28 March, 2010

No Comment

Packaging from the squeeze-bulb lens cleaner I bought for my camera.

Okay, this may not be as obvious as "Monutain Bike," because it's grammar more than spelling. Suffice it to say you hope to blow dust and dirt off of your camera lens, rather than onto them...

"Knock It Off" Revisited

Ever since I can remember, when you wanted a permanent-ink marker, you could never go wrong with a "Sharpie." Nowadays, "Sharpie" has attained the elevated status of those brand names that are used interchangably with the products' generic term. You wipe off your fingerprints with a Kleenex, not a tissue. You make a Xerox of your offshore bank statements, not a photocopy.  They call your automatic rifle an AK-47 even if it's actually a P-90 or an Uzi. And when you need to cross out sensitive phrases on your court-ordered documents, who shouts "Anybody have a non-toxic fine-point permanent-ink marker on them?" Nobody; it's "gimme a Sharpie!"

Well, once again my eyes have been opened by traveling beyond my homeland and its oppressively stodgy regulations about silly little nothings like taking someone else's work and claiming it as your own. Oh, you know what?  I'm not going to do this any justice with my writing, just look for yourself:
You already know that trademark theft is one of my pet peeves, but this goes far beyond that, firmly into the realm of outright consumer fraud.  I've used this thing on many, many pies, both homemade and store-bought, and not a single one of them showed any subsequent increase in its reflective properties. Consumers and pastries everywhere, beware!

License Tag of the Day

Sorry for the bad photo, camera phone at night in moving car. Don't worry; as far as you know, I wasn't the one driving. Anyway, to all appearances this was a brand-new car, or at least a very clean and cared-for car. So, what is the solution for an absent license tag for such a beauty? For starters, no recycling an old tag by painting over the old numbers. Very inelegant for this classy machine. Needless to say the common cardboard or provincial duct tape fake plate solution is out as well.  Nope, this number is painted directly onto the car. Much more sensible and stylish... in whatever alternate reality this person lives...

26 March, 2010

Parking Pay Machine With An Attitude

I wouldn't have believed it if I didn't see it. But last night, after a press event at the Intercontinental (not to be confused with the adult undergarment expo at the Incontinental), the crowd of dozens descended en masse to the parking garage equipped with one solitary automatic pay machine. A marvel of technology, really... it allows over twice as many people to wait for less than half the speed of the older, outmoded human-style cashier.  The main problem is that it has to give change.  Taking these lemons and making lemonade, the machine we encountered last night apparently employed some sort of Artificial Intelligence to ensure that its interaction with humans, while unable to be accelerated, would at least be entertaining.

Standing in line behind 7 or 8 other people, we had ample time to watch the thing in action. Normally the charge for parking would be 4.50 or 8.50 and people would slip in a 5.00 or 10.00 note.  The machine could and did spit out 1.00 notes in return, and .50 coins. It did this for the first 6 people, slowly but not maddeningly so.  To be fair, the slowness of the machine was easily matched by the time wasted by the idiots who consistently waited until they arrived at the machine, slipped in their card, and read the amount due before it occurred to them to even reach into their pockets or purses for the cash. But I digress.

Customer #7 arrived at the machine with a 50.00 note.  Possibly he had nothing else, but since the uncharitable view is always more amusing, I think he was simply flaunting his wealth, or appearance thereof, by implying he had plenty of money, of which this was the smallest he would deign to carry.

Apparently the parking machine took this view as well, because of the 40.00 or 45.00 due back to the guy, it paid all of it in .50 coins. No bills at all, just 80 or more coins clinking out at the agonizing rate of about 2 seconds per coin.  We stood there for almost 3 minutes in Carbon Monoxide Hell waiting for Moneybags to get his change. Even so, the chuckles up and down the ever-growing queue voted this the second most entertaining event of the whole evening. The first being of course, guest singer Paula Seling, whose amazing voice defies physics.  Not because of its range, which is quite admirable, but because I don't see how she could draw in enough breath to sing while wearing that very tight red... but I digress again. Definitely. Ahem.

Finally our guy ambles away, pockets bulging and clinking.  Just about the same time I speculated aloud that the machine must have run out of bills, the lady in front of us slipped in a 10.00 bill and got 2 singles back out of the slot.

