Monthly Archives: June 2011

Transformers 3 is a 9/11 Truther movie

The arrows mean conspiracy.

This is the plot to Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon.

A wealthy accountant with government ties makes a temporary alliance with the foreign bad guys. This accountant’s children expand the power throughout the US economy, and use it to help the bad guys.

The good guys who are aligned with the US know of the scary bad guys, but believe that they will be unable to convince elected US officials of the threat posed by the foreign bad guys.

In the meantime, these pro-freedom good guys sometimes go on random military expeditions in the Middle East without Congressional, or even government, authority.

Under the claim of supporting freedom, these good guys let the bad guys launch an attack on a dense urban area, notably knocking over some large skyscrapers. Thus, the US government recognizes the bad guys’ plan of bringing their world to our world and imposing their laws and way of life on us.

Thus, the elected officials finally support the pro-freedom good guys, but only after these pro-freedom good guys knowingly let this attack happen.

Indeed, while they proclaim to be pro-freedom, the Autobots actively circumvent the Constitutional process to gain support for they war they desire.

The plot to Transformers 3 is a 9/11 Truther’s dream.

And now for fun, a description of the Decepticon bad guy Shockwave.

Behold, the One-Eyed Monster!

Shockwave. This one-eyed monster controls a giant tentacle, which at many points throughout the film it uses to terrify women. In a notable scene, the one-eyed beast ties up the female lead and threatens to torture her with his tentacle. Later, with the tentacle near destroyed, the woman belittles and emasculates Shockwave, calling him a “bitch.” He reacts in violence, seeking to reclaim his alpha-male status.

This woman, whose lips evoke imagery of flower petals, is tortured by the tentacles of a one-eyed monster.

While the woman with the red, engorged lips is not named Judy, a good deal of her interaction with the tentacled beast does occur in Chicago. Indeed, the whole film is some real Blue and Green Screen Music.

Class dismissed.

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Does Water Need Hydrotherapy?

On the way to the Houston Pride Parade this weekend, Dan and I passed by a storefront along San Felipe advertising its services in “Hydrotherapy.”

But why would water ever need therapy?

Sure, on its surface water may seem to have some tension. But what does it really have to do? Water has to be wet, it has to be polar. Then again, it has to be both adhesive and cohesive. Two different types of hesiveness! And sure, it has a meniscus. But it could always be meniscusier.

Plus, water may make up 71% of the earth’s surface, but barely anyone lives there. Everyone just has this hard-on for living on solid ground. Maybe water just wants a bit more attention, so who can blame it for having a salty disposition sometimes. And then when it is like that, no one wants to drink it. So, what? Water just has to be clean and perfect all the time? No wonder water always has a bit of a negative charge to it. So maybe some hydrotherapy isn’t such a bad idea.

And when you delve below the surface, all living things rely on water to survive. That is the sort of responsibility that can lead to some real complexes. And everyone knows that when you put water under pressure, it freezes up. With issues like that, I’m surprised water doesn’t constantly get the vapors. And even when it does, it is like no one even sees it.

Even scientists, who you think would really understand water, don’t pay it enough attention. You’ve got scientists looking for water on the moon and Mars and even outside our solar system. What’s the deal, scientists? The water here isn’t good enough for you? What is wrong with the water right here on earth? And when they do pay attention to water, it is always just because of what it can do for them, rather than just because they like the water.

Oh hey, water. Let’s hang out. Oh, btw, do you mind if we dissolve some stuff in you? K Thx, you’re the best, water!

So who can blame water for sometimes trying to get in the sky so more people can see it and maybe it’ll get some attention. But then people are like: Oh, no water! Why are you blocking the sun? Way to be a dick water.

Way to be a dick everyone else!

And then when people have had too much sun, they’re all: Oh man I could use some water. Well maybe you should have thought of that before.

