August 31, 2004

Greg In the ProJo

Hey, my father-in-law’s website is in the Providence Journal. And a front page story, no less.

As a boy, he shot film of Hurricane Carol that endures 50 years later on Web site

Check it out (registration required) and check out his Hurricane Carol website on the anniversary of that historic storm, also known as “the ‘54 hurricane.”

Kudos, Greg, for your neat website and those great pictures you took as a boy, 50 years ago.

Posted by James at 4:16 PM | Comments (1)

My Momma Told Me

…that if I was ever a hypocritical Republican senator representative who co-authored a discriminatory Federal Marriage Amendment, I ought not to let a tape of me making a “same-sex” phone sex call fall into the hands of gay activists.

Virginia Republican who cosponsored Federal Marriage Amendment resigns; Alleged taped gay phone sex calls surface

Clearly the Republican party is not anti-gay. It’s OK to be gay, as long as you are really, really, really ashamed of it. But you can’t be a senator representative if it gets out.

I’ve long thought that the media protects people in office. With bloggers in the picture, stuff like this can hit the ‘net from anywhere. That may mean some nastier stuff hitting the public consciousness, but it also means a tougher time on hypocritical self-haters.

Anyone can launch spurious allegations from anywhere. Will readers become more discerning consumers? If we have been protected by the media, has that caused our own filters to atrophy? If you don’t use it, you lose it. Sure, “don’t believe everything you read” is an old adage, but I think we do tend to believe what we read in the newspaper. In this case, we have a blogger who says he’s not through outing people.

As a tactic, I have problems with outing. It’s been used before by gay activists, and I think it violates the target to plaster their sexual preferences across the front pages of the world. Even people who don’t deserve the courtesy (like hypocritical Republicans, in this case) ought to still have that privacy.

But they won’t have as much privacy in today’s open frontier of the blogosphere. Is it at all significant that outing only has any impact so long as being gay is something that gets attention? Yes and no. No matter what the issue, high profile hypocrites will always be newsmakers.

Posted by James at 9:34 AM | Comments (12)

Name That Movie 2

Here we go again. Popular last week, might as well do it again this week!


This is a screenshot from a movie. Can you figure out the movie from the picture? If I don’t see a correct answer before 11 AM, I’ll post a second picture. A third picture will come at 1:30 PM if no one has gotten it by then. A fourth picture at 4 PM, if needed. This beats anything having to do with the Republican National Confusion. This first picture is definitely easier than last week. But how much easier?

Posted by James at 2:09 AM | Comments (15)

August 30, 2004

A Tale of Three Movies

I haven’t been in much mood to write long reviews of movies lately, so I’ve lagged behind in informing you of my video exploits. Here are three recent “film experiences.”

Open Water, Godsend, and Shaolin Soccer. Read on for the lowdown. (Also, read on for drink recipe)

Open Water

Open Water has been billed as a Jaws for the post 2000 crowd. It is not that. I’ve seen Jaws, I know Jaws, I’ve enjoyed Jaws. You, sir, are no Jaws.

However, it does have merits in its own right. It’s a diver’s cautionary tale, at its center. The premise is that an ordinary couple (Susan and Daniel) have chosen a vacation getaway, which includes a diving adventure. They’re experienced divers. However, something tragic happens to them, which you already know if you’ve seen the trailers. The boat leaves the couple behind.

At one point, Daniel points out to Susan and the audience that, yes, these things happen. People get left behind. He has to try a little harder to hang on to the idea that they also get rescued.

The filmmakers don’t have much to work with. You can probably already guess most of what happens in this movie. But have they made a watchable film? It succeeds in carrying you along with the divers and involving you in their plight. There are a decent number of “cat scare” moments (the woman in the row in front of us jumped about 3 feet in the air at nearly every abrupt scene change).

This film is probably a little more entertaining for divers, because they’re more familiar with the “terrain” but it may also be true that they’d pick up factual errors. But there isn’t much room for factual error. It’s hard to dispute that what you’re seeing is what would most likely happen to two people stranded for so long in shark-infested waters.

There is little event-wise to focus on in a review. Mostly, you’re subjected to the changing emotional state of the divers. I give full credit for the believable relationship between husband and wife. And the acting keeps you in the film.

The impact of this film will be minimal when it hits the small screen. If you’re at all interested, you should see it in the theatre. It just won’t be impressive if you’re sitting comfortably at home and at any time can stop the action and leave.


Ever heard of a bad omen? This film Godsend is a bad Omen. I mean, really bad. The only thing that saved it was MSTing it with Maggie and Julie. Really.

You know me, and you know I like crappy films. But this is a film partly about a cloned little boy and how he begins having nightmares after his 8th birthday. More than that, it’s a film about some filmmakers who had no idea where the hell their film was going.

Rebecca Romjin-Stamos and Greg Kinnear play a hard-to-believe and hard-to-watch couple who lose their son Adam conveniently early in the film. They later meet hard-to-believe mad scientist Louis Cyphre Robert DeNiro who promises them he can fix their dead son problem. Brilliant what medical technology can do nowadays. Unfortunately, crappy movie technology is still in the dark ages, because this film died on the operating table.

