About Les

I'm the guy that runs this place. You can contact me at: les@stupidevilbastard.com

Adam Savage’s love letter to Cosplay.

I’m a huge fan of the show Mybusters and, in particular, Adam Savage and I’m sad that the series has come to an end. Thankfully, Adam is still quite active with his own YouTube channel and other projects that keep him putting out content. Recently he gave a TED Talk that was an open love letter to Cosplay and the people who participate in it:

My days of attending anime conventions are well behind me, but I remember well being impressed by the cosplayers who attended each one and the time and attention to detail in their costumes. There was more than one time I contemplated making my own attempt at a costume, but I never could decide on a character or concept and had neither the space or the skill to have done a proper job of it. To this day, however, I love watching YouTube videos of cosplayers from recent conventions around the world as well as the various galleries that get posted to the geek related blogs I read. To hear Adam speak so highly of the community makes me think perhaps I should have given it a go back in the day.

I’m on vacation.

introspective-catTechnically, I’ve been on vacation since a week ago and now it’s almost over. As a result I’ve not paid too much attention to what’s going on elsewhere and as such that’s why I’ve not blogged in a bit. That said, there’s been an awful lot of police shooting people who didn’t deserve to be shot in the news as of late and now we’ve had 5 police officers killed in Texas. Even when you don’t look at the actual news some of it still filters through on Twitter and Facebook.

I’m not going to spend any time on those topics right now because I’ve made my feelings pretty clear on this in the past: Stop shooting each other, you fucking idiots.

Instead, I’m going to go back to wasting what little vacation time I have left playing video games.

My employer wants me to drink more water.

Like many companies the one I work for has a vested interest in healthy employees. Too many people, myself included, are overweight and inactive and we contribute to the higher rates all of us pay for healthcare. As a result our HR department has been trying to motivate folks to be healthier.

This manifested back in the Fall of 2014 with the Fitbit Challenge where the company offered to give us a $99 Fitbit Flex for free if we managed to walk 8,000 steps a day for 20 days in a single month. I took on this challenge in the hopes that at the end of it I’d be well on my way to a habit of walking regularly. I successfully completed the challenge and even kept walking regularly and then winter set in and it all came crashing to a halt. The Fitbit got packed up when we moved last year and I have no idea which of the boxes it’s still stuffed in. Still, it was a valiant effort on the part of my company.

I don’t recall what they they tried last year to get people motivated to be more healthy, I’m not even sure they bothered, but this year they have a new challenge: The Water Challenge!

Are you ready for a new challenge?

Did you know that roughly 70 percent of the body is made of water? Brain 75%, Lungs 90%, Bones 24%, Blood 85%, Skin 80%, Muscle 75%.

Drinking enough H2O has numerous benefits to the body. Are you drinking enough water per day?

Challenge: Drink 64 ounces of water per day for 25 days during the month of July (1 – 31). Only water intake counts, any other beverages such as coffee, juice, sodas do not count!

This is their big idea for this year? Let’s all drink more water? It doesn’t help that the email is written in Comic Sans which makes it impossible to take seriously. I also don’t know what the little factoids at the start have to do with this challenge. Those organs are also made of protein so I guess we need to eat a shitload[1] more protein than we are too?

Don't leave home without it.

I never leave home without it.

My hatred of water is well document on SEB. As is the fact that it’s what I primarily drink these days. I have a mug or two of coffee in the morning and then it’s water from my trusty 32oz Contigo water bottle that I keep with me everywhere I go. I hate every fucking sip of it, but I drink it just the same. On average I go through 3 to 4 full bottles throughout the course of a day and some days it’s even more. So I’m already doubling this challenge on a regular basis. It turns out the recommendation for males is 16 8oz cups of water a day which works out to about 4 of my water bottles. Keep in mind that the average diet includes sources of water other than drinking it straight so you don’t necessarily have to drink 16 8oz cups a day to hit the recommendation.

