I know this is a serious story, but…

Posted in Whatever Else on November 4th, 2013 by bill

…also, “Sex Among Demented” is a great name for a rock band, don’t you think?

Overheard at the gym

Posted in Whatever Else on October 22nd, 2013 by bill

One weightlifter to another:

“I can’t believe you’re more narcissisistic than me.”

Warning: Extreme Kitten Danger

Posted in Whatever Else on October 10th, 2013 by bill

That is what it should say, on large red signs posted 100 yards in every direction from the Companion Animal Foundation in the Humboldt hamlet of Sunny Brae.

From the outside, the storefront looks like any regular thrift shop, littered with loose clothes and books. But make your way past this innocent facade to the back and you will find yourself facing the mortal peril of the Kitten Room.

Which is just that, a room full of kittens up for adoption. I find it hard to believe that this kind of thing is allowed to go on unregulated. It’s like having a free public crack house down the street. “I’ll just look at the crack,” you tell yourself. “Maybe I’ll smoke a little. But I’m definitely not taking any home with me.”

So far no kittens have wormed their evil way into my household, but that could change at any moment. Deep breath. One day at a time, isn’t that what they say?

Don’t watch this

Posted in Whatever Else on October 1st, 2013 by bill

Unless you’re willing to risk feeling stupidly happy for awhile:

Death by PowerPoint

Posted in Whatever Else on January 16th, 2013 by bill

Oh, the irony.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before — but in the course of doing research on the history of PowerPoint for my day job, I discovered today that one school of thought holds PowerPoint responsible for the explosion of the space shuttle Columbia in 2003.

This theory, first elucidated by the big-brained Edward Tufte (author of The Visual Display of Quantitative Information), is outlined in some detail here. The gist is that a deck shown to engineers at NASA before the fateful shuttle flight actually warned them of the looming disaster, but that due to the way the information is presented in a poorly thought-out PowerPoint — clipped, jargony, and with too many levels of hierarchy — no one noticed.

I can’t help but think of the famous pre-9/11 briefing that warned “Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.” — one line amidst an ocean of data that turned out to be of world-shaking consequence. If it’s hard for even the rocket scientists among us to filter out the signal from the noise, what chance did a dim bulb like George W. Bush have? I never blamed George for failing to prevent 9/11 (though cynically exploiting it was another matter). Likewise, I find it hard to blame anyone in particular for the failure to communicate in the shuttle disaster — even Microsoft, though certainly the idea has its appeal.

While we’re on the subject, here’s something else I ran across in my research. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before too: The Gettysburg Powerpoint Presentation.

2012 year in review

Posted in Golden (State) Years, Whatever Else on December 31st, 2012 by bill

So here we are again, at the end of another trip around the sun. How was it for you? It was a pretty good year for me, I must say, and I’d like to think I had company.

My New Year’s resolution (as always) was that everything I did this year would be funky, and while that remains an idealistic and impossible goal, I think my percentage ended up being pretty high. Possibly a personal best.

It was not necessarily a great year for blogging — I just scanned through my output for 2012, and it did not take long. I missed a whole month for the first time in the seven-year history of The Philter, and quite a few posts were little more than quotes from people like Andy Warhol and Carl Jung. Still…let’s accentuate the positive here: Some things were written, and some of them were not too bad.

It was a good year for politics, at least in terms of the naughty being smitten. Somewhere tonight, I imagine, Karl Rove is drinking heavily and indulging in whatever kind of depraved sexual fetish motivates his twisted existence…but I like to think that he is not enjoying it. Mitt Romney is probably sitting by a warm fire fueled by bundles of cash and making snarky comments about the 47% — but at least he is not going to be president, and that is something to celebrate.

And of course we made it through all that Mayan Apocalypse business, which turned out to be an even bigger fizzle than Y2K. There are those who say that what really happened was some kind of cosmic shift in consciousness, and maybe they’re right and it’s just too early to tell. I certainly would like to believe that we’re entering new age of enlightenment where some of the more pernicious forms of stupidity will become less common, or at least more treatable. I mean, as of this writing, with six hours to go till 2013, the Warriors are 11 games above .500…truly, truly, anything is possible.

