Friday, December 31, 2010

The true origins of Moses (on South Park)

Who is this Moses (pictured at left, at Jewish camp)? Is he a glowing dreidel of holiness? Some sort of strange Max-Headroom manifestation?

Nope. According to my peerless (and unverified) research, South Park's Moses turns out to be based on none other than the lead villian in the Tron movies (at top right). It's called the Master Control Program (MCP) and he looks... like Moses.

That's all I have to say in this post, for which I expect to be nominated for numerous journalistic and SunLight Foundation awards.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

In Defense of Enya

It takes a brave man to defend the culturally unpopular.

I am a brave man.

I like Enya.

You know them. They were in a VERY popular Crystal Light ad in the 1990's with their song Orinoco Flow (here's the song). Enya is ambient music - it uses soundscapes and melodic, airy vocals to create atmosphere. Story or narrative are secondary, and often besides the point. It's relaxing music.

It also happens to be in the maligned category known as "New Age." It's associated with old women, wimpy men and the culturally castrated. Witness some snippets from blogs on the subject:
  • "Enya Sucks So Much More When It's 4:00am at Wal-Mart"
  • "Jazz music called.. they want their scat singing back."
  • "Listening to Enya is like being old."
  • And the fledgling "I hate Enya" Facebook group
The lead singer (also known as Enya) also got lots of flak when she decided that singing in the English language was too "obtrusive" to the mood she was trying to create, so she made up her own language to sing in.

Whatevs. Music is always personal to a degree, and personally I like Enya. Why? Because many years ago when I was still in journalism, and the 70+ hour weeks were crushing me emotionally, Enya was pretty much the only thing that could calm me down after a terrible workday. I still lived at home at the time, and my mom suggested I listened to an Enya CD to relax. I turned out the lights, poured myself a glass of ginger ale, put on "The Memory of Trees" and passed the hell out.

P.S. Enya also wrote a song for the Lords of the Rings movie. And she's sang in Elvish, too. That's nerd cred.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Let's disprove evolution!

Or try, anyway

This guy is slightly more successful, but not in the way you'd expect.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I love reading shitty yelp reviews

Someone wrote a great post about reading 1 star reviews for the world's most famous and loved books, like The Giving Tree, The Diary of Ann Frank, etc.

So I thought I'd do it local-style, and check out the Yelp reviews for miserable dining experiences we've had in the DC / Arlington area.

Here are a few:

Ibiza Nightclub: "DO NOT BUY A TABLE HERE. This club is hood.... purchased a table in VIP, BIG mistake, it took 45 minutes to get our liquor... $350 for a reg. size bottle of grey goose.. WOW... We saw a few GIRLS in the club with jeans and timbs on and black tank tops, like they just got off a construction job, while we were wearing colorful cocktail dresses, we were definitely out of place."

Whitlow's on Wilson: "I don't think there is anyone in all of Arlington who dislikes this place more than me. I call it $hitlows... If every awful Clarendon cliche was combined into one super-Golem of 'according-to-my-birth-certificate-I'm-an-adult-bu t-I'll-never-tell, check-out-my-new-haircut, college-never-ends-just-the-classes-do' hellishness, and then it pooped on your face... You'd know you were at Whitlow's."

Clarendon Grille: "In the Clarendon Sea of Restaurants and Bars, the Clarendon Grill is a rather brackish backwater... I've seen plenty of cover bands, and they definitely scored high on the ole suckitude meter. The clientele struck me as very YSS (Young Starched Shirts), wannabe Hipsters without the hip."

Bar Louie (DC Chinatown): "We all walked in to the restaurant & the hostess was having a personal conversation with another employee about her boyfriend... I said excuse me but we would like to be seated if possible. One of the young women said to me can't you see we are talking! ...We all tasted the water and immediately requested bottle water only to be told they didn't have any as the staff had drank all the bottled water and they would not be getting anymore water till Monday... PS: I did ask to speak with a manager about our issues only to be told that they didn't have time to speak with me."

Hops Restaurant Bar & Brewery: "Have you ever wondered what it'd be like if Applebee's started making bland, formulaic beer? Of course you have. Who hasn't? Hops is your answer."

