May 28, 2004

For 69 Cents, Make It Bacon

A little more info on Super Size Me :

Rotten Tomatoes currently puts Super Size Me at #10 in the box office. It’s pulling in $6.6k per theater. It’s in only 148 theaters. Troy (the #2 film) is in over 3,400 theaters and is pulling in about $7k per theater. Cool!

Is it me, or is there a lot of interest in documentary film-making these days? Is interest in documentary film on the rise? Folks like Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock are getting their names in the paper. Can some sort of documentary production or activist film-making become the brainy cousin of reality TV?

Posted by James at 3:23 PM

NSFW Shotgun

OK - not all of these links are Not Safe For Work, but a number of them are.

  • My First Boner (Flash, NSFW)
    • This was one of the best animations at this Spike and Mike’s Sick and Twisted. Answers the question “What if Schoolhouse Rock had handled sex ed?”
  • Kung Fu Bunny
    • Every bunny was kung-fu fighting.
  • Bush is Lord
    • A website dedicated to showing Bush in his true, holy light.
  • Bush Game (Flash, NSFW)
    • An anti-Bush video game that is definitely not safe for work.
    • Bush & Co. team up with Voltron to exercise dominance over the world. You must win back the America you know and love with the help of Hulk Hogan.
    • Looooong intro animation.
  • Navy Phonetic Alphabet
    • Learn ‘em and use ‘em to talk to your friends!
    • Example: Whiskey—Tango—Foxtrot? (thanks, Ryan)
  • Republican Survivor (Flash)
    • Nitwit, Payoff, Outsource — This is the trailer, they’re actually planning weekly cartoons. Get your pass to see each cartoon and participate in voting the Republicans off the island!
  • I Love Death (Flash, NSFW)
    • Definitely not safe for work (NSFW), depicts cartoon sex, violence and masturbation. And that’s just in the first 10 seconds.
    • On the other hand, a catchy tune and depressing/darkly humorus comment on life.
  • Remarks By Al Gore, May 26, 2004
    • More disturbing still was their frequent use of the word “dominance” to describe their strategic goal, because an American policy of dominance is as repugnant to the rest of the world as the ugly dominance of the helpless, naked Iraqi prisoners has been to the American people. Dominance is as dominance does.
    • When a business enterprise finds itself in deep trouble that is linked to the failed policies of the current CEO the board of directors and stockholders usually say to the failed CEO, “Thank you very much, but we’re going to replace you now with a new CEO — one less vested in a stubborn insistence on staying the course, even if that course is, in the words of General Zinni, “Headed over Niagara Falls.”
    • Long, but a worthy read. This is the sort of eloquence we could have had. It’s a call to hold those in power responsible. Like they said they were going to be.
  • MTV Won’t Advertise Super Size Me
    • MTV claims to still be in negotiations, but the film company claims the ads were rejected.
    • Last night I took Maggie to see Super Size Me and she loved it. I tried to pay attention to bias this time around. Yes, the film has an obvious point of view, but he did a decent job letting some people speak for themselves (As when the lawyer for the girls in the recent anti-McD lawsuit was pretty straightforward that his motivation was monetary compensation) (thanks Patti )
    • I’ve worked at McD’s and met some of my best friends because of that experience.
    • A big part of the problem is how kids are inundated by the advertising of unhealthy lifestyle choices. Seems like curtailing TV would really help with that. There isn’t one answer to this complex problem, and the film doesn’t try to sell it as a simple thing.
  • Eric Idle’s FCC Song (MP3, NSFW)
    • The Pythonite gives his opinion of the FCC and the Bush administration. (Thanks, Mike)
    • Fuck you very much, dear Mr. Bush…
  • Murray: Martial Arts Monkey (Flash)
    • To the tune of Jungle Boogie, the monkey is a kung-fu hero!
  • Giant Index of Science Jokes
    • A neutron walks into a bar. “I’d like a beer” he says. The bartender promptly serves up a beer. “How much will that be?” asks the neutron. “For you?” replies the bartender, “no charge”
Posted by James at 10:50 AM | Comments (9)

May 27, 2004

Bubba Ho-Tep

Never, never f&%# with the King, baby!

Can a horror movie starring a convalescent Elvis and JFK work? Is it a horror movie at all?

The answer is yes and no.

We rolled into Best Buy on Tuesday for the usual perusal of new inventory. Tuesday happened to be the day that Lord of the Rings: Return of the King came out. For this event, Best Buy returned to the practice of making a nice little table display for the new releases. We have always been big fans of the table because it saves us the trouble of hunting for the new releases, but the table failed us this week.

As I approached the table, a smiling Best Buy employee quickly sized up my companions and myself, and asked “Are you here for Return of the King?”

I immediately said “No, Bubba Ho-Tep. Got that?”

He looked crestfallen and confused. By the look on his face, I think he might have even thought I was insulting him. Luckily, another employee there knew what I was talking about, and he stepped in before anyone’s feelings got hurt. Personally, I think they should be a little more diverse with their table. But that’s just me.

So, it’s a bit of an obscure film, I’ll admit. But this film works. No, it isn’t a horror movie. And it really isn’t a comedy either. But it is funny.

You can’t know what to expect from a film that has Elvis (Bruce Campbell) still alive because of a scam, living in a rest home in Texas. Crazier still, a black man claiming to be JFK (Ossie Davis, claiming to be dyed that color by his enemies) teams up with Elvis to fight an ancient soul-sucking evil.

What this film is really about is the character of Elvis, which is what will make it a satisfying watch for Bruce Campbell fans. The majority of this film deals with how the character of Elvis looks back on his life, how he deals with his twilight years, and the numerous indignities he must suffer living in the Shady Acres Convalescent Home.

And the situation is quite depressing. As he repeatedly points out, even his private parts have become a source of woe. All the excitement has left him. There’s little reason to even leave his bed.

It’s almost as though a soul-sucking demon would be an improvement around the place. At least it would be a reason to live.

You might find it hard to believe that this man is Elvis. After all, his story is pretty far-fetched. But he encounters JFK with an even more outlandish story—one that is impossible to believe. But what is easier to believe, that a mummy is bending old people over to suck the souls out of their hindquarters, or that after throwing away fame, fortune, and family, you’re about to die in a rest home? OK, the latter is easier to believe. But which is more fun?

This movie is full of decent lines and fun performances, Ella Joyce is a great foil as Elvis’ nurse, who appears to mean well, but is largely inseparable from the bleak institution for which she works.

This film takes itself seriously enough that the camp and goofiness are allowed to sit and sink in. Except for one moment of undertaker slapstick that is a bit out of place, the humor entirely grows out of Elvis’ situation.

If you’re looking for a cheesy horror film cult favorite, this is not it. This film has cheesy horror, but the film itself isn’t cheesy at all. It is introspective, curmudgeonly and humorous.

Posted by James at 4:34 PM

May 26, 2004

When Cicadas Attack

Recalling the incident when President Carter was attacked by an aquatically-inclined killer rodent, our current President (or, as he is inappropriately referred to on talk radio “our commander-in-chief”) had his own wildlife run-in recently.

Emboldened by the emergence of “brood x” or perhaps in some sort of berserker-frenzy at the smell of blood from the president’s recent face plant. Whatever the reason for this little insect’s moment of supreme cheek, it took flight, menacing the president’s airspace.

Bush immediately declared it a “terrist,” causing hurt feelings. It turns out the cicada was a Reagan-voter 17 years ago. Nonetheless, Bush called for a no fly zone to be established. Aides nearby did not bother to explain the difference between a fly and a cicada because… well, what’s the point, really? Instead, they might consider adding cicadas to the president’s menu. Yummier than deep fried bull testicles! (aka Texas Fries) (Thanks to Patti for sending along those recipes)

Dubiously Related Links

- Face Plant
- The Brood
- Killer Swan
- Bush vs. Cicada @ Wonkette

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

May 25, 2004

Super Size Me (Capsule Review)

I expected an activist film on McDonalds. What I got was a very humorous personality giving his point of view.

As everyone should know, eating junk food every day will damage your health. But we’re inundated with fast food advertising to the point that fast food permeates our culture. And, it’s specifically targeted at children. If you have kids, you know the pressure to visit fast food joints.

In any case, as many people have pointed out, it’s a matter of personal responsibility to control your own eating habits. And everyone though that eating fast food (exclusively) for a month is crazy. And maybe that’s just why Morgan Spurlock did it. It’s only a fuzzy concept before someone goes and does it. And to see someone do it drives the message home.

