Thursday, July 30, 2009

Blowing Your Mind With Space and Time

So I’ve been reading this book, “The Fabric of the Cosmos” by Brian Greene. Now, to be clear, this is not by Brian Austin Green of Beverly Hills 90210 fame. But rather, this guy is a physics professor at Columbia. So that probably makes him smarter than Brian Austin Green – or at least smarter at physics.

Anyway, the book has totally blown my mind. It’s not a story of high school kids growing up – emotionally and sexually – in one of the most coveted zip codes in the country. There’s no bad boy from across the tracks, who romances the perfect girl next door. There’s no pretty boy class president. There’s no soda shop. No token black person.

None of that. This book is all about science. And as the title suggests, it’s about some pretty fundamental stuff – the fabric of space and time, or spacetime, if you will. I’m only about one-third of the way through the book, but it’s already opened my mind to the most far-out shit imaginable.

What is time? Why does it only seem to flow in one direction? Is the direction of time simply a construct of the human mind, in order to help us make sense of our reality? Is it just a framework within which we live out our tiny existences? It’s fairly well accepted that spacetime consists of 4 dimensions – 3 spatial, and one temporal. We can move any direction in space at will, so why can’t we move in more than one direction through time?

Physics says that there is no reason why time should only move in one direction. So who will be the first one to travel to the past? Will it be Lebron James? Chuck Norris? Maybe we should send him back to 1938 to kick Hitler’s ass?

Why does cream never unstir itself from coffee? Why did Big Papi test positive for steroids back in 2003?

Why do I keep losing socks when I do laundry? Where do they go? Did they travel back in time? Is there a wormhole in my dryer?

These questions seem unknowable. I can only hope that the final two-thirds of this book at least get me a bit closer to the answers. And if I figure out how to travel to the future, I'll let you in on some incredible sports bets.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Mill’s Healthcare Reform Plan

Most people are pretty healthy. It’s the handful of sick folks who ruin it for everyone else, and cause healthcare costs to spiral out of control.

Of course, even if you’re healthy now, you never know when you or a loved one may be laid low by rickets, or inconvenienced by a goiter the size of a basketball. And it’s in these cases when you really need some healthcare. Unfortunately, you can’t just wait until that goiter swells to the size of a softball before signing up for an insurance policy.

You see, the insurance companies are in it to make as much money as humanly possible – which is a whole hell of a lot. So if they only insured sick people, they would be a charity and not a business. I understand, and accept this as a fact of life. If there wasn’t money to be made, then the health insurance industry would not exist.

But why can’t we give healthy people some cheap policies, and allow them to upgrade as they age, have kids, or come down with a touch of diabetes? Why can’t we give healthy, stallion-like college kids a pack of dental floss and a box of band-aids and call it a healthcare plan? That’s all they’re really gonna need anyway.

A sliding scale of healthcare. The healthiest folks pay something – not much – but just enough to offset the small number of really sick people that require incredibly expensive treatments - like gender reassignment and hair transplants.

And poor people…Well, poor people would pay even less. Because they’re so poor. The poorer you are the less you pay. If you’re a healthy, young poor person, why you’ll pay next to nothing. But if you get hit by a cab, you’re still covered.

You might be wondering, “How do the insurance companies still make all that money if poor people and healthy people are paying very little for healthcare policies?” Won’t the insurance companies just say “Fuck it!” and get involved in Green Energy?

Not if the Federal Government threatens to put them in jail if they don’t agree to provide coverage for everyone. Or alternatively, if extra tax dollars are directed their way in order to keep them profitable. So yes, in a way you may have to pay a little extra out of each paycheck so that poor people who live in the same goddamn city as you can have a little bit of healthcare insurance. It’s the civilized thing to do. Get used to it.

Don’t be an asshole.

And you’ll wait in line for a new liver just like everyone else.

But seriously, I think the healthcare kit for young and healthy people is a good idea. If you pass the stringent healthy criteria: 50 bucks a year will buy unlimited dental floss, band-aids, hand sanitizer, penicillin, Tamiflu, condoms, Imodium AD, and Pepto-Bismol. All in your choice of an attractive Barack Obama lunchbox (for boys) or a cool Nancy Pelosi tote bag (for the ladies).

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Bowling Success – It’s All in the Leg Kick

I went bowling with some colleagues last week, and my friend Dennis shot this grainy video of me throwing the ball down the lane. As far as I know, this is the only video in existence depicting The Mill in the throes of bowling. It’s a lot like the famous Patterson-Gimlin film of Bigfoot – shot on a handheld 16 mm camera in 1967. Yes, that’s the one where something that looks a hell of a lot like a guy in a big gorilla suit walks through the woods, and everyone thought it was Bigfoot.

