my personal blog

August 20, 2013

Someone Else’s Speech for Graduates

Filed under: humor,living,thoughts,writing — Alfonso Surroca @ 9:34 pm

One time (right now) I read this article about some guy giving a college graduation speech. It’s this speech. And then I rewrote it as my own speech, which I prefer better, because I’m young and selfish, just like the guy giving the original speech expects me to be.

What are old people good for, besides ridicule? Tales of regret.

Once, I was poor, and it was awful; once, I worked at a slaughterhouse, and it wasn’t. I’ve imbibed poop-water in a distant land, and shot a hockey puck at a girl I fancied. Once, a mousey nervous-hair-chewing new girl came to town, and moved away, and I was kind of kind to her when she was around, though mostly she wasn’t; that’s because I was selfish. Everyone thinks they’re the invincible lead in their own story within a greater world; it’s not that we don’t care, we just can’t see outside our stories.

It makes being kind tough, but as we get older, our reflexes dull and we can’t play FPS games anymore, so instead we play casual Facebook games, and we learn to slow down, and be less selfish, and give our money to Gameloft, and Zynga, and others. We realize through endless microtransactions that we’re more of a minor cog in the machine than the lead of the story.

And like that, life grinds you down into dust, but it’s like fairy dust. And if you have kids, you sprinkle them with it. Many of you have decades of the stuff on you, and inside you; you’re breathing it in right now, your parents’ lives.

I’d say “don’t be a dick”, but some Trekkie already made that speech, so I’ll just say this: In 80 years or so, I’ll be 134 with robot legs and laser eyes and a lot of cats, and hopefully some of you will have come to the same realizations I have and become kind, and when you are as kind as the Element of Kindness, and we’re all living in space, drop me a line, and I’ll say “I told you so”, and we can arm-wrestle with our cybernetic future arms and toss back a space brew or seven. Cheers.

August 5, 2008

Golf VI, From Photoshop to In-the-Flesh Photos

Filed under: business,thoughts — Tags: , , , , , , , — Alfonso Surroca @ 12:48 am

It must really suck to make a computer-generated guesstimate at a future car model just days before the real deal gets leaked onto the internet. If your Photoshop handiwork is pretty close to the real deal, that helps lessen the blow, but still….

Here’s what Autobild came up with, seen just a few days ago at The German Car Blog:

Golf MkVI render from Autobild

Golf MkVI render from Autobild

Cool, so they basically started off with a bodykit-wearing MkV Golf/Rabbit, added the front end of the new Scirocco, and the rear tail lights from the Touareg and called it a day. Anyway, literally the next day, I see leaked photos of the MkVI Golf in the flesh on Autoblog. And a few more photos popped up on World Car Fans the day after that.

Golf MkVI

Golf MkVI

Now, as for the design, I’m happy to see Volkswagen’s design language taking a step back from gaudy chrome to the glory days of the MkIV generation. You might remember that as the generation that started with the then-iPod of cars, the New Beetle, and basically brought Volkswagen from a near-defunct brand in the US to its former yuppie glory practically overnight. Basically, I’m already sold on the design.

August 2, 2008

A 2001 Take on WALL-E

Filed under: thoughts — Tags: , , , , — Alfonso Surroca @ 12:33 am

I finally saw WALL-E tonight, and despite it being the highest-rated film of 2008 so far, it could have definitely benefited from a little tragedy. For the two or three people on Earth who haven’t seen the film yet, spoilers ahead:

First off, the plot is really thin, and the payoff is too family-friendly. In other words, yes WALL-E saves the day, and no, he doesn’t sacrifice himself for the good of humanity; and yes, he gets the “girl”, er, robot. In the future, Earth is so filled with garbage that humanity leaves Earth on what are essentially giant cruise ships in space, while WALL-E and the rest of the garbage-bots clean the planet. Fast forward some seven-hundred years: humanity remained on their ship all this time and forgot about returning to Earth because it was deemed uninhabitable.

This is the part of the plot that I’m totally OK with. The first act of the movie was fantastic: the sad way WALL-E went about his programming day in and day out forever, and without purpose set the bar pretty high. Then, he meets his “love interest” EVE and they save the day. The end. Lame.

