The Thinker

Second Viewing: Star Trek: The Next Generation (Season 4)

I may be ODing on STTNG. Last night Patrick Stewart/Capt. Jean Luc Picard kept coming in and out of my dreams. It still amazes me that I purged most of this stuff over the years. In a way that’s good because it’s like seeing STTNG for the first time 25 years or so later. Season 3 was overall very good and ended up with a nasty encounter with the Borg. Except for the cliffhanger from Season 3 in the first episode, there are no more Borg encounters in Season 4. But the Klingon Empire is on the verge of a civil war and the Romulans seem anxious to find a pretext to start a new war with the Federation. Capsule episode reviews follow, so if you are seeing the series for the first time you can use these to skip the good stuff.

  1. The Best of Both Worlds, Part II. Captain Picard is still Locutus of Borg and has his mind tapped by the Borg to learn about the Federation’s weaknesses. To cope, the new albeit temporary Captain Riker has to develop some new strategies that Picard/Locutus could not infer. The Enterprise is severely disabled by its encounter, but at least it survives. The Borg destroy a fleet of starships then beeline for Earth, followed by the Enterprise once it affects repairs. Naturally using unorthodox strategies the Borg ship is destroyed and the captain is rescued, but just barely. Picard feels mentally raped and struggles to resume his command. A+
  2. Family. Trying to get his shit back together and since the Enterprise is back at Earth getting repaired, Picard takes a holiday with his family at their vineyard in France. Family turns out to be his grouchy and insular brother, his sweet sister-in-law and his “uncle”, actually his nephew. This is really a continuation of the last episode and shows just how ripped apart Picard became when captured by the Borg. Patrick Steward does some of his best acting of the series in this episode as Picard works through control issues with his brother. Meanwhile, Worf has a reunion with his adopted human parents while Beverly discovers a dated tape of her late husband who has a message for Wesley. A
  3. Brothers. Presumably Brent Spiner (Data) got paid extra for this episode as he meets his dying “father”/creator Noonean Soong (played by Spiner) and reunites with his evil “brother” Lore (also played by Spiner). Unfortunately, Data hijacks the Enterprise in the process but it’s not his fault; his homing beacon is built into his firmware and Dad wants to give Data an emotion chip before he dies. C
  4. Suddenly Human. The Enterprise rescues a Talarian vessel with five boys, one human. The human boy Jono was adopted by a Talarian (Endar) after the Talarians killed his parents and many other humans. The war-like Talarians are very anti-human but Jono seems attached to them. Picard exposes Jono to his real family, setting up a huge cognitive dissonance episode in the boy. Where does he belong? B
  5. Remember Me. In typical Star Trek fashion, the highly atypical thing happens but it’s all Wesley’s fault when his science experiment goes awry again. This generates what seems to be a cascading series of events where the Enterprise crew keeps mysteriously shrinking but only Dr. Crusher can remember the way things used to be. Although the crisis of the day seems too familiar, surprisingly this is actually a terrific episode as it plays mind games with you. Gates McFadden again gets to prove she can be a hell of an actor too when given a chance to shine. Good stuff. A
  6. Legacy. Tasha Yar’s sister shows up when the Enterprise shows up at their late security officer’s home planet. They are there to rescue people from a Federation freighter that crashed on the planet. On the planet two groups of rival gangs fight an endless battle for control. Tasha’s sister Ishara is used by one side to try to gain leverage by one group with the Federation, while the Enterprise crew tries to make her feel at home and offers her a chance to leave the planet for good like her sister did. Ishara seems willing to help and to leave, but is she really being duplicitous? And is her friendship with Data real or just a tactic? B
  7. Reunion. Klingons sure are a lot of bother and will become more so later in the season. In this episode Worf’s half human/half Klingon love interest/infatuation from Season 2 (K’Ehleyr) returns with a boy that bears an uncanny resemblance to Worf and turns out to be his son. K’Ehleyr is trying to mediate a succession dispute within the Klingon empire because its leader has been poisoned and is nearing death. In addition, an explosion is determined to be due to a Romulan bomb, suggesting that the Klingon Duras who quests for power is in cahoots with the Romulans. All this while Worf is officially “dis-accommodated” adds up to a big power struggle that Picard gets pulled into. B+
  8. Future Imperfect. During an away mission, Riker mysteriously awakes sixteen years later. He is the Captain of the Enterprise but everyone assures him he was suffering from a condition that would cause this memory loss. Or is something else going on? Of course it’s the latter but getting there is half the fun. B
  9. Final Mission. Wesley finally gets a call to attend Starfleet Academy but before he leaves he and Captain Picard end up on an away mission with a crusty miner whose badly maintained vessel ends up on an inhospitable planet. Wesley and Picard get to tell each other how much they really admire each other, and Wesley also gets to save the captain’s life. This feels like a creepy bromance written to satisfy the fans, but it’s utterly predictable and uninteresting. On the plus side, the Enterprise doesn’t have Wesley to muck things up anymore, at least not for a while. C-
  10. The Loss. Troi mysteriously loses her empathic powers and she finds it is devastating. It doubtless has something to do with the two dimensional creature off the helm and a powerful nearby cosmic string which of course looks lethal and will tear the Enterprise apart if our heroes can’t figure it out in time. Marina Sirtis does a great job here as a hobbled empath but otherwise the jeopardy feels kind of forced, like the basic plot that we see over and over. B
  11. Data’s Day. Data documents his day for a researcher and learns to dance from Dr. Crusher all while Chief O’Brian’s fiancé Keiko (Rosalind Chao) abruptly calls of their wedding. Meanwhile, to give the episode some semblance of a plot, there is an encounter with the Romulans and a spy on board. Keiko became a semi-regular of the show in this episode, at least until the producers spun off Star Trek: Deep Space Nine where the two lovebirds eventually migrated to. C
  12. The Wounded. A highly regarded Captain is busy destroying Cardassian ships against the orders of the Federation High Council, as he suspects them of planning to restart a war. This is a terrific show and one of the highlights of the fourth season, with a delicious last minute or so when Picard has a little chat with the captain of a Cardassian ship. The Federation simply does not pay Picard enough! A+
  13. Devil’s Due. A mythical power returns after many millennium to a planet that seems eager to believe she must enslave them, as their predecessors had signed a contract with her for the long period of peace. Is she real or is there a man behind the curtain? Not hard to figure this one out so it’s easy to skip. C
  14. Clues. The Enterprise goes through a wormhole and loses 30 seconds … or was it 24 hours? This is actually a pretty clever whodunit with a twist ending you probably won’t see coming and very well done. It turns the normal jeopardy plot on its head. A
  15. First Contact. The Federation has been studying the humanoids on Malcor III and decides it’s time to make first contact and tell them about the rest of the universe. But are they really sufficiently advanced enough? Thinks go awry for Riker on the away mission, which sets up a massive case of future shock. B+
  16. Galaxy’s Child. Geordi gets to meet in the flesh Dr. Brahms, the designer of their engines he first “met” in a simulation on the holodeck in Season 3. He discovers that Holodeck simulations are not perfect leading to some embarrassing incidents for the infatuated Geordi. Fortunately Dr. Brahms is around when they uncover a one of its kind huge spacefaring creature. When it reproduces it finds itself drawn to the Enterprise and sucks its energy like a vampire with a fresh neck. Geordi and Dr. Brahms have to play nicely and wean this new “baby” off the hull before of course the Enterprise gets destroyed. C+
  17. Night Terrors. Why did the crew of the Brattain go crazy and kill themselves? The Enterprise crew gets the same symptoms when they investigate the incident, leading to literally sleepless nights, crew violence and the Enterprise getting trapped inside yet another rift. Nothing really new here. The crew didn’t get much sleep, but you might sleep through this one. C
  18. Identity Crisis. Geordi reunites with an old service friend and superior Susanna. They are the only two still alive from an away team mission both were on in a previous posting. On a new mission back to the place where the incident occurred, Susanna transforms into an alien creature with Geordi following suit. Can this be reversed before their entire human DNA is changed to the new species? Of course it can; Levar Burton had a contract to fulfill. B-
  19. The Nth Degree. Lieutenant Barclay from Engineering is back and having some success fighting his shyness but soon becomes extroverted and unnaturally smart, in fact sort of superhuman. It turns out he’s really channeling the powers of a race at the center of the galaxy. C
  20. Qpid. Vash is back and Q shows up for the ride. Q takes the key staff on a not so merry visit to Sherwood Forest and Nottingham. This is pure fluff and was written to perhaps give the cast a change of pace. It’s really just very irritating but with the occasional flash of humor. D
  21. The Drumhead. Is the explosion of a dilithium crystal chamber a work of sabotage? A respected retired ambassador with a chip on her shoulder arrives to find out and quickly turns it into an inquisition and fishing expedition. Naturally, Picard is greatly concerned by this 24th century McCarthy-ism. It’s not too hard to see where this is going but somehow it doesn’t matter as it is done so well and Patrick Stewart does such an adroit job with Picard’s untangling of this matter. A-
  22. Half a Life. Finally a Lwaxana Troi episode you don’t entirely cringe through. Since Picard won’t let her make his life miserable, she latches onto a visiting scientist from the planet Kaelon II (David Ogden Stiers, or Major Winchester if you remember M*A*S*H) who is trying to save his planet by fine tuning its cooling star. Dr. Timicin though is approaching age 60 and on his planet that means a nice life celebration followed by a peaceful death, and Lwaxana is not amused. Still not a great episode but the best of the bunch for the executive producer’s wife (Majel Barrett) seemingly annual guest appearance. B-
  23. The Host. Crusher falls madly in love. Unfortunately, she falls for a Trill without understanding it’s a species that lives inside a host’s body. The body dies and it moves temporarily to Commander Riker and finally to a female host. The idea of trill is actually one of the better ones that Star Trek writers kicked out and this one explores the meaning of love and actually shines some light on the subject. This is topical 25 years later as we struggle through issues like whether a transgender person can use the restroom of their choice. Good topical stuff all these years later. A
  24. The Mind’s Eye. When Geordi takes a shuttlecraft to a conference, he finds he is kidnapped by the Romulans, brainwashed and his visor is hacked to make him an assassin when he returns to the Enterprise. This time it is largely up to Data to figure out what’s going on, and he’ll need all the sleuthing powers of his hero Sherlock Holmes to figure it out. A-
  25. In Theory. Data gets hit on by the comely Ensign D’Sora and attempts to be her boyfriend, but of course android and human have inherent relationship problems. Data makes it seem like he has no experience in the lovemaking department but it’s not quite true. In Season 2, he related that he and Security Officer Tasha Yar were “intimate” so perhaps he had some tricks up his sleeve. Alas, it doesn’t look like this relationship was consummated. Data turns out to be D’Sora’s “rebound” boyfriend after a failed relationship. C-
  26. Redemption I. It’s time for a season cliffhanger, but no Borg this time, just more Klingon succession issues all while Worf tries to remove the unjust dishonor placed on his family. It looks like there are Romulans colluding with some Klingons to break the Klingon Empire’s relationship with the Federation. Worf, his brother and Picard quickly step deep into the doo doo. What’s really going on? And is that really Tasha Yar as a Romulan commander? The exciting conclusion awaits in Season 5, Episode 1. A
 