In other words, I’m the Sasquatch of bowling.

Be that as it may, my modus operandi – when it comes to bowling – is all style and ver y little substance or skill. I’ve worked hard to appear as if I know what I’m doing. And even though my single game scores typically range from 80 to 120, I possess a highly stylized motion that includes a stutter step, a fluid arm motion, and an over-exaggerated leg kick that has likely caused irreparable cartilage damage to my left hip. Bowling is a tough sport, after all.

My real problem is severe inconsistency, and a complete lack of desire to practice or get any better. I can work on the leg kick in the shower, or at the dance club. And as long as I have that, that’s good enough for me.

Cue the video tape:

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

We Put a Man on the Moon – That’s Nothing Compared to the iPhone

You always hear people say it. Or at least I’m always saying it:

“We put a man on the moon, for God’s sake!! Why can’t we (blank)?”

The “blank” is usually something to do with traffic jams, food preparation, government services, or most often the D.M.V. So this week, when we celebrated the 40th anniversary of man’s first mission to the moon, I had to say, “Big fucking deal.”

What do you think those astronauts of Apollo XI from 1969 would think about my iPhone?

They’d be totally blown away. Imagine this: Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and the other guy who never actually got to walk on the moon come back from their otherworldly journey. I’m there to greet them. I hand them the iPhone.

It would totally blow their minds. They’d forget all about the moon.

“You mean to tell me, I can keep all of my Beatles albums AND my Simon and Garfunkel records on this one little device?” Aldrin would ask, incredulously.

“How is it that my wife fits inside this small device and talks to me through this little hole?!?!” Armstrong would remark in sheer wonderment, as his wife Lily shouts at him for being late for dinner.

“Why is it that no one remembers my name?” the other Apollo XI astronaut guy would say, through a salty veil of tears.

But more than anything, they would marvel at the iPhone’s ease of use, its advanced interface, its sleek design. GPS, video, 32 gigabytes of memory, hours and hours of battery life. The list goes on and on.

And the apps. Oh my God, the apps!!

“Hey Buzz, what do you feel like for dinner?” I’d ask, slyly holding the iPhone next to my ear.

“Oh, what are you going to do with that thing? Call the operator and ask her to suggest a place to grab some grub? Let me tell you, I sure am tired of astronaut food!! Hahahahahahahahaha!!!!”

I’d then fake him out and use the Yelp! app, or some other program that takes advantage of the iPhone’s location-based capabilities. Aldrin’s mind would be even further blown when I return the name, address, phone number AND menu of 75 different barbecue joints within a 2 mile radius.

I guess the point is - looking back 40 years - sure the lunar landing was pretty sweet. The moon is really, really fucking far. And these brave souls ventured from the comfort of an oxygen-containing atmosphere into the vacuum of space, protected only by a late 60’s space craft – probably made mostly of wood and vinyl, or other 1960’s era materials.

So these astronauts were brave. The moon is fucking far. Their spaceship was made out of Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs. But the iPhone is just plain ridiculous in comparison.

And that’s my point.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Mill’s Sweet New Ride – A Quick Review

My rants are few and far between. But a recent one involved a shitty Mazdaspeed 6 that I owned for less than a year. The shitheads at Mazda refused to stand behind their piece of crap vehicles, and therefore – as the Mill is wont to do – I made a verbal threat. I threatened to boycott their brand by getting rid of the metallic bucket of feces they call an automobile, and buy something different.

And being that I am a consummate gentleman of honor and discipline, I did exactly that.

However, there’s one catch. I bought a Ford. And as you may or may not know, Ford owns Mazda. So, I did stay true to my word, but I feel like I cheated myself just a little bit.

Here’s why I did it:

1) I wanted to buy American to support Obama and our troops.

2) Ford is the only American car maker not currently under the auspices of bankruptcy protection.

3) Ford dealers are at least as desperate – if not more so - than any other dealers out there.

4) The Ford dealership I went to gave me a ridiculously high value for my dogshit, craptastic, leperous, garbage-dump-worthy Mazda piece of junky flotsam.

5) I couldn’t turn down that crazy trade-in offer.

6) Ford’s Sync voice-controlled system allows you to tell the car to play Beyonce right off your iPod, and will “Call Mom” if you need a quick recipe for soup while driving.

In any case, I really like the new car. It’s a 2010 Ford Fusion. No, it’s not a hybrid, but it also doesn’t have the biggest engine they offer – only the second biggest engine, a 3.0 liter V6. The leather is nice and buttery smooth. The stereo rocks out surprisingly well, with a rich, satisfying bass and a crystal clear treble.

