Friday, October 24, 2014

Reading Update - Breakfast of Champions and Starship Troopers


I finished Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse Five” a couple of weeks ago and followed up by reading “Breakfast of Champions” last week. I didn’t like BOC nearly as much as Slaughterhouse Five. BOC is a lot more “experimental” and was probably considered pretty edgy in its time, but it doesn’t have a lot of plot and seems to be written from the perspective of someone explaining humanity to aliens. That’s interesting, but ultimately didn’t lead to much. It got better as it went on, once the plot kicked in, but that’s about all I can say about it. Plus, Vonnegut uses the N-word A LOT and I wasn’t sure if it was meant satirically or not. (On balance, I think so).


This week I started Robert Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers”. I read it in Junior or Senior High (30+ years ago) but didn’t remember much of it other than a few scenes. I know that the book has a reputation as being a polemic in favor of fascism and, of course, I remember Paul Verhoeven’s movie which I really love. My impression before re-reading was that the movie, described by many as 90210 in space, was nothing like the book.


Boy was that impression wrong. I’m about halfway done with the book and so far it has tracked the movie pretty well. Johnnie Rico starts out in high school, joins the Federation forces on a whim, goes through basic training and is now involved in the disastrous invasion of Klendathu, following the destruction of Buenos Aires. Many of the same characters are in the book and a lot of the high school and training scenes from the book are in the movie. They did add some characters in the movie, played up the romantic entanglements, took out the power armor completely, and moved a few things around, but all in all I am shocked at how similar the two stories are.


I also hit the first jarring notes of libertarian/fascist philosophy this morning as Heinlein devotes a chapter to the glorious societal benefits of corporal punishment and how 20th century Democracies failed because they stopped beating their kids. Yeah, that was charming, and not at all a strawman argument, and stupid and wrong.


Still, that aside, I’m enjoying the book and finding my love of the movie enhancing the read.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Internet Wins - Amazon reviews

Gizmodo had a post today on humorous Amazon reviews. One of the comments suggested the reviews of the product below.


How to Avoid Huge Ships

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Saturday Night Live - All Star Team

Last week, Dennis Perkins, the AV Club reviewer, in his review of the Bill Hader episode, talked about his all-star SNL cast.
Longtime SNL fans, like longtime fans of other generations-spanning organizations like the Justice League or the X Men, make all-time all-star teams. (I know I’m not the only one—let the comments show…) My own rules are pretty strict—seven members only, no featured players, members judged only from the time they were on the show—and subject to constant changes of mind, but Bill Hader has been a consistent (Not Ready For Prime Time) player since his second year on the show.
I've actually thought about this before, and, like Perkins, I thought about it in the context of Bill Hader being one of my choices. Hader was a great and versatile SNL cast member and absolutely belongs on any SNL all-star team.

Who else would go on my list? Only two others come immediately to mind.

Phil Hartman - The most versatile player ever to grace 30 Rock's stage. Man of a thousand voices, Hartman could do anything, play any type or mood. His early death was a huge tragedy.

Will Ferrell - One of the biggest successes ever to come out of SNL, he had a huge range and could be goofy, overbearing, serious, or absurd. Plus, he wrote the Cowbell sketch.

Beyond those three, I'm not sure. Eddie Murphy is widely acknowledged as one of the most successful SNL alums, but I'm not a big fan of his time on the show, even though he pretty much single-handedly saved it during the eighties. Dana Carvey was great on SNL while Darrell Hammond, the longest-serving cast member, took over the Phil Hartman versatility role during the 90s and well into the 2000s.

Of the women, Amy Poehler would probably go to the top of many people's list, but like Murphy, she's not a personal favorite of mine. Kristen Wiig would be on many people's list and I think current cast member Kate McKinnon is very close to making it on mine. Some people on the AV Club said that the recently departed Jan Hooks would make their list.

Speaking of current cast members, I love Taran Killam and if he continues as he has been, he'll eventually be on my list. I also really like Cecily Strong.

Here's a complete list of all the casts of SNL.

Who would make your list?

Ipecac Eats Burgers #14 - Red Robin Burger Works

I work across the street from L'Enfant Plaza in DC. The shopping area at L'Enfant Plaza has a newly renovated food court and they've recently started opening new restaurants. One of the newest is Red Robin Burger Works, which offers many of the usual Red Robin burgers in food court form.

When it first opened a few weeks ago, they were training staff and offering meals for free. The enormous line kept me from taking them up on that.