Happy Festivus 2012

Posted in Whatever Else on December 23rd, 2012 by bill

Time again to gather round the Festivus Pole, take part in the Airing of Grievances, and prepare for the Feats of Strength. Oh happy day!

The celebration of Festivus seems to be gaining momentum with every passing year. This time The Google even got into the act, festooning their logo with a Festivus pole.

It is only a matter of time before Festivus supplants Christmas as the most-celebrated winter holiday… and then I suppose we’ll hear Fox News whining about a “War on Festivus.”

Here We Go Again

Posted in Whatever Else on December 5th, 2012 by bill

I woke up this morning and realized that the world is supposed to be ending in less than three weeks, and I have done very little to prepare myself. Then again, I didn’t do much preparation when Harold Camping predicted the Rapture in May of 2011, or again in October, and that seemed to work out just fine.

I’m not sure what I’d do to get ready anyway. Get right with God? Never a bad idea, I suppose, but would take too long. Run up big credit card bills that I have no intention of paying? Would be fun, but I have to hedge my bets just in case the Mayans were full of shit. Start saying goodbye to everyone and telling them I love them? Too much melodrama for my taste.

No, I think I’ll just sit tight and wait this one out. I am not what they call a “prepper,” although I have acquired some knowledge in that area, having edited several books on the subject. I always end up having ambivalent feelings about the whole concept…while I can’t say it’s necessarily a bad idea to be equipped for the collapse of Western civilization (or as the preppers like to call it, TEOTWAWKI, or the End of the World As We Know It), it seems like it’s awfully hard to prepare for it without starting to wish for it. Otherwise it’s just a waste of time and money.

I’ve always been pretty sure that if civilization goes I’m going to go with it, and I’ve been at peace with that idea. Though watching the chaos in the wake of Hurricane Sandy (I refuse to call it “superstorm,” that’s just dumb) has given me some second thoughts. So this Christmas I may be asking Santa for canned soup and propane canisters, just to be on the safe side.

The Best (Worst) Product Review Ever

Posted in Whatever Else on November 27th, 2012 by bill

Awhile back, in the course of doing web research on toaster ovens for my mom, I came across the best product review ever (that is, most amusing; it was not a positive review of the product in question, to say the least). Then I promptly forgot about it. Now that I am in the market for a new toaster oven myself, I happened to look up the models available at Eureka’s Target (where I seem to be spending an alarming amount of time), and lo and behold, there it was again.

The product in question is the Black & Decker TRO490W Toast-R-Oven Classic 4-Slice Countertop Oven, White. The Amazon page for this baby is like nothing I’ve ever seen. It is full of one-star reviews with headlines like “Good product if you want your house fumigated,” “Dangerous!! Almost burned down my kitchen,” and “Fire hazard!!”

Apparently, the TRO490W has a few problems. Here are some excerpts from the reviews:

Holy Cow! Bought this toaster oven today at a local store on sale. Took it home, unpacked it and made a single piece of toast. An hour later (LONG after the oven had cooled down), we heard a crash in the kitchen….the entire glass front of the oven door had shattered! Hundreds of sharp glass shards everywhere on my counter and floor, what a mess!

Read more »

Fine, thanks for asking

Posted in Whatever Else on November 25th, 2012 by bill

Once again it’s been awhile. I can think of several excuses for this. One is, I recently moved for the first time in 18 years. That’s right – a child born the day I moved into my apartment in Oakland would have been able to vote in the recent presidential election.

Which is another excuse. It seems like everyone I know was hit with a crushing wave of exhaustion once the election was over, such was our relief that the phrase “President Romney” would remain a random juxtaposition of words with no referent in the actual world. It was a strange night; I had barely settled into Cecil’s couch for what I thought was going to a a long night in the style of Bush/Gore when Obama’s number at the top of the screen ticked over 270. And just like that it was over, with no drama remaining except whether Karl Rove would actually have a massive coronary á la Randolph Duke. (I kept waiting for Karl to start shouting “Turn those machines back on!” Oh, my, was it sweet.)

Quite frankly I feel like I’m only just now waking up from my post-election stupor…which rolled right into my Thanksgiving food stupor…and now that I’ve finally finished the last little sliver of pumpkin pie in the house, it may finally be time to return to something resembling wakefulness and productivity. Or maybe not. We shall see.