We’re never given a believable explanation of why problems are occurring when they do in the young clone’s life. The nightmares are creepy when you think his dead original brother might be haunting him, but while this movie doesn’t mind stealing clich�s from every other movie it scrupulously avoids stealing any of the good ideas.

Julie and I sat through all 4 alternate endings on the DVD, and I think we agreed that all of them were better than the one chosen by whatever process they used (random?). But even a better ending couldn’t salvage this dog. Avoid. Avoid. Avoid at all costs. I promise you, you will be sorry if you watch this film, especially if you watch it alone.

Aside from the MSTing it, this film was slightly improved by a drink suggestion from Julie. Diet Coke with Lime plus Captain Morgan’s Parrot Bay Rum. Now that was a godsend.

Shaolin Soccer

Shaolin Soccer (Siu lam juk kau) was the film that saved our Saturday-night viewing fun. We actually watched this before Godstink so it was like having dessert before having to eat poorly prepared liver.

The film is a Chinese-made spoof of Kung-Fu movies and sports movies where the sad sack home team always wins. The students of a dead Kung-Fu master come together at the urging of their brother to play soccer and promote the power that Shaolin Kung-Fu can bring to everyone if it is only integrated into their everyday lives.

The plot is almost entirely predictable, but the fun lies within the goofy characters, the actors’ performances and the eye candy of both physical effects and special effects.

The writer/director Stephen Chow stars as “Sing” - the fifth brother of a Shaolin temple. He dreams of everyone, everywhere using Shaolin, and for everything. When he meets up with faded soccer glory boy “Golden Leg” it plants the germ of an idea in his mind. Mui, the female lead, further reinforces his enthusiasm as she embodies the use of Kung-Fu in the preparation of sweet bakery buns.

Even if you don’t love Kung-Fu, if you liked “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” or you just like goofy films, this film delivers. It’s silly fun.

Posted by James at 10:36 AM | Comments (5)

August 29, 2004

When You Assume, You Make An Opinion Out Of U and Me

It’s good that they label some of what appears in the Globe as “opinion” because turning to the publication to actually become informed can leave you wanting.

I was reminded of this when I stumbled across an article taking Kurt Vonnegut to task for a recent political piece he wrote. (Globe story found via

Vonnegut congratulates libraries in their resistance against John Ashcroft. Cathy Young’s response to this is:

This incoherent diatribe actually has very little to do with librarians, except to congratulate them because they have “staunchly resisted anti-democratic bullies who have tried to remove certain books from their shelves, and have refused to reveal to thought police the names of persons who have checked out those titles.”

Where? When? I assume Vonnegut is referring to claims that under the Patriot Act, John Ashcroft’s goons have been terrorizing libraries and monitoring Americans’ reading habits. In fact, law enforcement agencies have always had the power to request library records as part of a criminal investigation; a provision of the Patriot Act gave them the power to do so in counter terrorism investigations without notifying the suspect. (Remember, we’re talking about materials related to terrorist acts and not, say, the wit and wisdom of Michael Moore.) Whether or not such powers are appropriate, in the two years after the passage of the Patriot Act this provision was used exactly . . . zero times.

I don’t write for a newspaper, but if I were to do so, I might take the time to look into the subject of my article rather than starting from an assumption and moving forward from there.

If she had, maybe she would have run across a story that is the more likely source of Vonnegut’s congratulations. From the ALA (American Library Association) website, here is a story from June 30.

Statement from ALA President-Elect Michael Gorman on the destruction of Department of Justice documents

Last week, the American Library Association learned that the Department of Justice asked the Government Printing Office Superintendent of Documents to instruct depository libraries to destroy five publications the Department has deemed not “appropriate for external use.” […]

The topics addressed in the named documents include information on how citizens can retrieve items that may have been confiscated by the government during an investigation. The documents to be removed and destroyed include: Civil and Criminal Forfeiture Procedure; Select Criminal Forfeiture Forms; Select Federal Asset Forfeiture Statutes; Asset forfeiture and money laundering resource directory; and Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000 (CAFRA).

Ashcroft’s Justice Department wanted these books destroyed. Not books on how to blow up things. They were documents on how to get your property back if it was improperly seized by the government. Hello, conservative folks out there—are you listening? Vonnegut’s congratulations probably stem from the followup: ALA welcomes Department of Justice decision to rescind destruction request

The ALA stood up to Ashcroft and Ashcroft blinked. How do I know this? Not thanks to it being all over the news. And not thanks to Cathy Young and her assumptions. I had to learn about it via email, weeks afterward.

Apparently we can turn to editorialists for an opinion, so long as we don’t expect it to be an informed opinion.

Posted by James at 1:24 PM | Comments (1)

August 27, 2004

Paltry Shotgun

It was a busy week, and I only collected 2 links.

