Things are all a-buzz here. Tonight I'll make Belgian waffles to ring in the new year. Belgian waffles and champagne.
There's not time for any proper blog posts, but here's a little story that no one seems to be talking too much about (except liberals). Ashcroft came to the conclusion that he's better distance himself from the Plame investigation and has appointed a special counsel.
Why now? Maybe he figures the press corps is too busy being drunk this time of year to notice.
Following up on the Mad Cow story, the NYT had this yesterday. It was a little encouraging, in that perhaps there is a threshold of exposure, or some other factor which governs whether or not a person develops vCJD after eating infected beef. But the kids will still be kept from beef. And I'm not eating the grounds stuff, and limiting my exposure to other beef products as much as possible.
Patti sent along a list of "Ludicrous laws" she spotted on the internet. But she said she agreed with #10.
LAW: Unless a customer orders it specifically, it's against the law to serve margarine instead of butter at a restaurant.i wasn't entirely sure whether she agreed with the law, or agreed that it was ludicrous? I'm firmly guessing she agrees with the law (she'll correct me if I'm wrong). I understand where it is coming from.
COUNTRY: USA / STATE: Wisconsin
ACTUAL: (4) The serving of colored oleomargarine or margarine at a public eating place as a substitute for table butter is prohibited unless it is ordered by the customer.
There was huge opposition to oleomargarine when it was first introduced. Opposition from the dairy industry, that is. In fact, at first it was prohibited from having coloring added to it to make it look more like butter. (It looks like Crisco without the color, of course. Not appetizing)
Milk fat shortages during the war changed all that. Suddenly we needed people to find oleomargarine acceptable. They dropped the "oleo" part for margarine's trade name.
I have no idea what "margarine" means. I should look that one up when I get home. [ Later: ah. It derives from the discovery of margaric acid ]
Anyhow, this would be a borderline one for me. I'd rather not have a restaurant try to pass margarine off as butter. But despite industry claims, no one who cares is going to mistake margarine for butter.
I like Promise margarine on toast, by the way. Repeat exposure in childhood conditioned me. But I use butter for cooking. I don't put margarine in a recipe, because butter is the ultimate flavor enhancer.
But I digress. I take issue with calling the first law ludicrous as well. Moving wild animals (in this case, skunks) is not a good idea, no matter whether it is across state lines or not. Animals breed to a certain population level in a particular area because the conditions there favor it. Moving an animal does nothing to change the conditions that allowed that animal to exist (availability of food and shelter, etc.) Moving it to a new area which has its own balance upsets the balance. Now the animals in an area which cannot support their population will resort to more aggressive scavenging, becoming more of a nuisance to the human population and possibly even falling ill and transmitting disease to humans.
Moving skunks is a bad idea.
Feel free to comment on any of the other laws. I'm willing to bet there are some better lists of crazy laws.
This is a love story. Not the film, this review. I loved this film, and if I were without so many obligations, I would be off to the theatre a number of times to plop my cash down and see it again.
Films must stand apart from the books they are based on. Jackson's success is that he has not become distracted by fanboy pressure to stay too close to the book. "But, James (or JP) -- he did stay extremely close to the book! And that's why the films are so good."
No, no and more no.
A film is a thing of vision and emotions, and every one starts out with a blank page for a screenplay and a blank screen. In other words, every film starts from scratch, no matter what it is based on. Jackson has done the same thing nearly every bad adaptation you've ever seen did. He re-imagined the story for your viewing pleasure. The difference is, the filter of Peter Jackson's mind was able to take the characters and convey each of them to you. He was able to evoke emotions with great special effects and characters you cared about not only because of the lines they spoke (which were nearly all written by Tolkein) but in their expressions and their movements.
Okay, enough of my amateur analysis of how a film is made. What I mean to say here is that Jackson tread a fine line amazingly well and has pleased fan-boy and general audience alike. RoTK was the best of the three films in much the same way that "Return of the Jedi" was the least of the three Star Wars films.
Thanks to Tolkein's great writing, Jackson had a wealth of characters to choose from, and an embarrassment of riches when it came to the hearts of those characters. It seems almost magical, but Jackson chose to show us things that reinforced the heart of each character. Merry and Pippin's whimsey as Hobbits juxtaposed with all they will see later on in the Pelenor Fields. Aragorn's resolve, and the self-sacrifice that makes him a natural leader of men. Eowen's fire as a woman and as an individual. Gandalf's well of paternal strength, even as it reaches its limits. The list is long, so choose your own character and watch how Jackson reinforces the themes he set up earlier in the series, and in some cases turns them back on themselves.
Jackson even gives us colorful orc characters. There is variation among the troops, and the orc leaders we get to meet are memorable. Making orcs interesting? That alone is an accomplishment.
The SPFX, of course, are stunning. If your jaw doesn't drop I suspect you're on some tranquilizers. But the best SPFX in the world (which, coincidentally, these are) wouldn't save this story if Jackson had screwed up. The real special effect of the Return of the King is its ability to evoke. It evokes the imagination. It evokes camaraderie. And it evokes some overpowering emotions. How else would you explain the number of people who have told me that they cried. I have to admit that I cried a number of times, and held back tears at others. How often does that happen in an action film, or a fantasy film? Not often for me.
I'm not a great review-writer. Other people are going to write about this film and tell you something useful about it. Unabashedly, I'm going to tell you that my hat is off to Peter Jackson. I think him for this great bit of entertainment that washes away so many bitter disappointments in action, adventure, sci-fi and fantasy over the past few years. And for all who love such films, I hope jackson soon finds another story he loves as much as he obviously loves The Lord of the Rings.
