What's the next best thing to an indoor pool? A pool in the shade, just big enough for the kids and to take a dip in when you're hot, that is planned and maintained by your wife.
The pool itself was a gift from Greg and Brenda for Mattie's birthday. I still can't believe the sun shade fits over it, by Maggie and I set it up this morning with a minimum amount of trouble.
Maybe between cleaning the gutters and mowing the lawn, I can take a dip.
While searching for information about parking in Boston, I came across the website of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Boston. Their web page states:
Free Parking in Boston: Yes, it's true. The First and Second Church is offering three hours of free parking at the Boston Common Garage every Sunday morning. Just ask the greeter or the sexton for a parking voucher when you arrive at the church or after the service. Vouchers are available to members and visitors. The entrance to the Boston Common Garage is located on Charles Street, directly across from the Public Garden.I've always seen the Unitarian Universalists as an extremely liberal bunch (they welcome members of any stripe, and you'll often find atheists among their communities). But this is above and beyond the call.
More than once I remember driving around Boston with friends praying for a parking space. Now you can do just that and your prayers will be answered!
I was in The Christmas Tree Shop yesterday (the one in Newport) and looking at some of the sun care products. (Incidentally, Christmas Tree Shops do have some really good bargains, as their ads profess)
I saw a few different brands of "Aloe Vera Gel" (presumably to treat sun-damaged skin. Naturally, I wanted the product with the most active ingredient for the least price, and I noticed that a number of the containers actually listed "water" as their primary ingredient. Sure, it was pure, deionized water, but, really.
So I picked up one tube that claimed "Made with 98% Aloe Vera," and that sounded like pretty much what I wanted! Of course, as soon as I read the label I realized that it wasn't comprised of 98% Aloe Vera. Rather one of its ingredients was 98% Aloe Vera. The third ingredient on the list.
Always read the label.
This is a bit of fun. Make your own superhero with HeroMachine. Not sure what browsers this will run on, but basically it lets you choose among a bunch of choices to build the image of your perfect superhero or fantasy hero. You can get pretty fancy, picking the colors and all.
"It's probably one of the most vicious robberies I've ever seen" said Fairhaven Police Chief Gary F. Souza.
Delivery man beaten, burned and stabbed for less than $40 (Via SouthCoast Today)
An internal email from the UMass Dartmouth chancellor alerted me to this story. The victim was a graduate student at my university. He was beaten, burned with cigarettes, stuffed in the trunk of a car, robbed and stabbed. Why? He was of Indian ancestry. His assailants thought he belonged to the Muslim faith. Is this the sort of thing I can look forward to with my family, who are middle-eastern and my daughters, who also inherited the ancestry.
And what about people who really are Muslims? I'll bet more than a few out there reading this story are thinking that the attackers only mistake was their stupidity in finding a non-Muslim. Some are likely thinking, "Well, close enough for government work."
It saddens me that this is how I get to hear about my "hometown" area in international news.
The men initially wanted to rob Bhalerao, but started assaulting him thinking he was a Muslim. They continued to beat him even as he tried to explain that he was a Hindu. “They were telling him he should go back to Iraq,” Mr Souza said.
At the moment, I am at a loss for further words on this subject.
1. How are you planning to spend the summer [winter]?
The boss wants me to take some time off, but no specific plans yet in that regard. Some field trips with the kids. We had our first yesterday. More about that in a later post.
2. What was your first summer job?
3. If you could go anywhere this summer [winter], where would you go?
I'd take the family to Sydney, Australia. I'd love to spend a summer there. Winter for them, of course.
4. What was your worst vacation ever?
The week I spent after Christmas one year when the kids were both sick. It was completely miserable.
5. What was your best vacation ever?
My honeymoon in Disney World.
Wow. That Friday Five was not inspiring in the least! Oh, btw: Strom Thurmond died.
Yesterday I saw a woman in a car behind me (vanity plate: Lady Luck) with a child in the front seat. Oddly, the child was wearing a fake fur hat with little ears. I was a little bit shocked that someone would have a child like that in the front seat, and (as it appeared) not in a child seat.
As she got closer, I realized it was a dog.
I need a vacation.
The Gammasphere found its way into the movie after producers saw the machine's website. Film-makers took several trips to see the machine at first hand, and a portion of the movie was shot at Berkeley.Differences between real life and the movie based on a comic book? Thanks for pointing it out.
But there are some marked differences between the movie's Gammasphere and the real machine.
Mike asks, in the comment section of the last post:
What are these people so afraid of? Freedom of thought?It's tough to say, since we're talking about a diverse group of folks.
But let me thow a couple of things out.
Fear is a big motivating emotion for a lot of inexplicable behavior. But I wonder the same thing you're wondering.
My first thought along these lines is that these people imagine filling their children's minds with the ideas of their religion. Religion is a kind of idea virus, a meme.