The Thinker

Time zone madness and sanity

The Washington Post recently published an article on a proposal by an economist and professor of physics and astronomy to create a single time zone for the entire planet. Those of us who travel regularly know that time zones are a hassle because adjusting sleep cycles is rarely easy. Their plan is to use UTC (basically, Greenwich Mean Time) as the planet’s time zone.

Putting the planet on a single time zone wouldn’t solve this particular problem unless we decided to ignore our circadian rhythm, i.e. rising around sunrise and going to sleep in the dark. I would imagine the Japanese and Chinese would be pissed as they would arise around sunset and go to sleep around sunrise. However, China already sees an advantage in having a single time zone. The whole country is on one time zone, basically +12 UTC. Perhaps this helps bind them together as a nation but for those in the far eastern or western parts of the country it must seem weird. It’s particularly weird when you move from eastern China into far eastern Russia. You jump two time zones to the east! China is about the size of the United States, so it would be like everyone in the United States being on Central Time.

I don’t think a law can easily break our circadian rhythms, which is why so many of us groan when entering daylight savings time. It feels unnatural because it is unnatural, at least in early March. But it’s less unnatural if you are lower in latitude and you happen to live close to a longitudinal meridian evenly divisible by 15. For those of us on the edge of a time zone, life seems to either start too early or end too late.

I certainly noticed it last year when we moved to Massachusetts, so much so that I blogged about it. Spain is considering changing its time zone to something more natural; it has been on central European time since World War Two. Spaniards get nearly an hour less sleep because of their unnatural time zone and unsurprisingly tend to be late to bed, at least by their clocks. Siestas are a way of compensating for their unnatural time zone.

Airlines already use UTC for flight schedules. This makes a lot of sense since pilots are frequently changing time zones. Of course they do take into account the sleeping habits of the people they are moving, which is why more flights happen during the daytime than at night. Laws vary so widely across the world (North Korea recently decided to change their time zone by half an hour) that some sort of time uniformity sounds desirable. As a practical matter geography often gets in the way, with Indiana being a case in point, as it is split between eastern and central time. No system is perfect.

Living in Massachusetts the time really feels “off”. I’m not alone, which is why there is a proposal to put New England on Atlantic Time, or -4 UTC instead of Eastern Time (-5 UTC). States can set their own time zones. However, here in New England it doesn’t make much sense for each state to go it alone, as our states tend to be small. It only makes sense if everyone adopts it. Rhode Island state Rep. Blake Filippi has proposed a bill to do just this, but only if Massachusetts also adopts it. He’s hoping it would coax the other New England states to go along.