But even that is not the best reason to see Super Size Me. Spurlock is a funny guy. He’s got a great sense of humor, and a great personality. In a lot of ways, he’s like a kid—he wants to eat this fast food. His girlfriend is a vegan chef, but he doesn’t buy into it. At times, you almost suspect he is doing this in part to tweak his better half (and from her exasperated appearances, she may suspect it as well).

I don’t want to reveal much about the details of this film. I’m keeping this to a capsule review because I just want to tell you that this is a very amusing film, and you should see it for that and not necessarily the activism. If you want to know about the fast food industry, read Fast Food Nation. But see this film, for the entertainment value.

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

May 23, 2004

Chalabi on Meet The Press

Shorter1 Chalabi on Meet The Press:

Russert: “Are you working for Iran?”

Chalabi: “I never passed secret information. Mainly because I never had secret information.”

Russert: “Are you working for Iran to manipulate America?”

Chalabi: “Iraq is Clinton’s war, and George Tenet is after me! Help! Is this microphone on?”

Story on Reuters.com

1 “Shorter” is a weblog slang term.

Posted by James at 2:25 PM

Animation Hangover

More about the hangover later, but first: the animation.

Tonight was one of the two nights Spike and Mike’s (Sick and Twisted) came to The Avon Cinema. It was quite good.

Among the old standbys were “Billy’s Balloon” and “No Neck Joe.” There were a whole host of new cartoons, and many of them were indeed both sick and twisted. Maybe I’m jaded, but it seemed like many were trying a little too hard. But there were some standouts. “How To Cope With Death” was only slightly twisted, but a real pleaser. Quality animation. Fairly to-the-point. Unpredictable. Satisfying. Created by France’s own Ignacio Ferreras.

My favorite of the festival, though, was “Dr. Tran” for a number of reasons. It was the first Animation Festival entry that involved a prop. It was the first time I’ve seen an effective joke played on the audience. And it was just plain funny. The theme? A voice over telling you all about Dr. Tran’s upcoming movie adventure, and informing you of the popularity of his past film exploits. Problem is, Tran is 5 years old, not a doctor, and is getting increasingly angry with the voice over at all the lies about him that are being spread. Thumbs up for Tran! A product of Beyond Grandpa.

Honorable mention goes to Ninjews… moyels imbued with the powers of ninjitsu after cutting themselves with a Japanese sword during a bris. Crude “Mr. Bill”-type claymation, but they get a B+ for sheer balls, a bizarre idea and the power to fight crimes of an anti-semitic nature. I should save this for a shotgun post, but here, check it out for yourself.

It was worth the lonely midnight trip to Providence.

On the hangover, I horrible at the moment and it’s after 4 AM. Alcohol is not the culprit. I blame caffeine.

I drank a large iced coffee before I headed out at 11:30 PM because I wanted to be sure I would be lucid for driving. I’m sensitive to caffeine, however, and I’d already had hot tea and iced tea earlier in the day. Now I feel like a Braun hand blender is whirring inside my stomach. The amazing thing is, for alcohol to make me feel this lousy, I have to drink beyond excess. With caffeine, a few teas and a large iced coffee and I’m cursing myself. I’ve only gotten to that point with alcohol perhaps twice in my life, and I know enough now to never repeat that.

But caffeine seems innocuous. Since other people aren’t affected by it this way, no one will stop you and say “Whoa - I think you’ve had enough.”

With alcohol, there’s a good chance you can sleep the lousy feeling off. It’s 4:27 and there’s no sleep in sight. I have a caffeine hangover. I need to stay away from mind-altering substances.

Bleh. Time to try sleeping again. Before the birds start their hellish morning chorus.

Posted by James at 5:42 AM | Comments (9)

Bush Bike Spill

Or “Free-World Leader Freewheeling.”

Bush loses control of bicycle, suffers minor injuries and is treated on the scene by his doctor.

Conflicting reports blamed either loose soil or a box of pretzels that was spotted on a nearby grassy knoll.

Posted by James at 4:55 AM | Comments (1)

May 22, 2004

Who Is Working For Iran?

“Iranian intelligence has been manipulating the United States through Chalabi by furnishing through his Information Collection Program information to provoke the United States into getting rid of Saddam Hussein,” said an intelligence source Friday who was briefed on the Defense Intelligence Agency’s conclusions, which were based on a review of thousands of internal documents.

You might need to read that again. Chalabi (and remember his lackey Curveball?) was working for Iran in the interest of removing Saddam. With the help of Chalabi, Curveball, and Bush’s band of tools, they made it America’s interest as well.

Now does it become obvious where the Curveball’s mobile chemical weapons labs went? Poof! They went back into the ether where they came from.

Who was working for Iran? I guess we were. You were.

When Bush stood in front of that Mission Accomplished banner, that was the Iranian mission which had been accomplished — the toppling of Saddam. Our mission, to pay for and clean up the mess, had just begun.

Let me suggest a new mission for the American people: Throw out the tool in the White House.

TPM offers a note of caution. I think that’s prudent.

Posted by James at 11:09 AM

Nick Berg Questions

Steve asks: Absit Invidia: Was the Berg video staged? and concludes that he is not entirely convinced (that the beheading is not what it seems).

I’m not completely convinced either, but this sort of thing always fascinates me. I’m going by what othe people have said, because I haven’t watched the thing. I’m not an expert on live beheadings, and I don’t hope to become one.

Yes, it matters if he was beheaded live, because that’s what people believe they are seeing. Heck, I know people who just listened to the audio and pictured the rest. And the audio may not be quite on the level either.

Terrorism is theater. It’s meant to provoke a response, so spectacles win out over truth. And what I find amazing is how much trust is placed in the terrorists to give us an accurate story when people want to believe that story. The terrorists are monsters, so we’ll uncritically accept that they have performed a live beheading. These terrorists have proved themselves to be ruthless and a danger to America and American interests. But you don’t just take what your enemy gives you. Axiomatically.1

To echo what Steve says, I’m glad some people are asking questions.

1 It’s a separate question what you do when you’ve made enemies of everyone to some degree.

Posted by James at 10:37 AM | Comments (2)

May 21, 2004

Sh-Sh-Sh-Shotgun

  • Kill Billy (Flash)
    • From the makers of Arfenhouse comes this trailer for “Kill Billy.”
  • Cold Turkey (@ CommonDreams)
    • Kurt Vonnegut’s comments on the world today. Read this, then go read one of his books. Do it now.
    • I was born a human being in 1922 A.D. What does ‘A.D.’ signify? That commemorates an inmate of this lunatic asylum we call Earth who was nailed to a wooden cross by a bunch of other inmates. […] Can you imagine people doing such a thing to a person? No problem. That’s entertainment. Ask the devout Roman Catholic Mel Gibson, who, as an act of piety, has just made a fortune with a movie about how Jesus was tortured. Never mind what Jesus said.
  • Judd Nelson Soundboard (Flash)
    • Finally! You can now call up any phrase from Judd Nelson’s magnum opus “The Breakfast Club.” Use liberally throughout the day. Otherwise, you’re a neo maxie zoon dweebie.
  • Laid Off: Career Day
    • Odd Todd’s latest! ‘Nuff Said.
  • Feynman: Cargo Cult Science
    • If you haven’t read Richard P. Feynman’s Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! you don’t know what you’re missing. Read it.
    • I’m trying to figure out what to say, when the guy says to her, “I’m, uh, studying massage. Could I practice on you?” “Sure,” she says. They get out of the bath and she lies down on a massage table nearby. I think to myself, “What a nifty line! I can never think of anything like that!” He starts to rub her big toe. “I think I feel it,” he says. “I feel a kind of dent—is that the pituitary?” I blurt out, “You’re a helluva long way from the pituitary, man!” They looked at me, horrified—I had blown my cover—and said, “It’s reflexology!” I quickly closed my eyes and appeared to be meditating.
    • Er, what’s a cargo cult?
  • Funny Warning Labels
    • It’s amazing what people have to warn other people against.
  • Berg Conspiracy (on Kuro5hin)
    • I’m no conspiracy theorist, but hoaxes and conspiracies fascinate me. Both the possibility of a hoax fascinates me and how people latch onto small details and work them into a conspiracy intrigues me. Here, people are noting inconsistencies in the Nick Berg video. Be careful, though. Studying the details can help you fool yourself if you’re not conservative with your conclusions.
    • This link also appeared on A Cry For Help.
  • Smart People Belive Weird Things
    • Michael Shermer says: “Rarely does anyone weigh facts before deciding what to believe”
    • I’m currently reading his Borderlands of Science. This guy is anathema to pseudoscience kooks and holocaust deniers everywhere.
  • Penn and Teller: Bullshit!
    • I’ve seen the first season on DVD and it’s worth a look. Great sense of humor, and they are pretty much right on the money. An appeal for intellectual honesty… that’s entertaining!
  • Jesus Landing Pad
    • Ending on a scary note, here’s another conspiracy theory of a sort. But, in this case, the folks are pretty up front about being a conspiracy. On their own website they claim they are the Christian voice in Washington. And the president does talk to them. Make of it what you well.
    • Also mentioned on Absit Invidia. While your on Steve’s site, read the last week or so. He’s tracking some good stories.
Posted by James at 11:41 AM | Comments (6)

May 20, 2004

Fever

My blogging may be even less lively than usual for a little bit. Daughter #2 has had a fever for two days.

