September 30, 2003

Photo Is Worth 1,000 Lies

A fellow who does professional photo retouching has put some before/after pictures on his homepage. This stresses just how little of what you see in magazines is real. This goes along with a previous post on celebrities without makeup.

Posted by James at 12:27 PM

Blinders Compound Blunders

In the comments section of a previous post, Patti M. asks:

Do the people running the White House not read the news? You'd have to be living in a news-free zone not to know about the Dr. David Kelly case in England.
Let's let the president's words speak for themselves:Bush Bites
As for newspapers, Mr. Bush said, "I glance at the headlines" but "rarely read the stories." The people who brief him on current events encounter many of the newsmakers personally, he said, and in any case "probably read the news themselves."
So there you have it. Bush doesn't read the news but he thinks there's a good chance his advisors might.

The question is, is this just a silly statement (prevarication, lie, whatever) intended as a dig against the media, or is it true that our president likes to engineer his own ignorance of current events, restricting himself to the filter of his advisors? In the case of the former, is lying is so comfortable for Bush that he doesn't mind tossing off a little falsehood or two in an interview, just for fun? In the case of the latter, this is the image that helped sink Bush senior, except this time it's for real.

[Quote from NYT opinion piece, free registration may be required]

Posted by James at 11:02 AM | Comments (6)

MTV Matrix

This parody of the Matrix Reloaded aired on the MTV Movie Awards. It "stars" Sean William Scott and Justin Timberlake. It's long, but the reward at the end is Will Ferrell as the too-calm jargon-spouting Architect of the Matrix. Requires Windows Media Player.

Posted by James at 8:49 AM | Comments (1)

September 29, 2003

Bush Comments?

With all that's going on, you may be wondering why I haven't added any Bush comments here in a few days. Things are well-covered elsewhere at the moment. Take your pick: Absit Invidia, Tread Lightly,

You can read the transcript of Tim Russert and Condi Rice:

MR. RUSSERT: Ambassador Joe Wilson was sent over to Niger by the CIA to look into this whole matter of selling uranium to Iraq. He came back with a report which was given to the administration. Then there was an article by columnist Robert Novak which cited two administration sources and identified Ambassador Wilson’s wife by name. She was an undercover agent at the CIA. There is now an investigation. The CIA has requested the Justice Department to look into this. It’s a crime to identify an undercover agent. And in this article in today’s Washington Post, a senior administration official said that White House officials called six reporters to identify, to out, if you will, Joe Wilson’s wife. What can you tell us about that?
DR. RICE: Tim, I know nothing about any such calls, and I do know that the president of the United States would not expect his White House to behave in that way. It’s my understanding that when a question like this is raised before the agency, that they refer it as a matter of course, a matter of routine to the Justice Department. The Justice Department will now take appropriate action, whatever that is, and that will be up to the Justice Department to determine what that action is.
MR. RUSSERT: What will the president do? Will he bring people in and ask them what they did?
DR. RICE: I think it’s best since it’s in the hands of the Justice Department to let it remain there.
Well, you just don't have to look far. I have no organized comments yet, except to say I have people who supported Bush telling me he's going to lose in 2004... people I respect. It gladdens the heart. Maybe it's time for the Republicans to begin considering running someone against Bush in the primaries.

Posted by James at 3:59 PM | Comments (5)

Ongoing Renovation

The kitchen renovation has spread beyond the kitchen. I've now named it "Ongoing Renovation." Who knows what will happen next. In this picture you can see that we've begun to tear down a wall. It was pretty intense, and so was trying to clean up all that horsehair plaster dust. Cough!

We bought a table for the kitchen, but it was unfinished. It's currently being given a nice, deep finish. Then will have to be assembled. Check out Ongoing Renovation Part 8 to get your first glimpse of the view from the entrance to the house.

Posted by James at 10:35 AM | Comments (2)

September 27, 2003

More Faces

Mike at curiousfrog mentioned that he still saw faces in the Old Man of New Hampshire, even though the original has fallen apart. He's absolutely right.

I think I was having trouble seeing the same one he was seeing, but it's tough to keep a good old rock man down. I see at least 3 faces (and pieces of a lot more) when I look at the photo you see here. I've tried to highlight them as best as I can.

Click the thumbnail for the full image.

The phenomenon that practically forces us to see these faces is also respinsible for the face on mars. The name of that phenomenon is pareidolia.

Posted by James at 9:09 PM | Comments (6)

September 26, 2003

More Conservatives Joining ACLU

As they see the possibility of the government taking liberties, overstepping its bounds, and eroding the freedoms we enjoy, people are signing up to the ACLU in large numbers. Many of those folks are conservatives, who are just as scared as many liberals.

As a result, the ACLU is looking to reach out to conservatives on their common ground, recognizing a threat to what we all believe in.

Shortly after the World Trade Center collapsed, Congress enacted the PATRIOT Act, expanding the FBI's wiretapping and search powers. Another government initiative, CAPPS II, would use databases to scrutinize every airline passenger and assign that person a threat level of red, yellow or green.

A Pentagon program called Total Information Awareness, which is now on hold, would monitor individuals' credit card purchases, bank records and so on in the hunt for terrorists.

The ACLU has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with conservatives to battle each of these proposals.

"On the right and left - for different reasons and coming from different places - there is concern about the government listening to everyone's phone conversations and reading people's mail," said David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union. "And when you share those kinds of concerns with other people, you damn sure better get together with them."

An acquaintance of mine on EAForums has a constant beef with the ACLU. Her constant railing against the organization has made me realize the good they do. While I've always watched the ACLU, I'd never been motivated to join. Until now. Thanks, Ms. for making this possible. If you're reading this, you know who you are. And the ACLU thanks you, too, for keeping them on my radar screen so frequently.

You can't buy that kind of advertising. I'm now a card-carrying, contributing member.

