April 30, 2003

Seen On my White Board

- The following table:

Caws Efect
open the window I get cold
hungry eat
eat full
empty tummy growuls

...A sure sign that my daughter Katherine has visited me in the office.

Posted by James at 12:34 PM

April 29, 2003

Parents' Bill of Rights

- The infiltration of corporate marketing into our public schools is a quiet disease that threatens to turn our institutions of learning into feeding grounds where organizations free of conscience steal precious eyeball time from more worthy endeavors... such as actual learning.

In addition, as corporate foods are pushed over actual foods (processed junk in place of healthy foods) we're growing enormous fat-cell driven future consumers.

Commercial Alert: protecting children and communities from commercialism states the following mission on its website:

to keep the commercial culture within its proper sphere, and to prevent it from exploiting children and subverting the higher values of family, community, environmental integrity and democracy.
Sounds to me like something not only worthy, but vital to the future of our children and our society.

Thanks for the tip, Julie.

Posted by James at 3:33 PM


- You get used to a place being the way it is for practically your entire life and then it changes. Stupid little things.

People from around here will be familiar with Cumberland Farms convenience stores... or "Cumby's" as they are affectionately called. Before I ever saw a Store 24 or a 7-11, there was Cumby's.

Well, the one near my house is being sold and will no longer be part of the chain. The familiar people who work there are moving on.

It's probably silly, but it makes me feel a little agitated.

Posted by James at 11:56 AM

April 28, 2003

Weekend Roundup

- Some random stuff from the weekend...

I assembled 3 desks, 2 office chairs, disassembled 1 really old desk, dismantled a home network with 4 workstations and assorted peripherals, restored them to working order and sorted through a mess of drawers. It was a productive weekend and it flew by. But finally we have a fairly organized office rather than a mish-mosh of tables and desks.

Maggie was sent a coupon code from Staples, and we used that to buy the chairs, but the first Staples (in Seekonk) we went to refused to take the coupon code because Maggie's email client didn't display HTML and so the graphics hadn't shown up. I argued with the guy for a while and didn't get anywhere (they claimed that the number alone didn't tell them what the discount was), so I went home to print it out with graphics. Turned out there was no way to recover the graphics, so I decided to try a different Staples. I walked into the one in Fall River and told them the whole story. The manager there said "I'll compare this code number to other coupons we've received to verify it." He did it, and I was out of there 10 minutes later with two chairs, some crates and floor mats. Fall River Staples (in the Harbor Mall plaza) has my future business!

Saw some kids in the back of a van, who waved to Kit and me in the car on Friday. Waved back.

On Sunday, Maggie and I skipped breakfast, and for lunch we took the kids to ice cream. Are we bad parents, or just really, really good parents?

Posted by James at 10:05 AM

April 25, 2003

What Would You Do For a Yorkie Bar?

- If you are this man, you're angry that they're handing thes chocolate treats out in your town, and you're willing to break a few bones.

Sure, the campaign sounds a bit sexist. But... it's free chocolate for goodness sake!!!

Posted by James at 12:57 PM

Seven Questions

- What if pollsters asked slightly different questions?

For my part, I'm sick of polls and poll results because they don't mean much and they are constantly pounded into the ground. Sure, once in a while there is na interesting poll, like the one that shows something outrageous - like how many people believe we never landed on the moon. But, for the most part, polls are a bust for me.

Besides - people ignore polls when they disagree with the results and scream about the polls when they agree.

So perhaps I need to look for some more agreeable poll results!

Posted by James at 12:19 PM

April 24, 2003

Thinking of Getting Netflix?

- Then you should know that the more DVDs you rent and return quickly, the slower they will start sending them to you. Mike directed me to this SlashDot thread about Netflix's allocation system.

This stinks for me. I watch movies constantly, and even had the 5 disk plan briefly before calming back down and realizing that was too many. I'll get a Netflix DVD in the mail and send it right back the next day (witness Carnival of Souls) in order to maximize my DVD throughput. But it ain't happening.

