February 29, 2004

The Oscar Post

Posting the awards here as they are revealed

The full list of nominees and winners is available on the Academy’s website.

Posted by James at 9:44 PM | Comments (1)

February 28, 2004

D&D Tongue Twister

Awkward Majorcan Orc-Warren

Posted by James at 4:44 PM | Comments (1)

VGA Purgatory

So, anyways, (sic) we were in Windows Hell…

What does it say for an OS when you have all the video driver installers you should ever need, right at your fingertips, and you can’t get them installed on your goddamn machine?

Reinstalling the MacOS was never even close to this difficult.

When I’d resigned myself to some work, reinstalling Win2K from scratch on my Dell (instead of putting WinMe back on it) I was only worried about having to reinstall all my software. I never dreamed I’d be trapped in VGA purgatory looking at 16 colors for the rest of my life.

Thank Jobs that I have this Mac for backup else I’d be going insane.

Posted by James at 4:21 PM | Comments (4)

February 27, 2004

Conservative War on Terror

In the war we are in, our enemies are weak. That is why they resort to the weapon of the weak—terror. And, as in the Cold War, time is on America’s side. Perseverance and patience are called for, not this panic.

Holy cow. Pat Buchanan calling for a calm conservative approach to the war on terror, as opposed to people who supply the White House with opinions (Perle officially among them, until recently). Either it’s Bizarro world or Bush is further out on a neo-conservative limb than folks though.

No End to War (the article quoted above) is a review/response to Frum and Perle’s An End to Evil.

Buchanan’s review is a good read. Some highlights:
Frum is not even an American. He is a Canadian who did not become a citizen until offered a job in the Bush speechwriting shop. He was cashiered after one year when his wife bragged on the Internet that David invented the “axis-of-evil” phrase. Expelled from the White House, Frum ratted out his old colleagues in a “hot” book and got himself hired by National Review, where he produced a cover story about a dirty dozen “Unpatriotic Conservatives” who hate neocons, hate Bush, hate the GOP, hate America, and “wish to see the United States defeated in the War on Terror.”
Gen. Anthony Zinni, former head of Centcom, is a hero of Vietnam. He opposed war with Iraq, arguing that the U.S. military was overstretched and we would unleash forces we could not control. In an interview, Zinni related his astonishment at the vapidity of the Wolfowitz clique with which he had to deal at the Department of Defense:
The more I saw, the more I thought that this [war] was the product of the neocons who didn’t understand the region and were going to create havoc there. These were dilettantes from Washington think tanks who never had had an idea that worked on the ground …. I don’t know where the neocons came from—that was not the platform [Bush and Cheney] ran on …. Somehow, the neocons captured the president. They captured the vice president.
National Review’s response was to brand Zinni an anti-Semite. In a separate column, NR regular Joel Mowbray not only accused the general of having “blamed the Jews,” he insisted that the term neocon, in common usage for 25 years, is now an anti-Semitic code word for Jews […]
Give it a read.
Posted by James at 2:40 PM | Comments (1)

...And Furthermore

In the last post I said “But Bush wants to write that restriction into the constitution to remove that right that some (the MA SJC) say they already have but have not been allowed to exercise.

In actuality, the amendment as it is written goes further than that. The language is worded in such a way that it could be construed to outlaw civil unions as well.

As most people are not against civil unions I see this as a hating-gays amendment. It’s fortunate that our legislative branch hasn’t gone off the deep end with the executive branch. So much for activist judges having the only say in the matter; the amendment is losing in congress.

When can we take this guy’s crayon away from him?

Or, if we leave him in office, we should really get him to work on important things, like banning shrimp. For the good of our souls.

Posted by James at 10:28 AM | Comments (7)

February 26, 2004

Expanding Rights?

I haven’t meant to turn this into a political weblog. I haven’t meant to turn it into a gay rights weblog. But, you go where the thoughts lead you.

Someone in the comments of the now-infamous 12 Reasons post has claimed that existing rights are good enough for gays because they already apply equally to everyone. (See the comments section for the less-than-coherent details, which I won’t quote and clean up here because I am not an editor)

In other words, someone claimed gays aren’t seeking equal rights, they’re seeking a new right.

To that I say, they are seeking equality in rights and the way they exercise those rights. Whether a right is perceived by you as new or not doesn’t speak to whether equality is satisfied.

For an analogy, let’s say black people could only marry other black people, but not whites. Everyone has the same rights, as long as they stay within their kind. That’s called “separate but equal” and it is clearly not equal.

Equally loopy would be a law saying that blacks could only marry whites. Does everyone have the same rights in this scenario? in a twisted way, yes—but only in the sense that any law you can think of applies to everyone. The two white people who would like to marry each other are clearly going to see that the law, while it is imposed on everyone equally, is defined in such a way that it punishes only on same-color couples who want to marry, with little reason.

That’s what your argument comes down to. Gays would like to marry within their own group. (That group being, consenting adults of similar gender and orientation). The MA constitution, for one document, does not restrict gays from marrying within their group (according to the SJC). But Bush wants to write that restriction into the constitution to remove that right that some (the MA SJC) say they already have but have not been allowed to exercise.

Even if you view blacks marrying whites as a “new right” or gays marrying within their group as a “new right”—there is no equality if these separations exist.

Posted by James at 6:20 PM | Comments (2)

Attribution for 12 Reasons

My 12 Reasons post has been updated, now that I’ve been contacted by the authors. I’m happy to give GatorGSA due credit for an amusing and insightful piece of writing.

Posted by James at 10:40 AM | Comments (2)

Spongmonkey Computer Hell

My Win2K machine at home is pooched (for now). Trying to update Windows, I think I screwed up my OS configuration and I’m left with an un-startable system. So, It’s back to all-Macs for the short term.

Microsoft is the devil.

To help ease my pain, check out the Spongmonkeys and their rather good moon song. You may have seen them in Quiznos commercials. I’ve never eaten at Quiznos, but I wonder if these fellows make the sandwiches. And what goes in them.

Posted by James at 10:36 AM | Comments (2)

February 25, 2004

"New Comment"

There is a feature on the sidebar to make it easier for people to see what the latest comments are. Some readers have contribured substantially in the comments, and this will make it more obvious when someone is posting. Click the name of the entry to go to the individual entry archive.

Posted by James at 8:18 PM | Comments (3)

North vs. South

No, not the Civil War. It’s whether you’re going north or south on the roads around Boston. Every person who has driven in and around Boston knows that there are times you can simultaneously be going north and south because of the signage regarding Route 128 and Interstate 93. Now it appears there is a plan to change that.

Exit ahead for Rte. 128 (found via curious frog)

My fond memories of dodging bad drivers will not be as romantic without the label “Route 128.”

Ah, but nothing will prevent me from recalling life in the breakdown lane at rush hour (legal!) After a few nights you’d memorize exactly where all the potholes and road hazards were. It was the closest that driving has ever come to being like a video game. At a constant speed, avoiding obstacles was a matter of timing. Gas—break—gas—break—swerve left—swerve right—gas—break, etc. Meeeeemories.

Posted by James at 8:08 PM

We All Know How Well Prohibition Worked

To borrow and paraphrase a description that is usually reserved for terrorists:

Bush hates gays because of their freedoms.

Big news yesterday was Bush throwing his support behind a constitutional amendment to ensure that a loving same-sex couple could never have the same rights that a hetero couple has. The flat-out-homophobia vote is in the bag.

Can we now call Bush an activist president? This man wants to amend the constitution to specifically deny certain consenting adults the ability to marry their choice of spouse, according to his personal beliefs (whether they be religious, homophobic, or whatever)

Chuck made some good points in the comment section of a previous post. One of the points he touches on is the distinction between the religious aspect of marriage and the civil aspect. My view is that people’s rights ought to be equal. Perhaps the best way to do that is to get the government out of the marriage business altogether. Let religions and such handle marriage. If the government wants to recognize family units, it can issue some sort of civil union document for everyone, hetero and gay.

That solves the name issue. But I suspect the same folks who were shocked that Murphy Brown was a single parent on TV are horrified that the government could ever recognize a type of family other than that depicted on Leave It To Beaver.

Posted by James at 1:42 PM

Film Roundup - From Rats to Slashers

Let’s take a quick look at some of the films I’ve recently seen. Here’s a list of DVDs I’ve rented or borrowed:

  • Lies (1999)
  • Willard (2003)
  • Sherlock: Case of Evil (2002)
  • Spider (2003)
  • Johnny English (2003)
  • Kung Pow: Enter the Fist (2002)
  • Irreversible (2002)
  • Cabin Fever (2003)
  • The Secret of Roan Inish (1993)
  • May (2003)
  • Spun (2003)
  • Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
  • Bruce Almighty (2003)

I’ll just keep it to a few words on each to give you my impressions of the film, rather than in-depth reviews, which are, in many cases, unwarranted.