The cultural phenomenon of Harry Potter is another meme, and it spread awfully far awfully fast. Some people who embrace a certain meme feel that they are at meme warfare with other memes. While we often think of meme warfare as applying to things like consumer products where advertising slogans battle it out for our mindshare, some people feel the same way about their religion. To someone like myself who feels religion is a very personal thing, it's baffling, but some people have externalized their religion and only get validation when they feel their meme is spreading. My meme can beat up your meme, or whatever.
I think that, for some people, the witchcraft aspect is not the foremost aspect of how they feel inside. However, it's what you hear the loudest because it's both the weirdest and for some reason they think they'll frighten enough other people with it to get attention.
Back on meme warfare, memes fight to survive in the jungle of ideas. If these people feel their meme is losing, they are scared sh--less. There is a call to arms and it's time to attack the other memes (popular culture is full of them, all dangerous) before these memes kidnap the next generation.
But it takes a lot of energy to keep a good meme down. There is enough respect for freedom of thought that what we end up having is a pretty diverse meme marketplace.
I have to imagine that these people would be a lot happier, fulfilled, and wise if they turned that energy inward. Instead if evangelizing there religion meme, they ought to examine how they can transform their own personal meatspace into a more dogma-compliant mode. To throw around some buzzwords.
Speaking of religion as meme, this site is devoted to the Christianity Meme. From that site:
American Values and EthicsI would shy away from picking on Christianity in particular. However, some of these people do feel it is their destiny to spread their meme via government office. You'll hear them often declaring America as a Christian nation. That would bother me a lot less if these people acted more like the Christians I respect. But, alas, the people I respect don't spend their time trying to impose there meme on others.
In many cases, the propagation of the Christianity Meme is at odds with American values and ethics. The People for the American Way have kept watch and chronicled the threats to American values and ethics by religious groups and others. Here, we describe the Christianity Meme's suppression of fairness, equality and freedom of expression, separation of church and state, and abuse of political power. When pressed, "True Christians" will tell you that American principles are less important than the moral principles of Christianity. If there is a perceived conflict, most Christians will consciously violate American ethics. These same Christians have been elected to positions throughout American government and are working on the Christianity Meme's behalf to tear down its obstacles.
The Separation of "Harry Potter" and State is one page out of a larger site. This particular page makes some fun claims.
Though Harry’s adventures are obviously not religious instruction books, they employ heavy use of Wicca symbolism, language and themes. Wicca is now granted IRS status as a religion and the Department of Defense supplies chaplains for Wiccan folks serving in the U.S. military forces. "Harry Potter" is to Wicca what "Adventures in Odyssey" or "McGee and Me" (fanciful Focus on the Family videos and books) are to the Christian religion. "Harry" on the school library shelf and in the halls after school reflects a legally tolerable situation; promotion of Harry through school day book sales and teacher oral reading sessions is something else entirely.To paraphrase, Harry Potter is not a religious text, but it has religious content and shouldn't be part of public school activities. I appreciate that these folks are a little less extreme in this matter -- not seeking to bar Harry from the library bookshelves. However, I have a feeling they're just reining in their true feelings. My evidence is this quote:
The drug message in this book is clear. To reach your goals in life like Harry Potter you need to know how to make drugs and take drugs in just the right way or else you are a "dunderhead" and will never succeed.(that from this page.) We're basing out opinion on one quote from Prof. Snape in the first Potter book.
This claim ignores the following:
POPFile is a free spam filter which appears to run on any platform that supports Perl. I haven't tried it yet, but I will report back on my impressions for those interested, once I've used it for a while. Thanks to Amy of EAforums for this tip!
I usually don't like hype. Not even with events that I'm interested in. But the Harry Potter hype (and, really, I don't think there was that much of it) bothers me not a whit. Mostly because it appears to be fan-generated and it is plain genuine excitement about something that involves imagination.
For fun, though, I'm going to post the best negative news stories and commentaries on the Harry Potter phenomenon I can find. Why? Because the detractors have so little to actually complain about, they delve into the ridiculous.
For example, our first negative (-1) is this:
Harry Potter and the Antichrist by Joseph Chambers
Without question I believe the Harry Potter series is a creation of hell helping prepare the younger generation to welcome the Biblical prophecies of demons and devils led by Lucifer himself....and that is just the second paragraph. Eventually we find that Harry is a drug-pusher! But fear not, we come back to reality by the end.
Harry Potter Is Not The Antichrist
The “mystery of iniquity” is one of those great prophetic truths in Holy Scripture. This mystery is never a person or a character in a book or film. He is a mystery or a hidden spiritual idea that will continue to grow until the Rapture of the saints.
The Harry Potter books are just another means of blinding millions to the truth. When people love imagination, superstition, paranormal intrigue, witchcraft, and sorcery better than they love truth, the Creator will allow them to be filled with their own desires. When the cup of sin is full, the King will say, “It is enough.” My heart tells me the cup is at the brim. The King will soon have the final word and righteousness will win the day.
Don't bother reading the whole thing, unless you're bored. But a quick skim or it will yield a chuckle or two.
As a spectator in the release of the Harry Potter book release, do take time to stop and smell the roses. Part of the enjoyment is what these books do to the crazy control freaks hidden deep in the religious right out there. It's one of the same reasons I would consistently vote for Ted Kennedy even if I didn't want him in office. Tweak, tweak.
