Sunday, June 27, 2010

There once was a donkey. His name was Barack.

Did anyone ever wonder why the democrat party ended up with a donkey as their mascot? Seriously, of all the animals in the world, a donkey? Weird.

But that's not at all what this post is about.

I had an interesting realization at some point yesterday. It's not particularly spiritual, insightful, or deep in any way. Just interesting.
I realized that I can put anything I want to on my blog.

"Uh, duh." You say. I would generally agree. But I was thinking more specifically about literature and satire. Let me explain.

When you want to publish a book, or an article, or a newspaper column, there are some things you just can't do. Not because you don't have the right to an opinion that differs from other people's. And not because we aren't in a free country. But for two main reasons: One, it's a career move. You have to be nice to people or you don't go anywhere. Two, also career related, no one will buy or print things that the public doesn't want to hear. People don't buy it, you don't get anywhere. That's about it.

It's all a popularity contest. You have to be more worried about what other people think, which I don't like, but it's a fact of life in jobs like that. Those jobs wouldn't exist without public interest and opinion.

But a blog is something entirely different. A blog is just a random cyberspace slew of inane babble, funny pictures, and occasional deep thought. Well, at least mine is. Some people may have more important or useful things to blog about. I certainly don't. But that's what makes this so cool. It doesn't matter who reads it. It doesn't matter if it changes anything or makes any difference. It doesn't affect my job or my standard of living. It just... well, is.

I've often thought about writing a story that either satirizes or comments on some of the strange oddities of human nature. I'm not entirely sure it will ever happen, because I'm really not as clever as I wish I was. But I continue to think about it. Something like that is tricky, though, for the exact reason that you can't just blurt out any old thing you want. As sad as it is to be constrained by public opinion, like I said, that's just how it is. You have to be really careful about what you say, and what you infer.

Like in the wizard of Oz, for example. There's this underlying symbolic meaning about the fight between using gold or silver for the monetary standard. I don't know if Mr. Baum meant it that way or not, but it's there all the same. But he never named the evil witch after the person he disagrees with, or blatantly says 'gold is better'. It's all subtle symbols like walking the path of the yellow brick road, etc. That's what you have to do, and I'm really not sure I'm witty enough, or even remotely subtle enough to pull that off.

But on my blog, I can do anything I like. If I wanted to start a story like this, I could:

Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Barack. Barack was a bitter, jealous, and misguided little boy, because he was so self conscious about his skin color. "Someday I'll show them," he said to himself. "Someday I'll be the president and do whatever I want! That'll teach them to make fun of my vaguely brown skin."

Obviously I'm not going to finish that. First of all, because it doesn't have any sort of plot or direction. I just made it up as an example. And second of all, because at the moment, I don't have anything political to say. I probably will do something ridiculous like that in the future, but not now. And not about that particular subject.

But I could finish it if I wanted to. It's pretty awesomly glorious to be able to make fun of anything I want, and no one can care. They can get mad, and make rude comments and stuff. But it's just a blog. So whatever. (shifty eyes)

Anyway, that's really all I wanted to say. Laters.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Blackmail anyone?

According to my friend, the main reason people check blogs is to look at pretty pictures. That's probably true. However, I have no pretty pictures of me. All that I do have are either weird, heinous, or badly taken. Or some combination thereof.

Not that I have a real problem with weird pictures. Other people might find the random things I do to be quite embarrassing. In fact, some people I know consider it to be rather embarrassing to be labeled as nerdy or dorky.

I, on the other hand, have no sense of self-respect in that regard. Not to say that I have no self respect at all. I am just the type that it would be VERY difficult to blackmail.

Remember that time I used to wear Dr. Seuss hats to every girl's camp? (Obviously this isn't a camp pic, but it's one of the only seuss hat ones I currently have access to.)

Remember that time I own a long bow, a plastic long sword, a dollar store version of Sting, six lightsabers, and four and a half homemade, yet awesome, Harry Potter wands?

