out the public service announcement: Don't Give Your Friends Fees this Holiday Season!

  2. We went out to the movies Thanksgiving evening, and as our group could not reach a consensus choice, split according to gender, the ladies seeing the latest Disney movie and us guys opting for medieval fare.
    Please note, kids, the book is different.
    I give the moviemakers credit for including the side stories about Beowulf's swimming-race early on (gory though the depiction of it was), and didn't even find too much to object to with regard to the repurposing of Grendel's mom which made the final climactic battle a struggle between father and son. The thing I did not much care for was the way Zemeckis mistrusted the audience to pick up the bit of foreshadowing regarding the proper way to dispatch a dragon: the B-man is helped out by having the weak spot picked out in vivid color, as if it were made of the stuff of mood rings perhaps, a "plot point" which by all rights ought to have been labeled "break glass in case of dramatic climax," then having the old hero reach in to fool with his offspring's viscera in a way that reminded me to much of this:



    So actually, that part's not like the original poem. But maybe if this does well at the box office, they'll do a cinematic version of The Elder Edda.

    Edited to add: I think this happy fellow has the right idea - don't go into battle with a sword that's too damn short.

  3. I picked up this flyer for a local eating establishment in the motel lobby.

    Whichever you prefer
    Chinese Food to Take Out or Sit In
    Thanks, think I'll pass.

Monday, November 19, 2007

In which I credit my source

My anti-caption contest submission last week was granted Honorable Mention presumably because it is way creepy. Thanks, Matthew!

Friday, November 16, 2007

I play the role of a scab scriptwriter

I think one could replace two, maybe three half-hour comedies (22 minutes each) with a bunch of guys sitting on stools issuing insults at one another. Maybe a little schtick here and there to keep things loose, and a (slightly judgment-impaired) live audience too, not a laugh track. No striking writers to pay, cheap production, and it keeps the people who hate reruns, imported programming, and reality shows off the studios' case.

Because when it comes to studio execs, you know their own stock of creativity reads like an eye chart.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Mix 'n match

I think if I were to start a gaming store which included products of a military sort, I could do worse than to name it Rocket Propelled Games.

Alternatively, please enjoy this picture

of a Role-Playing Grenade.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Caution, military-grade earworms ahead

I would love to be able to do a mashup of a 1970's sitcom

with a stately funeral march

just so that it could be titled Marcia Marcia Marcia Funebre.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Bridge Crane

Back when I was in experimental physics, they used bridge cranes like this one to stack 25 ton concrete shielding blocks and to position massive dipole magnets.

Bridge Crane
Bridge Crane,
originally uploaded by Echo_29.

It consists of a set of massive box beams that roll on tracks and which themselves support one or more moving trolleys running up and down the beams. I say "they" because of course one had to be a qualified member of a crew to operate one of these behemoths, one person on the floor able to hook and unhook the load communicating to the crane operator up in a mobile cab by means of international hand signals:


They did let us use small cranes to move detector components around a bit, but nothing in the multi-ton scale.

It would be a daring piece of industrial home design to put a bridge crane into a living space. Since the crane itself has to transit along rails, a large open room without interior walls would be optimal. It would be especially useful when one wished to move a grand piano from place to place (say around a sunken living room), though it might be possible to dream up some other use cases. I imagine that one could stack one's Costco purchases on an attractively designed pallet out by the carport, then hoist them up and over to the pantry area (the garbage and recyclables would make the return trip, of course).