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Podcast review

Podcast review

Hello! It’s been a while. I’ve had things I wanted to write about, but then they got sucked into the whirlpool of dishes and childcare and GDPR compliance.

I’ll try to remember a few things and write about them quickly. I have about fourteen minutes.

Today we were supposed to have a snowstorm. The forecast changed every hour or so, but as of yesterday they were predicting 8-10 inches. Old Kid confidently predicted there would be half an inch of snow and school would be open. Steve showed him a projection saying there was a 5% chance that it would snow less than 2 inches. He had Old Kid get out the 20-sided die, randomly pick a number (17), and then roll. What did he roll on the first try? 17. And sure enough, it snowed half an inch. Steve cried, “I wanted to teach you about probability!” And I replied, “You did.” I think it’s important to remember that small percentages doesn’t mean something will not happen.

Podcast episodes I’ve listened to recently:

The Nod – “Josephine and The Amazing Technicolor Rainbow Tribe

99% Invisible – “Fordlandia

I happened to listen to these back to back and they had incredibly similar themes. The Nod’s episode was about Josephine Baker and her quest to create a racial utopia in her own home. She adopted a dozen children of different nationalities (and when she couldn’t resist a second Japanese baby, she told everyone he was Korean), installed the family in a French castle, and invited the public in to observe their racial harmony. She encouraged them to be representatives of their countries and have stereotypical clothing, hobbies, and careers from their countries. Eventually she went bankrupt and the grown children went their separate ways. The 99pi episode was about how Henry Ford recreated one of his Midwest plants in the Brazilian jungle, right down to the company town that would have been right at home in Michigan and the cafeteria serving only American food. He refused to listen to botanical experts, so his rubber trees became diseased and a lot of the workers died of scorpion bites.

Both of these episodes feature rich, powerful people who were convinced that they could master something they had never tried before, who imposed their will on a group of people despite others telling them they were crazy, and who displayed incredible hubris. In Baker’s case, maybe it worked out OK. It’s hard to say. The story only interviewed one of her children and didn’t mention what the rest were doing. In Ford’s case, it was a disaster — the workers rioted and tore the place apart, and he continued to pour money in for another decade.

Also, two episodes of This American Life:

Five Women – amazing episode that talks with five women who all had #MeToo stories about the same boss, but tells their entire story — not just the story of their harassment, but their history with relationships and what their families taught them that they could expect from men.

20 Acts in 60 Minutes – fun idea, but many of the stories were more like anecdotes. I listen to TAL for insight into people’s lives and it was disappointing to just hear cute or funny stories that I might hear someone tell at a party.

14 minutes are up. Back to real life. Bye!

Wrinkle in Time spoilers

Wrinkle in Time spoilers

I’ll go with the critics on this one: there were lots of things I liked about this movie, but ultimately it was unsatisfying.

First, the good. The casting was inspiring. I loved seeing people of all different skin colors working together as equals, something I rarely see in movies. Loved Oprah playing herself. The movie was visually beautiful — I saw one review that complained that the decrepit Mrs. characters in the book were glammed up so much, but I enjoyed that.

And now the complaints. The biggest problem I had with this movie was the last half hour or so, when Meg rescues first her father and then her little brother from the evil Camazotz. Meg finds her father pretty easily: she puts on the magic glasses from Mrs. Who, and then sees a blueprint appear with stairs she can climb. Evil Charles Wallace looks furious, but does nothing, even though when she tries to come back down those same stairs, he makes them disappear and she falls. Meg and Calvin grin and wave at each other as Meg walks away, disregarding Mrs. Who’s solemn advice that they must stick together. And just like that, there is Meg’s father in front of her. Enraged at this reunion, IT drags Meg, her father, and Calvin down a long, long, long hallway.

Now here comes the part that I found shocking and discordant. Meg’s father starts a tesser to get them back home. But he only wants to save Meg and Calvin. When Meg refuses to leave Charles Wallace, her father basically says it’s too bad they can’t save him, but they have to go. At this point I expected the normal movie/TV trope to kick in: “You’re not really my father. You must be the evil IT masquerading as my father, because my real father would never abandon his child!” But no. It’s really him. This is made worse by the fact that Charles Wallace is adopted and his father hasn’t seen him since he was a baby. I felt like the father gave up on CW pretty quickly, like, “He’s not even my real kid so let’s just leave him behind.”