Remember that time that one of the ways I entertained myself as a young child was to take my box of igneous rocks, curl up inside my blanket in the living room, and play volcano? And each kind of rock came out of the volcano just like it would in real life?

Remember that time I sometimes cooked dinner food for breakfast? Pizza (and not leftovers, but fresh cooked), Pork chops, beef stew, chicken soup, you name it, I've had it for breakfast, on purpose.

Remember that time that I read more fantasy books in a week that some people have in a whole lifetime? Recent addictions: Fablehaven, Ranger's Apprentice, Percy Jackson, and thus far everything I've read by Gail Carson Levine (especially Ella Enchanted).

Remember that time I listen, and dance to, random Celtic music just for kicks and giggles? Like right now. The one that's playing at the moment is called "Jig Medley". Clearly, it's a medley of different Irish Jigs.

Remember that time I would have random dance parties in my room? Sometimes to 80's music.

I think I've established my point. I am completely unabashed by the random, somewhat unconventional, things that I do.

Although I do find an interesting dichotomy here: I have no shame in taking pictures of dancing on my bed to 80's, or singing all of my guts out to Glee. At the same time, ask me to do it in front of someone, and something in my body shuts down. I can't make my muscles do it, and believe me, I've definitely tried. Many, many times.

One problem I have is that dances and stuff always play stupid music that I couldn't dance to even if I was all by myself. I would give an example, except I don't know what any of it is, or who it's by, because it's lame.

I would find it significantly easier to dance at a dance party if they played something (as lame as it sounds) like Journey, or Michael Jackson, or ABBA, or (yes, you may now laugh) Backstreet Boys. Cheesy as they are, they have lots of good jamming your guts out in the car type songs. In fact, I'm realizing as I write this that almost all of the kinds of songs I dance best to were written before I even entered kindergarten.

Sure there's good music now. I like Daughtry, or the occasional Mae song (though not all of them). I like country, and pop, and rock. My tastes are very versatile. But when it comes to serious dancing, nothing will ever be better than the old stuff.

I suppose that will be something I'll have to keep working on. There may yet be hope, though. There are things I can do now that I couldn't do without going into a coma before.

Such as singing in church. Not solos. Definitely don't do those, and I probably never will. (I have a filler voice. That alto that caulks the gaps in the song.) But I've done quartets and quintets many times now, and occasionally even a capella. Scary, but doable now.

Or perhaps giving talks/speeches. I still get nervous about them, and often still get the shaky knees and burning face. But I can do them, and not half bad.

I can teach a hundred people in a sunday school lesson at one time, and it doesn't phase me. I love teaching that kind of lessons (as opposed to giving talks). I could do it every week and be fine with it. Now that is definitely something I couldn't do before.

I can somewhat socialize at activities and after meetings and stuff. I'm still terrible at it, and it's still hard to do, but at least I sorta kinda can a little bit now.

Perhaps someday I'll be able to dance in front of people, and not think twice about it. Today is not that day. But it remains my goal. Now, as I finish this blog with a few more pics of me being crazy, I shall also provide a list of some of the songs that I find it the most fun to dance to.

Blue Suede Shoes - Elvis (laugh if you like, it's a FUN song)
Dancing in the Street - my version is David Bowie & Mick Jagger
Johnny B. Goode - my version's from Back to the Future
Sweet Home Alabama - Lynyrd Skynyrd (sp?)
Jailhouse rock - Elvis (see above)
Twist and Shout - Beatles
Ain't No Mountain High Enough - Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
Take a Chance on Me - ABBA and also Mamma Mia. Both versions are good.

Crocodile Rock - Elton John
Thriller - Michael Jackson
Shout - I'm not actually sure
Hit Me With Your Best Shot - Pat Benatar
Love is a Battlefield - Pat Benatar
Girl's Just Wanna Have Fun - Cyndi Lauper
Walkin' On Sunshine - Katrina and the Waves
Livin' On a Prayer - Bon Jovi

Allstar - Smash Mouth
Bye Bye Bye - Nsync
Larger than Life - Backstreet Boys

Ok, I know what you're thinking. I'm stuck in some kind of time warp or something. But I dare you to make that into a playlist and NOT want to dance when you listen to it. I double dare you. Won't happen. The dance will be inevitable.