And everyone is always telling water how to do its job. Oh, you’re raining too much. Woah water, you need to rain some more. Stop flooding, water. Maybe water has been water for a long time and knows exactly what it is doing, OK?

Jeez, hydrotherapy is making more and more sense.

So yeah. Cut water some slack. Water is already on tons of pharmaceuticals and anti-depressants. And people only complain that is tainting water. Well maybe water just needs a little help.

Some one on one therapy sessions are exactly what water needs.

Houston Pride Parade was Totally Gay

Pride Parade? That’s so gay!

Indeed it was. Here the day after, I think I’m suffering from Glitter Lung, which is not unlike Flavor Crystal Lung that besets our dear miners who toil for Frito-Lay to provide the world with coolest of ranch. Luckily I did not accidentally let ruptured glow-stick goo somehow get into my mouth. That is a lesson well learned from many a bar and bat mitzvah party. I am convinced that the odd flavor indicates glow sticks are not of this world, but are stolen alien technology reverse engineered from Roswell.

Of course, the day started at Anvil. And there is no better way to start a fun-filled event fraught with top-notch people-watching than a homemade Pride Parade Bingo game.

I don't think I saw a gay animal

I didn’t quite get a blackout, but did see most of the things. However, a good part of the game was also seeing things/people and then regretting that they weren’t on the bingo board. For example: guy in a mustache with gold lamé underwear.

We saw him first at Anvil, and then occasionally throughout the day

There was also the woman with the horse hoof shoes. Save it for Renaissance Faire, lady!

Do they have those in my size? Nay!

Of course, this was Houston and thus the usual Houston confusion as how to deal with people walking in the street. The Wendy’s on Westheimer charged $15 for parking, $2 for a bag of ice, and $1 to use the restroom. Totally gay.

Where's the beef?

Overall, the day really seemed to come into its own. First, there was the whole festival that preceded the parade. Given that the parade doesn’t start until 9 pm, that is a good day’s worth of having a gay ‘ol time.

Houston is a place that, due to city design and weather, one does not usually spot many pedestrians, even in the more walkable neighborhoods. Seeing the crowds walking along Westheimer was quite the sight to behold. If only every day were more like that.

The whole thing reminded me of being back in New York City, with youthful crowds just walking around. And best of all, random cheap hotdogs on the street! Another reason why Catbirds is one of the best bars in Houston.

the Best Bar

Grilled dogs vs Water Dogs: Whoever wins, we lose

The random mini-stages and musical groups were a surprising and welcome addition, not to mention felt like a personal fuck-you to Austin.

Yeah that's right Houston has music

We ended up in a friend of a friend’s apartment that overlooked Westheimer. The view was something else.

The sun shines on the crowds anticipating the gay pride parade

A view of downtown Houston

I kinda like this one. Thank you, Hipstamatic.

This is basically an ad for El Real.

Of course, we weren’t the only ones who recognized the benefits of an elevated view. A bunch of people climbed on top of Catbirds to watch from the roof. This also got my bingo square for “look at that fukkin’ hipster.”

Don't fall! (He didn't)

There were some great floats/cars in the parade. For example, there was the South Beach float.

The Lesbians Over Age Fifty float (Bingo!)

The marching band that played Lady Gaga.

And of course, Houston Police Department squad car number 69.

Come on, you know that totally was not on accident.

Of course, my personal favorite activity was watching the underage kids in the Wendys parking lot drinking for what was obviously the first time. They did not appreciate me yelling at them, exposing their secret hiding place behind the dumpster where the cops wouldn’t dare see them sneaking booze out of a large soda. It was all fun and games until one of the young rapscallions PTFO’d.

At least I assume that is what happened.

Luckily, he came to in a few minutes and hopefully learned an important lesson.

Overall, a fun time. It is difficult to tell whether the day was especially rambunctious because of New York having legalized gay marriage just the day before. Perhaps those on the street had a better perspective.

Here is Dan playing a ukulele at Clare’s apartment after the parade.

