January 31, 2004

Spam Spigot

Spam has reached an unbelievable level in my in box. I use POPfile to filter, and it does an excellent job, but I would still prefer to have less spam. I do miss an occasional email.

The image you see here is an illustration of how my mail gets sorted. You can see the percentages of different categories. Nearly 80% of my email is spam!. And It's nearly all going to one of my email addresses... the one I use for work. I'm considering abandoning that address. The problem is, that address has been around forever, it's been mentioned on USENET and so it has been compromised for a very long time.

I'm wondering what the easiest way to dump an email address might be. I'm thinking I could, perhaps, set up an auto responder which points the sender to a web page which contains a link to my new email address (in one of the safer forms of email address posting).

Posted by James at 2:37 PM

Padanaram Winter Drive

Padanaram Harbor is frozen solid. How do I know this?

I know it because some fella drove out onto the harbor when he took a very wrong turn.

Lt. Cotta said Mr. Sylvia was parked at the boat ramp at the town landing, then drove his 1986 Chevrolet Cavalier from the ramp across the harbor, heading in an easterly direction and parallel with the causeway.
He sais he thought he was on Gulf Road, but it sounds like he was driving straight across the harbor. I didn't have time to run out and check out the tracks to try to figure out what this fellow was thinking, but you can see from the picture in the Standard TImes story that they had to crane-lift it out of the harbor.

As Ryan pointed out, you can't make this shit up.

Posted by James at 12:09 PM

January 30, 2004

States Visited



create your own visited states map


I made it to Australia - that has to count for something!

Posted by James at 1:46 PM | Comments (1)

Litterbug

I heard an odd sound behind me as I was leaving the house this morning -- the sound of plastic scraping. My back was to the front yard while I was locking the door, and that's when I heard it. I looked over my shoulder to see the source of the noise, but there was no one there. I returned to locking the door and put a letter into the mailbox. That's when I heard it again.

This time it seemed like it was above me. As I turned to face the front yard, I saw something fall out of the tree. It was an empty plastic chocolate syrup bottle! An odd thing to fall from a tree, I thought.

Running away from the tree, at the same time, was a squirrel.

I didn't realize that squirrels liked chocolate syrup. But I wondered how the heck the little guy could carry the thing all the way up into the tree. And, since we put the recyclables out on Tuesday, I wondered how long that poor squirrel had been working on that bottle before I startled him into dropping it.

Posted by James at 12:54 PM | Comments (4)

January 28, 2004

Weapons of Mass Disappearance

In USA Today:

While inspectors have been unable to unearth weapons of mass destruction, they have found new evidence that Saddam's regime quietly destroyed some stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons in the mid-1990s, Kay told The Washington Post in an interview in Tuesday editions.
BTW, another way to put "he quietly destroyed" would be "he was disarming."

Posted by James at 2:28 PM

Feeding Time

An elderly Cherokee Native American was teaching his grandchildren about life. He said to them, "A fight is going on inside me...it is a terrible fight and it is like a fight to death between two wolves.

One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

The other represents joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.

This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every person, too."

The granchildren thought about it for a minute and then one child asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

The old Cherokee replied, "The one you feed."

(Author unknown)

Posted by James at 12:50 PM | Comments (1)

He Said It Again?

Remember when Bush said that Saddam wouldn't let the inspectors in, and that's why we went to war. You thought it was a mistake, right? He couldn't have been that confused about the time line of events. He has a better grasp on reality than that, right? WRONG.

Q Mr. President, but how do you describe and account for the difference between what you claimed prior to the war about what he possessed and what he was capable of, and what the intelligence said he possessed and was capable of in terms of a nuclear weapon within the decade, and the fact that David Kay says the intelligence was inaccurate and wrong, and nothing has been found? Don't you owe the American people an explanation?

PRESIDENT BUSH:
Well, I think the Iraq Survey Group must do its work. Again, I appreciate David Kay's contribution. I said in the run-up to the war against Iraq that -- first of all, I hoped the international community would take care of him. I was hoping the United Nations would enforce its resolutions, one of many. And then we went to the United Nations, of course, and got an overwhelming resolution -- 1441 -- unanimous resolution, that said to Saddam, you must disclose and destroy your weapons programs, which obviously meant the world felt he had such programs. He chose defiance. It was his choice to make, and he did not let us in.

I said in the run-up that Saddam was a grave and gathering danger, that's what I said. And I believed it then, and I know it was true now. And as Mr. Kay said, that Iraq was a dangerous place. And given the circumstances of September the 11th, given the fact that we're vulnerable to attack, this nation had to act for our security.

Forget that he makes us sound like a bunch of paranoid lunatics, does he really believe that's how it happened?

But I have come up with an explanation. He already told us he doesn't read the paper. He avoids the media. No we know why. His advisor's are feeding him their own version of Current Events. It must be quite a bedtime story.

(link via. Atrios)

Posted by James at 1:57 AM

January 27, 2004

Franken Dislikes Hecklers

AL FRANKEN KNOCKS DOWN DEAN HECKLER

The trouble started when several supporters of fringe presidential candidate Lyndon Larouche began shouting accusations at Dean.

Franken emerged from the crowd and charged one male protester, grabbing him with a bear hug from behind and slamming him onto the floor.

Mental note: don't mess with Al Franken.


Posted by James at 11:06 PM | Comments (3)

Laughing Related Program Activities

Get Your War On"Get Your War On" reacts to the State of the Union address. (via Lies.com)

One of the most funny series of "Get Your War On" in a while. The material he's drawing from makes a difference.

Posted by James at 5:22 PM

How to Vote in NH

Defective Yeti takes a cynical look at the NH primary. Funny because it's true.

Posted by James at 4:51 PM

NE Speaking

Though it's not all of New England, New Hampshire is at east part of New England, and so we see New England getting its first chance to speak about who it would like to see as the next president. That person appears to be John Kerry. He's a New Englander, as is Howard Dean, but New Hampshire appears to have taken to Kerry more, primarily on the basis of electability. According to USA Today (via Absit Invidia), Democrats have an unusually strong hankering to oust Bush. They're fired up about it enough to create a Howard Dean. Nevertheless, a majority of them polled in NH think that Kerry gives them the best chance to go the distance.

It is, perhaps, the case that Dean has provided Kerry with a bit of cover up to this point. righties have spent a lot of time attacking Dean, making light of him, and are struggling to play catch-up since Kerry started commanding a poll lead. The Dean yell proved too good to pass up for them, but once they cleared their heads, they realized Kerry had run away from the pack.

Predictably, there is increased noise about Kerry. The lame (IMHO) "He mentions Viet Nam too much" has been replaced with "He threw his medals away" and such. I, of course, have had criticisms of him as the Democratic candidate, but I realize that I'm a minority within the country and I'm liberal but not a registered Democrat. So most people aren't going to agree with me, which means I have to decide how unhappy to be if Kerry wins the nomination. And I must admit, if Kerry wins the nomination in a shape that makes it looks like he's going to give Bush a real fight (not a Dukakis fight) I'll have a lot of trouble complaining.

And if he wins the general election... you won't hear much complaining at all from me.

Here's what I'm wondering, though.

I criticize Bush for dividing the country. Even in his state of the union address, he attacks divisive issues with vigor, trying to make the most political hay possible with his base. I will probably call for the next liberal president to try to bring the country together.

However, it's my opinion that Clinton did a good job bringing the country together. And I think that is part of the reason some Republicans hated him so much. It's worse if your opponent is insidiously popular.

So, is it better for a politician to ignore the opposition and plat to his base, or should a president be a uniter, rather than a divider?

Posted by James at 3:15 PM | Comments (2)

NH-athon

Steve of Absit Invidia is blogging for the Jimmy Fund. He'll be keeping us current with the happenings in New Hampshire as the struggle for the Democratic nomination continues. I had missed a previou opportunity to give to the Jimmy Fund and regretted it, so I took advantage of this one. Visit Steve and see how his blogathon is going!

Posted by James at 9:54 AM

Not-So-Smart Cards?

