End of an Era

Posted in Whatever Else on November 4th, 2014 by bill

Tom and Ray, laughing as always

Because I sometimes have a morbid mindset, every so often while listening “Car Talk” I would think, “Someday one of these guys is going to die, and that’s going to be a real bummer.”

Well, here we are. Tom Magliozzi, longtime co-host of “Car Talk” on NPR with his brother Ray, passed away yesterday at the age of 77. One of the comments on the NPR web site says “I never felt so sad over the loss of someone I had never met,” and that about sums it up.

How many hundreds of hours have I spent over the years listening to those two guys giggle? If laughter has any medical value, Tom and Ray have extended many of our lives considerably. It was always a pleasure to hear two people take such joy in entertaining themselves, each other, and incidentally whoever happened to be listening.

And of course we will continue to hear them, as NPR has a gazillion shows in the can. But it makes the world a little drabber to know that Tom and Ray will never crack each other up again. Well, that’s life. Give somebody you love a hug why dontcha.

Just for the heck of it: Marty Feldman

Posted in Whatever Else on September 10th, 2014 by bill

Now Where Was I?

Posted in Whatever Else on August 21st, 2014 by bill

So in the time it took me to get all the way through Apocalypse Now, the NBA Playoffs, the World Cup, the Tour de France, and many other world and personal events came and went. In the interest of economy and brevity, I have composed some haikus to cover this lacuna.

I hate the Clippers
I wish we could have beat them
Andrew Bogut’s ribs :(

The pain of Brazil
Four goals scored in six minutes
Unprecedented

Do you believe that
Vincenzo Nibali is
Drug-free? Please discuss.

We have a new house
It’s full of boxes and cats
Please come and visit

Out of the boonies
Man, the Internet is fast!
What’s good on Netflix?

I have a new job
I know, it’s hard to believe
But what can you do?

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.”