29 December, 2006

Alcohol-free beer tare

I've recently had a (relatively short) period in my life of amicability with alcohol-free beer. It was a fiery romance, sparked by the hot California sun, lubricated with my greedy reluctance to turn on the A/C and wholeheartedly supported by the long-lasting, several times extended sale on the particular German marke I liked loved adored at my local Safeway.

One thing I enjoyed about the absence of alcohol, is the ability to drink as much tasty beer as I liked and still be able to perform intelligence-intense tasks with the full power of my limited intelligence. Really, a valid point in non-alcoholic beer advertisement: it leaves nothing behind.

But all things come to an end, and, with the summer heat subsiding, I kept the bubbly ones waiting longer and longer in the fridge, until one day I've realized the affair was over. I like to think that the young green grass on the hills has grown out of the ashes of the dead affinity. The circle of life at work.

Anyway, not only the grass is mature now, but the big container where I keep empty bottles on the balcony is also full to the brim. It's time to get back my CRV and use it to buy a lottery ticket, thus giving the bottles a chance for reincarnation, the nature a chance to live clean and God a chance to send me a jackpot.

And you know what? Although the beer was non-alcoholic, the empty bottles are as heavy as those left after regular beers. I haven't had this problem with my previous mistress, Vodka, since it's way more ... intense and compact, plus the type I drink doesn't have CRV, so lifting that container was certainly a nasty surprise.

Leaving nothing behind, huh?!

28 December, 2006

A lesson of cynicism

A while ago I wanted to convert some old VHS tapes to DVDs, so I went to Fry's to get a TV tuner card. All of them had open box/returned by customer stickers. Mark me naïve, but I have definitely learned something new about the world that day. But that was just prudence.
Just a few days ago we went to get one of those cool fiber-optic Christmas trees, which are half price after Christmas. I've always assumed those half priced trees are leftovers from the pre-holiday stock -- but it turns out, those are used trees, returned to the store on the very next day after the event.

Hey Johny, don't stretch those branches too much when hanging decorations, will need to return the tree ASAP -- the New Year is not going anywhere and we're going to need money for booze! And don't ruin the gift wrapping, it's been serving us for five years now and we like it!
That's the spirit! :)

I've also learned today that "caveat emptor" is not a nick-name for some majestic cave cleaning bunker busting bomb (like a "daisy cutter"). Turns out, it's something else, although still dwelling-related.

27 December, 2006

_Not_ Looking Forward to

This time of the year it's common to do some summary reports about the achievements in the passing year and come up with plans for the next one. People say they're looking forward to this and that, with this and that varying but basically everyone is waiting for the good things to come, for the bad things to go. As if the next cycle of the more or less randomly established calendar system will make all that happen.

I think this "looking forward to" expression should be abolished, since it only distracts people from seeing what's actually happening now. And, unlike the my previous reformist ideas, this one is much less of a hippie fantasy. This one can have some solid corporate support behind: after all, if you're looking forward to, say, sending your kids to college, you'll miss the after-Christmas über sale at <your favorite retailer>!

Don't look forward, look for the coupon page in the next issue of your local newspaper!

22 December, 2006

There a cat in everyone -- scientific proof!

Modern science gives answers to fundamental questions as well as gives answers to questions nobody even thought about asking!

Consider Human Mitochondrial DNA map, for example. See the letters of the genetic code? Well, they prove beyond any doubt there's a cat in everyone! More than a hundred cats, actually, may be close to two hundred: I've stopped counting around the middle.

20 December, 2006

Drinking/Smoking/Army age discrepancy

I was always amused by the fact that, in many places, the legal age for smoking is lower than that for drinking alcohol, and the age for joining the army is the lowest, or equal to the lowest of them. After all, smoking is probably more hazardous to one's health than alcohol, and an active military service may be even more dangerous.

However, it's pretty simple to explain if you consider just whom most of the laws are protecting. Turns out, it's not an individual, at least not directly, but the society as a whole. From driving laws and safety rules to public nudity, to separation of church and state, it's not about the individual who doesn't wear safety goggles, shows his ass in public or worships his god(s) at a public school, but about the society as a whole not willing to incur medical expenditures, be disgusted by a hairy ass or dive into a heated discussion about just which god(s) should be worshiped.