Needless to say, I’m underwhelmed by this challenge. I fucking hate drinking water and I’m already exceeding the challenge by quite a bit. They want us to track our intake using our Fitbits, smartphones, or just an Excel spreadsheet, but there’s no real way to verify that anyone is actually drinking the amount they’re claiming. Up for grabs are four $100 Dicks Sporting Goods gift certificates which is something I have absolutely no use for being that I don’t exercise and have never set foot inside a Dick’s Sporting Goods store.

To be fair, I have no idea how many glasses of water the average American drinks in a day and it’s entirely possible that most of us are probably relying too much on extracting water from other foods over drinking it straight. I know I’m guilty of that in my youth where most of what I drank was Coca-Cola, which does get you some water along with a whole bunch of stuff that counteracts anything good about the water in it. A quick and dirty Google search provides this CDC article on the National Cancer Institute’s 2007 Food Attitudes and Behaviors Survey:

Overall, 7% of adults reported no daily consumption of drinking water, 36% reported drinking 1 to 3 cups, 35% reported drinking 4 to 7 cups, and 22% reported drinking 8 cups or more. The likelihood of drinking less than 4 cups of water daily was significantly higher among participants aged 55 years or older than among those aged 18 to 34 (adjusted odds ratio [AOR], 1.3), among residents of the Northeast than among residents of the South (AOR, 1.4), among participants who consumed 1 cup or less of fruits or vegetables per day than among those who consumed 4.5 cups or more (AOR, 3.0), among participants who did not exercise than among those who exercised 150 minutes or more per week (AOR, 1.7), and among participants who were neither trying to gain nor lose weight than among those trying to lose weight (AOR, 1.3).

So it sounds like there’s more than a few folks who could benefit from drinking more water, but 2007 was a long time ago so it’s possible things are better (or worse) today. Still, maybe this water challenge is just what my coworkers need to be better hydrated. As for me, I’m already running to the bathroom more times in a day than I’d prefer. It’s that use of the Comic Sans font, however, that makes me want to start drinking pop again just out of spite.

[1.] I wasn’t sure if it’s spelled “shitload” or “shit-load” or “shit load” so I looked it up and was pleasantly surprised to see that Merriam-Webster actually has a definition for it. It’s spelled “shitload.”

Science History: Celsius didn’t invent the scale that bears his name.

Here’s a video from Veritasium that was quite a surprise to me. It turns out that what we know as the Celsius temperature scale we use today wasn’t invented by the man whose name it bears. At least, not entirely:

Despite having lived through the big push to learn the Metric system in the 70’s, like most Americans, I never really got my head wrapped around it. Thanks to Reagan the United States Metric Board (USMB) was disbanded in 1982 bringing an end to any official attempt to make the Metric system the U.S. standard. Outside of the popularity of the 2-liter pop bottle and the 9-millimeter bullet, the vast majority of measurements in the United States is still done using the United States customary system (USCS or USC) which is a mish-mash of different systems none of which are as elegant as the Metric system. There’s been a couple of half-hearted attempts to get adoption going again over the years, but they’ve been mostly voluntary efforts that no one wants to volunteer for. Sure, you’ll find it in use in various science-y professions, but the average American is largely clueless on whether they would need to wear a coat when it’s 32°C outside*.

*Hint: No, most definitely not.

Weekend update.

weekendupdateSo I’ve been trying to get back into blogging on at least a semi-regular basis. My goal is to not let multiple weeks go by without publishing something. I’m actually surprised at the amount of content I have managed to put out recently. Basically, anything I would normally share to social media that I would type more than 3 sentences about I try to turn into a blog entry. There’s been a couple I’ve scrapped because I just couldn’t seem to make anything coherent out of them, but overall I think this has been helpful.

I’ve been thinking more and more about trying vlogging. I find that I’m being incredibly self-conscious about it. I don’t want to record it in front of anyone, including my wife, which makes it hard to do considering she’s home most of the time. There’s also a question of what to do a vlog about and how do I want to present myself. Should I do an energetic rant? Lots of folks doing those. Should I try to do it conversationally? Should I let my goofy side shine or be serious? Fuck it, I’ll just play a video game.