Recalling a favorite scene in Monty Python's Life of Brian.
The setting: Roman-controlled Judea, circa 30 A.D. The Roman Colosseum, Jerusalem. Children's Matinee.
The players: The People's Front of Judea (PFJ) are sitting in the arena stands, discussing the importance of diversity in their fight against the oppressors. Brian is working selling snacks to the crowd. (Dog's tongues. Wren's livers. Jaguar's earlobes.Wolf nipple chips. Dromedary prezels. Tuscany fried bats.)
Brian approaches the PFJ...
|Brian||Are you the Judean People's Front?|
|Reg||Judean People's Front. (scoffs) We're the People's Front of Judea. Judean People's front, caw.|
|Brian||Can I join your group?|
|Reg||No. Piss off.|
|Brian||I didn't want to sell this stuff. It's only a job. I hate the Romans as much as anybody.|
|PFJ||[nervously] Sssh! Ssssh, sssh, sssh, ssssh.|
|Judith||Are you sure?|
|Brian||Oh. Dead sure... I hate the Romans already.|
|Reg||Listen. If you really wanted to join the PFJ, you'd have to really hate the Romans.|
|Reg||Oh yeah? How much?|
|Reg||Right. You're in. Listen. The only people we hate more than the Romans are the f---ing Judean People's Front|
|PFJ||[together, nodding in agreement] Yeah|
|Francis||And the Judean Popular Peoples Front.|
|PFJ||Oh yeah. Splitters.|
|Loretta||And the peoples Front of Judea.|
|Loretta||The Peoples front of Judea. Splitters.|
|Reg||We're the Peoples front of Judea.|
|Loretta||Oh. I thought we were the Popular Front.|
|Reg||Peoples Front! [scoffs]|
|Francis||Whatever happened to the Popular Front, Reg?|
|Reg||He's over there.|
|[A single old man sits on a lower seat.]|
|PFJ||[To the old man.] SPLITTER!|
None of it had anything to do with Glory Horns. But they're welcome just the same.
Top Artists Balking At A La Carte Downloads reports Billboard.com.
Top acts and their representatives are expressing reservations about the creative and financial implications of shifting to a singles-based model. "The fear among artists is that the work of art they put together, the album, will become a thing of the past," says attorney Fred Goldring
It's amazing how hard it is to kill a cash cow.
I'll state the obvious -- to quote "Goldmember" -- "Well then there is no pleasing you."
Big artists really crack me up. You don't hear them complaining that radio stations don't play their songs together in album form. The album is not going to die as an art form. Apple reports that half of their song downloads are in album form.
Here's an idea: if your album is really good, people will want to buy the whole thing. If it isn't, they won't. The idea that there is any creativity issue behind this complaint is pure fantasy. It's clear that people are going to make their own playlists no matter how "artists" distribute their work, breaking the album model. What this really is is the recording industry worried about their previous ability to squeeze extra cash out of the consumer. In other words, to get them to pay for crap they don't want. Now that a new consumer model is appearing (one that consumers have long been screaming for) they're worried that people may no longer roll over and pay for music they don't want.
A few words of advice to the music industry:
Since I'm not charging for this advice, it's a bargain.
We have some nice neighbors (we'll call them "Karen" and "Brad") who live on the corner lot near out house. They used to be out in their yard every weekend and often on the weekday evenings working hard to keep it up. Aside from being consistently vigilant about lawn maintenance they were friendly and they enjoyed having breakfast out on their porch.
For the last year or so we noticed that we hadn't seen Karen much or at all. Usually, at least in the last decade or so, this would have been the source of much speculation on our part. Neighbors are always a source of interest. However, we must have been wrapped up with events in our own lives, since I don't remember having any conversations about this with my wife. In retrospect, we realized that the yard had not been tended with the usual fervor.
We learned why last weekend. A little one year old baby boy had been keeping her busy. We met him after his birthday party, which coincided with our youngest daughter's birthday. With the approach of summer and the maturing of their infant, they are out and about in their yard a bit more.
As I was preparing to take advantage of the brief clear weather today to get the lawn mowed, I saw Brad cleaning up the yard when Karen came out their side door, hands on her hips, stretching her back and squinting as she took in a deep breath that distinctly said "Thank god, the baby is taking a nap."
Talk to people about what kind of terror attacks they fear and among those fears will be attacks on the water supply. Imagine, if you will, how much more important that water supply would be to you if you lived in a desert. Now imagine how you might feel if a foreign power destroyed your water supply and then hindered the ability for you to rebuild it, resulting in thousands of deaths.
No need to stretch your imagination too far. (link via Project Censored)
Apparently, a number of people believe that a window in Milton, MA contains the image of the Virgin Mary. This hospital window broke a seal and condensation seeped in between the panes of glass. But it didn't cause your average garden-variety stain. This stain is super-holy and all. Check it out via Annanova.