Enter the 2001-esque version…

One of the reasons 2001: A Space Odyssey endures as a classic is its difficult, vague, open-ended plot. Kubrick never quite explained what happened, and left it up to the audience, but in a nut-shell, it did have something to do with death and rebirth. After all, you can never go wrong with allegorical tales representing death and rebirth, right?

So, in my attempt to turn WALL-E into a brilliant sci-fi epic, WALL-E and EVE get to humanity’s cruise ship, but what they find is scores of robots “living” out the same lives WALL-E has back on Earth: silently following their pre-programmed routines day in and day out forever. In my take, as the ship was meant to be away for only 5 years, humanity died out centuries ago. Yes, humanity is extinct, its only memory encoded into the data banks of the ship’s computer.

And so ends the second act. WALL-E has brought along a single living plant which he found back on Earth, proving that life can continue there. WALL-E, EVE, and the rogue robot cast they meet during their adventure through the ship, face off against the ship’s computer, Auto, which has been programmed never to return to Earth under any circumstance. Because it is programmed, it’s not really evil, but it serves as the film’s de-facto villain. Let’s just cast Auto as WALL-E‘s HAL-9000.

With the ship’s computer dispatched, the robots take control of the ship and set it on a course to Earth. WALL-E is damaged from the fight with the ship’s computer and in bad shape. As soon as the ship gets to Earth, EVE rushes to get WALL-E repaired, but the damage is presumably too extensive, and WALL-E powers down. The robots are able to use a fail-safe mechanism built into the ship that begins terraforming the planet—and he ship is destroyed in the process, and with it, any memory of humanity’s existence.

Thus, the crew of robots are left on Earth, and as centuries pass, life begins anew, with the robots as the stewards of the new Earth. In an ending the film hinted at, but didn’t go through with, EVE finally finds the parts to repair WALL-E, but with his memory erased, WALL-E becomes the mindless automaton he was originally, and continues his pre-programmed tasks. The film ends as it began, except instead of WALL-E roaming towers of refuse, we now see a beautiful prehistoric world.

There we have it: the extinction of humanity, a hero’s self-sacrifice, and the rebirth of life. No easy answers, and a bittersweet ending. That’s all WALL-E needed to go beyond movie of the year, to become an absolute classic.

July 2, 2008

A Little Linear Love in Album Covers

Filed under: artwork,music,thoughts — Tags: , , , , , , — Alfonso Surroca @ 7:41 pm

When I saw the cover for the new Death Cab for Cutie album, I thought to myself, “hey, I’ve seen this before.”

Cover for Death Cab for Cutie album, \

Les Savy Fav, The Microphones, and Lamb all had similar album covers for their respective albums around the turn of the century.

The Microphones, in 2000
I would say the Death Cab for Cutie album cover bears the closest resemblance to this one, made from a few apparently hand-cut photographs.

Cover for The Microphones album, \

Les Savy Fav, in 2001
The artwork consists of several photos that were chopped up and then spliced into one, creating a colorful, line-filled collage. It’s especially apparent on the album’s backside, where all the band’s members show up in the same space.

Cover for Les Savy Fav album, \Rear side of Les Savy Fav album, \

Lamb, in 2001
Rather than cutting out the band’s members linearly, the artwork here uses squares, but does about the same thing as the Les Savy Fav cover. The album’s 2003 US release was much less interesting, showing only the band’s lamb “logo” on a blue background. Boring, and two years late. Thanks,

Cover for UK edition of Lamb album, \

June 19, 2008

Albertsons, What a Tangled Web You Weave

Filed under: business,thoughts — Tags: , , , , , , , — Alfonso Surroca @ 6:54 pm

Can you spot the real Albertsons?

Logo and slogan for Albertsons IncLogo and slogan for Albertsons LLC

There are two Albertsons supermarkets near my home. I know exactly where they are, but out of curiosity I decided to go to and search their locations. Instead of a list of stores, I was greeted with the notice below:

“The ZIP Code that you have entered is in an area serviced by the Albertsons LLC family of stores. To read more about Albertsons LLC, read the press release explaining the distinctions in more detail.”