My mother has finally sold her house and is currently living with my sister in the neighborhood we grew up in. I’ve mentioned before how odd it is to go visit and not only be in the house of our former babysitter, but be directly across the street from the house I spent the first 17 years of my life in. It’s also annoying because the field we used to play in got bought up and someone shoved two houses into it so what was once the closest we had to a park is no more.

Healthwise, I’m still fat and I haven’t gotten back into exercising with the warmer weather like I know I should. Still hovering in the low to mid-290’s weight. My right knee has been bothering me for several months and I’ve got a doctor’s order to get it x-rayed, but haven’t gotten around to that yet. It’s hard to get up the motivation to do something like that when, despite having insurance, I will have to foot the entire cost as we’ve not hit our deductible yet.

Other than that it’s work, eat, sleep, play video games. I lead an incredibly boring life.

How not to win an argument.

I know that dealing with ignorant people who cling to long disproven ideas can be frustrating — this blog is full of examples of such tribulations — but this is not the proper way to win an argument over whether or not the Earth is flat:

Police, firefighters called in after flat Earth debate turns heated – Ottawa – CBC News.

Police said a 56-year-old Brockville man was at a campsite with his son and his son’s girlfriend when the woman began insisting that the Earth is flat.

The older man insisted the Earth is round.

It’s not clear if anyone at the campfire put forth the argument that the Earth’s equatorial bulge makes it not perfectly round, but instead a shape known as an oblate spheroid.

Nevertheless, police said the man became so enraged he began throwing objects into the campfire, including a propane cylinder.
flat-earth-sign

While I can appreciate how an exploding propane filter could act as an exclamation point to your well-reasoned debate, it’s still a stupidly dangerous thing to do and calls into question your own intelligence in spite of the fact that you’re technically correct about the generally spheroid shape of the planet. In short, don’t do that.

Also, I thought Canadians were supposed to be polite to a fault? Talk about shattering a stereotype in the worst possible way.

Feel the Christian Love: Ye shall know them by their fruits edition.

Jesus is love, right? That’s what they keep telling us. God is love. Jesus is love. So on and so forth. Love thy neighbor as thyself. We hear it all the time from folks trying to sell us on Christianity. Sounds good, except that it seems there are a lot of Christians who either don’t understand the message or don’t actually believe it.

Events like the mass murder of 49 people at the Orlando gay nightclub Pulse often bring out the true nature of some self-professed Christians. One only has to turn to Twitter to see it first hand:

The parade of tweets like these just goes on and on and on, but it’s not just individual Christians showing their true colors. Whole churches are getting in on the act. It goes without saying that the asshats at Westboro Baptist Church have been celebrating the Orlando massacre, but they’re not alone. There’s people like Pastor Steven Anderson in Arizona who has been putting out hateful videos on YouTube for awhile now. He wasted no time responding to the Orlando shooting:

Anderson is really just one step removed from the shooter. He isn’t upset that a bunch of gays were killed so much as how it was done. He doesn’t condone vigilantism. He thinks killing homosexuals is a job the U.S. Government should be doing itself. Because Jesus is love or something. Oh, and you shouldn’t sympathize with the victims either:

He’s right about at least one thing. There’s plenty of passages in the Bible to justify what he’s saying. You don’t have to look hard to find them and he even provides a couple in his videos.

Then there’s Pastor Roger Jimenez of the Verity Baptist Church in California. He had this to say:

Again, he has plenty of material in the Bible to back his views up. This is the “good” book so many Christians claim to follow. This is the “loving God” they claim to believe in. For all the shit that the Quran commands of its Muslim followers that so many like to point to as proof of it being a wicked religion, there’s just as much in the Bible that you could make the very same argument about.