Lies (1999)

Lies ( a.k.a Gojitmal ) was recommended to me by Netflix, and now I have to wonder what they think of me. Perhaps it was because I like Asian films. But what did I do to make them think I like Asian S&M porn?

Simply put, this is a porn film with a story thinly wrapped around it. I don’t think it quite qualifies as hardcore porn, and it’s not particularly arousing. But the main characters spend most of their time sans clothing. It becomes so repetitive, you find your mind wandering during the sex scene. The think plot is that a 19-year-old college student contacts the love interest of her friend for the purpose of convincing him to see her friend. Instead, she decides to go have sex with him. Repeatedly. Despite his marital status. And later, the rods and whips come out. And, frankly, there isn’t much more to the movie than that. Bad movie. Bad, Bad movie.

Willard (2003)

I’d recently tried to watch the original version of Willard and had fallen asleep, so the 2003 update pleasantly surprised me. As with the original this is the story of a man trapped by his elderly mother and the legacy of his father. He befriends some rats, and they become the outward manifestation of his inward anger and frustration.

What I liked about this film was the performance Crispin Glover gives as Willard, and the rat special effects. The story is not just a monster film. The rats are heavy with symbolism, waiting for you to interpret it I’d recommend Willard to folks who like quirky horror.

Case of Evil (2002)

This was originally a special on cable, but I missed it. The ads were intriguing, so when I heard there was a DVD, I rented it.

This is hardly compelling as a Sherlock Holmes story. Yes, all the elements are there, but the story pales beside even Arthur Conan Doyle’s worst offering. Skip this, Sherlock fans. The presence of Gabrielle Anwar, James D’Arcy and Vincent D’Onofrio should not sway you. And where can I get an apostrophe for my name?

Spider (2002)

Spider is an intriguing film on the subject of mental illness. David Cronenberg puts his odd talents to work directing this film, and some of Spider’s confusion becomes your own as you try to piece together what is in his mind and what is in the world.

Ralph Fiennes stars as a man prematurely released from a mental hospital, living with some childhood scars. Back in his old neighborhood, the memories of the past return, comingled with the present. His ghosts are the more substantial kind, not apparitions but apprehensions.

Miranda Richardson deserves kudos for her role as Spider’s mother in flashbacks, and Fiennes does an excellent job conveying Spider’s disturbance with hardly any dialogue. Thumbs up.

Johnny English (2003)

Not even Rowan Atkinson could keep me awake in this. So I can hardly give it a complete review. Stick to Mr. Bean is my recommendation.

Kung Pow: Enter the Fist (2002)

Sure, Steve Oedekerk has made a really dumb movie here. But it’s dumb, silly and fun. If you like goofy films, Oedekerk’s odd melding of old kung fu movies (with a heavy dash of himself in the leading role) may be the dessert you’re looking for. If you don’t like silliness, then this is not for you.

Irreversible (2002)

This film probably deserves a long review, but I have little interest in writing it. It was easily one of the more disturbing films I’d ever seen, and its structure as a backwards-told-story was nothing but confusing. If you’ve heard anything about this film, you know that Monica Bellucci is brutally assaulted and you have to watch the entire thing. It wasn’t clear to me what point the film was making, other than “you can’t turn back the clock” and “violence begets violence.” If I want to be uncomfortable, next time I’ll just wear a hairshirt.

Cabin Fever (2003)

Cabin Fever was made by people like the ones I went to school with. They love horror films. This is a sincere attempt to make a horror film different than slasher films, but with the impact of the first Friday the 13th. It doesn’t quite achieve that, but there are a couple of laughs along with the scares that make this film worthy of your time if you follow cheesy horror like I do. The mainstream can skip it.

Look for the director as that creepy dog-walking hipster, and stay to the end to get the final goofy racial statement.

The Secret of Roan Inish (1993)

Roan Inish may be too slow for some of today’s kids, and that’s too bad. The story is uplifting, the characters believable and the countryside is beautiful. I watched this with my 6-year-old daughter and it gave us a chance to sit together, relax and slow down. It’s like hearing a yarn told by a wizened Irish fellow. You can read a synopsis on this film elsewhere, but I’m telling you that it’s endearing. Perhaps shy of a classic, but worthy of any child’s attention.

May (2003)

Another film with a mentlaly ill “protagoinst.” May does not fit in with society. Her lazy eye and strange manner has made her an outsider all her life.Will she finally find love? Not bloody likely, as this is a horror film. But the horror doesn’t show up until the end.

This isn’t a cheesy horror film to watch with your friends and cheer at. This is a cheesy horrorish indy film to watch alone, to actually feel really bad for May, and then to be resigned to the fact that the killing has to start sometime. The first 3/4 of this film are a good psychological character study—much better than Willard. Good enough, in fact, that the denouement just seems cheap and unnecessary. May is worth viewing as a curiosity, but you’ll be disappointed before it ends. Get this director together with Crispin Glover and a good script, then call me.

Spun (2003)

It’s Requiem For A Dream on speed. Almost literally.

Freddy vs. Jason (2003)

Skip it. Jason X was much better for sheer cheesiness alone. Fvs.J leaves you thinking “Isn’t it better when it’s “Freddy against the stupid people” and Jason against the stupid people?” That’s what we want to see—not villains battling it out. We want to see people making stupid mistakes that run them afoul of the killers.

Bruce Almighty (2003)

Nothing is going to allow me to forgive BJ’s Wholesale for carrying a mountain of this film and not one Chapelle’s Show DVD. Even though I already reviewed this film, I felt I had to mention that.

Posted by James at 10:00 AM | Comments (3)

February 24, 2004

Your Hangups Are Showing

This cracked me up. I followed a link on a conservative weblog to the following site which proposes a way to put an end to performances of Eve Ensler’s most famous work on Catholic college campuses. See An End To Ensler.

You get jock fraternities to put on the play, casting their “little sisters” as the performers. No changes necessary; keep the script intact. Schedule it maybe for Ground Hog’s Day, just to give faculty and admin hacks time after the Christmas break to read the posters and conjure up the mental picture of a roomful of Alpha Delts, all five or six tallboys to the good, wolf-whistling the actresses and hooting in sarcastic glee at the trash-talk.

Stupidity of the suggestion aside, here’s what cracked me up. The author keeps referring to The Vagina Monologues as “V Monologues.” What’s wrong? Did the microcephalic critic lose his dictionary, or can’t he bring himself to type the word “vagina?” Does he have similar problems with bringing himself to type other body-part-names like “rectum,” “penis,” or, perhaps “elbow?”

I can just picture a trip to the doctor for this fellow. “Doctor, my pee-pee hurts and last week after eating some bad shellfish my poopies were loose coming out of my bum-bum.”

It’s a vagina. Lots of people have them. It’s OK to say it.

I have no real opinion regarding The Vagina Monologues since I’ve never seen it. If it offends him, I wonder if he’s considered not going to see it. I suspect his real problem was that he attended a performance and was disappointed that it wasn’t like his usual experience with live female entertainment. Specifically, there was no poll on the stage and they didn’t let you close enough to stuff dollar bills.

Posted by James at 6:49 PM

$13 and change

I got $13.86 in the mail yesterday in the form of a settlement check from a class action lawsuit. So did Julie. If you’re one of 67,998 other Massachusetts residents, you did as well.

Forty states, including Massachusetts, brought an antitrust lawsuit against several major players in the music industry, claiming they prevented stores such as Best Buy from undercutting prices of more traditional music stores, including Tower Records…

Industry officials denied any wrongdoing. Nevertheless, they agreed this month to a $142 million settlement in which $75.5 million worth of music compact discs will be distributed to public libraries across the country and another $67.4 million will be given to 3.5 million consumers who joined the class-action suit…

…In Massachusetts, starting this week, some 68,000 consumers will each receive a check for $13.86.

I only vaguely remember signing up for this online at some time or other.

What’s even more cool than getting $13.86 is what this means for libraries in MA.

For every 30,000 residents a library serves, a library will be getting 500 CDs from the music industry. The city of New Bedford, for example, will be getting something like 1500 CDs for residents to listen to and borrow. Fall River is comparable.

I spoke to the the very friendly people at the Somerset Public Library and they said they will also be getting some CDs from the settlement, though they are not sure how many they’ll get or how they will be sent. The Globe article seems to say there is no choosing involved—the industry sends what it sends, though they have promised a variety. I’m guessing that, with Somerset’s population, they’ll be getting on the order of 330 CDs. Nifty!

