July 31, 2003

Got Your Brights On?

I've described myself as a "skeptic" in the past. This description always left me feeling like I had been forced into using a word that didn't mean what I really felt it should mean. "A skeptic" is often simply a naysayer, a curmudgeon, or someone who just has a negative attitude. "Skeptic" defines oneself as something negative. I'm skeptical of... something. I don't like such a negative definition.

That's why I was happy to hear (from Ed) about a new term that is gaining acceptance. That term is "Bright" used as a noun. What is "a Bright"?

Bright is a person who has a naturalistic worldview. A Bright's worldview is free of
supernatural and mystical elements. The ethics and actions of a Bright are based on a naturalistic worldview.
That's according to the Brights' Network website.

Brights, in general, tend not to be very evangelistic folks. Because of that, they disappear into the background of opinions. They also are of varied beliefs. But they have their lack of supernatural belief as a common factor. They are drawn together by their common naturalistic worldview. The Brights Movement seeks to make acceptance of a naturalistic worldview more commonplace, allowing those who share our naturalistic worldview to be open when they participate in society. "Godless," "atheist," and "agnostic" are all negative-definitions and have negative connotations as well. The Brights hope to put "Bright" into the vocabulary (as a noun) and give those with the same beliefs a focal point.

It's no secret. I'm a Bright. No point in "outing" myself -- everyone who knows me knows about my naturalistic worldview.

Meet some other brights, all organically grown according to the website.

[Edited for spelling]

Posted by James at 5:05 PM | Comments (1)

Where The Rubber Meets The Road

Almost got into an accident the other day, and it didn't even involve cell phone usage. A 50's balding guy in a convertable tried to occupy the same space and time as my car, but I was able to swerve away and beep the horn to warn him that this was physically impossible. He did some more swerving back and forth and gestured oddly at me before slowing down to a speed better befitting a legally blind person while his heart tried to catch up with his adrenal glands.

There are a lot of stories in the news that give me the same feeling that I get when someone is not paying attention on the road and swerves into me. Yeah, most of them involve the president.

Bush was telling us we're all sinners yesterday. Amazing he thinks he has any authority on religious matters. My honest first thought on that statement was that he was welcome to lodge it deeply into the recesses of his sigmoid colon. Sure, the guy is welcome to be religious, he's welcome to hold an opinion, and I'm welcome to think he's a dolt for imagining that I would care whether he thinks I'm a sinner or not. I'll take moral advice from that man about the same time I decide it's a good idea to abandon my National Guard post. I'll take moral advice from him on the same day I take workplace sexual conduct advice from Bill Clinton.

Bush's statements were made in the context of homosexuality and gay marriages. People are correctly interpreting the statements as meaning that he thinks homosexuals are sinners by virtue of their lifestyle. Again, that's what his faith appears to be telling him. However, I don't see what that has to do with the law. Laws aren't meant to get you to lead a less sinful life, or to punish sinners, are they? Laws are supposed to help in establishing an orderly society in a fair manner. And what gays are concerned about with this whole marriage issue is that it is not fair to exclude certain kinds of unions.

Bush and his ilk want to force their view of "family" on the rest of us.

A family is defined by the love which binds it together and the way it acts as a cooperative for the good of all members.

But, further baffling me, there are all these folks that believe the world is on its way to a messy end with the second coming of their lord. Many of these folks believe this is going to happen soon, and that their real life is going to take place in heaven. If this is so, why cant they leave secular matters to we humanists? I mean, what the heck do they care what homosexuals are doing if they're irredeemable sinners? They won't see them in heaven, so let them have their unions. No?

Why do these people care so much about what other people are doing?

Someone once told me that liberals are driven by a worry that someone else might be making money. I'm beginning to think that many conservatives are driven by an idea that someone else might be "getting some."

Posted by James at 1:00 PM | Comments (8)

July 30, 2003

Yo Ho, Yo Ho

When Ryan came into work yesterday, he told me he wanted to be a pirate when he grew up. He'd just seen "Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl." So off I went to see what the fuss was about. [MINOR SPOILERS]

In the film, you learn of young William Turner (Orlando Bloom), an orphan who becomes a poor and under-appreciated but skilled blacksmith. His lineage is tied to pirating, though he is unaware of it. He's secretly in love with the governor's daughter - the enchanting Elizabeth (Keira Knightly) who is an expert on all things having to do with pirates. They have known each other since he was rescued from a shipwreck when they were children, and Elizabeth took from him a skull-embossed gold medallion. But as the governor's daughter, she's expected to marry a high-born man, like that new commodore.

Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) soon arrives in their midst, hopping off his sinking vessel with uncommon flair. He's a seemingly addled, obnoxiously flamboyant and startlingly clever fellow who just happens to be a notorious pirate and who (not coincidentally) will have you thinking of Keith Richards long after the end of the film. There is more than meets the eye to Captain Jack. When Sparrow shows his essentially honorable heart by risking his life to save Elizabeth from a fall into the bay, he runs afoul of the local military because pirates, even goodhearted ones, are not tolerated. Unfortunately, some pretty evil pirates who want the medallion have now been alerted to its presence, and are on their way. Led by Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), there is more than meets the eye to these unsavory characters, too, but it's all foul.

Gore Verbinski, coming off having directed the runaway horror adaptation "The Ring," takes these characters, and runs with them. Depp as Sparrow is given a wide berth to wander within his character, and this leeway pays off. His version of the pirate's life is all about freedom. Freedom to go where you will and the freedom to be an eccentric. And freedom to steal other people's stuff.

Depp is certainly a standout in this film, but Orlando Bloom plays his character pretty straight. I'm not sure if that's by design or necessity, but he does absolutely nothing to shame himself in this film and he does more than a bit to show he can go with the flow. Knightly's Elizabeth, a girl longing for adventure, is probably the best example in the film of Verbinski's effort to use nonverbal acting to help the film hit home on a gut level rather than throw a lot of words at your ears.

Verbinski can also be praised for his attention to some minor characters. There are comic foils both among the pirates and the British marines who are recurring and are a refreshing break from the main story line. I'm not expert on the Bard, but I felt a definite Shakespearian influence there.

The film is 2.5 hours long. It can't help but drag a little because of that. My main complaint about it is that some of it should have been left on the cutting room floor. For pacing's sake, I can see why Verbinski didn't tighten up the slower scenes. You can't have action all the time. But we could have done better with simply fewer scenes.

Honestly, the film is almost worth the price of admission just to see Johnny Depp mince around and still connect with the audience through the . In a later scene, Depp looks totally bewildered when, in a dire situation he inquires repeatedly "But why's the rum gone?" and you're convinced that he couldn't care less that death may be approaching, except for the fact that the party is over.

If being a pirate means never growing up, outsmarting both the bad guys and the really stuffy but well-meaning folks, and exercising your freedom then, by golly, I want to be a pirate too!

Posted by James at 12:36 PM | Comments (4)

July 28, 2003

The Rules Of Carding

A 35 year-old man goes to the package store.

With glasses and purchasing Laphroaig scotch: No ID asked for.
With glasses and purchasing Grey Goose Vodka or Bombay Sapphire Gin: No ID asked for.
With contact lenses and buying 12 oz. fruit-flavored alcoholic beverages: ID asked for, customer scrutinized, purchase completed, but with suspicion.

I don't know if it made me look younger, or he simply thought I ought to have my head examined for buying the stuff. True, most of that ilk are pretty vile concoctions, descended from the abomination that is Zima. And, for the most part, the sole purpose of those things, I gather, is to get you and/or your girlfriend drunk as quickly as possible. So they are made frighteningly easy to drink.