Since I blog when the spirit moves me, I can’t predict what when I have something to say. But I am a bit distracted at the moment. Before the fever happened, I was getting busy with things and a little bit distracted.

There are a lot of times I hold back from posting a link because I don’t have much to contribute. My links sideblog updating is broken at the moment, which is where I would put many of links I don’t want to comment on. The news is out there. Many times I don’t feel like I’m contributing much by just posting a link. The shotgun posts are fun for that, because they’re such a deluge.

But when you come to my website, I hope I can provide you with something interesting you can’t go and get elsewhere. I don’t always have time to give you that. That’s why I love your comments. You guys are always interesting.

Posted by James at 2:11 PM

I Take That Back

Whoops - the folks at Snopes tried to verify that pregnancy story and found it wanting:

Urban Legends Reference Pages: Pregnancy (No Sex Please, We’re Religious)

You’d think somebody at the university would have heard about it. Duped!

Posted by James at 1:23 AM | Comments (1)

May 19, 2004

Piddly's Chance

Rui has been off studying all the aspects of making video games. In the process of his studies, he has been working with a group to produce a game that runs on top of a previous engine. This game, called “Piddley’s Chance” looks very intriguing.

They don’t have a website up and running yet (they’re sleep deprived jsut from working on the game itself) but some screenshot popped up on Atari Forums recently. Check them out!

Nice work, Rui! Can’t wait to see the real website, and then the game itself!

Posted by James at 12:41 PM

Old Fertility Treatment

Ananova - Childless couple told to try sex

Yes, the title of that story says it all. A childless couple in Germany were wondering why they weren’t procreating. After seeking medical help, it was determined that they hadn’t had sex.

There isn’t a lot of detail, other than they were brought up ignorant of sex in some sort of religious environment. What one naturally wonders is, just how much about childbirth did they know? Did they think something mystical passed between the man and the woman and the child simply materialized? They must have known about pregnancy.

The mind boggles. This proves that extreme ignorance can be an effective form of birth control. Something to strive for!

[This story is judged “undetermined” at Snopes]

Posted by James at 12:01 PM | Comments (1)

May 18, 2004

Search Terms: Nick Berg

My webstats for May show that Nick Berg is dominating my search terms for the month:

1nick berg decapitation video
2berg decapitation video
3against gay marriage
4nick berg video
5nick berg decapitation
6against gay marriages
7arguments against gay marriage
8heliattack
9nick berg full video
10conservatives against bush
11reasons against gay marriage
12anime men
13nick berg
14crazy laws
15scared cat
16berg decapitation
17gay marriage
18arguments against gay marriages
19nick berg video links
20full nick berg video

The actual webstat table can be found here. Gay marriage did manage to sneak in there.

Actually, it seems that most of this activity was mostly concentrated on last Thursday, right after I wrote my small post on the subject. It appears that, for a while, Google was funneling hits my way, and then it dropped off. People were going insane searching for that video.

I wonder if they found it. And, if they did, I wonder what they learned?

Posted by James at 2:54 PM | Comments (21)

Grammar God?

Grammar God!
You are a GRAMMAR GOD!


If your mission in life is not already to
preserve the English tongue, it should be.
Congratulations and thank you!


How grammatically sound are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Patti sent this quiz along. I was fairly confident of my answers, but I am a bit surprised I got “Grammar God.” I would have liked it better if I could have seen which answers I got wrong and which I got right. I don’t imagine I got every one correct. Pattie, of course, came up as a God as well. But among my friends, I tend to thing of myself as a low-end grammarian.

[Added: Even when I know the rules, I sometimes willfully break them out of laziness. But, thanks to a high school teacher known only as “Mr. Newton,” I have a basic command of the written word. I have a feeling this quiz is a little too generous.]

Posted by James at 10:21 AM | Comments (13)

May 17, 2004

Gay Marriage Spreading

Steve scooped Bil. And I’m just plain lazy, so I get my news from them.

Rhode Island will continue to recognize MA marriages — even those new ones that everyone is talking about. Conneticut, on the other hand, will not recognize same-sex marriages.

And somewhere today, Bush said he wanted to change the constitution to solidify his base preserve the sanctitiy of hetero marriage. One thing you can say about Bush: when he’s right, he’s right. And we’re all still waiting for that to happen at least once before he leaves office.

I just don’t get it. People consider this to be a sign of the apocalypse, but Luke Perry bringing the house down (which probably appears in a Nostradamus quatrain somewhere) gets by with little mention.

Ailsa is talking about the few dour protesters who appeared at city hall. The bigots are getting lazy.

Posted by James at 8:44 PM | Comments (4)

Capturing the Friedmans (Capsule Review)

Andrew Jarecki directs and produces this Oscar-nominated documentary about a teacher and his son who were convicted of using their in-home computer instruction class as a means to molest a number of young boys in the community on hundreds of occasions.

Jarecki makes use of an extraordinary number of home movies taken by the family. Even during the investigation and prosecution of the case, David Friedman, one of the sons, continued to document family discussions, arguments and gathering. He captures a family falling apart from internal and external pressures that had remained hidden. When Arnold Freidman is caught receiving child pornography in the mail, the investigation opens family wounds and reveals a delicate balance going off-kilter.

I recommend this film highly as an examination of the dynamics of accusation, investigation and guilt. Capturing the Friedmans is sad, perplexing and fascinating. If you’re like me and didn’t know much about this case before seeing the film, you’ll find your opinion forming and changing. In that way it often seems to be telling a story rather than simply looking back.

Posted by James at 2:16 PM

May 14, 2004

Dark Shotgun of the Soul

Here we go again.

  • Bubbles!
  • Yoda Sunscreen Advice
    • One of the more interesting things in that directory was this parody of that “sunscreen” song from a few years back. Remember it? It was based on a speech falsely attributed to Kurt Vonnegut.
  • Googledork
    • “Googledorking” is the endeavor to use Google search terms to reveal people who expose way too much on the WWW. Up to and including their password files. The page linked above is a list of Google search terms that reveal lax web security. It’s an eye-opener if you didn’t realize people were using Google for hacking purposes.
  • Blode 6: Attack of the Uber Pea
    • Flash animation from the people who brought you that Quiznos commercial. Viral.
  • You’re The Man Now, Dog!
    • Help Mr. Connery get his lines right. Flash or Shockwave. Or something.
  • Psychosis
    • What if you were a trekkie and suddenly suffered a psychotic break? It would look somehting like this. Flash animation.
  • Abu Ghraib Prison Fantasy Camp
    • A place to go for Skull-and-Bones-like hijinks.
  • Mexican Air Force Releases Photos Of Alleged UFOs
    • Alleged UFOs? Are they unidentified or not? In any case, check out the story and footage of Mexican lights in the sky. They’re coming to return Elvis in the world’s greatest time of need.
  • Scoop Your Poop
    • Japanese public service announcements about poop-scooping. (via BoingBoing)
  • Cute Food
    • Japanese cutely-arranged kids meals. They love to play with their food. Know what? So do I.
  • Playboy Video Game
    • Be Hef in this new video game. I’m guessing it’s a one player game. Bo-ring. (Story at Wired)
  • Sim Bad
    • What if Strong Bad were a Sim? He’s look like this.
  • Homestar Runner Wiki
    • An encyclopedia of Homestar and friends. And you can contribute, because it’s a Wiki!
  • Shirt-Folding MPEG
    • What’s the quickest way to fold a shirt in Japanese? Leave it to the culture who brought us origami to perfect the art of folding a shirt. Almost makes you want to do laundry.
  • Kitty Litter Cake
    • Best cake to bring to a party with people who own cats, Paws down!
  • Only in Kenya (Flash)
    • Forget badgers. How about lions? Holy Crap.