Gourmet Cheeseburger, no cheese

I got my usual Red Robin burger and it was very similar to its sit-down restaurant cousin. A little overdone, though not nearly as bad as the last time I ate at Red Robin. As you can see from the picture below, only the edges were really overdone.

All in all, the usual Red Robin goodness. I'm sure I'll eat here often.

Chris Christie: Won't someone [not] think of the children?

Wow! Is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie eavesdropping on Carol and me?
"I've got to tell you the truth, I'm tired of hearing about the minimum wage. I really am. I don't think there's a mother or father sitting around a kitchen table tonight in America who are saying 'you know, honey, if our son or daughter could just make a higher minimum wage, my God, all our dreams would be realized.' Is that what parents aspire to for their children?"  Link
Zing! He so has us pegged. I can't tell you how many times we've said, "Gee, I am SOOOO glad Rachel isn't making too much money. Someone paying her more would be horrible!" I mean, what possible reason could we have to want her to make more money?!?

To be fair, I'm pretty sure Christie is being truthful about being tired of hearing about the minimum wage. I'm pretty sure nearly all Republicans are sick of it.

Of course, teenagers aren't the only ones making minimum wage. The average age of the minimum wage worker in America is 35 years old. Lots of actual adults, with families of their own, make minimum wages too. And since working forty hours a week at minimum wage still puts you BELOW the poverty line, raising the minimum wage would actually allow some families to be, you know, NOT so poor as to need government assistance.

But then their children would be better off, so I guess Chris Christie would be against it. Pesky kids!

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Ebola Perspective

Here's some perspective on the Ebola crisis from (shockingly) Meet the Press.

Ebola is not an existential crisis requiring us to close the borders, quarantine Africa, impeach Obama and elect Republicans. Sheesh.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Low pay is a feature, not a bug

You remember a few years ago, during the unjustified austerity push that delayed our economic recovery, when they froze federal salaries? The lie pushed by conservatives, still being pushed today, is that federal workers are overpaid. And our salaries are still frozen.

Yeah, big shock, it was all bullcrap.
White-collar federal employees on average earn 35.2 percent less than private-sector workers in comparable jobs, an advisory council announced Friday in the latest report in a years-long back and forth over how salaries stack up.
The Federal Salary Council announced that figure based on data gathered by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which under federal pay law follows a methodology that has yielded a large “pay gap” figure in favor of the private sector for two decades.  Link
Conservatives like to say that they're good at business, but, of course, if you want high quality, motivated workers, you need to pay them what they're worth. Even in government. Duh.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Rachel & Cinderella

I'm working on editing some home movies and put together this short clip of Rachel meeting Cinderella at Walt Disney World in 2004. We were in the lobby of the Cinderella restaurant in Cinderella's castle waiting for our table.


This was taped on my MiniDV camcorder, so the quality isn't great.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Fall TV Season

Just a couple of quick notes on the fall season of 2014, wherein I've been watching considerably fewer shows than usual.

Doctor Who has been incredible. The new Doctor, Peter Capaldi, is a very different Doctor from his recent predecessors and, in addition, very funny. The show has been answering some of the recent complaints about how it portrays women and the plots have been fantastic without the heaviness of past seasons' overarching story arcs. This season so far has just been fantastically written.

The Walking Dead season premier was Sunday night and to my utter surprise (spoilers) they dealt with cannibal-run Terminus in a single episode. Filled with action and Carol's ass-kicking, the episode also had the most gruesome and horrifying sequence I've probably ever seen in a television show. I'm looking at you, Trough. Yeesh, that was way too intense. I'm still kind of shaken up over how brutal it was.

And that's all for now.

False Equivalency Strikes Again

I think that it's no secret that I love the Daily Show and its sister show, the Colbert Report. For years, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have been a breath of sanity among the increasing chaos of American politics. I don't know how I would cope without their humorous take on current events.

But Stewart suffers from "false equivalency" syndrome from time to time where he apparently feels he has to go after Democrats in order to balance out how much he goes after Republicans. Of course, if the Democrats are being stupid and deserve it, I have no problem with him ripping them a new one. But oftentimes he criticizes them for trivial inconsistencies, while the Republicans are pushing policies that are actually getting Americans killed. (See Medicaid expansion).

Last night was one such time. The clip below is the opening from last night's show where he mocks the Democrats, suggesting that they're hypocrites for outspending Republicans in the upcoming midterm election.

Now here's the thing.