Tyrannical Houston Tow Trucks, and what we can do

Tow Trucks in Houston

Today, the Houston Press had a great blog entry about tow trucks. Specifically, how they act above the law, like a hoard of marauding bandits who regularly break into cars so that they can steal them and hold them hostage until owners pay outrageous fees.

Tow truck drivers in Houston can break into your car in order to tow it — against state regulations — and here’s why: Law enforcement ain’t gonna stop ’em.

We learned this by following up on an e-mail from a guy who says he watched a driver for Fast Tow jimmy the locks on an SUV in order to get inside and secure the vehicle for towing. (The truck was parked on a portion of the road that, at that time of night, was a no-parking zone). It made us wonder: is this legal? Should be a fairly simple thing to find out, no? Boy, were we wrong.

The blog’s comments section is filled with personal anecdotes about unscrupulous tow truck drivers who jimmy (aka break into) cars to make towing easier. Tow truck drivers will even wait and watch someone get out of a car and then go tow it, and then demand a bribe if caught by the owner.

A Semi-Personal Anecdote about Towing in Houston

While blog comments are not necessarily the most reliable sources, they certainly fit my own experiences. One of the best stories I have heard was from my college roommate Eric.

He had gone downtown for something or other, and parked in one of those parking lots where you slip the right amount of money into a little slit that corresponds with the number of the spot where you parked your car. This Rice University engineer was not one to cut corners or break the rules, but when he returned he found his car had gone missing. If I remember the story correctly, at first he assumed it was stolen, but then realized it had probably been wrongly towed. After getting a ride home, he contacted the towing company whose number was posted at the parking lot, attempting to locate he car. He tried to explain that it had been wrongly towed, but to no avail. Eventually, he had to pay the towing fee, which I believe was somewhere over $200.

The tow truck companies messed with the wrong guy.

He did some quick research, and decided to file for a hearing against the tow truck company. Well, of course, he won. Part of prevailing in such a hearing means he was awarded:

Court costs to the prevailing party;

The reasonable cost of any photographs to an owner or operator of a vehicle who prevails;

An amount equal to the amount that the towing charge or booting removal charge exceeded fees for non-consent tows; and,

Reimbursement of fees paid for vehicle towing and storage or removal of a boot.

Despite having prevailed in the hearing, my roommate had quite some difficulty getting the tow company to pay him back. Eventually, he had to get a sheriff to show up at the towing facility and force the company to pay back the money they basically had stolen.

Alas, not everyone is as resourceful and driven that Rice engineer roommate.

Indeed, in a gun-friendly place like Texas, it is easy to imagine such a situation turning violent. Someone walks out to his or her car, only to see a stranger breaking in through the window, preparing to tow it away. I know some small part of me would want to be able to pull a gun on such scum.

After all, the purpose of parking and traffic laws should not be to line to pockets of these disgraceful companies, but rather to maintain the safety of our roadways, aesthetics of our neighborhoods, and business interests of our parking lots. If someone offers to move his or her vehicle, and perhaps pay whatever fine exists for the wrongful parking, then that should be enough to fulfill the purpose of the law. Letting tow trucks run wild only increases the risk of harm to our communities and compounds the danger of our streets and freeways.

The comments on the Houston Press blog are certainly not wanting for personal examples of tow trucks making our streets more, not less, hazardous. Indeed, a quick google search can find many such instances.

However, despite the gut reaction, we do have ways to ameliorate this despicable practice that our city seems to tolerate. The way to defeat the hegemonic power of this tow truck regime is through the democratic avenues  of our duly elected officials.

City Hall needs to pass some laws.

There Ought to be a Law

First, Houston should impose strict liability upon tow truck companies. Regardless of whether it was their fault or not, tow truck companies should be held liable if they wrongly tow a vehicle. This legal standard would help ensure that the tow truck companies double check that they are correctly towing a vehicle. After all, the burden would be on them.