It's gotten bad enough that WCVB-TV is reporting that during certain times the hospital is covering up the window to prevent the addle-brained from causing traffic jams and other trouble. When you believe silly things like this, you've got my amusement. When you refuse to honor the hospital's request to stay away at certain times and begin to cause trouble, then you've got my ire.
And let's take a look at this belief, shall we?
Personally, I think the image is more flounder-shaped than Virgin-shaped. If you squint hard enough, there are a lot of things you can imagine it looking like. Or, taking the unpopular path of "making sense" it could just be a stain on a window.
Pareidolia is the effect responsible for this excitement (explanation at Skeptic's Dictionary). This is the same effect which makes people believe they see a man in the Moon, a face on Mars, and Mother Theresa in a cinnamon bun. The human brain automatically tried to find patterns in randomness. It's a skill that no doubt comes in handy when you're looking out for predators, or looking for prey. And it's better to be too good at picking out patterns than too poor, lest that mountain lion get you.
However, our reason is supposed to be good for determining after the fact that what we saw was actually a window, not a person. This elusive "reason" appears to have been turned off in the brains of certain individuals. As one of the Milton pilgrims said:
"I think they feel if the lady is present, they would get a type of healing they needed -- physically, spiritually and mentally," said one visitor.I'll avoid pointing out what I think is the area of most need in the healing department.
It prompted me to write my own story about a mysterious image in the sky...
In this story from Naples, the police shut down a 6 year-old girl's lemonade stand. The law is the law, I suppose, and once she had been reported by a neighbor the police really had to perform their duty. I'm sure the officers felt bad about it (and one of them actually bought lemonade).
The story has a happy ending, because the city issued the girl a free permit to run her stand. That is excellent, and kudos to them.
But what gets me is that someone reported them in the first place. Now, I can understand how disruptive children can be. I live with a couple of them myself. But if they were in their own driveway, what's the harm? Apart from that, what you teach these kids is what's going to come back out of them later in life. How about a little compassion? (link: Naples Daily News)
"This is an entirely unreasonable proposal, tantamount to a debt collector sending you two warnings that your car payment is late and then claiming that he is entitled to burn down your garage," said EFF staff attorney Gwen Hinze.
Senator Orrin Hatch would like to destroy the computers of all file traders to teach them a lesson about copyrights. (link via Register) Sure, downloading copyrighted material is illegal, but just what the heck is he proposing?
This would involve creating new legislation to exempt copyright owners from old-fashioned laws that make it a crime to destroy other people's property, and from somewhat newer computer trespass and misuse statutes as well.
Such legislation would be in line with US Representative Howard Berman (Democrat, California) and his vision of allowing copyright owners and their agents to hack computer systems where copyright violations might be going on. Hatch would simply take it a bit further, permitting copyright owners to take overtly malicious action.
While there may soon be an excuse for willful destruction of property, "there's no excuse for anyone violating copyright laws," Hatch explained.
Sure, let's give the RIAA more power. Of course, the geek community at SlashDot was all over this story.
Meanwhile, conservative senator Sam Brownback would like to limit the rights of copyright holders. (link via C|net). Thanks, Chuck, for pointing this out.
Most people in the US are familiar with "BJ's Wholesale Club" or similar stores. These are places that charge you a yearly membership fee to shop within their warehouse-like store. Additionally, they often offer tire or other automotive services and gasoline.
It seems to me to be a pretty good idea (read, a pretty good trick). Let's look at the subtle manipulation going on at these places:
How did I do the comparison? BJs began sending me free 2-3 month memberships every other year starting about 8 years ago, around October. So, I would join, shop for the holiday season (that was their intention) and let my membership lapse. But in 2001 I signed up for a membership because I found that we were drinking so much milk that I could recoup the price of membership by buying all of our milk at BJs. Also, their gas prices would reduce my payback to about 4 months if I used them exclusively for my then vehicle, which was a gas guzzler.
But I let my membership lapse. My current car is efficient and we don't drink quite so much milk anymore. I considered calling up BJs and asking them to reduce or (dare I ask?) waive my membership dues so that they could continue to have the privilege of my patronage. (Yeah, I'm a cocky son-of-a-gun at times) But I never did it, figuring that it would fall on deaf ears.Lo and behold, Margaret found this in the mail the other day:
You've just been selected for a FREE
1-Year Membership to BJ's Wholesale Club.
There's no catch to this offer. Only a small number of people across the country have been chosen to receive free memberships. You're one of the lucky few who can take advantage of BJ's incredible Members-only savings -- without paying a membership fee! [...]
I'll put this membership to good use. For the good of my loyal readers. I'll choose a few items from BJ's and then see if I can get a better deal elsewhere. I'll be using items I'd be likely to purchase, but if someone wants to suggest an item or too, I may add to the list.
I love some of the things the Japanese do. Is it just that they have a tradition of sculpting food, or do they think cocktail weenies are actually worth this sort of attention?
They're not only jumping ship - they're starting to talk.