CD settlement is music to librarians’ ears (Boston.com)

Posted by James at 1:46 PM

Post-Weekend News Roundup

I don’t feel like writing a long post about anything in particular at the moment, so here are a bunch of stories with little comments. In outline form!

  • Anger Toward Bush Intensifying (Yahoo News)
    • … in exit polls conducted during Democratic primaries, a sizable chunk of voters have been describing themselves as not just dissatisfied with Bush but outright angry � 51 percent in Delaware, 46 percent in Arizona and New Hampshire, 44 percent in Virginia and Wisconsin.
    • Why are people so angry with Bush. Is it the lies, misrepresentations, distortions and blame-shifting do you think?
  • Education chief calls teachers union ‘terrorist organization’
    • …Education Secretary Rod Paige called the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union, “a terrorist organization” during a private meeting with governors Monday.
    • Got this off David’s site. So, what was the transgression that earned America’s teachers such contempt that a Bush official is preparing to ship them off to Guantanamo? The union criticised the “No Child Left Behind” law. The NEA is far from alone in its criticism.
  • Coke taking serious look at mid-calorie colas (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
    • … Generally, these beverages are formulated to have fewer calories than regular soft drinks but not the zero-calories of traditional diet products.
    • Looks like Coke is planning a version with less sugar, but not quite a diet drink. It’s about time. I love Coke, but the stuff is like liquid caloric overdose. A 20 oz. serving of Coke has 200 calories. That’s right, it’s 10 calories per ounce. It takes you about 45 minutes of walking to burn off 20 oz. of Coke. Sitting at a desk, it takes a 180 lb. man about two hours to burn off that Coke. It’s about 1/10 of the daily caloric intake he needs to maintain his basal metabolic rate. Considering that, I wouldn’t mind a version of these sodas with a lot fewer calories. I can almost dring regular diet soda. Almost. But if there were reduced calorie sodas that tasted halfway decent, I’d probably never look back.
  • Oh yeah, Nader is running. How much difference will it make? See the first item in this list.
  • Depp, Theron win Hollywood top acting awards
    • Johnny Depp won the top acting award while Charlize Theron took the lead actress trophy at the annual Screen Actors Guild Awards (SAG) held in Los Angeles Sunday night. …
    • Wow - I liked Depp’s performance, but that’s a surprise. What does this bode for the Oscars? Usually I don’t pay any attention to this stuff, but I’ve seen some great performances this year, and there’s the pool to consider.
Posted by James at 1:10 AM | Comments (5)

February 23, 2004

Top Twelve Reasons Against Gay Marriage

Patti sent this bit of email my way. I’m unaware of who the author is, as it’s one of those “forwarded on the net” bits. But I thought it was amusing enough to post.

Top twelve reasons homosexual marriage should not be legal:

  1. Homosexuality is not natural, much like eyeglasses, polyester, and birth control.
  2. Heterosexual marriages are valid because they produce children. Infertile couples and old people can’t legally get married because the world needs more children.
  3. Obviously gay parents will raise gay children, since straight parents only raise straight children.
  4. Straight marriage will be less meaningful, since Britney Spears’ 55-hour just-for-fun marriage was meaningful.
  5. Heterosexual marriage has been around a long time and hasn’t changed at all; women are property, blacks can’t marry whites, and divorce is illegal.
  6. Gay marriage should be decided by people not the courts, because the majority-elected legislatures, not courts, have historically protected the rights of the minorities.
  7. Gay marriage is not supported by religion. In a theocracy like ours, the values of one religion are imposed on the entire country. That’s why we have only one religion in America.
  8. Gay marriage will encourage people to be gay, in the same way that hanging around tall people will make you tall.
  9. Legalizing gay marriage will open the door to all kinds of crazy behavior. People may even wish to marry their pets because a dog has legal standing and can sign a marriage contract.
  10. Children can never suceed without a male and a female role model at home. That’s why single parents are forbidden to raise children.
  11. Gay marriage will change the foundation of society. Heterosexual marriage has been around for a long time, and we could never adapt to new social norms because we haven’t adapted to cars or longer lifespans.
  12. Civil unions, providing most of the same benefits as marriage with a different name are better, because a “seperate but equal” institution is always constitutional. Seperate schools for African-Americans worked just as well as seperate marriages for gays and lesbians will.

IMPORTANT Note: If this post pisses you off, make sure you’re pissed off for the right reasons. It’s a humor piece. Specifically, it is SATIRE. If you do not know what satire is, please look up the word before continuing. If you don’t realize that this post was not written by someone against gays, then there is little hope for you and you should probably go ahead and send me a comment like the other numbskulls who misunderstood. Make sure to include spelling errors and bile. You can look up “bile” in the dictionary, but I am talking about the metaphorical kind.

If the post still pisses you off (or it didn’t before and now it does) feel free to check out the rest of the weblog. I have plenty of other opinions that will piss you off, don’t neglect them! If you’d like to say something, check all the comments first. If you’re bored enough to read this, your bored enough to read the comments.

Go to the top of the weblog now.

[COMMENTS UPDATE: For bandwidth and sanity I have had to do some housekeeping on the comments. I’ve moved the first 150 comments off into three files of 50 comments each, and then put the remainder in a 4th file (see the links below).]

Also comments are now closed on this post. But you can still continue to participate by checking out the latest posts. Comments are still open on more recent entries.

[UPDATE: The GatorGSA has claimed authorship of this list, and I’m happy to provide a link to the version on their website.]

Posted by James at 12:32 PM | Comments (1)

February 22, 2004

Julie Got 3 Yahtzees

How can you compete against a person who rolls 5 of a kind 3 times in one game? How, I ask you?

You can’t.

Yahtzee is a harsh mistress. One moment you’re at the top of the world, rolling a lot of high numbers, filling in your 3- and 4-of-a-kind with big scores. The next minute you’re worried about how many 2’s you can roll so that you make your upper bonus. But all the upper bonuses in the world aren’t going to help me beat 50 points + 100 points + 100 points for extra Yahtzees.

This post makes me realize it’s been too long since I went game-shopping. Yahtzee. Pifffft. But, kudos to Jules.

Posted by James at 2:18 AM | Comments (5)

February 21, 2004

Aces Full of Links Oscar Pool

Next weekend the Academy will reward a few films with the highest award in the business. If you’d like to take a crack at who you think the Academy will choose, please take part in my “Aces Full of Links Oscar Pool.” (Poll is now closed)

Here are the categories I’ve chosen to include in the pool:

  • Best Picture
  • Best Actor
  • Best Actress
  • Best Supporting Actor
  • Best Supporting Actress
  • Best Director
  • Visual Effects
  • Best Animated Feature
  • Original Score
  • Best Original Screenplay
  • Best Adapted Screenplay

The winner will be offered a choice of one of the following exciting-as-hell prizes:

The winner will be the person who gets the most categories correct. In the event of a tie, the winner of the tie will be the person who got the most correct in the Best Picture/Best Actor/Best Actress categories. If there is still a tie, winner will be chosen by coin flip.

To be eligible, you must give your full name when you submit the form. Following the awards, I will post everyone’s results here (I will only use your first name and an initial) and I will ask the winner to contact me. Your full name will not appear on the weblog without your permission.

Here is the link to the pool again: “Aces Full of Links Oscar Poll” (Poll is now closed)

(Many thanks to defective yeti for providing the web page for our pool)

[Update - Added Additional Prizes to the List]
[Update - REMEMBER, you need to give your first and last name, and you need to check back after the Oscars. I’m using your last name to verify who the winner is, so unless I know you personally, I need that second name. The form doesn’t ask for your email address, this is how I’m identifying the winner. People I don’t know are more than welcome to enter the pool, but if you don’t supply your last name you will not win.]

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

February 20, 2004

Speak No Evil In RI (retracted)

[Governor] Carcieri has proposed, among several other steps, making it illegal in Rhode Island to “speak, utter, or print” statements in support of anarchy or government overthrow. (free registration required)

His proposal would make it unlawful for any person “to teach or advocate” a government overthrow, or display “any flag or emblem other than the flag of the United States” as preferable to the United States government.

Both acts are plainly protected, the experts said, by the First Amendment, part of the Bill of Rights, enacted in 1791. …

It looks like RI’s governor has hopped off the deep end, or perhaps he’s codifying something he thought was already obvious to people. Who knows what he was thinking.

Here’s the full text of his proposal.