If you're worried about this administration and what it's doing, I urge you to consider the ACLU.

Posted by James at 1:09 PM | Comments (2)

Robert Palmer Dies

Addicted to Love. Bang a Gong. Some Like it Hot. Simply Irresistible. Brit 80's pop figure Robert Palmer dies of a heart attack in Paris. Its easier to appreciate him when you realize you can't get the songs out of your head.

Posted by James at 12:22 PM

Magnum Opus?

Opus is back. Berkeley Breathed is back. I may have to start buying newspapers again.

Munk said what she has seen of "Opus" makes it "totally worth" dropping two comics to create space for Breathed's new strip. "We purchased it as soon as we found out it was available," she said. "I think it will be as popular as 'Bloom County.'"


Breathed won a 1987 Pulitzer Prize for "Bloom County," which ran in nearly 1,300 papers before ending in 1989. He also did the Sunday "Outland" from 1989 to 1995, has created a number of children's books, and is working on a film starring Opus.

Posted by James at 10:09 AM | Comments (3)

Freaky Face

This freaky animated, interactive face wigged me out. It's staring at me! ACK! Now why is it sneering???

Posted by James at 10:05 AM | Comments (1)

Design Fiddlin'

I've changed the fonts and some colors, thanks to the bookmarklets in the last post. It far from the redesign I have half-planned, but a little more visually interesting. Subtle, yet tasteless. I mean timeless. It seems to me that pretty much every blog I visit is better designed than mine. Which, I guess, makes sense sicne I spend minimal time on site design.

The weekend is nearly upon us. Tonight we begin tearing down a large wall in the house. This weekend might be time for another renovation update. Look for it at your local Aces Full of Links later this month.

Posted by James at 9:49 AM | Comments (3)

September 25, 2003

Bookmarklets for Web Design

These bookmarklets are really helpful for designing CSS layouts. The author has many other bookmarklets which perform such varied functions for you as opening every link on a page, changing all the colors on a page, etc. (found via Tread Lightly)

Posted by James at 11:28 PM | Comments (1)

Squirrel Nuts

On MetaFilter today, a post about Squirrels. Who knew there were such huge squirrel resources on the web. And I thought I liked the furry little monsters.

Posted by James at 9:55 AM | Comments (2)

The Towers Are The Players

This crazy Gollum rap will mess you up good. (uses Flash, link via Milk and Cookies)

Posted by James at 9:51 AM

September 24, 2003

It's Easy

If you've dismissed "Bowling For Columbine" or Michael Moore based on a refutation you've read or seen, maybe you feel there is no need to revisit the matter. Maybe you just don't care about Moore. Maybe it makes a different to you where the criticism is coming from, maybe it doesn't. Likely, you would care whether or not his critics were distorting their criticism.

From the number of times I've mentioned him on the blog (looks like it's going to be twice today) you'd think I am his biggest fan. In reality, I found his show hit and miss, but the hits were worth sitting through the misses.

I guess i was entertained and informed enough back then that I have reacted badly to the attacks on Moore. Perhaps it has even made me more of a fan.

In any case, Moore has decided to create a place to refute his detractors.

The one that folks have repeatedly confronted me with when I mention the film is the gun scene. Detractors make a big deal out of the fact that it was filmed at different times to make it look like he just walked into the bank, opened an account and walked out with the gun.

Well, he does make it look like that. Mostly because that is the way it happened.

When you see me going in to the bank and walking out with my new gun in "Bowling for Columbine" – that is exactly as it happened. Nothing was done out of the ordinary other than to phone ahead and ask permission to let me bring a camera in to film me opening up my account. I walked into that bank in northern Michigan for the first time ever on that day in June 2001, and, with cameras rolling, gave the bank teller $1,000 – and opened up a 20-year CD account. After you see me filling out the required federal forms ("How do you spell Caucasian?") – which I am filling out here for the first time – the bank manager faxed it to the bank's main office for them to do the background check. The bank is a licensed federal arms dealer and thus can have guns on the premises and do the instant background checks (the ATF's Federal Firearms database—which includes all federally approved gun dealers—lists North Country Bank with Federal Firearms License #4-38-153-01-5C-39922).

Within 10 minutes, the "OK" came through from the firearms background check agency and, 5 minutes later, just as you see it in the film, they handed me a Weatherby Mark V Magnum rifle (If you'd like to see the outtakes, click here).

Why have people come to the conclusion that this was "staged." Because an NRA stooge posing as an independant investigator said it was staged. If you look at the outtakes, it's pretty clear that the only thing staged about it was that he asked permission to have the camera in the bank.

If you, reader, are an opponent of Moore's politics (and even we "fans" don't agree with everything he says) tactics like this are not going to work long term. A reign of error speaks for itself. But when the criticisms are fabricated, one has to figure that Moore was on to something, and perhaps hitting a little too close to the bone for some folks. That's the conclusion I have reached.
(link via Boing Boing)

Posted by James at 8:37 PM | Comments (1)

Dean Sox

Over at Absit Invidia and A Cry For Help, my regional fellow bloggers are talking about Dean and the Red Sox.

As someone who doesn't follow sports closely, I still wonder about the mystery of the Red Sox lure on New Englanders. You see, I still grew up watching the Sox with my dad on TV, hearing the games on the radio while we were out in the yard, and learning to hate the Yankees.

New Englanders like to argue. But we can all agree: we hate the Yankees. I am no different. When the Sox are playing the Yankees, I am suddenly interested. It's irresistable. And, I can't help but get a real boost when the Sox win. For those of you who know me as a person who generally avoids spectator sports, this may be a surprise. Hey, I don't understand it, but there is a Red Sox fan inside of me, struggling to get out. It's in the blood.

I was in Cranston last weekend and turned down a wrong street. As I came around the corner I was faced with a huge "Yankees" flag on one of the houses. I remarked to my wife "They must value freedom of speech and diversity here in Rhode Island. I can't imagine you'd get away with that in Mass."

