Friday, February 04, 2005

Are you an Adventurer?

Ok, stay with me here…

You’re in Central America – searching for a lost Mayan city in the south of Belize. The jungle foliage is oppressive, as is the heat. You cannot see the sky, nor feel the wind. Your guide has left you – three days since – and the silence is maddening. You hack forward with your machete, because that is all there is to do.

Suddenly… a clearing.

You stumble out of the jungle, perpendicular to a long wide path. It is in surprisingly good repair, and could pass for a usable road if not for the abrupt ending twenty yards to your left; where it is engulfed by the encroaching jungle. To the right, one hundred yards distant, a building.

As you move down the road, the jungle to either side gives way, revealing smaller structures that can only be dwellings. So pristine they look that you half expect to see the eyes of a child, warily peeking at you from the safety of the window.

As you reach the base of the building, you realize it is one of many. This must have been, at the time, a good sized city. The central building is huge, almost certainly a temple, with various smaller structures ringing it. The topology is that of a circle with a dot in the center.

The entire place feels alive, if that is possible. It’s as if the inhabitants had gone away for festival and were due back any moment. You could almost hear the clamor of the crowd, dancing, chanting through the city proper – on their way to temple for some beatific ritual. A quick translation of the hieroglyphics above the entrance tells you this is the Temple of Kings.

The mouth of the temple beckons you forward. It awaits you like a hungry mouth ready to swallow. As you light your lantern and prepare to enter, you pause for a moment. You hear laughing, muffled as if hidden beneath a heavy blanket. It is a cruel, mocking sound, and the chill that runs down your back reminds you of just how alone you are.

You shake it off.

Inside the temple you move slowly down the hallway. There are mounted torches and you make use of them, slowly lighting each as you move forward. The walls have no markings and are surprisingly bereft of aging. They are smooth and cold to the touch. The hall ends in a huge atrium with slivers of light cascading down from the slots above. In the center, basked in light, stands a small pillar.

As you approach the pillar, you notice there is a golden bell suspended between two outcroppings on the top of the column. It looks if anything like a small replica of a church bell, hanging in anticipation of an astute smack from a guided hand. Beside it sits a long, thin golden rod. Chiseled into the face of the pillar are more hieroglyphics.

Suddenly a whirling wind sweeps through the chamber – with unnatural force it whips around the room forcing you to grab hold of the column to keep your footing. It dies as quickly as it came – incredulously, the bell did not ring.

For a moment, you are sure you will run from this place. A feeling of dread has engulfed you, as if the wind had ushered in the minions of hell itself. The beads of salty sweat that cascade down your face fall silently onto the limestone below. Without thinking, your eyes glance to the writings on the pillar.

*Make your choice, adventurous Stranger.
Strike the bell and bide the danger.
Or wonder, till it drives you mad.
What would have followed if you had?

You tell me, adventurous stranger. What would you do?

*Note: this poem was taken word-for-word from A Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Source of Power

Excerpts taken from MSNBC article here

The merchandising-minded spiritualists at the trendy Kabbalah Center are launching a new Kabbalah energy drink. And they’re hoping that Kabbalah devotee Ashton Kutcher will be the face of the new beverage, which they’re targeting to mass market, non-Kabbalah consumers.

“We’re going after the Red Bull market,” spokesman Darin Ezra told The Scoop. “But Kabbalah Energy Drink tastes better. And it’s infused with Kabbalah water, which is holy water.”

The product has been launched in a very limited market in Southern California, and will go wider shortly, with a major media campaign of radio, print and television and the tag line: “Source of Power.” Does this foreshadow a whole line of Kabbalah products? Say Kabbalah breakfast cereal and breath mints? “If it’s successful,” the spokesman says, “There will be more Kabbalah products.”

Wow, where to go with this one…. I’m nearly giddy.

Let me just say; I approached the Vatican years ago with a surefire idea for something similar.