I don't see Dean winning the general election, and that has me worried. Sure, the election is far, far away. The primaries have not yet spoken to give the Democrats a candidate. Whichever person it turns out to be - that person has not yet been freed from the primary process to turn his attention solely towards Bush. So why am I worried?
I'm worried because there is great enthusiasm regarding Dean on the one hand from people I agree with. And on the other hand there is some fairly clear rejection of Dean from other clear-headed middle-of-the-road people. They don't seem to trust him.
Since this is my blog, you might ask "But James - what do you think of Dean?" On the issues, he appears to me to have sensible positions. I have no in-depth analysis to give here, just what I've picked up. On his personality, I've found it to strike me as honest but quirky.
I have to say that I don't feel like I'm getting a lot of guile with Dean, and I appreciate that after Bush and even Clinton. I feel I could support Dean in the general election. Especially against the incumbent.
Where my worries begin is at the sensible people ( mostly middle-of-the-road folks ) who have objections to him. It's not just Steve, either. It's other people I respect (who don't have blogs). These are people I'm using as a bellwether for whether Dean has a good chance next November. And, at the moment, I'm worried.
I hope folks don't take this the wrong way, but some of the objections to Dean I've heard puzzle me. In Steve's post, he points out the bike path issue. (I don't mean to pick on that, but it is representative of the complaints I'm seeing. I wish I could recall the other examples. Monday fuzziness!). Bil has a good response in the comments.
The arguments, taken together tell me that people are having some sort of gut reaction to Dean. Some have told me they don't trust him, and I can't see where that is coming from. Bush struck many people as the likable good-old-boy. Dean doesn't remind people of their frat brother. His appeal to many liberals is coming from somewhere else. Perhaps his intellectual quality. And I'm not sure that instills confidence in today's anti-intellectual climate.
My instincts tell me that this is something that his campaign can work on once he is running against Bush. Once he looks less like a loner, chooses a veep candidate and people start thinking "he doesn't have to explain every quirk... he just has to be a better choice than Bush."
I don't identify myself with the Democratic party, though there is a lot of overlap. So I don't feel like getting deep into this until they have chosen their candidate. However, once they have chosen, I am going to try to review every objection to Dean I come across and see if I can't pin it on something. And every objection which sticks will be measured against Bush, to see not whether he could win, but whether he should.
From the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, President Bush announced in a nationally televised address that "major combat operations in Iraq have ended."The translation of "major combat operations" has finally been uncovered by scholars. Through advanced linguistic technology, I have made the substitution below.
From the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, President Bush announced in a nationally televised address that "[the part of this war we were prepared for] has ended."
This ramble on two subjects is brought to you by the words "decadence" and "silliness."
Spent today just relaxing with the kids. First, I slept very late. Any actual plans for the day would have been pretty much shot.
After that, it was Monopoly Jr. with the kids (Toy Story Edition). Monopoly Jr. is a great lazy day kids game. No thinking involved, but it's fun and sometimes worth a few laughs. Of course, my kids can make any game silly. There are almost no decisions to be made in the game, and thus there is little or no strategy. But Mattie kept trying to give me her money, because she felt bad I was losing. (You really can't be allowed to do that in this game, because it can have a huge outcome on who ends up the winner) . Kit had no qualms about taking anyone's money.
After that, it was video games. Ratchet and Clank. For many hours.
And now, relaxing. Playing poker on line (for Ultimate points, rather than money). Later we'll play Monopoly again, maybe Pictionary Jr. Maybe watch Home Alone, or the Powerpuff Girls movie. Who knows?
I've been off the computer for longer periods of time than usual, and that's nice. I never thought that being off the computer would feel like decadence.
Silliness, I've come to realize, is a strength. It gets a bad rap in our no-nonsense world. Our culture is fairly dominated by consumerism, business, capitalism, and when it comes right down to it there's not much room for silliness there. And I never realized, until I had children, that it's genetic. Or, at least, it's in the way my brain works. See, one of the things I enjoy about having a brain (or my brain, as it is the only one I know) is the way random connections are made. For me, it's been a blessing and a curse. It often breaks my concentration and rears its head during meetings and such, or when I'm trying to focus on someone telling me something that is important to them.
The random connections force themselves to the fore, and usually it's some silly juxtaposition, pun, or random goofiness. It can be counterproductive. It is often counterproductive. And it takes a really good filter to prevent "blurting." There is a great pressure to blurt. The thoughts are very distracting.
But there are appropriate moments, and times when silliness is called for.
Yesterday, Mattie was extremely upset from her methotrexate shot. The first needle broke, and so it was more difficult than usual. However, turning the verbal filter off and allowing the stream of goofiness to pour forth, eventually you hit something silly enough to strike her funny and the power of distraction is suddenly working in your favor. It took only a few moments, once she was in bed and scared from the whole ordeal, to get her mind completely off the shot. It helps that you tend to pass on your weird brain functioning to your children.
Moral of the story: put your mental defects to work.
I love beef. But I see a lot of interests involved in the beef industry that are not in line with my health interests. If I felt they held best interests paramount, perhaps I would feel safer. But that's not the case. Their interest is keeping the flow of beef into the American population.
I sincerely hope this incident will be a wakeup call. What I would like to see is safe, if expensive, beef. What good is cheap, unsafe beef? No, we will be using ground turkey were we previously used ground beef. Many of our Lebanese dishes call for ground lamb or beef, and we've found them to be more than satisfactory with turkey instead. I will miss it in beef tacos from No Problemo.