Dean supporters out there. Does he really mean this:

Dean also suggested that computer makers such as Apple Computer, Dell, Gateway and Sony should be required to include an ID card reader in PCs--and Americans would have to insert their uniform IDs into the reader before they could log on. "One state's smart-card driver's license must be identifiable by another state's card reader," Dean said. "It must also be easily commercialized by the private sector and included in all PCs over time--making the Internet safer and more secure."
Apparently, this was back in 2002. Now, this has got my libertarian hemisphere all ajumble. It smacks of a man who wasn't really familiar with using the internet himself thinking he's come up with a good idea. I'm hoping that the man got himself some advisors who'll have nipped this in the bud if they know what's good for him.

Anyone out there know if he's responded to questions about this lately?

Posted by James at 12:21 AM | Comments (1)

January 26, 2004

Bum's Rush

Absit Invidia: A Felonious Rush brings me the SHOCKING news that Rush faces a court battle over 10 felony charges or a plea bargain which involves accepting one felony charge and some probation.

If I were in a gloating mood, I'd be all over this. But the story largely speaks for itself. We kept hearing that Rush was being harassed. His supporters asked us to believe he was targetted because of his celebrity (an allowance I never heard him give any of the Hollywood celebs he picked on). In the end, it's all bullshit.

I sincerely hope he beats his problem. But this is yet another example of how, once declared dead, irony has come back with a vengeance.

He launched many attacks which his audience ate up, and it was all resting on a pile of garbage. How fitting for Rush to begin his exit with "dope" attached to his name.

Posted by James at 2:38 PM

Rapture Ready

You ready for the rapture? I know, I know. You are constantly looking at your watch, and at the signs in the news that the righteous will suddenly be borne up into the heavens. Have you noticed the following trend in top news stories?

  1. Unrest in the Middle East
  2. Global terrorism
  3. The European Union's political merger
  4. Nation ID initiatives
  5. Apostasy in the Church
  6. Ecumenicalism
  7. Contagious diseases
  8. Natural disasters
  9. Unusual weather events
  10. Russia's Iraq's China's growing economic and military might
Of course you have. And so Rapture Ready is the website for you. Deborah Harry would approve!

Not only will it prepare the chosen folks (how y'all doing out there?) but for those of us left behind there's even a post-rapture survival guide. Helpful advice such as "Above all, do not accept the mark of the beast on your right hand or forehead." will keep us safe.

So, I goof on you rapture folks every now and again. Truth is, I am a teeny bit envious of a system of belief that has such a movie-friendly sci-fi story built in. Just a teensy, weensy bit. Of course, there are alternatives. Xenu (Xemu?) and the body Thetans of Scientology leap to mind.

I kid because I love. Kinda.

I remember when I was a wee lad, I had a friend who was one of the sort who believe in the Rapture. I was raised Catholic, so his stories of being lifted up to Heaven were news to me. I don't recall believing him, but they were fun to listen to. I have fond memories of Shawn, wide-eyed, telling me what he knew of the end of the world. But then I would always recall somethign my Dad said once about a really bad storm that seemed to his friends out camping like it was going to be the end of the world. He was willing to take bets that it wasn't.

The point is, where do you apply practical reasoning to your beliefs? This rapture stuff is really unnecessary to support what Christians believe. Most of the "good stuff" doesn't need the window-dressing. Love thy neighbor, don't kill, honor your father and mother... it's nearly all an easy sell. Why muddy it up with the theatrics?

Don't folks feel silly turning their beliefs into fodder for the sci-fi channel? (BTW - don't get me started on John Edwards of "Crossing Over")

I'm wondering for real here - this isn't a rhetorical question. Why do people go for the fancy mythological religion over, say, Catholicism which seems to keep a lid on most of its apocalypse?

Posted by James at 1:16 PM | Comments (7)

Vatican Catches Up To 80's

Break-Dancers Perform for the Pope (Guardian)

In an unusual spectacle at the Vatican, Pope John Paul II presided Sunday over a performance of break-dancers who leaped, flipped and spun their bodies to beats from a tinny boom box.
Crazy kids.

Posted by James at 12:03 AM | Comments (1)

January 25, 2004

Conflagration and Loss

One of the most disruptive things that can happen to a family is to lose a house in a fire. That is just what happened to an unfortunate family in our town.

I don't know these people, but in a small town it's nearly impossible for something like this to happen without there being some connection. I've live hear nearly my whole life.

This was a house I often rode my bicycle past when I was a teenager, and probably never took a second look at. It is three houses down from the place where a cousin of mine, who is like a brother to me, spent his childhood.

One of the firefighters was hospitalized for smoke inhalation. For many years he lived right across from us.

It is heartwarming to see how the community respoonds. It seems many people are trying to help them get back on their feet. The brownie troop which my daughters attend and which my wife co-leads is donating clothing and other items to the family. We've also offered some of our own small help. And even the girls have donated some of thier toys to the little girl. Kit got quite excited about it.

I find that when you have to explain a situation to children, it often has more of a personal impact. You have to mull it over in your brain to make it understandable to children why you're trying to help these folks you don't know... what has happened to them. It quickly becomes very personal.

Posted by James at 8:23 PM

January 24, 2004

Tracking the Race

Bush vs. Dean -- Bush is in the lead.

Google "Bush nose pick"
Results 1 - 10 of about 92,600. Search took 0.15 seconds (Feeling lucky?)

Google "Dean yell"
Results 1 - 10 of about 51,000. Search took 0.07 seconds. (Feeling lucky?)

Dean has a lot of work ahead of him. Name recognition is important. As an image consultant, I suggest he yell a little louder next time, wearing a belly shirt and sporting a navel piercing. Here's a link to the Bush Nose Pick video.

Of course, no one would suggest not voting for a guy just because he picks his nose in public. Just as no one would suggest not voting for a guy who gets a little excited in front of his supporters and lets out a sympathetic farm rally yell.

Posted by James at 10:36 AM

January 23, 2004

We Stay Dumb

I was pleased with the Democratic debate in New Hampshire (transcript) last night, for the most part. At least, I was pleased with the candidates.

I was at first only slightly annoyed and slightly amused by the "moderator" attempts to get the candidates to go at each other's throats. But after the debate, I caught some of the FOX coverage and I realized how bad this political season is going to be for news coverage.

Instead of delving at the substance of issues so that people can distinguish the candidates, what reporters (at least at FOX) are trying to do is get the candidates to sling mud at each other. Rather than argue that they will make a better president, FOX would have the democrats tell us about how unelectable the other democrats are.

Fireworks are good for ratings. Keep these men arguing amongst themselves about the worst possible interpretations of their words, the most contentious. Keep them at each other. Keep them negative.

Meanwhile, we stay dumb.

Posted by James at 1:48 PM | Comments (7)

Furl Link Blogging

Furl is a Filing system for URLs. It's a way to keep track of the URLs you've been browsing.

It's also a way to share the URLs you're browsing. When I first created Aces Full of Links, my intention was to have a simple link blog to just pass along links I'd found. But I've come to realize that I like telling people about the goofy stuff going on in my life, and it makes a nice place to vent regarding political frustration, as well as a place to share fun and interesting links. But I'd like to pass along more links without cluttering up the blog entries -- even when I don't have a blog comment.

Furl is a like a mini free blogging service. They give you a bookmark for your browser that takes the page you're reading and just tosses it into your link archive. Once it's there, it's shared with the world (though you can also have private entries).

Here is my full link archive FURL can be searched, but I've also included the content on the left as a sidebar blog for the time being. When you visit, look to the sidebar to see what URLs I've been browsing. I'll reserve the main blog for when I have something more substantial to say about a link (which is why a link may show up in both places, once I work out something to say!)

Folks with news aggregators can use the sideblog RSS feed.

You don't have to be a blogger to use Furl, just someone who reads a lot of internet content and wants to keep track of it. If any of you sign up to Furl and start collecting links, let me know. (Blatant attempt at stealing link content for my weblog).

Posted by James at 9:41 AM | Comments (1)

January 22, 2004

Tribes

Tribe.net is a service similar to Friendster. it's a friend networking tool.

Most of my friends are not the network-joining type. But what I like about Tribes is that there are not only networks based on friendship, but also the ability to form groups (tribes) based on whatever criteria you like. It combines the idea of a friend network with interest groups, and discussions. For example, I've created a tribe for readers of this weblog:

http://afol.tribe.net/ - the Aces Full of Links Readers tribe.