My suspicion is that if Massachusetts embraced it, the other states here in New England would too. The possible exception would be Connecticut and that’s because it has so many commuters going into New York City everyday. As “off” as the time feels here in Massachusetts where the sun rises as early as 5:12 AM where I live and sets as early as 4:17 PM, it’s even worse the further east and north you go. To take an extreme example, the sunrise in Lubec, Maine starts as early as 4:41 AM and sets as early as 3:47 PM.

This is not a big deal in more extreme northern latitudes, but New England is simply not as far north as most of Europe. We are roughly at the latitude of Northern Spain. Being on Eastern Time is purely a political decision. Going to Atlantic Time for us pushed way north and east on the U.S. eastern seaboard would make a lot of sense and would feel more natural. We’d get later sunsets in the summer and more daylight in the winter when it is greatly needed.

So here’s hoping. Maybe I’ll write my state legislators. Winter is dark and dreary enough around here. There’s no point in making it more so. So I say let’s skip the idea of a worldwide time zone and make tweaks to the time zone maps we already use to make them fairer to actual human beings. As for us in New England, we have already suffered enough. Put us on Atlantic Time!

 
The Thinker

State of the presidential race: April 2016 edition

So it’s looking like Hillary vs. The Donald in November. Hillary is not too much of a surprise. The only real surprise was how close Vermont senator Bernie Sanders came to unseating her for the Democratic Party nomination. It is still technically possible for Sanders to pull an upset, but not realistic. He seems to be getting the drift by laying off staffers and concentrating resources on delegate rich California, the last major primary. Given that Sanders appeal is mostly with whites, it’s unlikely he’ll pull an upset in a state heavy with Latinos and Asians.

Just a week ago, it was even money that Republicans would have a brokered convention. It’s still possible but the odds are now probably only twenty percent, if that. Trump swept all five states in this week’s primaries, and in most states by convincing margins. Clinton lost only Rhode Island but squeaked by in Connecticut. Clinton trounced Sanders badly in Maryland and Delaware by 2:1 margins. Sanders will probably win Oregon, Montana and the Dakotas, but Oregon is the only state with significant number of delegates and California simply trounces it. Sadly, it’s over for Bernie. Rest assured he knows it too.

There is no viable path for Ted Cruz either in these remaining states and his “agreement” with John Kasich is mostly vapor, and proactively picking Carly Fiorina as his running mate will only make things worse. Indiana may be a pickup but none of the remaining states that are delegate rich are likely to break his way. Barring some unforeseen dynamic it’s over for the Republicans too. This brings some clarity for the general election. Both Clinton and Trump are underwater (are more disliked than liked), but Trump is much more so. Barring some bad foreign policy or economic news (the economy grew just .5% in the last quarter), Clinton looks like our likely next (and first female) president. Except for Clinton supporters though few will be enthusiastic about her as our next commander in chief.

This primary season has certainly been unusual, showing in general that the electorate (or those at least passionate enough to vote in primaries and caucuses) really would prefer someone completely different. Trump fills that bill, but scarily so. Clinton is true and tried but hardly exciting. The 73-year-old Sanders strangely fit the bill, but not enough to overwhelm the current Democratic establishment, which has a better lock on its base than the Republicans do. Oddly enough both Clinton and Trump are considerably older than presidential nominees tend to be. Clinton is 68 and Trump is 69. Trump is the same age as Ronald Reagan when he ran for president. Reagan was our oldest president but if elected Trump will be older.

One lesson that should be obvious is that our parties increasingly don’t represent the people very well, particularly those who claim allegiance to their party. Trump’s ascent proves that the issues that animate the party’s rank and file don’t animate Republican voters. As I noted, what Republicans really care about is maintaining white privilege and anything else is negotiable. Democrats too are undergoing a change in state. Establishment Democrats may titter at the idea of “democratic socialism”, but Sanders proves it’s the party’s future. The days of Democrats gaining power through triangulation and close ties to Wall Street (Bill Clinton’s strategy) are over. Hillary would be wise to acknowledge this reality.

The Republican Party is in much worse shape, but Trump may do the party a favor by reconnecting it with its base. What it will stand for in the future may be loathsome to the majority of Americans, but it seems to be what the modern Republican base wants. It’s not a way to grow an expanding party unless the party can shed its xenophobia, which is the catalyst for Trump’s unexpected rise. However, it could keep the party around and relevant for at least a while longer.

Despite the bluster, the odds certainly don’t favor The Donald. With two thirds of Americans basically saying they won’t vote for him, it’s hard to imagine how Trump can convince them otherwise. This is particularly true when he makes things worse by opening his mouth and saying stupid stuff, such as his latest comments on women and voting. Trump knows how to deliver sizzle, but there’s simply no steak there, much like his branded Trump Steaks. So the odds definitely favor Democrats, both in the presidential contest but also in recapturing the Senate. Even Republicans are concerned this may be a wave election that could remove their hold on power not just in the Senate but also in the House. It appears that lots of Republicans will sit this one out as they have no motive to vote for Trump, and thus no motive to vote at all.

Clinton’s instinct will be to tack toward the center but I think that would be a mistake. There is little point in holding power if you can’t wield it. Obama at least had two years of it, thanks to the Great Recession and Democrats holding both houses of Congress. It allowed the Affordable Care Act to get passed. Clinton may be setting her expectations too low. By tacking left instead of right, she can fire up the Democratic base. When they show up in force, as they did in 2008, they demonstrate who is really in charge. Gerrymandering and vote suppression are facts of life but since they affect principally red states, they won’t buy Republicans much in a general election year.

So for those of us reading the tealeaves, the voters sort of have spoken now. Much of what will follow is pretty well scripted. Trump has to hope for a Hail Mary pass to change the dynamics. Our economy is not great but unemployment is below five percent and our economy is still the envy of the rest of the world. Obama is unlikely to let a foreign policy problem fester to the point of explosion, but there are always wildcards. The dice are pretty much cast. Let’s see how they tumble.

 
The Thinker

Footloose

Way back in 2005 when I was still relatively new to my job I wrote about what it meant to be a professional based on what I saw within my own team. They really wowed me. So many people claim to be professionals but in my estimation so few are. So when I see it, it makes an impact. I am happy to report I have found a new member of this slim group: our humble local pedorthist.

You are probably saying, “pedor…what?” That’s what I said too when a local podiatrist gave me a prescription to see Mark, the local pedorthist. A pedorthist is a specialist in modifying footwear so that people like me can wear shoes with little or no pain. Mark has been a godsend and simply would not quit on my case until every last foot pain was gone and I was completely satisfied.

If you are a professional like Mark it helps to have enthusiasm for your work. Pedorthics does not sound like something that would be that stimulating but for Mark it’s a passion. It causes him to work past his scheduled hours most days. Evenings he will often be found in the back of his shop grinding, extending and shaping orthotics (fancy inserts that go into your shoes) until your walking becomes natural and pain free again. Monday he is supposedly off but this is when he does most of the hard work in the back: shaping and tweaking orthotics and shoes that he can’t get to the rest of the week.

