Saturday, February 02, 2008

stick fight

Here is an awesome animation that I came across while I was looking for software to help me produce Heroes For Hire. There are lots more at AniBoom.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

the hamburger hierarchy

A few days ago I was passing by an In-n-out Burger restaurant and I said to myself, "Self, everyone around here raves about In-n-out Burger. Sure, the last couple of times you tried it you were greatly underwhelmed, but maybe they were just having a bad day. It would be a shame if you were missing great hamburgers because of a bit of bad luck, so you should try it again." Impressed with my reasonableness, I decided to listen to myself and give In-n-out Burger another chance.

Why do I listen to that idiot? Once again, In-n-out Burger proves that it is almost possible to make a hamburger that is not even worth eating. Now don't get me wrong. Hamburgers are one of the greatest food technologies of all time. I don't know that I have ever had a hamburger that was actually not good --even the prepackaged hamburgers that you buy from a vending machine and heat in the microwave are good-- but In-n-out Burger comes as close as I have ever tasted.

Here is the hamburger hierarchy:

1. Fudrucker's
2. homemade hamburgers, Whataburger, and hamburgers from diners and similar restaurants
3. Jack-in-the-Box and Burger King
4. Wendy's, McDonald's and Carl's Junior
5. burger's that you buy from a vending machine and heat in a microwave
6. In-n-out Burger

I'm not kidding here. In-n-out Burger really is in last place on that list. Sure, I'd eat one, but I'd rather have any other hamburger. Heck, I'd rather have a chicken sandwich. Yes, that's right --I'd rather have a chicken sandwich than an In-n-out burger.

A few comments on the other entries may be in order. I didn't just put Fudrucker's at the undisputed #1 position because they claim to have the world's best hamburgers. I put them there because every Fudrucker's hamburger I've ever eaten has seemed to me at the time to be the best hamburger that I've ever eaten. I don't know what makes them so great, but they are.

I also don't know why Jack-in-the-box is better than Wendy's or Carl's Junior. As far as the quality of the ingredients, I would tend to put both of those other places in front of Jack's. But Jack's burgers just taste better.

Also, I've been a bit negative about McDonald's before. I suppose it is time to admit that at the time I wrote that post, I hadn't eaten at McDonald's in years. The problem I had with McDonald's was an entire summer working at an office where the only place to go for lunch was McDonald's. An entire summer eating every lunch at McDonald's may have colored my judgment of the place slightly. But two years ago, I tried McDonald's again, and found that I had regained my appreciation for Big Macs and Quarter Pounders. It was a good day.

So the only thing left unexamined, is why so many of my acquaintances swear by In-n-out Burger. Maybe it's the bread. In-n-out Burger has somewhat sweet buns. They don't do anything for me, but I suppose others may like them. The ingredients are good quality, say Wendy's/Carl's Junior/Burger King quality, but the beef is so tasteless that it may as well be a vegiburger.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

caliginosity and language

I would like to modestly propose a rule of thumb: only use words that your readers are likely to understand unless you define them yourself. The problem with using obscure words and phrases is that most readers will probably not bother to look them up, inferring the meaning instead from context. This is bad for two reasons. First because if you have carefully chosen a word for its precise meaning and connotation then it is a waste to have people insert some generic and colorless place-holder.

Second, this sort of thing is the way that language deteriorates. I once had a friend who used the word "literally" to introduce non-literal superlatives. "I would have had to read literally millions of lines to get to that part!" --where he really meant somewhere on the order of a thousand lines. Clearly he picked this up because he inferred the meaning of "literally" from its use rather than looking it up. I understood his difficulty and in the interests of amity, I managed to avoid strangling him for the five long years that we worked together, although he made this doubly difficult for me because he also demonstrated a fondness for the barbarism "irregardless".

Of course there is an exception to the rule I suggest. You can occasionally use a rare word in such a way that you expect the reader to infer a correct meaning even if the word is unknown. In this way you can shine sunlight upon serviceable words that otherwise languish undeservedly in the caliginous corners of the language.

Exercise for the reader: what do you think "caliginous" means? No looking it up until after you answer!

Monday, January 28, 2008

flex fuel

Robert Zubrin has a great idea for breaking OPEC and elminating our habit of funding international terrorism. I'd explain it here, but you might as well just read this article (link from Instapundit).