Tag Archives: Miscellany

Miscellany

Mandatory Sensations / The Experimental

In most organizations, there’s going to be a tension between what’s been proven to work, and what’s worth experimenting with for the future.  Last time I checked, facebook is a company that experiments a lot; it’s a core value at the company.

Of course, new initiatives aren’t always successful.  I can remember a long time back when Monday Night Football selected comedian Dennis Miller to be a commentator.  My recollection is that it was not a good idea at all.  However, one certainly can’t fault Miller, and although the ABC network was perhaps too lax in screening this experiment beforehand, you can at least credit them for being willing to fail.

Virtually all organizations – no matter how ancient and stoic – have to eventually try something new and risk failure.

Moving along with a simple case study, I can’t really remember the last time I saw much or any of the Academy Awards, but in recent years I more or less remember the headlines surrounding the event.  To be pretty general, there were calls for change regarding the award results.

Now, my gut feeling is whether or not the suggested changes were warranted, the Academy Awards was like a sitting duck.  It’s perceived lack of experimentation, and more generally any sense of movement or change, inadvertently created a curious vulnerability for it at that point in time.

This is the curious vulnerability:  It didn’t really matter if it made sense for the Academy Awards to experiment radically.  It also didn’t really matter if the changes demanded by external forces were warranted.  Today, by default, an organization is expected to experiment, and more generally, exude a sense of movement or changingirrespective of what that movement or change is!  Organizations that don’t do this are automatically, implicitly, and perhaps subconsciously, considered faulty, if not guilty!

Yes, it seems as though your organization has to propagate a sense of movement or change, even if completely vague, just for the sake of producing that sensation.  We’re now several generations past the “MTV generation”, so perhaps it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.

In a motto: If you don’t control the conversation about “change” in your organization, the odds are much higher than someone else will.

With respect to the Academy Awards, I think the experimentation that they’d need to embark on to effect that general sense of change would have to go beyond who is the host.  The experimentation will have to affect the fundamental nature of the event.  For instance, award categories.  Perhaps add some new experimental categories, and try them out in the run-up to the actual show.  Perhaps include some in the time slot where they kind of just show actors walking into the building.  And perhaps others in the days and weeks preceding the actual event.

And to that end, I’ve had musings for some time that are somewhat obscure, but nevertheless interesting and perhaps worthy of some kind of experimentation one day.  They probably also cater more to cinephiles than the average consumer, and that, specifically, could be a great part of the experimentation.  In my opinion, they’re legitimate categories in their own right.

1. New Experimental Category: Highest Ratio of Trailer Quality to Motion Picture Quality

In other words, it was an incredible trailer for an awful movie.

Of course, it wasn’t necessarily an awful movie.  In fact, my current all-time pick for this category is Safe, which was not bad at all.

The bottom line is trailer composition is an art that’s currently not recognized in any way.  The producer for the trailer may have the lamest film of all time to work with, but his job is to take that, and from it create the most compelling 60-second preview possible.  That is an art!

To drive this home further, Hollywood is approaching $50 billion a year in revenue, and this is easily the most unheralded facet of that cash cow, even though it’s one of the absolute most critical trades.  Imagine a Hollywood where all the films were the same, but all the trailers were absolutely awful.  I would envision many billions of dollars in lost revenue.

2. New Experimental Category: Greatest Motion Picture Over-Performance

In other words, you saw the poster, you saw the trailer, you knew about the cast, you knew who the director was, and… you were completely shocked at how good the film was.

Similar to before, it doesn’t necessarily mean all those aforementioned ingredients were of low quality.  And of course it doesn’t necessarily mean the film is that great.

Picks from recent memory include Law Abiding Citizen, Broken City, and Prisoners.  Perhaps owing to the complexity of the measurement, it’s difficult for me to choose one as the clear winner.

To drive home the above points, the best film I’ve seen from the recent past is The Dark Knight.  However, it wouldn’t be a contender because, although it actually did over-perform, I expected a very high level of quality to begin with.

3. New Experimental Category: Best Scene From A Motion Picture

This is self explanatory, and there are too many possibilities to list right here.

I also think this is a non-cinephile category that could captivate the average consumer.

4. New Experimental Category: Moodiest Motion Picture Film

Wow, now this is a niche experimental category!

I have no idea how to quantify the moodiness of a film, or articulate what this category even really means, but you know it when you see it.

One thing I’m pretty sure of is music tends to play a critical role.  That said, this isn’t Best Motion Picture Score or Best Motion Picture Soundtrack.

For me, the film that really stands out is the mostly-unknown 1996 Spanish film by Carlos Saura, Taxi.

Fittingly, the soundtrack featured cult band Mano Negra, which was noteworthy for its very high level of experimentation.  Numerous multilingual tracks from the the band’s relevant album Casa Babylon have a very unconventional and original sound, and are worth a listen.

Equally worthy of consideration, with an equally moody score,  soundtrack, visuals, and writing, is Yimou Zhang’s 1995 film, Shanghai Triad.

