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Obstructionist Husband

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Two Bits of Random Strangeness [Jun. 28th, 2016|08:25 am]
Obstructionist Husband
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Yesterday I took my mom to do her grocery shopping. I didn't want her doing it alone as it's bloody hot out there -- right now, at 7:45am, it's over 95f. At the second grocer that we went to, I parked next to a Mazda Miata. Nothing unusual about that, it's a VERY common car that's been around for ages, at least 20 years. It honestly wasn't in very good shape: it had been banged up and equipped with a roll bar, so the owner apparently did some racing of some sort in it.

Personally, I'd love to have one. I've driven one, and it was crazy fun. And the roads where I live, on top of the mountain, would absolutely be a blast in a nice little convertible sporty car. And it's fairly inexpensive.

But that wasn't the cool thing. The cool about this car was that it had historic license plates.

Not a remarkable car, but it was old enough to qualify for historic plates. That, in and of itself, is not difficult -- the vehicle only needs to be 20 years old. I have cameras older than that.

Still, I was amused.

* * * * *

Just now I came across something interesting. I'm in a weird place right now, and by place, I mean mental headspace. I'm at my parents, in this blistering heat, and I'm having to deal with the fact that my dad has cancer. Well, I'm an information junkie, so I'm doing what I do best: organizing information. I'm scanning lab reports and such to PDFs as they come in, such as the full workup for his emergency room/hospital stay, and providing them to other doctors as needed. When my immune system went on permanent vacation seven years ago, I started learning what I could about my condition and possible long-term problems that could result. And I really don't know anything about cancer, just the odd bits that you get from TV, so I went to one of my favorite bookstores and got two books. One that I got I had learned about from a radio/podcast interview with the author when his book won the Pulitzer Prize, it is The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee. He is a cancer physician and researcher, an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University, and a staff physician at Columbia University Medical Center. He is also a Rhodes Scholar. In other words, a smart cookie.

But my second interesting bit of random strangeness isn't about the book per se -- it's about what was in the book.

When I bought the book, used, I noticed a bookmark in it. Nothing unusual about that, but it wasn't my preferred bookmark. Kinda stupid how a person may have a standard for bookmarks, but there we are. Today I have to take my dad to one of two (or three) doctor appointments this week, and I decided that I needed to start reading this book, so I put my preferred bookmark in it. And while fanning to where the sub-standard bookmark was, I noticed a piece of paper. Fanning back to it, I saw it was a boarding pass. Thinking it was a boring domestic flight, I looked at it, and it was decidedly not boring. The person in question flew from Copenhagen to Amsterdam in late September. I thought that was cool, but then again, I'm the weird guy who has standards for what bookmarks he uses. Then I found a second boarding pass, this was a few days later, flying from Copenhagen to Newark. I was a little disappointed in the second trip -- Newark is a pretty scuzzy airport IMO, but sometimes you have to fly where you can, not where you might want to.

The bookmark also had an interesting characteristic: a receipt that showed the purchase of the book in question at the Phoenix airport, Sky Harbor, in 2011 for $18, the cover price of the book, and the first paperback edition was August 2011, so in all probability the receipt was for this particular book.

The question is: are the receipt and the boarding passes related? There's no name on the receipt, except the clerk who rang up the sale, and oddly the boarding passes don't have the year on them. The receipt was mid-September, the first flight was about a week later, the second about five days later. And if they are, when did the book go from Phoenix to Amsterdam, though it may have stopped somewhere first. Presumably it made that trip the day of the sale -- one doesn't go to airports to buy books -- but there is no physical evidence. I'm curious if the book went, more or less, directly from Phoenix to Amsterdam, or what significant intermediate stops were made.

And then there's the fact that I bought the book in Phoenix. So presumably there was a flight from Newark to Phoenix, and the person then ultimately sold the book to the bookstore where I got it. Coincidentally, when we flew back from Berlin to Phoenix last July, we also went from Berlin to Newark, then on to Phoenix.

I am tempted sore to look up the name on the boarding pass. I suspect there is a high possibility that if I were to search, I might find the person in the Phoenix area. Possibly in my vague local area, since the bookstore is only 2 miles from my parent's house.

Is there a point to this? None whatsoever. But they are interesting artifacts that appear to show a book that has been to another continent, then back to Phoenix, Arizona.