But "brain wasting" is not a very appetizing phrase.
(additional resource: a list of links at this site)
Twas the night before Christmas, and I still don't have the presents all wrapped. I am swamped with tasks, but instead of doing them, I am fending off some caffeine jitteriness. It should pass. The kids are nestled already. There is unusual peace in the house. Soon the presents will be wrapped and there will be no reason to grouse. Don't expect this to rhyme - that one was just a coincidence.
I want to wish all my readers (both of you) a Merry Christmas. I won't be disappearing during the holidays, but the quality of my postings will depend on how much egg nog I am able to imbibe. I'm sure one or two interesting observations will come out of the next few days. To your health!
Some say we are safer now that Saddam is captured. Some say that if you don't agree, you're a traitorous bastard. Some say that it's interesting that the terror level went to orange after Saddam was captured.
I say that the terror level didn't go up until after Saddam was shaven and groomed. Coincidence? You decide.
Following on the discussion of the Rudolph Christmas special we grew up with, I read a description on Snopes of how the original Rudolph poem came about.
It reinforces that Rudolph was not really meant to be the story that the TV special made out to be. Santa was not cast as a complete jerk. Rudolph's parents were not ashamed of him.
It might be fitting to close this page by pointing out that, although the story of Rudolph is primarily known to us through the lyrics of Johnny Marks' song, the story May wrote is substantially different in a number of ways. Rudolph was not one of Santa's reindeer (or the offspring of one of Santa's reindeer), and he did not live at the North Pole. Rudolph dwelled in an "ordinary" reindeer village elsewhere, and although he was taunted and laughed at for having a shiny red nose, he was not regarded by his parents as a shameful embarrassment. Rudolph was brought up in a loving household and was a responsible reindeer with a good self-image and sense of worth.See the Snopes article for the whole story.
Or, see this web page, which casts a more misty, romantic haze over the creation of Rudolph.
While you're at Snopes, why not read about Dunder and Blixem.
One of my favorite holiday specials is Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas. (I reviewed it a few years back on Epinions.com) But there are a number of videos which are either Christmas specials, Christmas films, or they just take place around the holiday season. My favorite holiday-time films are Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas for its message, A Charlie Brown Christmas, for nostalgia, A Lion In Winter for the cutting dialogue, Year Without a Santa Claus for the goofiness, Christmas Vacation for the parody of everything that can go wrong. The next tier (very close behind) would contain Trading Places for the comedy and How The Grinch Stole Christmas for the story.
So I put together a poll for all of you. What the heck. Anyhow, I'm sure their are some people's favorites which are left off the list, feel free to mention them in the comments. But also please vote. If you chould choose only one of these films, which would you choose?
It amazes me that there are free games on the web that are as good as or better than games we paid to play in arcades when I was a kid.
One such fun diversion is "A Blast" - a down-scrolling shooter in the model of Galaxian.
There are games that people put together just to promote a film. Like Eight Legged Freaks, which is a passable first-person shooter.Actually, this little game is as good a some of the games that Disney Interactive put together and sold for the N64 just a couple of years ago. (Which is not saying much, but still).
Then there are games like Flygirrl whose purpose in this world is very unclear. But they're kinda fun anyhow. Flygirrl jumps on the heads of male partygoers while avoiding the dreaded "booty boogie." Bizarre.
This story (sent along by Jim C) made me feel ill just thinking about it.
Latvian police said a drunk picked up with around twice the blood-alcohol level considered deadly had probably set a world record but would wake with a hangover to match.His blood contained a level of alcohol far greater that would cause autonomic breathing to cease in most people. I swear he was not at our office party, in case anyone was wondering.
By the way, the Boss has not yet returned from California with his pictures of our party. However, he has called everyone who did not attend the party to tell them "wait until you see the pictures."
A number of people sent me this link to the conservative "American Family Association" website where they are conducting a poll of what you think of the gay marriage issue. They're going to submit the results to congress. Of course, people learned about the poll primarily through conservative forums. Spreading the link is an attempt to bring balance to the poll.
However, it underscores one reason why the poll doesn't make any sense: that it is unscientific. But even if it were, this issue is about the rights of some people, not what is popular. If a majority of people want to tyrannically impose their beliefs on the minority, should that make congress feel better about it? So this poll disturbs me on a number of levels.
The White House Website gets a scrub.
Steven Aftergood, who directs the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, said the Natsios case is particularly pernicious. "This smells like an attempt to revise the record, not just to withhold information but to alter the historical record in a self-interested way, and that is sleazier than usual," he said. "If they simply said, 'We made an error; we underestimated,' people could understand it and deal with it."
A harrowing tale of Steve's reminded me of a story of my own. Mine was a completely different situation (trivial compared to someone in medical distress), but another example of inexplicable doctor behavior.
I was trying to get my marriage license in Rhode Island and it turned out that I did not have a doctors note stating that I had been informed of the dangers of STDs. Of course, I knew the dangers of STDs, (I'm pretty well informed, and was even 13 years ago) I just didn't have the note.
There was a GP's doctor's office across the street from the town hall, and Maggie and I went over there to see if the doctor was in. As I stood in a nearly empty reception area, I was informed that he was, in fact, in. I explained to the receptionist that I'd like to speak to the doctor -- that I needed him to sign a note saying I'd been informed of the danger of STDs. I didn't want to have to take more time off from work (a new job), and then yet more time to come back for the marriage license. I explained that I was very knowledgeable on the subject and was willing to be quizzed, if necessary. I'd pay for the time, I just needed the note.