Monday, December 20, 2010

Seeking creative ways to hurt yourself

My sister thought this would be a funny Hanukkah gift. And I guess pain and death do have a funny side... somewhere.
Anyway, so now I have a 600,000 Scoville bottle of liquid death in my fridge. Any ideas what to do with it?
And yes, you saw that correctly - the bottle does come with a skull keychain on it. How delightful!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Thoughts on telling people to 'Get a job'

It's said that you grow more conservative as you grow older. I may be seeing it now in regard to panhandlers.

Flash back a few years. I am walking down Hope Street in Providence with my friend who works at the JCC gym. He sees a man asking for change outside an ATM. This man is missing teeth, looks strung out and in pretty sad shape. My friend knows him, gives him a few bucks and we leave. He tells me, "Yeah, I know the guy and I know he's addicted and gonna spend it on drugs, but my mother always told me to help people in need, so what can I do?"

Well, for starters, not giving him money sounded like a good idea. I think the altruism of helping a needy person is canceled out if you are reasonably sure they are going to blow the money on drugs or alcohol (which, according to various studies, is what happens 50-90% of the time). I already believed this back then, and had as my policy to only give people food if they asked for money. It's a pretty good policy, I think.

But now I'm wondering if I've moved past that point. A few minutes ago I just past a bearded young guy sitting outside a CVS in the very cold weather. He most likely did not have to be sitting in the cold on a main street without wind-breaking walls at that particular moment. Just like the homeless man I pass every day on the way to the metro doesn't have to sit in the open street where hundreds of people pass by - there is an alleyway just a few feet away where he'd be warmer, or I'm sure there are other slightly better options if he looked. He may be poor, but he's not stupid. He chooses to sit there because he has a reasonably good chance of getting money if he asks. It's outside the Rosslyn metro stop, and there's a lot of money here, so that's where he sits. If there wasn't money here, he'd move.

Now, I always thought telling someone to "Get a job" was pretty callous. I'm sure if it was that easy, they would have already gotten one, right? But not necessarily. There are many options for people who are at that level of destitution - being a Street Sense vendor and selling the local Homeless newspaper is just one well-publicized option that they are already aware of. How do I know? The shelters where they usually sleep have them publicized there. And by subjecting himself to the harsh winter winds rather than finding a warmer place to spend his days (the library, overflow shelters, heck - even a subway grate) he's increasing his chances of becoming ill or even dying.

So I'm not sure what to make of this. While it is clearly a good deed to feed a hungry person, what if by giving them food or money you are enabling and encouraging them to beg, and therefore contributing to a poorer lifestyle? Clearly not a new issue, but a difficult one.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

DC's gay community, you let me down

I figured I was smart. I heard that the Senate had used cloture to stop endless bickering about Don't Ask Don't Tell and force a very unusual and very historic Saturday afternoon vote. I remember being at Busboys and Poets and watching the 2008 Presidential debates, and the fever pitch and the emotion that was in that crowd. I figured this vote would be equally momentous to the gay community, and so I rushed off to a gay bar / restaurant to bask in this seminal moment.

I honestly don't believe the fact that I was starving and lightheaded had anything to do with this logic. Now that I am full once again, it still seemed like a reasonable idea.

I drove over to Freddie's Beach Bar & Restaurant on 23rd Street in Alexandria, a gay bar / restaurant I had passed by many times. The outside is adorned with pink umbrellas and pink flamingos. A child's pink motorized car was mounted on the back of the restaurant. Flyers of drag queens were at the front door. I figured I had found a great place.

I went in past the many signs that said "21 ONLY: ID REQUIRED" and stopped short. The inside was as lively as an abandoned warehouse. A few overweight men sat at darkened tables staring into their lunch plates. Patsy Cline played weakly over a PA system. There was a sad buffet with potatoes and other items. The TV's played music videos from the 1950's. There was no excitement, no movement, and no seeming interest in the vote at all.

So did I miscalculate? Or did D.C.'s gays miss out on a chance to build community and entertain ME? I'm voting on the later. I had $20 to spend on brunch, which ended up going to Caeser's Diner. They had excellent seasoned fries, even if their TVs played a IQ-busting Tyler Perry movie.

The origins of the Family Guy skyline

Thanks to Wikipedia, per usual.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Good reasons for girls to hate shopping (via guest blogger Dianna)

Rubin on Wry, while ruled ruthlessly by yours truly, still enjoys giving the podium to worthy souls with a worthy message that has import to my vast and varied audience. Here, then, is a piece by my awesome girlfriend on shopping. - Ed.