Originally, I was going to throw the boarding passes away. But now I think I'll keep them and try to work them in to a role-playing game scenario. I occasionally run a spy game, and they could be an interesting prop.
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Trump celebrating the Brexit [Jun. 25th, 2016|10:37 am]
Obstructionist Husband

"[Scotland] is going wild over the vote. They took their country back, just like we will take America back. No games!"
-- Donald Trump, tweeting during the Brexit vote; Scotland ended up with 62% choosing "remain"

From Scottish tweets criticizing Trump for his error:
"You clueless numpty."
"You spoon."
"You mangled apricot hellbeast."

John Scalzi has a few thoughts on the Brexit and some of the ramifications. He's especially concerned over the people who voted for the Brexit because 'there's no way it'll pass'. Well, you voted that way and it did pass. His point is that the same reasoning, a protest vote, could create President Donald Trump. The people who voted for him are older people, and if they voted in the primaries, they will vote in the general election, which is where it really matters.

SO AMERICANS MUST VOTE if they don't want to see President Trump and what could be the ruination of the USA. While it is possible for the system of checks and balances to prevent something like that, the President can certainly screw over relations with the rest of the world. And an isolated United States is a vulnerable United States, and probably much poorer.

Scalzi pointed to a blog entry by Charles Stross, a Scottish writer whom I am quite fond of. The first line is "The idiots did it, they broke the UK."

In other news, when the Brexit result was announced, Fox Newts announced that the UK had left the United Nations. It's so good to see accurate journalism.

If I remember I may start referring to Trump as a Mangled Apricot Hellbeast. I really liked that one.
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UK: Welcome to "Interesting Times" [Jun. 24th, 2016|08:32 am]
Obstructionist Husband

Obviously a majority of non-UK citizens can't be as well-informed on the Brexit issues as a Brit, assuming Brits tried to educate themselves on it, still I'm surprised at the vote. Well, maybe I'm not surprised. After all, we're the country where Donald Trump has a decent chance of becoming leader of the free world.

I personally don't think the Brexit is a good idea. I think the UK had an excellent approach of keeping the Pound and not adopting the Euro: I think the unified currency was a really bad idea, as Greece, Spain, etc. have demonstrated.

We all live in Interesting Times, I guess. I have a theory that every country occasionally goes insane. I think the USA is well in to moving in to such a time where we have people voting against their interests in the name of party ideology where the political parties don't give squat about the people who vote for them, perhaps the UK is entering a similar stage.

Trump is symbolic of only part of the problem. The reality is that greed has overcome helping your fellow man and doing good. It seems that most companies' sole purpose is providing increasing dividends to their top investors, the rest can go hang.

There's some interesting discussion on Slashdot about the result of yesterday's Brexit vote, only time will tell what happens in the long-run.

In the end, it's too depressing to think about. And ultimately, we're all dead anyway.
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I am a happy camper! [Jun. 21st, 2016|10:21 pm]
Obstructionist Husband

I was very not-happy when I left the house at 4pm. For a variety of reasons, it had been kind of a pissy day. Fortunately I was on my way to have dinner with two old best friends.

We had all been neighbors at a condo complex. Audrey was the first to move in, then Terry, then me. Terry was the first to move out: he got a job in Omaha. At the time he was working for the State of Arizona, and they royally sucked (I also worked there for almost 4 years). Then Audrey bought another condo elsewhere in Phoenix and sold the one where we were at. Then I got married 11 years ago and moved to New Mexico.

Audrey has since bought another condo at the original place. Terry got married 15 years ago, and Audrey and I were their Best Man/Maid of Honor.

Then Terry's wife died unexpectedly in her sleep. A day or two after her passing, he learned that his dad had terminal cancer in Globe, AZ.

Terry's employer, conveniently, has an IT office in Tempe, AZ, and Terry was able to do a temporary transfer there.

Tonight, the three of us got together over pizza and had a tremendous time.

But that is only one reason that I'm happy....

Back in the 1980s and forward, I was a HUGE fan of the BBC series Yes, Minister. Sir Humphrey was such a perfect character for Nigel Hawthorne, not to mention Paul Eddington as Jim Hacker. It was nigh unto the perfect series. So brilliant. And I also loved Yes, Prime Minister. I heard there was a Yes, M'Lord, where Hacker becomes a Lord and goes to the House of Lords, but perhaps I heard that it was being considered and never became a reality.

ANYWAY, I've never owned them on DVD. They were formerly consistently priced over $100 for the set. The only thing DVD-wise that I've spent that much money on was the complete Monty Python's Flying Circus. I just couldn't see spending that much on YM/YPM for so little time compared to Python.

Then I happened to look online and saw that the price of the new sets was down to about $40 and used copies could be had for around $25.