Enjoy.

Posted by James at 10:38 AM | Comments (6)

May 13, 2004

Kooky Campus Sights

It’s been a great weather day today. This picture might seem like an odd one to represent how great a day it is, but when you venture outside, you see what you see. Here we’ve got a tire someone leaned on a yellow traffic cone. Why did they do it? I have no clue. But there it is. Something is floating in the water which accumulated in the tire. Make of it what you will.

Why is the cone there in the first place? I didn’t move this “casual sculpture” to look underneath it. I think it’s covering something.

When I stepped out of my office the other day, I could smell tanning lotion. At first I thought it might be from one of the nearby houses, but judging by the direction of the wind, it was coming from the new dorms.

The university’s new dorms have been built close enough to my office that I can see them from the upstairs window. When the wind shifts, I can smell them. I strolled up to campus and, sure enough, students were sunning themselves, as others were preparing to leave town when finals are over.

Lots of people were loading stuff into cars. Hanging out in groups. Saying the last things they’ll say to each other for a while.

Our office is in a house just off campus, It’s an interesting place. Some of the grounds people used to escape through the road next to our offices before closing time and hit the local bars. Never let it be said that the state does not care about stopping this sort of government waste (though I know some of you conservatives will be incredulous). They closed off our road rather than find some other solution. A chain across the road prevents people from leaving campus this way. It actually did solve the employee flight problem.

However, people who weren’t breaking any rules before, but got used to this method of egress, have taken to using the grass as a new road. I don’t blame them, really. However, take a look at this picture. To prevent people from driving over the grass, they’ve placed police tape between some of the trees. The problem is, and you can see it clearly in the photo, they have left a clear path to Chase Road to the right of that tree. Those parking places to the right of the tree are state-mandated handicapped spaces. What that means is that:

  1. They never get used, because we rarely get anyone with handicapped plates here at our tiny offices.
  2. The spaces cannot be blocked off, and thus the illegal “road” cannot be blocked off by police tape.

It seems really silly to build roads and driveways and then to block them off. People find a way. Often, it is in vandalism. You might ask “well why can’t people just follow the rules?” I’d like to know why so many of the rules make very little sense.

Here’s a picture of one of the exits from the dorm parking lot near out office. Yep, it’s chained off permanently. But, as you can see, the chain is dipping very low. Someone’s pushed one of the poles over. I don’t know if it’s low enough to drive over, but the message is clear. “This chain is stupid.”

You are not prohibited from being on either side of the chain. But because of the chain, you have to drive over a dusty/muddy pothole-ridden road to get from one side of that chain to the other. What is the point?

It’s just the part of the entertainment that is university bureaucracy.

Posted by James at 4:39 PM | Comments (3)

Phrase Origins: Touch and Go

Yesterday evening, Joe Castiglione was interviewing Terry Francona about a previous Red Sox game. Castiglione described the game as “touch and go” and Francona chimed in at that point saying it was “more touch than go.”

Often, people will pull apart an idiomatic phrase and mangle it. I think this happens even more often than usual in sports interviews.

“More touch than go?” It sounded like he meant it was leaning toward the worse side of the equation for most of the game. I realized that I wasn’t aware of the original context of “touch and go” and maybe Francona was using it correctly, and maybe he was just mangling it with some sports-interview license (a fairly lax license).

There are three meanings I’ve heard for “touch and go” which were not just idiomatic.

First, I have heard the phrase used to describe a dangerous plane landing. If a plane is coming in too fast, or something else is wrong, it will make a “touch and go” — touching the runway and then going off again. The figurative meaning of the phrase is “a potentially dangerous, even disastrous situation.” A plane crash is a considerable disaster, so this appeared to be a valid origin.

However, there are two nautical suggested origins that likely predate the advent of air travel.

In one origin, “touch and go” refers to a ship’s keel touching the bottom briefly, and avoiding getting stuck. It’s a “touch and go” situation because no one wants to be stranded.

A second explanation is that ships long ago would sometimes have occasion to meet up and exchange cargoes and supplies. The ships would have to touch to make a transfer. That is an extremely dangerous situation. When they are done, off they go on their separate ways.

It seems likely that one of the two latter explanations is correct. But which one? Maybe it’s both. Does anyone have access to better phrase origin information? I’d like to know which is the correct origin.

Back to the Red Sox manager: What he said actually makes some sense. The “touch” part is the dangerous part of “touch and go” as far as I can tell. I can only guess whether that’s what he meant or whether he just got lucky with that turn of phrase.

Posted by James at 2:30 AM | Comments (2)

May 12, 2004

Romney's Petty Gay Marriage Moves

Sometimes I think Romney’s just being a nut. How else do you explain this odd behavior, brought to my attention by soxfan on her weblog.

Under Massachusetts law, the governor can issue a license to temporarily allow a person to perform a marriage. It takes 6 weeks for an application to be approved.

For whatever reason, the state has decided not to tell gay couples whether the person who they’ve chosen to officiate at their wedding has been approved or not. In other words, just because they can, they are pettily allowing people planning their weddings to wonder whether they were going to have to scramble for someone else licensed to perform their wedding.

In some cases, applications have been approved, but people were told that the applications would not even be reviewed until May 17. If it were you, and you were getting married in May, you would have to (wrongly) assume you were out of luck.

The staff member in charge of handling the inquiries would not answer questions regarding conversation he’d had about this practice. Clearly, this is a means to annoy a group of his constituents for whom he has contempt. Because Romney has not gotten his way on the issue, he feels nationally embarrassed. Here he is lashing out in a passive-aggressive manner.

Chuck has recently detailed the story of Romney’s aspirations, and how Massachusetts is just a means to raise his profile and standing with the RNC. I’ve heard that Romney tries to run the commonwealth like a company, with him as the CEO. Unfortunately for him, the state legislature and his constituents are not his employees. But that view makes even more sense when you see Mitt handling state politics like the most petty office politics I have ever seen.

It’s easy to be a gracious winner. Resisting the urge to be small is harder when you lose. By showing that he’s disinclined to be “big” when he loses, Romney comes off as a big loser.

Posted by James at 5:26 PM | Comments (16)

Murderous Bastards

Murderous Bastards. We should have gotten them when we had the chance.

You’ve probably heard about it long before I had a chance to get my thoughts together and write about it. Relief worker/American civilian Nick Berg was killed in Iraq by decapitation, and the graphic video is available on the WWW.

This is a horrible, horrible story.

The perpetrators are claiming to be/work for Abu Musab Zarqawi. They’re claiming this is revenge for the Abu Ghraib torture, but we can be fairly certain that this is just a convenient excuse. These al Qaeda affiliates are ruthless killers who know that the cycle of violence must periodically be refreshed with blood.

The horror, however, comes as part of a story. This story didn’t begin when the terrorists turned on their video camera any more than it ends when the last drop of blood ran out of Mr. Berg. Who is Berg’s murderer? Who is Abu Musab Zarqawi? And why is he still at large?

US Secretary of State Colin Powell has previously singled out al-Zarqawi as one of bin Laden’s closest associates. He said that after the fall of the Taleban, al-Zarqawi traveled to north-eastern Iraq, where he and his network helped establish another camp specializing in producing deadly poisons, including ricin.

He claimed that he was operating in parts of Iraq free from the power of Saddam Hussein but controlled by an Islamic group called Ansar al-Islam (Supporters of Islam).

See also this at the Independent.

We knew a lot about Zarqawi before the war, beyond Powell’s presentation. He was operating outside of Saddam’s control, in an area where he was vulnerable. Is it possible that this vital player in Bin Laden’s organization, someone said to be more important today than Bin Laden himself, could have been eliminated before the war on Iraq?

According to NBC news:

long before the war the Bush administration had several chances to wipe out his terrorist operation and perhaps kill Zarqawi himself - but never pulled the trigger. […]

“Here we had targets, we had opportunities, we had a country willing to support casualties, or risk casualties after 9/11 and we still didn’t do it,” said Michael O’Hanlon, military analyst with the Brookings Institution. […]

The Pentagon drew up a second strike plan, and the White House again killed it. By then the administration had set its course for war with Iraq.