That Dean understands the appeal of being a Sox fan is compelling. Does he feel the pain that runs deep in the faces of the Red Sox nation? Who knows, but he is reasonably convincing. Kerry's response was weak. You don't challenge a guy on his loyalty to the Sox. It's unspoken. Once you've converted, you're due sympathy and commiseration, not accusation. C'mon, Kerry. There's room for more than one Sox fan in the race. And it's pretty low to accuse someone of being a Yankee's fan. He said he was a Sox fan. And, as Sean Connery says in "The Untouchables" (in a different context):

Who would claim to be that, who was not? Hmm?
(Bonus - a Red Sox joke from a while back)

Posted by James at 4:40 PM | Comments (7)

Moore at UMD

Michael Moore is coming to UMass Dartmouth to talk. Of course, I'll be there.

I wonder why we don't see Rush Limbaugh out in uncontrolled venues like universities. Oh, wait, I know why. He can't screen calls or hang up on people there. I think having Limbaugh to the university to talk would be a laugh riot, but I won't hold my breath.

I am really interested to see Moore in person, and wonder if he will address questions. One thing I admire about him is that he not only stands up for what he believs in; he doesn't shrink away and disappear under the scathing blasts of criticism he's faced after the Nader campaign and after his recent comments when receiving an award for "Bowling for Columbine."

I've previously dealt with how Moore is not the Limbaugh of the left. Here's another example. When was the last time Limbaugh decided the Republicans were on the wrong track and got behind a non-Republican candidate for office, drawing the ire of Republicans everywhere? Don't hold your breath -- it's not going to happen. Moore's interest rests on the strength of his ideas, his ability to make people think, even if they disagree with him, which they often do. that's why he can survive pissing off the left and the right. Thoughtful people are going to come back for more, and they do.

On the occasions I have listened to Limbaugh, he didn't make me think. And that has nothing to do with Limbaugh's politics -- I find many conservatives very though provoking and worth a listen. Limbaugh is just a dull windbag, doling out vituperation. If he started blasting Bush the way he leaned into Clinton he'd lose his listener base faster than you can say "Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot."

Folks would like to cast Moore that way to dismiss him, but the evidence shows otherwise.

If you don't agree about Rush, here is the evidence showing how frightened he is that he might be perceived as slipping from his rightist demagoguery:


LIMBAUGH: Rush Limbaugh was invited to be a panelist on This Week With David Brinkley on April 16--filling in for Sam Donaldson. While Donaldson is in no sense a left-winger, he sometimes argues with George Will. In Donaldson's absence, Brinkley, Will, Cokie Roberts and Limbaugh basically agreed about almost everything: tax cuts, the Voting Rights Act, Clinton's comments on Vietnam. But some debate was provided--Limbaugh vs. Limbaugh--as the "truth detector" tripped over himself to agree with Will. Here's Limbaugh on the question of whether Gen. Colin Powell was in or out of the presidential race:

"Well, I think Powell's definitely in. I don't think there's any real question about it. I think he's playing it very--very coyly, in fact. He's taking advantage of the third party candidate opportunity."

VS. LIMBAUGH: Here's Limbaugh a few minutes later, after Will said, "I disagree with Rush":

"Now, I'm not suggesting that he will run. I'm saying he's--he's-- the stories last week that he's pulled himself out are not true and that he is keeping himself in a situation where the option remain open, for whatever reason. I don't--I don't see him running, either."

You'll find that bit on FAIR's website here, along with other great Rush info.

If I were to hear Moore stumbling all over himself that way, you can bet I wouldn't be nearly as interested in seeing him talk.

Posted by James at 2:46 PM | Comments (2)

Definitely Not Isabel

Snopes has dug a little and verified that the dubious weather photo (which I posted among some Isabel photos) is certainly not Isabel.

Posted by James at 2:07 PM | Comments (2)

Stealth Disco (and bonus)

When ad agency folk are stressed, they do strange things. The proof? Stealth Disco! (it's a video, with music. Link Via Patti)

And, as a bonus, check out Eskimo Bob. He eats raw fish. Some of the best episodes are "WE FOUND A STICK," "ESKIMO BOB VS THE YETI," and "OH NO, A BUG!"

Posted by James at 9:20 AM

September 23, 2003

Conservatives Against Bush

Say it with me now: Bush is only conservative when it comes to his use of honest communication. Thus: Conservatives Against Bush

But, perhaps it should be Conservatives Against Republicans. Recently I read that Republican state governments are outspending Democrat-controlled ones*. This was pointed out in "Come On, Big Spender" in a Time Magazine article which appears to not be available online. Andrew Sullivan of "The Daily Dish" is the author.

Combine that with this graphic of the states which are sucking off the most federal dollars. (via Prof. Pollkatz) Where have I seen those states before? Oh yeah - they're the Bush's celebrated red states. For whatever reason, they're not only spending their own money, but spending federal money like mad. The answer is clear - Republicans in power have become a party of pork.

[* Clarification: The Republican-controlled states increased their spending at a greater rate than the Democratic-controlled ones]

Posted by James at 10:08 AM | Comments (2)

Clark-Bash in Full Swing

I have to agree with Northstar over at The People's Republic of Seabrook. Someone must be afraid of Clark if this is what they consider to be a scandal. Although, I think a more likely next Clark story will be something like "Mysterious Stranger Notes: 'General Sounds Like Genitals'"

I haven't declared myself as a Clark-supporter. I actually think of him as better veep-material. But it is good to see alternatives. A number of my conservative acquaintances and friends who still support Bush are happy to see what they consider to be unelectable folk throwing their hat into the rung to battle it out in the primaries. They want to see liberal blood on the mat. They think the fight will weaken the Democratic candidate. I think they're wrong, and that it will strengthen the winner.