Apparently, in 2006, Supervalu, CVS/pharmacy, and Cerberus Capital Management got together to purchase Albertsons, Inc. In the deal, Supervalu and Cerberus split the Albertsons roughly 50/50, with Supervalu’s batch being spun-off as New Albertsons Inc. and Cerberus’ as Albertsons LLC.

Confusing customers, one market at a time

At any rate, I was directed to, since my area is apparently serviced by Albertsons LLC and not New Albertsons Inc. Only one of the two Albertsons near my home showed up in this site’s search, leading me to assume that the other one belongs to Supervalu. Well, that, and the fact that it’s suspiciously close to a Supervalu-owned Sav-A-Lot.

So, I’ve got two Albertsons stores run by two different companies in my area, and they’re as different as night and day. I will say that the Albertsons LLC store is clean and inviting, where the New Albertsons Inc. store is depressingly dollar-store-esque. I haven’t paid any attention on the prices, but I think I might start.

Actually, I probably shouldn’t bother. Just last week, Publix and Albertsons LLC announced that Albertsons will be selling 30 Central Florida locations to Publix come September.

June 1, 2008

Volkswagen Karmann Ghia (What’s In A Name?)

Filed under: business,thoughts — Tags: , , , , , — Alfonso Surroca @ 11:59 am

I was thinking about the name of the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia the other day. Surely, most people don’t puzzle over corporate nomenclature, but I hardly think it’s uncommon for a consummate Volkswagen enthusiast to do. The name Karmann Ghia rolls of the tip of one’s tongue in the same way as the term fahrvergn├â┬╝gen, but thanks to the model’s fame, folks let that side. So, what’s in a name?

The makeup of the name Volkswagen Karmann Ghia is logical enough it’s almost boring. The vehicle was the combination of the expertise of three separate companies: Volkswagen provided the Beetle-based mechanicals, German coach-builder Wilhelm Karmann GmbH created the convertible top and built the vehicle, and Italian automobile design firm Carrozzeria Ghia SpA designed it. And there you have it: The Volkswagen Karmann Ghia comes from the names of each of the three companies that had a hand in creating it.

Type 34 Karmann Ghia

The way the model came to be made by three separate companies is a story of outsourcing. In fact, for such a classic vehicle, it’s almost embarrassing, and a little funny. In short: Volkswagen needed a sports car, so they outsourced its construction to Karmann, who in turn outsourced its design to Ghia, who used a design they had lying around.

The Karmann Ghia isn’t the only model Karmann built for Volkswagen. They also built all generations of the Golf-based convertible (Cabrio in the US); both of the Karmann Ghia’s successors, the Scirocco and the Corrado; and all Beetle convertibles, including the New Beetle Convertible (the convertible top itself, not the entire vehicle). The New Beetle Convertible is the only current Volkswagen/Karmann-made model.

On a last note, it’s fortunate that the nomenclature that begot the Karman Ghia name does not include OEM suppliers. I’m not sure the Volkswagen Hella Bosche Continental makes as good a vehicle name as the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia.

May 26, 2008

MFU, by HC

Filed under: humor,technology,thoughts — Tags: , , , , — Alfonso Surroca @ 4:24 pm

“When I walk down the street and only 3 or 4 shots are fired at me, I find it hard to stay awake.”

That’s the quote that stood out, among numerous outstanding quotes from this excerpt of a book of post-modern stream-of-consciousness madness by an author known only by the initials H.C.

It’s not new, especially by internet standards. In fact, by said standards, it’s ancient history, and I’m almost positive an entire generation has completely forgotten about it by now. It’s a relic of the days when WIRED was not yet a respected institution, and anything with .com at the end was automatically invaluable. Much of what the original C3F site spoofs, such as Pathfinder and the original incarnation of MSN, are bygone relics that the Sidekick generation has never seen or heard of.

I guess you could say it’s something like The Catcher in the Rye meets Snow Crash meets any post from Maddox.