Beers's resignation surprised Washington, but what he did next was even more astounding. Eight weeks after leaving the Bush White House, he volunteered as national security adviser for Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), a Democratic candidate for president, in a campaign to oust his former boss. All of which points to a question: What does this intelligence insider know?
"The administration wasn't matching its deeds to its words in the war on terrorism. They're making us less secure, not more secure," said Beers, who until now has remained largely silent about leaving his National Security Council job as special assistant to the president for combating terrorism. "As an insider, I saw the things that weren't being done. And the longer I sat and watched, the more concerned I became, until I got up and walked out."In the wake of this war, we're seeing increasing indications that the justifications presented to us were not the internal justifications, and we're seeing that politics is driving the decision making rather than intelligence. The frightening thing is that we are looking at very decisive political decision making, and then a great effort at selling the result to the American people. (Link: Washington Post)
This morning I was preparing for work and I found that a couple of white hairs in my beard are now much more prominent than they once were. I'm on my way to a distinguished salt-and-pepper beard.
So, what is the correct protocol for this? Do I pluck or trim the beard hairs until they become dominant? Or do I go with it.
I think I'll just go with it.
Thanks, JimC, for sending me the link to this story, which made me want to throw up. (Link - New York Times)
The gist of the story is that the folks who live around Nantucket Sound are raising a stink over a developer's plans to plant wind turbines out in the sound. Such turbines could supply 1.8% (that's right - nearly 2%) of the entirety of New England's electrical needs. (You could also look at it as 75% of the needs of the cape and islands.)
In this NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) fight, they have enlisted (among other people) the Governor, some Kennedys, and jeeze willikers - Walter Cronkite. Walter Cronkite for cripe's sake. Check this out:
Walter Cronkite squirmed a bit at this characterization. ''The problem really is Nimbyism,'' he admitted when I reached him by phone not long ago, ''and it bothers me a great deal that I find myself in this position. I'm all for these factories, but there must be areas that are far less valuable than this place is.'' With prodding, he suggested the deserts of California. Then, perhaps realizing that might be a tad remote to serve New England's energy needs, he added, ''Inland New England would substitute just as well.''Oh, my aching head.
As we talked, his discomfort was so keen that he interrupted his thought and pleaded, ''Be kind to an old man,'' before summing up. ''We have a lot of interesting wildlife, like porpoises and whales,'' he said. ''It's a very important commercial fishing ground, and it's a marvelous boating area for recreational fishermen, for sailors. Last -- but this is not inconsequential -- it will be most unsightly for what is now open bay. Everybody will see it, anyone who wanders on the water, who has a home that faces the water.''
I have the perfect solution. Instead of allowing them to put up these turbines, how about we give them a pass on that and just raise their electricity prices by a factor of 3 or so so they can help subsidize everyone else's electricity usage. Perhaps I'm already a little sensitive regarding the subject of what people who live to the east of here (and some to the north) think about what the rest of the state is for. There appears to be an attitude that if you don't live within certain areas of the commonwealth of Massachusetts, you're a Morlock or something.
For Pete's sake, we have 2 coal-burning power plants in our town that generate electricity for the New England grid. These are polluting plants. But they want to throw up a few non-polluting windmills off the coast of the Nantucket and a bunch of people wearing white slacks suddenly soil themselves and get all red in the face.
And this, after so much oil was recently dumped in Buzzard's Bay. Shame on these people, who claim to care about the environment. Shame on them, who stand in the way of reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, which includes foreign oil and oil in the arctic. Shame on these hypocrites. And shame on Walter Cronkite.
If you care about the view, let it symbolize your willingness to do something about the huge problem this country (and the world) faces. Get over yourselves. Seriously.
Now that I'm publishing an RSS feed, I'm interested in aggregation. What's aggregation, you ask? It's the ability to take content from a bunch of places (like weblogs and news feeds) and pull it together under one interface where you can easily check for updates. An RSS feed is an XML document that a weblog creates so that other people can read their headlines, and a teaser comment. For an example, here's mine.
Since I'm new to aggregation, I'm looking for tools that let you display aggregated RSS feeds, and where to find good feeds. If any of you are knowledgable in this area, please let me know what you like to use (or have heard of) in the comment section.
So, for a couple (or few?) days, I'll be importing the content here into that new site. And for a while after that I'll be changing the look of the blog, so please bear with me. I don't want to change it too much, but I need to accomodate some new features that will take up space. (At the time I'm typing this, the new blog is still using the default look that comes with Movable Type, so it is completely different from the Aces Full you are used to.)
Why am I moving?
Let me count the reasons.
- Mark Moford asks (and answers): Is the country better off with a president who actually has an active libido? Hell yes.
Now, glimpse the current state of American affairs, that acidic stifling powder-keg feeling, that sense of sad closed-mindedness and deep-seated fear and the sense that the only real screwing going on is what the USA Patriot Act and the 2004 Bush budget are doing to you, right now. Show me a brutish dictator/despot/pseudo-fascist/Rumsfeld, and I'll show you a sneering hunk of sexual ineptitude.
- My friends are going all artsy on me.