If you go there, you can sign up as an AFOL reader. It would be interesting if many blogs had such open tribes. While it's easy to see what blogs other bloggers are reading (through their blogrolls, though mine is stale), it's not easy to see what blogs other blog readers are reading. If you were a member of 3 or 4 weblog tribes, you might see that people who read weblog X also like weblog Y. You might also find people that are coming together to support a presidential candidate, or somesuch.

In any case, feel free to join the tribe above. Membership is wide open.

Other tribes on the site I have found:

If you do join, you can find me here.

Posted by James at 4:35 PM | Comments (1)

A Face Not Even Evite Could Love

So I may as well fill you in about the Evite situation.

Last week I decided to add a profile picture to my Evite account to help people recognize me there. No big deal, Evite doesn't get a ton of use, but has its advantages.

The first photo I sent was one of a pumpkin I carved a couple of years ago. I've used it as an avatar at EAForums, and a number of people recognize me by it. So it seemed somewhat appropriate. The next day I go tthe following email:

Subj: Your Photo Is Deleted
Dear JP,

Thank you for uploading a photo to your My Info page.

Unfortunately, we had to take down your photo because the one you posted contains animals, children, cartoons, comics, celebrities, nudity, artwork, or copyrighted images.

Please go back to My Info to post another photo of yourself. [...]

Cheers,

The Evite Team

I was disappointed, but no biggie, right? I read the TOS for the site, so it really seemed like they wanted a face. Anything else was going to be nixed. So I found a picture of my face that was not unacceptable to me. Definitely my face. Cropped enough not to frighten the children too much. Shades on covering the black eye I got fighting evil. Or bumping into a wall.

Anyhow, a day after that, I got an email message with a familiar subject line.

Subj: Your Photo Is Deleted
Was my photo being mistaken for that of a celebrity? Ruth Buzzi perhaps? Bob Hope? Hervé Villechaize? Jessica Simpson? Sure, the likenesses are baffling, shouldn't they take me at my word. I sent them an email (edited to remove backstory):
You've rejected my profile image twice in a week.

The first was a picture of a jack o'lantern that I often use [...]

So my second image was this one, of my own face taken in my own car with my own camera. And now you've removed that one
also. [...]

Did my jack o'lantern make someone there angry?

After a number of days had passed, I got a friendly response.
James,

Upload the image [of my face] and I will not take it down. We want images of the
person who created the profile. It looks like it was just a mistake. I do
not remember the Jack O lantern image, but I would have to take it down.

If you have any problems with the image again, let me know.

Customer Service

Fine and dandy! To be as accommodating as possible, I cropped out some more of the background and lightened the image to make it more discernible. I arrived at the photo displayed here with this entry. And I triumphantly uploaded it to Evite's website, happy that the misunderstanding had been handled fairly amicably.

The next day. I checked my email as I always do. Lookee here! "Subj: Your Photo Is Deleted"

[Epilogue: I replied to them once again, this time sending the new photo along. I checked this morning and some kind soul has re-uploaded the photo for me. I sent a brief "Thank You."]

Posted by James at 10:54 AM | Comments (2)

January 21, 2004

By the Issues

Here is a review of the SotU address on some of the issues. You know if I posted my opinion, it would just be a bunch of sophomoric jokes. Like that Bush has too many of those "Ain't I just a clever dickens?" moments. (Maggie says "Or ain't the speech writers clever Dickenses") And can't Nanci Pelosi read the speeches in advance? And can't she turn down that creepy vibe that I can't quite put my finger on? And can't someone wake up that poor Tom Daschle for god's sake!

I swear at some point Bush said that we took down a dangerous Baptist regime. I swear I heard that. That's my story and I'm sticking' to it.

But the above story makes some good points.

What Bush said: Search teams have "identified dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities" in Iraq. "Had we failed to act, the dictator's weapons of mass destruction programs would continue to this day."

Context: The Bush administration has struggled to explain why weapons hunters have found no chemical or biological weapons in Iraq in 10 months of searching. On the eve of the war, President Bush said there was "no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised." He said terrorist groups could acquire weapons from Iraq and use them against the United States. A search effort led by CIA appointee David Kay has turned up no weapons and no evidence of any advanced weapons program, raising questions about the quality of U.S. intelligence and the Bush administration's justification for war in Iraq.

Dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activity-like militaryish thingies. Literally. Dozens. Many scribbled on notepads. One guy scratched something into the sand. Really.

Come on, people. Let's look back... far back... Remember these quotes? :

"Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction-related program activities."
Dick Cheney
Speech to VFW National Convention, Aug. 26, 2002
I think you have always heard, and you continue to hear from officials, a measure of high confidence that, indeed, the weapons of mass destruction-related program activities will be found.
Ari Fleischer
Press Briefing, Apr. 10, 2003
If you don't, don't worry. No one was speaking in such mealy-mouthed language before the war. It wouldn't have been right to let the people decide on what we actually knew. Not what someone apparently wanted to be true. I would have preferred Bush had continued to say "weapons of mass destruction" because at least it would be consistent.

I haven't read it yet, but Maggie endorses the Center for American Progress' Politics Without Fingerprints.

Posted by James at 9:18 PM

God Vs. Porn

Rabbi Offers Prayer for Web Porn Browsers

The rabbi recommends that Jews recite the prayer when they log on to the Internet or even program it to flash up on their computer screens so they are spiritually covered whether they enter a porn site intentionally or by mistake.
If you're going to surf porn, you may as well be spiritually covered.

Posted by James at 12:11 PM

January 20, 2004

Find Music

Found this on MetaFilter... musicplasma.com. It's a visual search for artists similar to artists you know and love. It's a Flash app that shows an animated map of artists. You can look around and, perhaps find artist you've never heard of. Then go to Amazon and listen to song clips. Nifty idea, and it's got a purty face.

Posted by James at 8:39 PM

Money To The Rich

When liberals talk about the Bush tax cuts, we often refer to them as Bush's reward for rich people. When I do so, I do feel a twinge, because even I like to hold out that someone who we'd choose as leader isn't blatantly pandering. Surely Bush himself doesn't see it that way... does he?

"Haven't we already given money to rich people? Why are we going to do it again?" - G.W.Bush
"Stick to principle. Stick to principle." - Karl Rove
"We won the midterm elections, this is our due." - Dick Cheney
So, here we have it as clear as can be. They do look at it as tossing dollars to the wealthy. They are as cynical as you feared to imagine. And they have a sense that they are due something, at a cost that will be paid by our children, they feel it is politically important to pass on the dollars to those who put them in power. A return on investment. looked at this way, even someone as science-focused as I am starts to see Bush's recent proclamation regarding manned space exploration as a bone being thrown his aerospace industry supporters. [Source: IVINS: New Bushisms For A New Year]

Posted by James at 5:39 PM | Comments (9)

Wake Up

I know I'm not usually the source for substantive political coverage here. I try to keep things at least somewhat humorous, slightly sensational and fun because so much of the news, while it often is sensational, is deadening. And my political posts often come from the same place my outrage comes from. Be that as it may.

Kerry's had a surprising victory in Iowa. I have no idea what this means. I haven't made it a secret that I disagreed with what I saw as his presidential gambit in supporting Bush on the war way back when the vote took place. Is this what is helping him now? Can he win if he gets the nomination? Is Iowa anything more than a little political side show that you have to get past on the way to the nomination? I have no idea. I do know that this makes things more interesting, though "interesting is not what Dean supporters wanted.

I think Dean is far from over, so you Deaniacs are only looking at a minor setback.

Politics is in the air. I'm still focused on our president. That "pretty" story still has me in stitches. Imagine the uproar if CLinton had gone around commenting on the appearance of staffers from other world leaders. I swear there are times I get up in the morning and re-read stories about Bush because I wonder if I dreamed them.

Posted by James at 4:05 PM

Milk It

I bought several gallons of milk in early-mid December from BJ's wholesale because out family goes through milk quickly. Just before Christmas, Maggie expressed her reservations to me about feeding the girls the last of the gallons of milk, which was just at its expiration date. December 20, 2003.

Figuring the milk was still good, I brought it to work. I don't use much milk here, but I figured I wasn't going to throw it out. Every couple of days I used a bit of it. Then, I took number of days off around the holidays and it sat unused. Time has crept on.