However, Glacier Bay, which is supposedly made with vodka is emminently drinkable and refreshing. And Smirnov (which makes a mediocre vodka) makes an addictive green apple malt beverage. Literally, it's addictive, because it has alcohol in it, but I mean it's also tasty. In the fall and winter I think the whole genre is vile and I gravitate toward single malt, port and other actual grown-up drinks. But in the summer for some reason they become palatable.

And apparently they make you look young. Or perhaps just suspicious.

Posted by James at 10:20 PM | Comments (4)

Spinning Disks

Jim C, among others, sent me a link to this image. It's an optical illusion, and it's pretty compelling. I printed it out and it still works on paper, though not as well as on the screen (I thnk that's because the printed page only had 3 disks going across.

What you should see is a bunch of disks. Stare at one and the others move.

Posted by James at 12:37 PM | Comments (5)

House Beautiful... But Paranoid

These folks have what looks like a normal suburban home. Surprise! It's an underground fortress!

Maybe when the big dig is through we could hire those folks to build one of these under our house.

Posted by James at 10:22 AM | Comments (1)

July 27, 2003

j**NOSPAM**burke@

A number hidden in a JPGPeople jump through all sorts of hoops to prevent spammers from getting their email address. Currently, my spam filters are working so well that I hardly see spam at all anymore. It's a huge relief. On the Mac, this is because I use OS X's built in mail which does a great job on its own. On my PC I use POPFile. Plus, my much-compromised university email address now has SpamHunter working for it. That alone is doing an excellent job.

But I was doing a "whois" search the other day and was asked to verify I was a human by entering a numeric code in a form. The code was displayed in a JPEG. I was wondering... why not do the same thing for personal email addresses displayed on your website? Even if you use an address that you expect to get spam in, you can cut down on the amount of spam by displaying the address in a graphic.

Unfortunately, that's only useful for display.

As I redesign my site, I'm putting in an email form so that websurfers can contact me without knowing my email address. That's a good method for folks that have their own website, and a lot of people use it. Of course, friends already have your email, and once a new friend contacts you, you can send her your email with your reply.

Posted by James at 2:00 PM | Comments (9)

July 26, 2003

What the heck is Icehouse?

OK - I keep hearing about htis game called "Zendo." Ity's played with Icehouse pyramid pieces, a set of parts that can be used to play a number of games (kind of like dice, or a deck of cards). But I don't know anyone who has played with these things.

Any of you folk in my readership played these games? Is it worth it for me to look into getting some of the plastic pyramids?

Maybe I should try making them out of paper.

Posted by James at 2:03 AM | Comments (4)

July 25, 2003

T3

I was warned by a number of people not to see T3: Rise of the Machines. The tomatometer gave it a fresh rating, but I've been burned before. Ebert didn't like it. People I usually agree with didn't like it. I couldn't decide, so I let Margaret decide. I'm not sure what criteria she uses. She decided we ought to go. So we did. And I was glad.

In T3, John Connor is in his 20's. It's a decade or so after the last film, and Judgement Day has come and gone with no armageddon. It seems to support his mother's contention that there is "no fate but what you make." But this wouldn't be a Terminator movie if, early on, the action didn't start. So, it does.

Two Terminators show up, and by now you already know who's the good guy and who isn't. Terminator movies follow a specific patten that cannot be broken. Two "people" come back through time, one to kill and the other to stop the killer. The natural mayhem ensues. This film is no different in that.

What makes this film different than the last two? Why should you go see it rather than just popping the T2 DVD in? Sure, Kristanna Loken is easy on the eyes as the first female terminator, but that's hardly enough to justify the price of admission.

In my humble opinion, it's the humor that makes this film worth seeing. Nearly from the start of the film (when the terminators show up) the film takes a lighthearted approach, with healthy in-jokes for followers of the series. It seems to tell you at the beginning: "Relax; you know why you came to this film. To have fun. Let us entertain you."

And what follows is a lot of explosions, a lot of Arnold and Kristanna being creatively slammed into hard objects. A lot of nifty SPFX.

Nick Stahl does a passable job as John Connor. Nick plays him like a somewhat broken version of yesterday's wiseass. He's mellowed, but hasn't forgotten. Clair Danes doesn't get in the way, and when it's time for her to participate she fits right in. Arnold is Arnold. Kristanna as the T-X plays a terminator more in the mold of the T-1000 than a stiff Arnold-style droid, but she still comes off as a creepy phone company robot voice gone horribly wrong.

Things blow up, you can't believe your eyes, and it's all good because you're relaxing. The plot is paper-thin. There really isn't much room to move with all this time-travel stuff and still stick to the Terminator formula. The surprises are almost nonexistant. But the ending (at the very least) makes some sense. This isn't really a Sci-Fi movie you came to see. It is an Arnold movie, and his best since... well, probably the last Terminator film.

When the movie does try to make a nod to character development, the result is a horrible scene in the back of a truck with Nick Stahl trying to explain to the kidnapped Clair Danes what the heck is going on. I hear words coming out of his mouth, and words coming out of Clair's mouth, but they're certainly nothing I can imagine people saying. Thankfully, this film is short on that sort of thing since the T-X doesn't waste any time catching up with our heroes. And it's back to Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots. And that's what you came to see. Wasn't it?

Posted by James at 11:04 AM

July 24, 2003

2 Jerks Are Dead

And everyone is celebrating. I certainly am glad that Qusai and Uday (spelling is random) cannot terrorize Iraqis anymore. But, shouldn't we have put these guys on trial or something? 200 of the worlds best soldiers, and we blasted them out. Two sons of a despot, a teen and one bodyguard for the three of them. I don't know, do you think they might have had some information that could have shortened our presence in Iraq? I know I'm not the only one who thinks so.

Posted by James at 3:05 PM | Comments (5)

July 23, 2003

Does he think we don't notice?

This statement on Senator (VT) Jim Jeffords' website needs a wide audience:

One of the most disturbing effects of the economic downturn is the lack of state and federal funding for our educational system - where States are laying off teachers, cutting school days and eliminating early childhood programs - most of which have only just started. The President's advisors tell him to endlessly repeat "No Child Left Behind."

But in the 17 months since that policy became law, we've seen something very different. Too many children are being left behind. President Bush says the new law will lead to stronger schools. I say it is all part of a quiet plan to starve our public schools so this country can move to vouchers and private school choice...

He continues:

A recent New York Times report noted that combined budget deficits for 50 states are estimated to be between $52 billion and $82 billion, and the schools are taking the worst hit. In Oregon, 84 school districts closed their schools ahead of schedule - some by as much as a month -- because the money ran out. This comes at a time when schools are faced with mounting pressure to meet the requirements of No Child Left Behind or face penalties...

In my home state of Vermont, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a resolution last week expressing its concerns over the policies and mandates of No Child Left Behind. They noted that the law could cost Vermont up to three times more to implement than the federal government provides - and maybe more - "thereby placing a major burden on the state's strained financial resources…"

If this wasn't all bad enough, we learned last week that the U.S. Department of Education plans to spend a half-million dollars - yes, a half-million dollars! - on a public relations campaign aimed at quieting the critics of No Child Left Behind. During three decades in Congress, I have never heard of such an ad campaign. Yet as schools are cutting early education programs for lack of money, the President has no problem with assembling an eight-person "communications" team to try and make a bad plan look good.

Saying one thing, doing another...