And… boy that didn’t last long. Before I’m even done with the post, a Google search shows that Carcieri has withdrawn the bill. (no registration required there) My guess is, the drugs wore off.

Posted by James at 10:51 PM | Comments (1)

Nader-Factor

Nader will announce on Sunday whether he plans to run. Some fear that this spells doom for the Democratic candidate, and equates to 4 more years of Bush. This is an uncertain race, and Ralph is a wildcard.

Do I think he should run? Probably not. However, I don’t fear his run as much as some. I just discussed this with Chuck, and here are the reasons I gave him.

If you assume many people see Nader as a spoiler in the 2000 elections, they are going to feel the same way about him in the 2004 election. Presumably, if they think his spoiler role is a bad thing, they will not vote for him.

The sort of voters who are most likely to agree with Nader are also the more liberal end of the Democratic spectrum. After 4 years of Bush, a lot of those people are very unhappy. Exit poll after exit poll has shown that a focus of these voters has been electability (this is a code word for “I want Bush out of office.”) People in 2004 are willng to put aside some of their idealism and try to reach a common goal.

I voted for Nader in 2000. I didn’t see him as a spoiler at the time. However, before the Bush II years, I saw Gore as a lot similar to the Republicans as I do now. Also, Gore is not running in 2004, so we are looking at a very different race.

I don’t think there is a reason to panic if Nader decides to run. Unless you can get a whole bunch of other people who weren’t planning to vote to panic, too. If Nader does whip people up into a panic, it may even get out the vote. At this time, things are too uncertain to know what effect we will be seeing. We don’t even have a nominee from the Democrats yet.

2004 is not 2000. We’ll see what happens.

Ralph Don’t Run

Posted by James at 5:43 PM | Comments (9)

Jews Got Up and Left

“They claimed that there were 6.2 million (Jews) in Poland before the war and after the war there were 200,000, therefore he (Hitler) must have killed 6 million of them. They simply got up and left. They were all over the Bronx and Brooklyn and Sydney and Los Angeles.”

That’s the latest from the father of Mel Gibson in USA Today.

Well, that clears it up for me, how about you? See Michael Shermer for details.

Posted by James at 2:04 PM | Comments (4)

Culture-War President

Arianna Huffington weighs in on GWB’s administration. It’s time to rev up the culture war to get the focus off Bush’s mis-leading.

You would think the Christian right has more pressing matters to worry about. America now has 35 million people living in poverty, many of them working poor. And Christian conservatives are up in arms about gay marriage?

That’s right. Keep the focus where it’s important. Not on Bush’s failure in “returning honor and dignity to the White House.”

But the real message is that Bush is the best choice to fight terrorism, right? All the resources available are attuned to that. He’s a war president. But, I forgot—-Ashcroft is on the job!

But that�s not even the worst of it. The Justice Department has recently assigned a team of FBI agents to focus exclusively on adult obscenity cases. That�s right, with the war on terror in full swing, our war president is going to have a group of G-men doing nothing but working the porn beat when they could be tracking down � oh, I don�t know � terrorist sleeper cells. Talk about your misguided allocation of manpower. I don�t know about you, but I certainly feel safer knowing the feds are going to be keeping close tabs on Jenna Jameson.

I feel safer already.

As a fun (only slightly-related) bonus, here’s an old transcript from a press briefing in May 2001. Ari Fleischer comparing apples and apples and trying to tell the press corps that one’s an orange. It’s classic, it’s Friday, it’s good for you, so read it. :) (Skip down to after “MR. FLEISCHER: I just indicated what their reaction was.”)

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

February 19, 2004

The Evidence

Evidence of a wild herring party? You decide. (Click image to enlarge)

Posted by James at 3:27 PM | Comments (3)

February 18, 2004

Grey Album

So, I heard the DJ Danger Mouse Grey Album the other day. I guess I have a hole in my musical tastes.

There is some rap music that I can enjoy in small doses. But I can’t seem to get used to the monotonal droning of voiceovers.

In the case of that “Grey Album”, I made an effort to look for the good in it. What I found was that the good parts were the parts directly from the Beatles’ White Album. The rapper is talking over them and I find it supremely annoying. I won’t deny that this remix (and a number of other remixes I’ve heard) exhibit a lot of cleverness and creativity. Mash ups that I’ve heard before have nearly all fallen short of my expectations. The Every Breath You Take/Peter Gunn Theme mix off the Sopranos: Peppers and Eggs Sountrack:[Sopranos soundtrack] is more of the sort of remix I enjoy. Both songs are evident, and little additional material is interfering, so you get a gestalt. Another is a remix of Steppenwolf’s Magic Carpet Ride. I think the remix is the work of Fatboy Slim. It’s got the punch of the original without the long trippy (and, IMHO boring) instrumental interlude.

So, something is obviously passing me by with mash ups and remixes. I shouldn’t have to try so hard to like something.

Posted by James at 2:16 PM | Comments (6)

Stop & Shop Buddy

It looks as though Stop & Shop patrons will soon be given a tool to help them total their purchases long before they get to the front of the store. The “Shopping Buddy” is a PDA-like computer which will help shoppers manage their visit to the supermarket.

Yet the Shopping Buddy does far more than ring up purchases. You can use its touch screen to order items from the supermarket deli; when your pastrami’s ready, the computer tells you to go pick it up. The Shopping Buddy automatically displays which aisle you’re in, what’s on sale there, and what you bought the last time you strolled through. If you can’t find an item, punch in its name on the touch screen and the Shopping Buddy will point you to the correct aisle. It’ll even display a “you are here” map that tracks you through the store like a homing device from a James Bond film.

Somerset is building a new Stop & Shop — something that puzzled us. They’re building it right next to the old one, and we’re wondering why the heck they need a new building. I guess advances like this may be part of the plan. A new building can accommodate the sensors, power stations and whatever else.

Posted by James at 9:20 AM | Comments (6)

February 17, 2004

"It's Official"

It’s Official. I hate my current layout. I hate it to pieces. You wake up one morning from a drunken night of HTML editing and look at your monitor with a start… “What was I thinking!!?!”

So, now I’ll be trolling the web for ideas to steal borrow. An elegant-looking blog takes some work. I know some sites I love to look at, but many of them belong to people I really like, and I don’t want to steal borrow too heavily. Also, my content is different. Different content warrants a different type of design and layout.

I have never figured out what the hell my weblog is about. That may be part of the problem.

I know content is king. There are a number of weblogs whose layouts I really don’t like, but whose content I keep returning to because I love it. But, gosh darn it — nothing beats a purty weblog that loads fast and has fun stuff inside.

So, I’m announcing this publicly to help me not wimp out. I will get a better design. This I vow!

(Now I’m in for it)

Posted by James at 7:50 PM | Comments (6)

Monster

Maggie and I just got back from seeing Monster. The buzz on this film has been about how Charlize Theron gained weight and made herself look “ugly” for the part. But really, it’s an incredible performance. I still think 21 Grams struck me more, and overall Mystic River was the better film, but Monster is impressive in that Theron drives the film with her performance. It is a character study.

Aileen Wuornos was a serial killer. She had developed a hatred of men, which perhaps is not all that surprising considering her childhood and the people she came into contact with as a prostitute on the streets. Theron plays her as a naive but determined person with nothing left in her life, until she encounters Selby Wall (Christina Ricci). Otherwise unloved and unlovable, she immediately takes to Selby in whose own naive eyes Wournos is seen as a “beautiful woman who men are willing to pay for sex.” Wall is on hiatus from her controlling, religious father, living away from home with relatives after a near lesbian experience.

Things quickly go wrong when Wuornos convinces Wall to live with her instead — neither have a source of income.

The movie tests our ability to identify with Wuornos, which itself is not all that surprising. What surprised me was how well this film traps the viewer in the lives of Wuornos and Wall, who have trapped themselves in an isolated worsening obsessive fantasy world. It’s not quite the deep fantasy of the pair of antagonists in Heavenly Creatures, but rather a veneer merely thick enough for Wuornos to continue killing both to satisfy her hatred and keep her friend Wall close to her. For Wall’s part, she is in the middle of a bad situation with blinders on.

I can’t watch this film without wondering how much is fact. Selby Wall is a fabricated name for Wuornos’ real-life partner Tyria Moore. I’m not sure why they changed her name and her appearance, but perhaps it was an attempt to spare the real person behind that role. Changes in her character may explain the thinness of her part in the film. One never gets a real feel for Ricci’s portrayal of Wall beyond her wish to escape her father her confusion, and her lack of personality. She even tries on her lover’s mannerisms temporarily when she sneaks off to a bar for the night. But Ricci is not convincing as a real person and almost comes off as a figment of Wuornos’ imagination. Wuornos’ personality is strong enough that you could imagine her projecting this person out into the world — her last hope for a reason to live.