The conservative Supreme Court created this mess in the Citizens United decision which opened the floodgates to unlimited campaign contributions from anonymous sources. Republicans hailed the decision and still support it, while Democrats, in Congress and the Administration, have made it clear time and again that they believe the policies created by the decision are undemocratic and hurt American democracy. The Democrats have made it clear that if they controlled both houses of Congress, they would pass legislation to counteract the decision. Some Democrats are even going so far as to sponsor a Constitutional amendment. Stewart then mocks them for outspending their Republican opponents and *gasp* fundraising!

But, really, what choice do the Democrats have? Unilateral disarmament? Citizens United is the law of the land and while the Democrats could take a principled stand and NOT spend any money during the election, the result would be the loss of both houses and any chance of campaign finance reform. It would be suicide by purity test. How can Stewart not see that?

Maybe he doesn't care. He often falls back on the "It's just a comedy show" excuse. The thing is, this segment wasn't funny because it didn't have that kernel of truth. Believe it or not, you can be in favor of campaign finance reform and still need to spend money to get elected in order to pass campaign finance reform.

If the Democrats took both houses of Congress and THEN did not kill Citizens United, they would have earned Stewart's sarcastic scorn. But until then, the only way they can succeed in getting rid of the undemocratic law is to spend money during elections. Duh.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Today is Columbus Day!

Now go check out this comic infographic.

Happy Bartolome Day!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Fun with Sings - Verbosity

Last week's Charlotte's Web sign was a big hit. I heard lots of people talking about it with some delight. One of my staff, not knowing that I'm the one doing it, told me that whoever was doing it was going to have a hard time topping it. Great. Just what I need, expectations.

Here's the new one. (Click to embiggen). No one will see it until Tuesday, Monday being a federal holiday.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

This makes perfect sense

This week, two-hundred Catholic Bishops convened at the Vatican for a Catholic Synod to discuss issues of family and sexuality.

Two-hundred celibate men will decide the policies for sex, procreation and family issues for over 1 billion Catholics worldwide.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Fun with Signs - Post Morse Code and the followup

After my Morse code sign went up, the copycat prankster struck back, putting up the following post-it notes, also in Morse Code.

This one says, "Show me the Monkec?" Yes, Monkec. Obviously he was misquoting "Show Me the Money", but I'm not sure if the misquote was deliberate.

This one says "Stand Back?" No idea.

A couple of days later, I decided to directly address the copycat prankster so I put up my own post-it note between his that said, in Morse Code, "WTF?" with arrows pointing to his notes. I really had no idea what he was trying to communicate.

The next day, the sign below was posted. It reads "What next?" "King Kong?" "Star Trek?" I guess this means that he's asking what pop culture reference I am going to make next. Once again, I think the copycat is underestimating my cleverness. I haven't been posting just random pop culture references, but a wide variety of different types of signs. 

A couple of days later, I put up my next sign. Indeed it was a pop culture reference, but I think it's one of my most inspired.

Ipecac Eats Burgers # 13 - Elevation Burger

Another up and coming chain is Elevation Burger, which specializes in grass-fed, free range beef and all organic ingredients.

There used to be one in Germantown, but it didn't last very long. It was a prototype store with a conveyor grill. They'd take your order at one end of the conveyor and put your burger on the moving grill. By the time it reached the other end, it would be cooked. Apparently it wasn't a successful experiment because before the store went under, they replaced it with a regular grill. It was pretty cool, though. (They also had a weird incident where they sacked the original manager because he overstaffed the restaurant.)

This location of the franchise was in Potomac, Maryland.

As you can see, they do the double-patty like Five Guys. Also, lots of lettuce, which, I am told by a friend of mine, is an abomination on a hamburger.

This was a good burger, but much the same as the other quality chains like Five Guys and Smashburger. I don't like this much meat and so it loses some points for the double patty.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Congratulations, Indiana!

Thanks to today's Supreme Court non-decision, my home state of Indiana now has Marriage Equality! Who would have thought it would happen so soon?

Today's non-decision means the U.S. will jump from 19 states with marriage equality to 30. Incredible. Now all that remains is a handful of regressive states doing everything in their power to hatefully drag out the inevitable expansion of equal rights to everyone.

I have lived in four states in my life: Indiana, Massachusetts (college), Michigan (law school) and Maryland. Three of the four have marriage equality. Get with it, Michigan!

All in all, a great day for liberty.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Stay off the roads

This afternoon I gave Ben (16 years old) his first driving lesson. We used the Rio since it's a LOT easier to drive than the van. Ben did pretty well, actually, as he navigated around the Daly Elementary School parking lot. But it's going to be a long process.