WTF?!? This machine had a definite attitude.  It was as Romanian as any human clerk, attendant or secretary.  It was king of it's own tiny realm, it held the only solution to your needs, you had no choice but to deal with it on its terms. So damn if it wasn't going to enjoy its moment of power over you by being as capricious and uncooperative as possible, in direct proportion to your intolerance for it. The average Joe may squeak by with a minor delay.  But Mr. Pretense is going to be taken down a peg, have no doubt.

I had no doubt, and I wasn't giving it the opportunity.  We put in exact change.  Now it was the machine's turn to say "WTF?!?" After which we could clearly perceive it also humming angrily, "How am I supposed to cause any trouble with this? It's not fair! Come back here, you!" But by that time we had run halfway to the car, safely out of range of the EMP that the machine must surely have beamed after us in spite, trying to short out our mobile phones...
Beauty and the Beast
But if anyone else ever calls her "Beast," I'll kill them!

Can One Flashlight Make You Go Blind?

In the USA you have Harriet Carter. In Romania we have D-Mail. Well, D-Mail is actually Italian in origin, but the neat thing about the EU is that something from one member state often winds up in the others sooner or later.  Especially if it's debt, and especially if you're Greece. But I digress.

Spotted in this month's catalog: a hand-operated flashlight. Not just hand-held; hand-operated.  Meaning no batteries, built-in generator, yada yada. Nothing new here, except instead of squeezing a trigger to create the power, or turning a crank, THIS flashlight appears to "get its charge" from the application of a previously-thought-to-be-highly-private maneuver. In simpler language, folks, you wank it.

Okay, I'm pulling your leg. Upon reading the Romanian description to the best of my ability, you actually charge the flashlight by shaking it, not spanking it. It moves with your hand, not against it. The motion apparently oscillates a tube-shaped coil thingy over a cylindrical magnet thingy, if the photo (and my infantile grasp of electromechanics) is any indication. But come on, people, look at this again!

If that isn't the spitting image of what no Catholic male would ever do, then I don't know what is. I'm wondering if this thing has an "anti-slip" housing to maintain sturdy grip even after hair growth.  

The trouble of course stems from ill-applied motion blurring, because while you want to show how to shake the flashlight, you don't want to blur the product itself beyond recognition. Result: most of the flashlight isn't motion-blurred but all of the hand is, tricking the casual observer that the hand is moving but the flashlight is not.  Religious upbringing notwithstanding, medical studies prove that this procedure gets results out of other things besides flashlights too.

Maybe this is an early April Fool's joke from those wacky D-Mail folks, because this item seems doomed from the start.  Once you eliminate the potential buyers who aren't perverts and therefore wouldn't touch this thing with a 3.048-meter pole, and then the potential buyers who are perverts but would rather others didn't know they are perverts and therefore also wouldn't touch this thing with a 3.048-meter pole, all you have left are the few of us people who are perverts and don't care who knows it.  And they like it dark.

25 March, 2010

Sooner or Vader, The 501st Comes to Romania

Backstory: The 501st is, as they say, "The World's Definitive Imperial Costuming Organization." "Imperial" refers to the "bad (or soon-to-be-bad) guys" in the Star Wars universe - Stormtroopers, Clone Troopers, Biker Scouts, vehicle pilots, military personnel, Bounty Hunters (as employed by The Empire), et. al. and of course the top dogs, Sith Lords such as Darth Vader and the Emperor. Being not only a geek but a Star Wars geek, I joined the 501st years ago, specifically the Southern California Garrison by reason of living, as I did at the time, in Southern California.  When I moved to Romania it was assumed I'd carry the flag of the 501st onward to the Balkans. My first meeting with "Outpost Romania" was quick and efficient.  I met the commander, the officers, the technicians, heck, even the janitor and cook all at once. By looking in the mirror. Yes, folks, I wasn't in Outpost Romania, I was Outpost Romania, alpha to omega, a lone soldier in a country with, probably, better things to do with their time and money than dress up as Star Wars characters. Not that I could blame them... after all, the 501st does require a level of geekiness, leisure time, and (most importantly) disposable income - with which the locals are still just becoming reacquainted after their long history of repression. Heck, I'm not even acquainted with (2 out of 3 of) these things anymore. So, after a few years on the back of the shelf, my 501st activity recently picked up in an unexpected way...