There are scenes in which Wuornos is the only one present except for her victims. So we only have her word to go on.The screenwriter has been kind to her, allowing her to progress from nearly justified self-defense to serial murder. But I think it’s not best to view this as a documentary. It’s a character study.

Wuornos is a character that is not easy to understand. But parts of her personality are impossible not to identify with. And that makes for a very uncomfortable and thought-provoking experience.

Posted by James at 2:19 AM | Comments (4)

February 16, 2004

MT-Blacklist

Welcome - MT-Blacklist to Aces Full of Links.

All comments and trackback pings are now filtered against the master blacklist. You (hopefully) won't see anything different, but it should prevent spammers from keeping me busy behind-the-scenes deleting comment spam. Ironically, I just had a conversation with Mika about what we do when we get comment spam. In the last 2 days or so, I've seen a rise in comment spam hits. As I get more hits, they will be added to the blacklist. I've turned on blacklist publishing, and so anyone who is interested can see a copy of my master blacklist here.

In the few minutes between when I downloaded MT-Blacklist to the server and activated it, I got a spam. Blacklist flagged it once I turned it on. Yay.

Posted by James at 4:38 PM | Comments (2)

Tasty, Tasty, MTBE

Bush OKs gas additive that pollutes

The Bush administration quietly shelved a proposal to ban a gasoline additive that contaminates drinking water in many communities, helping an industry that has donated more than $1 million to Republicans.

The Environmental Protection Agency's decision had its origin in the early days of President Bush's tenure when his administration decided not to move ahead with a Clinton-era regulatory effort to ban the clean-air additive MBTE. [...]

In 2000, the MTBE industry's lobbying group told the Clinton administration that limiting MTBE's use by regulation "would inflict grave economic harm on member companies."

Three MTBE producers account for half the additive's daily output.

The three contributed $338,000 to George W. Bush's presidential campaign, the Republican Party and Republican congressional candidates in 1999 and 2000, twice what they gave Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Since then, the three producers have given just over $1 million to Republicans.

MTBE-producers say the benefits outweigh the pollution in the water supply. Does anyone who has followed this story have any pertinent informaiton to contribute? Feel free to post what you know in the comments.

Posted by James at 3:32 PM

Stand, and Deliver Your Base

Here we have Bill Maher's take on marriage.

And why does the Bush administration want a constitutional amendment about weddings? Hey, birthdays are important, too -- why not include them in the great document? Let's make a law that gay people can have birthdays, but straight people get more cake -- you know, to send the right message to kids.
He goes on to criticize the Democrats who don't believe homosexuality is an abomination, yet do no insist on gay marriage. I have to agree. If you are not a true believer, you should have no problem with gays marrying. And you should say so.

This is the difficulty of politics. A candidate is not one issue. If your opponent can pin you to one unpopular issue and hammer it, does that make you a winner for sticking to your guns, or a loser for failing your supporters by not getting elected? But if you follow that reasoning, how can you believe anything a candidate from either party says during an election year, if both are simply positioning themselves for those center votes?

Those center people fascinate me. Most of the people I know are already decided. They either want Bush out of office, or they think he's OK where he is. Encouragingly, no one has tried to tell me he's the best man for the job. But the action is where the undecideds are, or the people who are only tentative for Bush or against him (while we await the Democrat candidate). The people who are considering not voting for Bush... what are they waiting to hear that might change their minds? Without changing his opinions or stances, what could Kerry, for example, say to reassure them?

One chunk of voters I think Kerry needs to address are those that don't like Bush all that much but have no confidence in Kerry to pursue a course that will deal with the terrorist problem and the lingering responsibilities in Iraq and Afghanistan. Kerry has not yet addressed that issue. I'm looking forward to him taking that issue head-on when and if he becomes the nominee, because I think it will mean the election. If he can convince people he's going to handle that situation in a way that spares us the mistrust that Bush has sown but also find what good we have done and build upon it, he may find some gains among these folks.

Keep the good, dump the bad, and lose the credibility gap.

(BTW - thanks Julie for the Maher link)

Posted by James at 3:00 PM | Comments (5)

February 15, 2004

Yeti Sports

Mike mentions on curious frog that this Yeti Sports business is meant to be a 10 game series, beginning with the Yeti with the bat and the penguin and ending with who-knows-what. The second in the series is "Orca Slap" where an orca slaps panguins into a large target.

I wonder if penguins are going to be the projectiles for the entire series.

Posted by James at 12:54 PM | Comments (1)

February 14, 2004

Broken

What to do when It's 3 in the morning and you notice your template is broken?

Get some sleep, that's what. I don't know what happened to my template, but I sure as heck am not going to stay up all night fixing it. Time for a whole new layout? I don't know if I have the patience at the moment.

Posted by James at 4:15 AM | Comments (1)

Edaville Closed Again -- For Good?

Renovated Edaville Railroad files for bankruptcy: 2/ 14/ 2004

We took the girls a few years back -- I think it was just before Mattie's diagnosis. So she was 3 perhaps. Three years ago, or so. We had a lot of fun, and avoided the crowd by arriving early in the evening. When we left, the lines were extremely long.

This year, Maggie took the girls again, but I was playing D&D that day and didn't make it. Maggie said the place is bigger now, with more rides. The girls had a great time. You always think you'll have a chance to do something again with your kids, but just through the normal course of events, often you are doing something for the last time.

I guess I missed my chance at one more time for the kids at Edaville.

[Correction: I was at the "weekly" poker game, not D&D that day]

Posted by James at 4:06 AM | Comments (1)

February 13, 2004

Happy Unfortunate Valentine's Day

You haven't properly celebrated V-Day until you've visited the Gallery of Unfortunate Valentine's Day Cards.

This one is my favorite, evoking the specter of human branding, or bestiality. Take your pick.

Maggie and I rarely celebrate the day, which is just an excuse to consume candy and spend money. This year has been the one for practical gifts coinciding with celebrations. In other words, no real surprises on our anniversary. Instead, we bought something together which we both needed (it was furniture).

Celebrate these things automatically and they become very boring. Celebrate them sporadically and the excitement returns.

Disclosure: I did get Maggie flowers this year (there was a slight screw-up with Kabloom, but their customer service has been very responsive). That was nice. But i have a feeling that these symbolic gifts are more important in a competitive circle of friends. If this were the sort of thing that provided fodder for Maggie's group of friends, I could see where not getting flowers would cause distress. There is that awkward moment when the girls are talking about their gifts. So, ultimately, Valentine's Day becomes just another opportunity for social pressure to force you to buy something. Isn't that romantic?

Instead of wishing you all a Happy Valentine's Day tomorrow, I think I'd rather wish that you all to find one substantive thing about yourself that has the potential to make you happy.

Posted by James at 1:39 PM | Comments (4)

Jazz Class

Yesterday I let Ryan persuade me to join him for his Jazz class. The prof had set up a little concert and was welcoming one and all to come and enjoy the music. So I made that my lunch break.

He'd gotten some really talented local folks together. They demonstrated freeform jamming, improvising on a theme, and finished with a more rigidly structured piece.

In between there was a sort of beat-era piece in which he enlisted a few of the voiced from the audience to intone a spooky refrain along with the saxophone. At the culmination, a loud-voiced young woman (also from the audience) gave a dramatic reading of a poem about raindrops.

It was all I could do to keep from snapping my fingers. A good time was had by all, and I came away with a strong urge to take up the bongos.

Posted by James at 12:42 PM

Powell and the Guard

I would be careful to not denigrate the Guard. It's fine to go after me, which I expect the other side will do. I wouldn't denigrate service to the Guard, though, and the reason I wouldn't, is because there are a lot of really fine people who served in the National Guard and who are serving in the National Guard today in Iraq.
Truth be told, I'm getting rather sick of this whole Bush AWOL story. Sure, it speaks to his autonomic tendency to hide things. And sure, if all the records were known it would show him to be less than the patriot he plays on TV in a flight suit. But, really, he's done enough damage during his presidency that we don't need this issue to boot him.

What pisses me off is how, in his evasiveness, he recasts peoples questions about his military record as an attack on our armed forces of today. For instance, with the quote above in his Meet the Press moment.

Who was he talking about, by the way? Denigrating our National Guard? Maybe it was his Secretary of State, Colin Powell:

I am angry that so many of the sons of the powerful and well-placed managed to wangle slots in Reserve and National Guard units. Of the many tragedies of Vietnam, this raw class discrimination strikes me as most damaging to the ideal that all Americans are created equal and owe equal allegiance to this country.
That's from Powell's 1995 autobiography. I want to say "how did that sit with Bush when he read the line during the time he was considering to hire Powell..." But I believe he read Powell's autobiography like I believe in faeries.

