Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A lunch date

According to Xinh's Rules of Dating, it was just lunch, coz there was no activity before or after the the meal :)

Normally lunchtimes find me in the lunchroom with my coworkers, but today almost everyone was out of the office. I had a coffee bill to pay so I seized the opportunity to go to the bank on my lunch break. I was amazed to discover the bank was practically empty, especially as it was high noon, and within minutes of walking in the door I was heading back outside, wondering where to go for lunch. I decided seeing as I was free, I'd give Natey a call and when he answered it sounded like I'd woken him up but he said he was in downtown and he was available for lunch. He also works a few block from my office so I recommended a South American place (actually El Salvadorean) on Olympic & Hill where I'd eaten a few times before. Natey said he knew of it but had never eaten there, but he was willing to give it a try.

For about $10 we each got a HUGE plate of food and two papusas, although after finishing our plates we were only just able to get down one papusa each, which we used to wipe clean our plates. Oh, $10 included Iced Tea as well.

I don't know the name of the place, but if you're ever in downtown Los Angeles and are looking for a feed that won't break the bank, and you're rather partial to semi-authentic El Salvadorean food (or Central/South American in general), look for the restaurant on the south-west corner of Olympic & Hill.

Not counting your chickens...

From Wolfgang's Blog I got a couple of ideas on how it might be possible to improve the electoral system in the U.S. and make it more fair for every voter.

As it currently exists the Primary Elections are a war of attrition. Candidates can be eliminated and resign when they lose crucial states, or stay in the game by winning the same. People in several states have already had their say, and regardless of how you look at it, their vote is more important than yours because their vote has caused some candidates to concede. Too bad for you if you liked Hunter, Thompson, Richardson, or Kucinich. For the Republicans the race is down to McCain and Romney, while the Democrats have no real choice other than Clinton and Obama. I like Ron Paul but he's pretty much out of the running (although he hasn't resigned, yet), and Romney, my second choice, needs to win a few big states if he's to challenge McCain, who leaped to the front after winning Florida.

You can argue until you're blue in the face, but letting some people cast their votes early, counting those votes, and making the results known, does not make for a fair election. So the first change I'd recommend is every Primary Election in every State be held on the same day, no exceptions.

The second change I'd make is not allowing the results to be released early. Count the ballots and tally them up, sure, but having a running tally as the day goes on only hurts one person...you, the voter.

Why?

Let's use the Democrats as an example, and let them choose between Clinton and Obama.

When the polls open all of Clinton's followers turn out and vote. The News people conduct exit polls and see that for every one person who voted for Obama, ten people have cast their vote for Clinton. By mid-afternoon close to 90% of Clinton's supporters (being your stereotypical Peggy Bundy, Bon Bon eating, stay-at-home Moms. Yes, I'm being facetious here.) have cast their vote. Around this time most of Obama's voters (all blue collar laborers or businessmen, yes, another facetious, tongue-in-cheek generalization) are getting off work and planning to vote for their hero, but turning on the radio in their car what do they hear? Clinton is beating Obama by a landslide! That's it, they think, my man has lost. And so they don't go to the polls but go straight home and sure enough, Clinton wins by a landslide, because all of Obama's voters heard the news and instead of voting they all went straight home.

So not only should everyone be voting on the same day, but nobody should have access to the results prior to the close of Polls. And this brings us to one final change.

When the polls close at 8pm along the east coast and the ballots are tallied and the results are known by 9pm, those results should not be released to the public, for the exact same reason as above. 9pm in Florida is only 6pm in California, so people in California still have 2 hours to get to the Polls. Many people in California are just coming home from work at 6pm, but they plan to stop and vote on their way. When they turn on their radio and hear the results of the east coast elections, how a certain candidate is winning by a landslide, that can have a demoralizing effect, of course it can also work both ways. "Oh, my guy's already won; I don't need to vote." Then the next morning they get up and find their guy lost.

I mention Florida specifically not just because of the Miami-Dade debacle of a few years ago, but because Florida didn't have to be the tight race that it became. Florida actually spans two time zones, so when the polls closed in eastern Florida, they were still open for another hour in western Florida. Allegedly many voters in Florida don't come out until the last hour or so because it's cooler in the evening, but throughout the afternoon the western Florida voters had been hearing the results of the east Florida elections, and apparently turn outs in western Florida were extremely low, unusually low. The people in western Florida figured their candidate was winning (or had already lost) so they didn't bother coming out to vote, which skewed the results.

Elections are important. Every person is supposed to be able to have their say, and every vote is supposed to carry equal weight, but when the people who vote first are able to affect the decision of later voters, the system becomes biased towards those first voters. Unfortunately the Me Generation is also the Now Generation, and that has affected the entire population. Why should I have to wait for tomorrow? I want the results NOW!

Imagine an election for Class President where 8 people like Joe and 9 like Ted, and it just so happens that Joe's people all sit on one side of the classroom. The teacher running the poll doesn't ask for a show of hands, but instead asks the first student who he's voting for, then the second, then the third, and so on. By the time she gets to the eighth student it seems support for Joe is unanimous so Ted, knowing Joe needs just one more vote to win, concedes...and Joe is elected Class President, even though Ted would have won if every vote had been counted.

