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Stimulated

Monday, June 30, 2008
I'd like to thank the federal government. It seems that I've finally received my economic stimulus check. That's right... $300 to blow on a TV or a laptop or a car payment or, in my case (since I'm unemployed), rent.

Stimulus Check

Of course, what would really help me stimulate the economy is a job... let's see if Congress can act on that!

Movie Review: WALL-E

Saturday, June 28, 2008
Not only did we see Avenue Q, I also took my girlfriend to see the much-anticipated WALL-E, Pixar's latest film. We'd been looking forward to this for months, and were super-excited to see it.

WALL-E

Let me tell you, Pixar again didn't disappoint. For a movie with incredibly little dialogue, much is conveyed. For a movie that's "animated" and "for kids", it's deeper yet more enjoyable than almost any other movie out there right now. And for a movie about a robot, it's an amazingly human story.

The thing is, I'm not sure this is a children's movie. With little dialogue, the humor (and message) are all masterfully conveyed through expression and intonation of what few lines there are; this might be lost on younger children. The message is also somewhat bleak; an uninhabitable, polluted Earth left to rot, a civilization barely able to take care of itself and run by corporations, robots that do all the thinking for people - cause for thought in adults, but will children appreciate it? I'm not sure. (Plus, not many people under my age seem to have seen the movie 2001, so they'll be missing a whole bunch of laughs.)

The lowest point of the WALL-E experience was the previews shown before the film. As a Disney film, all the previews were for other Disney "movies", and I use that term in the technical sense. There was nothing in there that spoke to me or even showed the least bit of creativity. Everything else just looked like the standard recycled Disney materiel and franchise exploitation that's been oozing out of Disney for ages.

Fortunately, the previews were followed by another of Pixar's gems: the short film Presto. In stark contrast to the preview for Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Presto actually had the audience engaged and laughing. Presto was refreshingly well-paced, and, interestingly enough - like WALL-E - lacked, instead thrilling us through facial expressions and physical humor.

Final word on WALL-E? One of Pixar's more subtle masterpieces, and well worth the price of admission.

Between Avenues P and R

My girlfriend and I just saw Avenue Q at the Civic Keller Auditorium. It was, in a word, HI-larious. I'm so glad she took me to see it!

the cover of our program

The musical is basically a send-up of Sesame Street, but it's not for kids... it's "life lessons" for the college graduate (and the mid-20s crowd) with songs like "What Do You Do With a BA in English?" and "It Sucks to Be Me". Each song will make the crowd laugh - and we certainly did. But behind the humor is also an interesting message and a stark - almost painful - portrait of the crushing reality that is adulthood (and the contrast of reality to the homes and dreams of the young.)

A quite enjoyable time, I assure you. During the intermission we walked across the street to the waterfall/fountain, splashed water on each other from one of the water fountains, and generally complained about it being nearly 100 degrees. Still... at least it was a dry heat.

On being profiled

Thursday, June 26, 2008
The secret to successful online advertising is to target your audience as accurately as possible. That's part of Google's success in the online advertising world; they target ads better than the competition, which results in higher "click-through" numbers, which generally lead to higher sales. (Note: I suppose the secret to success advertising of any kind is really to target your audience as accurately as possible.)

With that in mind, I stumbled across an ad targeted specifically at me on my Facebook home page. Facebook uses data mining techniques to best create a profile of me and put ads it believes are relevant to me on my page.

How should I feel, then, when I come across this ad?

Hungover? ....

Now, the fact that I was already several drinks into the evening when I discovered this is irrelevant to the discussion. I'm slightly miffed that Facebook thinks I'm a boozer. However, I may have to try this product sometime...

A fun game

Wednesday, June 25, 2008
For those looking for a fun game, try this: Go to Bridgeport Village, and play "Spot the light-blue Prius."

I usually see at least 3. How about you?

Talking to Myself

Tuesday, June 24, 2008
One thing that happens on motorcycle trips is that I talk to myself while I'm riding. I'm not able to spend a small fortune on a motorcycle that has a radio (only a few do), and I'm not going to wear headphones while riding, so I'm pretty much stuck making my own entertainment.