Posted by James at 9:37 AM | Comments (2)

February 12, 2004

Smudge

Do Drudge throws an unsubstantiated claim up on his website and everyone goes into a tizzy about Kerry's sex life.

Here we go again.

If Kerry ever had sex with anyone other than his wife, clearly we should bow our heads and submit to 4 more years of our reigning king of credibility gaps.

The good news is that we're getting this out of the way now. I'm all for getting this crap out in the open long before the general election. The danger is that people will tire of the mudslinging and turn off to voting, which will clearly hurt the Democrats who need to get out the vote this year.

Posted by James at 4:12 PM | Comments (1)

LXG

Every time I try to watch LXG (which I rented from Netflix) I fall asleep. I can stay awake for about 15 minutes, and then I just drop. The story is horrible. The dialogue is horrible. The acting is so-so. The effects are medium-good. Peta Wilson is not vampirish enough.

Is it as bad as The Hulk? Just the fact that I have to ask that question speaks volumes.

Posted by James at 12:56 PM | Comments (7)

February 11, 2004

Non-Asian Musical Flash

Is another region of the world trying to steal the weird flash music-video market from Asia? This would seem to say "Yes. Oh, god, yes." Get me a translator and an aspirin. But what language is it? Is that guy a Sikh?

Thanks, curiousfrog.

Posted by James at 2:43 PM | Comments (1)

-3 Katana

I guess they don't fold steel like they used to. But perhaps the moral is: don't buy your katana from "Shop At Home" network.

Posted by James at 1:06 PM | Comments (3)

Meet The Prez (Daily Show)

If you missed the Daily Show (as I did) you have to catch Jon Stewart's take on the president's recent television appearance.

Meet The Prez (Quicktime format)

Posted by James at 12:32 PM | Comments (1)

February 10, 2004

Norah Jones - Feels Like Home

Ryan and I picked up Norah Jones' new album today at Circuit City. As a bonus, they gave each of us a DVD full of music videos including ones from Norah ("Coma Away With Me"), Coldplay, Chemical Brothers, Ben Harper, Al Green, Kylie Minogue, and others. The Chemical Brothers video is extremely entertaining to watch, ("Get Yourself High") as digital manipulation a-la "Kung Pow" makes an old Kung-Fu movie fodder for dancing and singing.

So it was a good day for freebies.

On the album itself, I can give you a few first impressions. The initial impression was that this album is in no way challenging or daring. I wouldn't use the word bland, but I also wouldn't be surprised to hear that assessment. She does throw in some country flavor which I haven't heard in her work yet, such as in a duet with Dolly Parton on "Creepin' In." But, beyond that, no one song has jumped out at me.

I will need to repeat-listen before I pass final judgment, but this sounds like an album of sweet sounds for Norah-lovers, but nothing that will bring in new converts.

Posted by James at 6:36 PM | Comments (1)

Star Wars Original Trilogy DVD Set in September

It is on its way.
The original Star Wars trilogy, comprising the 1977 movie, its 1980 sequel “The Empire Strikes Back” and 1983’s “Return of the Jedi,” will be released on DVD as a four-disc boxed set in September, Fox Home Entertainment and Lucasfilm Ltd. announced yesterday.
Posted by James at 3:29 PM | Comments (5)

Tow Gone Wrong

Sometimes things seem so simple. The car is stuck in the snow -- apply a little force and tow it out. A little knowledge and some horsepower is a dangerous thing. This film reminds me of countless hours spent at boat ramps with Manny and Maggie. Invariably, someone would have some problem and a (none too bright) bright idea to fix things. Hang around a boat ramp long enough and you will see someone make a bad (but not too bad) situation much worse.

Tow Gone Wrong Movie

Posted by James at 12:43 AM | Comments (1)

February 9, 2004

Cow! Cube!

What's a cowuuube?

The Zoology Dragon (requires Flash)

Posted by James at 8:10 PM

Bush Believes It -> It Must Be True

Here is the crux of why I think Bush is a dangerous president. Read this excellent article in Slate: You Can Make It With Plato : Bush's difficult relationship with reality. By William Saletan.

The more you study Bush's responses to unpleasant facts, the clearer this pattern becomes. A year and a half ago, the unpleasant facts had to do with his sale of stock in Harken Energy, a company on whose board of directors he served, shortly before the company disclosed that its books were far worse than publicly advertised. Bush dismissed all queries by noting that the Securities and Exchange Commission had declined to prosecute him. "All these questions that you're asking were looked into by the SEC," Bush shrugged. That conclusion was his measure of reality. As to the different version of reality suggested by the evidence, Bush scoffed with metaphysical certainty, "There's no 'there' there."

Saletan suggests that we have this president who values his theories over the facts which pile up in opposition because the American people were reacting to Clinton's attention to polls. It was one of the things that worried me about the Clinton years, especially after he had his scandal. What would the reaction be to this action?

I didn't realize it would be that we'd get stuck with a president who has little epistemological grounding and simply forms his own impenetrable picture of the world.

Certainly, strong beliefs are important. For example, believing that people should be able to marry the person they love, regardless o their sexual orientation is based on a belief regarding equality. But beliefs and other feelings can come up against reality, and that's the time when a leader needs to have some understanding of how we form better beliefs when our old ones become broken. I'm not asking him to become a scientist, but it wouldn't hurt to have some experience with an empirical process which allows you to change your theories. Or, giving Bush a little more credit on knowledge and a little less credit on wisdom, the willingness to change a theory based on new evidence.

I think I'd love to play poker with our president. A large part of playing poker is reading other players. I have no idea whether it would be easy or hard to read GWB. I think his weakness lies elsewhere.

When you're up against an opponent, you must "put that opponent on a hand." In other words, with limited information, you have to make an educated guess regarding what the other player is holding. You must form a hypothesis. Often, you start out thinking he has one thing, but during the betting you get evidence that your original hypothesis was wrong. At that point, it's crucial that you re-evaluate.

One of the best kind of player to play against is one who cannot drop a bad hypothesis. If he starts out believing you're a loose player, he'll play you like a loose player, even after you switch gears. If he thinks you're a rock, you're a rock forever in his eyes. And within a hand, he'll call you to the end if you started out betting weak. This is a lucrative player to have as an opponent because his moves become predictable... predictably bad. No, a much better opponent is a player who is refining his picture of you with every move you make. This steely-eyed fellow is the opposite of G.W. Bush.

But that's the guy I'd like to have as president.

Posted by James at 5:38 PM

Prof. Spock @ Malibu U

Remember that nifty little music video with Nimoy singing about hobbits I mentioned back in November?

Someone details the origins of the musical number - an ABC television program in 1967 called "Malibu U."

Groovy. Weird, but groovy.

Posted by James at 4:33 PM

Not Almanacs, Phone Bills

Here's a Florida news report on how journalists have found that regular citizens have a very hard time getting access to public records that ought to be accessible:

"He could have been a terrorist," Howard said. "We have to ensure the safety of children."

Howard couldn't explain how a terrorist might use his cell phone bill to harm children.

The most flimsy reasons were given for being suspicious of folks coming in to view records, and threats were even issued to discourage digging.
Roger Desjarlais, the Broward County administrator, threatened a volunteer by saying, "I can make your life very difficult."

After insisting that the volunteer give his name, Desjarlais used the Internet to identify the volunteer, find his cell phone number and call him after work hours.

Public records audit: Some records requests met with suspicion and threats

Posted by James at 2:32 PM

Britain spied on UN allies over war vote

Britain helped America to conduct a secret and potentially illegal spying operation at the United Nations in the run-up to the Iraq war, The Observer can reveal.

The operation, which targeted at least one permanent member of the UN Security Council, was almost certainly in breach of the Vienna conventions on diplomatic relations, which strictly outlaw espionage at the UN missions in New York.

Posted by James at 2:01 PM

New TV Tradition

WASHINGTON D.C. Feb 8 - In what is being described as a new tradition in broadcasting, NBC aired a special "Meet The Press" featuring an interview with President George W. Bush as part of an effort to repeat what began last Sunday during the sensational Super Bowl halftime show.

"If possible, we'd like to get a boob on TV every Sunday. It's great for the ratings. Today's interview with President Bush is our commitment to establishing that tradition."

Since Justin Timberlake was not available for the event, Tim Russert was enlisted to dramatically and suddenly expose Bush's bewilderment to the nation.