If more opponents is good for vistory, then Gray Davis has it made.

Posted by James at 9:29 AM

Arfenhouse!!! 2 - The Movie

What's long, makes no sense, is vaguely funny, is not work safe, uses Flash, and makes you think that if you made your own flash animation, you could probably get a lot of people to watch it? That'd be Arfenhouse 2. Watch at your own risk.

Posted by James at 4:36 AM | Comments (4)


We were forced to move our office today. It was a pretty big effort, mainly because of all the accumulated junk there. Unfortunately, after the move, my computer failed to work. The disk is, once again, pooched. I think that thing fails every couple of months or so just because it needs attention.

Some students in the data-gathering portion of our project are moving into the upstairs area we are vacating. They're working for one of our distinguished and fun-loving math professors. To keep them all from getting too cocky about their new acquisition, we left behind this subtle warning (seen on my Fotolog).

And, just in case you're interested, "avast" means "to stop or desist." That's your pirate word of the week.

Posted by James at 12:49 AM

September 21, 2003

Marketing Make or Break

Some products look like a good idea, but they just don't seem like they're going to make it without a huge marketing effort. Take, for example, the Sportlens.

Looks like a halfway decent idea. Protects the eyes (did you know UV can cause cataracts later in life?). Protects your face from UV. No optical distortion. The shape reduces glare.

However... look at them. People aren't really going for that space-age look lately. I actually like them, but I'm a little weird anyhow. What would it take to get people wearing these? It's obviously a fashion thing, so we would need some sort of product placement.

I'm thinking that a simultaneous product placement with Tom Cruise in some sort of futuristic film, and on one of the younger-generation actors in a contemporary-set film. You need that younger actor cred to get the message out, but Tom Cruise gives the product some legitimacy... believe it or not.

Why the hell am I thinking about this?

Posted by James at 9:38 PM | Comments (3)

September 19, 2003

Bridges and Moores

I was thinking about my recent post on Michael Moore.

He grates on people (you may have noticed). That's part of his style. But it's a mistake to dismiss everything he says because of that.

And maybe that's an easy mistake to make, because of the way he sometimes presents himself. J.J. Daley refers to him as the Rush Limbaugh of the left. Which left me wondering a number of things.

Do I ignore Rush because of his presentation?

I guess it's no surprise that I'm not going to accept the equivalence of Moore and Rush. Briefly, one reason is that Rush declares himself as an entertainer foremost. And while you might think that this is simply an attempt at honesty and that Moore is being dishonest by not making the same declaration, I would note that Moore's efforts go beyond entertainment. That is disconcerting for those who disagree with his views because they see someone with an agenda using his skills to push that agenda.

Moore responds to criticism and does try to explain his past actions. And I've seen him help people achieve their goals by using his celebrity and tenacity to help them push for a resolution to a complaint or problem. (See KMart and the sale of ammunition for one example, and his help to non-citizen hotel workers during The Awful Truth" days.) Rush really is just an entertainer, from what I have seen.

So that's how I disregard the direct comparison. But the point is noted nonetheless: conservatives rightly take issue with some of what Moore says.

And this brings me back to the piece I referenced in my previous post. The first vignette in Moore's piece is about Bush's own description of his demeanor on the night of the 9/11 attacks. Moore tries to make the point that Bush is not serious, and does not take things seriously. I buy into this idea to some extent. I think Bush is somewhat cynical and insincere.

However, I don't think it matters much. There are many people who say Bush is a decent person. Perhaps he is. What it really comes down to is who I want running the country. I have to put my visceral reaction to Bush aside when I make that decision. Personalities aside, I honestly feel Bush is wrong for the country.

Bus when we try to make this point to conservatives, we should keep personalities out of it. I understand that some people feel that this is merely a reaction to social right pressure to claim the moral high ground with their declarations of "family values" and other such nonsense. No group likes to be labeled as the right labels the left, and so it makes people feel good to strike back by looking at the faults of right-wing leaders.

But none of that is going to convince people. And we have to recognize that.

I'd promise to refrain from it myself, but I'm human. I do have a visceral reaction to the man and his bluster and air of entitlement. I have to blow off steam.

Look at what's going on all around us and at least allow me that.

Posted by James at 1:25 PM | Comments (1)

September 18, 2003

Pretty Storm

Jim C thinks these pictures of Hurricane Isabel (one which may or may not be) are cool and that you should see them. He's probably right, so I post the links for your viewing pleasure.

OK, so even I am pimping this storm for the sake of my blog. But not really - I just think the images are amazing. Don't expect me to stand out in the wind with a rain slicker and tell you that, yes, it is raining out there. Every 5 minutes. I promise.

Posted by James at 11:26 PM | Comments (2)


Tread Lightly and other sites are linking to a great excerpt from Al Franken's recent popular book (you know the title already). The excerpt is a cartoon called The Gospel of Supply Side Jesus. It juxtaposes the compassionate aspects of Christ's teachings with supply-side economics, among other things.buddy J

Humor, such as this, is a chuckle and a chance for us to review what it is we value, and what it is we're doing. I've joked when making big purchases "I'm helping to stimulate the economy." And, of course, such transactions do move money around and contribute to the economy. But in the last couple of years we saw an attitude coming out of Washington and some pundits that values like conservation were secondary to doing your patriotic duty to keep commerce dollars flowing.

Overwhelmingly, the folks that are spending those dollars are people who have no investments. They're spending their entire paycheck, many of them have no savings and many are deep in personal debt. This doesn't seem to me to be a particularly conservative, sustainable or wise state of affairs.

Posted by James at 4:11 PM

Tire Trouble

So I got a flat tire.

It was on the driver's side, so when I pulled over to fix it I was frighteningly close to traffic. The breakdown lane was surprisingly small where I had to stop. My door definitely swung out into the lane.