What reason could there have been to allow this guy to continue to operate? It’s because Bush did not want to mess up his chance to sway the American people into a war with Iraq.

There was no connection between Saddam and al Qaeda. But there was this camp, outside of Saddam’s control. If we had taken it out, al Qaeda’s use of Iraq would have been eliminated. But, as we know now, the war on Iraq is not really about al Qaeda. And so we gave up three chances to take out a ruthless killer who was involved with the organization that enabled the 9/11 attacks—an important agent of arguably America’s worst enemy. We did this so Bush’s war, envisioned long before the 9/11 attacks, could become an expensive reality.

Americans have paid the price, and will continue to pay the price. A graphic representation of that price is the murder of Nick Berg.

Another odd aspect of this story is the statement made by Berg’s family. Michael Berg, Nick’s father is quoted as saying that his son might still be alive had he not been illegally detained by U.S. officials in Iraq. He was not charged and had no access to a lawyer. The family says he was being held by the military for 13 days and that after they filed suit in federal court, Nick was released. Nick had planned to return home in March, but his detention kept him in Iraq while the situation became more dangerous.

Details of that part of the story are bizarre and incomplete. But one thing seems clear to me. Zarqawi was our mortal enemy in the war on terror. And Bush let him go. Three times. After we knew just how dangerous these people were. If we need yet another example that the war on terror has suffered for Bush’s agenda, we have it. If we need another example of how facts and reasoned recommendations can be brushed aside for belief and politics, we have it.

They say “do not attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence.” Just how much incompetence must accumulate before it defies explanation?

Posted by James at 3:10 AM | Comments (5)

May 11, 2004

When Whales Attack

From a comment on an earlier post. Julie writes:

I did notice a helicopter last week, but I didn’t realize it was just to put on a time/money-wasting show to make us feel safer. Or more terrorized. I didn’t think it was terrorists. I thought it was the whales finally getting their revenge. Come on. Look at a whale. Then look at a helicopter. In silhouette, they look a lot alike. Who says a whale ghost can’t fly and carry a big flashlight?

Bil found this to be a compelling image and has created what I’m sure is an image that will stick in your mind for a very long time. You must visit A Cry for Help: Ghost Whales Get Their Revenge on New Bedford. Do it now.

May the whales have mercy on our souls.

Posted by James at 1:32 PM | Comments (4)

Oh Boy, Oh Boykin

Patti reminded me that I wanted to say something here about Army Lt. Gen. William Boykin.

I don’t remember if I ever posted about this story, but do you remember a few months back, the administration defending Boykin for his remarks?

Appearing in dress uniform before a religious group in Oregon in June, Boykin said Islamic extremists hate the United States “because we’re a Christian nation, because our foundation and our roots are Judeo-Christians. … And the enemy is a guy named Satan.” […]

Discussing a U.S. Army battle against a Muslim warlord in Somalia in 1993, Boykin told one audience, “I knew my god was bigger than his. I knew that my god was a real god and his was an idol.” (CNN)

Yeah. And then he told a defeated Somali warlord “You underestimated our God.” or somesuch.

Here’s another take on Boykin:

“I don’t think the administration understands how much damage Boykin has done,” said James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, an advocacy group. […]

“When the administration is playing to its American supporters, it appears anti-Islamic; at the same time, it is trying to send a message overseas that we love Islam,” Haddad said.

A refrain I’ve heard over and over again from hawkish administration supporters is this: if you are ever considering the emotions of the Arab world when deciding how this country conducts itself in the war on terror, you ought to have your head examined. Now we see the genius of this approach.

Boykin’s name is popping up again with this Abu Ghraib mess. He’s the deputy to the undersecretary of Defense for intelligence.

“Somewhere at the bottom of this you’ll find Cambone and his deputy, Boykin,” said a former military intelligence official, referring to Army Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, Cambone’s top deputy. “I think Cambone and Boykin are reflective of the whole neoconservative philosophy that these prisoners are undeserving of treatment as prisoners of war.” (L.A. Times)

As Boykin said, the enemy is a guy named Satan. Who is going to argue with you if you’re leading Satan around on a leash, naked?

But I think they may have been mistaken about just who was holding the leash in that equation.

Posted by James at 11:06 AM

Disclosure

On Friday, I took the girls to Pizzeria Uno’s at the Providence Place Mall. I needed a beer to go with my fish and chips, and after looking over the selections I settled on a pint of Sam Adams Summer Ale.

I was surprised by the flavor. On tap it was better than I remembered from last year (when I’d only had it in the bottle). I couldn’t remember whether it was a white beer or not (it is) and I started to think about how to describe it to you all, because I thought it would be worth a taste for any and all beer lovers in the audience. The presence of lemon and whatever spices they’re using were a refreshing enhancement. The beer is well-named.

But then something occurred to me. Am I being dishonest if I don’t give you the whole story?

Would it really be OK for me to be declaring on my weblog, “I was going to have some Guinness or Bass, but then I went with the Sam Adams specialty beer — the Summer Ale. It’s great! You should all go out and try it on tap!” It’s not that I have a problem recommending an alcoholic beverage (it’s everyone’s personal responsibility to decide whether they ought to be drinking). No, the sticky point is that I happen to own a miniscule number of shares in the Boston Beer Company. I bought them when Sam Adams went public long ago, and the stock has never gone anywhere. Well, I guess it went down, but you know what I mean.

I’m not a professional journalist. And I consider my weblog to be somewhere between news and friendly conversation. I don’t take it as seriously as some. I joke around. But I do try to give you the truth, whether it is about news events, or my opinion.

And I am biased toward Sam Adams. But it’s not because of the stock, it’s because I like the stuff. I am more inclined to drink it than, say, Coors or Miller.

Remember that story about the Disney Company and Michael Moore last week? Should I have disclosed that I own Disney stock? It hadn’t even occurred to me at that time. We bought one share of Disney when we got married because (at the time) stockholders got into a special club that received discounts. The share price was less than the club membership, so we invested rather than buying in.

Needless to say, Disney does not consider us major shareholders. In fact, they frequently ask if we’d like them to buy the stock back. I think they’re sick of doing the paperwork.

It may seem silly to even consider I might be trying to manipulate you to manipulate a stock price. But I remember the Motley Fool webboards back in the 90’s. There were a number of people on there giving stock “advise” for the purpose of inflating or depressing stock prices. Yes, they were discussing stocks, so that is a little different. But it still seems to be a relevant question.

Many of you don’t know me personally. So you have to just have to take my word for it when I tell you this:

I am trying to influence your opinion sometimes with my weblog. I’m trying to make you agree with me. Sometimes I’m just trying to inform you, but really, when it comes to things like the election I really don’t want you to vote for what I consider to be an inept administration that has cost this country lives and money in excess of what is reasonable. And that’s just the high profile stuff that they’ve done. When it comes to products, sometimes I like products. If I do, I tell you about it.

Aside from the November 2004 election, I’m mostly just fooling around. And since this weblog is somewhat of a 2-way street, you can call me on pretty much anything. But I am trying to give you accurate stories, and an accurate representation of my opinion. I do feel like I need to post corrections when I find out I was wrong in an earlier post.

What do you think about weblog disclosure? Do you even care where a person is coming from when you read their weblog? Do you look for an “about me” page to gain insight into the author? I don’t have one of those, but the badges on my main page tell part of the story.

Do you just take everything you read with a large grain of salt?

Posted by James at 10:35 AM | Comments (3)

May 10, 2004

Not An Exclusive Club

So, how do you get into the Abu Ghraib prison? Is it an exclusive club for only the worst criminals and terrorists?

Sadly, that is not the case. According to the Red Cross report, membership is wide open, especially for adult males. And they even come to your house to pick you up. From the report:

“Arrests as described in these allegations tended to follow a pattern. Arresting authorities entered houses usually after dark, breaking down doors, waking up residents roughly, yelling orders, forcing family members into one room under military guard while searching the rest of the house and further breaking doors, cabinets and other property. They arrested suspects, tying their hands in the back with flexi-cuffs, hooding them and taking them away. Sometime they arrested all adult males present in a house including elderly, handicapped or sick people. Treatment often included pushing people around, insulting, taking aim with rifles, punching and kicking and striking with rifles. Individuals were often led away in whatever they happened to be wearing at the time of arrest — sometime in pyjamas or underwear — and were denied the opportunity to gather a few essential belongings, such as clothing, hygiene items, medicine or eyeglasses.”