Whereas before I could return DVDs and get a new DVD in 4 days or so, now it's about 6 days, which slows things down considerably.

Worse than that, I can't get the DVDs I want. I've been waiting forever for the first disk of The Sopranos Season 2 and it's still listed as "Very Long Wait." I despair of ever seeing that Space: 1999 DVD.

Keep this in mind if you're considering Netflix. There are other companies popping up which offer the same service. I'm seriously considering at least giving another service a try.

Update: Here's one of their competing services "GreenCine".

Update: Maybe I'm being too hard on Netflix. I still get quite a few films, and I have enjoyed their service for the most part. But I am doing a trial of GreenCine. There's a good chance I won't stick with it.

Posted by James at 12:54 PM

April 23, 2003


- I'm looking for a good, local asian market. Looks like there are a couple in the Providence area I will have to check out, but I did find this. Japanese snacks online! You can also get some of the stuff here.

Those sites turned up when I was searching for Pocky. What is "Pocky?" It's a japanese treat - a usually chocolate-covered cracker shaped like a stick. It comes in many different varieties. It's the only candy I know that has a "men's" version - Men's Pocky.

(For those interested, here is yet another source of Pocky)

Posted by James at 7:18 PM

Bleh, bleh, bleh.

- That about sums up my mood.

Getting up late. Not posting on the blog early enough for most of you to read.
(Most of you folks check in around noon. And more people check my blog on Monday than on other days of the week, FYI.)

Bleh, bleh, bleh.

I'm in a little bit of a rut. It's not that bad - at least I'm keeping my exercise up. But I'm a little disorganized. I blame Bull (just a little bit) for giving me Civ III last time he came to poker night. He'd bought an extra copy, so he gave me one. Right now I'm running a Chinese empire, trying to remain in peaceful contact with the Russians and Americans while fighting the ever-dwindling French. The current game is coming to a close, and I'm the clear winner (on the easiest level) but all the war I've been waging has prevented me from getting close to launching space exploration.

Then there's Kings of Chaos. I've gotten a few other people hooked, and the way it works once you get to a certain level is that you have to log in and spend your money before someone beats you up to get it.

On top of that, most of you know that I stay up late watching movies brought to me by Netflix. Last night's selection was Carnival of Souls, a film from 1962 that feels like a really long Twilight Zone episode you feel you've seen before. Even so, I found it enjoyable for a number of reasons. It was moody, and with very few special effects conveyed a sense of the unreal. The makeup was minimalist, but it doesn't matter. The effects were the least creepy thing about this film.

A young girl is the sole survivor of a car wreck, and for the rest of the film, things are not quite right. Yeah - you already think you've seen this premise before. And you have. But it's done here well, if you can look past how the film has aged and has now become somewhat cliched. Candace Hilligoss, the female lead, really does a decent job of looking alternately shellshocked and panicked, except for a few scenes in which she is inexplicably in good spirits.

Is it just this film, or do other films from the 60s give you that feeling of being trapped in an almost familiar (though slightly askew) place and time?

So, I'm probably just tired. But I can't seem to get my thoughts organized.

Posted by James at 3:31 PM

April 22, 2003


- Here's that Tom Tomorrow "This Modern World" comic: Our Top Priorities. You can catch This Modern World every Tuesday after noon on WorkingForChange. But you all know about Tom Tomorrow already, I'm sure.

Posted by James at 2:14 PM

Readin', 'Ritin', Rippin' Clothes Off

- This story is all over the country, after the AP picked it up. A strip club was recruiting at a Mashpee High School job fair.Okay - so it's not as interesting as it first sounds. They were asked to leave, and they claim they were recruiting for bartender assistants and landscapers. But there's a headling guaranteed to get picked up by every newspaper from here to California.

Posted by James at 1:15 PM

Working For Change

- The WorkingForChange website seems to offer a bunch of the things I look for online in one place. I bet this is where people have been reading Boondocks. Later today I'll try to post a link to the latest Tom Tomorrow when it goes up on the site. I saw it yesterday at Salon.com and it was a keeper.