Note that you can read the whole book by starting here and replacing the numbers in the URL until page 6, where the author makes things a little less maddening (most of the time) for the reader by providing links. Enjoy.

May 25, 2008

Old Words About A Sunday Morning

Filed under: personal,thoughts,writing — Tags: , , — Alfonso Surroca @ 10:48 am

One day, years ago, I wrote the following, stream-of-consciousness style, immediately upon waking. Something about crapping out a sort of story out of my subconscious while still in a half-asleep daze makes me smile. Here it is:

She wore a robe of burgundy and gold. Her home was made of felt and porcelain, satin and ceramic. It was too small, as if caving in on itself, and stuffy, though not suffocating. I felt as if I weren’t there.

“The doddering old fool”, I heard from my left. Out of a cupboard-like cubbyhole of a room came a slinking, slimy hag. Pot calling the kettle black, indeed.

“She’s dropped her wishes,” the old lady continued, as if I knew her, what she spoke of, and that it was somehow of great importance. “Go on!” she continued, with more urgency, “pick it up, before she realizes she’s lost it. You don’t expect to get to market empty-handed?”

I was in a dreamlike state, but even from a logical perspective, her words were confounding. Speaking of wishes as a tangible, singular object? Going to market? None of this made sense to me, and this house was beginning to feel like an attic in a dollhouse.

I glanced down the hall and saw a small staff made of white ceramic, delicately painted with complex scribbles of gold paint, and with a bright pale blue robin’s egg—or what outwardly seemed like one. No, a stone with an egg-like appearance. As the cupboard-dwelling hag vanished into the ether and her babbling ceased, the hall became bright, and a draft of a spring morning wafted in.

It was sunny, and glowing; it was Sunday morning.

I picked up the object which purportedly held the wishes of the lady of the house.

She wore burgundy and gold, and held a gold and blue and white staff of wishes, and now she was gone.

“Sunday morning tea and cake, everything methodically laid out.” As I ambled downstairs, that’s what I thought. Rattan chairs with pillows, tea cups of the most ornate sort, delicately prepared pastries, laid out on golden tray, and a view of a wood outside. Everything was methodically prepared.

I sat down, and I ate the pastries, and I drank the tea—both cups—and made my way outside.

April 30, 2008

On the Subject of Water Polo

Filed under: humor,thoughts — Tags: , , , — Alfonso Surroca @ 11:13 pm

When I learned that water polo was not, in fact, an underwater version of regular polo, I became very disappointed. Gone were the visions I’d had of players riding atop oxygen tank-wearing horses at the bottom of an Olympic size swimming pool and swinging at a ball around the pool’s surface ever so slowly with a mallet. And I held this notion much longer than one might expect.

I was equally disappointed when I found out that underwater basket weaving was not about dipping yourself underwater while weaving baskets so much as dipping reeds underwater before weaving baskets out of them. I held this notion longer than my idea of water polo. By “longer” I mean “until a few weeks ago”.

April 15, 2008

U.S. Satisfaction, 1980 through 2008

Filed under: politics,thoughts — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Alfonso Surroca @ 6:58 am

Gallup posted their latest polling results on overall U.S. satisfaction yesterday. Here is full story, and here is their chart:

Gallup U.S. Satisfaction poll, 1980 - 2008

The first thing I noticed looking at this chart was that, lo and behold, satisfaction increased during Ronald Reagan’s and Bill Clinton’s terms, and decreased during both George H.W. Bush’s and George W. Bush’s terms. An unscientific estimate—I squinted my eyes and looked at the chart really closely—shows that Reagan inherited an abysmal 17% satisfaction level and left with a 50% satisfaction level. Bush inherited that high satisfaction level and left with it at 29%. Clinton inherited that level and left with it at 53%. And under the younger Bush, it’s gone to a pre-Reagan era low of 15%.

Gallup U.S. Satisfaction poll, 1980 - 2008 with arrows depicting trend during various presidential terms

A terse translation: Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton inherited shit and turned it to gold, and both Bushes took that gold and turned it back to shit.

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