Today, after a long weekend, I returned to work and found it still in the fridge. A quart or so is still in there. I was about to pour it out when I noticed the date today. January 20. One month past the expiration date of the milk.

For old time's sake, I took a swig from last year's milk.

It tasted OK enough that I returned it to the fridge. Ryan made an "iffy" sound after sniffing it. Not sure what that means. I'll be using it in my coffee tomorrow.

ADDENDUM: I was feeding my daughter at breakfast the other day, and when I opened the fridg, she asked me if I wanted some egg nog. Before I could answer, she told me it had gone bad. "Why did you asked me if I wanted some when you know it's gone bad?" I asked. "And how do you know it's gone bad... and why is it still in the fridge if it's gone bad?"

She said to me "Mommy says you like bad milk, so she left it in there for you."

I opened the carton and took a whiff. There was about a pint or so left. The horrible smell of the byproducts of lactobacillus eating the egg nod wafted up into my nose. I quickly poured it down the sink, though my daughter protested that I was wasting perfectly good bad dairy products. I had to explain to her: even Daddy has his limits.

Posted by James at 3:33 PM | Comments (14)

January 19, 2004

State of the President

Remember this skit?

No, no, wait, wait! Hear me out. You see, everyone gets an ostrich.. and then you eat the ostrich, then you raise the ostrich.. that way, no more ostriches! We are trying to get rid of all the ostriches, right? Anyone?
Yeah. It was funnier before the election.

How about stuff Bush has really been saying.

Last week, he repeatedly told Canadian Senior Strategist Scott Reid "You [sic] got a pretty face." Bush, amiable or just plain creepy? You decide! And with this very early entry, will the Academy remember him when the voting begins for "Most Awkward Come-On 2004?" This story really makes you wonder what Bush was like drunk.

Regarding my previous post on Bush claiming to be a civil rights giant -- that old link went stale. Here's some coverage from Bill Moyers. Search down for "human rights" (not "civil rights").

MOYERS: When you got inside Fortress Bush did you see the President?

AULETTA: I did.

I didn't get to interview him. What happened was I spent a day going… attending their meetings, the press meetings. They let me embed myself in the press operation and attend all their meetings from seven a.m. on.

And the President had an interview with the SUN, Rupert Murdoch's newspaper in England. Soft questions, I might add. They let me sit in the Oval Office for that interview and take notes. It was on the record.

And then at the end of the press… at this interview he came over to me and we were talking. We were talking about someone we both know in common, Tommy Bernstein, who is an activist on Human Rights. And I said, you know, your friend Tommy Bernstein, gets a lot of heat in New York for supporting you from his Democratic friends. And he said, "Bernie's a good guy." He has a nickname for everybody. So Bernie…

MOYERS: The President has a nickname for every…

AULETTA: Yeah. And then the President turned to me and said, "You know, no President has ever done [more] for human rights than I have." And I looked at him, I mean, I hope my mouth didn't drop. But I'm thinking Woodrow Wilson. I mean, Jimmy Carter. And I quote that. I use that quote in the piece.

[Update: there was a typo in that article. Here's yet another link that contains the president's quote. Thanks, Mike.]

Posted by James at 12:59 PM | Comments (5)

Blog Exits and Soda

One of the more boring blog entries you may come across is the "why I'm not going to blog anymore" entry. I've seen people bow out of discussion groups, which is a similar phenomenon, and it is rarely interesting. Often, you get grand pronouncements, or ones that don't make any sense. Or ones that piss you off. Or, the person is just a little too wrapped up in him or herself -- even for a weblogger.

It reminds me of a time I was working at Shaw's Supermarket in Fall River, many years ago. I was lucky enough to land the relatively fun job of sorting plastic bottle returns. It was fun because there was rarely any real rush, you could talk and joke with the customers, people are happy to get their bottle return money (and I didn't have to handle actual money - I printed out a receipt for them). Also, once you got a feel for where the boxes were behind you, you could toss the soda bottled over your shoulder and still hit the correct box, which delighted child and adult alike, though it wasn't as popular with the ladies as you might imagine.

One day, a somewhat elderly man came in with his wife and a few bottles to return. Among the bottles were some "Newport" soda bottles. I believe that brand was sold by Cumberland Farms. It was not sold by Shaws, which meant we couldn't take it. (That's the way it worked at the time).

I explained to the man that I was not allowed to take those bottles and credit him with the returns. He asked why and I told him that we only took bottles of brands we sold. He insisted we sold him the soda, but I told him that we did not, and even suggested where he might have bought them. The man got quite angry with me, but there was little I could do but apologize and repeat what I had told him.

He exclaimed, "I'll never shop here again!" and stormed out. I was 17. I didn't care where he shopped.

A couple of days later, I was on duty again with the bottles. The bottle return was close to the door, so I always saw who was coming and going. And, sure enough, I saw this old man and his wife, back again. When he saw me I lobbed a friendly "Hello" at him, and he scowled and trudged between the aisles.

This reinforced something my mother taught me. It doesn't pay to make a big fuss and be a jerk about things. And it is a small world.

The same is true for the "online world" which is actually the real world, but people like to give it a different name. If blogging sucks all of a sudden, it's because you're out of energy or ideas. There's no shame in that, but I have less respect for someone who says "blogging has sucked lately because..." and they give some reason that has to do with what any other blogger is doing. Worst of all is the reason that it's somehow conformist to blog; it's no longer trendy or different enough for you.

Everyone needs a break once in a while. In case anyone is wondering, the way to take one is this:

"I'm going to take a mental vacation for X weeks, so there are no updates until then. Mark that day on your calendar, because I ought to have a decent blog post on that day. Something has got to happen to me in X weeks."

Or "Just so you know, I'll be blogging less frequently for a while check back every couple of days or so."

It's just polite to tell people what's happening so they don't wonder. But no grand pronouncements of why you're leaving. We know why you're leaving - you're out of juice. You squeezed too hard.

To make this long post even longer, I need to return to the story of that man, and things my mother taught me (or tried to). I know I thought that story was hilarious at the time. But now, looking back, I wonder if the guy was just a little off his rocker. It makes for an interesting story, but if the poor fellow was a little unbalanced, no surprise the bottle thing might set him off. Elderly people can get that way. I'm glad I wasn't a total jerk to him, other than making a point that he knew I knew he had returned to the store.

This is the sort of thing my mother doesn't have in her and tried to suppress in my. My wiseass side is not from her genes. Or, if it is, she's got it under control. She tried to teach me to respect other people. They have their reasons for doing the things they do. Still, though, I have trouble respecting someone who yells at me for not taking a bottle I've been told not to take. For the hell of it, today I would probably just suggest to the guy I'd personally pay him the 5 cents, or whatever it was. I could always return the bottle myself. But at the time, that didn't occur to me. I'm not the most compassionate person, but when I see that today I have better solutions -- better than being "right" I know that wisdom is contributing to compassion. That's as it should be.

Posted by James at 3:30 AM | Comments (5)

January 18, 2004

Delicious Patriots

The Patriots won today. That means two imporant things. The first is that they're going to play n the Super Bowl. The second is that the Patriots making it to the Super Bowl was my cousin Rob's criteria for deciding whether or not he will deep fry a turkey on Super Bowl Sunday.

Deep fried turkey is truly a reason to rejoice. Kudos to the Patriots, but don't get in the way of my turkey.

Posted by James at 10:07 PM

Getting Through Tuesday Night

The State of the Union Address Drinking Game 2004 is how some folks are planning to get through next Tuesday night. Reading the list, I fear there are going to be some people dangerously close to vomiting by the end of the address. And some of those people will even be drunk!

Wouldn't it be funny if Bush came upon this list (that is, if he were allowed to use the internet) and decided to tweak his speech to mess with people? Throwing in a lot of Spanish, which is worth 2 drinks, would have people muy borracho.

Posted by James at 12:14 PM | Comments (4)

January 17, 2004

SemiCircle

I've re-started my "Mental Pictures" photo gallery, this time at pbase. Today I added the photo you see here. Click for a larger view.

Posted by James at 3:00 AM

21 Grams

The more I like a film, the less I want to say about it other than that I loved it. It's easier to criticize a poor film than it is to say something intelligent about a film that grabs your attention and emotions. But I think a lot of people who would enjoy this film might not go to see it, and so I feel I have to say something.