So if you look at it from this angle, it's quite clear that, even though smoking may be more harmful to an individual, it's hard to smoke enough cigarettes to affect one's ability to drive a car, while it's pretty easy to get drunk and hit other peoples' cars or other people themselves. As for the military service, army is essentially separated from the rest of the society, so whatever harm is done is done to some other society, benefiting (hopefully, at least) the society that sends it's army to inflict the said harm.

15 December, 2006

Snakes on a plane -- the prequel

Here's the news: "More than 100 passengers on a Saudi plane were left panic-stricken by the unexpected appearance of furry fellow flyers - dozens of mice.".

This can actually be a prequel for the Snakes on a Plane movie -- basically, to get rid of the mice it was decided to get some snakes on board (which in turn led to the necessity of Samuel Jackso with a gun on board).
The prequel could feature a young Samuel Jackson, proud bearer of the Forestry merit badge, who warns adults about the dangers of snakes, but noone listens to him. A huge guy snake handler, in high rubber boots, with a bag full of snakes would smile with all his yellow teeth, gently pat the young scount on the head and say, "There, there, soldier! Snakes'll show'em goddone mice!"... Well you know how it ends ;)

But seriously, why would anyone need a bag of 80 mice? More specifically, why would these particular mice be needed, why not buy them at the destination?
A friend of mine has suggested that the mice may hold someone's spread consciousness. So we need to look for the news of someone becoming insane instantly, or just loosing consciousness all of a sudden. Hmm...

14 December, 2006

From yum to yuck and back.

It's interesting what makes something to be considered "food" and "not food" -- even if this something is the same thing in both cases. Take a frying pan with some leftover fried meat, for example. While the pan is still on the stove, I'm sure everyone would love to fish for a tasty piece of meat, especially if it's fried with onions and mushrooms... Mmm, mushrooms!
Anyway, take the same frying pan, with the same meat in it, and put it into the kitchen sink. Now the idea of stealing a juicy bite is much less attractive, isn't it? Especially if there're yucky dirty dishes around.
Now let's go further and drop a few drops of tap water onto the pan. Still food or not? A few drops may be OK, but half a pan of hot water, with meat floating along with bits of onion is certainly not food, right?

Well, try looking at it after not eating for five days. ;)

11 December, 2006

Globalization on the march

A few days ago Mrs. Grundes and I gave ourselves a task to buy a teether for our heir. Amazon (or someone using their marketplace) sells really cool teethers resembling an HIV virus model -- a ball with little chewable tentacles all over it. As it often happens with online stores, the product costs about $6, and shipping is around $10, so we've decided to hit good old physical stores on the weekend.

Unfortunately, the virus-teether we wanted was nowhere to be found, so for the time being we've settled on a more common spread-fingers-hand-shaped model. It'll probably work just as well, but the ball would've been more esthetically pleasing for us. (And I can't wait when the heir will stop using the amazing "planetarium" mobile -- I want it for our bedroom ;)).

Anyway, the next day I was talking to my mom over the phone. She lives, quite literally, on the other side of the world (13 hours time difference) and once in a while sends us nice little presents for her grandson. This time, she said, she's going to send us a teether, "a very cute one, like a hand with spread fingers".

Well, at least hers will be in a different color :)

10 December, 2006

Happy holidays vs merry Christmas.

This year the common sense seems to finally sink into people's minds and there's much less talk about "controversy" of either variant of the greeting. It's interesting to note how media can create these controversies out of nothing: "happy holidays" or "merry Christmas", dump unused cell down the drain or use them for research, let people manage their behinds as they see fit or not -- a search for "controversy" on Google news will yield you a million of those.
People eagerly discuss this stuff, as if it is really important and not glaringly obvious, while really important issues are virtually not covered, like, er... are we really ruining the ecosystem or not? It is, I think, quite important and worth discussing by reasonable beings because, you know, the answer means whether our children will have to live in a frigging bunker or will there be some green fields left. Yet somehow people seriously discuss if it's OK to say "merry Christmas" on Christmas Day, or it should be replaced by an obscure "happy holidays", as in "happy Christmas, Winter Solstice, or whatever-you-celebrate-today."

