Drippings in the Brainpan

31 07 2012

Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s been a while. I’ve mainly been trying desperately to avoid saying anything about the political circus we’re mired in, but I suppose  I have to put something in this big white space.


If you haven’t seen it, Eureka is a neat little science fiction show about a town of super-genius science types set up by the DoD to develop technologies. The “science” in the show is- like most such shows- very silly, but the clever writing and smarter acting helps even me look past the near-constant stream of deux-ex-machina endings. Please rush right out and buy all of the shows.

As I said, I’m a big fan of Eureka, but there’s one particular aspect to the show that really irks me (not enough to stop watching, mind you): the ultra-geek characters in the show don’t act like real geeks. They’re all charmingly eccentric, bordering on batshit insane, and they drop tons of sly geek-culture references, but the nerd is only skin-deep. Despite many of the major characters supposedly being Dungeons & Dragons nerds, they continually fail to take advantage of opportunities a real gamer would have leaped upon with all four feet. For example, when the heroes are locked in a deadly struggle against implacable enemies bent on destroying them and all they hold dear, the heroes invariably neglect to arm themselves- even after disarming an enemy. They have tons of super-tech weaponry, but almost never use it. Similarly, they rush up to check on supposedly stunned enemies, turn their backs on the bad guys- in short, they break every single rule in the gamer Big Book of Stupid TV Tropes. It drives me nuts.

The producers obviously try to cater to their core demographic (people like me) with solid writing and clever scenarios, but they are too willing to write in cheesy plot devices which no gamer would ever fall for.

Oh, one more good thing about the show: the later seasons have actually made me appreciate Wil Wheaton’s acting ability. I used to loathe Wheaton- almost entirely based on his role in Star Trek, the Next Generation. Given that he wasn’t supposed to be a loathsome character in that show, I naturally assumed that he couldn’t act his way out of a paper bag. Damn, but I was wrong. A good actor can make the audience like him by portraying a role with such skill that audiences are willing to ignore (or at least overlook) the actor’s despicable behaviors off-screen. A really good actor can play a role so convincingly that you want to punch them out in public because of things their character did onscreen. Wheaton’s character Parrish on Eureka is such a role. He is such a slimy, pompous, self-absorbed, unrepentant douche that it makes my teeth ache, and it’s entirely to Wil Wheaton’s credit that I hate this fictional person with all my factual being.


I always hated coffee growing up. My dad drank it by the gallon, but I never developed a taste for it. It smelled wonderful, but the taste could never quite live up to the promises made by the aroma as it brewed. When I first joined the Navy, I didn’t drink much coffee- which is somewhat heretical if you know anything about the Big Blue Machine. If something ever happened which cut the Navy off from coffee, they’d be crippled. Armies may march on their stomachs, but the US Navy runs on Lifer Juice (note that this has only been true since the Navy removed beer from the ships, but sailors now live on coffee). But I still never got into the whole coffee thing.

Then I got stationed in Italy, and encountered real coffee for the first time. Not just espresso, by the way. Ordinary drip-brewed coffee that actually tasted like it smelled. I was finally able to enjoy a cup of coffee for its flavor, not just for the temporary wake-me-up delivered by the caffeine. Being a nerd and- worse- an engineer, I did some research. It turned out that the piping hot sewer water deceptively called “coffee” in the US was actually made from the leftover crap beans that got swept up and collected from the floor of the grindhouses. The good stuff was available for the discriminating palate, but too many Americans weren’t aware that there was any difference between types of coffee- or even how the coffee was roasted and ground. This meant that most of the good coffee was sold in Europe. That stay in Italy opened my eyes to what coffee was supposed to taste like. Then, I encountered Turkish coffee. Turkish coffee makes Italian coffee seem tame by comparison.

Note that this was before The Coffee Company Which Shits All Over The Name Of A Character From Moby Dick emerged from Seattle and began crushing the world under its cloven hooves. When I finally tasted their product, I was amazed … by how much it sucked. I still don’t understand why so many people seem to be enamored of the darkish swill- provided enough sugar, flavorings, and unnecessary additives are dumped into the liquid.

Where I work, we used to have an industrial-sized coffee maker for the office. Anyone could buy into the communal coffee urn for five bucks a month. I politely declined because the person running the coffee fund bought what smelled and tasted like moldy sawdust dyed brown. When the department was essentially gutted to due to poor management, most of the coffee drinkers left, and the coffee maker and its auxiliary infrastructure got shunted into the storage closet.