Thursday I was at one of my favorite used bookstores and I was looking over DVDs of TV series, I don't remember what I was looking for. As an idle thing, I looked under Y. And there were two copies of Yes, Prime Minister.

$25 later, I was practically skipping out the store.

They didn't have the first series, nor did the other good used video stores that I frequent. But Amazon has all, so Friday I ordered Yes, Minister.

And when I got home tonight, it was there on the couch.

VERY happy.
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Yep. Very few people read what he's written. [Jun. 20th, 2016|08:41 am]
Obstructionist Husband
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"The good news is he's been covering me for years, and it seems very few people read what he writes."
—Donald Trump on G.B. Trudeau

Yeah, Trump's probably right. After all, Trudeau only has a Pulitzer Prize (and nominated four more times), a Cannes Special Jury Prize, and has been nominated for an Academy Award, won an Emmy, has 34 honorary degrees including doctorates. And a lot of other stuff.

Donald's awards, according to Wikipedia, are:

In 1983, Israel's Tree of Life award for outstanding contributions to Israel-United States relations.
1990 Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor for his role in Ghosts Can't Do It.
Gaming Hall of Fame (class of 1995)
2007 Muhammad Ali Entrepreneur Award
NY Ride of Fame (class of 2010)
Trump was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Business Administration (Hon. D.B.A.), in 2010 by Robert Gordon University.[535] However, this degree was revoked on December 9, 2015 because Trump had made "a number of statements that are wholly incompatible with the ethos and values of the university."
Honorary Doctor of Business (Hon. D.B.), 2012, Liberty University
WWE Hall of Fame (class of 2013)
Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Liberty Award, in 2015 at the Algemeiner Jewish 100 Gala in honor of his positive contributions to Israel–United States relations.
Key to the City of Doral, Florida, 2015
Commandant of the Marine Corps Leadership Award, 2015, Marine Corps–Law Enforcement Foundation
New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame (inducted November 12, 2015)

So let's see. One honorary doctorate revoked, another from a religious university, inducted to the wrestling hall of fame -- that's a good one there, he bought a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (and pays maintenance on it), and gave a lot of money to the Marine Corp. And if you'll note: they're almost all post-2000. Which is when he started getting more active in politics. Which says to me that he started polishing up his resume as he knew it would come under increasing scrutiny.
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It would be difficult to find someone with thinner skin [Jun. 16th, 2016|10:32 am]
Obstructionist Husband

"Oh i'm thin-skinned."
-- Donald Trump, July 2015

"I don't have thin skin -- I have very strong, very thick skin."
-- Donald Trump, June 2016

"I have the strongest, thickest skin in da world! It's YUUUGEly thick!"

Can you imagine President Trump hate-Tweeting at 2am? I can't imagine a candidate with thinner skin. I suppose that I could imagine a less-qualified candidate, but he's certainly tops in that category for this election cycle.
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My car is smarter than I thought it was! [Jun. 15th, 2016|11:10 pm]
Obstructionist Husband

Today I was driving down Interstate 10 when I saw one of those signs that said 'Tune your radio to 530 AM if the lights are flashing', and the lights were flashing. It was definitely dust storm weather, but I didn't want to pull over to tune the radio. So I hit the voice command button on the steering wheel. This is not Siri or Cortanna or whatever Android's voice assist is called, this is Subaru's stereo's implementation.

And it worked. I was able to tell it to tune the radio to 530 AM. I thought that was pretty cool. As it turned out, the radio report was nothing more than an advert to dial a special phone number or go to the Arizona highway web site.
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A Couple of Interesting Things [Jun. 11th, 2016|07:37 am]
Obstructionist Husband
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First up, a movie written by an artificial intelligence. It's only 10 minutes long, but it's pretty interesting. An article on Ars Technica pointed me in this direction. These people set up an AI and fed it a few hundred movie scripts that they found on the internet, received some prompts from a film competition, and turned it loose.

Unfortunately I can't embed this video. A word of warning: it not only auto-plays, it starts a second video after it's done.

From Slashdot, "Creepy British startup Score Assured has brought the power of "big data" to plumb new depths. In order to rent from landlords who use their services, potential renters are "...required to grant it full access to your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and/or Instagram profiles. From there, Tenant Assured scrapes your site activity, including entire conversation threads and private messages; runs it through natural language processing and other analytic software; and finally, spits out a report that catalogs everything from your personality to your 'financial stress level.'" This "stress level" is a deep dive to (allegedly) determine whether the potential renter will pay their bills using vague indicators like "online retail social logins and frequency of social logins used for leisure activities." To make it worse, the company turns over to the landlords' indicators that the landlords aren't legally allowed to consider (age, race, pregnancy status), counting on the landlords to "do the right thing." As if this isn't abusive enough, the candidates are not allowed to see nor challenge their report, unlike with credit reports. Landlords first, employers next...and then? As the co-founder says, "People will give up their privacy to get something they want" and, evidently, that includes a place to live and a job.

