Surly Curmudgeon

   The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.
-- Robert A. Heinlein
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    Tuesday, September 28, 2010


    Quote of the Day

    "Those politicians, professors and union bosses who curse big business are fighting for a lower standard of living."
    -- Ludwig von Mises


    Posted by Tom, 9/28/2010 7:32:51 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Saturday, September 25, 2010


    Art is Personal

    I've always heard that art is personal. In fact, one might call it some of the most personal stuff that we show other people. When folks come into your home and look at the art on the walls, it says something about you, that you chose this particular piece or that to display to your guests. And of course, some art is more personal than others.

    Back in high school, one of my favorite classes was Graphic Arts with Mr. Marquis. I've never been particularly handy, and I didn't take shop, but there was something about Graphic Arts that really excited me. Learning how to lay things out for printing and publication, learning the processes by which cool graphic images were done (before the age of CGI), and learning that I could actually do cool things felt really neato.

    I've never been one to just try what I'm told can be done. I have to push it that extra level. One of our projects was a screen print: one single-color and one multi-color. I have no idea what I did for a single-color print. My multicolor print was going to be something special, and Mr. Marquis warned the class that screen printing gets hard after about 3 colors, especially with the gear we had available.

    I decided to try for 5.

    My subject was the cover of Uncanny X-Men #234. I was drawn to the image, and thought it would look really cool poster-sized and hung on my wall. Mr. Marquis warned me that it might not turn out right, but gave me the go-ahead to try it. All of my friends who had taken Graphics before me said that I was utterly insane for even considering it.

    The way we did screen printing was to take these sheets of film attached to a sheet of plastic, and cut them out by hand to make the shapes or designs we wanted to print. You had to cut (and print) each color separately, and take all kinds of care to make them all match up. It was grueling work, especially for the final color (black), which contained all the detail.

    Once the film was cut, you used some chemical to attach it to a screen. When the screens were dried, you were ready to print.

    I had permission to attempt something like 10 or 12 of these things. The frames we had weren't precision instruments, so aligning the screens could be a nightmare, with all the flex and give that they provided.

    In the end, most of them went into the trash. I think 3 survived. Two were given to friends, but the best one -- the one I turned in for a grade, stayed with me. It's not perfect, it's got a fair number of minor flaws, but it's probably the coolest thing I've ever done, artistically speaking.

    My parents kept it safe for me while I went to college, got married, and spent a bunch of time moving around. Dad had it put in one of those plastic poster shields you can get, so it wouldn't get damaged. He finally gave it back to me when it seemed like we had settled down and could possibly find a place to put it.

    I've always wanted to frame it, in a real, adult, art-gallery looking frame, but just never got around to it until today. We took it to Hobby Lobby and picked out a nice, sleek black frame that I think complements it very well. It had to be re-matted, which they did for a nominal fee. Finally, after 22 years of being shuffled around and stuffed in closets and hung in basements, my 12th-grade final project for Graphic Arts has a place of its own, right here in my office:



    I got an "A".

    Posted by Tom, 9/25/2010 2:54:17 PM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    Friday, September 24, 2010


    Quote of the Day

    "Let everyone sweep in front of his own door, and the whole world will be clean."
    -- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


    Posted by Tom, 9/24/2010 7:09:17 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Thursday, September 23, 2010


    Quote of the Day

    "My newest Facebook friend is a teenage girl studying drama... which is kind of like a Mexican studying Spanish."
    -- Emo Philips


    Posted by Tom, 9/23/2010 7:01:28 AM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    Monday, September 6, 2010


    TurboFire

    After doing P90X and P90X+ for about a year, my wife wanted to switch things up a bit and decided to purchase the TurboFire workout series from BeachBody.

    A quick aside: almost every fitness program or device on the market today is crap. I often find myself laughing as I walk through the fitness department of local big-box stores, with all the crazy things they try to sell to people. Any device or program that's being sold as "easy" or promises results in 20 minutes, 3 times a week, should be avoided like the plague, and any device which is the primary focus of an infomercial is probably just a gimmick. You'll be further ahead burning your cash for heat. That said, BeachBody has quality programs -- they won't tell you that it's easy, because it's not. They'll tell you up front that it takes commitment and determination, and that there will be days that you wish you were dead. But there will be results if you follow them. BeachBody is the real deal.

    I'm in much better shape than I was a year or even six months ago. I can keep up with the Plyometrics workout in P90X, which was only a fantasy this time last year. I'm getting my upper body straightened out to where I can do pullups without assistance, and am starting to work up my numbers on that.

    But at my core, I am still the clumsy, uncoordinated kid who was hopelessly confused as Troy Bowser ran circles around him playing basketball in 8th grade gym class. I have a vision of what gracefulness and power looks like, but my arms and legs don't share this vision. Thus, I come to this distinction:

    P90X is hard.

    TurboFire is frustrating.

    Find a hyperactive 10-year-old boy with attention deficit disorder, fill him full of sugar, caffeine, and crystal meth, and you will have found the perfect candidate for TurboFire. The movements change so rapidly and with so little warning that anyone who's even attempting to pay attention and do the stuff at the same time gets hopelessly lost or behind. I often find myself just doing jumping jacks or a similar move, waiting for the present sequence to end, because I've given up on being able to follow Chalene Johnson's rabid-hamster-on-speed antics.

    None of this would be particularly infuriating if it wasn't for her attempts at "encouragement", when she yells "you're not tired! Pick it up! You're getting your second wind!"

    I want to scream back at the TV, "Of course I'm not tired! I can do any one of these moves for as long as you want me to, but I can't keep up with how often you switch them because I'm too uncoordinated! I might actually be able to burn some calories if you'd stick to one move for more than one repetition, you short-attention-span gym rat!"

    I'm generally not out of breath during these workouts because I just can't seem to make my body move in the ways she wants it to move, as fast as she wants it to move, and changing activities as often as she wants to change them. Want to work on this move or that, do it for about 30 seconds to a minute, then try another one? That'd be awesome, I think. But "punch this way now that way now add a knee raise now kick the opposite direction now jump kick one way while punching the other way and stand on your head while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance" is just freakin' ridiculous.

    Even more infuriating is the fact that on video, she's got a class of 30 or so people who are experiencing no readily apparent difficulty keeping up with her. I start to fall behind, and there's Troy Bowser again, running circles around me, always out of reach, then zipping halfway down the court with the ball while my teammates groan and wonder loudly if I'm ever going to guard my man.

    It took me perhaps 4 or 5 sessions to understand what was going on in the P90X Kenpo/Cardio workout and its successor, Kenpo/Cardio Plus. I presently doubt I'll ever be able to follow the main TurboFire workouts. I do like the HIIT workouts, which have simpler, higher-intensity moves, ones which are very much like P90X Plyometrics. I can keep up with the choreography on those, and I generally burn about 50% more calories just off the fact that I am keeping up with the choreography.

    If you're a dancer or a martial artist, TurboFire is probably right up your alley. If your muscle coordination, like mine, is limited to typing 50 words a minute and fragging dudes in Quake, TurboFire is likely going to be an exercise in frustration.

    Posted by Tom, 9/6/2010 9:24:35 AM (Permalink). 3 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Friday, September 3, 2010


    Quote of the Day

    Do not go gentle into that good night.
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
    -- Dylan Thomas


    Posted by Tom, 9/3/2010 5:40:36 AM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...