Miscellany

Excellence By Accident

“Fanedits” are one of the newer trends in cinema.  It’s when amateurs attempt to edit a film, in an attempt to achieve what they believe is perfection.  Their legality is sketchy as is their typical distribution.  I encountered the strangest fanedit by accident.

I had received a bargain-bin DVD copy of Pearl Harbor.  Since I had never seen it, I eventually decided to view the DVD.  It was a 2-disc set, but one of the discs was missing.  I figured it must have been the special features.

I was very impressed with the film, instantly captivated by a very interesting cold opening, intrigued by the chosen timeline for the film, and the general pacing and structure felt very, very different and definitely refreshing!  I didn’t realize the disc clearly said “Disc 2”, and I was in fact watching the second half of the film like an idiot.

(Eventually, I finally saw the first half of the three-hour film.)

My final analysis is that Pearl-Harbor-the-DVD-Part-2 can actually be viewed as a self-contained film.  As for references to things in the first half of the film, they generally turn out to be better when you imagine what happened, or speculate what they might be talking about.  Of course, due to time constraints, it’s a common occurrence in films anyway – so in this case you don’t even realize there’s something strange going on.

Pearl-Harbor-the-DVD-Part-2 is better than Pearl-Harbor-the-DVD-Part-1 .

More surprisingly, it’s also better than Pearl-Harbor-the-DVD-Part-1-and-Part-2!

I don’t claim it’s perfect, but I do claim it’s better.  Much better, in fact.

Throw away the first disc, and you have the ultimate Pearl Harbor fanedit.  If you’ve never seen Pearl Harbor, you’re the next-to-perfect test subject.  (In this case the perfect test subject would be completely unaware of what’s going on.)  Watch the second half of the film and see for yourself.

Can something more useful than a random film review be gleaned from this?  Yes, I believe so.  Sometimes, superior quality and solutions can be found in the strangest places.  Never close the door on brainstorming methods or approaches.  You never know what you’ll find.  And sometimes a lack of awareness can open the mind, when otherwise it might be gridlocked with conventional thinking.

I can't read.
I can’t read.

Miscellany

The Most Important Book Of The Century

I just finished How to Stay Out of the Hospital by Lila Anastas, and I don’t think I’m overemphasizing the book’s value when I suggest it could be one of the most important books of the century, if not the most important book!

How to Stay Out of the Hospital is a blistering – but not off-balanced – critique of the medical community and society’s current role with it.  The book concludes with the following mental model, which could have served equally well as a back-cover blurb: Primary prevention is avoiding the medical issue altogether, secondary prevention involves early detection of an affliction, and tertiary prevention is the fight against a full-blown medical malady.  Doctors receive almost all of their training in tertiary prevention, and it’s also where they stand to make the most money, but also where your odds are the worst.

We are all indoctrinated from an early age that – not to worry – one simply checks in to the hospital to fix medical problems.  However that concept is outrageous-to-loony once you consider the flaws in any human enterprise, not to mention the fact that it’s the most inefficient possible way to further your survival – akin to hoping the fire department can prevent your house from burning down.  The scope of the inefficiency is hard to wrap your head around once you finish this book, but one of the most obvious problems with that medical model is that you are attempting to fix a medical problem by relocating to a building filled with sick people; in an environment necessarily filled with serious medications, invasive instruments, and highly consequential treatments; in a world where Murphy’s Law is free to prevail!  It’s a very sharp environment.  Sadly, shockingly, and even horrifically, this has led to a statistically non-trivial level of serious problems.  And yes, sometimes those mishaps are fatal.

The book goes far beyond common-sense axioms (e.g. don’t smoke & don’t drink).  It’s filled with all different types of gems and food for thought.  Page 173 offers the following suggestion: “If [you know ahead of time that] you’re going to be a patient in a medical center hospital, avoid being admitted on or near July 1, because this is the traditional day when new interns and residents arrive at the hospital and begin training.”  I knew teaching hospitals obviously admitted new trainees, and it does seem like summertime would be the most logical time for that to happen, but I would never have connected those two dots if I hadn’t read this book.

Do not overlook this book!  You will not look at hospitals the same way ever again.  With such little fanfare and publicity, it would seem strange for me to keep heaping on the superlatives, but the truth is that this book is easily a seminal work from a survival point of view, right up there with 98.6 Degrees.

The book was written in 1986, so it’s slightly dated, but very, very far from obsolete.  Could the most important book of this century actually have been published in the previous century?


The postscript is that if you don’t believe incompetence or unintentional bureaucratic dysfunction could ever occur in a hospital, surely you believe in greed and malice, don’t you?  Not long after this was originally published, a licensed doctor from my area was arrested, in what has now become a fairly notorious criminal case in this region.  The allegations are so unbelievable, litigation experts are now buying radio ads seeking out anyone who was ever a patient of this one single doctor.  You can search online for the details, but according to The Department of Justice, Dr. Jorge Zamora-Quezada “[gave] patients chemotherapy and toxic treatments they didn’t need, all to fund his ‘lavish’ and ‘opulent lifestyle’.”