Posted by James at 4:53 PM | Comments (5)

Making Fun Of Music

Am I Right bills itself as "Making fun of music, one song at a time" but it's filled of misheard lyrics and parodies (the parodies are better). And, you can submit your own! Gosh-darn it if I didn't laugh out loud at this parody by Robert J. Pagliaro: "He's Gonna Bomb Japan." Here's a bit of it:

Dub-ya Bush he knows nothing
He thinks Iraq's Iran
And 'cause he knows nothing
He's gonna bomb Japan
He's gonna bomb Japan
He's gonna bomb Japan
Please, check out this song, and others too. And if you submit your own please let me know! I want to buy that guy a beer.

You also must check out W. Tong's songs and his blog The blog has a link to his older website -- not well organized but full of gems to be mined. F'rexample: Rush Limbaugh sings "I'm A Nazi." That's not a song parody that's a song put together from Limbaugh sound clips and amazingly set to music. Must be heard to be believed. This man is not fond of Republicans, but even conservatives who will disagree with his politics must give him some credit for his creativity. (He hosts the Limbaugh song, but he didn't write that one, BTW)

Posted by James at 12:38 AM | Comments (8)

July 22, 2003

Gettysburg

Bob responds in the comments regarding the movie Gettysburg, which prompted me to explain me relationship to that film.

It's a tragic and moving american story. Perhaps that is partly whe I think Turner couldn't ruin it in his movie version of "The Killer Angels." But I highly recommend that book to anyone even slightly interested in a historical novel. It's a great story.

While looking around for info on "The Killer Angels" I found Virtual Gettysburg. Wow! This is the next best thing to actually visiting the battleground.

I'd like to go back there someday. And, if I can manage it, I'll re-read "The Killer Angels" just before rolling in...

Posted by James at 10:45 AM

Dean The Blogging Machine

I haven't mentioned Howard Dean before on my blog, but he's hard to miss here in cyberspace. His presidential campaign even has its own blog. The latest blog entry talks about the idea that ideas might matter in the 2004 campaign.

I'd like to think that. I'd like to think that people are going to think about what's going on now and think about what they'd like to change.

Dean is intriguing. I tend to like the debate format for getting at differences between candidates, so I'll be looking for that as the convention approaches.

A tool for selecting your ideal presidential candidate told me that Dean was high on my list:


  1. Kucinich, Cong. Dennis, OH - Democrat (100%)

  2. Dean, Gov. Howard, VT - Democrat (89%)

  3. Kerry, Senator John, MA - Democrat (74%)

  4. Edwards, Senator John, NC - Democrat (72%)

  5. Gephardt, Cong. Dick, MO - Democrat (66%)

  6. Lieberman Senator Joe CT - Democrat (62%)

  7. Sharpton, Reverend Al - Democrat (61%)

  8. Moseley-Braun, Former Senator Carol IL - Democrat (59%)

  9. Graham, Senator Bob, FL - Democrat (55%)

  10. Libertarian Candidate (40%)

  11. Bush, George W. - US President (20%)

  12. Phillips, Howard - Constitution (3%)

  13. LaRouche, Lyndon H. Jr. - Democrat (0%)

I think Kucinich is at the top because he's all over the place. I noticed that friends who took the test all ended up with him at or near the top. Yet people have trouble agreeing with a lot of what he said.
Check out the test and see what you think.

Meanwhile, in other "Bush-out" news, Moveon.org continues with their campaign to raise enough money to advertise more on investigating the decision-making of Bush, and the missteps of his presidency.

Posted by James at 10:23 AM | Comments (8)

Sorting The News

In the ever-expanding search to manage news content and save time whiole getting the best news stories, my new find is Memigo.

Memigo, in its own words:

Memigo is a website for news junkies. Technically, memigo is an intelligent news agent: it goes out on the internet and it finds news articles, stories and editorials from "trusted", high quality sources. When you log in to memigo as a registered user (try it: it's free and anonymous), memigo will give you its idea of the best links of the past 24 hours or more. Unlike a news or weblog aggregator (like NewsIsFree, Syndic8, Blogdex or Daypop), memigo tries to guess what news you personally will be most interested in.

It also allows you to submit links for review, which will then get rated. I'm trying it out today to see where it leads.

Posted by James at 9:53 AM

July 21, 2003

Recent Flick Roundup

Here's a quick go-over of movies I've seen lately (on DVD and whatnot):

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) [imdb] [txreviews]
This was an excellent film. The core of this film is about how people (a family) can be screwed up. In an Edward Gorey kind of way. If that either means nothing to you or doesn't get you interested, then you might not enjoy this film. I can recommend this film highly. Excellent soundtrack by Mark Mothersbaugh (late of Devo and currently of The Rugrats (not the new film) and a lot of other places).

Gods and Generals (2003) [imdb] [txreviews]
I should have read Curtis' review before I rented this, but I suppose it was inevitable, considering that I love Gettysburg. However, I cannot write a decent review of Gods and Generals because I couldn't even make it the whole way through the film. Bleh - it was as boring as watching mold grow. As soon as I saw that they had skipped over the whole beginning of the book (which started to explain why tension was building in the country, leading to secession) I knew there would be trouble. The book itself (written by Jeff Shaara -- author of Gettysburg Michael Shaara's son) was long and a bit tedious. In the film, I could tell they were trying to make room to spend most of the movie on battle scenes. but the battles, frankly, were a lot less interesting to me than the motivations. And the film lacked the driving character portraits of Gettysburg. Oh well.

A Chinese Ghost Story (1987) [imdb]
The description that first jumped into my mind for this film was "the Chinese version of the Evil Dead series." However, it isn't, really. There is a lot of humor, to be sure. And zombie action. But the humor is a little more in the mold of "bumbling goofiness" rather than just general crazy goofiness. There's a love story, and the distaff end of it is a ghost who happens to work for a really nasty demon-like monster, with a really long tongue. You know, your typical boy-meets-girl. If you are either a fan of goofy horror or goofy Asian films, this film is worth your time. There's even what looks like a music video in the middle. I can't explain why, though.

Finding Nemo (2003) [imdb] [txreviews]
I only previously mentioned Finding Nemo in passing. In short, it's the best kids movie we've seen thus far this year. The animation is stunning, and that's getting to be something you don't even notice in Pixar films. The characters were fun and heartwarming. When I first heard about this film, I thought I would hate it, despite liking all of Pixar's other films. The subject sounded boring. Even the trailers didn't raise my expectations much. But the film had a special resonance with me. Nemo's birth defect, his lucky right fin, reminded me of my birth defect -- my right hand. As a parent, I understood his father's neurotic drive to protect Nemo. Pixar is not stupid. They know that to make their films successful. They don't aim them at adults and kids, they aim them at children and parents. And, of course, even if you aren't a parent, you're somebody's child.

Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (2003) [imdb]
This film was a harmless summer kids flick. Not much to write home about, though. There were enough jokes for the adults to keep me from being completely bored, and the kids certainly had a good time. But 10 minutes out of the theatre and you won't remember much that happened.

Hulk (2003) [imdb]
I won't recommend against your seeing Hulk, but I can't really recommend that you go. Ang Lee is among my favorite directors, by he;s taken the fun out of a comic book film here. Once the Hulk shows up, this film really picks up. However, all the incessant talking before you get there really might get you so frustrated that you mutate into a giant monster and crash your way out of the theatre. Or, put you to sleep.

I can certainly understand wanting to add an element of emotion and depth to Banner's character, but (and I'm serious) the comic books did it better. There are events in banner's past that help to make him who he is as the Hulk (physical events combined with an emotional events). But those are events that no one could really identify with. On the way out of the theatre I was thinking of how the script could have done a better job -- what they could have put in Banner's past so I could better identify with the character. But now I realize that the real problem is that through all the talking, the scriptwriter and director were not working together to make the characters compelling.