Rui is in Vancouver studying the skills related to computer game design (animation, modelling, etc). He sends along a link to the group he’s working with at school… "Chunkyheads". They’re designing a game called “Meziah” and they even have a trailer for it. Is that Rui himself I see at the end? Don’t lose your head, Rui!
Jim sent along some nighttime snaps that are creepy as hell. I’m not sure what I like best about them, but I think it’s the nightmarish X-Files quality. The drugged-out blurriness allows the bright shapes, some of which suggest human figures, to be more ominous and foreboding than the looming dark shapes that tower over the scene, blotting out the indigo sky.
So, what the heck have I done lately?
- Last night I was coming home from poker and video games, late as usual. I finally got a glimpse of the source of the overpowering and horrible smell that wafts into the house every week or so. A huge skunk was in the middle of the yard.
At first, I thought it was a big pile of rags someone had left in the yard, but it moved in the headlights and I realized what it was. Skunks are very amusing when they walk - a kind of fluffy shambling.
I turned the car as it walked out of my headlights to keep it illuminated. When it disappeared behind our hill, I went after it with a flashlight. Yes, I had had a couple of beers, but that had been hours before.
Skunky "the Skunkster" was just on the edge of the hill, waiting for me to come around to where it was dark. Proving that I was not insane, I decided it was not worth getting a better look. Also, I saw another pair of glowing orbs a few yards away in the darkness. Another skunk? I wasn't prepared to take that on, even if I did want to know where they were living.
We seem to have a lot of diversity in our small yard. "Rusty," another of our uninvited borders, is a gray squirrel we've sighted on a number of occasions.
"Look kids it's a gray squirr... waitaminute. Why is his tail all red?"
He's some sort of mutant reddish gray squirrel. Sure, all squirrels seem to have a little brownish-red cast to their fur (except for the mutant black ones). But this one was really reddish. Which makes sense, now, since his name is "Rusty."
- I found this site, the SEED Science Center while looking for information about cornstarch and water experiments. It's neat! There are a lot of activities like the cornstarch one, and they put effort into giving you the theory behind the experiments in a useful form.
- While it doesn't have the camp of "Godzilla VS. Mothra", it's more timely and relevant.
"The Daily Show" put together this mock debate between President GWB and Governor GWB circa 2000. (The video is in RealPlayer format).
This footage is a must-see, in my book.
- Years ago I read about an experiment to demonstrate the effect variable surface area has on combustibility. It involved a metal can, some flour, a candle flame and a long tube. The idea is to simulate a carburator, but with flour instead of gasoline.
Particulate matter can become very dangerous when mixed with air in the right ratio. All those little surfaces have ready access ot oxygen, making a raction happen quickly and with considerable force. This is what makes an empty grain silo so dangerous.
And then there was this article which contains references to the belief that explosive particulate matter may have been responsible for the Great Fire of London.
Ed tells me that he saw this experiment in high school, but with a paint can. The lid of the can shot up to considerable height. You can bet I'm going to try this.
CNN has an article on an upcoming television movie sequel to the 1983 miniseries (and subsequent miniseries) "V."
I was a teen when the original miniseries aired, and I haven't seen it since. The followup series wasn't very good in my humble opinion. But the media hype for the first one was big and I thought the series did a pretty decent job delivering as a TV event. It was "The Pianist" for the Sci-Fi crowd.
I hope they go more serious and Sci-Fi with this sequel, rather than action-oriented. The main lasting impact of the first miniseries was how some humans fell right into line and helped the "visitors" round up people.
- NewsMax reports that William Kristol was heard on Fox News Sunday to state that the President may have given a distorted view of the Iraq WMD threat leading up to the war. Unintentionally, of course.
But the leading neoconservative writer and former chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle added, "I hope [the WMDs] are found but I'm very skeptical.No harm no foul, right?
- Amazon.com is now taking preorders for the boxed set of Indiana Jones movies on DVD. Wish-list, here I come.
They are released in November. After my birthday! I'm not picky, though. You won't catch me complaining about a late birthday gift.
- It occurred to me this morning that contact lenses were a no-miss technology. Things are all blurry before you put your glasses on. You look in the mirror in the morning. "Hey, I look pretty good without glasses. You put your glasses on and "Bah! I look terrible with glasses!." Turns out, you just look better blurry.
The names have been changed to protect the innocent.
- Had my first tire blowout on the way in to work today. It's amazing what a tire can look like once it finally gives up the ghost.
Funny thing - last Wednesday my cousin Jonathan was telling us about his recent experiences with a blown out tire and last night on the way to Finding Nemo we saw a guy blow out his tire.
Well, maybe that isn't all that odd.
- Trying this exercise. Riffing on the creativity block theme of the last post.
|a blank page
brow kneaded and red
fix it… fix it…
blank DVD. blank CD. blank check. No video. No audio
No outcome. No income
No motion. No emotion
pencils new and getting newer
butterfly Post-It notes.
- love my home office. It's got most of what I need within easy reach. It's pretty comfortable, and it's somewhat configurable. The kids have their own space, and Margaret's usable workspace has quadrupled.