Posted by James at 11:45 AM

April 18, 2003

More Goofy Word Fun

- Mike has some cool word-related links on his blog.

My favorite is yet another Japanese-themed Flash animation. We westerners are going to have to play catch-up here. It's language-themed.

Nosing around another of his links eventually led me to dict.org which lets you search various dictionaries. A useful and fun little link!

Posted by James at 3:20 PM

The Worst Day Of My Life

- My daughter told my wife this morning "This is the worst day of my life."

I got a call at work yesterday.

"Mr. Burke? Katherine is in the nurse's office. She had complained about her throat earlier and we gave her some water and sent her back to class. Now she's got a headache. We can't contact your wife."

"Does she need to come home?"

"She is saying she wants to go home."

"Ok." I said. "I'll be right over."

Before I got too far down the street, Margaret called me on my wireless phone and told me she would take care of Kit.

When I got home she was all limp. I wasn't home long before she threw up the contents of her basically empty stomach.

She fell asleep on the couch, and so we sent Mattie to bed and I slept on the floor in front of the couch to monitor her. Her legs fell off the couch once with a thud. I came alert and repositioned her.

This morning she looked hardly any better. Maggie had suggested some videos that she likes to watch when she's feeling sick... "The Brave Little Toaster" has long been her favorite. So I asked her what she wanted to watch.

She requested old home videos from around the time Mattie was born and before. Pictures of herself stumbling around... haltingly using her first words... fascinated by the camera...

One of the videos shows her and me sitting on the rug of our old parlor watching TV. She is lying on my legs and I am brushing the hair out of her face. Katherine immediately arranged herself on top of my legs, as in the video and we watched some more of the footage together this way.

Some time later, she continued being sick and told Maggie "This is the worst day of my life."

Things are simple when you're a child. She doesn't realize that she will be better in a couple of days and we'll go to get the season's first ice cream at the local hand-made ice cream parlor. She's not thinking that next week is vacation for her, and she'll be well in time to take advantage of all sorts of free time.

Life is a series of moments, and none of them last very long. I guess that gives us an opportunity to pick and choose the ones we want to attach special meaning to, and the ones we just observe and let pass away.

Posted by James at 1:27 PM

April 17, 2003

Etymology Dictionary... Cool!

- I eat this stuff up. Ed sent me this link to an Online Etymology Dictionary.

Here's some history on the word "hacker":

hack (2) - originally, "person hired to do routine work," short for hackney, probably from Hackney (Middlesex), from O.E. Hacan ieg "Haca's Isle" (or possibly "Hook Island"). Now well within London, it was once pastoral. Apparently nags were raised on the pastureland there in early medieval times and taken to Smithfield horse market. Extended sense of "horse for hire" led naturally to "broken-down nag," and also "drudge" (1546). Special sense of "one who writes anything for hire" led to hackneyed "trite" (1749); hack writer is first recorded 1826, though hackney writer is at least 50 years earlier. Sense of "carriage for hire" first recorded 1664, which led to modern slang for "taxicab" (1704). Hacker "one who gains unauthorized access to computer records" is 1983, from slightly earlier tech slang sense of "one who works like a hack at writing and experimenting with software, one who enjoys computer programing for its own sake," 1976, reputedly coined at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Posted by James at 6:09 PM

Why Code?

- Patti sent me a link to a discussion folks were having on why they code. It came to me that I hadn't really thought about why I code.

If the question is "Why do you code for money?" I think I'd have to say it's part inertia, part that I found I'm good enough that some people want to pay me to do it. There is an element of fun. There is an element of mystery in why a piece of code doesn't work, and a little thrill to solving that mystery. As Maggie tells me I said once in my sleep: "It's a mystery! A conundrum!"

