Saturday, August 01, 2015

Why do we tolerate failures all the time in our electronics? (IE the actual email I just sent to Hulu because that company cannot get its act together and simply show me my television shows.)

UPDATE: About 30 minutes after I posted this/emailed them, I got the credit for a month. WOO HOO.

I've said it before and now I will say it again: we put up with a failure/error rate in our computerized stuff that is astonishing.  I bet electronics fail 20% of the time. TWENTY PERCENT. If your car failed twenty percent of the time you would be dead before you could read this. If your house failed 20% of the time you would live in a cave.  

"But Briane electronics are complicated," people say.  Weirdo perverts like Louis CK say we should just be grateful they work at all.  Well, Louis CK The Molester/other people who defend the deplorable state of consumer eletronics: IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY.  Computers can work right 99.9% of the time.  Do you think NASA's computers fail 1/5 of the time? I doubt it.  Obviously we can make a computer that can do something like stream the television show I am paying you to stream, but we DON'T, and that is why I am frustrated.

And that is the lead-in to the email I just sent Hulu. It had to be written as if I were Sweetie because our Hulu account is under her gmail.  I tried to lighten it up a bit because when I get this annoyed if I don't try to find some humor I get really mean.

The email:

Dear Hulu,
Today, I tried to sit down and watch an episode of "Brooklyn 99" with my husband. We were trying to take a brief break from an otherwise busy day and had about 1/2 hour to do so. 

We made it about 1/3 of the way through the program when that idiotic commercial with the thick bacon came on.  First off, this commercial is stupid and people who go crazy over bacon are stupid.  Secondly, this commercial is also dumb because it shows 10 seconds of a bacon commercial with two freaky looking strips of dried pig flesh talking about their body image, and then 'invites' me to 'learn what happened' by clicking to some other website. WHO WOULD WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED? These slices of bacon, and apparently bacon is female?, are barely introduced to us, and I have no emotional investment in their dilemma.  Perhaps with a bit more plot development or characterization I might care, but as it is, the commercial is simply annoyingly coy about this and it bothers me that they are attempting to divert my attention from Andy Samberg's show.
As if that were not bad enough, the commercial kept jamming up the computer; as soon as it ended, I got that screen that says Hulu is unable to show ads on my computer.  This is obviously false because I just watched an ad, if you could call it that because it was so bad.
This happened four times in a row until we had to give up on the commercial.  So much for our fun lunch! I would like you to remove the ad and also give me a free month's worth of subscription by giving me $8.  I will send you my paypal address to do so.
Thank you,

This won't end happily for Hulu.  I'm getting that eight bucks. And THAT will teach them not to mess with ME.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Friday Five: Five "Foods" That Are In My House Right Now, And Stuff About Them.

In the summer, I take every other Friday off to spend time with the boys and do summer-y stuff.  This is one of those days.  We're waiting for Sweetie to get home from her extreme workout session before we leave, which is why I have time to kill taking pictures of the "food" in my house.  Also, we recorded a very informative video about the solar system that I will probably debut tomorrow.

Here's the "Food!":

1. Gummi Krabby Patties:

A gummi candy modeled after Sponge Bob's Krabby Patties.  True fact: Mr Bunches liked Spongebob for a while when he was younger and for about two years he thought hamburgers were actually called "krabby patties."  Another fun fact: these are surprisingly good.  I don't particularly like gummi candy, but whenever Mr Bunches won't eat a batch of these (he is picky about textures and if they're a little stale he won't come near them) I "have to" finish them.  I like 'em.  I took a bunch to my office and put them in my candy vase, and the other lawyers ate them up in about 4 hours.   

2. Bologna: 

Bologna is my second-favorite lunchmeat, right behind liverwurst, which we didn't have right now. We don't buy liverwurst every week because it's superexpensive, especially compare to bologna, which is about 99 cents a ton.  

When we were kids my mom used to make fried bologna from the ring, fried up in butter with onions.  I still make that sometimes even though I am the only one in my family who will eat it.  

3. Frosted Mini-Wheats:

On a not-completely-unrelated follow-up to that last part, remember back when I had my heart attack? I had to talk to a nutritionist because hospitals have this thing where they want you to NOT keep coming back for emergency surgery even though if we were all healthy they'd be out of business DID THEY EVER THINK OF THAT? 

Anyway, the nutritionist suggested that I substitute frosted mini-wheats for snack chips, and I have done that pretty successfully: right now in our house we have an entire case of Doritos (courtesy of a client of mine who WORKS FOR FRITO-LAY I HIT THE JACKPOT) plus a bag of "Funyuns" which would have made it into this post but I haven't opened them yet, even though they have been in our house for nearly 24 hours.  