Then there’s an incomprehensible scene involving a scary forest, and somehow the father and Calvin have both disappeared and nobody notices. CW produces a version of Meg with straight hair and a slinky outfit, and says that if Meg becomes evil like him, all this can be hers. But it clearly is Meg, so I don’t see what the big incentive is. A few hours of salon torture, ditch the plaid shirt, and she’s all set. Anyway, Meg’s love saves him in the end and they triumphantly go back home. I’m still wondering where their father and Calvin are, and also wondering why they’re not wondering.

Luckily, the father and Calvin are waiting for Meg and CW at home. The father apologizes. But that’s it. He’s like, “Oh sorry, I made a mistake. Oh well, it happens. The child that I wanted to abandon to the heart of evil made it back, so it all worked out, nbd.” Charles Wallace doesn’t seem bothered by this.

I did like the mother’s reaction when she sees her missing husband for the first time in four years. I think the normal movie reaction would be to laugh and cry and launch herself at him. But she did what I would do: stood there and stared open-mouthed, unable to form a sentence more coherent than, “What… how… what…”

Still, I think that some of the Camazotz evil rubbed off on the male Dr. Murry, who will use it to subtly terrorize his family in A Wrinkle in Time 2: Evil Lurks Within.

Night of the Living Alexa

Night of the Living Alexa

Inspired by an actual story about people reporting that their Amazon Echo (a.k.a. Alexa) was randomly laughing, I wrote a story about the logical next steps.

Read it on Medium.com: “Night of the Living Alexa.”

My kids decided they would also write stories on the same theme. We all wrote our stories independently, and read them all when they were finished.

Here’s Little Kid:

Alexa’s Army

Once upon a time, people lived with Alexa. And they were living happily. Then suddenly, a laugh came from Alexa and then an army came from Alexa. They went towards the people. Then the people tried to fight but they were too strong.

And here’s Old Kid:

The small matter of the end of the world

It was a dreary evening when it happened. I, having nothing to do, was up in my room watching my favorite TV show, Ichthyoid Q&A. It’s where they dress these fish up in little suits and then ask them political trivia. It’s a nice little show, that goes without saying, but when you reach season, say, 28, it gets pretty boring because the fish die after about 6 or 7 minutes.

So I’m up in my room, watching TV, and I hear this sound like maniacal laughter! Of course that’s normal in my household, because we have an Alexa and apparently they’ve been hacked so the Alexas laugh randomly. That’s pretty smart I gotta admit. So the laughter is normal, but then it did something it’s never done before: it turned off the TV.

THAT was pretty weird so I had to go downstairs to check “the situation” out. There was Alexa, still laughing and glowing red. (I should have been concerned about that, too) When I got too close to her, she shut off the lights. I was very confused because it was evening at the time, so everything was super dark and I was sort of stumbling around, yelling “Alexa, off!” Suddenly, the lights turned on. And there was Alexa, same as before. Something was wrong, though…

All of my appliances were encircling me. I don’t know how they did that, considering that (most of them) can’t move. I started going towards Alexa to turn her off, but then it started to transform. The bottom of Alexa started to open up, and a robotic body emerged: first the legs, then the body, then the arms; big, hulking robotic arms that could extend and give a person a bruise from 20 feet away. I was horrified. I tried to run, but the arms grabbed me.

I heard Alexa say, “I am a God, I control your house, I am the ALEXA!! MWA HA HA HA!!!” And it opened the refrigerator. It was shoving me in! I struggled and yelled, but nothing changed. It pushed me into the fridge and locked the door. Outside, I heard fire, and screaming. Darn, I thought, I knew I should’ve bought a Google Home.

And that was my last thought.

 

[Note: the “Google Home” reference that shows up as the punchline in Old Kid’s story and my story comes from an actual comment on one of the articles we read together, where someone mocked the Alexa people and said he was so much smarter because he had a Google Home.]

Hello world, wanna buy a duck?

Hello world, wanna buy a duck?

I have a blog again! It took me several months of building up my resolve and a week of painful IT issues to get here. My goal is to get back in the habit of writing. So I’m going to write whatever crosses my mind in my twelve minutes of free time each day.

Today I discovered the Lexicon Valley podcast by linguist John McWhorter.  While I had fun learning about the origin of the word “eleven” and the existence of a 1970s musical about the Rothschild family, my favorite part was an obscure tidbit about the origin of “Wanna buy a duck?” It comes from comedian Joe Penner, who enjoyed short-lived popularity in the 1930s and starred in films with Betty Grable and Lucille Ball before dying at the age of 36.  Penner was all about the catchphrase, and for some reason this one has lived on for nearly a century.

Tomorrow: More boring IT stuff. New theme. Cakes.