In fact, I might have to make just such a playlist.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sheer Boredom = Utterly Random

Out of complete, utter, sheer, un-ending boredom, I decided to turn on my "Car music" shuffle on my ipod, which pretty much only excludes instrumental soundtracks and Phantom of the Opera.
I took Phantom out because it played RELENTLESSLY. Seriously, I think my ipod had an unhealthy addiction.

I have to say, Gerard Butler was not NEARLY ugly enough to be an effective Phantom. He was supposed to be horribly disfigured and hideous. They kinda failed on both of those accounts.

Anyway, I decided to record the songs that came on, in order, just because I can. Here's what I am jamming to in my empty apartment:

I Need You - LeAnn Rimes
It's Hip to be Square - Huey Lewis and the News
No Man's Land - Billy Joel
Now When the Rain Falls - Scarlet Pimpernel (Linda Eder)
House - Elton John
I Know Things Now - Into the Woods (Danielle Ferland)
Lost in this Moment - Big & Rich
Oh, The Thinks You Can Think - Seussical
Summer - Our Dilemma
So This is Love - Cinderella (Irene Woods)
Storms in Africa - Enya
We're Off to See the Wizard - Wizard of Oz
Let's Get Together - Parent Trap (Hayley Mills)
Lucy Meets Mr. Tumnus - Narnia (apparently not all my instrumental soundtracks are excluded)
As Coroner, I must Aver - Wizard of Oz
My Blanket and Me - Charlie Brown
Tell it Like it is - Heart
Learn to Love - Bon Jovi
Try - Hayden Panettiere
Before He Cheats - Carrie Underwood
World of My Own - Alice and Wonderland (the old one)
For You Blue - Beatles
Journey to the Past - Anastasia (Liz Callaway)
If This is it - Huey Lewis and the News
Crazy 8's - Mae
Respect - Aretha Franklin
I'm Wishing - Snow White (wow.)
Blue Suede Shoes - Elvis
The Age of Not Believing - Bedknobs and Broomsticks (Angela Lansbury)
The Prince is Giving a Ball - Cinderella (Jason Alexander)
Ridin the Storm Out - REO Speedwagon
I Want it That Way - Backstreet Boys
The Kite - Charlie Brown
Pink Elephants - Dumbo
I Told You So - Carrie Underwood
Jig - Little Mermaid
I Love You - Martina McBride
I Hope You Dance - LeeAnn Womack
Wheel in the Sky - Journey
Marguerite - Scarlet Pimpernel
Defying Gravity - Wicked
I Can Hear the Bells - Hairspray
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite - Beatles
Steamroller Blues - Elvis
Born to Hand-Jive - Grease
Time Dragon Clock - Wicked
Nine Lives - Aerosmith
Freefalling - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Oo-de-lally - Robin Hood
Any Way You Want It - Journey
This Man is Mine - Heart
My Elusive Drug - Elton John
Another Layer - John McLaughlin
Just Walk Away - Kelly Clarkson
Echo - Our Dilemma
Another One Bites the Dust - Queen
Optimistic Voices - Wizard of Oz (Yeah, that's really what the song is called)
We Weren't Born to Follow - Bon Jovi
I Learned From You - Miley Cyrus
Hindi Sad Diamonds - Moulin Rouge
Unforgettable Fire - U2
There are Worse Things I Could Do - Grease (hahaha)
Team - Charlie Brown
Bare Necessities - Jungle Book
Paint the Sky With Stars - Enya
Bows - Charlie Brown
Magic Dance - David Bowie (YES!)
Rock and Roll Music - Beach Boys
Faithful - Paul Cardall
I'm Gonna Always Love You - Muppets
Follow Me - Uncle Kracker
I Wonder - Sleeping Beauty (Mary Costa)
The Song That Goes Like This - Spamalot
I Just Can't Live a Lie - Carrie Underwood
Mine All Mine - Shedaisy

Well, that's 75. I figure that's plenty for now. It seemed quite Soundtrack/Broadway heavy today. Well, maybe not too bad, but more than usual. There were 36 of the 75 that were either from a Musical or a movie soundtrack. There were 3 Carrie Underwood too, which is a lot for being out of 1,629 song choices.