The Red Cross also reports that coalition intelligence officers estimate that between 70% and 90% of the prison’s population were wrongly arrested. Just imagine this. Americans sweeping through towns and grabbing whoever they found because they were told to bring someone back. And then… well, we now know what has gone on inside these places.

Does anyone have the full text of the Red Cross report? I can’t find a link yet.

Posted by James at 5:03 PM | Comments (3)

The Choppers, The Radio

Local radio host and Fox/Bush apologist Barry Richard was on WSAR this morning talking about the police anti-gang presence in New Bedford late last weekend. It seems like they’re trying a few new approaches to stop the recent surge in gang violence there. This post is both about those helicopters and our wonderful mixed local AM radio.

Among the new tactics is a “show of force” by flying helicopters over the neighborhood and casting search lights onto the ground. Is this some law-enforcement version of “shock and awe?” I have to wonder what the heck flying helicopters over houses is supposed to do to stop gang violence in the long run, or do anything about the drug trade. Seems more like an excuse to fly helicopters, since they weren’t actually chasing anyone.

Local residents complained that the helicopters frightened them, and Barry Richard suggested that law enforcement should have warned them ahead of time. Perhaps the whole operation was ill-advised, but if there is any benefit to be gained from it (a dubious claim) warning everyone probably negates that.

I can understand the helicopters being frightening. At the very least, I’m sure they were annoying. But Richard made a bizarre reference at one point to people being understandably scared of the helicopters because we are at war. I wish I could have called in to ask him to elaborate on this. Do people really think that the people fighting us in Iraq have helicopters (first of all) and are going to fly them across the world to invade New Bedford? That war reference has to be one of the most inane things in the radio in a while. Ryan suggested maybe they thought Canada was attacking. Even that made a little more sense.

WSAR is a pretty decent local radio station. They cover the greater Fall River area. Mike Moran, in the morning is an especially fair host. I’ve always been impressed at how he does not tolerate much fuzzy thinking in his callers, be they on the left or right. Richard, on the other hand,
drums up interest in his program under the assumption that since the “SouthCoast” is riddled with liberals, his opposing view will get listeners upset and he’ll harvest more callers. It’s too bad they couldn’t get an actual conservative. This fellow comes off as little more than an extension of Fox.

For example, he’s constantly criticizing Kerry. Rarely will you hear criticism of Bush. That’s fine, but one refrain you’ll hear from him now and again is that he’s the only republican at the station. Everyone else is a democrat, according to him, so that counts for balance. Yet I have never heard Mike Moran bashing Bush. I’ve never heard Paul Giammarco slam Bush.

Today’s interesting announcement from Richard was this. Kerry’s poll numbers are up slightly in a NYT poll. Statistically, it’s still a dead heat. Therefore, Kerry’s campaign is in trouble. The logic is astounding. With all that’s been going on, Kerry should be doing better in the polls. So he’s obviously in trouble.

Let’s take a closer look. First of all, there is an implied admission here that he thinks Bush should be doing worse in the polls. Otherwise, why would a statistically even poll be worth remarking about? Why should Bush be doing worse in the polls? The media is not making the news up — he feels Bush should be lower in the polls because Bush is doing such a lousy job. But Bush’s lousy performance is not a story, apparently.

Next, Kerry is even with Bush. According to James Carville on Meet The Press over the weekend, Kerry is in better shape against the incumbent than Clinton was in his campaign in 1992. And we’re apparently ignoring Bush’s war chest burn rate. This isn’t 1992, and Kerry isn’t Clinton. But no one seems to have any real clue what year it is. And they won’t until after the election.

Yeah, Kerry is in serious trouble. Of course. A president who enjoyed a huge approval rating not too long ago as now neck and neck with a senator from Massachusetts, things are getting worse in Iraq and as the months go by Bush’s administrations mistakes are sinking in.

Who is in trouble again? Oh, right. It’s Kerry. I can hear the helicopters.

If that isn’t enough for you, Barry Richard also read a statement (he expressed an affinity for) from someone who insisted that the American people should stop crying over pictures of abuse in Iraq and get over it. Minutes before, Barry Richard referred to the helicopters in New Bedford as “terrorizing” the neighborhood. The people were terrorized by a couple of helicopters with flashlights.

Really, Barry? I wonder how the Iraqis feel nowadays, considering Faluja and the way we have conducted Abu Ghraib.

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

May 8, 2004

Don't Like Me No Bergamot

I’ve been trying to drink the Green Earl Grey that I bought a few weeks ago. I’ve had a couple of mugs of it hot, and then I made iced tea with it. The iced tea actually came out a little too sugary, so I ended up fiddling with it to try to get the concentration of sugar right. As I diluted the recipe, I began to realize that too much sugar wasn’t the only problem with the stuff.

I just plain don’t like bergamot, the herb in Earl Grey that makes it Earl Grey. And Green Earl Grey is even more bergamotty than regular Earl Grey.

Anyone out there a fan of green tea and Earl Grey? I’ll probably be keeping a few bags of this just in case I want to try it again, but I’m getting rid of the rest of them. Julie? Someone from the D&D group? Who wants the stuff? Anyone?

I’m going to stick with my Lapsang Souchong and Irish Breakfast for now.

And, no, Irish Breakfast isn’t a pint of Guinness. I’m talking about the tea.

Posted by James at 8:58 PM | Comments (7)

May 7, 2004

Friday Split Shotgun

I’ve split today’s shotgun post into non-political and political. For your convenience…

Non-Political

  • Thirty-eight dishonest tricks - Thirty-eight dishonest tricks which are commonly used in argument, with the methods of overcoming them
  • Tetra Vaal: 3D animated robot
    • This 3D robot footage is extremely realistic. Robots patrolling the chaotic streets of Johannesburg.
  • Badgerphone
    • Fans of the Badger/Mushroom meme have a new song to sing. (Requires Flash)
  • Bananaphone, the Aftermath
    • New songs can be dangerous. The aftermath of Bananaphone requires Flash and is not safe for work.
  • Desperado
    • Johnny Cash as a horse-riding chimp? (Thanks Mike) (Requires Flash)
  • Rasterbator
    • Takes an image and creates a boatload of PDFs which can be assembled into very large posters. It’s free!
  • SWRON - Light Cycles!
    • Play light cycles on your computer in 3D. (Requires Shockwave)
  • Blind Man’s Penis
    • Flash music video… Not Work Safe… Just bizarre.
  • Faux Mitzvahs?
  • The Phrase Finder
    • Lots of info on phrases in the English language. Fun for language junkies.

Political

  • Strive For Five
    • Bring 5 new voters to the polls in 2004
  • Her Beautiful Mind
    • Here’s your quote of the day.
    • “Why should we hear about body bags and deaths,” Barbara Bush said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on March 18, 2003. “Oh, I mean, it’s not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?”
    • (Thanks US and the World )
  • Rush: Torture= A Good Time
    • His opinion on Abu Grhaib
    • I’m talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You of heard of need to blow some steam off?
    • Sure, Rush. After you pop a few pills, it’s nice to relax with some torture.
  • Pax Bush
    • (Site for anti-Bush Flash)
    • We will preserve the peace by fostering an era of good relations among the world’s great powers. - GWB
  • Presidential Knockout
    • A Flash game in which you engage Bush or Kerry in good, old-fashioned fisticuffs.


Posted by James at 10:22 AM | Comments (12)

May 6, 2004

Machines You Name

Slashdot has a story on scientists and their emotional bonding with space probes.

But I found one of their links in the story interesting… a separate story on how some people name their cars. I know at least two people who read this weblog and have named their cars, so I thought this story might be of interest.

Some scholars who have made mention of automobile anthropomorphism have argued that it is usually an attempt to establish dominance over it. They describe how men give their vehicles female names and refer to them as subservient beings in an effort to show others who is in charge. But more detailed studies of anthropomorphism have argued for a wider variety of motivations. Anthropologist Stewart Guthrie, for instance, has taken a critical look at how various cultures have an anthropomorphic conception of God. He argues that this is a way for people to understand something that is impossible to explain. While I believe that the common interpretation of automobile anthropomorphism is accurate in some instances, the sample of people I interviewed seemed to have a relationship with their automobile that is much better described with Guthrie’s thesis than a relationship of dominance. (Moving Relationships: Befriending the Automobile to Relieve Anxiety - Jameson M. Wetmore)
I try not to name my computer at work. If you treat computers too nicely, they get uppity and take liberties with your data. Mark my words. You have to show machines who’s boss, lest we end up in some distopic crazy future world.
Posted by James at 8:07 PM | Comments (10)

Reagan To Oppose Bush

Will Bush’s lies and extreme religion-based policy on embryonic stem cells come home to roost this election year? It might when a former first lady speaks out against Bush’s life-endangering policies.

