May 31, 2002

Upsetting events in Bahrain -

Upsetting events in Bahrain - Things are heating up in Bahrain, and this worries me bacause I have family stationed there. But aside from that I wonder if this is a barometer of sentiment toward the US.
Early this week there was an incident in which a US Sailor and his Ethiopian bride were attacked and injured by a crowd of Bahraini civilians. Apparently, the incident started over a business transaction but quickly turned ugly. The brawl ignited an anti-US protest.

Now an official apology is being sought.

While the Americans there (there are thousands) report that the infrequent personal interactions between Americans and Bahraini citizens have not become strained, there are many indicators that, politically, anti-US and anti-Israel sentiment is growing.


Posted by James at 12:46 PM

It's all in the order

It's all in the order you say it
Summer blockbuster:
Summer bust-blocker:

Posted by James at 12:15 PM

May 30, 2002

UPDATE on the previous story

UPDATE on the previous story - The following was part of a CNN article on the issue:

Oliver "Buck" Revell, ex-associate director of the FBI, said critics can't have it both ways -- faulting the agency for not doing enough to thwart terrorist attacks, but complaining when the agency turns to more aggressive information-gathering techniques.

"Some of these activities will be chilling, there's no question of it," Revell said. "But if the public expects and if the Congress expects there to be prevention of terror activities, there's going to have to be the collection of information, and that collection at times will certainly be problematic to people's concerns."

I say: Bull. The point of the criticism is that they had the information. It's nice spin on their part, but they're missing the point entirely.

Posted by James at 8:06 PM

Can't shoot straight? Get a

Can't shoot straight? Get a bigger gun. - Bush and Ashcroft have lifted domestic spying restrictions that limited the FBI's ability to investigate libraries, churches and the internet even when they are not on a specific case. has the story.
If anyone picks up any detail on what, exactly, the changes were, let me know.
Why the gun analogy? Well, it seems to me that we should see some putting the intelligence community's house in order before going out and giving them more power to possibly abuse.

Posted by James at 4:33 PM

Pakistan has threatened to use

Pakistan has threatened to use nuclear weapons regardless of whether India uses them or not. They have no qualms about being the first to put them in action against conventional weapons.
Click this link if you need your day ruined.

Posted by James at 12:53 PM

May 29, 2002

May 24, 2002

We've got your rights in

We've got your rights in our sights. A little flash animation featuring Ashcroft. I give you: Guns, guns and more guns!

Posted by James at 11:41 AM

May 23, 2002

Ceci nest pas une toaster

Ceci nest pas une toaster - Toaster made of toast.

Posted by James at 2:56 PM

Ender's Game film developing at

Ender's Game film developing at Warner Brothers -
Orson Scott Card's website is confirming that Ender's Game is now under development at Waner Brothers. Wolfgang Petersen (Enemy Mine, Das Boot, Neverending Story and The Perfect Storm) to direct.

An appropriate story for today, considering the earlier news that the military will be recruiting with video games...

Posted by James at 2:04 PM

Fiona Apple "fansite"? - This

Fiona Apple "fansite"? - This is the very definition of too much time on one's hands. I can almost understand having one such altered picture of Fiona Apple... but 34? Must be seen to be understood.
Fiona Apple Gallery

Posted by James at 11:55 AM

Video Games to be used

Video Games to be used as Recruiting Tool for Military - It's a theme that has appeared in sci-fi literature. And many people have wondered whether video games have helped to prepare people for working in the kind of environment which exists inside the cockpit of a military vehicle. Aside from the weird distopia future possibilities, I wonder if computer games might also be used to prepare people for (or lure people into) other jobs. McDonalds "Back Room" simulator is calling.
Reuters: Army Turns to Computer Games to Woo Recruits

Posted by James at 11:41 AM

May 22, 2002

Hard "macaw" porn - "OLIVER

Hard "macaw" porn - "OLIVER the parrot got his keeper in a flap - by copying her saucy sex talk."

Posted by James at 1:58 PM

T.V. On the Rise -

T.V. On the Rise - Something came to me while I was exercising this morning in front of the recorded season finale of "24" (which I thought was excellent, by the way). The season finales of "24" and (yes) of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" were better written and executed than SW -EpII : Attack of the Clones. And (horrors) perhaps even better than Spider-man (the movie).