But sitting here in the morning, I almost never have any ideas about what to post in the blog. The office is like an idea-sucking vampire. Maybe it's because it's comfortable and doesn't challenge me. Maybe it's because I'm surrounded with all familiar things that don't get any new synapses firing. This isn't where I get any of my new ideas.
I get my new ideas while I'm driving, or mowing the lawn, or walking. My problem is that I often don't remember those ideas later when I'm conveniently at my desk. This is probably why some people carry PDAs and laptops. Heck, I carry a PDA. But the PDA isn't much help while you're driving. If i were smart, I'd dig up my handheld tape recorder (it's around here somewhere, but was moved when I set up the new home office). That has worked for me in the past when I was designing online course material. One silly obstacle to that solution is my voice. I hate to hear my voice recorded and played back. I hate the way it sounds. So, when I’m recording my voice (even when I’m alone) I’m self-conscious of what I’m saying. Later, I don’t want to listen to what I’ve recorded.
So my entries tend to be very short reminders of my ideas, rather than elaboration (except where elaboration is necessary). Sequential tape is not a good way to organize a bunch of reminders. But I’d really better dig that tape player up, try to loosen up a bit, and not be so self-conscious.
- I've known for a very long time that I am horrible with commas. I use too many of them.
Even for informal writing, you really ought to use the right amount of commas. That's what I figure. But I'm just horrible at using them. Part of the trouble is that I tend towards really long sentences. And, sooner or later, I wander into run-on territory. When that happens, it's like a comma explosion. All of a sidden I've got five or six phrases in there, all separated by commas.
Anybody know where I can go for a crash course in comma usage. Better still, some sort of shock-therapy or a recording I can put on headphones at night so I can learn how to use commas correctly in my sleep?
- And his front, too! Seriously, Curious Frog is back in the bloggiverse with a link blog.
Not only that, but proving he's a better link-blogger than I am, he informs me that those of us who mourn the loss of the free KPIG music feed, can rejoice. Radio Paridise is run by some of the people involved with KPIG. Plays the same music, has a website where you can get the playlist... the whole she-bang! WOO HOO!
- This week's Friday Five is kinda sappy.
1. How many times have you truly been in love?
Three times. Once romantic and twice fatherly. Having children is being in love, because suddenly there is this person who makes a huge difference in your life and you would do anything for that person. The romantic love of my life is my wife, and I can honestly say that she's the only woman I've ever truly been in love with. And as sappy as it sounds, I am more than ever today.
2. What was/is so great about the person you love(d) the most?
About Maggie? Her creativity, her ideas, and her support make me love her more than ever. But, in addition to that, she's level-headed. I never expect to find her bringing home books by new-age self-help gurus or pseudo-scientific garbage. And that not only makes her a desirable companion, but a great mother (because one of the last things I want is for my kids to grow up without the ability to think critically)
3. What qualities should a significant other have?
Well, I went into that a little bit above, but I'll elaborate here with a list.
4. Have you ever broken someone's heart?
I doubt it. If so, I have no idea.
5. If there was one thing you could teach people about love, what would it be?
For my girls: A guy who is nice to you but not nice to the waiter is not a nice person.
- So, what if you have a bad attitude, some funny jokes, drink too much, like to play videogames, and wish you could turn your jokes into computer-animated movies? The result, of course, would be: Red vs Blue.
It's a nifty idea. They come up with scripts and then have the videogame characters act them out. Mostly, they're using the great X-Box game "Halo" as their animation engine.
The result is pretty funny, which you can see for yourself if you have the bandwidth to download any of their Quicktime movies. Some comedic themes are how Apple computers have no games, how out of place some conversations can be when someone is shooting at you, and how you might try to learn to drive a tank "on the fly."
For a sample of their attitude and sense of humor, check out the FAQ
- As Kilwag points out on his site,
There’s nothing quintessentially more American than t-shirts, bumper stickers, and bad taste. Well that, and copyright infringement.
This is his introduction to an article analysing the phenomenon of those car stickers that have Calvin of "Calvin and Hobbes" peeing on everything from rival car companies to ... well, read the article for yourself. Link: Calvin Pees
I'm a sucker for myth and folklore, urban and otherwise. This is definitely some folklore which has taken on a life of its own.
Of course, now that I've poseted this, I'm having trouble accessing his server. Bleh.
- Meetings all morning! Perhaps I can sneak a post in later...
- Last year, back in April, Julie sent me some neat links regarding the thremin.
I found some other cool links today.
- Rui sent me a link to some ear-tickling music (he knows my eclectic musical interests). THE SCHUBERT CLUB GAMELAN ENSEMBLE: Sumarah at first made me think of Indian music. It's got a haunting quality to it, even before the voices start in. If you're interested, check out that website, which has decent length clips of CD tracks off the album.
The American Gamelan Institute has information on Gamelan music, which originates in Indonesia.
- Patti writes, in comments regarding yesterday's story about cheese rolling:
Wouldn't it make more sense to tuck and roll down the hill? That's what I would do.I would avise against that.