Jennifer Connelly valiantly delivers her lines, she's gorgeous and she's supposed to be a character you like. And yet, if I had the chance in real life I would not really want to know this character. How is that possible? How does Ang Lee make Jennifer Connelly undesirable? Even in the horrific, compelling and difficult to watch Requiem for a Dream [imdb] as a drug-addicted young woman, there was still something there. The greatest damage that the Hulk does is to somehow drain the attraction out of Ms. Connelly.

I will give Lee one thing, though. His comic-bookish cinematography was very good. It got a little bit annoying by the end of this long film, but it accomplished the task of conveying a lot of visual information in a short span of time. Unfortunately, this makes the film seem even longer. But it is an accomplishment, nonetheless.

Oh, and the ending didn't make a heck of a lot of sense to me.

If you want to be challenged, rent Requiem instead. Just remember I said "challenged."

The Rugrats Go Wild (2003) [imdb]
If you're familiar with the Rugrats, then you already know what you're in for. This really isn't a "Wild Thornberries" film, though the characters are in it. We're working in the slightly less picky "Rugrats" universe. There are some touching moments, as when Nigel Thornberry is trying to distract the children from the fact that they are most likely going to die from suffocation as the air runs out in their submersible, but other than that it's Rugrats goofiness all the way. The kids loved it, and I survived, so there are no complaints here.

The Matrix Reloaded (2003) [imdb] [txreviews]
This movie was worth the wait and the hype. I know I gave it a less than completely enthusiastic review the first time, but there is a lot to think about in here. The action is great, and if you watch the first movie and then see this one, it's fun to speculate about what will be revealed in the third. There are little hidden messages in here, like the number of times "101" appears. I highly recommend repeat viewings of this film if you're interested. The "rave dance" scene isn't as obnoxious the second time around, and you can close your eyes to avoid the nakedness of Keanu Reeves once you know when it happens.

Bad Boys (1995) [imdb]
This could be called a typical Michael Bay film, but I don't like all Michael Bay films. I really hated Armageddon. Luckily, this is quite a bit better than Armageddon. And that is thanks to the interplay between Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. The movie pivots on a misunderstanding that truly could have been resolved with a few, quick honest words. Because of this, the humor in the film becomes Three's Company meets Lethal Weapon. Despite that, this is your fun-loving action buddy movie, and worth seeing if you missed it. I have no idea whether the sequel will be worth anything. Since The Rock, I just haven't been impressed with Bay's work.


Looking forward to seeing T3, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Pirates of the Carribean. And I am interested in Bad Boys II.That's so many movies, however, that I may not get to them until they are on DVD. We just don't get the chance to see a lot of films anymore. We may be seeing T3 tomorrow night. If so, I'll give you the details on Wed.

Posted by James at 7:52 PM | Comments (5)

On The Grill

Preprandial photo - on the grillGrilling this weekend was another success. Veggies have become a snap to do on the grill, and the flavors are pretty incredible. If it weren't for the girls (who will not go without meat, and Mattie needs lots of protein anyhow) we'd skip the steak most of the time.

Green squash cut to 1/4 inch or so (could go larger on those), portabella mushrooms, bell pepper, and vidalia onion were all on the menu. When they hit the grill the air is immediately filled with a wonderful perfume that is the combination of the onion and the hickory chips I use to add smoked flavor. Eggplant works well, too, though it's not among Maggie's favorites so we skip it lately.

My method is simple. Spray the veggies with a garlic-oil spray, or garlic juice and oil separately. This is a similar effect to Italian dressing, but easier than brushing it on. While it's moist, sprinkle it with (at the very least) salt and freshly ground pepper. I used the following mixture:

  • kosher salt
  • fresh ground pepper (coarse)
  • dill weed
  • paprika
  • ground dehydrated roasted garlic
The wood chips mentioned earlier are essential. Mushrooms especially benefit from the smoke, absorbing it as if they were little sponges. Even after I had eaten a great deal, my mouth was still watering over those mushrooms. Soak the wood chips for an hour before using them, if you can. You can get wood chips pretty cheap from discount stores. They work particularly well with charcoal grills, but I hear you can get them to work in gas grills, too. Charcoal is so much easier, though -- you just drop the chips on the coals.

So -- who's coming over for an all-veggie grilled dinner?

Posted by James at 10:21 AM | Comments (1)

July 20, 2003

Anyone But Bush?

Salon presents this article: Salon.com | Anyone but Bush

Posted by James at 4:06 PM

July 19, 2003

Tools For Industry

I hate to just steal links from Mike's site, but I guess I'd better get used to it, since he's one of the better link-finders out there.

This is a list of cheap and Open Source alternatives to expensive commercial software. There are games here, but there are also a lot of tools that can be of use to just about anyone. And some great finds for developers. Again, thanks Curious Frog link blog. Too good not to steal.

Posted by James at 9:36 PM | Comments (1)

July 18, 2003

Smoke and a Floppy?

Had to blog this. (It's about time I got myself a links blog sidebar!!!)
Cigarette lighter for your PC. Install it in your extra floppy bay. This is just so weird that it almost makes sense.

Posted by James at 10:33 AM | Comments (3)

Field Trip

It's off to the Boston Children's Museum today, so I will be "AFK" as the kids say.

I'll leave you with a few links that are related by the fact that I clicked them all this morning.

  • Blame Shifts Back To White House On Uranium Claim (The Mercury News)
  • Metafilter - Group participation blogging.
  • blo.gs
  • - a site that tracks recently updated blogs. You can ping it directly to make sure people know your blog has been updated. Also, you can use it to keep track of favorites. I publish my faves, so anyone can look at my list here. Listed in the order of "most recently updated."

Posted by James at 10:19 AM

July 17, 2003

Bush Outs CIA Operative?

Here's the other story I referred to this morning. Did senior Bush officials blow the cover of a US intelligence officer working covertly in a field of vital importance to national security--and break the law--in order to strike at a Bush administration critic and intimidate others?.

David Corn writes in The Nation that the White House may have acted to out a CIA operative either out of malice or incompetence in response to former envoy Joseph Wilson IV making Bush look bad when he told his end of the story about the Nigerian uranium scam.

Corn gets his information in this case from conservative columnist Bob Novak, whose story you can read here in the Washington Dispatch, July 14.

I'll let those stories speak for themselves, since I can't verify how much of this is the truth.

Before the war there was a lot of well-placed concern for CIA operatives who were investigating the Iraq WMD situation. If the above is true, then when this administration's butt is on the line, that concern evaporates.

Posted by James at 4:12 PM

Bush Lost His Marbles?

Greg has a good summary of much of the criticism Bush is facing these last few days on his US and The World weblog. It's worth a peek.

However, there are two stories that popped up in the last couple of days that I can't believe aren't getting more play.

The first is this story from the Washington Post and elsewhere.

Get this: Bush claimed that the reason we invaded Iraq was because Saddam wouldn't let the inspectors in. Here's the quote:

"The larger point is, and the fundamental question is, did Saddam Hussein have a weapons program? And the answer is, absolutely. And we gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in. And, therefore, after a reasonable request, we decided to remove him from power, along with other nations, so as to make sure he was not a threat to the United States and our friends and allies in the region. I firmly believe the decisions we made will make America more secure and the world more peaceful."
I get the distinct feeling that the man falls apart under any sort of pressure or criticism, but this takes the cake. To quote Joe Conason:
Now a presidential statement so frontally at variance with the universally acknowledged facts obviously presents a problem for the White House press corps. He wasn't joking, and he didn't sound disoriented or unwell.