But I digress.
I was growing up celebrating the New Year only, later learning that in other places of the world people have greater emphasis on Christmas, which, in turn, falls on December 25th in some countries, and on January 7th in others. The New Year is, however, celebrated in most and on the same date, so when I first saw on of those "happy holidays" signs I have naturally assumed the idea was to congratulate people with both Christmas and the New Year. "How neat", I thought, "One sign good for two holidays. Very reasonable!".
Boy, how I was wrong! ;)

08 December, 2006

Why do I learn Spanish?

Some people ask me that question, not understanding what drives me to spend at least 6 precious hours per week to load myself with new words and grammatical forms. Well, there're two questions, actually: 1) why do you learn a language and 2) why Spanish?

The second question is easy: because Spanish is the second most spoken language around me. I do not, however, look too eagerly forward to being able to talk to strangers in Spanish (although that is a certain benefit, absolutely).

What I do look forward to, and that is the answer to question 1), is that mental triumph, that sudden click that happens in the brain when the knowledge of a language reaches a certain threshold and you transition from being able to understand a random word in an overheard conversation to the complete comprehension of the information stream.

If you don't know the language, there's no information for you in the continuous stream that flows through your ears and your eyes. You just hear noises, some of which resemble words in the languages you know, but that's it. But when that magical click happens, you suddenly find yourself exposed to a whole new sensual dimension... It's just like having a radar detector in your car: you get the ability to feel what your "unequipped" body can not feel, the radio waves.

Estoy viniendo ;)

06 December, 2006

Get a free ring tone

Get a free ring tone and 300 SMS messages!

That's the actual title I saw on a web page today. I create my ring tones myself with a microphone and a USB cable, so I'm not sure if this type of a pitch is common or not -- I only ended up on that page after giving a penny to an article I liked by clicking on an ad.
But still, I wonder, even if you get your ring tone for free, I think receiving 300 SMS messages from a stranger it just too much to bear. I even don't know how often are they going to send these SMSes: 300 messages is one per day for almost a year! Sending one message per minute, on the other hand, they'll get done in 5 hours but I'll be... well, annoyed.
And I certainly have no idea what's going to be the contents of these messages. I suppose, every 10th or so message can try to lure me into getting one more ring tone (and 300 more messages). This leaves 270 messages... hmmm.... I guess a hundred or so can be devoted to some third-party advertising, and some 40 (once per week) messages could carry a weather forecast for the next week. 130 more to go... News headlines, once every other day? Yeah, that'll do it!
What a nice service, I could certainlly use a weather forecast!

/runs away to order a free ringtone

30 November, 2006

ID pictures conspiracy!

As a subject of more than one government, I quite often need ID pictures, and ususaly I need more than two, so the standard package of two passport photos you can get at Walgreens & such does not work for me. They can make more than two, sure, but that's rather expensive.

What I used to do: get a few snapshots of myself and my wife with a digital camera, then go to a grocery store where they have a Kodak picture machine, and get 6 ID pictures for about 30 cents. The machine has (or at least used to have) an option to tile 6 identical pictures on a 4x6 sheet.

Not anymore! These nice machines are turned off at all three locations I've visited. And there's a newer model machine at a Wolf camera nearby, but this new beauty seems to want $14.95 for any collage printout.

Out of despair I've tried a couple of those mail/notary/fingerprints/etc. locations -- they want $10 per two pictures, with 10% discount at most, if I want more than two at a time.

That's the end of an era for me!

28 November, 2006

living off the wire

It's amazing how fun it is to leave without watching the local news or listening to local radio stations! That's what I've been doing for a couple of weeks and now even weather surprises me. Because, while I do get "global" news from Google news and Fark (mostly, Fark ;)), I'm completely disconnected from local traffic and weather announcements.

So when it suddenly started raining after days of mild sun, and then stopped again, I was all like: "Whoa! What else Mother nature is going to throw at me!"

21 November, 2006

Water cheats itself!