21 Grams is the new film by director Alejandro González Iñárritu. His last film Amores perros made enough of an impression on me that I felt I had to hop in the car on a Friday night, leave my family alone, brave the single-digit weather and sit with a bunch of strangers in sofas at the Cable Care Cinema. It was well worth it.

21 Grams is a tightly woven story about how events can cause unrelated lives to become tightly involved, for good or ill. The consequences of our actions mark the intersections of our lives, and those intersections will always exist -- their repercussions will never disappear.

The gimmick of this film is that, like a number of other films, the story is not told in order. In this case, we're shown what is coming - some terrible event that links the lives of our three central characters. But, as in all our lives life, many things about this event are a mystery. As the story unfolds, clues of the mystery fit together.

Can life be solved in the same way a mystery is solved? When bad things happen to people, their lives are shattered much like the pieces of this film. Nothing seems in the right order. Some things don't even make sense without the context of our previous existence. We feel that the pieces will never fit together. Something has to happen before you know the pieces are all there, before you resolve to put them back together for yourself.

If you enjoy watching actors ply their trade, you'll see some of the best performances of the year here. Sean Penn, to be sure deserves kudos for his performance. I found his Mystic River to have more of an impact on me. But in all the principal parts I don't think I detected a missed step. Del Toro brings what I think is a very difficult character to life. But Naomi Watts especially shines in her role which should be extremely difficult to watch, but is, instead, impossible not to. Her control of rapidly changing emotions is spellbinding.

I'm at an all-too-familiar loss for words, at this point. 21 Grams is a film about the twists of emotion, and the twists of character that grip people under extreme personal circumstances. It is specifically about character, not events themselves. People will invariably compare this to the director's earlier film Amores perros, as they both involve some accidental tragedy. However, the characters here are the focus, not the events.

I give 21 Grams my highest recommendation. If you've seen it already and enjoyed it, Amores perros is definitely worthy of a rental.

Posted by James at 2:40 AM

January 16, 2004

Callgirl of Cthulu

I may never eat calamari again, thanks to this sculptor.

Posted by James at 5:07 PM | Comments (1)

No Smoking Gun

Powell's shrinking credibility on Iraq (via Boston.com)

Secretary of State Colin Powell was a huge loser in last week's report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace that said Saddam Hussein's weapons program was not an immediate threat to the United States or even his neighbors. The report said [...] "there was no solid evidence of a cooperative relationship between Saddam's government and Al Qaeda."

Powell was asked about the report at a news conference last week. He was forced to cough up: "I have not seen smoking-gun, concrete evidence about the connection, but I think the possibility of such connections did exist and it was prudent to consider them at the time that we did." [JPB - emphasis mine]

Powell did more than "consider" the possibilities.



Posted by James at 3:35 PM

Mjadra

Maggie sent along the recipe for mjadra, a Lebanese lentil dish. Here it is in all its glory!

Mjadra

Ingredients:

8 oz of lentils (1/2 bag)
1/4 cup rice
1 large onion
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp cinnamon, allspice
water, oil

Procedure:

Boil the lentils with the cinnamon and allspice. Saute the onions in the
oil with the salt and pepper until very brown or carmelized. Add the
onions and the rice to the lentils, simmer until the rice is soft (at least
fifteen minutes).

Notes:

You have to watch the lentils and continuously add water and stir so they
don't stick. All of the measurements are subject to your taste. I've used
one large onion to as little as 4 oz of lentils, my mother-in-law uses one
large onion to 16 oz of lentils. She uses a lot of oil to fry the onion, I
try to use as little oil as possible, but you have to really watch the
onions if you don't use much. You can vary the amount of rice you add
depending on how much rice you like in it or how far you want it to
stretch. I like to add 1/4 to 1/2 cup, I think my mother in law adds more
like 1/4 cup, James' aunt adds more like 1/2.

Posted by James at 11:42 AM | Comments (6)

January 15, 2004

Bean and Flame

On Tuesday, Ryan, Sara and I hop over to Subway to grab lunch and on the way back to the office we make a stop at Dartmouth Convenience on Route 6 for beverages.

Usually there is a somewhat-surly man behind the counter, one who does not speak much. He may be the owner, and English may be his second language. But he stands out, because we like to joke around and this fellow never really gets into the spirit of it.

On this day when I grabbed my iced tea and sunflower seeds, I decided to ask about the price of a really cool lighter they were selling. This thing is like a little flame thrower.

As I looked up to the fellow behind the counter, I realized at once that it was Mr. Bean! (It might have been Rowan Atkinson, but I digress)

So I asked Mr. Bean how much the lighter was. He told me it was $14. Terif! I'll take the lighter, the iced tea, and the seeds. One of those things required a check of my ID. I think it was the iced tea (mind altering substance). I tried to pay by credit card, and it took long enough for a line to form behind me.

To lighten the mood, I quipped to Ryan and Sara that he was doing a background check to approve my purchase of the flame thrower. I hoped there wasn't a waiting period, because I wanted to start lighting fires right away.

When the slip finally came out of the credit card machine, Mr. Bean said, "Aha! 1989 was a very interesting year for you!" Now I knew I was in trouble. Bean was on to me. But even though he had joined us in our joke, (or perhaps because he had) he allowed the transaction to go through.

As soon as we got outside, Ryan exclaimed: "Did you notice who that guy was? Mr. Bean!"

(Postscript: The Zippo lighter is called MPL - Multi Purpose Lighter. Those purposes being of course lighting things on fire, lighting other people on fire, and lighting yourself on fire. I imagine. But "MPL" are also the initials of a good friend of mine. I wonder, should I try to collect items which match the initials of all my friends? Perhaps if I were ever really bored.)

Posted by James at 1:19 PM | Comments (5)

Theme Thursday: Funky

I don't have a particularly fun key. But I do have this fun keychain. Puns are allowed... right? There are more gadgets than you can shake a stick at. This is a entry.

Posted by James at 2:47 AM

War of Choice, Not Necessity

Sen. Edward Kennedy on The Broken Trust:

"We are reaping the poison fruit of our misguided and arrogant foreign policy," Mr. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, said in a speech before the Center for American Progress, a liberal policy organization in Washington. "The administration capitalized on the fear created by 9/11 and put a spin on the intelligence and a spin on the truth to justify a war that could well become one of the worst blunders in more than two centuries of American foreign policy."

I agree.

A lot of Republicans love to hate Kennedy. But who else is standing up and saying what Ted is saying with such clarity?

For me, I never trusted Bush. But many did. And, as far as I can tell he has broken that trust. He entered the office with the hope that he could justify war with Iraq, and an opportunity fell in his lap. Like an aggressive poker player lucky to get good cards, he ran the table for a while. He even bullied himself into winning a few bad hands.

But in the poker game of life, people don't appreciate being bluffed. The stakes are not just our money, but our trust in the government and our hope for the future. Bush and his entourage are cynically using our country's trust and trading on our future. But instead of playing to our hopes, he's appealing to people's ugliest fears.

We are now waging wars of choice, not necessity. This becomes more clear daily.Not only abroad, but at home. Political enemies of the administration are targeted. Compare:

  • Time between the publication of a Robert Novak column revealing the name of a CIA agent and the launch of an investigation into the source of the leak: 74 days.
  • Time between the airing of a CBS interview and the launch of an investigation into the source of allegedly secret documents used in a book critical of President Bush: 20 hours.
  • Time between the publication of Bob Woodward's highly flattering Bush at War and the investigation into the source of multiple secret documents referenced in the book: Thirteen months and counting.
A leak is only a problem if it is a political problem. An opponent is always a problem, and will be dealt with one way or another. (stats stolen from here).

You can only get angry about the same thing so much. Now I'm just tired. Tired of Bush. Tired of having to post political reactions.

So, you've got your positive effects of the Iraq war. You're happy Saddam is gone. Me too. But it's increasingly surprising to me how easy it is for this president to march us into war on an invented imminent threat. He played the country like a fiddle. And it's still only few loud voices, like that of Mr. Kennedy that are able to make a splash with their comments pointing out the obvious. A trust was broken. Doesn't that count for anything?

Full text of the senator's speech.

Posted by James at 1:44 AM

January 14, 2004

Sneaky McSneaker

Tales of Awkward Moments

Sometimes it doesn't pay to be sneaky, even when you're just fooling around.