From: Alina @ Turner Broadcasting
Sent: Wednesday, March 17, 2010 4:23 PM
To: ken@hprops.com
Cc: Mary @ Lucasfilm
Subject: Star Wars:The Clone Wars, 2nd series - Romanian release

Dear Mr. Huegel,

As you might already know, the Lucasfilm superproduction Star Wars: The Clone Wars is a huge success amongst young Star Wars fans and we are now preparing to launch the 2nd series on Cartoon Network in Romania.

We would love to see the Romanian journalists become more familiarized with the Star Wars universe, therefore we were thinking you might like to help us delivering the press releases to a couple of journalists, dressed in your Star Wars costume.
How could I refuse?

From:  Alina @ Turner Broadcasting
Sent: Thursday, March 25, 2010 12:00 PM
To: Mary @ Lucasfilm
Cc: ken@hprops.com; Varadi, Adrienn
Subject: SWCW - succesful press packs delivery in Bucharest

Hello Mary,

I am writing to express my gratitude for the help we received in Romania in delivering the SWCW press packs. As you recommended, we got in touch with Ken Huegel (cc), a great 501st fan and an enormous help for us.

Together we managed to deliver press packs to 11 of the most important press partners in one day. The visits we made at the offices of newspapers, magazines, TV guides and web portals were really successful, and you can find some images attached. We can expect a wonderful coverage at the launch of the new series and a constant coverage for the weekly new episodes.

Once again thank you very much!
From: Mary @ Lucasfilm
Sent: Thursday, March 25, 2010 5:16 PM
To: Alina @ Turner Broadcasting
Subject: RE: SWCW - succesful press packs delivery in Bucharest

Wonderful! Thank you for the great pictures. It looks like the event was a great success, and Ken looks awesome.

Mary F.
Senior Events Lead
Lucasfilm Ltd.

Sometimes it's good to be bad.  In costume, that is.

UPDATE: Here is how the event was reported by one of the press houses we visited.  It is a typically semi-good-natured poke at SF geeks by those who consider themselves less or differently geeky. But don't they say that bad publicity better than none? :-)

09 March, 2010

Art Imitates Life: or Happy Non-Moving Moving Day!

One thing I feel strongly these days is that I'm doing an awful lot of work to stay in one place.  Professionally, and especially financially, it feels like I spend my days crisscrossing the city to meetings and appointments (usually with my poor masochistic accountant), generating or alternately digesting mounds of paperwork, and magically, at the same time, also chained to my PC for hours at a time, frantically working on what-have-you because it's due/overdue/broken/etc. And yet, I've got zip to show for it. No mighty professional website, no lucrative movie props/costumes business, no bank account with more than two digits in the balance. I suppose, after watching one colleague after another lose their job or even their company in these horrible times, I'm still considered a lucky one. But it's all relative. Case in point: I'm actually here to announce just such a non-event, and this time it's a good thing!

As you read this, take a look up at your browser's address bar.  Gone is "volguus.blogspot.com!" In researching my aforementioned pro website, I discovered a lesser-known feature of Blogger.  You can attach your blog to a subdomain of an existing website if you have one.  And I have not one, but two! So, in keeping with my work style, I spent the entire afternoon figuring out how to do this move, and the end result is something you probably wouldn't have even noticed if I didn't just tell you a minute ago. Running to stay in the same place, see?  But like I said, this time it's okay because it appeals to my fundamental fondness for elegance (if not simplicity) in all things.  I have a personal website, I have a personal blog, now they are in the same place.  Hmm, so maybe that can be considered progress after all.  OMG, did I actually just move FORWARD with something?  I'd better check for bruising!

Oh, by the way, this blog move represents more a triumph of technology rather than content.  Which means if you're now curious to see what the rest of "huegel.com" is about, don't be. Please. I'm begging you! It hasn't been touched since around 2003, if memory serves.  Connecting the blog to it could conceivably be incentive to start cleaning up the embarassingly-ancient rest of the site, but not today. It was a proof-of-concept, to see if the blog and site could be linked seamlessly. It'll be even worse when I get my professional blog attached to my professional site.  And I'm NOT telling you THAT address yet!