Sure, ther eis the fun of coding from a purely creative point of view, but I don't code much recreational anymore. I havent for a few years (editing a few javascripts doesn't count). And I haven't been able motivate myself to complete any of the little hobby ideas I've had recently. But that's probably more of a time issue. A lot of my stress-relief time is spent watching DVDs, playing games, reading the news, participating in online discussions, and the like. My book-reading has even slowed down quite a bit.

Posted by James at 12:50 PM

April 16, 2003

Two Shovels

- When I left the house this morning it felt like 80 degrees. There are two shovels leaning on the stair.

Two snow shovels had been put away because they were no longer needed. But then, in defeat, they were retrieved from the shed and placed against the stair.

I shook my head the last time I used them, because I had thought I'd seen the last of them for the year. The neighbor across the street was out that day. I yelled to him "This is the last time for a while!" I don't think he heard me. I had to laugh at myself.

But then I didn't put them away. They're just out leaning against the stair. Some of the birds are staring at them - they've never seen these shovels before. One of the shovels is broken. I'm not sure if I will fix it, but I think I can.

No one has stolen my shovels. People aren't out at night much in the winter. Now the nights will be much warmer. Will someone steal my shovels when there is no snow on the ground?

I left them out so they would be handy for the next time it snows. How long are they going to wait.

Posted by James at 1:58 PM

April 14, 2003

Frustration of The Blogger

- Being a blogger has been more frustrating than usual lately. Here are the reasons:

  1. The service that is supposed to send out email updates to people who subscribe to the blog... doesn't. I don't know about you, but I get an update once every other week if I'm lucky. Sure, it's free, but just the frustration alone is costing me.
  2. Blogger hasn't been all that stable. I can't "republish" any of my archive files and I haven't been able to do that for months now, except for one brief moment a few weeks ago. What that means is that when the archives break, I can't fix them And I can't change the format of the archive files. Blogger is basically free, but I pay for ad-free hosting on blogspot.
  3. backBlog - my comment system - just disappeared. While it was in the process of disappearing, it made my site download extremely slow, so I removed the comment links to speed things up. I subscribed to the comment system, so that one wasn't free.

When am I going to take a hint and move my whole operation over to MovableType like everyone smart seems to have done? The question is, is blogger so buggy now that I will not be able to get access to my archives so that I can republish them elsewhere? A frightening thought. And where will I find hosting? And how much will it cost? And what will I choose for a new domain name? And... and... and... and none of you can answer because my comment system is down!!!!

Ah well, email and AOLIM are still there.

Posted by James at 6:13 PM


- From Maggie:

Mattie's on the toilet and she starts screaming. I go in there. "I ate two carrots today and my poop is stuck. My shit is stuck."

Me: "Yes, okay, that is what shit means, but it's not a very nice word. It offends some people. They might not think you're nice if you say it."

Mattie: "Well, I asked Kierra if she knew what 'shit' means and she didn't say anything."

Me: "Did you tell her?"

Mattie: "Yes, I told her it meant the 'p' word."

Me: "You said 'shit' but you won't say 'poop'?"

Mattie: "Well, we're not allowed to say 'poop' in school."

Posted by James at 12:41 PM

April 13, 2003

Important, Especially Around Tax Time


Q: Mr. President, can you prove that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction?

A: Yes; we kept the receipts.

Posted by James at 7:17 PM

April 11, 2003


- What is it with me and the word "Baghdad?" I can't seem to get the "h" in the right place. (See yesterday's post, which is not the only place I have misspelled it)

It's all over the news, you'd think I could get it right. And it's not a typo like the word "somehting" which you will see popping up frequently in my writing. Or "hte."

Oh, carp.

Posted by James at 9:13 AM

Violin - lin - lin

- I woke up this morning to the screeching of strings.

Mattie has taken up the violin.

It took her about a day before she would let anyone else touch her new quarter-size string instrument. Her enthusiasm is admirable, but, having only had one lesson, the sounds are (as of yet) a bit monotonous. More accurately, they're multitonous, but repetitive.