In late May, an apartment building in Salt Lake City told tenants living in the complex to "like" its Facebook page or they will be in breach of their lease."

So, if the UK Parliament doesn't put in some decent privacy laws, you've got a big problem there if this company and concept continues to exist. I think I would definitely be in favor of someone like Anonymous doxxing this company's board of directors.
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Eleven Years [Jun. 5th, 2016|12:54 pm]
Obstructionist Husband
Saturday was our 11th anniversary. I was so very lucky to meet Russet, though it was she that found me via an on-line dating site that is no more. There have been many ups and downs, and it's a certainty that there will be more, and it's frustrating having moved from Phoenix to rural New Mexico, but overall I certainly can't complain.

Yesterday afternoon we drove up to Ruidoso for dinner and a movie. The restaurant that Russet picked was chosen for one specific feature: they had a bacon-wrapped date appetizer – a dozen to the order! The rest of the things on offer also looked quite good, your basic surf and turf bar and grill. And the dates did not disappoint – in fact, I'd rate them as the best tasting non-dessert that we had. I was quite pleased that they had crème brule on offer, and even more pleased when the waiter explained that the kitchen warmed up the custard in the microwave before the brule torching, so I was able to avoid that atrocity. Russet had their massive chocolate cake that was also quite good, though so big that she only ate a third of it or so. And as we didn't have an ice chest with us, though we had two 50 lb dogs with us, it was not possible to bring the remaining home. Fortunately I made chocolate mousse in chocolate shells yesterday afternoon, so plenty of chocolate is still available to us.

We went and saw the new X-Men Apocalypse movie and quite enjoyed it. I am of two minds when it comes to the X-Men movies. I was a huge fan of the comic in the '80s and '90s, then I drifted away from collecting, and I think the Patrick Stewart/Ian McKellen series are amazingly wonderful and a pretty faithful interpretation of the comics. I was disappointed when they didn't do an X-3 movie after Professor X was killed then reincarnated, and you saw Magneto regaining his power. Oh, well. I did just see Stewart is listed as in an 'untitled Wolverine sequel' (due March '17), so there is hope yet.

The McAvoy/Fassbender X-Men? Well, I'm less keen on them than the Patrick/Ian ones, but they're still lots of fun and reinterpret the characters in interesting ways. So a definite plus, and I know I'll be buying it when it comes out on DVD.
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2015 in Movies [Jun. 5th, 2016|12:34 pm]
Obstructionist Husband

This year in movies, 35 seen (excluding DVD and TV), is a bit higher than 2014's 32 and below '13s 43. This year is already over 20, so that 43 seems achievable. In cases where I've seen a new release multiple times, I count it as one movie.

12/27 Star Wars 7

11/28 Mockingjay 2
11/14 Spectre

10/23 Bridge of Spies
10/16 Goosebumps
10/11 The Martian
10/3 Hotel Transylvania 2

9/20 Pawn Sacrifice
9/5 Transporter Refueled

8/28 Fantastic Four
8/22 Hitman: Agent 47
8/21 American Ultra
8/15 Man from UNCLE
8/1 Mr. Holmes

7/31 Pixels
7/18 Ant Man
7/9 Inside Out
7/7 Get Hard
7/7 The Wedding Ringer
7/7 A Woman Walks Home Alone At Night
7/4 Minions

6/21 Shaun the Sheep
6/13 Spy
6/7 Tomorrowland

5/23 Mad Max: Fury Road
5/2 Avengers: Age Of Ultron

4/18 The Woman in Gold
4/2 Home
3/14 Chappie

2/22 Jupiter Ascending
2/20 Kingsman
2/6 Seventh Son

1/15 The Interview
1/10 The Imagination Game
1/3 Night at the Museum 3

Again, I'm not going to talk about all of them.

Night at the Museum 3 was sad in light of the death of Robin Williams. It was a good one for one of his final movies and was quite fun. I was not familiar with Rebel Wilson prior to this film and am looking forward to seeing her in other roles.

