Island of Dr. Moreau

Karl and I watched The Island of Dr. Moreau tonight. Luckily we were, uh, enhanced, by several beers, a white Russian, a screwdriver, and a glass of Kamikazes.

The move sucked. But at least Karl uttered these memorable lines:

“He’s getting the hang of the boom stick.”

“Quonset hut madness!!!”

“Cat versus Dog!”

“He’s not dead YET.”

I think maybe I need to redeem myself by reading the H. G. Wells novel now.

Budapest

A friend is on her way to Budapest, and I wrote some of this to her. I’m copying it down here so that I don’t lose it.

I was in Budapest in the fall of 2000 on my way to Oradea, Romania. There, I helped build a huge house to be used for a family-style orphanage. It had 8 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, 1.5 kitchens, 2 living rooms, and a dining room. We had to finish it from a finished foundation and framed walls to “pillows and sheets on the beds” in about 8 days.

Anyway, here’s some memories of Budapest:

  • the contrast of the inside of the airport (like Frankfurt, but smaller) and the decomposing Russian airplane we saw on the way off the airport grounds.
  • seeing the Danube and thinking “hmm, it’s not blue. oh well, at least now I’ve seen another Great River ™”
  • people watching in the indoor marketplace; the grannies are always the best
  • taking a walk at dawn and watching the rising sun light up the parliament building
  • having a pint at the Irish pub on the boat (is there ANYWHERE the Irish have not preceded me with kegs of Guinness? God, I hope not.)
  • trying to buy a train ticket to a city spelled V-A-C by asking for “vack”, and getting corrected by a very confused and frustrated ticket seller once he understood I wanted to go to “vash”.
  • a priest in Vac who told me he’d come to San Francisco long ago during the Communist years.
  • a friendly cat up past the church on top of the hill in Vac

We flew in and out of Budapest, since at the time their airport had much better connections to western Europe than Romania’s. We spent the night in Budapest, then took a 8 hour bus ride across Hungary to get to Oradea. We worked ourselves to death, but finished the house on time. We rode the bus back to Budapest and had one free day there. Most people used it for sightseeing, but I was so exhausted from the final sprint to finish the house that I knew my body couldn’t take a day of sightseeing. In order not to tempt myself, I took a train north to Vac, a little city an hour’s train ride north of Budapest. I passed the day there, reading and napping on the banks of the Danube. Best decision I ever made in my life while traveling.

Moving my Vote

I currently live in California. It is not considered a “key battleground state” for the presidential election. Both parties have essentially conceded the electoral votes to Kerry. As long as Californians as a whole vote the way everyone expects them to, Democrats in California can afford to ship some of those votes off to other precincts in the nation, where the election will be more competitive. The same reasoning would allow Republicans to move some votes from states like Texas to the battleground states.

I’ve started looking into where to move my vote. It looks like the Great Lakes states will be fiercely fought. So I’m currently investigating registering to vote absentee in Michigan, Ohio, or Pennsylvania.

A great source of data about all the states’ differing laws related to voter registration is Declare Yourself. From there I’ve so far found out that your first vote ever in Michigan must be in person, so that one is out. That leaves OH and PA.

For Ohio, residency is defined as “the place to which you intend to return when absent”. Also, if you’ve been absent from Ohio for 4 years, you cannot be a resident. So that’s going to be tricky to achieve.

For Pennsylvania, this page gives useful ideas. However, it is related to civil service, not voting. For my purposes, it has a nifty circular reference (being registered to vote is an indication of Pennsylvania residency). My best bet would seem to be to register a car there, though it’s unclear that would be enough for the registrar of voters.

I also need to gather more information about how Electoral Votes are awarded. If it is county-by-county, I need to find a county which is hotly contested in a state which is itself hotly contested. If, on the other hand, electoral votes are awarded an entire state at a time, then I can register in any county. I’ve learned in the past that the rules related to electors and how they cast their votes differ on a state-by-state basis, so I’ve got yet more homework to do.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

I had forgotten it was St. Patrick’s day until I checked my personal email and discovered mail from Michael Mullen giving last-minute notice of a Tempest show in the City. Karl and I headed up around 7 pm on the train.

We ate at Cha Cha Cha, which was interesting fare for an Irish holiday (things got stranger later when the Swedish lead singer of an Irish band started playing Swedish folk songs). We went down the street to 12 Galaxies to hear Tempest.

One thing I’ve got to say about the band is that they really know how to do a finale. I was enjoying the show, clapping, shuffling my feet, etc. But I just hadn’t really felt like dancing much. Then came the finale. First, Leif called the audience to come up close. His command over us was powerful, we dutifully shuffled up closer. Then they went into the finale piece that ebbed and flooded, with peak after peak. When the end came, I was in an absolute frenzy, jumping and bouncing like a madman.

They came back for an encore, and I was grateful, if only to help drain the energy they left pent up in me from the finale. The encore was nice, but it lacked the same power over me. Just as well, since my head might have exploded otherwise.

One other thing I need to record for posterity is an emerging canonical ordering of instruments (ordered by decreasing coolness), as derived by Karl and I during the evening:

  1. Bass played by a hot chick
  2. Electric mandolin
  3. Electric violin
  4. Bass
  5. Electric accordion with a wah-wah pedal
  6. Acoustic accordion
  7. Kazzoo
  8. French Horn

Karl helped with the final ordering by pointing out ties could be broken by ranking the instrument you see less often as cooler.

McDonalds settlement

McDonalds is running a giveaway billed as a “thank you to our customers”. If you read the fine print in the advertisement, it turns out this giveaway is a settlement to a lawsuit. Here’s the allegation made in the complaint:

The Complaint alleges that Plaintiffs and Class Members, were deprived of the chance to win certain prizes offered as part of McDonald’s Promotional Games, as advertised and promoted by Defendants. Specifically, the Complaint alleges that the promotional games were a sham because Jerome Jacobson, an employee of Simon Marketing, Inc., the company retained by McDonald’s Corporation to administer the promotional games, and others unrelated to defendants Simon Marketing, Inc. or McDonald’s Corporation, rigged the games by misappropriating many of the winning game prizes totaling at least $20 million.

It seems strange that McDonald’s is being held accountable for Simon Marketing’s mistakes. But in fact, they aren’t. The plaintiff’s defendants are attempting to hold McDonald’s responsible because that’s where the money is. McDonald’s made the calculation that it would be cheaper to settle the complaint by giving money to its customers than to go through the whole court system and give money to the lawyers.

At first blush it seems cynical and evil of McDonalds to settle a complaint with a giveaway. But when you think more about it, it seems to be a pretty creative answer.

More details at http://www.gamessettlement.com/, and McDonald’s page on the giveaway.

Taxes

Georgia is considering an e-Lottery because, according to the sponsor, “We’re trying to target a market that may not be part of the lottery now — techies or professional people tied to computers all day.”

I’ve always been taught that lotteries are a tax on people who don’t understand probabilities. Perhaps the reason professional people don’t play the lottery is that they understand it is not a good investment.

Peak Oil

Psst… want to be terrified?

Take a look at this.

It’s this guy exploring the worst case scenario of what happens when we run out of oil. It goes as far as cannibalism! Real end-of-the-world stuff. At some point, it’s not terrifying anymore, because clearly the guy’s just off his rocker, right?

OK, now go read some of the writing here, which is a group of reputable experts discussing the same thing and coming to the same conclusions.

Gulp.

Hmm, all the more important to get a bike, I guess.