Once, I was getting ready to go to dinner with a couple of friends after an evening of studying, but needed to pick up a paycheck first. My friends dropped me off to pick up the check. On the way back I saw that I would be approaching the car head on and in full view. It was the only obvious route to the car. For fun, I decided to jump down off a retaining wall of Unlikely Height™, a slightly longer trip which afforded the advantage of sneaking up on the car from behind. The punch line was to bang the rear window and scare the bejeezus out of my pals. A jump down would get me to the car quick enough to not arouse suspicion that I was taking too long to return.

My feet stung from the landing, but the plan was perfect. I approached the car unnoticed, partly because the car windows were slightly fogged in the cold spring air. Near enough to touch the car, I was ready for my sneaky denouement. But as I lifted my hand, I saw that my friends (a guy and gal who were not a known item at the time) were taking the opportunity to get in some, ah, "face time" in secret. How sneaky of them, even though they had been out-sneaked. Slightly embarrassing, to be sure. But ahh - the blush of springtime as it escapes the chill of winter. Young love. I was verklempt, and happy for them.

I was lucky to realize my faux pas before making a fool of myself. Carefully retracing my tracks far, I ran like hell to get around the retaining wall and back to the building. This would allow me to exit the building in full view, giving them some warning to avoid embarrassment and retain dignity in their secret.

As I approached the car, I saw everything as I had originally expected it to be. No one was in anyone else's arms. However, I'm sure we all had a little secret smile in our hearts as we rode off for a quick bite to eat.

It's not the only time I've come upon two people in a secret embrace, but it was definitely the least embarrassing and most endearing time. I won't go into detail about the other time I stumbled awkwardly into someone else's private romance. But I will say that when people really want to believe that you didn't see anything, you can come up with some pretty lame excuses like "I can't see a thing without my glasses" which may not eliminate the weirded out moment, but create a shared fiction where everyone can go about their business pretending that nothing has happened.

When in doubt, don't sneak up on people. Lesson learned.

Posted by James at 5:26 PM

Bruce Almighty (Review)

Contains spoilers. This is your only warning.

Bruce Almighty did fairly well in the theater, which perplexes the Hell out of me. The premise seemed interesting enough - give a man god's powers and see what he does with them. God's sick of hearing him complain, so let the hilarity ensue. Jim Carrey's overacting is surely supposed to be part of the fun, but it got tired in approximately 5 seconds. The odd thing is, it's never bugged me before. This time, I just wanted to get on with the plot.

But no matter. Morgan Freeman does a fine job as god, and Jennifer Aniston was better in Office Space.

This film is a heavy-handed treatment of the idea that no human could handle all the stuff god has to do. The premise is ridiculous. Whenever Bruce does anything, he screws up the world in some way. Even answering prayers is a nightmare. Of course it is - supernatural tampering has its consequences just as natural tampering would. Is the film trying to convince us that god is better at tampering and unbalancing things? No, it's just a clumsy way of telling you not to complain about god because you couldn't do any better. "Let go and let god." WIth a little "don't be so self-centered" thrown in on the side.

But philosophy aside, if you sit down and watch this film, you're watching a bunch of pointless SPFX and Carrey making faces. Except it's not funny like it was in The Mask. Really, I wouldn't have minded being lectured if this film had been at all amusing. I should have believed Ryan when he was hesitant to say anything positive about the film. Thanks for trying, Ryan.

There was a moment near the end where I ht ought the film was going to redeem itself. But then it goes south again and achieves the required Happy Ending™. Bleh.

If you liked this film, feel free to explain to me why. But I've had more fun watching crappy horror movies than this. The only reason I didn't stop watching was so I could write this lousy capsule review.

Posted by James at 2:54 AM | Comments (3)

January 13, 2004

Anniversaries

Yesterday was my wedding anniversary. It's been 12 years! An amazing trip so far. I didn't even notice the moment when we passed the point when we have had children longer than having been married without children.

And I almost forgot: Today is my weblog anniversary - Aces Full of Links' 2nd birthday!

Here's a link to posts from that first week. Remember "Spank the Monkey" and "Coincidence Design?" Good times, good times.

Posted by James at 4:46 PM | Comments (4)

Human Rights Giant

Did Bush really say that?

He didn't free the slaves.

He didn't rid the world of Hitler.

He didn't even - like his father - preside over the destruction of the Berlin Wall.

Yet George W. Bush tells New Yorker writer Ken Auletta: "No President has ever done more for human rights than I have."

I've got to find another reference to this. Delusions of grandeur, anyone?

[Update: Here is the actual source of the quote, thanks to Mike. Ken Auletta is the writer.]

Posted by James at 4:09 PM | Comments (5)

Peas and Salad

Here are two recipes that friends asked for recently. Both are Lebanese. The first is passed along by Maggie, the second by me.

Bazilla and Rice

Ingredients:

1 15 oz. can peas
3 oz (1/2 can) tomato paste
1/2 lb ground meat
1 cup rice
1 medium-large onion
1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1/2 tsp each cinnamon and allspice
oil - enough to fry onion
water - enough to cook rice


Directions:

Chop onion and saute in oil, salt, and pepper until soft and starting to
brown. Add meat and saute until browned. Add tomato paste, cinnamon,
allspice, peas, rice, and water. Cook until rice is done.


Lebanese salad

5 small cloves of garlic.
3/4 teaspoon of salt.
2 teaspoons of dried garden mint or a 3 tablespoons of fresh garden mint.
2 tomatoes, diced
1 lb greens
3 tablespoons of lemon juice
3 tablespoons of salad oil (I used canola)

Crush the garlic into the salt.
Add the greens and tomato
Sprinkle the mint on top
Pour on the lemon and oil

Just before serving, toss.

Olive oil would begin to overpower the other flavors unless you increase the lemon, mint and garlic. The light oil gives a slightly fresher flavor. If you use olive oil, a light oil is best.

Left over salad allowed to macerate in the refrigerator is great with bean dishes. We often put it on top of lebanese lentil dishes. Leftover salad also is good in a wrap or pocket, or a tortilla.

For my own purposes I could easily double the garlic and increase the lemon and oil. Stronger salad is less popular as a side to people with more conservative tastes, but it's better in sandwiches later.

To make this into Fattoush you can add baked syrian bread that has been broken up by hand into rough pieces, around 3 square inches. The pieces act like croutons. Also add sliced onions (red onions are good) and 1/2 teaspoon of zahtar. (additional info on sumac powder here.)

Posted by James at 1:22 PM | Comments (2)

Loser

30%
There's a 30% chance that I'll win a Bloggie™.
What's Your Chance to Win a Bloggie™?
Funny, I calculated my chances at "hovering around zero."
Posted by James at 12:11 PM | Comments (1)

January 12, 2004

'Puter

Anyone else out there hate it when someone says "'puter" when they mean their computer? Yeah, I know it's just an abbreviation. And I've never heard anyone say it aloud, I've only seen it in writing. But it still rubs me the wrong way. The same way "blog" really rubbed me the wrong way in the beginning, though I have reluctantly accepted it.

For the first time today I said "might should" within a sentence. "I might should build a new version of the software." I meant "Perhaps I should..." Unfortunately "might" came out of my mouth and then I had to follow it with "should" to recover the sentence.

I apologized to my listener, and promised never to use the phrase again. Of course, he's a Brit, so he probably thinks we all talk funny anyhow and "might should" may be no worse than other accepted contortions. But I won't say it again.

Posted by James at 2:03 PM | Comments (3)

Colbert on Dean

Dean is mean - so says Stephen Colbert.

It's one thing to believe president Bush's policies are leading us toward a bleak future of massive debt, increased terrorism and environmental catastrophy, but does Dean have to be so mad about it? [...] It's been widely reported, and that makes it fact-esque.
Real Player required, as well as a sense of humor and "inside voices."

Posted by James at 9:51 AM | Comments (1)

Ring of Maternity

Defective Yeti has a LOTR metaphor I hadn't considered before. Return of the King = pregnancy. Funny.

Posted by James at 2:56 AM | Comments (1)

January 9, 2004

Xians in the Junk Folder

My favorite spam, which I am getting repeatedly of late:

From: Church Love
Subject: Some Christian Likes You
No, I haven't opened it.