Is it because TV has time to create characters we get invested in? There is also time to set up depth. For instance, (don't go away on me here, but there are spoilers) Buffy was resurrected at the beginning of this season and we learn that she was at peace while she was dead. She didn't really want to be back among the suffering living. At the end of this season finale, she and her sister climb out of a hole in a graveyard. She is climbing out of the grave metaphorically and physically because she has regained a will to participate in her life and the life of her sister. Previously, she was pulled out, this time it is a choice.

In a film, this detail would have to be pointed out to us because an action film can't afford to let that go to the viewer. Movie scripts want you to know right away that they are being clever. In the TV series, there is enough richness that the metaphor does not have to be spelled out for you to admire. The writers are willing to let you catch on or not, and enjoy it at your own level.

Posted by James at 12:22 PM

Runner's High / Administration of

Runner's High / Administration of Fatalism - Is it real, or is it a myth? It turns out there is very little direct evidence to suggest that runner's endorphin high actually exists. Some scientists claim it does not. New York Times: Runner's High? Endorphins? Fiction, Some Scientists Say

Also in the NYT today: Maureen Dowd takes jabs at the fatalism of recent government pronouncements regarding the terrorist thread, and suggest we need colors to track the administration's incompetence rather than the threat level.

I can't claim to know how badly the government may have screwed up in the days leading up to the tragedy. In hindsight it seems like the signs were there, and these people are charged with reading the signs. When Daschle and others call for an investigation into how the government reacted to the warning signs of 9/11, I can't believe that I am hearing criticism from Bush supporters. Don't we want to know how these systems can go wrong so that we can possibly be forewarned next time? The only way to know what went wrong is to investigate. Sorry if it steps on the agenda of this country's dittoheads.

Posted by James at 10:47 AM | Comments (2)

May 21, 2002

Missing Gould Already? I suggest

Missing Gould Already? I suggest you read:"The Median Isn't the Message" - an essay he penned right after being diagnosed with his cancer in '82. Gould found hope in the rational rather than the sentimental.

Posted by James at 10:31 AM

May 20, 2002

Stephen Jay Gould Dies -

Stephen Jay Gould Dies - He made it to see the millennium, but his cancer finally caught up with him. This is very sad news. A giant in his field, and a skeptic of note. He'll be missed. has the story.
CNN also

Posted by James at 4:17 PM

Petition Update - It is,

Petition Update - It is, indeed, a hoax. This petition was suspiciopus from the git-go (as suggested in the comments the post "List of Idiots" below). Now I've found verification on the blog. The "troll" has fessed up (if we are to believe the discussion on kuro5hin). I choose to believe it. Notice that the troll elicited more "this is stupid" comments than signatures before it was shut down. Faith in humanity restored? Not by a longshot, but I am a little relieved.

I feel a little embarassed to have posted the troll here. While I did leave open the possibility it was a hoax, and mentioned it in the comments, I really should have either been more careful, or discussed the possibility in the post itself. Today's rapid communications allow for misinformation to travel faster than information. This story even ended up on MSNBC who were at least as credulous as I was. Heck, they tried to talk to New Line about it. But they didn't try to verify the petition. In fact, they have Peter Jackson commenting on thinking about a name change, but dismissing it. However, it appears he had not seen the petition at the time he made those comments.

This is what we have to look forward to. Online news travelling faster than verification. Verification coming on its heels. Invalidation of the original communication. Communication bandwidth being taken up more by meta-communication than about the original subject itself. We see this happening already on cable news whenever a big story hits. The rush to get some information - any information - for the talking heads to read turns reliability into roadkill.

Is it possible that the increased speed of communication will lead to the death of useful and reliable communication? (Getting a little philosophical here)

Posted by James at 1:15 AM

May 17, 2002

Afraid to ask the tough

Afraid to ask the tough questions - Dan Rather is admitting that the patriotic surge post 9/11 has prevented journalism from doing its job. Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | US media cowed by patriotic fever, says CBS star.
You have to go all the way over to England to read it, though.