It handles as well as, or better than, any rental car I’ve ever driven. Very confidence inspiring over bumpy pavement, and around tight turns. It looks somewhat sporty with the optional 18-inch wheels, and totally functional rear spoiler – keeps the car from flying off the road when the car reaches speeds of 150 mph or more. It also has this weird, kinda trippy ambient interior lighting system that lights up in 7 different colors. Don’t worry, I didn’t specifically pay extra for that option. It came with the package that included the roof and doors. So I had no choice.

Damn it! It's so hard to flip the thing over!! Good work Ford!

All in all, it’s surprisingly well built for a Ford. It looks like they may have finally gotten their act together. And because of the available rebates, special financing, and desperate dealership willing to give me more for my trade-in than I could ever have hoped to sell it for on my own, I got a totally sweet deal. It’s like one-tenth the price of a Lamborghini.

But seriously, so far so good. I’m approaching 1000 miles on the odometer already (had the car for almost 2 weeks now) and it’s showing no signs of breakdown or metal fatigue.

I am very proud of my new black on black Ford baby.

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Long Island Winin’

The North Fork of Long Island - a wild, untamed, wine-producing, tourist-bus-infested wilderness.

So it turns out that there are a butt load of wineries on eastern Long Island, generally concentrated on the island’s north fork – a spindly protrusion that further protects the Hamptons from the working class cities of coastal Connecticut.

It also turns out that visiting these wineries makes for one hell of a kickass day trip from Brooklyn. All you need to do is take the Long Island Expressway about 60 miles east, until it ends, and start sniffing around for fermenting grapes. It’s practically that easy.

They use those big ass steel vessels to make wine, or some shit like that. I wasn't really paying attention.

Of course, Jaimi did some research online before we headed out. We were armed with wine country maps, New York Times reviews, and a healthy ignorance when it comes to wine. As you may know, I’m much more of a beer guy. But I was happy to join Jaimi on a little adventure. And by the end of the day I had gotten a few beers into me anyway.

The whole idea of driving from vineyard to vineyard, drinking a glass or two of wine at each stop, seems like a very, very bad one. I wasn’t about to risk any damage to my vehicle, a suspension of my license, or smashing my sunglasses from the sheer force of the airbag detonating in my face. And oh yeah, I also didn’t want me or Jaimi to die because I was driving drunk. So let me just say that I probably had a total of 4 drinks over the course of 8 or 9 hours.

Jaimi had maybe ¾ of a glass of wine.

The vines of Corey Creek loom in the background. I actually let a stranger hold my iPhone in order to take this shot.

But we didn’t make the trip in order to get hammered. I could do that in the comfort of my own home, and save the gas for 50 trips to Costco to buy 10 gallon boxes of wine.

In fact, it’s rather frightening to think about how – as the sun moved across the sky – many, many assholes were making their way to many, many wineries. And after drinking their 1.5 oz. samples of 5 different wines, they hopped in the car and drove to the next place.

By 4pm we were ready to get off the North Fork - before it became a demolition derby.

If you decide to take a Long Island wine tour, do everyone a favor and hire a driver. We saw a number of limos and buses carting around groups of rowdy college kids. (Note: If you followed them to some of their later stops, it would probably be really easy to steal their iPhones and wallets because they’d be so unaware of their surroundings – like taking an iPod from a baby.)

Or get someone like me – who doesn’t really like wine anyway, and who is generally smart enough not to drive drunk – to drive you around.

As for specifics, we visited Corey Creek, Macari, and Jamesport wineries. I think we liked the Sauvignon Blanc at Macari the best. The dessert Riesling at Corey Creek was like a mixture of Dimetapp and a liquefied grape Jolly Rancher. In other words – it was awesome.

I contemplate the mechanics of liquefying Jolly Ranchers under low pressure and high temperature....Business idea beginning to form?

On the way home we stopped for cheese and produce at a farm stand, and spent 2 hours at a massive outlet mall (Tanger Outlets) without buying a single goddamn thing. I think that’s probably a story for an entirely separate, ranting post.

Overall, a rather relaxing day. The North Fork is a nice respite from the steaming asphalt and wall-to-wall crowds of summertime New York City. Next time, I’ll let someone else do the driving, and I’ll try a few extra Jolly Rancher wines.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

2009 Major League Baseball Home Run Derby – Why Did I Watch It? And Is There Any Way to Get Those Two Hours of My Life Back?

The fans in attendance didn’t even watch the whole thing. So why is it, then, that I felt compelled to watch well over an hour of grown men swinging large, hard bats, at small leather balls? Over and over and over again.