Secondly, Houston should not limit recovery for a wrongly towed vehicle to reimbursement of court costs and towing fees. The city should legislate that courts can provide recovery for Actual Damages.

To quote my Barbri practice book, Actual Damages means any damages recoverable at common law, including economic and non-economic, and tort damages. This standard includes mental anguish as well as pain and suffering.

Additionally, Houston should borrow from the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, and compound damages based on whether the wrongful towing was committed knowingly or intentionally. If the tow truck company knowingly towed a vehicle when it shouldn’t have, the court should be allowed to reward up to double actual damages. If the tow truck company intentionally towed a vehicle when it shouldn’t have, the court should be allowed to reward up to triple actual damages.

Such a calculation of damages may reach an rather high cost, but the power imbalance in the towing regime justifies creating an economic and legal incentive to guarantee that all towing is proper. After all, anecdotes and experience show that citizens have quite the difficult time negotiating with tow truck drivers. Tow truck drivers need incentive to admit to fault when confronted, and these sorts of damages are just the incentive that our city can provide.

Furthermore, Houston is a driving city. A person’s car is often a lifeline to work, school, family, or anything that Houston has to offer. To take away someone’s car is to remove her from a functioning city. City Hall should do everything it can to guarantee that those who have their cars wrongfully towed are properly compensated, and also guarantee an economic and legal incentive against wrongful towing.

Thirdly, Houston should prevent tow trucks from towing non-ticketed cars from public streets and parking lots. Tow trucks are not elected officials. They are not the police. They are not public servants and they do not act to protect and serve. Tow trucks are businesses, run by private citizens. They should not be allowed to remove other citizens’ vehicles at whim. Only upon approval from properly trained police officers should tow trucks have the authority to remove cars. We would not allow tow trucks to go around granting tickets for speeding or running red lights. Heck, Houston doesn’t even like it when the police do that via cameras. Then why do we let tow trucks enforce parking laws? This is a responsibility for the police, not private companies.

Fourth, Houston should legislate that tow trucks are city actors. If tow trucks are going to enforce parking laws like police, then they should be held responsible like police. If tow trucks are going to seize private property, then they should be held to same standard as the other grand seizer of property: the government.

Therefore, as state actors, tow truck drivers could be held subject to §1983 charges. This means that tow trucks could be brought to Federal Court for violating a citizen’s rights under the constitution. This would help ensure that tow trucks don’t just act in accordance with proper towing law, but act up to the highest standards of liberty. This would prevent discrimination in the method of towing. It would also allow drivers to remove their complaints from local elected judges who may be under the sway of tow truck company donors, and seek the judgement of the Federal Judiciary.

Fifth, tow trucks should not be allowed to breach the peace while towing. This rule would hold tow trucks to the same standards as repo men. Similarly to repo men, tow trucks generally do not need a judicial process before seizing a vehicle, nor do they need to provide notice. However, repo men are not allowed to breach the peace in the process of repossessing property. This means that if either repressor or the reposessee breaches the peace during a repossession, then the repossession is not OK.

If Houston applies this standard to tow trucks, it means that people who find their vehicles in the middle of being towed can stop the towing by breaching the peace. Breaching the peace requires no grand effort, a mere making a scene or loud temper tantrum should be enough. Heck, even onlookers who disapprove of a towing could prevent it by honking at the tow truck and generally breaching the peace.

Imposing this standard would help guarantee that if someone was being towed, well gosh darn it, he deserved it.

Finally, tow trucks should have to make reasonable attempt to provide notice to the person whose car is being towed and give that person a reasonable opportunity to move the car. Houston could accomplish this by creating standardized “notice cards” that people could place in their cars or under their windshields that include number where they could be contacted in case of towing. A tow truck would have to make a reasonable effort to locate such a card, contact the owner, and then grant that person a reasonable amount of time to move the vehicle.