Miscellany

Spicy-Hot Concoctions With Flavor

This is an easy-to-make veg*n recipe.  The amount of added sodium is close to zero, and it goes great with anything.

Ingredients:

  • something like canola oil to help prevent food from getting stuck (this could potentially be left out)
  • 2 cups parboiled rice (some expert sources maintain that parboiled rice is nutritionally superior to whole grain rice; Walmart-brand has worked great)
  • 5 cups water
  • about 5 jalapeños, chopped and sliced however you like
  • about 5 tomatos, chopped and sliced however you like
  • 1 package of sliced mushrooms
  • 1 package of baby carrots
  • copious amounts of pure garlic powder (Kirkland Signature works great and usually has the best price)
  • copious amounts of curry powder
  • a very moderate amount of Dave’s Gourmet Insanity Hot Sauce, to taste and safe tolerance

WARNING: If you’re not used to working with these ingredients in a cooking environment, wear safety glasses.  Under no circumstances can you allow the hot sauce to come into contact with your eyes.  Stay clear of the steam and don’t splash the contents of the frying pan.

Directions:

  1. Put everything in a very large frying pan, stir well, and then turn the heat all the way up.
  2. When the water is clearly boiling, turn the heat down to the minimum setting and then cover the frying pan with a lid.
  3. It will take about ten minutes.  Check back and turn the heat off right before the water is used up.  If you’re a little too late, some of the food will be stuck to the frying pan.

And that’s it!  There should be enough food in there to last quite a long time, and feed quite a few people.

Miscellany

Reasons You Shouldn’t Kick Inconspicuous Tires That Have Been Dumped

bees-in-tire-1

It’s been said that bees love to find tires to build hives in.  The honeycomb in the picture above was built by extremely aggressive Africanized bees.  The tire had been dumped long ago and was sitting right next to a path used by pedestrians and also horse riders.

Dumped tires like this look like trash to most people, but they must look like mansions to bees searching for a home.  When you see a dumped tire, it’s best to assume the worst.

With full bee gear, we safely moved this tire to a much safer location.  The bees you see in the pictures and in the video below are mostly neighboring bees that came to harvest this killer bee honey after we moved the tire.

As for the killer bees themselves, believe it or not, it took three attempts to completely kill them!  Drowning first, then locally-controlled fumigation, and then finally soapy water.  And each time we figured we “must have got almost all of ’em”.

If you ever see or suspect anything like this, assume the worst and call a professional or the local authority responsible for dealing with something like this.

bees-in-tire-2

bees-in-tire-3

bees-in-tire-4

In the video below, more flying neighbors got into the action after we pulled out some of the honeycomb and put it on a flat surface.

The queen bee.
The queen bee.

Miscellany

The Perfect Double Bacon Cheeseburger

Hits The Spot
Hits The Spot

“Mostly-Vegan” Ingredients:

  • Lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Morning Star Griller’s Original Veggie Burgers (2)
  • Morning Star Veggie Bacon Strips (2)
  • Go Veggie! Pepper Jack Rice Vegan Slices (2)
  • Pepperidge Farm Italian Bread with Sesame Seeds
  • KA·ME Hot Mustard
  • Grilled with: Smart Balance Omega-3 Buttery Spread
  • On the side: Heinz “No Salt” Ketchup

The price is right.  This costs less than a typical double bacon cheeseburger, and the labor is minimal.

The biggest offender here is the sodium.  It adds up to about 58% of the recommended daily sodium (which some say is too lenient as it is!).  Just for comparison, a Bacon & Cheese Whopper from Burger King will set you back about 59%.

The sodium here could be scaled back with craftier product selection, as well as by not making everything a double.  Here the veg*n beef and bacon accounted for the most sodium, although these Morning Star products did have the lowest sodium out of the veg*n product selection that was available to me, so there isn’t much room for improvement there.  The bread added 10% sodium, and so there is definitely potential there.  It’s good bread though.

Miscellany

Dougles And Gripples

Sometimes I like to optimize the smallest of things.  For instance, what do you do when you want to compare products at Lowe’s and Home Depot?  This is what I do.  I type lowes homedepot on Google.com (my browser’s homepage) and hit enter.

Successful dougle.
Successful dougle.

The top two results are what I’m looking for.  I middle click on each and proceed with my comparison.  It shouldn’t be lost on the reader how incredibly stupid this optimization is, but just the same, what would we even call this optimization?  Has this phenomenon even been discovered by anyone else?

If not, we can throw some ideas out there.  A successful two-hit search (as in the above example) could be a Dougle (portmanteau of double and Google).  A successful three-hit search (extremely difficult) could be a Gripple.

And I would be shocked if there existed four search terms where a home run were possible.  I refuse to believe it can be done.  Remember, they have to be the top results.  They can’t simply be on the first page of results.  They have to be the very top results.