March 6th, 2010


Is Healthy Living Ever Easy?

So I'm watching the news, and the health report comes on.  Usually, I just ignore the health report.  It's either shit I already know (too much red meat is bad for you) or oversimplified to the point of being wrong ("You can lose weight if you exercise just 15 minutes a day!"  Not if you eat three chocolate bars a day).  Anything that is a genuine medical or health breakthrough usually winds up in the regular news section.  When it comes to news, the "health" label means "worthless".

I'm cleaning the kitchen when the report comes on about multivitamins.  According to a study (no, I don't know which one, they didn't say.  You know as much as I do), multivitamins should be kept in the fridge.  No surprise, that's old knowledge.  It was old when Kyan Douglas mentioned it on Queer Eye.  But here's the dumb part -- according to the study, vitamins can lose their effectiveness and become no better than placebos in as little as a week.

I just stared at the screen.

A week from when?

A week from manufacture?  Which means shipping your vitamins to the store could potentially cut their nutritional value in half.

Or is it half?  What is the rate of decay?

And who knows how long the vitamins were in the stock room in the back before being put on the shelves?  If we accept the one week figure as correct, then given manufacture, packaging, transport, and storage, you might as well just buy M&M's (which might not be a bad idea, they certainly taste better).

And the thing is, I KNOW this is bullshit.  They cited vitamin C tablets as rapidly breaking down.  I keep a stockpile of vitamin C for when I get a really bad random cold that won't go away.  I know how my body reacts to them.  And they keep for months without losing their potency.  I don't know about years, since I don't keep the stockpile that big and usually go through them eventually.  Then again, if you are keeping vitamins for years, lost potency is the least of your worries.

The news media makes a lot of money keeping us afraid of things.  Afraid of the world, afraid of people, afraid of everything except what we should be afraid of.  It's done in ways big and small.  And when what they say you should be afraid of things that defy common sense, hide your wallet.  Fast.

To Boldly Go Where I Haven't Gone In A Long Long Time

So I've started a new Project X.  I know, no sooner do I get one massive experiment in the can than I start on another.

This Project X is a little different, though.  It's prose.  I'm writing a collection of short stories.  Sure, I'd love to see them get published (especially by a small publisher), but I have to get them done first.  I had some initial doubts, but I think I'll move forward with it and see what happens.

Part of the reason for my misgivings is that it is prose.  I haven't written prose in something like a couple of decades, or damn close to it (I wrote a novel, it never went anywhere, and I still have it, unsure what to do with it).  Or at least, it was.  Simon And Shuster had a Star Trek -- Strange New Worlds competition, where you were to write a New Trek short story.  Winners got published in a Strange New Worlds anthology, and the top three got some cash.

I had forgotten about it.  It was around the time Peter David's New Frontier Trek series started.  I came up with something, wrote it worked it over...I thought it turned out pretty well.  Obviously, I failed out.  Otherwise, I would be bragging about it being my first published credit instead of it getting lost in the cobwebs of my mind.

Part of me is wondering what hard drive on the seven various computers I own the story is hiding out on.  No doubt saved in a proprietary format, too.  But if I find it, I'm not sure what I would do with it.  I'm not much of a fanfic'er, and that's basically what this is (if it was published, it would have that Official stamp of approval).  And I'm curious how it reads, especially compared to my stuff now.

See, here's the thing a lot of people don't get...writing different things requires different muscles.  Writing a movie is different from a TV show from a comic strip from a comic book from....  Just because you are good at writing one thing does not necessarily mean you can be good at writing in a completely different realm with different requirements.  I know better than to think, just because I know what I'm doing with comic book scripts, that I can write a collection of short stories.

Still, it seems I've made my mind up.  I have six stories started, and two of them have been completed.  And my mind drifts to that Star Trek story...

Maybe It Would Be Better If Rock Band Used Actual Rocks

So, two weeks ago, mornblade  agreed to play Rock Band with me to practice his singing for karaoke (we're the Swim Buddies!).  He did better than he thought.

Unfortunately, during our session, the yellow pad on my drum controller started peeling off.  Apparently, all the hits to the center were making the middle bow up and not only pull out of the sides, but also break the glue seal holding it in place.

Now, the pad itself still worked if you hit it directly or if you hit any part of the pad that hadn't peeled up.  I tried contact cement to hold the pad down.  It did, but there was still the middle sticking up.  It nullified the strikes from the mallets.  Not good enough.

I didn't want to shell out $120 for a new drum controller.  Then, I remembered:  I had a double cymbal expansion kit from Mad Catz that I had never installed.  I quickly added it on.  And it worked great.

For a while.

I scored my first full combo with it.  However, the vibrations from striking it loosened the clamp.  Eventually, the cymbal would be resting on the unit itself.  So, I went and epoxied the stuff in place.  Then, I ran into Problem 2.  The cymbals, to give them that tilt action like real cymbals, rests on a pole with a triangular tip.  However, the cymbal itself, where it goes on the pole, has a thin rubber membrane.  It tore after a day of casual use.

Result:  the cymbals were tilted down, resting against the support pole.  Any time I struck them, I got a plastic clack louder than the one for the drum controller.  I could hear it over the stereo I have my game system plugged into!

I wanted to try fixing the controller myself.  But I decided to do some leg work.  I stopped by a GameStop and asked if they had replacement drum controllers.  Sure.  How much?


Well, that got my attention.  Less than half what I thought it was?  I decided to give fixing it a whirl, and if I couldn't do it, then I would head out this morning before the Swim Buddies practiced again, and just buy the new set.

Didn't work.  I show up at GameStop.  The same woman from the night before was there.  "Didn't work, huh?"  Nope.  I give her $50 and head home.  I also picked up a set of silencers.  It wasn't so much to cut down on noise as to lessen the impact from the mallets and hopefully make this set last a little longer.  The silencers do reduce the noise a little bit, but the fact is I am now free of that Godforsaken racket from the cymbals and can focus on the Zen of the Rock Band experience.

Oh, and how did the Swim Buddies do?  Mornblade is getting better.  He only failed out once, and that was on a Pretenders song.  When someone bombs in Rock Band, going into Overdrive (those white notes) can bring them back up to three times.  He went out, and he saw the thing on the screen indicating I could bring him back.  We both cried, "THE DRUM SOLO OF LIFE!", and he was back in.

But he is handling songs by a variety of singers, from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to the Gogos.  I'll have his ass in shape for karaoke yet.