After all, the purpose of parking and traffic laws is not to enrich private companies, but provide for safety, aesthetics, and business interests. If someone can move his car, then the goals of the laws are fulfilled. There is no need to force citizens to pay often-dangerous, private towing companies to guarantee that we follow the laws.

In conclusion…

The state of towing in Houston is despicable. However, we have a way to resist this towing regime without resorting to violence. We have our duly elected representatives in City Hall. So write the mayor, write your city council person, write the Houston Chronicle. We can change the laws.

Or we can throw some eggs at tow trucks, whatever.

Almonds are the Money Mond

This is the first result if you Google image search for Mond

Which Mond is best Mond? It is a question that has haunted man for aeons. The traditional answer is that diamonds are the best mond. After all, they are hard and shiny and people pay lots of money for them. You would be in good company to say that diamonds are the best bond.

But you would be wrong!

Diamonds are not the Money mond!

Rather, there is another mond that is the greater mond. That mond is Almond. Almonds are superior to diamonds in all ways, thus the name Almond.

“But what about heists,” you may ask ignorantly. Why would people try to heist diamonds but not almonds if almonds are the superior mond.

Michael Caine never made a movie about stealing almonds.

Fools! Almonds are TOO the subject of heists. In 2006, more than a quarter of a million dollars worth of almonds were heisted in what was called the Oceans 11 of almond heists. To quote the NPR interviewer putting words into the mouth of an almond farmer:

SIEGEL: This could be the Ocean’s 11 of almonds.

Mr. PHIPPEN: Yeah, you might say that.

 

SIEGEL: Is there a possibility of an inside job here?

 

 

Inside job? Oceans 11? When is the last time you read something so grand about diamonds? Never! That is when! Plus, the almonds stolen weighed 88,000 pounds. When has anyone ever stolen 88,000 pounds of diamonds? Never! This is because almonds are better than diamonds.

In conclusion, Almonds are the Money Mond.

 

Bow before the almond, king of the monds

In which Evan discovers a Cryptid at Rice University

Bigfoot. Ogopogo. Chupacabra. Legends to some, beasts yet to be discovered for others. Societies around the world tell myths about the creatures that live just outside humanity’s knowledge. They are called Cryptids: creatures or plants whose existence has been suggested but is unrecognized by scientific consensus and often regarded as highly unlikely.

And I discovered one.

It was a bright, sunny day in June, and the bells had just struck four. I was walking back to the library from a late lunch, enjoying the flora and fauna of the semi-urban Rice University campus before returning to my Barbri video. Despite being located in the middle of a city, the university and the nearby Hermann Park, are home to some more unusual animals. There are the nutria in the Hermann Park pond. The occasional coyote sightings. And of course, the terrifying hives of graduate students.

Not to mention the adorable bunnies!

Just a bunny!

But yesterday I spied an animal beyond categorization.

I heard some rustling in the bushes, and went over to see if it was just another squirrel, or maybe a slightly more rare bunny. Among returning feelings of playing Pokemon and looking for a rare Jigglypuff among hoards of Pidgeys, I spied a tuft of brown fur rustling through the underbrush. I crept up slowly as to not scare away the creature, but unlike the rabbits, or even the most friendly squirrels that constantly approach people in search of snacks, this little beast did not run away. No. It hopped closer. Raised back in its haunches, it hopped out of the brush and towards the sidewalk where I was standing. This was no ordinary creature. With smooth swiftness, desperate to not scare away the beast, I grabbed my iPhone and fumbled with the touchpad until I was able to snap a picture. As I looked over the edge of the camera, the animal looked back, and at that point it struck me that this was not an ordinary animal.

It had ears somewhat like a rabbit, but shorter than most other ones on campus. It had a large snout, and giant rear haunches. And instead of front paws, what looked like hooves. This was no rabbit.

Don’t believe me? See for yourself.

What is this fantastic beast that I have found?!