I like the frosted mini-wheats enough that I don't even hold it against them that they were recalled in 2012 for possibly containing metal shavings in them.  Have you ever noticed that almost no junk food ever poses a direct health hazard? Nearly every vegetable has caused a salmonella or e. coli outbreak.  Fruits are made up of 100% spiders. Kale was perfected by Hitler. Etc.  But when's the last time you heard of someone dying of Cheetos? NEVER. Unless you count someone getting murdered over a dispute about Cheetos, which is not an argument against Cheetos, it's an argument against ever being around other people.  

4. Cap'n Crunch:

Peanut Butter Cap'n Crunch is actually my favorite.  I like it not just because it tastes delicious, but because it exemplifies everything I think is awesome/lamentable about modern society: We take a peanut, and grind it up into tiny powder, and then mix it with chemicals and then put it through a series of industrial processes to shape it into a fake peanut.

HUMANITY: 1, NATURE: 0.  Probably the score is more lopsided than that.  

I don't have Peanut Butter Cap'n Crunch right now, and technically the Cap'n Crunch shown here is not a regular one; it's one of the ones that comes mixed in with the box of Crunchberries.  Mr Bunches likes the berries in Crunch Berries, but not the crunches.  I'm not sure what he disliked about them.  He tried to eat one to earn a star so he could buy a toy [when he wants to buy toys he has to earn 9 stars, which he can do through various tasks/challenges] and he managed to get it into his mouth and chew it but then he gagged and had to spit it out and drink about a gallon of milk.  He got his star.

So he picks the berries out, leaving all the crunches.  So I take the leftover crunches and put them in a box and eat them for cereal.  It's the circle of life.  

"So just buy him that All-Berries cereal," you're probably saying.

PRO TIP: When someone deals with a situation regularly and spells out a problem to you, if you can think of a potential solution to that problem in 0.0000001 seconds, assume that the other person has also thought of it.  Whatever you came up with instantaneously has probably occurred to that other person in the years they have been dealing with the problem, don't you think?  Like the time we were at our in-laws with Mr F, and he wanted some cheese puffs, and I tried to get him to eat them out of the bag because he was suspicious of bowls back then, and he wouldn't, and he dumped them onto the couch.  As I pushed them onto a paper towel to try to have some semblance of clean, my sister-in-law said: "Have you thought about giving him a bowl?"

WHAT? WHAT DEVILTRY ARE YOU SPEAKING OF WOMAN? What is this bowl you talk of? Some miraculous new contraption of science? I must learn more of this thing!

The reason we don't buy the All Berries is because that is not how Mr Bunches started eating Crunch Berries, and so he won't switch. We've tried. He won't touch them. It doesn't matter that they're the same berry.  And they probably don't taste the same: I'm of the opinion that the berries in Crunch Berries taste different because they are packaged with the crunches, and so the flavors mingle a bit, while the All Berries is more of a pure crunchberry flavor, suitable for purists.

5. Oreos.

We have Oreos in our house because Mr F likes the middles.  And also so that late at night I can feel a little hungry and open up the cupboard and see them and think "I'll have just one," and then eat 7 of them in a row before forcing myself to go upstairs and try to get to sleep, vowing that tomorrow for sure I'll start dieting or something.  It's an almost-nightly ritual.

We're working on Mr F at least depositing the Oreo shells on the table:

Did you know that Oreos were a knockoff product? It's true: They were the Mr Pibb to Hydrox cookies' Dr Pepper, so to speak.  The current design of the Oreo was done by William Turnier, in 1952.  Or at least he is who is generally given credit.  Nabisco won't officially say it was him.  That is the biggest miscarriage of justice since the guy who invented the Doritos Locos Taco got the shaft: Todd Mills came up with the idea and sent a letter to Frito-Lay in 2009. They rejected the plan, and then made it anyway.  Mills never got any money, and died on Thanksgiving 2013.  He was like a modern-day John Harrison. Of tacos. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Clone Wars: Amidala needs to eat a sandwich.

Andrew Leon at StrangePegs and The Armchair Squid are running "The Clone Wars Project," blogging about each episode of The Clone Wars' animated TV series.  They're way ahead of me; I'm only up to Episode 4. 

Episode 4: "Destroy Malevolence." I think the thing that stood out most for me in this episode is how much I'm beginning to dislike this animation.  It was Padme Amidala that did it for me.  Amidala looks like this in the movies:

But like this in The Clone Wars:

I get that it's an animation style, and a style it is, but not one I like.  I haven't yet gotten used to Obi Wan's weird beard:

Looking like it's made of wood, but this episode was the worst: Amidala looks skeletal, anorexic, sickly.  And weird.  It's like a walking stick put on human skin and then was animated.  It really bothered me throughout the episode, to a distracting degree.