Posted by James at 12:13 AM | Comments (2)

God Is My Co-Pilot

American Airlines Pilot Plugs Christianity (ABC News)

Passenger Amanda Nelligan told WCBS-TV of New York that the pilot called non-Christians "crazy" and that his comments "felt like a threat." She said she and several others aboard were so worried they tried to call relatives on their cell phones before flight attendants assured them they were safe and that people on the ground had been notified about the pilot's comments.
I'm just trying to imagine what would have happened if a fellow had gotten up to announce he was going to bring the passengers closer to Allah.

I hear it did trigger a terror alert, which is good to know, because I was planning to do the same thing next time I get on a plane. But I've reconsidered.

I can forgive the guy for being all excited about his faith. Apparently he was fresh back from a retreat in Costa Rica. Those things tend to reinforce the little zealot in people. But the swipe about "crazy" is uncalled for.

Unfortunately, I can anticipate the knee-jerk martyr commentary that is on its way. "The anti-Christian media is going to be all over this story!' "Nothing guarantees freedom from religion -- activist judges are trying to silence this good man!" "We have to listen to the completely secular safety speech the stewardesses give every time we go on a flight. What's wrong with a little god time?"

Posted by James at 12:03 AM | Comments (4)

February 8, 2004

Meet The Press Moments

All I have to say is, this is our president? This guy, slouched in a chair cowering in front of Tim Russert? Bush likes to play the master of low expectations, which he then exceeds. He did it with the debates in the last election -- lowering the bar all the way to the ground and then sailing over it. But today, if he was trying to look at all presidential, he failed miserably. Yes - a miserable failure.

Calpundit culls some of the NRO cpnservative response.

Transcript of Bush's Meet The Press interview.

More later, right now I'm off to finally see "Master and Commander" which is about someone in charge who is actually deserving of respect.

Posted by James at 3:11 PM | Comments (8)

February 7, 2004

Why Heather Can Write

Interesting article about how fan fiction helps to improve a child's ability to write. Makes quite a bit of sense. Allow some auhtor to provide the framework, backstory, etc. Maggie says she had a fanfic-type exercise in the creativity and writing workshop she put together for the kids last summer. [via BoingBoing]

Posted by James at 12:04 PM

February 6, 2004

President Cuts Decontamination Funds

The Onion really can't make up stories like this. You have to go to CNN to read them:

On the same day a poison-laced letter shuttered Senate offices, President Bush asked Congress to eliminate an $8.2 million research program on how to decontaminate buildings attacked by toxins.

Buried in documents justifying Bush's 2005 budget proposal released Monday is an Environmental Protection Agency acknowledgment that his proposed cut "represents complete elimination of homeland security building decontamination research."

(via Oliver Willis)
"It is a stunning example of the budget choices this administration has made, where tax cuts for elites are more important than public health or adequate homeland security," Daschle said Thursday.

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

Georgia Decides Not To Devolve

Ga. School Chief Puts 'Evolution' Back in Science (Fox News)

I suppose some kudos are warranted, but you have to place this somewhat into the "no shit, Sherlock" file:

Cox said she originally wanted to replace "evolution" with the phrase "biological changes over time" to avoid controversy.

"Instead, a greater controversy ensued," she said.

Posted by James at 8:59 AM

February 5, 2004

Cheney Under Fire

Federal law-enforcement officials said that they have developed hard evidence of possible criminal misconduct by two employees of Vice President Dick Cheney's office related to the unlawful exposure of a CIA officer's identity last year. The investigation, which is continuing, could lead to indictments, a Justice Department official said. (Insight online)
In other Cheney news:
[Cheney] spent several days in early January on a duck hunting trip with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, at a private camp in southern Louisiana.

Such companionship between a politician and a Supreme Court justice might not ordinarily raise eyebrows in all quarters, but the timing of this excursion made it particularly controversial. Just three weeks earlier, the Supreme Court, with Scalia's participation, had agreed to hear Cheney's appeal in a major lawsuit. (Star Tribune)

Posted by James at 6:10 PM

Bush Lie #n

Although the Pentagon plan represents virtually half of all domestic discretionary spending, it does not include the substantial cost of ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, which officials say would be funded in a future supplemental appropriation.
(see the Defense section of the budget analysis on Washington Post)

In two weeks, I will send you a budget that funds the war, protects the homeland, and meets important domestic needs, while limiting the growth in discretionary spending to less than 4 percent. (Applause.) This will require that Congress focus on priorities, cut wasteful spending, and be wise with the people's money. By doing so, we can cut the deficit in half over the next five years. (Applause.)
We must quickly move to explain away this lie.

Vote for why this is not a lie:
Free polls from Pollhost.com

Posted by James at 2:44 PM | Comments (1)

Is That Olestra In Your Toilet, or...

Oil 'burped up' in woman's home (CNN) These unfortunate folks came home to find that their toilet (and the rest of the water supply) had struck crude oil.

My favorite part of the story:

Longview city crews and representatives from Basa Research, which owns some wells in the area, are trying to help find the source of the oil.
Why the heck would they be interested? Hmmmmmm.

Posted by James at 1:30 PM

Tangled Web

Can one practice to be deceived? (Story about Tony Blair over at Absit Invidia). Also:

Tony Blair said today he had been unaware that the controversial 45 minute claim in the Governments Iraq dossier referred only to battlefield weapons when he asked MPs to vote for war.
Didn't folks make plenty of noise over this dubious claim before the war? I don't remember whether the press picked up the slack, but the blogosphere certainly doubted it. It would have been worth looking into.

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

Seek Alternate Routes

People have complained about the manner the MA SJC has gone about trying to bring equal rights to the same-sex couples of this state. Judicial activism and such.

I'm not a legal scholar, but I know traffic.

When you're in one place, and what's right is in another place, you hit the road. Then you clear a hill and you see a line of cars ahead of you in all lanes that reaches many miles. It's stone cold dead in its tracks.

If you can do so within the law, you seek alternate routes.

Posted by James at 10:08 AM | Comments (1)

February 4, 2004

Gay Marriage Clarified

So, if you didn't hear that the Massachusetts SJC clarified their ruling, specifically stating that only gay marriage would satisfy the constitution, you must be outside of shouting range of any bigoted authoritarian homophobes.

Okay, perhaps that's being a little harsh.

I haven't heard anyone give me a reason I can respect that gay couples should not be allowed to marry. Most of the arguments seem to reduce to the offensive "well what's to stop people from marrying goats!"

You can cut the fear with a knife. If gays are given their rights... that's one fewer group we're allowed to openly hate.

The horror. The sheer horror.

I'm proud to live in Massachusetts. We take a beating for our unusually liberal population. But some things are just plain right and decent, whether they're popular or not.

Posted by James at 10:14 PM | Comments (5)

A Good WMD Is Hard To Find

Rumsfeld: More Time Needed for WMD Search

Oh, the irony.

Posted by James at 4:21 PM

How I Lost 1 Pound in 20 Minutes!

I lost a pound in 20 minutes yesterday, and you can, too!

I gave blood. A pint weighs approximately a pound. (a pint's a pound the world around, and blood is mostly water)

When I went in to donate at Children's Hospital, this time they asked me to choose from a long list of reasons why I had chosen to donate blood that day. Nowhere on the list was "I can park in the garage for free if I donate" so I told them that it was because my daughter had an appointment at the hospital.

The parking is only half a joke. Without validation it costs $12 to park. With validation it's $8. With blood donation, it's free. So giving blood nearly pays for a couple of chicken pesto sandwiches at Au Bon Pain in the hospital lobby. As I said to my daughter, "Your Dad will do some weird things to save a couple of bucks."

But, really, there's got to be a little more to it than saving on parking if I'm going to let someone shove a needle in my arm. And the reason is summed up on the billboard of the blood donation center's waiting room. There are pictures drawn by children who benefit from blood, platelets and globulin. They say things like "Thank you for donating your blood. It makes me feel better. Before, I was tired and sad. Now I can play." How can that not hit you like a ton of bricks?

I'm lucky. My blood always seems to flow very quickly. I'm never in there long before they tell me "go drink some juice" and a hop over to the kitchenette for some fluids and a cookie or two.

OK, so perhaps giving blood won't really help you lose much weight in the long run. But it can help you both feel good about yourself and help someone. And how often do you get to be a hero in today's world? How often do you get a chance to save lives?

How does "every couple of months" sound?

Posted by James at 4:14 PM | Comments (1)

Patriots In Person

I saw the New England Patriots yesterday. No, I wasn't at the rally.