These people acknowledge that and celebrate it. They take glee in the idea that the victims are burning in Hell. It justifies their hate. It grants them permission to treat anyone they don’t like as less than human. As unworthy of life. Be they gay, atheist, a different race, a different religion, or what have you. They will insist that Jesus still loves you as they call for your death over your perceived sins and while they themselves may not kill you, you can be damned sure they won’t be upset should someone else do it for them. In their perfect world, the government would be taking care of you for them.

This is that famous Christian love they want to sell you.

Links and YouTube mirrors via Hemet Mehta.

Someone at this Bible store didn’t read this Mark Twain quote closely.

christiantwainquote

Anyone who has read Twain’s writings and orations, especially in the latter years of his life, would know he was no friend of Christianity.

“A God who could make good children as easily as bad, yet preferred to make bad ones; who could have made every one of them happy, yet never made a single happy one; who made them prize their bitter life, yet stingily cut it short; who gave his angels eternal happiness unearned, yet required his other children to earn it; who gave his angels painless lives, yet cursed his other children with biting miseries and maladies of mind and body; who mouths justice, and invented hell — mouths mercy, and invented hell — mouths Golden Rules and forgiveness multiplied by seventy times seven, and invented hell; who mouths morals to other people, and has none himself; who frowns upon crimes, yet commits them all; who created man without invitation, then tries to shuffle the responsibility for man’s acts upon man, instead of honorably placing it where it belongs, upon himself; and finally, with altogether divine obtuseness, invites his poor abused slave to worship him!” — Mark Twain, The Mysterious Stranger

“Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture they do not understand, but the passages that bother me are those I do understand.” — Mark Twain

“Jesus died to save men — a small thing for an immortal to do, & didn’t save many, anyway; but if he had been damned for the race that would have been an act of a size proper to a god, & would have saved the whole race. However, why should anybody want to save the human race, or damn it either? Does God want its society? Does Satan?” — Mark Twain

That’s OK, though. No true believer would let themselves be swayed by a heathen like Mark Twain anyway. Still, might want to avoid using him to promote your religion in the future.

34 years later, I still don’t understand Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman”.

I was 14 years old when I first heard O Superman (For Massenet) by experimental musician Laurie Anderson. I don’t know if it qualifies so much as a song than as a spoken word piece with some musical bits to it. I remember being entranced by it and not being able to explain why. It’s eight and a half minutes long and the one constant is a “ha” that serves as the beat, in as much as it can be said to have a beat.

If you’ve never heard it, you can watch the video for it right here:

I had completely forgotten about it until this morning when it showed up on my Thomas Dolby radio station on Google Music. I was immediately taken back to those days in 1982 when I listened to it repeatedly trying to figure out what it was supposed to be about and understand why it had such a hold on me. Not just a hold, it affected me deeply. Particularly when it gets to the lyrics about mom.

Today, 34 years later, it was a jolt to hear it and realize that it still deeply affects me to listen to it. So much so that I had tears welling up as I sat here at my desk, which is really out of character for me. I love a good song as much as the next guy, but it’s rare that any music moves me to tears. I’m not a huge fan of the artist; I’ve never bought her albums and the copy of this song I had was taped off of a local radio station as we were wont to do back in the days before MP3s.

Reading the lyrics does little to help me understand it:

O Superman. O judge. O Mom and Dad. Mom and Dad.
O Superman. O judge. O Mom and Dad. Mom and Dad.
Hi. I’m not home right now. But if you want to leave a
message, just start talking at the sound of the tone.
Hello? This is your Mother. Are you there? Are you
coming home?
Hello? Is anybody home? Well, you don’t know me,
but I know you.
And I’ve got a message to give to you.
Here come the planes.
So you better get ready. Ready to go. You can come
as you are, but pay as you go. Pay as you go.

And I said: OK. Who is this really? And the voice said:
This is the hand, the hand that takes. This is the
hand, the hand that takes.
This is the hand, the hand that takes.
Here come the planes.
They’re American planes. Made in America.
Smoking or non-smoking?
And the voice said: Neither snow nor rain nor gloom
of night shall stay these couriers from the swift
completion of their appointed rounds.