The story itself was what I think of now as a prototypical Star Wars story: The Empire has a giant death machine of some sort, and Alliance has to destroy it, but first there are some adventures to get there, and then there's some sort of personal excursion into the death machine.  Star Wars has perfected that formula, and this episode hits all the marks.  It almost felt like it was a Star Wars knock off or mashup:  Instead of Han Solo having to fly through an asteroid field and avoid a giant space worm, Anakin must fly through a nebula filled with giant sting-ray-ish things.  Instead of the Death Star, there's the giant Star Destroyer Malevolence.  Obi Wan, Anakin, and the two droids sneak onto the ship while it's temporarily destroyed, reminiscent of the Death Star raid in the first movie.  Where A New Hope had Darth Vader bearing down on Luke at the climactic scene, General Grievous was bearing down on Anakin here at the end. 

Mostly, this episode felt lazy. It wasn't terrible but there was nothing too compelling about it, either. There wasn't any real character development, the action felt been there done that (and a bit of a foregone conclusion; for some reason, I never really doubted that they would destroy Malevolence. Hmmm.

Anyway, it wasn't boring enough to make me quit, but it was the weakest episode so far.  And to harp on it some more, I do wish they'd change the animation.  Bad artistry is too distracting from the storyline.  While I was watching it, I kept thinking back to the few comic book artists whose styles I knew by sight.  There was George Perez, who was my favorite:

I always favored the more realistic-ish artists, who didn't overly bulk their superheroes but also made them more or less lifelike.

But I could handle the more stylized art of Jack Kirby:

Which while not as realistic, at least wasn't distracting, and for certain comics (like Thor) the style worked really well.

Then there was the one I hated: Keith Giffen.  Giffen started out okay:

But as his style got simpler and more stylized, I liked it less and less:

 to the point where eventually I wouldn't buy comics drawn by Giffen. 

The art in The Clone Wars isn't that bad, but it's awfully close.

Daisies? I think they're daisies. Doesn't matter. Move on. (Picture of the Day)

Monday, July 27, 2015

10 Minutes About When You Should Quit Writing (And Other Things Websites and Blogs Made Me Think About)

I started "10 Minutes About" a while back when I couldn't find any good book podcasts or websites on the Internet, and decided that rather than be part of the solution I'd make it somebody else's problem. (That's how that saying goes, I'm sure.)

Since then I've actually found a couple of good sites/podcasts that talk about writing, books, and literary stuff in general in a way that's neither boring nor pretentious.

First the podcasts.  I actually tried my hand at podcasting a couple years back. How hard could it be? I thought. I had a digital recorder on my phone, and a voice.  Only the results were terrible, and I decided that unless and until I could actually do it right I wouldn't bother doing it all.

"Right" in terms of podcasting, at least for me, is hard to describe. Some podcasts are technically proficient but annoying to me.  Snap Judgmente and The Moth are very popular podcasts that I can't stand.  They seem like they're trying to hard.  I don't know how else to explain it.  There's a certain tone to people who try to hard to be entertaining, and both of those podcasts have it. Overly produced with hosts and speakers doing voices and the stories arranged just so.  They're what would happen if Wes Anderson made a movie about Wes Anderson doing a podcast about Wes Anderson movies.

At the other end of the spectrum are the podcasts that are more like mine was: terrible and lo-fi.  People seem to think (about blogs, books, podcasts, etc.) that if they can think/type/talk -- communicate in general -- that their communications are inherently interesting.  I don't know how many times I've struggled to read a post or listen to a podcast while thinking make it interesting!  It's not that the story has to be inherently interesting.  David Sedaris writes articles about looking at a turtle as he stands on a bridge, and it's interesting.  The Pop Culture Happy Hour people at NPR, who I used to listen to, also talk about nothing, and it's interesting.

So you can do nothing, or just sit and talk, and be interesting.  But most people aren't, at least in the podcasts I listened to.  They were just people talking, people with unoriginal, uncompelling thoughts presented in a blah way.  I listened to about 10 different podcasts, each of which ended with my thinking you sitting around talking about stuff isn't interesting.

With that, I did find two podcasts of people sitting around talking about books 'n' stuff that were worth listening to.  The first is the Book Riot podcast.  There are three people on the podcast (the website has their names; don't ask me what they are.) I've only listened to two episodes of it so far, but both of them were pretty entertaining.  The latest one had the three discussing for most of the time their reactions to Go Set A Watchman, and while I don't intend to read the book (and find the story of how it got published way more interesting than the story in the book), the discussion of the book and its circumstances and how they reacted to it was pretty interesting.

The other podcast is All The Books!, and it's from Book Riot, too. Of the two, I so far like this one better.  It's just two women, discussing a bunch of books they've read or which are being released, or both. But they do so in an interesting and fun and intelligent way, so it's worth listening to.