This is the situation we have today, and it's not fair in the classroom or the real world. The electoral college system could remain, nothing would need to be changed about that, the only change would be everyone votes on the same day, and the results are not released until all the results, nationwide, have been officially tallied.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

R.I.P. Heath

Just who the f**k discovered Heath was dead? News reports say his housekeeper was present at the time, but that it was Heath's Massage Therapist who realized he was going to need more than just a rub down.

TMZ.com (a self-proclaimed "Celebrity Gossip" site that my wife gives credence to, but which I've never heard of until two days ago) states that Heath was found by his maid, Theresa Solomon, and his masseuse, 'Diane Lee'.

Yahoo! News rehashing an Associated Press story (and when it comes to the news AP is a name I'm more familiar with) also states that Heath was found by his Massage Therapist HOWEVER!!! the AP story identifies the Massage Therapist as one Diana Wolozin.

In a further twist, AP reports that when Diane/Diana discovered Heath was unresponsive, she grabbed his cell phone and called 911. Wait! No she didn't! AP says Diane/Diana first called Mary Kate Olsen, whose number is programmed into Heath's phone and whom Lee/Wolozin knew was a friend of Heath's, and she asked Olsen what to do.

Allegedly it was Mary Kate, who was in California at the time, who sent over her bodyguard. Apparently Diane/Diana checked Heath again, realized things were really serious, as in deadly serious, and now she called 911. No. Wait. My bad. She called Mary Kate again. It was only after she'd made that second call to Olsen that Lee/Wolozin finally called 911.

So who is Diane Lee and who is Diana Wolozin? And why are both women credited as being Heath's masseuse/massage therapist? And when finding an unconscious client allegedly surrounded by bottles of pills, why would someone use their client's cell phone to call another celebrity, twice, before calling 911?

I think Ms. Diane Diana Lee-Wolozin, or whatever her name is, has a lot of explaining to do.

Virtual friends

Wolfgang has a post up about playing WoW (insert MMO of choice here) and how the friends we make online can bring us back to a game, or breath new life into it.

When I first began playing WoW I played it as a single-player game in a world populated by characters controlled by real people. I rarely grouped, and often attempted to complete quests beyond my level, on my own, simply because I didn't know any better. Eventually I responded to a Guild Recruitment message just because I liked the Guild's name, joined, and found the Guild consisted pretty much of four real life friend, and a few other players. Eventually the four friends moved on and all but one of them stopped playing WoW, although he still quit our guild and joined another.

The guy who received leadership of the Guild from the original leader recruited a few of his RL friends and it was these players who formed the basis of a fairly successful casual Guild which completed content normally conquerable only by hardcore guilds. Most of those people are still in the Guild today, meaning I've known most of them now for almost two & a half years. In my downtime, when I'm not spending time with my RL family, I'm spending time with my virtual friends.

When we went back to Australia for mum's wedding last year I actually stopped playing a week or so before we left, and when I got back I found other things to do than log in. When I finally logged back in I just sat there staring at the character selection screen...wondering what I was going to do. Finally I selected my "main" character and entered the game, and as soon as the game loaded I saw Guild Chat light up with people virtually screaming my name.

It's hard to explain to people who don't play MMOs exactly what the attraction is. What makes you log into a game, only to sit on a dock somewhere and catch fish for several hours, just to level up your fishing skill. Why would you steer your avatar around an area, killing & skinning hundreds of Mobs over the space of several hours? Does all that gold really mean anything? Do you really need a faster Gryphon? Why would you spend several hours with four (or more) other people, in a coordinated assault on a dungeon, just for the chance (not a guarantee, mind you) to score some virtual loot that will make your avatar just a little bit stronger?

And why do you keep logging back in, time and time and time again, only to do the same old thing, time and time and time again?

It's the people. It's your virtual friends. In most cases, they make logging in all worth while. You may never meet them IRL. You may only ever communicate with them in-game, or via a headset, but over time you've gotten to know these people as intimately as any other close friend. You've journeyed with them, put your faith in them to heal you and keep you alive (in-game of course), or trusted them to hold the attention of a virtual dragon while you fired arrow after arrow into it.

MMOs are all about the people.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Lightning

In 1942, a Park Ranger in a fire lookout tower is struck in the leg by a lightning bolt. He loses a nail on his big toe.

In 1969, a man driving his truck along a mountain road is struck by lightning and knocked unconscious. The lightning burns off his eyebrows.

1970: A man in his front yard is struck by lightning and suffers burns to his left shoulder.

1972: A man in a Ranger Station is struck by lightning and is forced to douse his head after his hair catches on fire.

1973: A man struck by lightning is thrown from his car with his hair ablaze.

1974: A camper is struck by lightning, suffering injuries to his ankle.

1977: A fisherman is hospitalized with burns on his chest and stomach after being struck by lightning.

How are these incidents related?

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

And...Survey says?

Out of curiousity I ran a Facebook Groups search on the major candidates for the 2008 U.S. Primary Elections, and discovered the following...