Sometimes my Ipod likes themes. Like making Phantom every other song. Seriously, that was weird. I guess it's making up for it today by picking songs from loads of other Musicals.

Ah, now Reba is on. I like Reba. She's awesome. Is it weird that I refer to so many people by first name? Like 'Oh, Alan. You rock'. (Rickman) Or 'Yay, it's Billy!' (Joel) Ah, Well.
Wow, three Reba Songs in a row. I think we know JoJo's next kick.

JoJo is my Ipod's name. Oh, make that four.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Why America hasn't shifted to the metric system

Ever since early middle school (for me at least) our teachers have been trying to teach us the standard measurement system AND the metric system. Most kids are clever enough to manage having both, but it does still get confusing at times.

I've been reading a book called the Ranger's Apprentice series, and it's really really good. I like it a lot. But the only trouble I have is that, since it was written by an Australian guy, all the measurements are in metric. So he's all the time telling people that they had to travel 50 kilometers that day, or something like that. All I know about kilometers is that 5k is the same as 3.1 miles. And since uneven mental math really isn't my thing, most of the time I have no idea how many kilometers they were supposed to have ridden that day. I just pretend they're miles and go from there. Sometimes he does meters, which is a little easier. I ran the 60, 200, 300, and 600 meter dashes in track in years past. Granted, the 300 and 600 I pretty much utterly failed at, but I have a decent idea of how much of a distance that is. But everything else... clueless.

That got me to wondering something. If the metric system is supposed to be so much better, why haven't the world's most powerful countries, England and the USA switched totally over to it? Especially when other countries who used to be powers switched over centuries ago. France has done it since 1795. Not that anyone really cares about France anymore, but it used to be pretty important.

Then, last night as I was reading Ranger's Apprentice it came to me. Well, my theory on it anyway.

I think that the more people learn about both systems at the same time, the more they begin to realize (subconsciously of course) that the metric system is actually less convenient. And in some parts, it's rather vague. This puzzles me, because scientists use it almost exclusively, and scientists are supposed to be all factual and exact.

Here's the thing: Yes, the metric system is easier to count with, since it's base 10. It's a lot easier to do mental math when everything divides by 10, and it's also easier to remember how many of everything is in everything else. It's all 10's. 10 milimeters per centimeter. 100 centimeters per meter. 1,000 meters per kilometer. Easy. But that's where the convenience ends.

Example #1: Meters v feet.

When people in metric countries talk about height (like in the books I was reading) they either go with meters or centimeters. Meters are horribly vague. Basically everyone in the books (and there are 8 books) is either 2 meters tall, or has a reputation for being 2 meters tall and doesn't quite reach it. Except for one guy who was a "2 1/2 meter giant". So basically everyone is the same exact height. They're not, but they sound like it because it's either that, or get even more confusing by trying to be all like "a meter and 3/4" or something. And even that's almost always used very generally.

On the other hand, though, there are centimeters. And while they are very much more exact, it's almost like OCD more. Good for science. Bad for everything else. Because there are 100 centimeters in each meter, and so if you want to be a meter and a half tall, you have to get up into triple digits for your centimeter count. Like 157 centimeters or whatever. Now, I do realize that there is a measurement in between that's rather more similar to a foot. But it's a decimeter, and seriously no one uses them. If you go tell someone that they're 15 1/2 decimeters tall, they're gonna look at you funny.