It was a good year for spy movies with Spy, The Interview, Kingsman, Bridge of Spies, Man from UNCE, and Spectre. And I have the first three in my collection, eventually I'm sure I'll get a copy of Spectre, but for some reason the more recent Bond movies, i.e. Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig, just don't have much of a repeat value for me. I'm still miffed that Timothy Dalton didn't get a third movie – his second one had such a terrible and horrible story that no one could have made a good movie out of it – but he seems to be having a lot of fun with his current projects, such as Penny Dreadful, getting to play a Sir Richard Burton (the explorer Burton, not the actor) clone. In my opinion License To Kill is the absolute worst James Bond movie: much worse than George Lazenby's or Octopussy or A View To A Kill.

Spy was such a wonderful turn-it-on-its-head spy movie. I really liked Melissa McCarthy in her buddy cop movie The Heat (2013), but I loved her in this one and am really looking forward to Ghostbusters. The Interview was really wild: I loved the concept before North Korea got pissed, and the madder they got the more I had to see it. I didn't get to see the Christmas Day premiere, but I was amazed when the local theater showed it a few weeks later and I saw it. It is, by no means, a great film – but it is a huge amount of fun. I bought the DVD when it came out, and they were giving away free t-shirts! So I was quite happy to get a The Interview tee. Kingsman was also a bit of turn-it-on-its-head film, and I also quite liked it. It was an amazingly over the top spoof of the Bond movies. However, it was also a VERY radical departure from the graphic novel that it was based on. I picked it up and was very surprised to see the GN was much more main-stream Bond than what the movie was. It was OK, but I doubt that I'll be keeping the GN. I also imagine there would be a considerable cognitive dissonance shock if I'd been a huge fan of the GN before the movie came out.

We also particularly enjoyed Bridge of Spies and the Man From UNCLE, having just been to Berlin. Even though UNCLE was not filmed in Berlin, when we went to the Checkpoint Charlie museum we could feel the movie's realism. And in the case of Bridge of Spies, we drove across that actual bridge! That was pretty cool.

American Ultra and Hitman are also technically spy movies. Ultra was very interesting: sort of Bill & Ted Excellent Spy Adventure. A stoner doesn't know that he's a deeply programmed master spy and killer. Hitman was not bad, not great. I understand it's much better than the first Hitman movie. I have to add that I have not played the computer game, so I have no idea how faithful it is to the move.

Get Hard, The Wedding Ringer, A Woman Walks Home Alone At Night, and Shaun the Sheep were all movies that I saw flying to/from the USA and Berlin. I wasn't really interested in seeing Get Hard and Wedding Ringer when they were in the theater, but they were a lot funnier than I'd expected. A Woman Walks Home Alone At Night was very interesting. Not a great film, but still quite interesting. It is an Iranian vampire movie. I shall repeat that. An Iranian vampire movie. Filmed in Iran. It was an interesting slice of life of rural, industrial (oil production) Iran. Lots of drugs and disco. It was great getting to see Shaun the Sheep a few weeks before it released in the USA. I love Aardman animations and it was lovely to see a feature-length film with such a nice story. I was busting a gut laughing to it while listening through headphones that my wife finally had to watch it, she also loved it.

Minions we did not see on the plane: we saw it in Berlin. In German. And loved it. Look at it: the minions speak gibberish, and anyone else's dialog you can figure out from context and actions. I saw it again in the theaters when we got home and it was pretty much exactly what I thought was going on.

Also, if you ever find yourself in Berlin, make an effort to go to the Astor Theater. Superlatives escape me when it comes to describing this place, it's just so freakin' amazing. I so want to go back to it. Germans are interesting people when it comes to lip-sync: they are utter perfectionists and their voice actors do perfect matches for the lip movements of whoever it is that they're dubbing. Even though they're totally off-screen, they're treated like so many Americans treat the actual screen stars. I think that's pretty cool.

Star Wars 7? Not particularly impressed. Goosebumps? Lots of fun. Mockingjay? Good conclusion to the series and a very good book read. The Martian? Excellent, also a good book read. Hotel Transylvania? Surprisingly fun, I bought the first movie on DVD on my way home from El Paso where I saw it. Transporter? Waste of time. Stick with the first two and ignore the third, though I expect I'll be buying the TV series that I did not know existed. Fantastic Four? Garbage, but I liked it more than the first two. Apparently it was made to let the studio keep the license, but was not intended for release. Mr. Holmes – excellent movie. It deserves awards. Great take on a fictional hero at the end of his life, and also sad knowing that we won't have Sir Ian for too much longer.

And I think I'll leave it at that.
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