[...]

For the moment, however, let's just assume reality does exist. What possessed the president to make an assertion that everyone on the planet knows to be untrue? And who is going to take the responsibility for this one? Did George Tenet vet Bush's statement? Do the British have a secret dossier proving that Saddam never actually admitted Hans Blix and the UNMOVIC teams? Will Condi Rice or Donald Rumsfeld show up on Fox News next weekend to explain why Bush's statement is "technically accurate," even though he shouldn't have said it?

But, almost more important is his next observation
As hard to explain as what Bush said is the press corps' failure to report his stunning gaffe. The sentence quoted above doesn't appear in today's New York Times report, for example. Yet there is no question about what he said -- undoubtedly to the amazement of both Kofi Annan, who was sitting beside him at the time, and the dozens of reporters who were present during their brief joint press conference.

"Why," indeed.

The blogoverse is talking.[1] [2] [3] (and those are just some of the blogs I previously did not read regularly, since I found them with Google. Hey -- a new way to find great blogs!)

Here's the full story. Conason says that it's in the White House's own transcript of the meeting, available from the White House itself.

I'll post the second story I'm amazed at a little later today...

Posted by James at 9:53 AM

America: Love It or Change It

America: Love It or Change ItNow, in this snazzy (read: gaudy) bumper sticker.


Anyone interested in printing out their own copy, I can give you a print-quality file. Just ask.

Posted by James at 12:45 AM

July 16, 2003

Pat Robertson - Push It Real Good


Pat Robertson reacts to Supreme Court Ruling

Pat Robertson "Phoot!"



Pat Robertson has decided that he's lost faith in our system of government. Instead, he's turning to his faith to pray conservatives onto the Supreme Court. This is a reaction to the court striking down that Texas anti-sodomy law, of course. I must have missed the part in the Bible where it says that everything that's a sin also has to be against the law. That sure takes the pressure off the religion. Let the government's police force enforce the laws of your faith. Is it out of style yet to compare Robertson to a theocracy we've recently bombed? Probably showing my age.

We can't rely on morals and personal responsibility to govern our actions, can we? I mean, look at the example our president is setting. AWOL during his National Guard years, claims he's all for personal responsibility in the White House when he's on the campaign trail, and when he's caught in a lie he blameshifts with the best of them. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

I can't wait to see what happens if the economy remains sluggish for the rest of his term. "Oh - the Brittish told us a tax cut was going to solve all our problems. And the CIA didn't warn us enough times that it was ridiculous."

But, back to Robertson.

He apparently can't stand that there are people who think differently than he does, and act differently in the privacy of their own relationships. Of course he doesn't trust them to act morally because he can't accept a common moral ground. It's his ground, or no ground.

Pray all you want, Pat. But I'm thinking you'd better pray that the Democrats don't get their act together. Their futures are starting to look a little bit brighter. If you're interested, here's a link to a related CNN story. Warning, my picture is better.

Posted by James at 2:29 AM | Comments (5)

July 15, 2003

America: Support it or GET OUT

I saw this decal on the window of a big-honkin' van this morning.

America:
Support it or
GET OUT
And I thought to myself "Self, this is why I have a weblog."

So here is my open letter to this person.

Dear person,

I saw your decal, which appeared to be carefully applied and centered on the tinted rear window of your van. You had Massachusetts license plates, so I assume you are a resident. Just thought I'd let you know that here in Massachusetts, we're just about as liberal as they come on the east coast. I guess it's to my credit that the first thing that I thought to say to you was not "Massachusetts: Get Liberal or Get Out" or something similar. I did think of it, about 30 minutes later, but it wasn't the first thing I thought of.

You see, the first thing I thought was that you were talking about people who didn't support the war. You know which one I'm talking about -- the one for which the president is currently having trouble explaining the distortions (read: lies) he uttered to get people all psyched up. Perhaps you even put that decal on right after one of his speeches. I can't know for certain.

But that's what I'm thinking. I can't know for certain why you put that decal on, or for whom it is even intended. It's a trite little slogan, a variation on "America: Love it or leave it." In your careful application of the decal, you didn't take time to define "support."

America is not a perfect nation. My definition of "support" is to try to get rid of misguided leaders and vote in good ones. So, I figure I'm on the supporting side. I have a feeling you'd differ with my definition of support. In case you do, then I'd like to reply to you: "America: Work to make it better and quit telling people to get out. Oh, and take your blinders off while you're at it."

OK, not as catchy, but you get the idea, don't you? I'm planning to stay here and change America. For the better, in my humble opinion. You can thank me later.

Posted by James at 12:16 PM | Comments (7)

The Octodog Cometh

Remember the Japanese weenie art? Now, you can easily replicate this effect without any talent at all!


Introducing Octodog! However, it seems like getting the same effect with a knife would not be tough. I would buy one of these things for the fun of it if it weren't $16 before shipping and handling.

Posted by James at 10:41 AM | Comments (1)

July 14, 2003

Text Messages From AIM

You can send SMS text messages from AIM. This works easily in OS X iChat. Looks like you need to upgrade AIM to use this. Dunno if it works in Trilian yet.

Posted by James at 3:20 PM

Verbal Rein of Terror

This really struck a chord with me. Renana Brooks of "The Nation" writes

People do not support Bush for the power of his ideas, but out of the despair and desperation in their hearts.
The article is called A Nation of Victims and, aside from the above observation, it talks about the language that Bush uses to dominate and urge people into a kind of submissive despair, in which people are content to let him handle things because there is nothing they can do about the situation:
"Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen.... I ask you to live your lives, and hug your children. I know many citizens have fears tonight.... Be calm and resolute, even in the face of a continuing threat."
(Link thanks to Tread Lightly)

Is it any wonder why so many people have such a strong contra-Bush reaction? This verbal onslaught fills our bellies with a bilious soup which refuses to stay down, yet we watch others lap it up readily, and even see whole television networks devoted to serving it 24 hours a day. With fries.

Honest administrations are all alike, but each dishonest administration is dishonest in its own way. observes Michael Kinsey of Slate. He gives some analysis of Bush's brand of lying. It's a brand where whole alternate realities are formed, parallel to the one you and I know. When differences are noted between the two, these differences are seen and treated as inconveniences... esoteric and nit-picky details. But we know them better as lies.

The DNC also has a good streaming video about Bush lies.

Posted by James at 12:35 PM | Comments (1)

July 13, 2003

Duckie Landfall

Eleven years ago, a cargo ship lost a load of rubber duckies in a storm. The cargo was on its way to Seattle when it was liberated, and the rubber toys have been floating in the worlds oceans ever since.

But now hundreds of them are predicted to come ashore along the New England coast.

This has nothing to do with any of the rubber duckie races which apparently take place all over the country.

Posted by James at 10:55 AM | Comments (2)

July 12, 2003

Slurpee

BTW Julie -- you were right about the free Slurpees. It was the 7/11 that was messed up. Either they weren't participating, or we weren't one of the first 1000. At the very least, they should have told us more than "no."

Posted by James at 1:08 PM | Comments (3)

gnushack

Inspired by a comment left on a previous post, I give you:

gnushack

(Apologies to "B52's")

If you see the SourceForge in a site on the net that says
Get this file for the... GNUSHACK! yeah Gnu Shack baby.
I'm headin' down the info highway, lookin' for the code to build today
Lookin' for the code to build today
I got me a box, it's as fast as a Cray and we're headin' on
down To the SourceForge. I got me a Dell , free gigs about 20
So hurry up because it costs no money

The GNU Shack has a bunch of source code that we can build together
GNU Shack baby, GNU Shack bay-bee.
GNU shack, baby, GNU shack. GNU shack, baby, GNU shack
GNU baby, that's where it's at, Ooo GNU baby, that's where it's at.