It’s akin to watching your brother play video games, as if it’s some kind of spectator sport. Jaimi, I am talking to you.

Go read a book, for God’s sake!! And that’s what I should have done.

The home runs count for nothing. It’s batting practice, with 20 million other mindless fans watching. And when I say “other mindless fans,” I of course mean in addition to myself. And when I say “fans” I mean “fucks.” Because I am to blame for my own behavior. And it was stupid behavior, and I regret it.

It's worse than watching "The Real Housewives of New Jersey." In other words, I learned less from the Home Run Derby, and did not improve as much as a human being and citizen of this planet, as I would have had I watched 2 hours of The Housewives. They, at least, teach me how not to decorate a mansion, and how to act like a spoiled bitch - in case I need to know in a future life.

As for the Derby, I can never get that time back. It’s gone for good. I could have done laundry, washed dishes, read 20 pages of a book, showered and shaved. I could have even baked a quiche. And what a delicious quiche it would have been. Mushroom Broccoli Fontina.

But alas, I can’t reclaim those precious minutes. The only thing I can do is swear to myself – and my readers – that I won’t watch the Home Run Derby again next year. Let’s take it one year at a time.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Tribute to MJ

(I know I’m at least a week or two late with this, and many dollars short. But since I’ve written poems for Palin, and rhymes for General Motors, I thought it was the only fair and right thing to do. Michael Jackson was a phenomenon of humanity – albeit a strange and difficult to understand phenomenon. Sort of like quantum mechanics.)

Dear Michael Jackson, now you are dead.
Your music, your dancing , the hair on your head.
All so unusual, all so unique.
The video "Thriller" featured mummified freaks.

And some might say that you were one too.
With 24 nose jobs - a plasticized muse.
You were black, you were white, you were there in between.
That kid wasn't yours, like you told Billie Jean.

But you moonwalked your way right into our hearts.
You popped, you hip-hopped , in fits and in starts.
You may have molested, but I can't really judge.
They were after your money, it wasn't a grudge.

The judge said "not guilty" and you ran from the court.
As if celebrity hunting was some kind of sport.
But for sure you were strange in a very strange way.
The strangest of strange, like a man eating hay.

Though hay has some fiber, and vitamins too.
Don't knock till you tried it, you hay-hating shrew.
And don't say that you've tried, but just couldn't swallow.
Your excuses are tiresome, your reasoning hollow.

I saw you at the post office - yeah I'm talking to you.
In jeans, a blue jacket, brown hat, and red shoes.
You owe me ten dollars, and I'll come to collect.
Michael's dancing is one thing I'd love to perfect.

But back to the money of that which I'm owed.
If Michael were here he'd turn you into a toad.
And not cause he's evil, and not cause he's kind.
The next iPhone version you'll control with your mind.

We put a man on the moon, and a probe out in space.
Built nuclear power plants, and monster trucks that can race.
No matter how many surgeries you had on your face.
Michael Jackson, you're a man that no one can replace.

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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Bachelor Party – Phase One Planning

As I hurtle unabated towards the end of bachelorhood, it’s high time I started to think about what I want to do for my bachelor party - even though the wedding isn’t until January 2010. Probably the worst idea in the history of all mankind is to wait until the day before the wedding to have a bachelor party – worse than Napoleon marching his army into Russia at the onset of winter.

First off, I don’t really know what I want to do for the party. There, at least I got that out of the way. So any suggestions are welcome. Secondly, I’m not really supposed to have any girly stuff going on, because Jaimi finds naked ladies distasteful, or something like that. Or maybe it’s me who finds them distasteful. Wait, no. It’s probably Jaimi.

So, no visits to strip clubs or topless beaches.

What else is there?

Well, I like beer quite a bit. So that could certainly play some sort of role.

Beer, you are hereby invited to my bachelor party. You may bring your friends Gin, Vodka, and Pepto Bismol.

I also like watching sports of all sorts. And I like to rhyme some of the time. So perhaps we could go to a ballgame and follow it up with a freestyle rap competition amongst the partygoers.

What’s on the docket so far? We have a sporting event, a freestyle rap session, and beer and alcohol. Won’t we also need food to eat?

Yes, we will need food to survive this event. The question is, what kind of food is the best for a bachelor party? Steakhouse is so cliché. Mexican is too spicy for some. T.G.I. Friday’s is disgusting and depressing. Japanese is good because the fancy pants can get sushi, and everyone else can get deep fried stuff, or meat. That should please all attendees.

So, Japanese restaurant, sports, rhyme time, drinking.