Baptismal Blast – a high energy sports drink that will infuse your game with the Holy Spirit! It’s the New Testament in sports drinks – available in Mary Magdalene Red, and John the Baptist Blue. Drink it, or go to Hell.

Honestly, I think they were ‘on board’ until the last sentence – apparently the ‘Hell’ thing was a bit over-the-top. It was clear that the Vatican officials had never taken a Marketing class.

Promotion in religion is an interesting phenomena – I mean they need consumers of their product/service just as much as the next business, right? I sometimes wonder if the main-stream religions will make it, they just don’t seem to understand the need to reach out to new demographics (at least in the industrial world, I’m sure they’re building missions in third world countries like mad ). Or, they do understand, but are handcuffed by morality.

Lucky for us, there are plenty of new* religions out there that put marketing before morality.

*Please don’t respond by telling me that these religions are not, in fact, new at all – but have been around for thousands of years. I’m using ‘new’ here in terms of public conscious.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005


I loved Thriller.

I say this because I assume there are people out there that didn’t, or are too young to have been exposed firsthand to one of the most significant works of music in the latter part of the 20th century. And hey, I’m not afraid to admit it. I can still remember watching Michael’s performance on the ABC special Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever – he broke out the moonwalk and everything changed – it was nuts. From 1983 – 85, there was no one hotter.

Of course, living under a microscope isn’t an ideal situation for normally adjusted people – and ‘normally adjusted’ is a whole world away from Michael.

I’m not writing this to defend him – I’m sure his Cracker Jack team of legal experts will handle that. Nor am I writing this to convict him – I assume the jury will handle that, if the evidence provided is compelling enough. Heck, I’m not even going to crack jokes at his expense* – pretty low hanging fruit and not worth the effort. Let’s instead talk about the kids.

I’ve watched the children come and go over the years: Emmanuel Lewis, Macaulay Culkin, Bubbles, as well as myriad less-hyped but equally precocious youngsters – all basking in the glowing star that is Michael. For a kid, I can only assume that this must be cool, I mean he’s the King of Pop, I’m betting he’s springing for seconds on ice cream – probably with nuts. If I’m a kid, and I’m making the decisions –that’s the guy I’m hanging out with; the one with the flippin’ amusement park in his backyard.

Here’s the thing though, I’m a kid – I don’t make my own decisions, right?

Let’s see… whose job is that again?

To protect me, keep me safe from harm…

…it’s coming to me…

…give me a minute…

…ahh yes… my parents!

I’m no Psychologist (although I did stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night), but I have to question the decision of “Why yes, Billy can certainly go over to your house and play with you Michael! As a bonus, we’ll throw in his little brother Tommy. What’s that? No we don’t have any Vaseline, why do you ask?” There’s just something peculiar about adults that like to spend an inordinate amount of time with children – I’m not saying there aren’t instances where there’s an innocent motive (teachers, day care professionals, Catholic priests) – I’m just saying that, as a parent, you’re probably better off being a bit cynical.

In 1993, the first legal complaint was brought against Michael. While it was settled out of court for around 15 million, it did produce some interesting court documents. Smoking gun indeed.

So you’re a parent, post-1993, and Michael Jackson asks to spend some quality time with your son. You’ve heard about the accusations because, let’s be honest, you don’t live under a rock. You have a responsibility to do what?

  1. Chaperone the event.

  2. Make sure they’re back by dark.

  3. Buy the Merlot.

  4. Make an imprint of your Uggs in the malleable plastic that is Michael’s face.

The correct answer is obviously “D” – although “D”, followed by “C” is acceptable if you’re serving red meat for dinner.

All I’m saying is this – he may be guilty, he may be innocent. It’s irrelevant though, be a good parent and keep your kids away. It’s not worth it if you’re wrong.

*I’m lying here. In my defense, it’s nearly impossible not to.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

I’m looking for a new religion.