Sign says.. Woo... Gates is a fool, 'cause CVS rules at the GNU Shack!
Well it's set way out the middle of the net,
Just a server with code and you've gotta get that.

Java on the hard drive
Perl on the server
C in the compiler
Open Source the right way...

The GNU Shack is a crazy little place where we can code together
GNU Shack baby! GNU Shack baby! GNU Shack, that's where it's at!
GNU Shack, that's where it's at!
Codin' and a sharin,
buldin' and downloadin',
fixin' and debuggin'
Cause it's costin' you nothin'
The Code Shack shimmies
The Code Shack shimmies
The Code Shack shimmies when everybody' s Movin' around and around and around!
Everybody's movin', everybody's groovin' baby!
Folks queue up online just to get some.
Everybody's movin ', everybody's groovin' baby
Funky little shack! Funky little shack!

Fire up Linux and shut down XP 'cause you can upgrade for free!
I got me a bug but I can see all the source, so c'mon I'll fix it and charge no money!

The GNU Shack is a little old place where we can code together
GNU Shack baby, GNU Shack bay-bee.
GNU shack, baby, GNU shack
GNU shack, baby, GNU shack
GNU baby, that's where it's at

Click, click, click on the link baby!
(The server's swamped, sugar)
Click, click, click on the link baby!
(I can't load it)
Click, click, click on the link baby!
Click, click!
On the link, baby!
Click, click!
On the link, baby!
Click click!

You're what?... Server's slashdotted!

GNU shack, baby, GNU shack
GNU shack, baby, GNU shack
GNU baby, that's where it's at.


Posted by James at 11:53 AM

Skating to The Border and Back

I urge you to take advantage of that coupon from Borders which I mentioned yesterday, If you have books you want to buy. It's good at Waldenbooks, too, but if you use it at Borders the sale prices apply to discounted items as well as regularly priced items. So the deal is better at Borders.

I ended up buying:

All the above (except for the pocket reference) were already 30% off publisher list price. In addition, Mattie got a book she could read, and we picked up The Bad Beginning: Book the First by Lemony Snicket for Kit (OK -- and for me).

I love the description on the book itself:

Dear Reader,

I'm sorry to say that the book you are holding in your hands is extremely unpleasant. It tells an unhappy tale about three very unlucky children. Even though they are charming and clever, the Baudelaire siblings lead lives filled with misery and woe. From the very first page of this book when the children are at the beach and receive terrible news, continuing on through the entire story, disaster lurks at their heels. One might say they are magnets for misfortune.

In this short book alone, the three youngsters encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune, and cold porridge for breakfast.

It is my sad duty to write down these unpleasant tales, but there is nothing stopping you from putting this book down at once and reading something happy, if you prefer that sort of thing.

With all due respect,
Lemony Snicket

I saved quite a bit of money. Spent some too. Now I have some reading to do.

I debated over buying a greek philosophy book. I'd like to spend some time studying more philosophy, to get a better grounding. However, I'm afraid my life is paced in such a way that time for reflection has been marginalized. Technical books help with my programming, career-advancing and WWW-based hobby. As for slightly more recreational books, my pile of those is already too high. Both fiction and nonfiction lists are getting long and I'm just not devoting the time I used to to reading. The books are fascinating, but I just don't find myself in the same quiet situations were I can curl up and read. At 1 in the morning, somehow I can work on the computer or watch a DVD, but sit down with a book and I'm asleep in 10 minutes.

Here's a partial list of the great books I have either begun to read already, or are waiting to be begun as soon as I finish others:
Mindfulness In Plain English (Venerable Henepola Gunaratana), Bad News (Donald Westlake), Put A Lid On It (also by Westlake), Shadow Puppets (last in the Ender's Game series) A bunch of Peter David Star Trek novels that are plain fun, a couple of books lent by friends, The Animator's Survival Kit (an excellent guide to animating figures!), The Borderlands of Science: Where Sense Meets Nonsense (Michael Shermer), Hold 'Em For Advanced Players (Sklansky)... and that's just a few of the titles in my backlog.

While shopping for books today, I had Kit looking for the JavaScript Pocket Reference. She recommended the "For Dummies" JavaScript book. I told her I was already enough of a dummy. "Maybe you'd rather have the one for Idiots, then." she suggested.

I think it was a decent day for the girls. We took them skating. I alternately dragged poor Kit around the rink and Mattie. Mattie's so light that when she fell I was able to keep her more or less on her feet by holding on to her hand tightly. Kit didn't tend to fall, but caught on early that she didn't have to move her legs much if she let Dad do all the work. It was a lot of fun until my feet got seriously tired.

"Bugs!" -- the IMAX movie, was a treat. Amazing, seeing these insects eat up close and personal.

Julie came over and we had Cambodian food. I think it was Cambodian. Some of it may have been Vietnamese. I'm not experienced enough to know the difference. Afterward we got a live performance of a play written, produced, and acted by our girls. Then "The Royal Tenenbaums" The bizarre humor of this film made it enjoyable. The "pro" recommendations I got on this film were right. I did have a couple of folks tell me they did not like this film, and I figure it was just because it hit them wrong. You have to appreciate the comedy that falls out naturally from a dysfunctional family story.

ZZZZzzzz -- time to catch some shut-eye.

Posted by James at 2:22 AM | Comments (2)

July 11, 2003

Free-For-All

It's off to do some roller-skating today, and then to see the IMAX movie "Bugs!" in 3D.

No time for a substantive post I'm running late. You guys post anything interesting you find in the comments section, 'k?

Oh, here's a 20% off coupon for Borders. I'll be there later today. Enjoy!

Posted by James at 10:26 AM

July 10, 2003

Iraq weapons 'unlikely to be found'

BBC NEWS reports that the Brit govenment now believes Iraq weapons are 'unlikely to be found'

In other news, we're still hot on the trail of the Easter Bunny and OJ is getting ever closer to finding the real killers.

But, for real: U.S. Gave Inaccurate Iraq Picture, Ex-Intel Official.

Posted by James at 10:27 AM | Comments (3)

Manual Thoughts

I was looking at a Javascript reference on my desk and it occurred to me that books can evoke feelings. An effect occurs just when you look at them.

Most fiction and nonfiction books evoke a feeling of anticipation before they are read, and then afterward (depending on how good the book was) a fond feeling of remembrance.

But computer manuals are different. Fairly new manuals (and I'm mostly talking about language tutorials and technology references) evoke a feeling of excitement which is tied to all the possibilities of what can be done with them. Even after they have been read, just looking at such a manual's cover can sometimes get your brain going. However, once the manual becomes obsolete, looking at the book is almost like looking at a hole where a book used to be. I had a bunch of really old Excel manuals, for example, and I couldn't believe how easy they were to dispose of. I have the same "nothing" feeling when I look at an ancient copy of "Java In A Nutshell" that has long since passed into uselessness.

No other books that I have can go from feeling so valuable to being nonentities so quickly.

Posted by James at 9:57 AM | Comments (1)

July 9, 2003

Hot Diggity

Takeru Kobayashi once again easily won the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog eating contest. His previous record of 50.5 dogs in 12 minutes still stands. I wouldn't have posted about this, but I had to get this photo in here:

The look on the big guy's face seems to say "Heck, I could eat you. How come you can eat so many more hot dogs than I can?"