After conveying the message to the doctor, she came back and told me "No, the doctor will not see you."
I tried to make my case again, but I got nowhere. And I got no explanation as to what the basis was for his refusal. Apparently, I didn't even deserve that.
To this day I have no idea why the doctor wouldn't give me the note, nor why he would even give me a good reason not to. The sensible conclusion, of course, is that he was just a jerk.
Maggie dragged me out of the place before I caused a scene. Which, I swear, would not have happened. But she was taking no chances.
Did you know you could clean ring around the collar with chalk (it absorbs the sebum). Had you ever considered using a coffee filter to filter a broken piece of cork out of wine? Have you tried cleaning your microwave by boiling a solution of water and lemon juice?
Well, if you had visited Wacky Uses you would have.
I'd take some of the suggestions there with a grain of salt. And, oddly, salt is not on their list of weird uses. Another criticism: a list of uses organized by product is fun to browse, but useless to search. It should be categorized by use.
State Representative Robert Marshall of Virginia told the panel that 'playboys and adolescent males would be the major beneficiaries' of a move to over-the-counter status, because they would buy the drug to encourage women to have sex with them.(See Sell next-day pill over the counter, FDA panels say in today's Boston Globe)
Okay, some observations about what this fellow is saying. Firstly, he obviously has an awfully low opinion of women. The primary effect of this drug is that it will help men cloud the minds of women and convince them to have sex with men they wouldn't otherwise? What the hell is this guy's sexual history if he thinks that the way to get a woman into bed is through coercion involving discussions about birth control? Give women a little credit.
I could understand concerns that there might be a drop in condom use, but... for a lawmaker to worry that other guys might get more sex? The only conclusion I can come to is that this guy ain't gettin' any.
I'm going to momentarily put aside the much more important issue of a womans ability to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. The benefits to women should be obvious and are paramount. And I'm sure excellent arguments along reasoned lines of logic are being made elsewhere.
However, let's take a purely male point of view. (And Patti, you'll have to forgive the penis-centric approach, but sometimes to communicate with people you have to speak in their language)
If men are going to get more sex because of this drug's availability, then who cares if some playboys get still more sex than you do? Are you only going to back a measure if it allows guys like you to get more sex, but somehow bars playboys from benefiting from the same? Loosen up, sir. I suspect that this guy is bitter because he knows that even with the availability of an over-the-counter version of this drug, his prospects are still poor.
Why is it that when some lawmakers approach the topic of sex, they come off as jilted, bitter, jealous prudes?
BTW - a little free advice for Rep. Marshall. One effective way to stop a woman from going to bed with you is to be an uptight, paleo-conservative busybody wanker. Unless you're shooting for Ann Coulter. And, I'm sorry, but I don't think you have a chance there.
No, I'm not dead, just busy. "Slow Bloggin" is how I feel when I feel empty of blog post ideas.
The holiday season this year comes as we are finishing some home renovations. Today is also the office Christmas party (starting at 5:01 PM). The season is progressing far too speedily.
Yesterday I took the day off and Maggie and I went to the Natick Mall, the only place where they sell See's Chocolates in Massachusetts. These chocolates are by far the best I've tasted. They're the only boxed chocolates I'll buy for people around the holidays, unless they are not available. My favorite is the Dark Butter Chew.
But let me throw some stuff together here to at least make the blog look good today.
Ever notice how some folks really hate cilantro? I think cilantro is so-so. I do know some haters, but I don't think this phenomenon is particular to cilantro.
For the technical-minded, this article on the possible confluence of RSS and BitTorrent technologies provides some food for thought. I have to admit that, while I've used BitTorrent, it is still just a little bit of a mystery to me. Probably nothing a quick read of the F A Q couldn't clear up.
If you were a toddler on serious drugs, this is what you would see.
We're putting the finishing touches in on our home renovations before Christmas. We'd reserved all the old trim because it's not easily replaceable. Maggie was cutting it to fit the new rooms, I was hammering it into place. At one point, Maggie had a piece of baseboard cap which was too long by about 1/2 inch or so. She used the radial arm saw to trim it to size, and off dropped a small cross-section of the trim. My daughter, Mattie, picked it up and brought it to me.
"Daddy - I've got a squirrel." she said.
I glanced down and saw she had a piece of trim. I started to tell her what it was.
"Honey." I said. "That's a ..." and she held it up to me so I could see it.
"Yep," I said. "That's a squirrel all right."
The reclusive celebrity mega star known only as "Saddam" was finally caught by paparazzi today somewhere outside his hometown. Sly Saddam had hoped to avoid the cameras, but an admiring public is not so easily put off! Sporting the stylish new beard that is unquestionably about to become the next big fashion statement to sweep the dictatorati, Saddam gave in and posed for the cameras, even giving a DNA sample or two for his adoring admirers.
Sources say the excitement was difficult to stifle as folks shot guns in the air like makeshift fireworks. It is reported that Saddam will return to Baghdad for a celebrity roast which will involve a rehash of all his most notable exploits, followed by a grand finale in which his fans will finally be able to pay him back just a little bit of what he has given them throughout his storied career.
A man is driving home, when is pulled over by a patrolman for a broken blinker. The cop looks into the guys' car and sees a collection of knives in the back seat.
"Sir," the cop says. "Why do you have all those knives?"
"They're for my juggling act," the man says.
"I don't believe you," says the cop. "Prove it." So the man gets out of his car and begins juggling the knives. At the same time, a car with two guys in it drives by.
"Man," says the first guy. "I'm glad I quit drinking. These new sobriety tests are hard."