And that’s where it stayed until we started hiring again a couple of years later. The first new guy we hired asked about coffee, and the sole survivor of the employee armageddon (your humble correspondent) remembered that we had a coffee maker in the back room. It was duly retrieved, scrubbed free of the grime of years of neglect, and put back on its throne in the office. The first pot brewed through it tasted like the floor sweepings from a rendering plant, because the idiot running it had just assumed that the coffee grounds stored with the coffee maker would still be good after a couple of years in an unsealed container.

After the dry heaves finally subsided, I was prevailed upon to purchase some coffee- mainly because  I could get it cheap at Sam’s Club. In lieu of buying the cheapest coffee-like substance available, I ponied up for some inexpensive-but-good-quality Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. The usual coffee drinkers appreciated the taste, so I put my engineer hat back on and re-visited my earlier research. There are many expensive coffees which taste great, so we bought some small bags of those and tried them out. Kona is so good it’s almost worth the $30/pound price. We eventually decided that we couldn’t realistically charge enough to make the high-end coffee pay for itself, so we concentrated on a few inexpensive but still good coffees. We settled on Eight-O’Clock coffee as the best combination of price and flavor, charged everyone twenty-five cents a cup, and went into business.

A weird thing started happening not long thereafter. People from other offices started making the long trek through the six-and-a-half-acre maze we call an office building to buy my coffee. A couple of people who used to boast about their special, private blend from Omnipresent Coffee Company That Shall Not Be Named started buying my coffee. When we started out, I could expect to run to Sam’s to get more coffee once every couple of months. Before too long, however, I was buying the stuff twice a month. I finally had to set up a permanent recurring order for coffee from Amazon, and had it delivered directly to my office. Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot. How the Hell did I end up as a coffee mogul?


Back in the Bad Old Days of the Cold War, and particularly vile little toad in Congress thunderously announced that actual communists were secretly infiltrating our government with the aim of destroying the American Way of Life and, presumably, our Precious Bodily Fluids. Joseph McCarthy ushered the country into the Red Scare almost single-handedly, and he even created the House Un-American Activities Commission (HUAC)  to weed out and destroy the supposed traitors in our sacred halls of government.

Thousands of people across the country had their reputations and careers ruined by this self-serving scaremonger and the merest hint that they might be even loosely associated with someone who’s mother’s uncle’s step-sister’s barber’s mechanic might have casually met someone who knew how to spell “communist”. McCarthy finally managed to alienate enough people that he made a sudden and graceless exit from politics, but that didn’t do much to help the people whose lives had been ruined by his paranoid witch-hunt. The country deposited McCarthy’s rabble rousing insanity in the junk bin of history and went away to wash the reek of McCarthyism off our hands, confident that we had learned our collective lesson.

Enter another guanopsychotic member of Congress to prove that everything gets recycled- even atrociously bad ideas. Michele “Moon-bat” Bachmann has been claiming that the US government is being infiltrated by- horrified gasp- muslims! She’s even trying to drum up support for a House Un-Christian Activities Commission to root out these dangerous fiends before they steal the original of the US Constitution and cleverly insert wording to make Islamic law the law of the land. Oooo! Scary muslims! Boogah! Boogah! Like McCarthy, she’s even waving around a piece of paper which she claims is a list of “muslim agents” already working in or near the US government.

Well, I try to give credit where it is due, so I am formally thanking Representative Bachmann for helping alert the people about a sinister cabal of fundamentalist religious whackjobs who are infiltrating our government in order to completely destroy American and all it stands for. These religious zealots want nothing less than the total usurpation of the reins of power in this country and to make America into a fundamentalist theocracy. These nefarious sleeper agents have been trying to pass legislation to impose their religious laws on the entire country, firmly consider all those who do not share their beliefs to be enemies who must be destroyed, and loudly proclaiming their fanatical desire to subjugate the whole world to their particular version of their god.

Unfortunately for Representative Bachmann and her four bigoted companions in xenophobia, the religious fanatics of which I speak are not muslims. They’re fundamentalist evangelical christians, and they’re working very hard to help make the US a christian version of Iran. I have a list of names here

That’s all for this episode. Tune in next time for a discussion of whatever raises my dudgeon enough to induce me to write.


Current status: Locked, loaded, and liquored up.

Current music: It’s Time by Imagine Dragons