Admittedly it was hard to get an appointment to see him. I waited more than a month and endured considerable pain and discomfort during that period. What I didn’t understand was why my orthotics weren’t working for me. A podiatrist I saw back in Virginia had gotten me a new set and of course there is quite a protocol for getting good shapes of your feet so the orthotic would fit. Still, it wasn’t enough. The metatarsal lift I needed wasn’t nearly enough, causing pain to radiate down my toes, mostly on my right foot. I had given up running (too much pressure on the feet) but persevered at walking several miles a day, often with some discomfort despite my orthotics.

Once I finally got in to see Mark, things quickly improved. First I found him both passionate and personal, characteristics I’ve never seen in so-called professionals like physicians. He spent a lot of time listening to me, pressing my feet and looking at my shoes. Then he started fine-tuning my orthotics.

The result was better but not anywhere near being a pain free experience. So after using them a few weeks I went back to see him again (no charge). He listened to my feedback and a few days later I had a version two set of orthotics to try on.

These were much better but not quite perfect. It took me months of experimenting to figure it out. I got a new set of shoes and since they were narrower they were a better fit. But something wasn’t right. So I got a set of walking shoes. These had something the other shoes hadn’t: cushion. That was the clue: I needed both the shape and the softness. So three months later I went to see Mark again.

That’s when version three was created that finally solved my problem. This success inspired me to get a pair of sandals, which I preferred to wear in the warmer month due to my naturally sweaty feet. He let me look through catalogs to find the right one: closed-toed were what I wanted, but soft. We found the pair and after they arrived he made these innersoles match the orthotics I used in my other shoes. All this was done for the price of a new pair of shoes ($159) plus one fitting fee ($43).

It was a bargain, but I also got something I did not expect: to spend some time with a really interesting man who opened up a lot on his life, treated me with respect and great concern and who reiterated over and over again to let him know if there were any issues. He refused to stop until I was satisfied. It took five months, but I have escaped my foot purgatory.

Mark embodies the myth that seems to elude most of us: he made a successful and meaningful life for himself. He owns his own small business, he give his customers complete satisfaction, he is not owned by a Wall Street conglomerate and he takes immense pride and joy in his work. Through knowledge, tenacity, close listening and feedback he makes dozens of us foot sufferers happy every week.

I think he is lucky: lucky to have a passion for his job, lucky to carve a niche for himself in our local market where it’s hard to find a job that pays decently and one that provides a service of immense value. If you haven’t suffered from chronically painful feet consider yourself lucky. I was the luckiest one. He brought me relief that more than ten years of podiatrists could not quite solve.

Now I feel like I can live life fully again. I am grateful and more than a little wowed by Mark. If you have foot problems, look for a local pedorthist. They are harder to find than podiatrists, but probably of more value. If you can find a pedorthist like Mark you will be in good hands (and feet) indeed.

 
The Thinker

Spellbound

Who likes a good challenge? Who also likes to associate a good challenge with masochism? If you like to solve crossword puzzles it seems that to prove that you are “good” you need to be a bit of a masochist. Or a cheat. Or both.

I’m not a great crossword puzzle player, which is likely due to not having much time or inclination for doing them. The key to successful retirement I’ve been told is to stay active, both physically and mentally. On the latter I am trying to stay mentally agile by doing the daily crossword puzzle in our local newspaper. This usually occurs over lunch when I get to that part of our paper.

It means exercising parts of my brain that don’t like to be exercised. So naturally Monday crosswords are best, i.e. easiest to do. I can usually finish it myself but if there are a few incomplete, I leave them to my wife who is a much better crossword player than I am. This is because while her body is declining too quickly as far as she is concerned, mentally she is sharp as a tack. She’s always been that way and it’s one of the reasons I married her. I like someone with an informed opinion and she rarely disappoints.

These puzzles are easier earlier in the week because that’s how they write them. By the weekend crossword though you want to spit nails. Not even a Jeopardy! champion is going to solve it without cheating. The clues become obscure if not downright misleading. The authors go out of their way to write long answer questions stacked on top of each other and write super obscure clues for the short answer words. I figure they must use special crossword puzzle software to sift through millions of possibilities. That is not enough of course because once you create the answers the idea becomes to obfuscate the questions so much that you will go on wild goose chases.

So you do what everyone else is doing: you cheat and turn to Dr. Google, or to Siri or to your favorite search engines. And invariably there are people out there that solved them before you and leave the answers for you. I’m doubting that a person solved these. I think it’s a computer, which may have provided a host of possible answers for human analysis. Just type in the question in the puzzle and it will pop right up but usually you have to scroll down a page for the answer. This is based I think on the theory that the hints they provide might allow you to solve it without scrolling down to the answer. But of course you won’t bother and you’ll scroll down then scribble it in with your trusty #2 pencil.

As the week progresses you realize that the only way to solve these puzzles is to find authoritative questions that cannot be wrong. Unfortunately, they tend to write fewer of these as the week goes along, but you have to work with what you got. That’s where the challenge/masochism starts because you have to use a correct answer to build the answers that join these words. And the clues will be obfuscated. At times it feels like playing charades because so many clues end in a question mark, which means the answer is really a huge stretch, which means it’s tangentially related at best or the answer is some sort of pun.

So at some point you ask yourself why you bother, and by Friday that’s how I usually react to the crossword puzzle: I won’t even bother, or I might pick at solving a clue or two then abandon it. Perhaps I’m a mental midget but I’m not a masochist. There is satisfaction in solving a puzzle that is fair. On Friday and Saturday they are not trying to be fair; they are trying to be obscure and deceiving. In short, they are being mean and it’s up to you to play along. It’s like going to Las Vegas and thinking you are going to win at slots. You know that the puzzle is rigged against you. It has become an exercise for the puzzle author to see how many he can defeat and frustrate. I am sure there are some geniuses out there so gifted in crosswords they can solve these without using the Internet or consulting a bunch of reference books, but in some cases you must consult a reference book because the answer is so obscure even a learned professor in the topic probably can’t recall the correct answer.

So here’s a call to puzzle authors to write fair crossword puzzles. It doesn’t have to be easy but it should not lead you down erroneous paths either. There is an implicit contract between the author and the player. At some point the puzzle reveals much more about who the author is as a person than the player trying to solve it. And it’s not flattering.

So puzzle on this, puzzle-masters. We enjoy a good puzzle but we don’t like being misled and we don’t think it’s fair to throw in answers that require scholarship to answer. A great puzzle is not based on how complex it is, but on how well it stimulates the far recesses of your brain based on accurate clues.

Don’t make me take up Sudoku.