I decided to put my bright yellow "emergency kit" box out about 1 foot into the slow lane and a couple of car lengths back. The yellow box would give folks a visual cue that something was up. Having it in the lane would force them to switch lanes or at least give me a wide berth. Or, they could hit the box and give me a split second warning that it was time to kiss this mortal coil goodbye. Their choice. Traffic was pretty light, but still unsettling.

Not that I needed the help, but no one (as far as I could tell) even slowed down to see if everything was OK. That didn't surprise me at all.

What did surprise me was the number of people who beeped their horns at the inconvenience of having me change my tire on the highway. I'm not talking about a friendly "toot-toot." I'm talking about folks leaning on the horn for about 1/4 mile or so as they approached.

Do you know how disconcerting it is to hear the beep of an oncoming car which is about to pass within a couple of feet of you?

Your car horn is not for registering your displeasure. It's for alerting the people around you to a dangerous situation. Like when someone starts to veer into your lane. The beep is supposed to wake them up. So I figured that people must be beeping because they were trying to get out of the slow lane and couldn't. Nope -- half the times that I did look up to check who was beeping, there was no one in the adjacent lane. Apparently, people were unhappy that I had placed my yellow box slightly in the lane. I was a little sorry about that, but I generally place considerations of my safety well above quite a number of other considerations.

The message was received. So here's a return message to all you folks who beeped at me on Rte. 195 between Westport and Fall River: next time I choose to have a flat tire, I'll choose to have it on the passenger side. And I'll check with all your schedules to make sure that none of you will be inconvenienced by it. And instead of my yellow box, I'll stick my posterior out in the lane and give you something to aim for. Look for the international sign for "moon."

Posted by James at 10:51 AM | Comments (3)

September 17, 2003

For Any Decent American

Michael Moore has written a piece that breaks things down to three easy to digest vignettes which speak to why so many of us think Bush should leave office as quickly as we can find a replacement. He says we should share this piece with the decent folks we know who support Bush, or are on the fence.

Well, I don't know too many of those people who aren't so dug in that they are immovable. But I'll blog it anyway just in case.

The first vignette deals with the way Bush sees 9/11. My personal feeling is that he sees it as an opportunity to be exploited. That's his connection to the tragedy. He's separated from it, for the most part. There was a brief worrisome and inconvenient time when they thought he might be a target. Other than that, my perception is that he's pretty cynical about it.

The second and third vignettes are about the looking Bush legacy of debt our children and their children will be saddled with. And what 85 billion dollars can buy you.

It's up to you to decide what you think of this man and how he has led the country. There is a lot of partisan bickering. But behind the politics itself is Bush, the man who I feel has cynically used us, and both our monetary and patriotic capital.

Posted by James at 1:43 PM | Comments (4)

Working for the City

So. LA has banned lapdancing.

Los Angeles City Council passed a measure requiring dancers to stay at least 6 feet away from customers, thus ending lap dancing in the city.

The ordinance, passed unanimously despite stiff opposition from strippers and adult club owners who fear for their livelihood, banned lap dancing and any other kind of bodily contact between dancers and customers in strip clubs, bikini bars and adult bookstores.

OK. I get that. They say they don't want lap dancing. I guess that's their business. But here's the part of the story that got my attention:
the new law, which must be signed by Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn before going into effect, requires state-licensed security guards to be on duty at all times.
So what you're telling me is that the city is going to hire people to hang out and watch all of the strippers in the city? All the time? That's their job?

Is it just my suspicious nature, or do you think that money from the security guard union might be behind this ordinance?

Posted by James at 12:00 PM | Comments (2)

Beer, Leather and Finding Yourself

It's not as easy as I thought it would be.

When something is replaced, you should be able to get rid of it, reclaim the space, and move on. But some things are not so easy to get rid of. Even when you're supposed to. And you drink a beer. And you stare at it.

My future wife, Maggie, gave me the first leather jacket I had ever owned. Once I got it I wore it nearly everywhere except in the hottest heat, or when I went swimming. This leather jacket and I were inseparable. Friends from the time can attest, I would often take it off, but it would be nearby. Sometimes, when it seemed too hot for a jacket, I had it on.

It protected me once when I took a nasty crack to the head and was briefly unconscious, falling back on it and my backpack. It stopped what would have been a nasty puncture wound once, with no ill effects. I hid from hail under it, and from sleet. It saved my skin on numerous occasions when I came up too hard against the "new brutalism" concrete walls of UMass Dartmouth.

I sat around computer labs and restaurants in and had some of the best times of my life wearing it, laughing and joking with friends. I played role-playing games in a friend's kitchen with it nearby.

Perhaps I was too attached to it even then. I certainly didn't want it to get lost or stolen.

I wore it in the rain and snow. Shoveling and running. Walking and sneaking. Through the forest and in the city. I put things inside the jacket so I wouldn't forget them. I was told it was too hot - to take the jacket off. I was asked why I still wore the jacket long after the zipper was broken.

It warmed me from the chill up my spine on a cold autumn night in Providence outside the Avon Cinema. We were leaving of a Halloween showing of "Nosferatu."

I spread it on the ground to eat off it like a picnic blanket, or to lean on it so I could read a book, or just to have a place to sit. I covered my face with it to get some rest away from the world, and breathed in its relaxing perfume. I covered my young wife's bare shoulders with it when she wasn't prepared for the weather.

I was wearing it when I saw the shuttle explode. I was wearing it when I shook Ted Kennedy's hand. I was wearing it when I first saw the house within which we would start our family. It went on my honeymoon and I posed for pictures with it on in front of the Adventurer's Club.

It sat on the chair in the delivery room, patiently, while my first child was born. I wore it on the unseasonably cold March morning when I drove home a father for the first time.

It's been to Old Sturbridge Village a number of times, and to the zoo. It's been on a carousel. It went to Maine and drove around aimlessly.