What is this thing?! Heading back into the library, I scoured the only reliable source for information on odd and mythical animals: wikipedia’s list of cryptids. Perhaps one of these would fit.

Considering the location, maybe it was an Elmendorf Beast, which is indigenous to Texas. Weighing around 20 pounds, the beasts are responsible for attacking and killing livestock around Elmendorf, but a few hour drive away.

Is this what I saw?

However, unlike the Elmendorf Beast, the animal I saw had fur. And there have not been any recent reports about attacks on Rice’s livestock.

Given the creature’s fur and large haunches, maybe it was a Phantom Kangaroo. While technically not a cryptid, because kangaroos are real, there is a special category for kangaroos and wallabies showing up in areas where one would not expect them. This very well may have been a Phantom Wallaby.

This wallaby looks an awful lot like the creature I found

What was a wallaby doing in Houston, Texas? Who knows! These are the mysteries of the world. Cyptids live among us.

However, the hooves in the picture certainly do not seem to match the normal little paws of a wallaby. Maybe it was a Jackalope, but with hooves instead of horns. If so, then I would like to declare this a new sort of cyptid: Evan’s Hare.

Evan’s Hare is like a Jackalope, but instead of expressing its antelope characteristics via horns, it does so via hooves.

So, given the conclusive evidence that this animal was some sort of cyptid, possibly a Elmendorf Beast, possibly a Phantom Wallaby, possibly an Evan’s Hare subsection of the Jackalope species, I submit this discovery to the io9 Cryptid Summer contest.

If I win, then I will donate the money to the cause of hunting and capturing this Evan’s Hare. Or pay down student loans, whatever.

HTTP 404: The Lost Generation

Warning: Incoming Disjointed Metaphorical Rant

“Listen, Robert, going to another country doesn’t make any difference. I’ve tried all that. You can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another. There’s nothing to that.”

They were Génération au Feu, the Generation in Flames. We are The Generation of Flamers.

Of Trolls. Of Tweeters, Sexters, and /b/tards.

This is our Hemingway.

They were the lost generation after serving in the war and finding no home for them in the US. We are the lost generation after serving in the drug war and finding we’ve been on the wrong side.

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest

To children ardent for some desperate glory,

The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est

Pro patria sobriety

So they want to Paris. And we went to the Internet.

Paris was a refuge of artistic freedom. And we’ll always have the Internet. So play it again, Rick. After all, how can you have obscenity based on community standards when the community adheres to Rule 34.

This is where we run. This is where we go. This is our home. The table around which we sit exists in electrical charges, and AT&T is barkeep. We are all expatriates.

But the sun also rises. And the Gawker page refreshes.

What profit hath a man of all his blogging which he is posteth upon the internet? One platform passeth away, and other social media cometh: but the book abideth for ever. The network also ariseth, and the network also goeth down, and waiteth for IT to reboot.

But knowledge and courage are no longer earned. We live in the age of instant Otaku. They are universally accessible. Paragon is at one’s fingertips.

I shot a charging rhino.

I know kung fu.

The physical world offers so very little. Creativity, knowledge, personal connection. This is all online.

Her tweets are full of money,” he said suddenly.

That was it. I’d never understood before. They were full of money.

[…]

So we tweet on, boats against the current […]

Is it earned? Do we deserve this? Does it matter that we do not have to suffer for our accomplishments? Our coders are so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think they should. Oh, God help us. We’re in the hands of engineers.

They had their Moveable Feast. We have our Laptop Orgy.

We are the online men

We are the blogging men

Commenting together

Heads linked to wikipedia. [citation needed]!

Our witty retort, when

We tweet together

Is annoying and pointless

As graffiti in the library of congress

Or a .gif on a Geocities

On our iPhones

Words without ink, color without brush

Paralyzed iOS, hand gesture without motion;

Someone wants to be friends

Someone wants to

To be

Someone wants to be

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

Error 404: world not found