Once, Maggie and I went sledding on the hills of the Westport town beach. We're not talking huge hills here, but enough for a little slide. At one point, in the excitement of it all, we decided to roll down the hill. You can regulate your rolling speed, but I went for maximum velocity. Once you get to top speed, it's tough to stop yourself until you reach the bottom.
When I made it to the bottom I wanted to die. The world was not only spinning, it seemed like it was inside-out. I came perilously close to vomiting. I quickly placed the experience in the "lessons learned" category.
So, if you are a carefree young lover, or simply full of joie de vivre, feel free to roll down those clover-infested hills. But I warn you - don't go for speed!
- I'm in the process of reorganizing this blog and moving it to a new location. The reorganization needs to happen because I note that blog entries are somewhat uneven. Some are just quick links, some are more like journal entries. I'd like to expand into some other areas, too, so a whole new website is in order, complete with domain name. I'm hoping that these changes will, among other things, speed the site up. This comment system is killing my access time.
But that has little to do with this particular entry.
There are a number of places where we have regular, slightly anonymous social interaction. Driving on the highway is one such place. Buying fast food at the drive-through window is another. And so is the supermarket checkout line.
The checkout line entails a bit of drama. Think of all the possibilities. There are the impulse-buy items that surround you. Candy, self-help pamphlets and tabloid papers beckon to you. There are posted (if grammatically incorrect) rules, such as in the "12 Items or Less" express queue. How many people have written about the excitement and frustration of having someone with greater than their allotted number of items reach the checkout just before they do with their one item? Many, I'm sure.
My story is a little more subtle. Just a little.
Yesterday, I rushed into the supermarket to pick up some milk for my breakfast. My office boasts a healthy (so to speak) compliment of cold cereals of the saturday-morning-cartoon-advertisement variety. Comfort food.
I strode to the checkout with my carton of milk, my one item. Someone was ahead of me, but no matter. I gave him plenty of room, placing my carton of milk nearly all the way back on the conveyor belt, and then flanking it with 2 plastic dividers to "mark its territory."
Plastic checkout dividers are another source of drama. I always try to place dividers around my items, so that the person behind me needn't reach over and grab the divider himself. Usually, I consider this a slightly polite gesture on my part, but nothing worthy of any note.
As the checkout operator did not have the conveyor belt set to automatically move forward, I was able to keep my hand on my one item, leaning slightly on it.
A young man entered the line behind me. After a moment or two, I sensed he was shifting restlessly. And then he began to place items on the back of the conveyor belt - the very small space left behind the divider. he stacked an item or two on the metal end piece of the conveyor apparatus, off the belt itself to prepare them for loading on the belt. This was fine with me. But as he placed two lemons on the belt, one of which rolled past the divider and into my milk carton's personal space, I began to realize why he was restless. He was envious of the large span of belt in front of my milk carton. Now he was trying to squeeze one more item behind the divider, trying to inch my carton forward.
By this time, the fellow in front of me had completed his purchase and was moving on. As the belt began to move I lifted up my carton and placed it in the hands of the woman working the checkout, rather than just watch the thing take a ride on the belt. At that, the man me clucked his tongue and sighed audibly.
All this time I was in the middle of his dramatic attempt to gain more belt space for his items, and he was disgusted that I so cavalierly moved my milk forward. What gall I have.
I decided to engage him in his game directly. As my carton got scanned, I turned to the fellow and made direct eye contact with him, giving him the opportunity to speak if he truly had a comment to make. It was merely a second or so before he averted his gaze downward.
I looked to the matter of running my card through the machine. When I sensed his head had un-bowed itself, I once again faced him with a blank expression, seeking his eyes, which quickly found something very interesting on the floor to examine.
This little scene repeated another 2 times or so while I completed my transaction, each time concluding with him surrendering in the staring match. He forfeited each opportunity to tell me how much gall I had to not anticipate his conveyer belt needs, and then to mock them.
As I left the store, I was forced to wonder - what just happened? Why was I engaging in a staring match with this guy? And, since I could have moved my milk forward as soon as I realized he wanted more belt space, was I guilty of playing some sort of macho personal space game? The slight sense of satisfaction I felt told me that yes, I had been engaged in the drama.
And so, the guilt followed.
- Perilous Annual Cheese Chase Called Off according to Reuters "Oddly Enough" news. (thanks Patti)
The English county of Gloucestershire has, for centuries, hosted a ritual involving grown people, wheels of cheese, and steep hills. Add these intriguing elements together and you get a recipe for numerous injuries.
Apparently, the event is pretty darned exciting:
Last year, according to the organizers' Web site, "there were only three casualties requiring hospital attention," including a spectator who fainted.
- This is cool. Have you ever needed to match a font? As in, you had a picture with some text in it and you wanted to add to it or edit it, but you didn't know what the font was? Identifont - identify fonts and typefaces is a website devoted to helping you locate the font in question. The site will ask you a number of questions about your font to try to narrow down the choices until you locate the correct typeface.
Nifty, for the Photoshop fiend in all of us.