Nowadays, the leather is worn through in some places. The back is stiff, strong and rough, almost like sandpaper. This leather is leather armor. But the collar is soft and warm where it has been rubbed to a fine nap by my beard. The pockets all have holes. The lining is in OK shape. Buttons are missing. The wrists and bottom cloth trim are frayed.

Why do I care about it so much? I almost can't think of a place I'd wear it nowadays. I have a newer jacket, a gift from my parents. If I were going to do something messy or dangerous, perhaps I would wear it. I might wear it for some sort of protection.

I told Maggie I would get rid of it. She knew the new jacket was coming and so this one was to be surrendered. But. I'm not sure I can do it now.

For a moment today I thought I'd already discarded it. Then I went looking for it. When I found it, I can't remember if I was relieved that it was still here or perturbed that I was going to actually have to make the decision to part with it.

And now that the time has truly come, I sit here with a beer and stare at it. It's hanging pathetically from a plastic hanger not made to hold its weight. It looks deflated, somewhat defeated. Or maybe that's wrong. Does it, perhaps, look ready? Ready for the next adventure? Is it ready to be grabbed off a chair, tossed on in a second and run out the door as it has for so many times?

I don't know.

But I do know this: I can't part with it just this moment.

Maybe I don't like to think that I've changed much from that person who used to wear the jacket. Truth is, I have. I've always been changing. It's all for the better, I hope. But… is it schizophrenic to miss an earlier incarnation of yourself? As we change, are we sometimes too quick to discard some of the good along with the bad? Do we lose good parts of ourselves in our efforts to move on? I think that maybe we do. I think it's fine to shed the bad parts of your personality as you learn and grow. But it takes some effort to find those good things out of ourselves that we may have forgotten. To remember ourselves and return to ourselves.

I'm going to finish my beer. Then I will hide the jacket in the attic. And then think of an excuse for why I didn't throw it away. There's a good chance Maggie will forget about it. It won't bother anyone up there. And sometime in the future, I'll find it again. And I'll drink a beer. And I'll remember.

Posted by James at 2:17 AM | Comments (4)

September 16, 2003

Floor and Appliances

So, we've put 4 coats of urethane on the floor and last week the appliances were delivered. I had some fun installing them, and did my first real plumbing ever.

I call it real plumbing because I had to take a propane torch and actually learn how to sweat a joint. For those unfamiliar with the lingo, sweating a joint is the plumbing term for connecting a pipe to a fitting (in this case, copper) using solder. The process involves a trick or two, and there are resources online that describe it in enough detail to help the newbie along. Aside from that, I've seen my father do it successfully a number of times before, so I was prepared.

If you check out Part 7 of our visual renovation diary you will find an image of the first-ever joint I soldered, a contrast between the new floor and the gunk that was under our vinyl, some glimpses of what we did without a kitchen, and a couple of panoramas of the kitchen as it has progressed.

In addition, we had to figure out how to get rid of that heavy radiator. Only the scrap metal place seemed keen on taking it. Unfortunately, it was too heavy to carry and put in the van. You'll see our solution to the problem. Thank goodness for Sawzall.

Posted by James at 12:33 PM | Comments (1)

The Un-Dictionary

A cictionary for words that aren't in the dictionary. It's the Pseudodictionary And, they take requests for new words! Some words I found: grinch, queego, jeet-jet, pooched.

The Urban Dictionary will take words the pseudodictionary rejects. For now, anyway.

Posted by James at 2:52 AM | Comments (1)

September 15, 2003


Do you want to see a young lady consume a dozen or so live crickets on a dare? Of course you do. The site known as StinkFactor hosts a number of challenges. Tori vs. the crickets is merely one of them.
[UPDATE: I don't know about you, but the images at StinkFactor are not loading for me this morning (9/16/2003). Ah, well. They were working last night. Perhaps it was too graphic for human consumption. Pun intended.]

Posted by James at 9:06 PM

Pumpkin Ale

pumpkinhead aleI'm a recent devotee of Shipyard Ale's fine brews. My favorite is the Pumpkinhead Ale.

Brewed in Portland, ME, Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale is like a cross between beer and pumpkin pie. Or, if you're not a fan of pumpkin pie, then think carrot cake.

Autumn is one of my favorite beer-consuming seasons, and maerzen beers (oktoberfest) were always my favorite for this time of year. However, I should be convinced to switch over to pumpkin as my new favorite, and Shipyard is pushing for the top spot. More to their credit, they even gave me a beer glass with their log when I bought 6 from the local beer store. (thanks for the tip, Ryan)

Special thanks to my uncle Bill who handed me one of these on Labor Day when we were sitting overlooking the water at my parent's cottage in Portsmouth, RI. Not only is he a great man for pointing me to the stuff, the generous fellow gave me the last one in the cooler! But that's my uncle Bill.

Posted by James at 2:27 PM | Comments (5)

Fungus Amongus

Is it spelled "mold" or "mould?" The place to go to learn that is the Doctor Fungus website. C'mon. You know you want to learn about things like sick building syndrome and chronic candidiasis. Seems to me that everyone ought to know a thing or two about stachybotrys and toxic moulds.

Posted by James at 1:40 PM | Comments (4)

September 13, 2003

Surplus With A Glow

Julie pointed me at The Los Alamos Black Hole, a military surplus store that sells Los Alamos surplus.

I wonder if you can get anything that was owned or used by Richard Feynman. Probably not.

Posted by James at 11:45 PM

Semonthig To Tinhk Aubot

Sent to me by Jim C:

Aoccdrnig to rareasch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in
waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is that
the frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl
mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do
not raed ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe.

Posted by James at 11:40 PM | Comments (5)

September 12, 2003

Cash and Ritter

As is no doubt all over the news, Johnny Cash and John Ritter have died. Both their lives touched a lot of people.