"Mommy" I heard her asking. "Can they hear me outside."

I didn't quite catch the answer, but I'm pretty sure it was something like "Yes. Does that bother you?"

"No. I want them to hear me."

And this is our shy daughter?

Posted by James at 9:09 AM

April 10, 2003

A Toast

- It's no secret I had (and still have) my doubts about this war. However, I'm not blind to the fact that some good can definitely come about because of it. So let me raise a toast to the demise of Saddam's control of Iraq. Good riddance.

Also, let me suggest a moment of silence for those whose lives the war has already claimed. Perhaps a thousand where were clearly Iraqi citizens, and then many more who were conscripted into Saddam's army against their will. Of course, my thoughs also go to the coalition soldiers who have died, and their families.

A momentary pause in the criticism to just step back and take in what has happened thus far. Saddam overthrown, and perhaps killed. Bagdhad taken with little effort on the part of the coalition forces. 1/3 of the death toll of the 9/11 attacks in Iraqi civilian casualties, but unconfirmed total casualties thus far. The end of deadly sanctions.

Posted by James at 8:26 AM

April 9, 2003

Easter Story Update

- Two stories related to that Easter basket thing I posted yesterday:

Thanks, Julie for making me think to look for these preexisting stories.

Update: I can't get the permalink to the entry on PeacePassion to work, but if you want to see what Greg wrote about his visit to Wal*mart, go to PeacePassion and look under April 5, 2003.

Posted by James at 11:04 AM

April 8, 2003

On The Third Day He Bombed Again

- I don't know if it's changed since when I was a kid, but I don't remember Easter being about blowing people up.

My father-in-law told my wife that he saw some military weapon-themed Easter baskets at Wal*mart. I had to see for myself. Still getting used to the camera that came with my phone - the picture to the left is the grainy result.

Behind that cellophane are army guys and their weapons of destruc... er, defense.

Anyone who thinks this is an anti-armed-forces post is missing the point. We're in a war and this is an Easter basket with weapons of war in it.

I'll leave to your own mind the conflict between Christ, Holy Week and war, and instead will put it to you thusly:

Imagine some Islamic celebration where (insisting they are the religion of peace) they gave replicas of SCUD missiles and armed soldiers to their children. Get the picture? Get what this says about our culture?

This stuff is dug in deep.

My father-in-law will likely write about his encounter in Wal*mart, and I'll link to it here if that happens.

Posted by James at 2:58 PM

April 7, 2003

Don't Make Pele Angry

- Been to Hawaii? If so, you may have taken a lava rock off one of the beautiful beaches. Should it worry you that some people believe that taking a lava rock from Hawaii can cause the goddess of fire Pele to bring down bad luck on your head?

It shouldn't, but some people are seriously bothered by this possibility. They're so upset that there are even services to help return the lava rocks.

Why do the Brady Bunch leap to mind? Anyone else remember that Hawaiian trilogy?

Posted by James at 11:28 PM

Model Citizen

- A website called My Virtual Model will assist you in creating a virtual model of your body type to assist in purchasing clothing from online retailers. The only retailer I know of which supports this model so far is Lands' End.

It looks to me like mine needs to lose a couple of pounds.

Posted by James at 6:29 PM

My archives are dead!

- I can't seem to republish my archives. The usual Blogger tricks are no help. Darn it! I want to check something in the archives and now I can't even get to them!!!

Argh. Any other blogger users out there having the same problem?

Posted by James at 3:35 PM

You Have Been Volunteered

- I'm busy enough that I can avoid thinking about the war most of the time now, but when it comes back into my consciousness it comes back with all the conflicting emotions of before and more. Gung-ho war proponents would probably think it weak of me, or silly, or just plain nuts to have so much inner conflict over something I'm not directly involved in.

But, the fact is, we are all involved. And for all the "good reasons" we're in theis war, and for all of the trying to prevent civilian deaths, it's still a mess. And, according to fairly conservative estimates, it's been the end of about 1,000 Iraqi civilian lives thus far.