Let me start off by saying that I hate shopping, independent of my apparent invisibility. I'm cheap, hate crowds and am indecisive when it comes down to two almost identical items but one is slightly pinker than the other. Can't deal with it. If I'm out shopping it means one of two things: I really, really need something. Or I am buying something for someone else. And when I actually summon the energy to hit the mall, it means that I'm a woman on a mission. I know what I want to buy, and I know that I have the funds to buy whatever it is.

So, it really grills my cheese when salespeople ignore me. No, I'm not a high roller who is going to drop $30,000 on a single item. But I'm still spending cash! I get that I look young. I get carded pretty much every time I go out. A lot of people at work think I'm fresh out of college (I've stopped correcting them because it's not worth the battle). And, no, I don't expect salespeople to fall over themselves to help me. But it would be nice if I ask a question, if they help me.

Last week, I went to my guiltiest pleasure: Sephora. Now, I never really NEED anything at Sephora. It's more like an "ohhh, shiny!" moment for me where I am blinded by the sparkly things that promise to cleanse my skin, depuff my eyes or make me look like Reese Witherspoon. When I approached the Philosophy display, I knew the three things that I wanted to buy. Naturally, these are the things on the high shelves that I can't reach. So it takes me a few minutes to see what I want and grab at it. During this time a salesperson came over to help another customer, who wanted to try a free sample of something. Please note that she wanted a FREE FLIPPIN' SAMPLE, and I was picking up things for purchase. The salesperson opened up the giant drawer below the display and fiddled with it for about 10 minutes, blocking me from picking up the things I wanted. When I finally said "Can I just grab one thing?," the salesperson looked me up and down and said "I'm helping a customer." Uh, I'm a customer too. Plus, she gave me "the look." It's basically a sigh, combined with an eye roll combined with a sort of glance off to the side. Then the trudge along to find whatever product I want. Service with a smile, it is not.

I don't know their reasoning in particular, but I assume, I think fairly correctly, that it's because I look young and they assume I have no cash to blow. There was a time when I was younger and would buy a bunch of things just to prove them wrong (obviously this only helped them, rewarded them for bad behavior and left me with a bunch of stuff I never actually even wanted. Way to show 'em, Dianna.)

The really ironic thing is that this is probably some sort of karmic retribution. When I was 16, I had a job at an awful perfume store. I worked on commission, so whenever someone was wasting my time and smelling samples of items they'd never even buy, I'd get snippy and try to ditch them. And yes, when fellow 16-year-olds came up to me to ask for help, I was less than friendly. So payback is clearly a bitch.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dianna's Super Power

It's not fair. I've read thousands of comics, know the real names, powers, and various aliases of hundreds of fictional characters, and yet Dianna is the one that ends up with a super power.

I didn't believe her at first. I went with her to department stores to see if she was actually "invisible" to the sales staff. They immediately said hello to us when we walked in, and offered to help us (and her) find anything. So I discounted it.

However, I am a poor scientist, and my presence was affecting the experiment. You see, when we walk in as a couple, they recognize that we are in a relationship and therefore might be worth catering too.

But when Dianna shops solo, one of her greatest assets - her beautiful youthful looks - works against her. Shopkeeps think she is about 16 years old, and therefore has no disposable income to spend on clothes, perfume, anything. So they avoid her. If she asks them for things, they will give her minimum service, then flee. If Dianna is in front of a display, they will rudely push or nudge her aside, as if she's a blockage rather than a customer.

This sucks obviously on many levels, but the worst is that this superpower never manifests itself when I'm around. I would LOVE to lay into these people, but their shitty behavior flees into the shadows when I'm around, like.... say....Mobius the Living Vampire flees from holy water.

Sike! That was a trick answer! Mobius the Living Vampire is not actually affected by holy water or most vampire weaknesses.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cryptography: What all the chicks are into in 2011

OK, enough pussyfooting around. It's time to talk about what's really important.

Random cryptography facts.

I don't know much about codebreaking, besides what I saw in Sneakers and Weird Science. (I guess there is a subtle difference between hacking and codebreaking, but whatever). In my non-existent understand of the subject, I always figured that breaking codes involves "backdoor," secretive, cool tech to probe the inner working of the program and then find a weak point.

And maybe some do, but a lot do it in a simpler (and lamer) way: The simply try to guess every conceivable password with a really fast computer. This is called a Brute Force Attack, and is obviously inelegant, although sometimes effective.