 
The Thinker

Second viewing: Star Trek: The Next Generation (Season 3)

I’m working my way through this series again, now nearly thirty years in the past. Like a fine wine, STTNG improves with age and in this case subsequent seasons improve too. Season 1 was hardly watchable. Season 2 gave you some reasons to watch and introduced the neatest villain ever: the Borg. In Season 3 the first half leaves a lot to be desired then picks up and ends strongly.

You can read my reviews of Season 2 and Season 1 if you missed them. You can use my reviews to decide if an episode is worth bothering with. With well over a hundred and fifty episodes over seven seasons, there is little reason to see them all unless you are a diehard Trekkie, particularly those that disappoint, so use my reviews.

  1. Evolution. Acting ensign Wesley creates a science experiment with “nanites” that goes awry. It’s interesting that they conceived the idea of microscopic robots so long ago, an idea now starting to bear some fruition. The nanites become intelligent and declare themselves to be their own species, and when attacked hijack the Enterprise’s computer system. It’s an interesting premise unless you think about it a bit: mainly, why is there no proctor for Wesley’s creative experiments? Wesley and others on the Enterprise often do stupid stuff like this. C+
  2. The Ensigns of Command. Data is tasked to tell some colonists they must leave their planet or a species that claims their planet will destroy them. There are many skeptics among the colonists, so Data has to improvise. This is predictable stuff but it’s fun to see Data take on a human challenge. C+
  3. The Survivors. A verdant planet with millions of inhabitants is blown to smithereens except for a small patch containing an aging scientist and his wife. Why were they spared? The answer will disappoint. C
  4. Who Watches the Watchers? The Prime Directive gets the Enterprise in trouble again, but this time at least they have a good excuse: a Federation team silently observing these humanoids have their invisibility shields break down so they get discovered. Naturally, the Enterprise team is treated like gods and in the end it’s up to Picard to convince them there is a fake wizard behind the curtain. He succeeds but it feels too well wrapped up: the lady they bring aboard (Liko) is like, well okay we’ll all do our best to evolve naturally: see you in a few million years. C+
  5. The Bonding. An away team led by Worf ends in tragedy when one of the team, a mother, is killed. Her distraught son naturally blames Worf who was in charge and Worf gets a case of the guilts. Wesley tries to help the kid cope but then suddenly the kid’s mom is back. It’s some alien voodoo on the planet responsible for all this of course. The Enterprise crew feels duty bound to demonstrate that this “mom” is a fraud. Worf helps the kid cope with the loss in a Klingon bonding ceremony. Michael Dorn’s acting makes this otherwise predictable plot watchable. B
  6. Booby Trap. The enterprise gets sucked into a trap in the universe set to snare starships. Naturally the crew has to fight their way out somehow and Geordi gets tapped on the shoulder. To figure it out he needs the help of the designer of their warp engines replicated on the holodeck who he quickly falls for. B
  7. The Enemy. Geordi gets trapped on an inhospitable planet with a Romulan, which makes for strange bedfellows, literally. The plot feels pretty contrived but it’s fun and works somehow. B
  8. The Price. Deanna becomes infatuated with a dumb empathic negotiator who works through telepathic translators. Assassins get the translators leaving the negotiator to try to nonverbally bring two warring factions on a planet together in peace. Riker doesn’t look too happy with her choice in men, but he’s a nice guy at least. B
  9. The Vengeance Factor. The Enterprise gets involved in yet another clash of civilizations but in the process Riker falls for a woman who he eventually discovers is a carefully altered assassin. Can he keep his feelings from getting in the way of his duties? B
  10. The Defector. Why is this Romulan general defecting to the Federation? He says it’s to keep the Romulans and the Federation from open warfare. Fortunately, Captain Picard is smart enough to plan for the worst leading to a neat Corbomite maneuver at the end of the episode. A
  11. The Hunted. Again it’s up to Picard to figure out what’s really going on, this time at a penal colony. Unfortunately, they take on an escapee who seems (well actually is) engineered to get himself out of any box and he’ll take the Enterprise down with him. This is a lot of fun, keeps you hopping but again the Enterprise really needs to up its internal security defenses. You listening to me, Chief Security Officer Worf? A-
  12. The High Ground. A rare episode where Gates McFadden (Dr. Crusher) gets to shine, here as a hostage who has to be high-minded while evolving feelings for her captor on one side of a complex civil war where giving your life for the cause is part of the mission. Lots of modern parallels in this episode. (The Islamic State comes to mind.) B
  13. Déjà Q. Q gets his comeuppance from the Q Continuum who realize he may be God-like but he’s basically a jerk. Q (John De Lancie) is forced to struggle for survival as a human on the Enterprise and try to wend his way back into the Continuum’s good graces. Fortunately, it happens just in time before everyone on the Enterprise decides to strange him for being so insufferable. C
  14. A Matter of Perspective. Riker gets accused of murder and also seducing the wife of a prominent scientist. He gets a trial of sorts using simulations on the Holodeck. C
  15. Yesterday’s Enterprise. The Enterprise gets sucked into yet another quantum flux of some sort, but this one is fun as they find the Enterprise C is stuck in the same space. The Enterprise C was destroyed in battle, but the two captains (Tricia O’Neill is terrific as Enterprise C Captain Garrett) get to meet, along with their first officers, and it’s all good, except the Enterprise C is still doomed. In addition, a quirk in the flux allows Denise Crosby (playing Tasha Yar) to reprise her role from Season 1. She still dies, but has a better death and seems to find true love. Good stuff! A
  16. The Offspring. Data creates a “daughter”, who names herself Lal. Lal though quickly evolves as an android in ways that Data cannot, including being able to do contractions and feel emotions. It’s not easy for an android to have emotions and she keeps Counselor Troi busy. This is quite special and endearing. Hallie Todd as Lal is terrific. A
  17. Sins of the Father. In an earlier season, Riker got to try out being first officer on a Klingon ship. In this episode, a Klingon officer becomes the Enterprise’s temporary first officer, but it turns out he’s actually Worf’s younger brother and there is a serious problem involving factions trying to control the Klingon Empire where both he and Worf prove pivotal. Picard gets to stand with Worf and act Klingon-y, which is neat. In fact, this is just terrific, the sort of show you wait all season for and the best show of Season 3 with plenty of competition. A+
  18. Allegiance. Aliens kidnap and replicate Picard. An alien in his body does lots of strange things like putting the moves on Doctor Crusher. Naturally, the crew is wondering what happened to their Captain but he is genetically identical. Picard meanwhile is trapped in a room with other prisoners being used this way and they try to find their way out. C
  19. Captain’s Holiday. A prickly Picard reluctantly takes a holiday on a pleasure planet but wants to read books rather than get laid. The latter seems to be the point of the planet. There he meets Vash (Jennifer Hetrick), who recurs in future episodes as a beautiful but dangerous galactic vagabond. They go on something of a treasure hunt together. True story: Patrick Stewart and Hetrick started dating each other because of this episode, so the chemistry on screen was also going on off the set. B-
  20. Tin Man. A super-telepathic and troubled Betazoid and former patient of Counselor Troi comes aboard to help make contact with “Tin Man”, a strange starship that appears to be an alien life form that will soon be destroyed when the nearby star goes supernova. Tam (the telepath) doesn’t work and play well with others, but Tin Man becomes a perfect companion. B
  21. Hollow Pursuits. Reggie, one of Geordi’s engineers is not quite Enterprise material, is late for work and spends much of his time on the Holodeck engaging in inappropriate relationships with replicants of the crew. Naturally a crisis happens and Reggie must perform. Can he get his act together? This is pretty cringe-worthy. D
  22. The Most Toys. Data is kidnapped by a ruthless (but somewhat charming) kidnapper. Can Data kill to save others and himself? This is a bit predictable but fun. B-
  23. Sarek. Yeah! Spock’s father Sarek (Mark Lenard) is back with his newest human wife. Boo! Sarek is two hundred years old and is losing control of his emotions, but must negotiate a critical peace treaty. This requires Picard and Sarek to do a mind-meld so Picard can provide the stability Sarek lacks. Stewart proves again he is a first class actor and Lenard has lost nothing since 1968, including his looks. A
  24. Ménage à Troi. A Ferengi captain kidnaps Troi, her mother Lwaxana (Majel Barrett) and Riker but eventually only Lwaxana remains. The Ferengi captain surprisingly finds her hot and wants to make her his wife. It’s hard to know who is more annoying: Lwaxana or the Ferengi captain Daimon Tog. If you like the sounds of fingernails on a blackboard, you’ll love this grating and predictable episode. D
  25. Transfigurations. The Enterprise finds an escape pod containing a man with amnesia who they call John Doe. He’s very nice and empathic. Everyone loves him and Beverly starts falling in love with him. But he’s actually a hunted man with very special powers that his species needs to evolve but which they are resisting. B
  26. The Best of Both Worlds. The Borg are back so you know what that means: huge space battles against huge odds, and this one delivers these goods, a threat to Earth’s existence all while Picard gets kidnapped and turned into a Borg and Riker has to think on his feet. This has got it all and fits well as the season cliffhanger. It’s amazing though that it was bested by Sins of the Father. A+
 