I tried to get him to take the quicker route and learn to drive in a montage but he wouldn't do it.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Oh, snap!

President Obama, today at Northwestern.
"There's a reason fewer Republicans are preaching doom on deficits—because the deficits have come down at almost a record pace, and they’re now manageable. There's a reason fewer Republicans are running against Obamacare–because while good, affordable health care might seem like a fanged threat to the freedom of the American people on Fox News, it’s working pretty well in the real world," Obama told students at Northwestern University, to applause.
One party wants to help you and already has. The other wants to hurt you and help the rich.

What's Ipecac Reading Now?

I recently finished reading Robert Kirchubel’s “Operation Barbarossa: The German Invasion of the Soviet Union”. Having read a good number of WWII histories over the past couple of years, I wanted to get more detail on the actual military aspects of Hitler’s biggest mistake. Kirchubel’s book, only covering the first six months after the invasion, certainly provided lots of great, fascinating detail.

Wanting to take a break from World War II, I went about a week without anything specific to read. We’re members of Amazon Prime which means I can borrow one book per month free from the Amazon Lending Library, but if you don’t have a specific title in mind that’s part of the library, sorting through the thousands of books is rather daunting. Unfortunately, two books I’d like to reread, Robert Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers” and “Stranger in a Strange Land” are not available for free. (I’m really interested to see if my reaction to them has changed since I read them as a teenager).

With that in mind, the other night I reluctantly decided to browse through the science fiction section of the Lending Library. Lo and behold, on one of the first pages I found something I actually wanted to read, Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse Five”! I consider this a great stroke of luck as I’ve been wanting to read more Vonnegut since I finished “Cat’s Cradle” last year. I’m about halfway done and really enjoying it. Vonnegut is great.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Political Ads! You're doing it wrong.

Apparently Republican media advisors are brand new to the business. Below are two ads, one geared towards women and the other attempting to (literally) humanize Republicans.

First up, if Republicans know anything, it's the ladies!

You see what they did there? Ladies like getting married and wedding dresses. Therefore, vote for the only Governor to be confused with both Voldemort and Gollum! It's not at all patronizing or sexist. Interestingly, they did different versions of the ad for different Governor candidates. I guess they figured they could do more damage that way.

Next up, did you know that Republicans are people too?

Of course, humanizing Republicans by associating them with all the "liberal" stereotypes that Conservatives believe (Priuses! Recycling! Gourmet Cooking aka Gay!) tends to, more than anything, just demonstrate their biases. And, hilariously, many of those people aren't even confirmed Republicans, they're stock photos.

(Psst. Republicans, a bit of advice. If you're going to list all the ethnicities that are Republican, you probably shouldn't start with "Republicans are white". We already know that.)

Ipecac Eats Burgers - October 1 Update!

Fear not, I have not stopped eating burgers. I just haven't eaten anywhere new recently. I've revisited BGR, Smashburger (a couple of times) and Five Guys, but nowhere new since Jack Brown's.

I was trying to think of how many local places I still had yet to visit and I came up with around a half dozen. Yikes!

More to come.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Happy Anniversary!

One year ago today, the Republicans in the House of Representatives shut down the United States government, ON PURPOSE.

It cost our economy tens of billions of dollars, put hundreds of thousands out of work, delayed payout of government benefits, stopped important government functions, made the U.S. a laughing stock, and pretty much pissed off millions of Americans. But hey, they had a great reason.

To keep millions of Americans from getting affordable health insurance.

Republicans! Doing the wrong things for the wrong reasons!

Happy Anniversary, assholes.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Great Question

John Oliver, hilarious genius, asks, "How is Ayn Rand Still a Thing?"

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Fun with Signs - Beep, Beep, Beep

Here's the sign I put up last week. Let's see the weird copycat pranker do something with this!

I know of at least one person who translated it by putting it into Google translate. Warning: it's rather literal.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Change the damn name! And Lattegate

I've been meaning to write about the Washington football team and their racist name for some time now but haven't gotten around to it.  Now I don't need to.

This was the coup de grace as far as I'm concerned. Change the damn name.

And if you think the Native Americans are being overly sensitive, check out the reaction Native American activists got when they actually went to a Redskins game. It's pretty amazing and eye-opening.

That same night, The Daily Show addressed the ridiculousness that is Lattegate. Their reaction to that was also dead on.

These were both from Thursday's show which was the best in some time.