I know I've pissed some people off expressing my feelings about the war. But less so than many others have, who have gone to an extreme in their protesting. Some have avoided the far extreme, and just gone in for the annoyance factor - stopping traffic and such. When I hear people complain about how their lives were interrupted by a traffic jam caused by a protest, is it odd for me to immediately think about the folks whose lives have been forever interrupted by this war? Innocents and combatants, on both sides? And, isn't it hard to stifle a dry, mirthless laugh when comparing the two?

If there is good to be done by this war - if the means are distasteful only until you consider the ends, then what kind of calculus are we engaging in to reach those means? Perhaps what angers me most about our government is that such a calculus was not honestly presented to us before the war. We were clearly sold a product, but it was a bit of bait and switch.

Ends and means. If my intentions are good, and I keep the ends in sight, how many people am I justified in killing to get there? If I were a doctor who was trying to cure a disease, does society find it acceptable if I choose 100,000,000 to unwittingly and/or unwillingly act as test subjects for my treatment and, in the process, kill 1,000 of them? You have been volunteered.

Posted by James at 3:16 AM

April 5, 2003

Bless This Boomstick-Weilding Cherub

- Okay, I get the whole idea of supporting our troops. I want them back safely, too. I get the idea of praying for them, if you're of the religious sort.

But this is twisted.

The combination of wide-eyed cherubic innocence and camoflage so the enemy doesn't see you as you riddle him with holes, all wrapped up in the crystaline hands of the divine just has my widdle head spinning.

Lord, bless this defender of Freedom Fries.

Posted by James at 8:59 PM

April 2, 2003

Hot Off The Press

- Cursor.org is a link-blog, keeping track of the stories that are hitting the media. It's got a progressive spin, I believe, from a quick look at it. Thanks for the link, Patti.

I usually look at Google News a couple of times a day for a news bot's view of the stories going by. I think Google does a decent job.

But the more compelling stories are ferreted out by link blogs, such as the one above. And, of course, my blogroll contains blogs I wouldn't want to be without, lately.

Posted by James at 1:55 PM

I Watch So You Don't Have To

- Not that you likely would, but don't rent Ghost Ship.

There is a pretty well-executed-if-repulsive bit of SPFX in the beginning (mostly makeup, some CGI) but after that it is all downhill. I guessed the "point" in the first 15 minutes (Please. - a character named "Ferriman?" How stupid do I look?)

I've said it before - I'm a sucker for these films. I would have been better off just watching Aliens again.

I watch them so you don't have to.

The sad thing is that Julianna Margulies puts in a halfway decent performance, trying to flesh out a character with very little that isn't warmed over tough-girl-among-the-guys cliché. Aliens had already done it better.

But as long as there are suckers like me, they'll keep making this dreck.

Posted by James at 12:52 PM

Pure Geeky Goodness

From Dr. Momentum Character Sheet
- Digging through some old stuff, I came across Dr. Momentum's old character sheet from a Marvel Superheroes game of long ago. It's on my favorite sickly-green "Engineering Paper" and surprisingly free of doodles for a sheet of paper that sat in front of me for so many sessions. It was written, I'm almost certain, with a Pentel mechanical pencil. Probably a .9 mm or .7 mm lead.

Maggie and Bob, were there (and sometimes Bull) with Brian as the GM. Memories of hanging around in the hot summer in Brian's family's house (they were like a second family to us). Not a care in the world, really, and one silly game after another.

And then there were the elaborate D&D adventures Chuck would whip up in record time. He could pull a world out of his imagination so detailed, you could read the labels of the jars on the spice rack in the room of some castle keep.

It's no wonder gaming appeals to so many young adults. You get to make your own world and live in it before you've got a handle on the real world.

I'm still waiting to get a handle on the real world, but a recent gaming get-together reminded me that the games themselves were really beside the point of what we were doing.

From Dr. Momentum Character Sheet

Posted by James at 8:13 AM