The Thinker

The LBGT recoil

It looks like North Carolina is the latest state to discover the pitfalls of trying to govern from the extreme. HB2, passed in a special one-day session, specifically overwrote a Charlotte, North Carolina ordinance that allowed people to use the restroom that aligned with their gender identity. The hastily signed law by now-chagrinned Governor Pat McCrory requires North Carolina citizens to use the restroom aligned with the sex assigned to them by birth on their birth certificate or face the penalty of law.

The ink was hardly dry before the ACLU was filing a suit. And then the real recoil began. PayPal canceled plans to build offices in the state, at a cost of some four hundred jobs. The Boss (Bruce Springsteen) canceled plans for a concert in the state. North Carolinians can perhaps take some comfort in knowing that they are not the only state dumb enough to pass laws like these. Georgia’s governor vetoed a bill with similar intentions. Mississippi looks primed to follow North Carolina’s example with a “religious liberty” bill that gives permission to businesses to discriminate against people they don’t like because of God or something. It’s not even law and it’s promoting a backlash, causing Sharon Stone to move the location of her new film out of the state and the governor of Oregon to move the christening of the USS Oregon’s sister ship to his state. Of course Indiana got bitch slapped on similar issues last year, and even Arizona saw that light when convention bookings slowed down.

Why do these states do this? It’s like they have a death wish. In most cases there is no groundswell of constituents demanding these laws, but there are often fundamentalist groups who have the ears of legislators instead. The answer in part is because legislators in these states have their ears keenly tuned to hear messages from these groups who sustain their hold on power. But the only reason they have so much power is because states like North Carolina are gerrymandered to provide extremely disproportionate representation for conservatives. The nature of gerrymandering is that it is an artificial construct that cannot survive for long because it is unfair. A backlash was inevitable. Worse, these laws were entirely preventable and there were plenty examples of states who had already suffered the consequences. That would have at least suggested some caution, perhaps the governor shelving the bill for a few weeks to let tempers cool.

So much stupidity but perhaps the stupidest thing is that these laws try to solve problems that don’t even exist. Let me ask you what would be more disruptive: a trans man using a ladies restroom because his birth certificate says he is a woman, or a trans woman using a men’s restroom for a similar reason. The latter sounds the more dangerous to me; if I were a trans woman I’d literally prefer to pee in my pants before going into a men’s room. Of course that’s part of the problem. It’s hugely challenging when your gender misaligns with your sex and particularly during and after the transition process. It’s only now after a couple of decades that the trans community is starting to get some sympathy from the general public, mainly because most of us haven’t tuned into it. It’s a complex issue as I discovered some years back.

But the religious freedom arguments really sound shallow. Religious freedom in this case is basically government-approved bigotry. Doubtless there are passages in the Bible that suggest black people are evil (curious as most Jews are Semites and if not quite black have dark-hued skins.) Under the guise of religious freedom then anyone can assert they have a right to run a business that caters only to non-blacks. If it’s not in the Bible, it’s still no big deal. Create your own religion where only white people are holy and there you go. You can assert it’s your sincere religious belief and who can doubt you? These laws protect not the richest 1% but allow the most bigoted 1% to selectively shame people they don’t like with impunity.

The good news for bigots is that they have every right to be a bigot in their private lives. However, a business cannot be called public if it does not accept all comers. If I own a bakery and don’t want to bake wedding cakes for gay couples, I can get out of the bakery business. Or I can decide that I understand that being public means everyone can ask for my services and baking one doesn’t mean I support gay marriage but it does mean I have sanction to profit from anyone who walks in my shop door.

There is some concern that these laws will require ministers to marry gay couples or face the penalty of law. I’m not sure where this comes from but it’s a specious concern. You might as well worry that a Catholic priest will be required to perform a Jewish wedding. Religious marriage ceremonies require parties to agree to the marriage rules of the religion. I suppose it is possible that a state law might require any legal “celebrant” to perform a civil marriage, and that celebrant could also be a minister. In this case though the ceremony would be purely civil, does not have to be performed in their church and would have no religious connotation.

One thing that is clear is that these laws are toxic. Generations X and Y have made it clear that everyone must be treated equally under the laws, so at best these laws will prove to be short-lived. Perhaps it’s possible these legislators don’t understand how hurtful and shaming these laws are, but more likely they do understand and that’s part of their animus in voting them in. They will get their comeuppance in time. In North Carolina, a recent poll puts Governor McCrory four points behind his LGBT-friendlier challenger.

When you make it your business to shame others, you will inevitably find that it will shame you instead. Give it a few months as more businesses leave the state and I think North Carolina legislators will find a reason to quietly repeal HB 2. Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee and other states in this boat will too in time but sadly are likely to look for less overt ways to discriminate instead. There are always those Voter ID laws.