I’m looking for a new religion. It’s clear to me now that my current theocracy isn’t cutting the mustard. We’re way behind in celebrity endorsements. After all, ‘the meek may inherit the earth’ but they’ll still pay Ben Affleck $12 million to make Surviving Christmas. That said, I’ve narrowed my choices down to two, Kabbalah and Scientology.

Scientology – I mean what’s not to like here. It’s been around the block, if you know what I mean. Plus it’s got the word ‘Science’ in its name – that just screams legitimacy. And star wattage, you ask? John Travolta AND Tom Cruise, forget the Body of Christ, they’re dreamy! On the downside, I was never very handy with the Bunsen burner, I’m not sure if that’s a pre-requisite for joining, but again – ‘Science’ – beakers can’t be far off. Plus listening to someone giving a sermon while wearing a smock and goggles would seem way too close to 10th grade chemistry class – not sure that’s something I want to revisit.

Kabbalah – its future’s so bright, you have to wear shades. That’s a good thing, since you’re gonna be rubbing elbows with some major star wattage! The best part of it is that it’s so en vogue right now, you’ll be the envy of your neighbors. Imagine sitting on your front porch reading ‘An English Rose’ to your children while wearing your red string; the superior feeling you’ll get as your neighbors slink off to Sunday brunch at Old Country Buffet. Religion envy? You know it! This is a doctrine of ‘esoteric knowledge’, how cool is that? If that doesn’t scream “I’m smarter than you”, I’m not sure what does. Add to that a healthy does of mysticism and it’s like Harry Potter, only with God… and no magic wands (unless you’re in the inner sanctum, maybe you get wands then – not really sure). The downside is that Brittney Spears is involved, and that more than likely brings Kevin Federline into the mix. I’m not sure that’s someone I want on my religious kickball team, if you know what I mean…

Ahh well, in reality I’ll probably stick with the horse that got me here. After all, I’m still trying to unload all my Atkins-approved cookbooks, food items and clothing apparel from my last foray into highly visible fads.

Monday, January 31, 2005

"It was my understanding that there would be no math"

Ok, quick math quiz.

No wait; don’t run away, this is interesting, I swear.

This has to do with rounding. You know the old 3.5 rounds up to 4. Simple stuff really (and not that compelling to read about, I’m sure). Before you click away, grumbling about nerdy programmers and overly simplistic tutorials – take this quiz.

The only caveat is that you must round these numbers as if you were doing financial calculations – assume you’re a banker if it suits your fancy.

Round to the hundredths please (that’s the second place to the right of the decimal for any of my wife’s family.).

  • 4.445

  • 4.435

That’s it - simple yet effective.

If you’re not a programmer (and even if you are a programmer, depending on the language you use) you answered as such:

4.445 rounds up to 4.45
4.435 rounds up to 4.44

Here’s the problem, and if you’re me, it’s a big, big problem. Most modern programming languages use something called ‘Bankers Rounding’. In standard, school-taught rounding, there is an inherent bias. Or more succinctly, five numbers consistently round up (5, 6, 7, 8, 9), four numbers round down (1, 2, 3, 4 – zero doesn’t round). In financial terms, this means you’re giving away money in the long run.

To handle this, Bankers Rounding treats the 5 as a wild card. On even numbers, such as our example number 4.445, the five rounds down, giving us 4.44. On odd numbers, such as our example number 4.435, the five rounds up, giving us 4.44 as well. This will statistically even out over the course of rounding, creating more of a balance (and not losing money for the banks).

Because the application I’m working on requires standard rounding, and because the language I write in only supports bankers rounding (btw – both languages come from the same company. Nice work on interoperability guys.) I’ve been forced to implement a custom rounding feature.

I know, you and Justin Timberlake are singing ‘Cry me a river’ right now (+3 for pop culture reference). It’s true this isn’t the worst thing that’s happened to me, but it is annoying – and not that intuitive to figure out.

I’m just sayin….