Posted by James at 11:48 AM

Remember "Conway's Life"? - I

Remember "Conway's Life"? - I have friends who would spend hours playing with "Life" - the cellular automata game. I played with it quite a bit myself. Now, a fellow named Stephen Wolfram is publishing a book that claims to launch a new kind of science based on the complexity which can be generated by the interactions of such cellular automata. The NYT website reports about it in: A Man Who Would Shake Up Science. This is the second article I've seen about this guy, and now my interest is piqued. The articles don't talk enough about how his ideas really work, but it sounds like the idea is to model complex systems with simple rules.

Posted by James at 10:51 AM

May The Farce Be With

May The Farce Be With You - Mark Fiore provides his animated version of a Star Wars prequel. And, yes, it's about Bush.

Posted by James at 10:41 AM

May 16, 2002

List of Idiots - But

List of Idiots - But heartfelt idiots, nonetheless. There is a petition online to try to coerce director Peter Jackson to rename his second Tolkien movie (the upcoming "The Two Towers"). Why? Here's why:

Peter Jackson has decided to tastelessly name the sequel "The Two Towers". The title is clearly meant to refer to the attacks on the World Trade Center. In this post-September 11 world, it is unforgiveable that this should be allowed to happen.

At the Rename "The Two Towers" to Something Less Offensive Petition Petition Petition site, "View Current Signatures" takes you to the list of people who have no clue. This group, and especially the people who came up with the petition are hereby awarded the Four Flush of Disgrace.

Hey, I have an idea. Let's rename everything with the number "two", "twin", "towers", "world", "trade" and "center". Er, no.

Look - before September 11 if you'd asked me about the two towers I would have thought "Lord of the Rings." Heck - I still do. I think of the Worlds Trade Center as the World Trade Center. After the disaster, people were calling them the "twin towers" not the "two towers."

Exactly what good is going to come from Peter jackson renaming his film? It will allow us to forget the World Trade Center disaster? Is that the goal? Please, someone fill me in on the logic here.

Posted by James at 6:47 PM

Pong - A flash animation

Pong - A flash animation fantasy based on the classic game: "pong"

Posted by James at 4:58 PM

Star Wars - Episode II:

Star Wars - Episode II: Attack of the Clones (Spoiler Free Trip Report) So we went this morning to see Attack of the Clones. The plan was to show up at 9:30 for the movie at 10. When we went to the same theatre a few years ago to catch Phantom Menace the place was pretty much empty. Today the scene was slightly different.

Walking in the door we saw that there were already many people there, but it was by no means crowded. A couple of Jedi-robe clad kids were with their mother waiting for the first matinee and I saw them wheeling around while the ticket clerk told me that the 10:00 showing was a little full and that I'd be better off in the 10:30 show. We took his advice.

We sat in the theatre and waited as people filtered in. As per usual there was at least one inappropriately young child in the audience. Luckily there were no disruptive types.

Here are my brief comments on the film (which I guarantee won't ruin anything for anyone):

The film was shot in digital video, but we did not view it in a digital theatre. As far as I could tell, it didn't make a difference. The picture was plenty crisp. However, I did notice something odd. In some of the darker scenes there was a kind of noise pattern (snow) going on in the backgrounds similar to what you will see if you videotape in poorly lighted situations. I could not discern if these patches of snow were over actual sets or part of the computer generated background. These did not detract from the film.

I found the emotional/romance portions mostly forced and awkward, punctuated by maybe one or two sincere moments. But Hayden Christensen did do anger well. And he did "shifting emotions" well.

Better action in this film than in the last one. But, perhaps, less exciting light saber work. One thought that keeps coming back, and I've heard other people complain about this, too, is that when CGI is used in action scenes, people don't seem to move in a way that looks natural. Whenever you have people jumping or being tossed around for one reason or another, they don’t look real. Some people had the same comment about Spider-Man. It isn't just CGI - some of the wire work in X-men was really implausible-looking.

It's long.

Very little Jar-Jar!

When I was a kid, light sabers seemed immeasurably cool. They still are cool, but now I think that real swords are cooler. Real sword fights, for some reason, are more compelling. Those scenes in Crouching Tiger, for example. And in any Kurasawa movie.

I was more "comfortable" with the characters this time around. It felt more like Star Wars this time.

The dialogue… ugh. But looking way back at the original trilogy, Harrison Ford pointed out that some of their dialogue was unreadable. So nothing new there.