‘Cause when love is gone, there’s always justice.
And when justice is gone, there’s always force.
And when force is gone, there’s always Mom. Hi Mom!

So hold me, Mom, in your long arms. So hold me,
Mom, in your long arms.
In your automatic arms. Your electronic arms.
In your arms.
So hold me, Mom, in your long arms.
Your petrochemical arms. Your military arms.
In your electronic arms.

A good chunk of the song is a phone conversation between someone who initially claims to be the mother of the person they’re calling, but then reveals that to be a lie. Then it gets surreal with statements like being the “hand that takes” and something about planes coming and so on.

When I was 14 I thought it was very deep and I was just too stupid to figure it out. I’m not sure I’ve gotten any smarter in the time since. Today we have the Internet and Wikipedia article on it offers up the following explanation:

As part of the larger work United States, the text addresses issues of technology and communication, quoting at various points answering machine messages and the slogan “Neither snow nor rain nor gloom of night shall stay these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”. That line is inscribed over the entrance of the James Farley Post Office in New York and is derived from a line in Herodotus’ Histories (8.98), referring to the ancient courier service of the Persian Empire. This line is also interpreted in the accompanying music video into American Sign Language by Anderson wearing white gloves, white sunglasses and a white coat.

The lines “‘Cause when love is gone, there’s always justice / And when justice is gone, there’s always force / And when force is gone, there’s always Mom” derive from the fourth sentence of Chapter 38 of the Tao Te Ching: “When Tao is lost, there is goodness. When goodness is lost, there is kindness. When kindness is lost, there is justice. When justice is lost, there is ritual. Now ritual is the husk of faith and loyalty, the beginning of confusion.”

All of this is in the context of an attack by American planes and arms. In an interview with the Australian magazine Bulletin in 2003, Anderson said that the song is connected to the Iran-Contra affair, but she meant the Iran hostage crisis which took place in 1979-1980. Anderson appeared as a guest co-host on WFMT Chicago to say the song is directly related to the crash of the military rescue helicopter outside Tehran — a disheartening incident where U.S. military technology essentially let down the government. This equipment or pilot failure, she continued, was her primary impetus for the creation of the song/performance piece. When it became an emerging hit in the U.K., she was as surprised as everyone else, and the need to press more singles to meet emerging U.K. demand was what led to her first multi-album record deal.

Um, OK. So it was inspired by the Iran-Contra affair, but I’ll be damned if I understand how you’re supposed to glean that from the lyrics. Nor does it explain why I am so affected by something I simply don’t understand. I love this song in spite of it. I’ve listened to it several times while writing this entry. I don’t know why.

I can’t say for certain whether my reaction today was because of the song itself or the feeling of being transported back to 1982 and being on the verge of adulthood. The year 2000 was less than 20 years away and I was going to experience “the future” first hand. My cynicism hadn’t fully developed and the future looked promising even if I didn’t have a clue what I was going to do as an adult. I was still ignorant enough of the larger world around me that I could be optimistic without any good reason for it. The future! It was coming and I was gonna be there for it. Looking back it’s not quite what I thought it was going to be, but it could be a lot worse than it is so I’ll take it.

Still, this damned song. Do you guys have anything similar or is it just me?

A couple of videos on the subject of “You.”

We think of ourselves as a single entity, but the reality is we’re a combination of trillions of individual organisms some of which are a part of us, but not human (e.g. the bacteria in our guts). So at what point do you stop being “you”?

The YouTube channel In A Nutshell has a new video out that’ll ask you to ponder: What are you?

If that’s not enough to get your head spinning, there’s a companion video by CGP Grey that talks about how you are really two “yous” in one body. Specifically, how experiments done on folks who have had the connection between their left and right hemispheres severed has revealed that you are literally of two minds that don’t always agree with each other.

Just some food for thought.