This morning the first song to come up in iTunes (on random) was Cash's recent cover "Hurt." And just a couple of days ago I turned on the TV to watch a DVD and was drawn in to a "Three's Company" episode on Nick at Nite, because Nickelodeon is the channel the kids leave the TV on.

"Everyone I know goes away in the end."

Posted by James at 10:15 AM

September 11, 2003


For some reason it is important enough to have a whole website devoted to 40 oz. Malt Liquor. I don't make the news, I just report it.

Posted by James at 12:50 PM

Learn Your Numbers

NumberBoyFollowing in the footsteps of other asian animations set to music, you can learn your numbers with this handy Korean animation.

Yeah, it's peppy and goofy. And musical. And not to be viewed without the appropriate amount of caffeine in your bloodstream.

Posted by James at 12:22 PM

September 10, 2003

Atheist Parents

I'd wondered if there was a site like this, and then I stumbled across it while looking for something else. Atheist Parents website offers articles on parenting and atheism, and forums where people share ideas.

The first article I looked at was a little strident for my tastes. It was written from a grandparent standpoint and referred to finding their grandchild praying as "evidence of religious molestation." That's pretty hard core. I do not know how typical that is of atheism literature because I don't read much of it. If it is typical, then that is unfortunate and wrong-headed. It's as bad as when religious folks complain about what they see as the secular world tainting their children.

In any case, theist and atheist alike should be familiar with what it means to be an atheist parent. And hopefully there are some insights on this site regarding the raising of children to be happy, contributing members of a strong, free, fair and thoughtful society.

Posted by James at 3:37 PM

September 9, 2003

A Shift in the Wind?

Cape Wind and its Nantucket wind farm. We've had a discussion on this subject before.

But now there is a new development: Cronkite changes tune on Cape Wind project (via Boston Herald).

Cronkite, the legendary newsman and Martha's Vineyard homeowner who taped TV and radio spots opposing the project, said he's reassessing his stance and asked that the ads be yanked.

     Cronkite stressed he isn't endorsing the building of 130 giant power-generating windmills in the waters in between Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.

If you listen to WMVY then you've heard these pervasive ads featuring the famous voice. But Cronkite did some investigating and has decided he may have been too hasty in his opposition to the project. He says " the location of their project is not likely to be quite as unsightly or as much of a hazard to wildlife or recreational use of the sound as I had at first believed.''

It strikes me as manipulative the way the wind farm opponents used Cronkite's voice.

Patti wisely advised that we have good reason to be skeptical, however it is sensible to do as Cronkite is doing and assess all the facts. From what I am reading now, opposition has been relying more on confusion and distortion rather than plain facts. The ads I've heard have appealed to the Cape and Islands' baser nature, sending a strong message along the lines of "we have enough energy already, why should we be exporting energy to other areas at the expense of our view."

I await more information on this.

Meanwhile, knee-jerk opposition to Cape Wind opens the left up to criticism like this from the right. It's just the story the right loves to read -- hypocritical liberals.

If there are good, strong arguments against the wind farm, they need to be heard, and they need to outweigh the damage done to the environment by the more traditional fuels that the wind farm will displace. Otherwise, the harping conservative columnist's words begin to bite a little deeper.

Posted by James at 6:17 PM | Comments (3)

Pop your brain

Learn about the scientific method with this cute animation.

It's just one of the neat tutorial animations at Brain Pop.

Posted by James at 5:33 PM

Big Bad RIAA

The RIAA could be the new boogeyman when you read your kids a bedtime story. 12-Year-Old Sued for Music Downloading

Posted by James at 3:26 PM

Rather Oniony

Freepressed is a news-satire site, that only bears a slight resemblance to the onion. Their current story "Completely dense" FOX viewers mistakenly buy new Al Franken book was posted by a friend to a bulletin boards and (I am embarrassed to say) I thought it was for real. That's what I get for not paying attention.

But the site has some funny stories. And they take submissions.

Posted by James at 3:01 PM

September 8, 2003

Toynbee Idea


The message wasn't painted. It was some kind of tile, a bit larger than a license plate, that had actually been imbedded in the street. Each letter looked to have been hand carved and inlaid in a plastic or epoxy base. I tried to push my thumbnail into the tile. It was rock hard. Harder than the asphalt itself.

The bizarre story of Toynbee tiles, found in cities across the country. Other Toynbee Tile Links:

Posted by James at 5:17 PM

Love of Chips

Don't ask me how I came across Behind an efficient text-dominated main page lies an in-depth look at all kinds of chip-based snack food. For heaven's sake, they've got 84 entries in their reviews of Salt and Vinegar chip products alone! If you have a hankering for snack food, this is an obvious place to visit. Or perhaps you're planning a gathering and want to have the highest-rated snacks. Well, is your dreamed-of reference guide.

BONUS (unrelated) LINKS!
Caltech Potato Chips
Chaos Theory and Potato Chip Decisions

Posted by James at 1:55 PM

Steinbeck And Iraq

Worth a look is Greg's blog entry "Perhaps the moon is down in Iraq?"

The subject of that post is parallels between our occupation of Iraq and John Steinbeck's "The Moon Is Down."

Steinbeck's tale is one of Nazi occupation, but the parallels are startling. I have to hurry out and read the story for myself, but these two passages regarding the struggle that the invaders face struck me as particularly applicable to today's situation:

Lanser stood up slowly and spoke as though to himself. “So it starts again. We will shoot this man and make twenty new enemies. It’s the only thing we know, the only thing we know.”

And Tonder went on laughing. “Conquest after conquest, deeper and deeper into molasses.” His laughter choked him and he coughed into his handkerchief. “Maybe the Leader is crazy. Flies conquer the flypaper. Flies capture two hundred miles of new flypaper!” His laughter was growing more hysterical now.

Others have also have made note of the connection.