(Sent along by Ryan)
A friend of ours had gotten some tickets to the Nutcracker in Providence as a gift. Her younger daughter was sick with a fever and it was no longer possible for them to go, so she offered the tickets to us. We had wanted to take the girls to see the Nutcracker, but had been too busy to plan it. This was a wonderful opportunity, thanks to our thoughtful friend. So, at the last minute, we cleaned up after a day of home renovation, dressed, and took her older daughter with us to the Providence Performing Arts Center.
All the girls were on their best behavior for what was a wonderful show. The PPAC is a beautiful theatre inside, with all of its detail work, a perfect venue for this holiday classic.
My favorite character in The Nutcracker is, of course, the mysterious and slightly creepy, but loving, Uncle Drosselmeyer. The eye-patch and cape-clad uncle bestows the Nutcracker on Clara and starts off the adventure. The model for all good uncles.
When we returned and dropped off her daughter the little girl with the fever was asleep. Maggie tells me she was feeling a lot better.
My class action suit check is even smaller than his paltry 5 cents. The ink on mine? Exactly $0.03.
Woo-hoo, I hope this check clears! It'll pay for almost 8/10 of a second of Lord Of The Rings: Return of the King.
Speaking of which, check out this review:
The Daily Mail: "Disappointing. Overblown. Anti-climactic. Bungles. These are just some of the adjectives I shall not be using to describe the third part of The Lord of the Rings. How about amazing, stupendous, jaw-dropping and overwhelming.Oooo!
"For this is wonderfully imaginative cinema on the grandest possible scale, fabulously inspired but never restricted by Tolkien's original vision.
"If you ever questioned Peter Jackson's ability to improve on the battle for Helm's Deep, shame on you. The Battle for Pelennor Fields is on such a colossal scale, and so excitingly shot, that it blows away every war scene ever filmed."
Back when I first put a website together (actually, it was maybe my second or third homepage) I made this nifty little page on the colors i saw when I pointed a flashlight into a container of olive oil. I still think it's neat, and even though I am always asking questions, I rarely write them down. Perhaps if I did write more of them down, I'd get more answers.
Asking questions is fun. Even when a clear answer does not emerge, you learn something. Sometimes, just forming the question can teach you something about the way you think. It's a common situation at work. Someone is stumped on a problem, but when they go to ask for help, and begin to explain the problem to a coworker, the solution presents itself. The simple act of forming a question or a coherent explanation of the problem reveals things. Perhaps a bad assumption is suddenly realized. The results can be almost magical.
Some folks are wondering "Can Bush be defeated in the next election?" I guess they're thinking of how close the last election was (*cough*) and figuring that any gains he makes will actually win him the 2004 election. This, to me, misses that candidate Bush will not be running in 2004. President Bush is.
Bush's biggest strength in his campaign (aside from the fact that he was up against Gore -- don't get me started) was the complete hogwash that he was feeding the American people. One presidential term or so later, we can look back and see through it all.
Here's a good example. Return with me, if you will, to the 2000 presidential debates. It's October 12, 2000. The election is getting close. The subject: Foreign Relations.
If we're an arrogant nation, they'll resent us; if we're a humble nation, but strong, they'll welcome us. And our nation stands alone right now in the world in terms of power, and that's why we've got to be humble, and yet project strength in a way that promotes freedom.That was Gore, right? Oops - hang on, no that was Bush.
I'm not so sure the role of the United States is to go around the world and say this is the way it's got to be. We can help. And maybe it's just our difference in government, the way we view government. I mean I want to empower people. I want to help people help themselves, not have government tell people what to do. I just don't think it's the role of the United States to walk into a country and say, we do it this way, so should you.Hey -- who is this guy? He sounds fairly reasonable. We've got to be humble? Sounds good to me. Of course we don't want to alienate our allies. We need to work with them. The war on terrorism is going to require the whole world's help, as are any number of pressing problems (emergent diseases, environmental concerns... heck, trade).
Can anyone reasonably say that G.W. Bush has practiced this humility he preached to a receptive public in 2000?
Just yesterday (to choose one example from the many we've had these last years):
George Bush poured fuel on the flames of the Iraq contracts dispute yesterday with a sneering dismissal of a suggestion by the German Chancellor that the decision to bar Germany, France Russia and Canada from bidding might violate international law.Who is this joker? Not the candidate who grabbed almost half of the popular vote in 2000, I think. Where's the humility?
"International law? I'd better call my lawyer," the American President joked in response to a reporter's question at the White House.(Bush laughs off critics of 'spoils of war' bidding - THE INDEPENDENT)
There's no going back. Folks that use the 2000 election as any sort of metric for 2004 fail to realize that candidate Bush is not running. The person who the Democratic candidate will face in 2004 is the person who hid behind the hogwash the last time around. The fact that he weaseled his way into many of the votes he got, spinning a yarn that sounded sweeter than his true intentions, rankles. It rankles not only his long-time opponents, but those who feel betrayed after voting for the other Bush. The promised, but not delivered Bush. The uniter. The compassionate.
(As a gratuitous Friday treat, here's some Jon Stewart coverage of Bush's Thanksgiving surprise)
Wonderful blogcandy! Two hip-hop artists find the secret equation for putting the brakes on the bullying hipocrisy that is known as Bill O'Reilly.