Overall, I rate this one much better than The Phantom Menace. Yes, it was mostly eye candy. But it was a decent bit of entertainment for fans. If you look at this sort of film for what it is - swashbuckling fun - then you'll realize that it fulfills its promises.

That's all I'll say for now. Maggie really didn't like it, but she never does on a first viewing.

Posted by James at 3:54 PM

Change of plans - We're

Change of plans - We're reverting back to plan A. I'll be seeing Episode II in the morning. Expect a spoiler-free report after lunch.

Posted by James at 12:22 AM

May 15, 2002

Get ready to eat fungus

Get ready to eat fungus Yesterday I heard about "Quorn" for the first time. It's an edible non-meat substance that comprises some new vegetarian "nuggets." (Why do marketers think that "nuggets" is an appetizing term?)

Aparently, mushroom growers are upset that the Quorn folks are insunuating that there are similarities between Quorn and shrooms. They're afraid of some sort of fungus backlash is people don't like Quorn, or it makes them sick. Speaking of that:

"Dr. Jacobson said that Quorn should not be on the market "until the company can show that it does not cause vomiting and diarrhea."

Hard to disagree with that, eh? Where can I get some Olestra-fried Quorn chips?

NYT: What's in Those Nuggets? Meat Substitute Stirs Debate

Posted by James at 12:19 PM

Driving in Massachusetts There are

Driving in Massachusetts There are unwritten rules. Apparently, someone at Brunching Shuttlecocks is trying to make them written rules in this "Supplement to Massachusetts Driving Regulations". My personal favorite is "You are reminded that the mass transit system is maintained only as a tourist attraction like the cable cars in Rice-a-Roni commercials and is not designed to move large numbers of people rapidly."

Posted by James at 12:11 PM

May 14, 2002

Sanity Check We're going to

Sanity Check We're going to see Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones on Thursday evening (in Seekonk). Am I completely insane?

  • Yes. The place is going to be mobbed. You'll stand in line for a long time and may not even get to see the movie. If you do get in you will be sandwiched between two sweaty guys dressed as Jawas.
  • No. Sure, there will be some people there, but it's not as bad as te weekend will be. You may run into a Darth Maul, but worry not. At least you'll be seeing it with fans who want to pay attention to the film.

Register your opinion in the comments. (The unspoken third choice is: What do you want? You are a Sci-Fi geek. You're going to go, you know you're going to go, stop bitchin' about it.)

Posted by James at 4:21 PM

Humor - Two bits I

Humor - Two bits I found funny. One is Amy Borkowsky'a Answering Machine and the other is today's Story Minute by Carol Lay on

Things are really slow with net access today. Especially posting to my blog.

By the way, if you like the Carol Lay cartoon you owe it to yourself to get over and check out The Funny Times. This monthly publication is filled with the best bits of humor and cartoons from the previous month. Sometimes political and always hilarious, I recommend it highly. It's where i first saw Carol Lay's work, as well as Tom Tomorrow, Lynda Barry, and a bunch of others.

Posted by James at 10:17 AM

May 10, 2002

Oodles of noodles stretch Chinese

Oodles of noodles stretch Chinese record - As reports, someone is out there trying to stretch the boundaries of noodle tech. This simply underscores the need for a local noodle bar in the SouthCoast MA area. Asian locals and other enterprising noodle entrepreneurs, are you listening!!!??? You have a future loyal customer waitng.

Posted by James at 12:17 PM

Naked Burglar Leaves Driver's License

Naked Burglar Leaves Driver's License - I'd say the moral of the story is not to take your pants off during a robbery, but that seems too obvious.

Posted by James at 12:05 PM

Microsoft: Pirate Software Company -

Microsoft: Pirate Software Company - Too delicious. Microsoft has been found guilty of software piracy in French court. This happened back in September, and the world was preoccupied at the time, so the news went unnoticed. But becaue Microsoft is so aggressivly anti-open source software, this little news tidbit has come back to bit them in the posterior. Read the story at - Microsoft convicted of software piracy

Posted by James at 11:23 AM

May 9, 2002

Web marketing gets even more

Web marketing gets even more aggressive - reports on the pop-up ad campaign from hell - websurfers hijacked from a family entertainment site into a site that installed "malware" (malicious software) on their machines.