We were driving up to Boston Childrens hospital for an appointment with my daughter's doctor yesterday afternoon at about 2:30 PM. On the Southeast Expressway somewhere near exit 10 or thereabouts, I noticed flashing lights on the opposite side of the expressway, traveling south. It was three large busses surrounded by a number of police cruisers, al with their lights on. Ahead of the busses the traffic was nonexistent. Behind the busses there was a huge knot of cars. As they passed us, cars around us beeped their horns in a salute to the players who likely heard none of it inside their vehicles. No doubt there was some sort of full-bore party going on here, sliced into 3 bus-sized pieces and moving down the highway towards Foxboro.

A few minutes after seeing the busses, a huge line of police motorcycles scooted past all the traffic to join the escort.

And that was that.

Posted by James at 2:43 PM

That's The Booze Talking

Menino blames colleges, liquor for tumult

Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, facing questions over inadequate police response to crowd eruptions after the Super Bowl, yesterday blamed the chaos on local colleges and a new law allowing the sale of liquor on Sundays. [...]
Students found it easier to buy more alcohol under the new law, Menino said: "They were able to run to the store when they ran out of beverage and stock up. It's wrong."
There is no doubt that rowdy, destructive drunk people are a menace. No doubt either that a few often ruin things for the many. But the above doesn't add up.

The blue law repeal is to blame for the problems of rowdiness on Super Bowl Sunday? We're supposed to believe that the only day this sort of thing can happen on is a Sunday when the blue laws could be in effect? If buying liquor when you run out is bad, why not ban all liquor sales? What makes Sunday so special? Ah - the Super Bowl was on Sunday. But, while we're flailing to lay blame, somehow we didn't grasp on the Super Bowl (which Mayor Menino attended in person) as a scapegoat.

On a day when everyone knew the city would be dealing with rowdiness one way or another, the mayor is out of town. Mayor Menino - feeling a bit defensive regarding your absence in the city's time of need? It sure seems so.

Posted by James at 2:31 AM

February 3, 2004

Avian Flu

With all of the politics lately, the avian flu hasn't been much on my radar screen. Here's a decent summary to get us up to speed: What You Need to Know About Avian Flu (via jjdaley)

These things take on a more threatening tone when you live with and know immune-suppressed people.

Posted by James at 12:16 PM | Comments (2)

Grail frit Good Against Diabetes, Weight Gain

Perhaps those grapefruit diets weren't so strange after all.

Science Blog - Eating Grapefruit Really Does Help Weight Loss

Apparently, grapefruit can help your body control your glucose levels better. That's great news for those of us who love the stuff. I eat about 5 oranges a day. Time to switch to the other readily available citrus?

(BTW - "Grail frit" is a reference to a comedy series. Anyone recognize it?)

[Update: it should probably be "gralefrit."]

Posted by James at 12:28 AM | Comments (9)

February 2, 2004

Super Cinnamon Rolls

When the Patriots are in the Super Bowl (and often when they're not) cousin Bob deep fries a turkey. That's good eating! This Super Bowl Sunday was no different. Yes, the New England Patriots won, and yes it was a very exciting, nail-biting game. However, the highlight, for me, is always the food.

I arrived at the party late - that is to say, just before kickoff. I was delayed because I wanted to make sure my offering to the pot luck affair would still be warm when the guests were ready to eat them. My offering was, of course, my signature Cinnamon Rolls. It's the only dessert I make that doesn't have chocolate in it which Maggie is eager to consume. This year I made a double batch, because I wanted leftovers to give to various people. The dozen that one batch makes usually get eaten within 5 minutes of the unveiling at the party, so there are no leftovers if you put them all out. Making 24 was a challenge, but a worthy one.

These rolls are a copycat of Cinnabon rolls. The only difference is, mine are more better.

You can see a sample in the image above. It's clear, from the messy application of icing, that I was in a rush taking the picture. Such is the case when you have a hungry wife and daughter hovering over you with forks and knives as you're trying to practice your mad skills as a food photographer. Needless to say, Gourmet Magazine will not be calling for my services any time soon. However, my specialty is not presentation, it's flavor. And these rolls are top notch.

I've included the recipe in the remainder of this entry, for the interested and adventurous. It's not a difficult recipe, but you must be somewhat comfortable with yeast and it is a little bit of work. I encourage all those inclined to persevere and try it. Practice makes perfect.

[PS: Bob did deep frya turkey, of course. By the time I got there, everyone had had their shot at it. Perplexingly, no one had touched the wings! I helped myself to a big chunk of white meat and both wings, which were, by far, the best turkey wings I have eaten in my entire life.]

Cinnamon Rolls

ROLLS
1 pkg of dry yeast
1 cup warm milk (105 F to 115 F)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
4 cups flour

FILLING
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp cinnamon
1/3 cup butter, softened

ICING
8 Tbsp (1 stick) butter, softened
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup (2 oz) cream cheese
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt

  1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk in a large bowl.
  2. Mix in the sugar, butter, salt, eggs and flour
  3. Lightly dusting your hands with flour, knead the dough until you can form a ball. Let it rise for an hour in a covered bowl, until it doubles.
  4. Punch down the dough and roll out the dough flat until it is about 21 inches wide and 16 inches high. (It should be about 1/4 inch thick)
  5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  6. Mix the cinnamon and brown sugar together in a bowl.
  7. Spread the softened butter evenly over the surface of the dough and then sprinkle the cinnamon and sugar evenly over the surface.
  8. Working carefully from the top (a 21 inch side), roll the dough down to the bottom edge.
  9. Cut the rolled dough into 1 3/4 inch slices and place 6 at a time, evenly spaced, in a lightly greased baking pan. You should end up with 12. Bake for 10 minutes or until light brown on the top.
  10. While the rolls bake, combine the icing ingredients. Beat well until fluffy.
  11. When the rolls come out of the oven, coat each generously with icing.

JAMES' ADDITIONAL NOTES:

  • In step 1, you may want to proof the yeast before adding the other ingredients.. Give the yeast a few minutes to wake up.
  • I have always used butter instead of margarine and the recipe works fine. Since I have never tried it with margarine, I don't know if it is an improvement or not.
  • I have found my dough very slow to rise in this recipe.
  • In step six do not spread margarine on the bottom 1/4 to 1/2 inch of your dough rectangle. Instead, use milk for that strip. This makes that last lip sticky so that when you roll up the dough, the cylinder holds together closed. This will make your life **MUCH** easier when you are cutting the individual rolls.
  • Once you place the rolls on their pan, you may want to allow them to rise, covered for a little bit before baking. I haven't tried this, but I believe it will improve the rolls.
  • I have used low fat and nonfat cream cheese and no one could tell the difference. That's because these things are basically all fat already. And sugar. And fat. Did I mention the sugar?
  • These rolls freeze very well.
Posted by James at 4:12 AM | Comments (2)

Dammit Janet

Those of us who were able to fend off the urge to fall asleep during the Super Bowl half-time show were punished by having to watch twitchy pop idol Justin Timberlake grope a leather-clad Janet Jackson and then rip part of her costume away, revealing a pasty-clad boob. Yahoo! News - CBS Apologizes for Jackson's Exposure

It's still unclear whether this was intended, or accidental, but the presence of the pasty implies that it was intentional. Methinks that if you're going to make a spectacle of yourself, you ought to try to make one with a little more of a point to it. By point, I mean purpose, by the way.

[Update: Timberlake claims it was a "wardrobe malfunction" and , after seeing a replay on the news, he looks shocked as hell right afterwards. It may be acting, but the look on his face says "what just happened?"]

Posted by James at 12:07 AM | Comments (5)

February 1, 2004

VS. Female Body Image Memes

About-Face is a female-image-oriented organization along the lines of Adbusters. "About-Face aims to combat negative and distorted images of women. And its Gallery of Offenders names names. But the site comes with a caution: 'Extreme sarcasm. Enter at your own risk.' "

When reviewed, the prevalence of stereotypical images of women is overwhewlming. Clearly, in our society, this is considered an acceptable situation. But as surely as it sells mundane products, it distorts our perceptions of women. I find it hard to believe anyone would deny that. Corporations will spend millions on advertising because they are aware of its power to change minds. But advertising is an unweildy cudgel, communicating all sorts of unintended messages along with the intended ones.

I liken it to people's distorted perceptions regarding herbal remedies. If a drug is strong enough to have an effect, it is usually strong enough to have a side effect. Doctors (good doctors) prescribe drugs mindful of the side effects, which often need to be closely managed. The scientific and medical communities deal with reality and cannot afford to ignore the very real relationship between intended and unintended effects.

Advertising is effective. And side-effective.

Posted by James at 1:14 PM