Then maybe a little gun shooting, and wrap it all up with some gum chewing, tea drinking, and knitting. Or maybe needlepoint? Some other kind of arts and crafts? I don’t know.

You can tell I’m new at all of this.

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Saturday, July 04, 2009

Maybe I Shouldn't Have Watched the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest During Lunch

It's actually a pretty exciting 10 minutes of competitive eating action. Disgusting, horrifying, hilarious, delicious all at once - pure American entertainment.

The only problem is that I got a little too caught up in the action. With 5 minutes left to go I had already eaten 3 yogurts, 6 bowls of soup, half a pineapple and the DVD remote control - without even realizing it!!

Anyway, it's a great way to celebrate America's independence from those pestering Brits.

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Thursday, July 02, 2009

DO NOT BUY A MAZDA – Or, Mazda Can Go Eat a Dick

I try to avoid the “rant” posts, in which a blogger complains at length about a person or entity who he or she doesn’t like and/or is totally pissed at. But now, in a rare display of effervescent ranting, I’ve decided to rain fire upon a particular company – Mazda.

Basically, they suck. And I’m about to tell you why. But before I do – and in case you don’t read any further – please do not ever buy a Mazda vehicle. Ever. In your entire life. Even if they’re the last car company on the planet. If that’s the case, please buy a bicycle. You’ll be better off for it. Trust me.

I’ll make this quick, because I doubt you care all that much about my vehicle purchasing history. I owned a Mazda3 and traded it in for a pre-owned Mazdaspeed6. I had read a number of reviews on the Mazdaspeed 6, and determined that it was generally considered a great car, but had a few issues. One main problem was that the clutch was difficult to operate – and in fact, this is what pretty much everyone who drvoe the car seemed to agree on.

But, Mazda released a TSB, or Technical Services Bulletin that addressed the difficult to operate clutch,, and fixed the problem under warranty – sort of like a recall. With that in mind, I decided to go ahead and trade in my old Mazda for the Mazdaspeed 6, and if the clutch was in fact too difficult to use,, I could have Mazda change the clutch under warranty, according to the TSB. Many others had the same work done, and seemed to be satisfied with the results – according to the internet.

So let me skip to the juicy chase, where Mazda gets all uppity and acts like a bunch of assholes. After 6 months of owning the Mazdaspeed 6, I still can’t get used to the goddam clutch. It’s like an on/off switch. It’s like a cruel and unusual form of torture to drive this car in bumper to bumper traffic on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. The pedal is stiff and abrupt, like a Judge Judy trial. I’m fed up with it. It’s not getting any better.

So I bring the car into my dealer in order for them to do the Mazda-sponsored TSB work. The TSB states that the work should be done on any car within a certain range of VIN numbers that’s still within the factory warranty mileage range. My car fits that description.

But still, for some reason, Mazda refuses to pay for the work. They claim that my vehicle isn’t covered under the TSB. They released the TSB about a year after the affected vehicles were built (and sold) but now claim that the fix is not valid on any cars with over 12,000 miles. Don’t you normally drive about 12,000 miles in a year? The answer is yes for almost every American.

The kicker for me – well actually the two kickers, are as follows. According to the internet, numerous Mazdaspeed 6 owners have gotten the same fix paid for by Mazda far after any 12,00 mile limit. And secondly, Mazda didn’t give a flying fuck when – after they refused to pay for the fix that they originally sponsored – I told them I would simply get rid of my fucking Mazda and buy a Honda or Volkswagen because their car was too difficult to drive and they wouldn’t stand behind their own warranties.

I said, “I will get rid of my Mazda, never buy another one, and buy another company’s car.” Probably with a few “fucks” thrown in for good effect. They said, “I’m sorry you feel that way sir.”

What about, “Sir, we’re owned by Ford, which is on the verge of bankruptcy. We can’t even come close to affording the loss of any customers, much less those that manage blogs which get tens of visitors per day. We will fix the problem as we’ve done with others, and apologize for being assholes throughout this whole process.”

I’m actually being kind when I say that Mazda can eat a dick. Their customer service so clearly wishes to be dead or working for another company. Their managers and supervisors so clearly don’t give a fuck about any of their customers. They’re just in it for the paycheck and the dental benefits, and would probably jump ship to Honda or BMW in a heartbeat.

In any case, for what it’s worth my experience with Mazda has been worse than I can even describe in this blog post. I could probably go on and on, and make this rant much more effective. But at the same time, I doubt anyone would actually read the whole thing. So, I will leave you with this – Never, ever, never, never, ever buy a MAZDA. They suck shit and the company is pure unadulterated feces.

Thank you for your attention.

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