Posted by James at 1:49 PM

The Web Age's First New

The Web Age's First New Music Genre appears to have arrived. The style is refered to in this NYT article as "Mash-ups", combining songs to create a new work without including any original recording. For example, the lyrics from one song might be layered on top of the instrumental from a song of a completely different style. The resulting work can sound like a mishmash, or can sound like a completely new work of its own.

I'm intrigued. The Base58 website is dedicated to tracking these new bootleg recordings, some of which are legal and some of which are not. I haven't heard any exampes yet, but I imagine a trip to KaZaa or AudioGalaxy might provide one with a good cross-section.
[UPDATE: Okay, I've listened to a few I was able to find on the above website. So far I'm not that impressed with what I've heard. For songs where I am familiar with the originals, I like the originals better. That's not to say I don't like any remixes (I like Steppenwolf's "Magic Carpet Ride" but I really like the Crystal Method remix better) and I think there is potential here. But I haven't seen it reached yet.]

Posted by James at 12:44 PM

May 8, 2002

Odd Todd - Odd Todd,

Odd Todd - Odd Todd, aside from being Odd, is laid off. This has prompted thim to produce humorous Flash cartoons.

If you liked that one, check out the rest of the Odd Todd website. Yes it's juvenile, but the guy makes a funny flash cartoon. Oh - and he's got an MP3 of the original 60's animated series Spider-Man theme song on the site. Bonus!

Posted by James at 1:24 PM

The K Chronicles - Check

The K Chronicles - Check out Keith Knight's humorous take on Star Wars Episode II. (What's with the light saber?)

Posted by James at 11:27 AM

More Spider-Man - According to

More Spider-Man - According to an email list that Sony Pictures runs for Spider-Man fans, they have set the date for the Spider-Man sequel, directed by Sam Raimi and Starring Tobey Maguire. Mark May 7, 2004 on your calendar.

Posted by James at 11:10 AM

Top Secret Recipes - I

Top Secret Recipes - I stumbled into "Top Secret Recipes" back when I was looking for a recipe to emulate the ever-popular "Orange Julius." I found a book by auther and food enthusiast Todd Wilbur which contained a copycat recipe. It wasn't bad, and with some modifications I was making decent Orange Julius clones at home.

Since then, I've bought 2 of his books. I've visited his website (Top Secret Recipes on the Web) a number of times. The guy has a great number of clone recipes you can download for free there, and you can sign up for new recipes that appear on the site but are not archived.

One of my all-time favorite clone recipes is a Cinnabon copycat that was extremely true to the original (although I like to think that my modifications have improved it beyond the original). Making copycat recipes is fun and it feels sneaky.

Posted by James at 10:55 AM

May 7, 2002

[HUMOR] - New Math -

[HUMOR] - New Math -

The math teacher saw that little Johnny wasn't paying attention in class. She called on him and said, "Johnny! What are 4, 2, 28 and 44?" Little Johnny quickly replied, "NBC, CBS, HBO, and the Cartoon Network!"

Posted by James at 12:18 PM

May 6, 2002

[FOOD] - Space Food

[FOOD] - Space Food Sticks Preservation Society - It turns out I'm not crazy, nor am I alone in my nostalgic love of Space Food Sticks. These chewy delights are a foodstuff that haunt my childhood memories. Given to me by my paternal grandmother, they were chocolatey treats which evoked images of astronauts, NASA and exploration of the unknown. Heck - you had me at "chocolatey." Now there's a whole Space Food Sticks Preservation Society?

Where do I sign up?

TANG never really did it for me, but food in the shape of a stick? That really says "the future!"

Posted by James at 8:16 PM

[PRIVACY] - Sonicblue's ReplayTV to

[PRIVACY] - Sonicblue's ReplayTV to become a spy? - Sonicblue is claiming that the court has ordered it to report to entertainment companies what shows that its ReplayTV subscibers are recording without commercials. Here we go. Can the entertaiment companies find some way to put the electronic cat back into the bag? What new and wonderful laws will come out of this?
Yahoo! News - Sonicblue forced to spy on subscribers?

Posted by James at 4:48 PM

[NOSTALGIA] - Yesterdayland - Your

[NOSTALGIA] - Yesterdayland - Your Childhood Is Here - The YesterdayLand website is a repository of all those little things that filled your childhood from Saturday morning cartoons to music, lunchboxes and arcade games.