Thus it seems to me that, while the base 10 makes some things easier, it is just inconvenient for every day use. Which is what normal people care about anyway. Feet and inches are exact enough to allow someone to be descriptive and give a good idea of something, but not as OCD as 157 centimeters. They're also not as much of a mouthful to say. It is also a lot easier to round off in feet and inches than in meters. The difference between 5 feet and 6 feet is a whole lot smaller than the difference between 1 meter and 2 meters. You just can't round down to one meter unless you're talking about hobbits. And 3 meters is just ridiculous. "Hey, that dude's like 7 feet tall!" is just plain easier, more convenient, and gives a better, more impacting impression than "Hey, that dude's almost 2 and a half meters tall!"

Example #2: I've known about this one for a long time, but I never connected it with the other example before. Farenheit v. Celsius.

Celsius is easier in one regard only. That it starts with freezing at 0, and boiling at 100. Those are easy numbers to remember and use in math problems. But once again, that's the only convenience.

Fahrenheit starts with freezing at 32, and goes to boiling at 212. This seems a little weird. But there is logic behind it. According to my understanding, this guy made water as cold as possible (by adding salt and whatever to it, to get it below freezing). That's where 0 is on the F scale. Then the actual freezing point happened to hit at 32. And human body temps were also a marker, at almost 100.
This article is a pretty good description of why Celsius is basically useless. I happen to agree, and in fact always have.
Definitely read this.

I liked this paragraph from it a lot. "Easily the most common, everyday use of temperature is the measure of how cold or warm it is outside. In 90% of the world, we see temperatures that rarely stray above 100 or below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Its interval from 0 to 100 is almost fine tuned to measure the outdoor temperature. What’s more is that I would argue that 1 degree Fahrenheit (that is .56 degrees Celsius) is right at the average limit in human perception to a change in the air temperature around him/her. That puts both the size of units and the placement of the scale of Fahrenheit at just perfect conditions for outdoor temperature measurement. "

So true. And here's another thing. There are only 100 degrees in between freezing and boiling in Celsius. There are 180 degrees between freezing and boiling in Fahrenheit. Which means that the Fahrenheit scale is almost twice as exact. A reading in Fahrenheit is a more specific description of the temperature than it would be in Celsius. While, as I said, this doesn't matter AS much in every day life, it matters very much in science. Which is why it confuses me that everyone says Celsius is better.

Also, and this is just personal and literary, when you have a really hot day, like in St. George, or AZ, or somewhere, it sounds alot more normal to me to say it's 122 degrees, than to say it's 50 degrees. The number 50 (even if you're used to that meaning a hot day) will never be as accurate feeling as 122. Severe heat is so horrible and gross that it deserves to have triple digits.

This is the Vostok station in Antarctica, where the coldest ever temperature was recorded.

By the way, I just discovered that the two temperature methods cross at -40 degrees. -41 F is the same as -40 1/2 C. and -39 F is the same as -39.44444 etc C. After that they go off on their own again.
Which, I just realized, also makes my same point about extreme cold. The official coldest temperature recorded on Earth (in Antarctica, of course) was -128.6 F and -89.2 C. Come on!! The coldest temp ever recorded on this whole planet! That deserves a negative triple digit if anything does.

This is Al-Aziziyah, Libya where the hottest ever temp was recorded.

PS. If you're curious, there's an unofficial record from 1997 (same station in Antarctica) that claims -132 F, which is -91 C. And apparently the hottest temp ever was in Libya, at 136 F and 57.8 C.

And I just learned this: Most consecutive days above 100 °F (37.8 °C): 160 days; Marble Bar, Western Australia from 31 October 1923 to 7 April 1924.

Can you imagine? That's almost a whole school year of time without dropping below 100 for a single day. Ugh. Remind me never to live there.

Ok, once again we've reached my rambling point. The purpose of all this was to basically say that I think there's a subconscious logical reason why lots of people like the old system better than metric.

If you want to look at some random weather records, go here:

Ah Wikipedia. It's like the internet version of Duct Tape. What would we ever do without it?