Water is known for its fluidity, so it can infiltrate through the smallest of holes and fark up whatever is behind the holes (like, a mother board). Very sneaky substance, water is!

But today I've noticed how this smartness plays against water: I've boiled some veggies (peas, loose corn, small carrots, etc.) and was distributing them by into dishes by sliding them over the top of the pan with a spoon, trying to not let water to get into the dishes. And since the veggies are quite small, water easily flows between them, cheating itself! Because instead of causing mess in my dish, as water likes to do, it stays in the pan!

Stupid water!

17 November, 2006

On Languages of Man*

*Or, should I say, "languages of person" -- but that sounds rather strange :p

Anyway, as everyone knows, all nouns (i.e. words that denote things) are capitalized in German -- e.g. Beer, Automobile, etc. And it comes as no surprise that Germans do make great things.

But, to my amateurish knowledge, there are no languages where verbs (i.e. words denoting actions) are capitalized. And, applying a sort of a negative anthropic principle, if there was such a language, it's carriers would take over the world. Very action-oriented people, they would be!

To increase productivity even further, adjectives should be abolished! That's right, adjectives should be replaced with participles and adverbs, e.g. instead of saying "red car" we should say "painted with paint made from [whatever the red paint is made from] car". As a result, technological processes would be embedded in the language, so as they learn to speak, children would also learn that

a) cars don't become red by themselves, they are painted red by someone/something
b) red paint is made from [whatever that stuff is]

Most nouns can also be also replaced with participles, except for the most basic ones -- "a gas-powered vehicle", or, rather, "an oil-derived-fuel-powered vehicle", or "an ancient-flora-liquefied-humus-derived-fuel-powered vehicle". Yeah! That's the word!

16 November, 2006

Full ahead!

Indonesia is to buy some Russian military toys, among which there's a couple of submarines.

Submarines are cool things, but they should be very careful, since the archipelago structure of Indonesia may tempt them to drive the shiny new U-boats within the country -- a feat that not many countries can accomplish. Sure, there are some deep rivers in, say, Russia or the U.S., but sailing a submarine in a river is like driving a Porsche along a railroad. Definitely you can achieve some acceleration, but you don't have any control on where to turn!

So in Indonesia they have lots of channels and outright small seas between the islands -- a fabulous playground for U-boats but a very dangerous, too, especially since they're getting two subs: start racing each other, get absorbed in the race and booom -- you've just hit the island!

And I don't think Russia will replace the subs just because the manual says "no racing between the islands!"

15 November, 2006


I've just realized one thing about life insurance: the reason they don't ask you to pass a medical exam is that they're using only the age in their statistics tables. So as they know the probability of a person of each age group dying, they can base their insurance premiums solely on that.

Which means, of course, that people with serious illnesses get "better" deals than those with perfect health, but I doubt "better" is the right word here. "Less profitable" for insurers is probably a better (hehe) choice.

So perhaps the "cutoff" age, after which most insurers demand a medical exam, is a good indicator of how long a person is going to live. Because it won't be too good a life, health- and general well-being-wise, after the point when the insurance companies consider it to be too risky to insure you without a medical exam. And since the insurers are balancing between making money and competing with each other for new customers, this criteria should be quite accurate.

14 November, 2006

Dumping rarity prices

It's being reported that someone had mailed an absentee ballot using an "Inverted Jenny" stamp. Since the envelop didn't have a return address, the vote is invalidated and the enveloped is stored in a sealed box, along with other invalid ballots, until the year 2008, when the government will take possession of the stamp (along with the ballots, envelopes, and regular 37c (or is it 39 already?) useless stamps).

Now, it is said there are just about a hundred of those stamps in existence, and apparently collectors are constantly trying to get their hands on one of those. So, if it is now believed there's one more stamp going to be available in 2008, the current price for such a "Jenny" should get down, and an interested party can get one... cheaper!

06 November, 2006

a beaten analogy

That's a funny thing how all ideas suddenly evaporate once you finally decide to express them on paper (or on the server hard drive). Like if you have a pool of water and go around for months thinking about building a channel to let the water out, then one day you finally build one, but oops! Water is gone -- such an elusive continuum, it! :)

05 November, 2006


This is a test...