Here’s a slice of my childhood. Space: 1999 LunchboxStar Trek Communicator walkie-talkiesBattle of the PlanetsSinistar and, oh my god! It wasn’t just a nightmare! The half-season long New Schmoo.

Note: Yesterdayland no longer seems to be active. The links are all dead. You will likely try clicking them anyway, if my blog statistics are any indication. Thanks for visiting. Check out the main page. Tons of fun.

Posted by James at 3:39 PM | Comments (1)

[SW] - Who criticised my

[SW] - Who criticised my interface? - When users/clients suggest specific interface changes or specific elements they want in a user interface, developers should slam on the breaks before they trip up and say "OK." I've been saying this for a long time, and here's a decent article that explains why: The Sanctity of Elements, or Why You Shouldn't be Double-clicking in a textarea

Even if you're not a developer, this article may give you an idea why developers are (or should be) reluctant to say "yes" to interface changes that users suggest.

Posted by James at 2:21 PM

[ENTERTAINMENT] - Spider-Man breaks Box

[ENTERTAINMENT] - Spider-Man breaks Box Office Records -In its first weekend, the new Sam Raimi-directed "Spider-Man" has pulled in a record breaking $114 million dollars - the first movie to ever make more than $100 million in one weekend. "Harry Potter" had the previous record with paltry $90.3 million.It also broke a number of other records, details at: Reuters | Batman who?
So, how was the movie? Maggie and I saw it on Sunday and we both thoroughly enjoyed the film. Maguire does a great job capturing the spirit of Peter Parker. While the film has its stunning SPFX, it chooses to be much more of a story about people than other super hero films. And what better character than Spider-Man for such a film? The super hero for whom nothing ever goes right, for whom nothing is simple.

I recommend the film as an action movie with heart, and I'm excited to read these box office results. They increase the likelyhood we will see a sequel. I hope they stick with Raimi as director. His fingerprints were all over the film.

Posted by James at 2:34 AM

May 4, 2002

[VIDEO] - Hitchiker's Guide In

[VIDEO] - Hitchiker's Guide In Stock Sources have informed me (you know who you are) that Amazon finally has the The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy DVD in stock. Those of you who have been waiting - time's up! [insert obligatory geeky Hitchhiker's Guide reference here]

Posted by James at 12:02 PM

May 3, 2002

[RECREATION] - Geocaching - By

[RECREATION] - Geocaching - By now, most of you have probably heard of geocaching - the recreation based on locating caches of loot with your GPS. Other adventurers leage these caches around the world and you have to try to get to them soley based on latitude and longitude. Read about it at Geocaching - The Official Global GPS Cache Hunt Site.

When you find the cache you're supposed to sign the book, take a little item from the cache, and leave an item behind.

Once I get my hands on a GPS I'd love to try this out.

Posted by James at 11:55 AM

May 1, 2002

[ACTIVISM] - Save Internet Radio!

[ACTIVISM] - Save Internet Radio! -- Encourage the U.S. Copyright Office to reject the CARP recommendations

America's fledgling Internet radio industry could be effectively killed on May 21st if the Librarian of Congress (1) accepts the recommendations of its recent Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel ("CARP") concerning Internet radio royalty rates and (2) sets impossibly-complex recordkeeping requirements.

Posted by James at 4:31 PM

[WEIRD] Two rob Starbucks then

[WEIRD] Two rob Starbucks then serve coffee - A pair of armed robbers served coffee to 18 or so customers to make more cash after being disappointed in the amount of money in the store safe at a Starbucks in Munroe, Washington.

Posted by James at 1:40 PM

[GAMES] - Clobber! Science News

[GAMES] - Clobber! Science News online has a story about an interesting new game.

Clobber was invented last summer at a combinatorial game theory conference in Halifax by Michael Albert of the University of Otago, New Zealand, J.P. Grossman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Richard J. Nowakowski of Dalhousie University. [...]
Clobber is an example of a combinatorial game—one in which two players move alternately and no chance or hidden information is involved. It ends in a finite number of moves, and the winner is the one who moves last.

Math Trek : Getting Clobbered, Science News Online, April 27, 2002

Posted by James at 11:39 AM