Posted by James at 1:50 PM | Comments (3)

Now You're Cooking

Got a bunch of ingredients in the fridge but don't know what to make? Google can help you cook them.

GooCookin is a Google tool which searches popular recipe sites for you. Just list the ingredients you have and let Google tell you what's for dinner.

There are other decent Google tools on this same site. Some of them require a key (or they'll work automatically using the author's key). Among them is a nifty Yellow Pages search.

Posted by James at 12:28 PM

Chicken-Man

My daughter ran into the office this morning and gave me a big hug, telling me that she'd had a bad dream.

"What happened?" I asked."You were a chicken and you were for dinner."

Yeah - that's a bummer. Reminds me of an MST3K episode.

Uh, Joel, if you don't mind, I'm cooking here! I'm beginning to smell delicious...

Posted by James at 8:29 AM | Comments (1)

Fries With That Mastectomy?

Considering how many times they get my order wrong in the drive-through I'd have to say I'm completely against drive-through medical procedures.

Posted by James at 8:16 AM

July 8, 2003

Stonehenge is Porn

Okay, not really porn. But it made a good headline.

Reuters reports that Stonehenge Depicts Female Genitalia .

Coworker Ed says (echoing my thoughts) that he always figured it was some sort of ancient calendar. I, too, thought that was the prevailing theory. Perhaps it is a calendar... it's just the type of calendar that you find hanging in the back room of a mechanic's garage.

Posted by James at 5:59 PM

Britney, In the News

The twins from Iran. Terrorism. The economy. Lies about plutonium. And Britney.

This just in: No one looks good with their mouth wide open.

[Bonus! Ever wonder whether celebrity makeup artists work hard to earn their money? Wonder no more.]

Posted by James at 4:48 PM | Comments (3)

Iraq Unranium Claim Was BS

The Bush administration acknowledged for the first time yesterday that President Bush should not have alleged in his State of the Union address in January that Iraq had sought to buy uranium in Africa to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program.
From the Washington Post.

It's being referred to as a "bald claim." Our own intelligence services had perviously debunked it. Yet it sounded good in the speech.

Posted by James at 3:22 PM | Comments (1)

Bird Of The Week

I had some problems with their website, but it's still really cool. Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Bird of the Week has a new bird every week, with sounds from the Macaulay library of natural sounds.

Posted by James at 10:26 AM | Comments (1)

July 7, 2003

Not Making a Killing

The New York Times ran a story today about the penalty phase of a murder trial in which it was quite clear that the defendant was guilty of a heinous crime. The jurors all professed a belief in the death penalty, some going so far as to say that it wasn't used enough.

But when it came down to the wire, even having seen videotape footage of this senseless killing, all 12 finally voted against the death penalty. Why? Read this fascinating story for yourself.

Personally, I am against the state killing people. Yesterday, I had to explain to my amazed 6 year old daughter that the government sometimes kills its citizens. My answer to her not unexpected "why" was probably not very good. My wife explained to her that most other civilized countries did not follow this practice.

And now our governor, Mitt Romney, would like to have the death penalty here in MA. There is opposition, of course.

Let's look at some quotes from the NYT story:

The trial also had an unexpected effect on Gill, the young prosecutor. ''I was surprised by the feelings of sympathy I had for Jeremy,'' he told me. ''That caught me off guard. You don't learn in law school how to deal with the penalty phase. Nothing prepares you for that.'' I asked Gill whether he thought Gross deserved to die. He reclined in his chair and pondered the question for a minute or two. ''Yes,'' he said. Then he added, ''But I'm not dissatisfied with the jury's decision.''
I suppose that's the way I feel, in a way. Some people probably deserve to die, but I don't feel that the state ought to kill them. (That's not what this prosecutor is saying, but his words helped me to frame my feelings.)
A juror named Darlene Sue (she requested that her last name not be used), who had read the Bible every night searching for answers, believed Gross should die. She told her fellow jurors that over the course of the trial she'd come to believe that the Old Testament's notion of an eye for an eye made sense, and she read a short passage from the Bible she had with her. ''He wasn't so scarred by his childhood that he didn't know right from wrong,'' she told me. ''I remember his friends who he was living with in the trailer, saying that he talked them into staying in school. That told me he knew what he was doing. ''

The other juror who initially voted for death also quoted from the Bible, about not sitting in judgment of others. She soon switched her vote.

We sometimes pick and choose from our belief systems to justify our decisions. In the end isn't it what is in our hearts that guides us? These jurors were saying something about what was in their hearts after they heard the case of the defense.

The NYT story is 12 pages long, but well-worth the read. I am opposed to the death penalty, but the story impresses upon me how juries can really work. People are put in the actual position of deciding to kill this individual -- people who support the law that allows the retribution of killing, but suddenly talk is no longer cheap.

Something valuable came out of this trial; it was a real learning experience for the jurors. I wonder if they can communicate the lesson they learned to others. It sounds like they had some difficulty discussing the subject with their families and coworkers, many of whom disagreed with their decision.

You can look at this article and see it as support for the death penalty. The jury system works, you might conclude. And it's true in this case. However, not every defendant is going to have competent representation. I see it as 12 people reexamining what was previously a very facile support for a bad law. The crime was brutal, but the state does not have to be.

Posted by James at 5:35 PM | Comments (3)

Hot, Hot, Hot

No, not the weather. Hot Tamales. I 'm addicted. Eating a half-pound box of the little red cinnamon candies is getting easier and easier.

I don't know why I like them so much. I don't like other cinnamon candies, particularly (Red Hots, Atomic Fireballs, Cinnamon Altoids). Perhaps it's the Swedish Fish factor. They're gummy, but not as gummy as a gummi worm. They're small, and easy to eat one after another.

Their website is silly (warning, the HOT TAMALES website uses flash and is kinda loud. Not Work Safe) and all NASCAR-infested. The tamales themselves are their best selling point. No NASCAR needed. Why does everything need a NASCAR tie-in these days?

Maggie tells me she likes Good n' Plenty, but I've never seen her buy or eat those things, so far as I can remember. In fact, I don't remember the last time I saw anyone buy or eat a Good n' Plenty. Who are the Good n' Plenty customers? Come out of the woodwork and into the light! Reveal yourselves. Oy - I'm going to bed now.

Posted by James at 5:26 AM | Comments (4)

July 6, 2003

Robot Phonebook

Here's a neat tip that may get people to run AOL Instant Messenger.

AOL runs a bot on their service that will take commands and give you phone numbers. Just add "AOLYellowPages" to your buddy list. Whenever you want to look up a listing, just send the name as an instant message. You can also send "help" to ask for instructions on what the options are.

The bot also provides links to maps, and address information. This service works with any AOL Instant Message-compatible program (I've tried it on Trillian and MacOS Chat). Nifty!

Posted by James at 2:37 PM | Comments (1)

July 5, 2003

Bad Domain

Let's say you want to start a mobile phone "ringtones" website, and you want to stress in your name that the site distributes ringtones based on hit songs. Ringtones and hits... you choose the obvious domain name and -- lo and behold -- it's not taken! So you register it...

Ringtoneshits.com

Found in the World Wide Worlds newsletter.

They also mentioned an Italian battery company that specializes in power generation. Power Generation... "PowerGen" but you have to let people know it's italian. "powergen" + "italia"?

Posted by James at 12:40 PM | Comments (3)

July 4, 2003

Fotolog.net

I've started my own Fotolog at Fotolog.net: "Mental Pictures" Thanks to curious frog for the link.