The top four Groups for Hillary Clinton are actually anti-Hillary:
Stop Hillary Clinton: (One Million Strong AGAINST Hillary), with 681,000 members;
ANTI Hillary Clinton for president '08 with 64,600;
Hillary Clinton: Stop Running for President and Make Me a Sandwich with 28,600; and
Life's a bitch, why vote for one? Anti-Hillary '08 with 13,600.
The first pro-Hillary Clinton Group is the fifth most populated, being Hillary Clinton for President - One Million STRONG with 12,425 members.

By contrast, the most populated Facebook groups for the other candidates are all for those candidates, but don't let their numbers fool you. Many people opposed to a candidate will join that candidate's group in order to challenge, debate with, and just generally piss off that candidate's supporters.

Barack Obama's group Barack Obama (One Million Strong for Barack) is the clear front runner with 418,797 members.

Ron Paul's group Congressman Ron Paul for President 2008 at number two with 62,885 members still has a clear lead over the rest of the pack.

Mike Huckabee's group Mike Huckabee for President 2008! has 28,237 members.

Mitt Romney's group Mitt Romney (One Million Strong for Mitt) has 19,954 members.

Hillary's group would be here, with its 12,500 members.

Fred Thompson's group Fred Thompson '08 has 6,179 members.

Dennis Kucinich's group Dennis Kucinich for President in 2008 is close behind with 6,007 members.

John Edwards' group Edwards 2008 has 5,771 members

Mike Gravel 2008 has 3,578 members.

John McCain for President has 2,660 members.

Bill Richardson's group makes the hard-to-believe claim America for Bill Richardson, considering it has just 2,477 members.

Duncan Hunter for President in 2008 has 943 members.

Despite the real man's popularity Rudy Guiliani for President in 2008 has a pathetic Facebook representation with just 872 members.

And bringing up the rear (because someone has to) is Alan Keyes For President In 2008! with 311 members.

What does this tell us? Not a lot, really. It's not a real poll. People join Facebook groups for various reasons, not always because they believe in the group, but because, as I said, they want to troll the boards and piss off the real members. And although we're well and truly embracing the Internet age where someone like my Mum could marry a guy she met online, there's a large percentage of the population who are willing & able voters, but who will only show their support at the Polls, nowhere else. Not to a Telephone Pollster, or a Petitioner outside a market, and certainly not online.

Still, looking at Barack Obama's and Ron Paul's Facebook numbers, I would expect both of them to gather a lot of real support (not just online) as more people have their say in the coming months and upcoming Primaries.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

What happens in Vegas...

is pretty darn good :)

Angela was asking how the shows were that we saw in Vegas, being Zumanity and La Reve, and they were pretty darn good. Liz ordered our tickets quite some time in advance, so we had pretty good seats, although the theaters are reasonably small so there's really no bad seats.

We entered the theatre for Zumanity about 20 minutes prior to the show starting, only to discover the pre-show well under way. Two rather large ladies in very very skimpy 'French Maid' outfits were serving strawberries to various members of the audience, and they always leaned over in such a way that one audience member or another had a face full of the ladies' more-than-ample bosom or maximized gluteus maximus. Meanwhile a casanova-type fellow & his girlfriend provided more comic relief by flirting with the audience. Singling one attractive young lady out, Casanova's GF asked her where she bought her tits, only to be told they were natural.

"You're a lucky mother fucker," Casanova's GF told her, only to have Casanova point to the girl's boyfriend and say "No, he's the lucky mother fucker."

As Casanova's GF walked away she said "I wish I had tits like that." Casanova sighed and responded, "I wish you did, too."

Very crass humor, but delivered with such aplomb that only the most prudish Utah-resident could hope to be offended.

Of the two shows, La Reve was the more confusing, but I preferred it over Zumanity which was more a series of raunchy skits interspersed with dance routines. Yes, there was a lot more naked female flesh on display in Zumanity (and by a lot I don't mean large amounts) than in La Reve but Zumanity lacked the story and sheer acrobatics of La Reve, which at times had you in awe of what you were witnessing. While Zumanity had a very witty host who styled herself...himself(?) after Rocky Horror's Dr. Frankenfurter, La Reve had its share of comedy relief in four angel-type characters, who at times behaved in very un-angel like fashion, flirting with female members of the cast, and so on.

See Zumanity if you're in the mood for some light-hearted, semi-nude debauchery with a bit of singing and dancing, and a lot of joking around. And go early. Take your seat at least half an hour before the show, and if you can try to get front row seats, not for the view, but for a chance to interact with the cast.

See La Reve if you want to leave the theatre going "Wow! That was amazing!" and be left discussing with your partner exactly what happened, or what you thought was happening. Was she dreaming? Did he die? Did she die? I know I enjoyed it, but exactly what was it? And yes, I'm aware that La Reve is French for The Dream, or something like that, but that still leaves a few questions unanswered :)

Also don't take your seat for La Reve until you have to, because the music they play at the start is very repetitive and quickly begins to bore a hole through your skull. There is no pre-show for La Reve, and our show did not start right on time due to last minute safety checks.

Despite that, both shows were very enjoyable, in very different ways.