Posted by James at 4:25 PM

Skating Chimp

I didn't really feel like posting anything today. There is news of the possibility of reviving the manned space program to the Moon and perhaps other planets, but the knowledge that our government is spending like never before dulls the excitement I feel. Still the possibility is enticing. I'll beleive it when I see it.

There is the news that people are leaving the workforce in droves amid crappy job growth. Bush proposes an immigration relief plan that feels like pandering and rankles some conservatives enough that they're beginning to call it Bush's Coyote Charter.

Even this RealDog site (a parody of RealDolls) only got a slight chuckle.

Sure, twisted asian interactive Flash animation is always welcome.

But the link I clicked that most represented how I feel this Friday morning, was the skating chimpanzee picture.

Can I get an "Amen?"

Posted by James at 1:42 PM | Comments (2)

January 8, 2004

Wasabi Freak Show

Jake at 8bitJoystick weighs in on that Club of Growth Dean attack ad. You know the one I'm talking about:

The ad features a husband and wife and opens with an announcer asking, "What do you think about Howard Dean's proposal to raise your taxes by $1,900 a year?"

The husband replies, 'Well, I think Howard Dean should take his tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading … "

The wife jumps in: "Body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show back to Vermont where it belongs."

I really want to know when sushi became a liberal thing. Plenty of conservatives I know eat sushi, sashimi and maki rolls. What's the point?
Steve Moore, president of the Club for Growth, said of the ad: "What we're trying to show is Dean is supported by the cultural elite and not by anyone with middle-American values and finances."

If this can be believed, the Bush twins eat sushi. No surprise there - it's delicious but they can afford it. So here's a question. Who do you think eats sushi more often, the average voter or the Bush twins? How about the average Democratic voter vs. the Bush twins? Who can better afford to eat sushi, the average Dean supporter or the Bush twins?

Dean supporters are more elite than the man in the White House, his family and their corporate buddies? Don't make me laugh.

Before Dean has even won the nomination, Republicans are doing their best to make me feel sympathy for him with their attacks. Is it part of some genius plan to make Dean look better in my eyes because they would like to face him in the general election? Not to be too clever, it seems that attacking him this early can be attributed to some strategy other than weakening him for the general election.

[Pictured above are my home-made California maki. Not as pretty without the flying fish roe.]

Posted by James at 4:45 PM | Comments (11)

Searching for a Phrase?

Are you searching for just the right way to say "that sucks!" in Catalan ("quina lleneguera! "), "defecate" in Ukranian ("kakaty") or "long haired heavy metal fan" in Greek ("hevimetallas"), The Alternative Dictionary is your resource of choice for bunches of foreign slang. It's by no means complete, and not truly exhaustive, but it is worth a look for the many languages represented, at least in part.

My favorite, from the Irish-Gaelic: "Is dócha nach bhfuil seans ar bith ann" meaning, literally "I suppose a ride is out of the question." A rude manner of requesting sex, to be certain. But not without its humor.

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

Movie Star Dean

I thought that guy in Raiders sorta looked like Howard Dean. (see earlier blog entry)

These guys are convinced Dean was in a cheesy ninja movie.

Dean claims he was not in the film. And who wouldn't own up to being in a cheesy ninja film? Isn't it something we all dream of? Definitely something you could parlay into a successful bid for President.

Back in November, Burnt Orange Report gave the lowdown on this story.

Next up, the rumor that Dean appears in the hieroglyphics within the great pyramid.

Posted by James at 12:44 PM | Comments (1)

January 7, 2004

Border Dispute

I can't let this go by without a comment here. Rhode Island and Connecticut are locked in a bitter land dispute that threatens to tear apart the chowder-loving world.

Has it really come to this? We in Massachusetts want to help. We're just waiting to see who will offer the most for us to step in. Hey, we have our budget problems.

The proximity of Providence to my Homeland can be a good or a bad thing for Rhode Island patriots seeking aid in these tumultuous times. On the one hand, as Bil points out in a comment, we get the Providence media over our airwaves. So the propaganda is there.

On the other hand, we often see Rhode Island-registered cars driving aggressively on east 195, giving rise to the fear that a force of Ocean-Staters will cross Narragansett Bay one of these days screaming "For Pell!" or somesuch and waving their quahogging rakes. Boston may well disown us in our time of need and we'll all suddenly be drinking even more coffee milk than usual.

Frightening times.

Can we expect rational thought from a state which spells its name the way "Connecticut" does, or from a state which calls itself an island, but isn't? I'd best stop here before I find myself a political prisoner forced to work on the Providence Plantations.


Posted by James at 6:58 PM

No Offense Intended

I use the email client "Eudora" on my Dell at home. One of Eudora's fun features is that it rates your message to alert you to any offensive language you might have unwittingly added.

The rating system uses chili peppers. A use of the word "stupid" might earn you one chili. "Asshole" might earn you two. Of course, most people know when they are sending an offensive message, so the benefit of this feature is dubious, excluding the entertainment of being criticized by your email client.

So I was a little surprised when an email I sent to my boss and some others was flagged as offensive with two chili peppers. Here's the follow-up message I sent to them all once I realized my message had been flagged and did some detective work to uncover the offensive language:

Anyone else out there use Eudora? Eudora thinks "appearance manager" is an
offensive phrase. It's flagged with two "chili peppers" by the language filter.

That's bullshit.

On a slightly related note: what's the best email client for Windows? Anyone want to make some recommendations?

Posted by James at 12:44 PM | Comments (9)

January 6, 2004

416-214-9514

We got an odd phone call the other day from 416-214-9514 (thanks, caller ID). There was silence on the line and then a hangup.

Apparently, other people have gotten these phone calls. I started a discussion on EAForums regarding the details of 416-214-9514. Only interesting if you've gotten one of these mysterious blank phone calls, or are interested in what it might have to do with the Do Not Call list.

Got something to add? Post your comments in the discussion at EAForums. While you're there, look around and you might find other interesting discussions, too.

Update:

A fellow named Don Hampton in Tri-Cities, WA sent the following info:

I enjoyed the information on the phone number 303-804-0000 and did some investigating, it turns out that Quest in Greenwood villiage owns the number and/or is in charge of it.

I talked to a guy named Jan in the business department at 800-603-6000, he would not tell me the owner but took the complaint, I had already found out from MCI in Greewood Villiage Colorado that it is a Quest number, the man I talked to at Quest "Jan" told me that there is also an an annoyance Call bureau at 1-800-582-0655 in which someone can lodge a complaint.

I suggest everyone call Quest Business and fill out an online FTC complaint to stop this, Jan told me he would contact the number holder and have them remove my name & number from their system, but he would not tell me who they were, I believe in my investigation that it is actually Quest themselves, perhaps there call center....

If you are being haunted by calls from these numbers, following Don's advice may be one avenue for you to try.



Posted by James at 5:27 PM | Comments (43) | TrackBack

Bradley Backs Howard Dean

Bill Bradley endorsed Howard Dean on Tuesday, giving the former Vermont governor the backing of both of the leading candidates for the last Democratic presidential nomination.
From an AP story.
Posted by James at 2:18 PM | Comments (3)

Bush in 30

MoveOn.org has settled on 15 finalists in its anti-Bush TV ads contest.

The 15 political ads can be viewed on the Bush In 30 Seconds website.

I thought this one was good. And also, this one.
[UPDATE: "The Republican National Committee and its chairman have falsely accused MoveOn.org of sponsoring ads on its website which compare President Bush to Adolf Hitler. The claim is deliberately and maliciously misleading." Read more on MoveOn.org.

Posted by James at 12:48 PM | Comments (2)

Timecode (Review)

Before the first season of the television program "24" aired, people worried that the only thing making it interesting would be the format; the show takes place in real-time, each episode taking up one hour of a fictional day. Those fears proved unfounded, since the writing is well-paced and endowed with generous helpings of suspense, action and intrigue. That, and it's got characters which hold your interest.

Mike Figgis' Timecode has its own gimmick. It's shot in real time with 4 digital cameras. Each camera provides a continuous and unbroken viewpoint. This is accomplished by splitting the screen into four quadrants with one of the simultaneous viewpoints displayed in each quadrant. The actors are improvising within a plot framework.