They say we can learn from history. In something so complex as the task of dealing with Iraq (now that we broke it, we own it) are their insights in literature to help us understand what we have gotten ourselves into?

Posted by James at 11:58 AM

Danger and Beauty

The first time I saw this picture of Bitterroot National Forest was when Patty Seggelin sent it around in email. I thought it was amazing then, and I still do. It shows two deer amid one of the huge fires that ravaged that forest in the year 2000.

There are a few times when I have looked out into some sight in nature and had a feeling almost like falling. It happens when you're looking at something so big and so real that you lose your ego for a moment and become a part of what you're looking at. Usually, these scenes simply cannot be captured on film (at least when I have tried). In a small way, this is one photograph that stirs that feeling up within me, reminding me of the time I looked out at sandstone cliffs outside of Sydney, the rolling hills of Vermont from the Deer Leam trail in Jamaica, VT, and the first time I saw the ground from an airplane.

Posted by James at 1:04 AM

September 7, 2003

Watch out, it stains.

Here are the results of staining the floor. It's the brief Part 6 of our renovation diary. Now we are enjoying the delectable fumes from the oil based stain.

We weren't sure what kind of wood the floor was, but after looking at different drains, I'm now pretty sure it is Douglas Fir. Probably older "Yellow Fir."

Sites I have read note that the wood tends to change color over time. That explains the gray areas. I sanded quite a bot off in an attempt to get the floor color to be even, so I wish I had had some way to know about this property of Douglas Fir before I had sanded. As one site notes:

"Because of tendency toward color change, care must be taken to avoid oversanding when refinishing an existing floor."
I don't know how I would have been able to tell that the "dirtyish" color was natural. Being used to looking at Southern Yellow Pine, even old pine, I didn't expect the gray. Even if I had read that before, I don't think I would have interpreted it correctly. And if I had, I'm not sure I would have completely believed it. Live and learn!

But, even with the gray the wood was still more attractive than the pine in the rest of the house. I hope that, with the stain, the character of the wood will be emphasized and its flaws de-emphasized.

Posted by James at 8:49 PM | Comments (4)

September 6, 2003

Sanding Adventure

We attacked the job of sanding the floor on Saturday. If you want to experience the fun vicariously, you can check out part 5 of our renovation visual diary.

Posted by James at 11:56 PM

September 4, 2003

Time Travellin' Fool

When you like weird things and have weird friends, people send you cool stuff. Chuck sent along a link to "John Titor" is the assumed name of a fellow who posted to a number of discussion forums (USENET, I think) circa 2000. He claimed to be from 30+ years in the future and had travelled back in time via a time machine.

The amazing thing about Titor is how well he answered questions. He obviously had a well-thought-out world in his head, or at least thought pretty quick to answer questions in a way that did not conflict. My guess is that his skill leaned more to the latter: the ability to lie well so as not to trip yourself up. THe best liars can induce in themselves a delusional state which helps them remain consistent. When they answer questions, as Titor did, they are careful to construct fantasies in which their stories cannot be verified and cannot be denied.

A quick example: He cannot make definite predictions about the future because his presence here has already changed this timeline. There is no way to argue with that. Questions about stock market tips were turned back on the asker. He asks what this fixation on money says about us. He also asks why he should help someone who asks for an easy stock tip when it means that someone else who has done hard work researching a stock will get less of the money because of his actions.

I've read through a lot of what he said, and none of it would compel me to believe he really was a time traveller (of course). However, it was interesting from a different perspective. It's just plain weird, and it is instructive in how to fend off questions. This guy would make a great politician.

I researched a little and found some people online claiming that John Titor had been revealed as a hoax. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any elaboration or support for the unmasking of John Titor. I'd be interested if anyone has further information to share.

Posted by James at 11:12 AM

September 3, 2003


It's never too early to announce that pick-your-own apple season has begun. See Massgrown for details and locations. I'm looking forward more than ever to some good apples this year, but the pies will have to wait until I have a working oven again.

Posted by James at 2:38 PM

Seen On The Road in August

  • A basset hound, wandering aimlessly. When I slowed to pass him, he slowly hurried out of the road and into a yard.
  • 5 loaves of Stop & Shop store brand white bread.
  • A lit cigarette ejected from the window of a car bearing the following bumper sticker: "God Bless America" (with flag)
Posted by James at 12:21 PM | Comments (3)

September 2, 2003

Lost (to renovation) Weekend

The white-knuckle battle of kitchen renovation continues. In the brief "Part 3" of our pictorial telling of the tale, you will see a door become a wall and my plumbing fixitup job.

But "Part 4" tells a more harrowing tale.

The flooring in the kitchen had long been a source of frustration. The sheet vinyl had been damaged over time. The dull finish mercilessly held dirt and looked disgusting almost immediately after being cleaned.

There appeared to be beautiful wood under the sheet vinyl, so we decided to do what everyone told us was crazy to do -- rip up the floor and restore the wood.

We lost a day of work when we became worried about asbestos and had some samples sent to a lab for testing. We were lucky that the nice people at the NIST-recommended lab were nice enough to give us our answer in mere hours just before a long weekend. NO ASBESTOS! Despite the presence of sheet vinyl and linoleum, and two different adhesives. No asbestos was found anywhere in the samples we submitted.

Apologies to everyone whose events we missed. We are so far behind on this floor that we had to get cracking.

Other notable moments in our weekend: Maggie slipped hurt her back. She's OK, but bruised and sore. It didn't stop her from working on the floor. My PC hard drive died and was revived after hours away from floor work. It appears to have been a problem with the driver for the controller card. That's two catastrophic computer events within 7 days (the other being my work computer). Mattie got her orange belt in Karate! Kit's soccer team won their game!

Link to Renovation Part 3 Pictures
Link to Renovation Part 4 Pictures

Posted by James at 6:34 AM