Wednesday, May 26, 2010

autopilot in real time

I finished the first draft of my (unpublished) novel is 2008. At that point, 2010 was the future and it seemed unfamiliar. If it ever actually gets published (which it would need a rewrite, and even then...) 2010 will be outdated.

Anyways, the action of the novel begins in June 2010, with references to the World Cup in the first two chapters. So if you want to follow along, here is the rough timeline for Autopilot.

Chapter One: June 2010
Chapter Five: August 2010
Chapter Nine: September 2010 (9/11)
Chapter Ten: October 2010 (10/11)
Chapter Eleven: November 2010 (11/7)
Chapter Twelve: November 2010 (Thanksgiving)
Chapter Fourteen: December 1, 2010
Chapter Fifteen: December 2, 2010
Chapter Seventeen: New Year's Eve
Chapter Twenty-One: February 2011

Sunday, May 23, 2010

select company

Couples Retreat is up there with EdTV, Gosford Park, and Empire Records as my least favorite movies of all time.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


I've had this thought for a while, but didn't write about it. Perhaps because it makes me sound homosexual. But then I heard Kevin Wildes talk about it so I guess it's okay.

One could argue that men's cologne and women's perfume should switch scents.

For example, one of my wife's favorite scents is vanilla. Another typical favorite of women is lavender. So, to appeal to my wife, shouldn't I wear vanilla? If she likes vanilla, why am I wearing Old Spice?

To extend the argument, I like the smell of Old Spice and Irish Spring. Shouldn't women wear those scents to appeal to me?

- - -

The answer is of course wrapped in the problem. The reason I like Old Spice is because I think it smells manly. I think that because that's the way it's been presented and marketed for decades. So I like it and wear it because it's what I've been told to think a man smells like. And women (in theory) want me to wear Old Spice because it's what they think a man should smell like.

So even though my wife likes vanilla, she probably wouldn't like it on me, because it's not what I'm supposed to smell like.

The whole thing makes you think about why we like what we like. And it would seem that it comes down more to advertising/marketing/business than it does what people might prefer in a world without that business.

(Of course, you could point out that animals, including humans, have pheromones, and that is the idea behind cologne/perfume. But is Old Spice or vanilla perfume really mimicking what our pheromones smell like?)

- - -

Also, I had an unrelated thought this morning, because my forehead was dry. What did people do 100 years before lotion? If I was around in the prairie days, I would have told a child complaining about dry skin to go dip his face in the river. But water never makes your skin less dry. It's tricky like that.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

on survivor

Despite not watching any of this current season, I watched the finale. The finale started with 5 people, narrowing down to a final three.

Some thoughts overall. Spoilers to follow.

Rupert and Colby have both appeared on three seasons.
Russell has appeared on two seasons.
All three of them were successful, but never won it all.
Sandra appeared on two seasons, winning both times.

The best part of Survivor is that the jury of voted out people decides the winner.
The worst part is that alliances make it so predictable for most of the season.

Rupert and Colby are the archetype good guy. They are nice, usually strong in challenges, helpful around camp, and generally honest.
Russell is the archetype bad guy, though very strategic. He lies to everyone, but is also strong in challenges, and always focused on doing what it takes to advance.

Neither of these have proven to be good formulas to winning it all.
The formula for winning it all, is to not be a threat in challenges, to align yourself with the right people, to be disliked enough that someone will bring you to the final three, but liked enough that the jury will vote for you.
Russell could have brought Colby over Sandra to the final three. But he figured that Sandra was more disliked than Colby. That was Sandra's key, that she wasn't too nice or a threat. But when it came to the final three, the jury liked her the best.

Russell made the point that he played the game the best.

This is interesting and important. How you define playing the game the best. Some people might say that winning challenges, pulling your fair share of weight around camp, and doing whatever it takes to advance is playing the game the best. Controlling the game by deciding who's going home and who stays.

There is a part of me that can see that the above paragraph is true, and using that definition Russell should have gotten more votes than Sandra. But I hated Russell. I didn't want him to win. And the jury felt the same way. Once you get betrayed, you don't see things in the light of who "played the game the best." At that point, from an outsider's perspective, we see that playing the game the best is really defined as doing what it takes to advance, but posing little threat and getting people to like you.

While the whole notion of being on an island and playing for fire and reward challenges of food and seeing your family feels boring and overdone to me, there is a basic strategy element of the game that I love. I feel there could be a fresh take on it, especially getting down to a final jury, and what it takes to get people to vote for you.

I also wish that there was someone to not allow alliances early in the game. I really don't like when a tribe of 8 people show up and it's 7-1, and they've picked out someone who isn't obviously the weakest link. I think it would be a lot more interesting if we had people casting votes based on their own observations, and you might get a 3-2-2-1 split, or even a 2-2-1-1-1-1 split.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

mr. wall

John Wall is projected to be the #1 NBA draft pick after spending one year at Kentucky.

Wall said he was particularly proud of his 3.5 grade point average in his second semester at Kentucky, which would dwarf the overall fall semester GPA of the Wildcats. The Lexington Herald-Leader reported that Kentucky's basketball team's first-semester grades were a seven-year low of 2.025.

"I finished the semester with a 3.5 and people thought I wouldn't finish school or blow past it since I knew I was going to the NBA," Wall said. "It made me feel good because people say I'm not smart enough or I don't take my school work seriously. But I took it seriously both semesters and finished with a great grade point average."