"I want her dead," Officer Robert A. Ramos told the would-be hit man in a meeting secretly recorded by the FBI. "Whatever is easier for you to get the job done -- just so you do the job completely," he continued. "It would have to look like it didn't come from me. That's all I'm really worried about."Officer Ramos, a Dartmouth correctional officer decided to try to hire someone to knock off his ex-girlfriend. Ostensibly, he was sick of paying child support. That last line above really gets me. "It would have to look like it didn't come from me." If you were the FBI informant this guy had hired as a hit man (oops!) wouldn't you have been tempted to say to the guy "Well, DUH!"
To underscore what a conscientious fellow Officer Ramos (allegedly) is:
At one point during the investigation, Mr. Ramos dropped off half the $5,000 for the murder with his and the woman's 3-year-old son in the back seat of his car.Thoughtful!
At an October meeting in Providence with the hit man -- who was by that time an informant for the FBI -- Mr. Ramos drew a map of his former girlfriend's home, indicating where his son's room was and where the target's room was, Ms. Cline said.
It was all right to kill the woman while their son was home, Mr. Ramos allegedly told the ex-convict.
But if he did it that way, he wanted to make sure it was before one of Mr. Ramos' visitation days: He didn't want the youngster at home with a dead mother too long, Ms. Cline recounted.
Listen fellas, if you can't figure out how to use your brain, a condom, or preferably both, you shouldn't be having sex. Because you shouldn't be having children. Yes -- I understand some relationships go sour. But maybe before opening the possibility of combining your genetic information with someone else's, you should ask yourself "Is this the kind of person I'm going to want to take a contract out on if we end up having a child and I get sick of the payments?" Think of all the trouble that could be avoided it people just took a moment to consider that at an opportune time. Ladies, this could apply equally to you!
We also learn that tough economic times can really slow down a project, and even people hiring killers get stressed out around the holidays.
In November, Mr. Ramos allegedly told the informant the only reason the woman was still alive was that he didn't have the money to pay for the hit.(Link to story in NB Standard Times)
He did stress, according to federal documents, that he wanted the "job" done before Christmas.
You've probably already seen this story. France and Germany are shut out of contracts for work in Iraq, per the Bush administraiton's orders. National security reasons were cited, among others. But it is a political move to punish France and Germany for having the gall to oppose Bush. This week, they expressed a negative reaction to their exclusion.
Someone I know wrote that they suppose France and Germany had never heard of the Tale of the Little Red Hen.
That's the perfect explanation. The president is probably drawing from his current reading material. Maybe the next policy decision can be based on the president's favorite: "The Very Hungry Caterpillar."
The Bush administration eats the surplus, eats jobs, eats social programs, eats us into deficit, eats civil rights, and eventually gets so bloated it turns into something unrecognizable.
(No disrespect to Eric Carle and his excellent book -- one of my favorites as a child.)
Stealing freely from a link on curious frog (maybe I should call it riffing... sounds less dishonorable) I was inspired to use MapQuest to seek out this image of the area around the White House. Looks like DC planners were fans of the pentagram. (That link is the aerial photo. This one is the road map)
No need to jump to satanic conclusions.
Although the Roman Church has ascribed the goat as an image of their Devil, it has long been associated with fertility and fecundity, two qualities which were highly revered by ancient people.The pentagram was also a masonic symbol.
Some people take this information and run with it. Knock yourself out, pally.
Websurfing can be fun! I found out that the inverted pentagram inscribed with the goat head is called the "Sigil of Baphomet." Baphomet from the Greek "baphe" and "mentis" meaning "absorption of knowledge." Used by inquisitors trying to pry information out of their victims.
Interesting blog connection: Steve has a post about Christian iconography over at Absit Invidia. When I was a kid, I remember going on a retreat with my church and we met a fellow who was a researcher into iconography. Before talking to him, I thought an icon was simply an image that was somewhat visually representative of the object or action it stood in for -- the same idea icons are used for in computers. I has no idea what a religious icon was. His presentation was among the most interesting experiences I had in the church.
What's a Google bomb? It's when a bunch of people start using a particular phrase and use it to link to a specific website. Eventually, because of the way Google works, Google associates that phrase with the page in question.
The most recent example of the Google bomb in action is the linking of the term miserable failure with Dubya's bio page on the White House website. (To try for yourself, search Google for the phrase "miserable failure" and either hit "I Feel Lucky" or just look at the top page returned.)
Here's the NYT story on the Bush Google bomb.
Chuck sent this this fun story along as companion to the Radioactive Scout story: A Do-It-Yourself Cruise Missile website. Of course, the government stepped in, as it always seems to when some well-meaning citizen tries to build a cruise missile or other modern bit of jet-powered, explosive Hell-from-above.
Seriously, this guy likes to build hight-powered fire-toys. Check out that picture on the front page of his website. Heee-ooo, that's one mighty fine weenie roaster.
Yesterday Maggie organized a bit of holiday ornament fun with the kids. Snowman heads. We had a lot of fun putting them together, and got a bit silly in the process. She's given me the instructions so that I can share it with all of you folk. I recommend it highly, even if you don't have kids.
You can see the ones we made. From left to right, those were ones made by Kit, me, Maggie, Mattie and me again.
These were inspired by Crate and Barrel's Snowman ornaments, but as Mattie said "It's much funner making them than buying them."
To make the snowmen: Cover your snowball in a thin coat of the white model magic (or another color, if you wish). Smooth it out until it's the texture you want.
- 2" Styrofoam® snowballs
- Crayola Model Magic® in white (head), orange (carrot nose), and other desired colors
- Bobby socks, age 6-18 months, in desired colors (hat)
- Pom-poms, jingle bells (for the hats)
- chenille stems (for arms or earmuffs)
- black and white beads (for eyes)
- pins, scissors, needle and thread, ribbon
Make a carrot-shape out of the orange model magic for the nose, and push it onto the snowball.