 
The Thinker

Getting solar panels for your house is (usually) a no-brainer

I recently wrote about my father’s death in February and my thoughts on what to do with his inheritance. On the latter, I opined I might just give it away. It didn’t seem like something I needed to worry about, as we saw a copy of his will. It left everything to my stepmother, provided she did not die within thirty days of his death. In that event we were to get five percent of the estate. My stepmother’s will was similar so providing she didn’t change it, it looked like it would be some time before we would receive any portion of the inheritance, if any at all.

So I filed away what to do with the money as an academic exercise. A couple of weeks after my father passed away I got a call from my sister. “We have a problem,” she said. Dad had made me and each of my siblings (there are eight of us) beneficiaries to the money in his Merrill-Lynch accounts. This consisted of a money market account and two Roth IRAs. And this trumped anything in his will.

The problem was: do we take the money and run? Or do we honor what appeared to be the intent of his will and give our share to our stepmother? Regardless we each would get an eighth of the amount, and it was a considerable sum. We’d all have to voluntarily agree to give our share to our stepmother. After much discussion we figured that this was likely not an oversight; our father probably intended us to get this money, possibly to respect our late mother’s wishes for his estate. There was still something like half a million dollars in other assets that our stepmother could draw on. It was strange though that Dad did not communicate these details with us before he died.

So now we are assembling forms to try to claim our share of these accounts. As you might expect it’s a hassle. All inheritances are tax-free. Dear old dad had at some point paid a bunch of taxes to put much of his money into Roth IRAs, which made his withdrawals tax-free. If we moved our share of these funds into our own inherited Roth IRAs, we could let these funds accumulate tax-free. It’s almost like having a tax shelter but not having to go to the Cayman Islands!

Thus my hypothetical thoughts on basically giving the money away now turned more concrete. First of all, the amount of money was more than I expected. My dad turned out to be a good investor, which meant that he found a financial adviser he trusted and he turned it into a pile of cash. (Much of the startup money came from his parents.) Second, it made me think of what I might actually want to spend the money on. It turned out that only two things mattered and there would still be money left over to give a lot away.

First, I wanted us to be debt free again. We would get there in a year or two but with a windfall it seemed like a sensible way to spend Dad’s money. There is about $18K on the new mortgage. We actually were debt free for a few months after we sold our last house and waited for the new one to be constructed. It was surreal. I wanted that feeling again.

Second, I wanted to reduce our carbon footprint even more. Basically, I wanted solar panels. Our house is new and super tight, so it’s energy footprint is already minimal. We already pay extra to get our electricity through renewable wind power. But if we went solar we would probably pay nothing for electricity, once we paid for the cost of getting a solar system installed. Besides, about a third of the houses in our subdivision have them already so we are feeling the social pressure to go green.

So I started dialing around. It was strange that our condo association cares about your doorknockers but not solar panels. No permission was needed. If you have the money, solar tax credits make going solar a no-brainer. Uncle Sam will give you a 30% tax credit and the state of Massachusetts (where we live) will give a $1000 tax credit. Moreover there are the SRECs (Solar Renewable Energy Certificates). Basically the power company will give us money for our solar system because they must show that they are getting an increasing amount of their power from renewable energy. The credits expire after ten years, but the first year we will earn $1635 from our SRECs, which will taper down to $545 by the tenth year. (SRECs are not available in all states. See if you qualify.)

The estimates were all pretty close pricewise. We ended up signing with Direct Energy Solar mainly because they seemed the best capitalized. It turns out that we don’t need to cover the entire southern facing side of our house with solar panels. Based on our usage we need them just over our garage, twenty altogether. It’s actually counterproductive to generate more solar energy than you use because you end up with a credit you never can fully spend.

Not every house is ideal for solar panels. Lower latitudes certainly help. You need a roof that faces south and if there are trees in your way it probably won’t make financial sense. You don’t necessarily have to buy a system to go green, like we are doing. There are companies that will let you lease solar panels they put on your roof. You still pay for electricity, but usually at about five cents a kilowatt-hour less than what you would otherwise pay. If you run the numbers it makes a lot of sense to own your own panels. You can in theory take them with you to your next house if you want. We figure that our system will pay for itself in about five years. And we’ll get a cool app that will show us in real time how much electricity we are generating. Direct Energy Solar will even guarantee that we will generate the energy we need and will pay us in the unlikely situation that we don’t.

Going solar is really a no-brainer and probably worth taking out a home equity loan to finance it if necessary. You will get tax credits if you buy your system, earn income from SRECs that you will sell (if your state allows it), reduce carbon pollution and minimize your carbon footprint. Since these systems tend to cost $20-$30K to install, the only question is why builders don’t offer solar panels as an option for every house where it is appropriate.

The only downside I can find to solar is that you can’t get it quickly. A whole lot of coordination has to happen between various parties. We expect to have ours installed and turned on in 90-120 days. There is likely much that could be done to hurry up this process but the power companies don’t make it a priority and worry about whether all this “net metering” will stress out their power grid. They would like to charge solar customers for costs to maintain the grid. There is a bill to this effect in front of the Massachusetts legislature at the moment.

I’ll let you know how it goes in future posts.

 
The Thinker

Review: 10 Cloverfield Lane

Some month’s back I reviewed M. Night Shyamalan’s latest low budget movie The Visit, a pretty good example that less can be more in a movie. It wasn’t particularly hard to figure out, but it was still well done, creepy and plausible. The secret to a good horror movie is to make it something that you can relate to.

Last night we went to see 10 Cloverfield Lane and I can happily report that unlike most movies in this genre, it totally creeped me out. It creeped me out so much that I dreamed about it most of the night, naturally in morphed situations where I was in a similar role. It couldn’t have cost that much more than The Visit for except for some special effects in the last ten minutes it all takes place in a small bunker. And whereas The Visit had a cast of four, this effectively has a cast of three, unless you count John Goodman as Howard, whose immense bulk is hard to ignore. Maybe he counts as two. For the kids in The Visit, getting away from the grandparents is not too hard: just run away. For poor Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Emmett (John Gallagher, Jr.) there really is no escape. That’s the key here in this horror movie: the characters are put into a box from which it’s virtually impossible to come out alive.

And that’s because Armageddon has arrived. Emmett spent months helping the obsessed Howard build a survival shelter on his property. Howard may be sixty-something and massively overweight but at least he can sense when the end is near and he was prepared. The cause of Armageddon is unclear: was it nuclear war or some sort of massive chemical attack? Was it the Russians, the North Koreans or space aliens? As the youthful Emmett relates it (he managed to fight his way into Howard’s shelter) whatever it was, it sure was bad, but it was worth the broken arm to simply have the chance to survive. To the college-age Michelle, she had no idea Armageddon had even arrived. She got into a terrible car accident and found herself a dozen or more feet underground in Howard’s bunker, chained to a wall in a cinder block room with lacerations on her head and a brace on her leg. Needless to say she is terrified and she is dubious that the paranoid Howard is telling the truth about the outside, particularly when she occasionally feels the grounds shake and she hears loud noises above them.

