Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Wet Hot American Sequel?
Having recently moved back to Columbus, I am rediscovering cool things like Studio 35- the movie theatre/bar right down the street from my house.

After seeing this sign- I immediately thought to myself: Why didn't I hear about Wet Hot American Summer II? I wonder if Janeane Garofalo is in it?

There is, however, no WHAS sequel. But you can catch the original tonight at "11" o'clock at Studio 35.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Truckin' for Jesus

Transport for Christ has set up mobile chapels for truckers throughout the US. I saw this one at a truckstop in the middle of Pennsylvania while waiting out a snowstorm.

According to their website, TFC's Goal is "that no trucker should have to drive more than a day without being able to find a TFC Mobile Chapel. "

A day? To find a church in rural PA? I think not.

PA is, not suprisingly, full of churches. Only Texas and California have more. According to a study by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, there are "3,235 religious establishments inPennsylvania’s rural counties" and another 5,783 in urban areas.

That's 9018 churches. Real churches. Churches in buildings. Churches with bathrooms and bake sales. Churches with permanent seating and women in the congregation.

Why, in God's name, would truckers want to attend religous services inside a wood-panelled, cargo-hauling box?

West Wing Speech Patterns

Let me start by saying that the writing on The West Wing has greatly improved this season- just in time for the show to be cancelled.

This week’s episode (“Duck and Cover”) continued the trend of greatly improved writing up until the last 5 minutes- when the writers decided to employ the overused pair of angry-president/thoughtful-president speeches.

Angry-President/Thoughtful-President generally goes like this:

  • President’s angry speech (dangers of nuclear power)
  • Speech interrupted by important news (nuclear disaster has been averted- but engineer has died)
  • President’s thoughtful speech ( related childhood experience i.e. “duck and cover”).

In this episode, the angry president is arguing with Alan Alda about nuclear power. This scene really could have worked- and that’s the sad part. Because Alan Alda’s character is so likeable and well informed, it’s really hard to take sides. It’s a complicated issue and, of course, it should require some thought. You shouldn’t be able to easily choose sides.

But in the Angry-President speech, Bartlet always needs to get in some emotional last word- forcing the viewer to take sides- so the writers decided to add this horrible, cliché line:

“Take a nuclear chain reaction 20 times more powerful than Hiroshima - run it through a power plant every day near families…”

Come on. Measuring nuclear power plant output in terms of Hiroshimas is like measuring the size of small, foreign countries in terms of Rhode Islands.

And as if that weren’t bad enough- the show ends with the President telling CJ about the duck and cover drills he did as a kid- and how they eventually stopped doing them.

“I guess they realized a piece of plywood wasn’t going to protect us against an atomic blast.”

Given that this episode aired on the same day they announced the show's cancellation, I suppose this is a fitting line.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Additional Thoughts on the Flu
One more thought on the flu and how it probably has nothing to do with people spending time indoors...

In Phoenix, people spend the summer indoors because of the heat. And, as discussed in the previous post, the people of Bangor Maine spend the winter months inside because of the cold. In the chart below, red indicates months of extreme temperature during which people spend more time indoors.

If the spread of the flu really was caused by people spending more time indoors, then we should see a big flu outbreak in Phoenix in the summer, and a big outbreak in Bangor in the Winter.

Again- this just doesn't happen. As a matter of face, the CDC doesn't even publish maps of the data for June through September because there is so little flu activity.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Flu in the Face of Convention
"In the winter, we spend more time inside in close contact with other people, and so viral illnesses spread more easily. Bottom line, that is the main reason for the large scale winter phenomenon..." -Tom Wilson, MD PhD

This being-indoors-causes-flu-in-the-winter theory seems to be the most popular explanation of seasonal (winter) flu outbreaks and, until about an hour ago, I accepted it as fact.

Then I saw today's Flu Map from the CDC.

While looking at this map, keep in mind that it's 34F in Bangor right now and 70F in Phoenix.

According to the indoors-causes-flu theory, there should be a whole lot of flu activity in Bangor and very little in Phoenix. That’s because, as the theory goes, cold weather (34F) has the people of Bangor indoors passing around the flu virus while the Phoenicians are outside playing golf in the nice weather (70F).

This isn’t what the Flu Map shows.

Instead, this weeks flu activity is the opposite of the flu activity predicted by the indoors-causes-flu theory: Widespread in Arizona and only Sporatic in Maine.

This, of course, tells me absolutely nothing about how the flu is really spread- but I do know that it has very little to do with being indoors.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Owners Keep Brooklyn Buildings Graffiti-Free
New York City is about to get some new anti-graffiti laws that aim to keep our neighborhoods beautiful by "imposing fines against the owners of certain property who fail to remove graffiti from their premises".

I live on a two block stretch of 4th St. in Brooklyn between Smith St. and the Gowannus Canal. The street contains a functional mix of residential and commercial buildings. Graffiti is a problem- especially on the commercial buildings- but the building owners have come up with a number of interesting solutions to keep their buildings clean.

My favorite solution is graffiti insurance. The building at the end of my block (4th St. and Bond) has this protection. The building always has fresh paint- and any new graffiti is painted over in a day or two. This building always looks nice. Insurance doesn't prevent the problem- but it does guarantee that the graffiti will be quickly removed or covered up by professionals.

Back of Graffiti-Insured Building on 4th St. and Bond

Sign on side of insured building at 3rd St and Bond

The most popular solution seems to be painting over the graffiti. This is also the ugliest solution. I would rather look at the graffiti.

Poorly Painted-Over graffiti on 4th St. and Hoyt

Graffiti-Covered building right across the street

Surrounding the entire property with a big fence appears to be the most effective solution in my neighborhood.

Graffiti-free building protected by fence at 4th St and Hoyt

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Cobble Hill Cinema's Cell Phone Scare Tactic

This sign, posted throughout the theatre, is funny for so many reasons. The poorly drawn cell phone, for example, with the electricity coming out of the antenna. The excessive use of exclamation points (8 in all) only makes the bad grammar more funny: "Use of Cell Phones Are Unlawful in Entire Building".

But the best part is the threat of a $50.00 fine and the use of the word "Unlawful".

Even if there was a law- which I find hard to believe- it would be impossible to enforce.

How do you identify the person with the ringing phone? And who is going to write the ticket? The NYPD is certainly not going to send an officer out to the theatre.

This sign did, in fact, help me remember to turn off my phone only because I was still laughing about it when I took my seat.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

West Virginia Podium
Watching this afternoon's news conference for the Sago Mine disaster on CNN, you would never know that their podium was actually a couple of old, rusty metal boxes stacked on a desk. Quite inventive really...

Live News Conference

Attaching Microphones to Makeshift Podium

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Local Flavor at the Cobble Hill Cinema
I like the Cobble Hill Cinema and consider it my local movie theatre- mainly because it is a few blocks from my house in Brooklyn. We went there yesterday to watch Syriana- and about half way through the movie, the projector fizzled out.

While they spent the next half hour trying to fix it- the screen was occupied by the most ridiculous ads I've ever seen. That part was funny. Especially the strip club ad followed by the "kids club" movie trivia.

The music was not funny at all. Have you heard the new Christmas song by Captain and Tennile ? Of course you haven't. Listening to it is nearly impossible. Anyone not dedicated to seeing the second half of a movie would surely have walked out of the room.

The worst part is: the projector was never fixed. We never got the see the movie AND we had to suffer through that horrible music. Next time I'm bringing my mp3 player.