Press black beads into the snowball for eyes.
If you wish, draw a line on the snowball for a mouth and other features. Any of these can be filled in with beads or strips of model magic.
You can use chenille stems to make arms or other features as well.
To make the hat:
Turn a bobby sock inside out. Sew across the ankle part of the sock,
separating the ankle from the heel/toe portion. Cut off the heel/toe portion, and turn the ankle part right side out. Flip up the bottom for a brim. Sew a pom-pom or jingle bell to the top, and sew a thread or piece of ribbon for hanging.
Use pins to affix the hat to the snowman as desired.
To make earmuffs:
Make the earmuffs out of model magic, and stick them to the head. Use a chenille stem across the top of the head between the muffs. You can tie thread or a ribbon to the chenille stem to hang the ornament.
To hang if there's no hat or earmuffs:
If you make a hat completely out of model magic, or if you have no hat
at all, you can hang the ornament by pressing a pin into the top and tying a thread or ribbon around the pin.
As this series of photos show, it's unwise to drive into muddy puddles. When you can't see the bottom, it could be worse than you think! (Scroll down to see all pictures in the series.)
Of course, most puddles aren't as deep as this one turned out to be. Can you say "quagmire?"
If I were to tell you what this animation was, it would ruin the surprise. Let me just say that I never knew the mushrooms were going to be harvested, and I'm glad that someone has done the work necessary to bring us this fully restored scene from Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.
Driving was pretty bad gettign home last night with fun spinouts, people driving too fast and stop and go traffic on 195. When I got home I was glad to be there. Today I ventured out briefly to the hardware store (LOVE the hardware store) to get supplies so that staying in all weekend will be productive. Of course, there will be time for some fun, too. And perhaps cocoa by the fire.
A storm like this gives you the best and the worst of New England. I know some folks hate it, but I have to admit that a little shovelling doesn't bother me, and it's actually not a hardship to be stuck at home with the many diversions that books, renovating, the internet, DVDs and the kids have to offer.
Remember when you were a kid and you dreamed of building a breeder reactor in your back shed? And remember the joy you felt when you built it, and finally achieved some sustained nuclear chain reactions?
You must not be David Hahn, then. The boy who took a Boy Scout merit badge experiment and turned it into a hobby gone awry.
Now seventeen, David hit on the idea of building a model breeder reactor. He knew that without a critical pile of at least thirty pounds of enriched uranium he had no chance of initiating a sustained chain reaction, but he was determined to get as far as he could by trying to get his various radioisotopes to interact with one another. That way, he now says, "no matter what happened there would be something changing into something--some kind of action going on there." His blueprint was a schematic of a checkerboard breeder reactor he'd seen in one of his father's college textbooks. Ignoring any thought of safety, David took the highly radioactive radium and americium out of their respective lead casings and, after another round of filing and pulverizing, mixed those isotopes with beryllium and aluminum shavings, all of which he wrapped in aluminum foil. What were once the neutron sources for his guns became a makeshift "core" for his reactor. He surrounded this radioactive ball with a "blanket" composed of tiny foil-wrapped cubes of thorium ash and uranium powder, which were stacked in an alternating pattern with carbon cubes and tenuously held together with duct tape.And a short time after that, the authorities stepped in.
This story is a must-read. Why hasn't this been made into a movie yet? As one site notes: "Nobody really needs an unsafe homemade reactor (especially one made of duct tape and foil)" Yeah? Well no one needs a PlayStation 2 either, do they?
Yes, the phone company delivered one of those small local phone books in a paper bag to the office. It got rained on and driven over multiple times. Now it is just a flat mass of whitish, grayish and yellowish pulp with a bit of plastic embedded inside. On dry days, the entire thing can be picked up and moved, which is just what I'm going to do with it. Move it to the dumpster.
In case there was anything you wanted to know about bikinis... really, anything, it all seems to be there on the Bikini Science website. Don't believe me? Look at how exhaustive the definition of culotte alone is.
Never get into a discussion of female swimwear uninformed again.
Hold on there a second! Is that Howard Dean as the nazi guy driving the truck next to Harrison Ford? In classic Tom Servo and Crow fashion Maggie and I said "Howard Dean?" while watching Raiders of the lost Ark last night. It sure looked like him when we saw this scene last night. Compare and contrast.
(And no folks, I'm not implying anything negative about Dean. I just thought it was funny to see this lookalike in my favorite film. )
Can anyone guess what the thing pictured here is? I'll give you until next week to figure it out, or unitl someone gets it right. Make as many guesses as you wish. A larger image is on my fotolog.
[I have reconsidered the the "next week" bit. I will reveal the answer sometime tomorrow.]
Some unrelated items coming over the transom. It's a busy day, and these all deserve to be posted, so I'm tossing them up as a group.
When I put Whale Rider on my Netflix queue it was just because I had heard it was a good film. But by the time it arrived I had read the description and it sounded like it would be a good film to watch with my daughters.
Weird thing was, it is a PG-13 movie. My daughters are 6 and 8. More about this later.
This film is about a young Maori girl named Pai who has had a bit of a rough life thus far. Her twin brother was destined to be chief of her people because of their bloodline, but he and their mother died during a difficult childbirth. Her grandfather was devastated. Years later when she is 12 years old, chauvinism keeps her from participating in the traditions of her people. It stands between her and accomplishing what no one else in the community seems able to do -- save her grandfather from the funk of his rigid vision of the future.