John Goodman proves himself a hell of an actor and veers between weird, plausibly honorable, humorous, self-deprecating and homicidal. Whatever may be happening when the ground shakes, it is clear that Howard has plenty of issues and will rock their inner world. Given his size and that he has all the keys and a gun, it behooves Michelle and Emmett to be nice to him. There’s not much space in the shelter and even if Howard weren’t so strange it’s hard to share close quarters and not get on each other’s nerves.

I can’t say too much more without giving away great portions of the plot. The important thing to understand is this is a hell of a great premise and even better it had a terrific director (Dan Trachtenberg) to do it justice. And yet it could not have cost much to make, because both Winstead and Gallagher are virtually no name actors. This leaves Goodman to chew the scenery, but not objectionably. And boy is he creepy and gets more so as this story enfolds. A trip to a chamber near the surface convinces Michelle that Howard is telling some variation of the truth, but also surfaces clues that Howard is one messed up and very violent man.

If M. Night Shyamalan sees the movie he’s no doubt pissed that he didn’t get to direct it, but I doubt he could do a better job. It bears some semblance to his 2002 movie Signs starring Mel Gibson. I won’t report if there are aliens in this movie like there were in Signs but Howard can stand in for any alien from another planet. How do you win in this unwinnable situation? How do you come out alive, particularly when Howard is paranoid and his beneficence is often fleeting?

10 Cloverfield Lane inhabits a slim genre of movies that I see. I see plenty of movies and many of them are superstarred and airbrushed to within an inch of their lives. 10 Cloverfield Lane should end leaving you feeling like you’ve seen a movie. A movie is not just a movie, it’s a movie that makes an impact, will resonate with you, which actually feels special and which you can’t possibly forget. If you aren’t too squicked out by horror and violence, it’s quite a tour de force on what must have been a very modest budget.In short, it’s terrific so go see it if you don’t have a weak stomach and skip the bloated Superman v. Batman flick. 3.4 out of four-points. It ends in a way that suggests a sequel is possible, and I’ll be first in line to see it.

Rating: ★★★½ 

 
The Thinker

Craigslist casual encounters weirdness: April 2016 (Hartford CT) edition

I don’t know why but as I put together my monthly review of local Craigslist casual encounters weirdness, this snippet of lyrics from the musical Chess is running through my brain:

I’d let you watch, I would invite you
But the queens we use would not excite you

Anyhow, the first Friday of the month came early this month and that’s when I try to do these postings, as Fridays seem to be the best day of the week to find the weirdest of these postings, probably in anticipation of kinky expectations unlikely to be met by these posters over the weekend. So it’s generally anything goes. I decided to go back to Hartford, Connecticut’s section this month, mainly because I am lazy but also because my May 2015 post on Hartford continues to get lots of hits, 59 in March out of at least 166 hits for this stuff. That’s almost exactly 11% of my total web hits for March.

On the first page of postings I count:

  • 33 men looking for a woman
  • 41 men looking for a man
  • 11 men looking for a couple
  • 2 men looking for a transgender
  • 1 group of men looking for a woman
  • 4 women looking for a man
  • 4 couples looking for a woman
  • 5 transgender individuals looking for a man
  • 1 transgender looking for multiple men

Let’s jump into the postings and find the wheat in the chaff tonight:

  • Speaking of those two men looking for an attractive woman, they say, “Typically we’re available Sunday through Saturday with 2 days notice”, so I guess they never take a day off. They are 45 and 41, live in Norwich and have lots of explicit black and white pictures showing what they would do to a woman with men that obviously aren’t them, but at least the models are thoughtful enough to use condoms. Most likely they are married and probably need the two days to invent an excuse to give their wives for the odd hours they are going to put in at work. However, they are equal opportunity horn dogs, in that they don’t discriminate based on race but do discriminate on whether you are hot or not. That at least makes them more discriminating that most of their competition.
  • Here’s an ad from a woman looking for a man that sounds legit, mainly because she’s been scanning ads from men for women and finding them turnoffs. Are you real, as in not a creep? Then maybe you can get into her pants, but this is Craigslist so the answer is probably no.
  • He’s 26 and wants to go to the “art gallery”, i.e. Hartford’s “art” theater where apparently the stuff on the balcony is much racier than the XXX action on screen, or at least less faked than the stuff on the screen. But the balcony is only available to couples, so basically he needs a date in the hopes of seeing some people do kinky sex.
  • Ladies, no need to feel awkward joining this couple in their 30’s for a threesome because you won’t be their first.
  • If you are reading this, you are too late because this 46-year-old not totally gay man from Middletown is only available for the next hour or so.
  • Lady, I love the blue panties.
  • He’s a man from Suffield looking for a couple to have a threesome with but ick, none of this man-to-man stuff, he doesn’t want to even touch I would think that would make having a threesome very challenging and complicated. If that’s not enough to reject him, he’s also married and 52.
  • He might possibly be Richard Gere.
  • Here’s an unusual wish from a 50-year-old gay guy from Hartford: looking for a man with “alligator thick skinned ball sacks”. Maybe he should write bad erotic gay fiction. Oh wait, he just did.
  • Ladies: he’s here to serve you, be your slave and he’s not concerned about your body type or your age (unless you are over 60). Among the things he is willing to do is this one I haven’t seen before: be used as your footstool. Enjoy, dude.
  • She’s curious and looking for a Puerto Rican woman.
  • Guys: he wants you to be “IN SHAPE”, 18-30 and he appreciates a great haircut (see example pictures). In fact, he’s willing to be your stylist and is hoping you’ll want him to shave you bald or make you look like a Marine. Prefers college boys and will “manscape” you too.
  • It’s not easy being five months pregnant, especially when you are horny as hell.
  • Now here’s an unusual ad: a 35-year-old white dude is looking for a couple. He’s at Bradley International (Hartford area airport) in the cell lot and stroking until 11 PM. He’s probably in the car with the fogged windows. That’s good as it will be hard to be seen with him, although having a threesome in a car sounds very problematic. He may get a caller, but I’m guessing it won’t include a she.
  • He’s 25, gay, from East Haven, has a small one and wants to meet other men with small ones or big ones, just to compare.
  • I don’t know how this 18-year-old gay “twink” from Tolland can strictly be a “bottom” and has a “virgin ass”. I mean, how would you know unless you tried?
  • I’m sure hoping this 23-year-old Jewitt City man looking for a woman who is holding a newborn baby in his picture is a new uncle and not a new father. He says it’s been a while since he’s been with a woman. Maybe it’s because his wife won’t put out while pregnant or nursing?
  • Here’s yet another sexual practice that I have no idea what it is, but it must be something women do with each other. She’s 21, from Meriden, is a lesbian virgin but says she is into tribbing.

More next month.

 

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