Emphasis mine. Look, I don't give a shit that he graduated early to go to the NBA. And good for him to get a 3.5 at such an esteemed University as Kentucky. I'm sure his classes we're real ball-busters considering he was playing basketball through the end of March. But maybe don't play up the fact that people thought you weren't going to finish school moments after you're leaving after doing the absolute minimum amount of college.

I'm sure he'll be great at putting a leather ball in an iron ring.

Monday, May 17, 2010

ahead of the curve

I was anti-Facebook before being anti-Facebook was cool.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

projecting the chiefs offense

It's been a long time since a Chiefs' fan has been able to be excited about the offense. But I started to add up who will be on the field...

5 offensive linemen
Cassel QB
Charles RB (sub Thomas Jones)
Bowe WR1
Chambers WR2

- - -

That's 9.

The Chiefs have 4 tight ends. New draftee Moeaki and pickup Leonard Pope would figure to be at the top of the TE depth chart.

So if we assume those 9 above will be in on most plays, then you can pick 2 from this list:
Moeaki / Urban WR3 / McCluster RB/WR

So you can go 1 TE and put either Urban or McCluster as WR3. You could put both in and have 4WR.

You could put in Moeaki and Pope, plus Charles and McCluster as 2 RBs. So you'd have 2 TE that could block or catch passes, with 2 RBs that are super fast and can catch passes out the backfield.

On paper at least, it looks like Charlie Weis has the weapons to make something work.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

"all bloggers are narcissistic"

Earlier this week, when discussing how we could influence bloggers to promote our products, I heard that quote. In context, the person's point was that all bloggers care about is increasing the amount of traffic to their blog. So if we give them something, like a contest, that will bring visitors, they will say nice things about our products.

I was probably the only blogger in the room that heard that quote. And while I am narcissistic about some things, I don't give a shit about my traffic levels. I don't think I've even checked them in the last couple years. So her universal generalization was proven false based on a sample size of one.

Those generalizations may be what I dislike the most about the advertising business. We have all this words to describe who we want to buy our products: shoppers, consumers, Moms. And all the time people say things like "Moms care about the brand names of cleaning products" or "shoppers don't like to read things in the aisle." We justify it as research and insights, and that it allows us to make good advertisements.

I hate it. I hate that we act like everyone is the same. I hate that we act like we are so much better than them because we make ads to manipulate their emotions, to go from a current mindset to a desired mindset.

I hate being boxed in. Some day I may publish a book. And I may try to publish a second one. And it might have difficulty getting published or it might not resonate with fans of my first book because it might be too different. I want to write funny books and serious books and books that make you think and books that make you happy. But it seems that people want to box you in to a genre and keep you there. (See all the Panic! at the Disco fans who balked at Pretty. Odd.)

Very few people will read an ad and have the same reaction, unless it is indifference.

- - -

I suppose it would be simpler just to say that I dislike the notion of advertising. Perhaps my favorite Onion article of all time is Pepsi To Cease Advertising. It is printed and hanging on my office door.

This quote in particular always gets me because it is so true, and at the same time so removed from modern reality. "Frankly, it just feels sort of weird and desperate to put all this energy into telling people what to drink. If they don't like it, then they don't like it."

Friday, May 14, 2010

a case for the serial comma

This is a headline:

Winning, loyalty or immortality?

My brain read it as having the same structure as:

Football, winning and losing.

Thus I did not understand the headline. Later I realized winning, loyalty, and immortality were three options. The headline made more sense. Though if it had a serial comma it would have been obvious from the beginning.

A lot of people don't like to use a serial comma. Wikipedia reveals that the Chicago Manual of Style is for it, while the AP style guide is against it.

I grew up using it and think that it can only help, never hurt. As a professional writer, I dabbled in a phase of omitting it, but I'm back to preferring it.

Aside: I think it's funny that I am a professional writer. We joke at work when judging our ads sometimes, that they look "professionally done." When I was younger the idea of a professional job seemed bigger than it does now.

And for the record, the article itself is one of the best by Simmons that I can remember.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

HC court: you decide

Last Saturday, I walked out of an ice cream store. I needed to cross the street. It was a standard street, one lane of traffic in each direction. In the lane closest to me, was a funeral procession. The cars were marked with "funeral" stickers in the windshield.

I went to the crosswalk. In Illinois, these crosswalks are marked with signs: "State Law: Vehicles must yield to pedestrians in crosswalk."

The speed limit was 25 or 30 on this street and that's what the procession was traveling at, more or less.

I stood there, at the edge of the crosswalk, watching the procession go by. I waited. I waited some more. After about ten minutes of standing there, and with no end in sight, I grew impatient.

When I saw that traffic was backing up to the right and that there was a bit of a gap in front of a slower moving car, I ran across the street.

Someone in the car that I cut in front of, yelled out at me, approximately: "You racist ass nigger! I oughta stomp your ass!"

More or less.

I didn't think it crossing the street was a big deal because I didn't hold them up, they didn't have to brake for me.

I've subsequently tried Googling for answers to protocol, and Illinois doesn't say anything about pedestrians interacting with a procession.

I found this on the Delaware traffic rules site:

(a) Pedestrians and operators of vehicles not part of a funeral procession shall not drive between, obstruct, hinder or in any way interfere with the vehicles of a funeral procession being led by a funeral lead vehicle or funeral escort vehicle.

Surveying the internet it seems that most states have rules about not driving between a procession but don't mention crossing at a crosswalk.

It seems like this might fall under more of a social norm than a traffic rule. Any thoughts on whether I was a racist ass nigger for crossing the street?