Stubborn people have stubborn children, and grandchildren. If stubbornness alone were enough to get us what we wanted in life, "like an ass" would be a flattering simile. Pai calls upon her creativity, her discipline and her heart to overcome obstacles set against her. I could tell that my daughter was fascinated by what this girl was willing to do, and it is a fascinating and captivating family story.
We watched the film together, my 6 year-old and I. This was good, because she had a few questions. The first questions were about the mother dying in childbirth. Next was about a few instances of the slang word "dick" which she had never heard before. Finally, she had a hard time understanding why Pai couldn't be the chief of her tribe.
The easiest question to answer was th slang question, easily dispatched with "it's a somewhat rude word for 'penis.'" The other questions were a little tougher.
This PG-13 movie presumably got its rating from that one instance of 'language' and a fleeting glance of drug paraphernalia which is not instrumental to the story in any way. I'm not the first person to be baffled at how a film like this earns a PG-13 rating. The film has a lot to offer, and the fact that it gets branded with a PG-13 shows that there is something fundamentally wrong with the rating system. That's not to say that kids ought to see this film alone, but it should be intended for kids to see, with their families.
What a waste of time most children's movies are. Kids need to have their heads filled with great stories that spark their own imaginations and challenge their hearts and their creativity. Most of the dreck out there for kids, and even some of the more entertaining stuff, does not offer much.
Keisha Castle-Hughes stars as Pai in her debut role. She's believable in this moving performance, which is never once overplayed. The kudos she has recieved from the press is all well-deserved.
If you want something different for yourself, or for your kids, Whale Rider offers more.
A ROMAN GLASS GAMING DIEChristies website also mentions: "Modern scholarship has not yet established the game for which these dice were used."
Circa 2nd Century A.D.
Deep blue-green in color, the large twenty-sided die incised with a distinct symbol on each of its faces
2 1/16 in. (5.2 cm.) wide
Clearly they were used to determine the outcome of battles, and whether or not people saved against magic spells. Isn't that what d20s are for? (Thanks for the link, Bob.)
If you weren't a Bright, perhaps you are a "none." More than doubling their numbers in a decade, they are people who would answer "none" when queried regarding their religion.
"If anyone in the Bible Belt learns you're a none," said Betsy Lampe, 46, a none from Lakeland, Fla., "they immediately and mistakenly believe that you're either a Satan worshipper or a communist and treat you as such.The following quote, though, got my attention:
"To them, you must be labeled."
Leonard, a publicist who works in New York City, came to see religion as "death insurance." She's not willing to pay the premiums.Sticking to religion has been promoted to me in just that way, more than once. But then, it's a crap shoot regarding which insurance you choose, no?
To my mind, people ought to follow whatever religion works for them, so long as they harm no one else in the process. But don't expect me to buy into it, please. And if it makes you do or say something truly silly (like that a deity has made the image of his face appear in a sliced potato) I will respect your freedom to believe, do and say while myself believing that you are also being silly.(Found via Bad Attitudes)
The Italian Job is a heist/revenge film with little to recommend it. Mark Wahlberg somehow thinks he's George Clooney, but isn't. Charlize Theron is trapped in a boring role. The costars are amusing only when they're not being annoying. And I like Seth Green and Jason Statham... it's just that I don't like to see them in a movie like this.
There is a halfway decent chase scene at the end of the film, but certainly not good enough to sit through the 130 minutes which preceed it.
Skip this job - watching a movie shouldn't be as boring as work.
You want to see a heist movie? Rent The Good Thief.
A huge power outage hit the region last evening.
The outage hit while I was still at work. I was about to sent an email to Ryan about some code that affects an issue he's looking into when the lights went off. My UPS prevented the computer from shutting down right away, but I wasn't able to send the mail. I had to use a flashlight to scrawl a note on the white board. So low tech!
At least it was an excuse to hit the road. I was shocked at the extent of the outage as I drove away. There was chaos at the intersection of Cross Street and Rte. 6 in Dartmouth, but I made it to the highway without too much trouble. West of Dartmouth appeared relatively unaffected. Fall River and Somerset had electricity. When I got home, Julie was on the phone with Maggie. She was, unfortunately, in the dark.
On the bright side, it lasted just around 90 minutes. But such a widespread outage is more than a little scary, especially if your heat depends on electricity.
Rush-hour outage hits 300,000 (New Bedford Standard Times)
Widespread power outages on Cape Cod, southeastern Massachusetts (Boston.com)
informIT has a good article today on "Live CD" Linux distributions. These distributions allow someone to burn themselves a bootable Linux CD. You stick the CD in your CD-ROM drive and boot into Linux, giving yourself a Linux test-drive without the hassle of making changes to your system.
Not only are these test drives, but usable Linux distributions, with applications and all. It may even be an alternative for some people who were considering making their Windows box into a dual-boot machine.
Check out the article, which contains plenty of detail, and reviews some of the different distributions.
Spent the day sick as a dog yesterday. Funny thing is, I had just posted a comment on Steve's site telling him to get better soon (he's got the flu). My problem was gastrointestinal, of the 24 hour variety. Thank goodness for brief but intense illnesses.
It's pretty amazing how quickly you can go from feeling well to feeling like you want to die. Though I didn't get that bad this time, it made me think about people who have illnesses with no hope of recovery -- illnesses which drag on and make each day's goal just to hang on and deal with it. The healthy person has a variety of goals. When you feel crappy, getting up from the couch is a challenge. Someone explain to me why we prevent ill people fron getting marijuanna, if it would help them?