Sound like an interesting gimmic? It is. And I enjoyed watching to see how he was going to keep the threads from becoming too difficult to watch simultaneously.

Unfortunately, the most interesting thing about this film is the gimmick. The actors all turn in passible, slightly flat, performances. It is quite a list of actors. Xander Berkeley, Salma Hayek, Glenne Headly, Holly Hunter, Kyle MacLachlan, Julian Sands, Stellan Skarsgård, and Jeanne Tripplehorn all show their faces, some of whom are onscreen nearly constantly (Hayek and Tripplehorn, primarily). Their improvisation adds a bit to the realistic documentary feel of the digital camera work. But at times you feel the parts are underplayed for fear of seeming unrealistic. Instead, it all comes off as drab.

The main problem, however, is the plot framework. Hayek and Tripplehorn are a lesbian couple in a failing relationship. In a bid to find out what is going on with her partner, Tripplehorn plants a listening device in aspiring actress Hayek's shoulder bad to find out where she's really going when she claims to have an audition for a new film role. Meanwhile the producer of the film (Skarsgård) is having his own relationship problems, and is leaning heavily on bottled help. His staff is scrambling to deal with an absent helmsman, an uncast film and a director who is dragging his feet. Interspersed during the course of the film are small earthquakes which help to reinforce the synchronization of the four threads of the story.

And it goes from there. However, it doesn't go very far, or to anywhere particularly interesting. Perhaps anything more complicated would be too difficult to keep track of in four simultaneous threads, but that is what they have chosen to do here.

The film does have an interesting moment or two. One humorous moment in particular is when practically the entire cast is trying to avoid danger and does what I like to call "The Timecode Shuffle." But it isn't enough for me to recommend this as a good film.

If the gimmick has you interested and you want to see these actors improvising, that may be enough for you to want to rent this. But for the average viewer, this film is a must skip. See one of Figgis' other films, like the acclaimed Leaving Las Vegas.

Posted by James at 10:43 AM | Comments (2)

January 5, 2004

Post Positive

Bella asks about a previous post entitled Positive. "What did this turn out to be?" she asks.

Well, for those interested, I'll tell you. The short answer is "Nothing."


I have to admit, I did not return to the doctor for further tests. The symptom in question was a swelling above my clavicle. It appeared to be a fatty pad in an odd place. I was checked for Cushingoid Syndrome (my hormone levels were tested). No high levels of cortisol. Then I had the test for lymph node abnormalities. Negative on that, too.

My doctor did say there were more sensitive tests for the body's ability to adjust cortisol levels, but he didn't seem at all concerned with what appears to be a fatty deposit. Further tests don't appear warranted. Since the worrisome has been fairly ruled out, I'm assuming it's just oddly-located fat.

If I can lose some weight, I'm guessing it will go away.

Posted by James at 5:33 PM

Quick Stolen Links

Two comments on links stolen from curious frog's "elsewhere" remaindered links section.

  1. Here's a link to someone's list of the top nude scenes of 2003 (NSFW - nude images)(p.s. Duh!) In any case, that seemed fairly banal to me. And pretty easy to compile. Not much thought needs to go into it. How about a more interesting "worst nude scenes of 2003." another interesting possibility would be "most uncomfortable/awkward nude scenes" or even "least plot-related nude scenes." C'mon people. Let's see some creativity. Even the sense of longing evoked by a "top missed-opportunity non-nude scenes" would add spice to the day. "Top nude scenes" is far too obvious.
  2. Risking segue whiplash, I give you the Mars Rover Blog. If you have no sense of wonder for the exploration of other planets, I'm sorry, there's nothing I can do for you. Go back to watching Celebrity Mole or somesuch.

Posted by James at 3:46 PM | Comments (2)

New Way To Chill Out?

I was looking into gluten-free waffles and a friend sent me to the Nature's Path website, where I immediately took notice of the startlingly-named Hemp Waffle. Indeed, hemp seed is an ingredient.

So, for a new "chill out" phrase you can use on your friends, let this baby roll off your tongue: "Dude, head for the toaster oven and make a stop off at the freezer on the way because you seriously need to smoke a waffle."

Thanks, Nature's Path. (btw - the Hemp waffles are not gluten-free)

Posted by James at 2:50 PM | Comments (2)

Unexplained

Just because I don't believe in ghosts doesn't mean I can't be spooked.

Early this morning, some time between 5 and 6, I woke up when my wife returned to bed from getting an aspirin. As I lay there in the dark morning stupor of half-wakedness, I was jolted by the sound of someone rattling the doorknob to our bedroom.

Our house has 100-year-old bedroom door hardware which is somewhat loose and rattles at the slightest touch. This sound was like someone grabbing the thing and shaking it violently for a couple of seconds. I assumed that one of the girls had bumped into the door and that they were coming to crawl into bed with us, but as the seconds passed and no such thing happened, I got up to investigate. Maggie was alert, as she had heard the noise, too. We both agreed it sounded like a doorknob and that it was in the room. However, the girls were both still in bed.

I checked the whole house for intruders. I have two lame explanations for the sound I heard. A) A bubble in the heating system though that has never caused a noise so loud before. B) The ice maker in the refrigerator downstairs. But it's downstairs.

As I said, I don't believe in ghosts. But this was extremely spooky, especially considering the morbid dream I was having just prior. I was discussing with my family's parish priest the effects of death on the spirit. He was telling me "The dead don't remember we love them" and "The dead lose all of their music. All the melodies are forgotten." I was trying to reassure my grandmother that wherever we go, there will be new music. The whole scene rewound before my eyes and then I awoke with a sinking feeling. That was just before I heard the doorknob rattle...

There isn't always a good explanation.

Posted by James at 10:11 AM | Comments (8)

January 3, 2004

Republicard



It's like printing your own money!
Found via Tread Lightly

Posted by James at 3:41 PM | Comments (1)

Leave My Window Alone

Some things are too silly not to post.

I wish this fellow wouldn't mess with my desktop, though.

Posted by James at 5:10 AM | Comments (4)

January 2, 2004

Recipe Time

Belgian waffles are on my mind, because I've made them 2 days in a row. But, how long does it take to prepare Belgian Waffles? Anyone? Anyone?

I guess you could find out by finding a recipe and reading the prep time listed there. If you were to do that, you might come along the recipes I read yesterday in my Belgian Waffle recipe search.

The first recipe stated "30 minutes" prep time. The second recipe quoted "20 minutes." Great - if I use this recipe, I save myself 10 minutes! A quick comparison shows the recipes weren't identical. But the differences were in the ratio of ingredients. Pretty much all Belgian waffles are made of flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, eggs, vanilla, butter and milk. The ratios vary. The preparation steps are almost exactly the same.

Then I came upon Emeril's recipe. Prep time is 10 minutes! Great! I can make them in 1/3 of the time that some other folks take. Wunnerful. Hmmm. Again, it's pretty much the same recipe. In fact, Emeril has you spend some extra time with the egg yolks and the sugar. And yet, it takes a pro like Emeril less time. Amazing.

Back in reality land, it does actually take about 15-20 minutes to prepare everything. I'm sure it depends on how efficient your kitchen is set up, too. But what I really want to know when I make a recipe is what sort of an investment am I looking at here? How much time will it take to prepare? How much time will it take me to cook? How much time will I spend eating this and feeding it to my family and guests? And, most importantly, how much time will it take to clean up?

That's the question they never seem to answer. What's the cleanup time? Some recipes are a godawful mess. Some recipes are so traumatic, it can take years for a kitchen to recover (some brewing experiences I've had, for example). On TV, the chefs that teach you how to make this or that never do the dishes. You never see them cleaning their equipment. It's whisked away by magical elves. In fact, they seem to always be using brand-spanking new utensils and cookware. I'd be lost without my well-seasoned cast iron. These people are addicted to nonstick because it works well right out of the box (and lousy soon after) but it also looks good on camera, especially when you're endorsing the product.

The real point is, eating a Belgian Waffle makes you so happy, you forget the mess you made of your kitchen. When you spilled egg on the floor. And your kids got into the powdered sugar. And everything is sticky with strawberries.

Posted by James at 12:03 AM | Comments (1)

January 1, 2004

Happy New Year!

Wishing all of you the happiest of new years. May you find yourself twice as wise and at least as healthy this time next year.

Posted by James at 3:50 AM