Reaching back to Bush’s early missteps, recall the lies about the stem cell lines and Bush’s elevation of ideology over science. I have never thought scientific research should be unchecked when there are ethical considerations, but I thought it was clear pandering to a religious right-wing base when he declared that embryonic cells which were going to be discarded anyway should not be used in research to cure diseases.

He lied about how many embryonic stem cell lines were going to be available, and the clampdown on research has slowed scientific and medical progress to a slow crawl, if not a halt.

But now, some who oppose his misguided policy are finally speaking out.

Mrs. Reagan, whose husband, former President Ronald Reagan, suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, has made her support for the research known but has never spoken publicly about it. She is expected to do so in Beverly Hills on Saturday night at a star-studded fund-raiser sponsored by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. (NYT: Limits on Stem-Cell Research Re-emerge as a Political Issue)

We’ve lost three years of research so that Bush could throw a bone to some voters. But even some people who unthinkingly supported the president’s agenda are now reevaluating that support. I guess I have an unflattering view of these people. Giddy that the great Satan Clinton was out of office, they flexed their newfound political muscle. Forgoing the use of some of their own brain cells, they shut down the promising road to stem cells.

Embryonic stem-cell studies are controversial because they involve the destruction of human embryos; Mr. Bush’s policy, announced in August 2001, restricts the research in a way that does not permit embryos to be destroyed with taxpayer dollars. But the diabetes foundation says the policy is impeding science. It has been sending patients to lobby lawmakers in Washington and has found some unlikely allies in Congress.

Last week, 206 members of the House, including some in the Republican leadership and nearly three dozen opponents of abortion, signed a letter urging Mr. Bush to allow the federal government to finance studies on embryos left over from in vitro fertilization clinics, which would otherwise be discarded.

You read that correctly. Even abortion opponents are now realizing that Bush was too hasty in throwing a wrench into the works of medical science at a time when we need more efficient, cost-effective cures and healthy medical technology companies.

Here’s an issue Kerry needs to get on top of. This is one of Bush’s big blunders. It’s just one example of how Bush’s view of the world takes precedence over the facts—how his wishes to reshape America in his image place ideology over our best interest.

Posted by James at 6:39 PM

Some Ads

Some ads just don’t go with the story.

Maggie was reading a story on Yahoo News regarding new photos out of the Abu Ghraib prison and noticed this HP advertisement that jumps out at you a bit in this context. Better photos? Yikes.

Posted by James at 9:01 AM | Comments (4)

May 5, 2004

A Vote For Nader = A Vote Against Bush?

Imagine that, instead of voting for president in November, you would be voting for a representative who would then go on to cast a vote for president.

That, in a nutshell, is what you are doing when you cast your vote in a presidential election. You send an elector to vote for your candidate. In reality, you’re voting for which elector is sent to represent you.

Now, imagine that you could vote for someone other than Kerry… say, Ralph Nader. But if it turned out that your vote was in the vast minority, your vote would go to Kerry. That, theoretically, is what would happen if Ralph Nader decided to choose his electors to be the same people that are the Democratic Party electors. You and I would still have the choice to vote for Bush, Kerry, or Nader, but when it came down to the elector vote, the Kerry/Nader electors would have to decide whether they were for Kerry or Nader. And if they were to decide based on the number of votes, they would go for Kerry.

Personally, I will be voting for Kerry. But a move like that described above would allow anyone who wanted to vote for Nader and against Bush to essentially have Nader as a first choice and Kerry as a second choice. 2-for-1 voting.

If Nader wants more votes, this would free up people who would otherwise be afraid to vote for him, because of a strong dislike for Bush. And no one could accuse Nader of being a spoiler in the 2004 election.

Read all about it in this NYT op ed piece.

Would Nader do it? Is he considering it? He only really need do it in the battleground states. Very interesting.

Posted by James at 9:55 PM | Comments (7)

Trinity Brewhouse

Last night my brother-in-law and I took Dad out for his birthday. Our destination? Trinity Brewhouse.

Drink local beer. This should be every beer-drinker’s motto because unfiltered fresh beer is far, far better than anything in a bottle. Some beer from a tap is excellent, but fresh, locally brewed brewpub beer is transcendent.

Beers sampled:

  • Irish Stout
    • The stout was smooth, with low carbonation, a toasty warmth and a balanced bitterness. It had the highest IBUs of any of the brews on the menu last night, but the bitterness was well-rounded. It had some creaminess to it, but not a huge mouthfeel. A very pleasant stout, and better than the Guinness on tap at Not Your Average Joe’s the night before. The color was very dark, with very little head.
  • Red Ale
    • The red ale was the most ordinary of the brews I sampled last night. It had a decent maltiness, but not exceptional. The low bitterness made it easy to drink. There was nothing wrong with it, but it didn’t stand out. It was a bit more carbonated than the stout. It was an attractive straw-amber color.
  • ESB
    • I don’t remember what they call their ESB, but it was very good. I should have started with the ESB. It had a sharp bitterness and a flowery finish. Very refreshing, but I find that an extremely hoppy beer is better before or during eating rather than following a meal. The color was very similar to the red ale, perhaps a bit more pale.
  • IPA
    • I didn’t try the IPA, but Dad was impressed with it.

We all got burgers to eat and, though they were a bit overcooked, the burgers were decent. As an appetizer, the buffalo wings were better than average, even though we ordered the “mild” flavored ones. The two choices were “mild” and “nuclear.” If alone, I would have gone for nuclear. Nothing compares to “Wings to Go” but these wings were certainly respectable, and complemented the stout quite well.

I need to visit Trinity more often. The atmosphere is great. restaurant seating is arranged around the walls of the building, with the bar in the center. The booths are high-backed which is great for encouraging conversation.

This evening I was surprised by the conversation. After a couple of beers my companions (both conservative voters) voiced their serious disapproval with the current administration. I was nearly floored, but the pleasant shock was blunted by the beer. A lively discussion followed. So, it’s official. The Trinity Brewhouse is a great place for pints and political bitching.

Posted by James at 2:49 PM | Comments (2)

Moore Mired

But Disney executives indicated that they would not budge from their position forbidding Miramax to be the distributor of the film in North America. Overseas rights have been sold to a number of companies, executives said.

“We advised both the agent and Miramax in May of 2003 that the film would not be distributed by Miramax,” said Zenia Mucha, a company spokeswoman, referring to Mr. Moore’s agent. “That decision stands.”

Disney came under heavy criticism from conservatives last May after the disclosure that Miramax had agreed to finance the film when Icon Productions, Mel Gibson’s company, backed out.

Mr. Moore’s agent, Ari Emanuel, said Michael D. Eisner, Disney’s chief executive, asked him last spring to pull out of the deal with Miramax. Mr. Emanuel said Mr. Eisner expressed particular concern that it would endanger tax breaks Disney receives for its theme park, hotels and other ventures in Florida, where Mr. Bush’s brother, Jeb, is governor.

Story: The New York Times > Disney Forbidding Distribution of Film That Criticizes Bush

Moore seems to go through this with a lot of his books and films. What is it about that guy? He should have caved to criticism long ago.

It’s no secret that I have been interested in what Moore has had to say. I think he says a lot of things that need saying, that other people are often afraid to say. He comes under criticism for distortions, and when he disproves his critics (as he did when he showed the full footage of that checking-account gun deal at the bank in Bowling For Columbine) those responses fall of deaf ears.

But on this specific story, I’m not surprised Disney is reacting this way. I think it’s reprehensible, but when you’ve got that much money, what’s to stop you? This film will come out eventually, probably sooner than later, and Disney will be able to say that they had no part in helping to inform the American people.

Posted by James at 12:01 PM

May 4, 2004

Still Kickin'

24 hours since I consumed a fair bit of that fouled milk in my cereal, and I’m still kicking.

That stuff was pretty nasty, as I will ask Ryan to attest. (Ryan — I kept the jug. It’s in the fridge, pretty much empty. Take a sniff and leave a comment if you get a chance.)