The website, finally, is "Literary Hub," and I've only just discovered it.  I can't tell yet if it's a site that collects writing about books and writing from other sites, or if it has its own writers, or both, but it's been interesting so far.  There are articles on 'weird' fiction (like Vandermeer and Lovecraft and Gaiman), unappreciated authors, and things like the one I read today, "The Unemployed Life Of A Professional Writer," in which a poet/novelist/children's book author describes how she's trying to make a living doing that (she's been published, traditionally) while also trying to find full-time jobs to pay the bills.  Spoiler alert: it ends with her selling copies of her books at yard sales.

The writer, Shelley Leedahl, talks about wondering whether she should stop writing:

I was at a launch in Victoria recently where an author read in a T-shirt printed with his book cover image. Writers are making book trailers. I’ve read in an organic food market, with fruit flies buzzing around my head, and was damn glad to have the opportunity. Time to go where the people are—not just to libraries, and bookstores. It’s the hour for new audiences, and new sales’ strategies.
We try and we try. It’s exhausting. Honestly, I feel that if this book doesn’t make even alittle stir—and frankly, earn me even a modicum of income—it might just be time to stop scribbling.

My first thought on reading that was why? Why would you ever stop writing? But the more I pondered her actual situation: trying to land a job at Home Depot and get public assistance to buy steel-toed boots for that job, while also booking her own readings at friends' houses, the more I understood why she might, finally, decide to not write for a living.

And that made me wonder if I could just stop writing.  I have slowed down my writing a lot, especially this summer. I used to maintain several blogs plus write books and short stories.  This summer, I have written one short story.  Since May.  And I blog more, but nowhere near the level I used to.

In part, I feel as though I am written out.  I wrote a story a day for the past year, and I have been (slowly) editing that, and I did that while editing my book Codes AND starting a new firm back in January, and so this summer I've let myself slide a bit and done more reading at night instead of writing.

But even with that, I'm constantly thinking up ideas and jotting them down and thinking about what my next project might be, when I begin it.  I'm not sure I ever could give up writing, which of course is a silly thing to think because for years and years I never was a writer.

I wrote my first couple of stories in grade school, and then through high school I didn't write much at all, aside from some poems.  I didn't write until I was about 21 or 22 and took a creative writing class, and I don't even really remember why I took that.  After that, I wrote a bunch of short stories and two novels, and then didn't do anything again until probably 2005 or so.  Since then, the past 10 years, I've been pretty prolific.

But that's only 10 years, really, out of 46.  So to think I could never stop writing is to freeze myself in time, because the me that loves to write is the me that used to focus on learning musical instruments, or the me that spent an entire summer teaching himself card tricks, or the me that organized softball teams for a few years, and so on.

I'm not like the lady in the story; I'm not thinking about giving up writing, and when I don't write these days it's not because I find it too hard to make a living at.  But having read the story and spent the day wondering whether I could quit writing, I realized that I could. 

I worried, for a bit, tonight, whether realizing that I could quit was the first step in actually not writing anymore.  Sometimes I'm like that. I used to be way way more in shape than I am now.  When I lost a hundred pounds in six months back in 1993, I started on a fitness regimen that I stuck with for years.  Every other day I worked out, rain or shine, for at least 30-60 minutes.  I ran, mostly, running 5, 6, 7 miles even when I wasn't feeling that great.  (I once ran 6 miles and felt terrible the whole time.  The next day I went to the campus nurse and she said I had a terrible case of pneumonia. I nearly had to be hospitalized.)

One day, in law school, some friends called me up and asked if I wanted to go get a couple beers at the Memorial Union Terrace on Lake Mendota.  I said I had to go running first and might meet them later.  Then I was tying my shoes and getting ready to go and I thought Wait, why don't I just go? What am I in training for? Nothing.

That was the beginning of the end: it was a long slow slide to where I am now, helped by heart attacks and bees and asthma, but now I've put a lot of the weight back on and my idea of exercise is getting up to get the remote.  The realization that I didn't have to do something ended up with me not doing it as often.

On the other hand, knowing that I can quit at any time makes it easy to go on.  The last time I ever went running was about 4 months after my heart attack.  I went to the health club and just started jogging around the track, to see how far I could go.  I'd been walking and lightly jogging for four months and wanted to see how healthy I was.  Each lap I thought I could quit now but I guess I'll keep going.  I did lap after lap after lap, and got to 8 miles before I had to quit because the playroom was closing and I had to go get Mr Bunches and Mr F.  Otherwise, I might never have stopped running.

So I guess I could quit writing anytime I want, and it's too early to see how that knowledge might ultimately affect me.

That's way more than 10 minutes, but I was on a roll so I kept going. After all, I didn't have to stop.