So if you read tech blogs from time to time, you may have come across someone extolling the benefits of "256-bit encryption," a code so complex that it is virtually unbreakable. Apparently the code level weaker than this, 128-bit encryption, is good enough for the U.S. intelligence community, so this 256-bit stuff must be really ridiculous, right? Yup. A code on this level has 2256 possible solutions. That is a 2 followed by 256 zeros, a number larger than the number of particles in the universe, or more than number of seconds between now and when all the suns have burnt out.

Here's the point I like best: But surely with our awesome computers we could check all these numbers really fast, right? Nope. From Wikipedia:

A device that could check a billion billion (1018) [numbers] per second would in theory require about 3×1051 years to exhaust the 256-bit key space.

For some reason, I find exponentially heavy numbers that describe impossibly large things to be very cool, like the word "Bedazzler" (but not the product, obviously).

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

This Jew says: Bring on the Christmas trees

When I worked in the Rhode Island Jewish community, I pretty much only saw Jews day in and day out. And when Christmas came around, it was pretty much Christmas everywhere except in my office. So Christmas decor - the pine trees, the winter, the red and white and green everything - was this "other thing." Back then, I preferred to have no holiday decorations, or the non-denominational "holiday party," in any public spaces.

Now, I'm older, and I've chilled out. When you work in the "regular" America, people really love Christmas.

Like, really love it.

It's more than just a holiday, it's really a season. And while covering things in tinsel, the scent of pine needles, and garish reindeer sweaters may seem very odd to me, they bring other people tons of joy.

Dianna dutifully reminds me that she's also taught me quite a good deal about the nice things about Christmas. We have a tree in our apartment that has ornaments that are family heirlooms, and her mom even bought me a few Jew-ornaments, which are pleasing to the eye.

Our office recently moved into a much less wealthy neighborhood, and my boss noted the lack of Christmas decorations anyone near the metro or in the office. I can see the excitement that this transformation would bring her, and I think, "You know what, if it makes other people happy I really don't care what they put up. Go for it."

Monday, December 6, 2010

"Let's kick the cancer girl off the show"

This is a paraphrase, but it's basically true from this week's Bridalplasty.
Most of the girl's on this show are fairly good looking, and want their procedures to help their low self-esteem. But a few girls have actual problems. A few have lost tons of weight and have that disgusting "too much skin" problem. And one girl had a bunch of cysts in her breasts and basically lost both of them. I can only imagine how difficult and painful this must be to a young woman, or any woman.
So guess who got voted off the show last night by her peers? Yup, the "cysta." Why? Because she was going to be too much competition for the other girls.
I'm just speechless.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Where gay bashing is alive and well

I watched the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" congressional hearing during lunch yesterday, and really enjoyed the parts that I saw. I missed McCain, but saw Lieberman, a Midwestern former-military elected official, Def. Sec. Gates and others speak intelligently and reasonably about the issue. Based on what I saw, no one had put out any convincing counterarguments about DADT, or few opposing arguments at all.
The news the next day showed the more complete picture - apparently the Marines are really against it, and some other groups as well, although there is still apparently more in favor of pro than there con.
That's not the most interesting part, however. I was lulled by the broadcast how civil and thoughtful people were on this issue. I almost was convinced that, finally, people will stop being babies / homophobes and allow people who want to risk their lives in defending in our country to do so.
But then I read the Fox comment pages (scroll down and click "Comments") and saw all the bigots. That make my puppy sad.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

"You are all that stands between me and my boob job"

"You are all that stands between me and my boob job"

That's an actual line from BridalPlasty, a show as brilliant as it is abhorrent.
The premise: A bunch of skinny bitches compete for tummy tucks, boob jobs, lipo and botox. A few plus size ladies are also there, although they are in the serious minority. After their challenges, they go to "injection parties."
They talk about how their dozen or so plastic surgery procedures will change their lives, make their spouse happy, etc. They are the most loathsome people you've ever seen, and they don't seem to be acting at all.
Like "I want to marry a millionaire" and other Fox garbage, the show is extremely watchable. One brilliant subtext of the show - while they talk 99% of the time about how the women are competing for body mods, they occasionally mention that there is another small prize for the winner - a free fucking WEDDING. Dress, reception, the whole deal. This is huge - the $50,000 unstated prize is worth a lot of humiliation, and a lot of contestants will join even the most ridiculous show for a chance to escape debt. So contestants are in constant supply, and subject to ample ridicule from Dianna and myself.