I don’t know what was in there, but it was mold-like. A slime mold? Something having to do with contamination at the dairy farm?

In Finland one particular unusually prominent slime mold with a yellow plasmodium (Fuligo septimia) was supposedly used by witches to spoil a neighbours milk, called “paranvoi” (trans. butter of the familiar spirit).

Well, no one intentionally spoiled my milk, I’m pretty certain. And no noticeable adverse effects from a decent dose of the stuff. But I wouldn’t recommend the culinary experience.

Posted by James at 10:37 AM | Comments (2)

Aspergers Childcare: Occupy, Occupy, Occupy

When a child is mildly Aspergers, you have to find ways to occupy their mind. With my daughter, maps do the trick.

I don’t know what it is about maps, but the girl loves ‘em.

We have a new Stop & Shop in the area. It’s bigger than the old one and laid out differently. Food shopping had often been difficult with both girls in tow because they would get bored easily. Bored children get fidgety, and fidgety children start to touch things, including their siblings. This can lead to chaos, and a stressful visit to the store.

With the new and confusing Stop & Shop came maps. When I gave my daughter one of these maps on the way out of the store last time she pored over it in the car and then later at home.

So, when Maggie visited the store with both girls, Kit said “Where are the maps. We need a map.” And though Maggie didn’t need one (she’s already written the aisle numbers on the shopping list) she gave Kit a map. Kit immediately became engrossed in memorizing the store layout. And she became engaged in the shopping experience, because she wanted to know everything on the list so that she could help locate the next item.

Perhaps it is a novelty at the moment, but it works. And she has always liked maps of any kind, as a visual thinker. Perhaps in stores without maps, she might enjoy making her own maps. She took to a similar behavior after playing certain video games. She felt the need to map out the locations.

One thing is certain. A little cartographer is far better company than a restless child.

Posted by James at 9:11 AM | Comments (5)

May 3, 2004

Ironic

I just took my milk out of the fridge here to put some in my coffee. I ht ink I bought it on Thursday or Friday. In any case, that mils was “sell by May 6.”

After I opened it, I got a whiff of the milk. It wasn’t sour. It was… rank. I couldn’t describe it at first. I’ve never smelled milk that bad before. It smelled almost moldy. I thought perhaps the milk had gone bad, which is ironic because of certain earlier posts.

You see, I had already eaten a whole bowl of this milk for breakfast on my cereal. I thought the cereal was what tasted funny, because I’m used to the taste of milk going bad. But this was nothing like that. The smell was familiar. It really bothered me, so I went back to the bottle I dumped out to smell it again. Then I recalled the scent. Penicillin! Yes, that’s exactly what it smelled like!

So, what might be in milk that smells like penicillin? Antibiotics, I would imagine. It happens.

I think I just got a dose of bovine antibiotics. Wonderful. It wouldn’t bother me, except that I’m allergic to amoxycillin and people have been known to have adverse reactions to antibiotic-contaminated milk. So I’m looking forward to my rash, fever and/or diarrhea. I guess that’s my value added bonus to go along with rising dairy prices.

Thanks, Dean Foods-owned Garelick Farms!

Posted by James at 3:45 PM | Comments (15)

Brainsuckers

I end up spending a lot of time watching Fox News, because they’re more accurate in my experience, in those events that I’m personally involved in, than many of the other outlets.” - Dick Cheney

On the other hand…

A just-released report by the University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy (PIPA) finds a majority of respondents have mis-perceptions about the war. […]
“The more closely you followed Fox, the more misperceptions you had,” said Clay Ramsay, PIPA research director. “No other news outlet came anywhere near that.”

So, what does it mean that Cheney would like you to watch a network that appears to correlate with believing things that plain weren’t true? Well, it should come as little surprise to us.

[Vice President Dick Cheney] said it was “not surprising” that many Americans drew a link between Mr. Hussein and 9/11. Asked if there was a connection, he replied, “We don’t know.”

But the administration does know, and Mr. Bush was forced to acknowledge it on Wednesday.

Of course, Mr. Cheney was not surprised that Americans had leapt to a conclusion. He was particularly enthusiastic in helping them do it. “Come back to 9/11 again,” Mr. Cheney said on Sept. 8, 2002, “and one of the real concerns about Saddam Hussein, as well, is his biological weapons capability.”

Mr. Cheney was careful then not to claim that any evidence really linked Mr. Hussein to the 2001 attacks. But he drew a convoluted argument about Mr. Hussein’s ties to Al Qaeda and suggested in closing that he was not telling all he knew because he did not want to reveal top secrets.

In case you missed when Bush declared there was no known link, you can catch it here.

Posted by James at 1:58 PM | Comments (2)

May 2, 2004

Slowing and Sponsoring

I originally redesigned Aces Full of Links and left “Blogger” hosting to streamline the site for speed. As much as I’m sure my readers hate a slow site, I hate it more. Despite my efforts to keep things like externally hosted toys from slowing things down, my server itself has slowed way down, causing me grief.

So, I am planning a server move in the near future. I just wanted to let you know that if you’re experiencing slow access, you’re not alone and I’m working to correct it.

Secondly, Google AdSense contacted me wanting to pay me to run ads on my site. They’d rejected me months ago… perhaps the big Gay Marriage thing changed their mind. In any case, I’m now running Google ads on the individual archive pages. Why there? Because my regular readers will be less likely to see them there. However, the readers who visit my site via search engines will see them, and they are actually the majority of the hits. When they use the ad links, I’ll get paid.

I expect I will be paid mere pennies. But if posting about Bush and Co. and other acid-inducing subjects can net me enough change to pay for even a bottle of Tums, it will all have been worth it in a poetic justice sort of way.

Posted by James at 11:09 PM

May 1, 2004

Woo-Hoo!

Just got this email:

Hello,

Your Animation Show Volume One DVD pre-order was shipped today via Priority Mail! If you ordered any other items, they were included as well. Thank you for your patience. We hope the DVD will be enjoyed!

Tim
The Animation Show
http://www.animationshow.com

Finally! I can’t wait to see this DVD. I missed the show when it came ‘round, and I want to encourage these fine creators of goofy animated fun. I’ll give a full report once I’ve seen it.

Posted by James at 10:33 PM

O'Reilly, Our Clown

Great article about a Canadian’s view of O’Reilly: My Fox trot with Bill O’Reilly

I always say yes to American TV because how else are Americans going to hear about radical notions like feeding the poor and sheltering the gentle, or letting black people vote in Florida? […]

And then he asked me if I was a socialist, and I said, “Certainly,” and it was as if I’d said I like donkey semen in my latte instead of milk. He then went into a mad rant about lefties like Mr. Doyle and how I was a typical Globe columnist. I said, no, truthfully, I think I’m regarded as “idiosyncratic” (the first six-syllable word ever spoken on the O’Reilly show), and he erupted again.

It was like talking to a manic child who had eaten 800 cherry Pop Tarts for breakfast. He kept interrupting, so that no point could be made that could win a reply, much less a reasoned response — not so much a gabble of sound bites as a howling from Bedlam.

Wheee! They see O’Reilly as a comedy act. Lucky for us, we’re stuck with tons of people who think he’s serious. (Found via Atrios.)

Posted by James at 12:28 PM

Happy May Day

A happy May Day, Beltane, Walpurgisnacht or whatever you celebrate this day.

Here are some pertinent links:

Posted by James at 11:45 AM

You Paid For It

Greg comments on the horrors of the atrocities in Iraq.

We will look back in years to come and say that there was never much chance this would turn out well for us. There was no planning, poor planning or they didn’t heed the planning for after “major combat operations.”

The Iraqi people were not looking for another occupying force. They were not looking for what will certainly be perceived as a return of the imperialists.

And the simple idea of patriotism… it is so important to Americans yet so absent from our minds when we think about other cultures.

When we have pride in our country, our stories come from our nation’s past. When we think of how we won our freedom, we think of how we fought for it, not how some occupying force came here and freed us from the British. What story do the Iraqis have? What story will they be left with? How will it fit into their existing history?

You can’t give them a story. They have to make a story.

As for the atrocities…I can’t articulate a decent response at the moment. Except, perhaps, that I can’t believe the people who have posted to CBS’ s website saying they should not have done the story. I have to think that those people don’t care how the Arabs are killed, so long as they are good and killed.

You Paid For It.

And you will continue to pay for it.

Posted by James at 1:51 AM | Comments (3)