Today's trip left found me talking to myself and making up jokes about pirates. Jokes such as:

Q: Where does a pirate learn to fight?
A: In the ARRRRmy.

You can see where I'm going with this, right? Here's some of the gems I came up with:

Q: Where does a pirate go to spend time with nature?
A: The ARRRRboretum.

Q: What carries the blood to a pirate's blackened heart?
A: His ARRRRteries.

Q: What is a pirate's ultimate ship?
A: Noah's ARRRRk.

And, my favorite:

Q: Where does a pirate get his gas from?
A: The ARRRRco.

Q: How much does he pay?
A: An ARRRRm... and a peg leg.

These may or may not be original. The format certainly isn't new, but I'm not sure if these particular jokes have ever been told by anyone. Let me assure you, though, I was giggling in my helmet as I was blasting down the freeway.

A newly-discovered peeve

Tuesday, June 10, 2008
I discovered today a new peeve: people who don't know how to drive at the speed of the timed lights.

It's no secret that I hate traffic. I really loathe commuting. I hate the "transmission cost" of my time when it comes to going from one place to the next, especially in traffic. One of the nice things about being a student was that I could pretty much walk everywhere in Salem that I needed to get to on a regular basis; I didn't have to drive (except to leave Salem.)

So I was running some errands in far-off places in Salem today and I had to drive. I was coming back through downtown and I got stuck behind a driver in a nice BMW who wanted to go about 25 miles per hour, despite the fact that the lights are timed at about 30. (Don't ask what the speed limit is, I really don't know.)

Let me ask you this. Does it make sense to go 25 miles per hour and eventually hit a red light (thereby having to idle your car while waiting for the light to change?) or does it make sense to go 30 miles per hour and not have to slow down (or speed up) and maximize the efficiency of both your car and your time? That was a rhetorical question, by the way. If you opt for "red light", you probably aren't one of my two regular readers.

My suggestion is this. We need an informational campaign from the federal, state, and local departments of transportation. Let people know where the lights are timed. Let people know what the timing speed is. People will be able to move through faster and smoother, fuel economies will go up, and wasted time will go down. Everyone wins!

Or... you could sit at a red light for no good reason.

Of Aquariums and Lighthouses

Monday, June 02, 2008
This past weekend's adventure started in the back seat of a small car. My girlfriend, her roommate, her other roommate, and that roommate's boyfriend and I all crammed into his Honda Civic coupe. Since I'm not romantically involved with the driver, I got to enjoy the back seat of this vehicle. For those not aware, a Honda Civic coupe is not an especially large vehicle, it's blessed with neither an abundance of head room nor an abundance of hip room. The three of us back there were constantly shifting around, trying to find butt-room in the cramped quarters, and I spent a few hours hunched over slightly to avoid banging my head on the rear-window.

But that's all part of the fun. Our destination was two hours away: Newport, OR.

We arrived about two hours after we left home, and we anxiously piled out of the vehicle at our first stop: the Oregon Coast Aquarium, home to one of my all-time favorite signs. Imagine a picturesque stream, bubbling alongside the path near the entrance. Next to this stream is a sign, a masterful demonstration of tact and subtlety. It simply says, "No coins necessary to operate stream." Tragically, the picture didn't come out well. But trust me, it was awesome.

Oregon Coast Aquarium

We traipsed around the aquarium for a couple hours, laughing at the sea lions, marveling at the sharks, and appreciating the experience. (Not my first time there, of course, but my first in a couple years.) The Oregon Coast Aquarium is a fantastic and fun place, and I highly recommend it for anyone in the area.

After the aquarium and lunch, we then frolicked past the two local lighthouses. First was Yaquina Bay lighthouse, where we unsuccessfully tried to fly a $1.50 kite, and then Yaquina Head lighthouse.

Yaquina Bay Lighthouse

Yaquina Head Lighthouse

I'm not ashamed to admit that, on the way back, I slept in the car. In fact, I'm pretty sure that all of us crammed into the back seat of that little Civic spent the ride falling in and out of consciousness - and I'm okay with that.

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