Posted by James at 12:45 PM

Delicious Grilled Chicken

About.com has a page on Grilling Chicken Breasts which describes how to pound them flat and brine them for perfect grilled chicken breasts.

If you follow these instructions and, additionally, use wood chips to smoke the breasts on the grill, you'll have a delicious meal. The breasts (once flattened) make great sandwich meat.

(This recipe has a different brine, which appears to be stronger)

Posted by James at 8:28 AM

Sydney Travelogue

In June of 1999 I visited Sydney for just over a week. I kept a travelogue most of the weay through the trip (at the end I got too busy trying to cram everything I wanted to do in). I have never put this log up in electronic form before. I am beginning to type up entries. For the interested, Here is entry 1, now a part of this blog:

June 16, 1999
Sydney Trip: LAX Terminal

More to come as time permits me to type them up. The first entry is mainly me being very tired in LA. A slow start to a great trip.

Posted by James at 2:18 AM

July 3, 2003

Maple Switch

Apple switch ads are funny. This parody, of a guy who "switched" from the USA to Canada is funnier.

Posted by James at 11:40 AM

Surrounded

I was in the supermarket again yesterday and something new happened in the checkout. I was in the "self-checkout" lane, which means I have to scan the stuff myself and bag it -- often the quicker option if you only had a few items, as I did. A man and his wife got into line behind me, and immediately the man pushed past me to stand at the end of the checkout (near the bagging area). He was apparently waiting to bag his order, for when his wife came through, but he kept hovering around me and my items, which bugged me.

I like my personal space. I don't think it's entirely unreasonable to expect to have a bit of space to yourself while I'm trying to complete this transaction. An "excuse me" would have been nice as he squirmed by. And his hovering wouldn't have bothered me near as much if he and his wife not suddenly having a conversation with each other over me, yelling since I kept getting in the way. Twice, I thought this lady was talking to me -- it was distracting.

In the past, I would have just been uncomfortable in this situation -- a result of my hermit-like antisocial tendencies. But I'm starting to realize that I can shed my shyness, interact with people, try to make light of the situation and feel better about the whole thing.

So I meandered down to the bagging area and said to the guy "Hey, you're just standing around. I thought you were going to bag my order." This is one of those cases where the joke didn't go over too well. I tried to smile a friendly smile to show that I was, in fact, joking, and that I was harmless. He mumbled something like "Oh, uh, no" to me.

At that point, the checkout lane robot voice for some reason decided that I had requested assistance and was calling over the manager. Sensing that this would cause a delay, the man's wife switched to another lane and called her husband to her heel.

Hey, life is improv. The audience sometimes wants its money back.

By the way, when I talk to people, I often get folks mumbling back at me. Is that a bad sign?

Posted by James at 11:24 AM | Comments (6)

Sissyfight 2000

For those aching to relive the days in the schoolyard comes Sissyfight 2000, a Flash game where you pit yourself against other playground denizens in an attempt to preserve your status. You can attack other players, tattle, lick your lollypop, or cower. The idea is to form alliances so that your status is protected. It's bizarre, and I didn't get too far with it because people kept asking me "a/s/l" (age/sex/location) and I got annoyed.

Posted by James at 9:25 AM

July 2, 2003

Your Friends, The Integers

Chuck submitted some integer sequences to the On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences .

For those unfamiliar with the encyclopedia, it is a catalog of integer sequences that can be generated by a variety of methods. Famous integer sequences include the Fibonacci sequence and the primes.

Chuck's sequences are these: A085445, A085446, A085444.

The encyclopedia can be searched for integer sequences, which makes it useful sometimes for solving problems and puzzles.

Posted by James at 12:21 PM | Comments (3)

Cell-Phone Drivers

Who are the cell phone drivers in your neighborhood? A field guide.


Dialing Guy

You wonder why that SUV is weaving and as you pull alongside, you see Dialing Guy. He's got the phone against the steering wheel and he's hunting and pecking on the buttons. He thinks that looking at the phone on his steering wheel is the same thing as looking at the road.

Confused Woman

I don't know what this woman's conversation is about, but she has the strangest expression on her face. A cross between "What is that awful smell" and "Get the hanky, I'm about to sneeze" her countenance conveys that she is utterly lost in a hostile and bewildering world where people call you up in the middle of a peaceful drive to explain differential equations, quote James Joyce, and ask you what the capital of Bali* is.

Oblivious Lass

You can see her, but she doesn't see you. The glazed look in her eye, coupled with the small device pressed to her ear spell trouble for you if you're anywhere within her car's fuel tank blast radius. Get away quickly, if you can.

Angry Man

Identified by his red face and wild gesticulations, Angry Man will pound the steering wheel one moment and cut you off the next. The target of his rage is safely situated miles away (probably in a concrete-reinforced bunker). Through the magic of telecommunications, you are now the nearest available focal point for his cathartic anti-personal behavior.

Slow-Driving Lady

Like the drunk driver who carefully fights to stay on the road yard by yard, Slow-Driving Lady knows her limitations and will not exceed 1/3 of the speed limit. However, as she is a close relative of Oblivious Lass, she may sail through stop signs and traffic lights in the belief that her slow speed offers magical protection against harm.

Bored Dude

Bored Dude can't keep his mind on his conversation, it's so boring. But his mind isn't on his driving, either. Where is it? The answer to that question is unknown, but Bored Dude can't be bothered. When he cuts you off, it's not out of spite -- he's just trying to make both your days more exciting. And, if he happens to be killed in a collision, that just releases him from this boring existence.

Laughing Fellow

You're stuck in traffic. You're miserable. Everybody around you is miserable. Except for one man. Laughing Fellow is laughing heartily, passing the time listening to a stand-up routine, some improv, or A Midsummer Night's Dream. Or possibly some Oscar Wilde -- we're not completely sure. But whatever it is, it irks the heck out of you, especially because he is in a quicker-moving lane! On the rare occasion he is not in the quicker-moving lane, he quickly juts out into yours, right in front of you. With a hearty guffaw, he waves "thank you." At least he's polite.

Ballsy Lad

Ballsy Lad would probably be driving like this even if he wasn't on the phone. He's got one hand at the top of the steering wheel, one hand on his phone, and is leaning forward, into the dashboard. Why? Because as he runs the red light he imagines that leaning forward gets him over the line sooner, and somehow more legally. He has blinders on, because if he can't see you he doesn't have to acknowledge your existence.

The Immovable Object

This is, perhaps, the least dangerous of the crew. Man or woman, Immovable Object has made a sincere attempt to get out of the way to make or take a phone call. However, on occasion, immovable object is situated in such a way as to cause more trouble than it solves. People are either backed up trying to get past immovable object (rubbernecking as they go by out of curiosity and concern) or they are swerving into another traffic lane. Remember, the river flows around the immovable object, not through it.

BONUS:
Workin' Stiff

Workin' Stiff is an unabashed cell-phone user and moderately slow driver. He knows he's using the cell phone, knows he's impaired, but doesn't care because he's got an excuse. He's working. It's his job. And for that, it's worth putting his and your life in danger. Deal with it! The look on hs face says it all: at least I'm important enough that I have to be on the phone while I'm driving. You peon!

(* It's Denpasar)

Posted by James at 10:11 AM | Comments (3)

July 1, 2003

Big Matrix

Saw "The Matrix Reloaded" in IMAX last night at the Feinstein IMAX in Providence.

"The Matrix Reloaded" in IMAX involves turning your head a lit to see someone flying from one end of the screen to the other. Also, you can see more details in the actors' skin than you probably wanted to.

But the sound system is pretty impressive.

Posted by James at 11:00 AM