If I have time, I may ad more later, so stop in before 5. But for now, behold:

  • A Closer Look at G.W. Bush’s Medals
    • “George W. Bush doesn’t flaunt his hard-won war medals. Occasionally he will wear them if he is attending a formal or military event, but for the most part, they are tucked away in his trophy cabinet. Due to a large number of requests for information about his wartime heroism, I began studying his medals. What I found surprised me, and I felt it was my duty as an American to spread these remarkable findings.”
  • Salad Fingers (Flash)
    • Weird flash cartoons.


Posted by James at 12:29 PM | Comments (8)

August 26, 2004

GPS Links

At least a couple of people who read this weblog have expressed an interest in finding more information on geocaching and GPS devices.

I am keeping track of GPS and geocaching links via the social bookmarking site You can reference my bookmarks on either subject via these links:

(Both of those pages also have syndication feeds)

If you’re not specifically interested in geocaching, the superset of all my bookmarked links is here. Links not guaranteed to be interesting, just interesting to me. By coincidence, they might be of interest to others.

Posted by James at 9:54 PM

Search for UMD 1

(May contain small UMD 1 geocache spoilers)

At the end of the workday, Ryan and I decided to take to the woods behind our office where we knew the UMD 1 geocache (GCKAXB) was hidden. Here’s the brief story of our search.

This cache is what is known as a multi cache. That means an initial micro cache (the size of a 35mm film container) contains the coordinates of a second cache. The first leads you to the second which, if there are more than 2 parts, would lead you to the third and so on. UMD 1 is a 2-part cache.

Ryan and I first walked to the head of the red trail. We cut through the dumping area (which for some reason was open) and the track (which was also open, with one lone runner).

I had walked out to the location a couple of days ago, so I knew where the trail began. I was glad to have Ryan with me, because last time I arrived at the coordinates, I failed to find the first part of the cache. It’s partly because I did not read the hint given on the website, and so my search was not thorough enough. Also, after a few minutes wandering alone off trail in search of the micro cache, I smelled the unmistakable presence of a skunk and heard rustling nearby. I regained the trail and fled the woods, concerned that I had overstayed my welcome.

This time, with double the eyes, I was hoping to cut the search time down.

We found the location of the micro cache after wandering the coordinates for a few minutes. Ryan spotted something suspicious, and then whooped in triumph. He instantly declared the sport of geocaching “awesome” as I entered the new coordinates into the device and jotted them down in my notebook. I believe it was at that moment that geocaching Team SimCalc was actually born.

The first cache was barely off the trail, so we regained the trail and set off for the second cache.

There were a lot of interesting things to see on the red trail. Genius (me) didn’t bring the camera. There is always the possibility of a next time. One striking feature of the red trail was an area, just off the trail with huge downed trees that formed mounds of earth nearly as tall as a person. One particular tree formed a 3-sided shelter with its huge root systems and the trunks of some surrounding trees that had also fallen.

Once we knew we’d found the location, we wandered for over a half hour. We didn’t want to leave without declaring victory, but time was slipping away we’d fairly scoured the area. I realized there was a hint on, which I hadn’t read, and I hadn’t bothered to print out the encrypted text. I grabbed my cell phone and started trying to think of people I could call to check the website.

Maggie wasn’t home. Sara wasn’t at the office. Derek… neither of us could remember his number. I tried to get on to AOL IM via my phone, which was a chore, and suddenly Derek’s number came to Ryan. When I dialed it, my phone displayed the message “Calling Derek…” That’s the electronic equivalent of “Idiot, you have Derek’s number in your address book.”

Derek rose to the occasion, declared a member of Team SimCalc on the spot. He gave us the second hint, which allowed us to focus our attention on one of the two main areas that we’d been searching. Indeed, the GPS device was telling us we were right on top of the cache.

At one point I ran through the brush, thinking I had seen the cache itself. When I got there it was just another rock. But I commented that the rock looked somewhat suspicious and the immediate vicinity of the rock did appear to provide any good hiding places. It took Ryan to think “Well, let’s move the rock then.”

Success! Ryan generously considered it a team effort, but I should have thought to look under the rock.

We signed the book in the ammo container, took a couple of trinkets (a crystal for me and a Santa figurine for Ryan). Ryan left some sort of ball and a stake (I have no idea what they were for) and I left a bottle opener.

But best of all, this cache contained a travel bug!

A travel bug is a tagged item that the owner wants to see move from cache to cache. Bugs can be tracked, usually through a website. This particular bug is tracked at When I noticed that the bug was in this nearby cache (I saw it on the website) I knew we had to reach it before the weekend so that I could carry it to its next cache. And, thanks to a team effort, I did locate it and am now temporary holder of it.

I will place it in the next worthy cache I find. Hopefully something somewhat challenging. I’m thinking of taking it to the north of here.

We packed everything back up and re-hid it in a similar fashion.

When we exited the red trail, we knew we were close to the office but encountered numerous muddy and swampy areas under the power lines that made travel impassable. Eventually we found our way around them and declared the evening a complete victory, getting a soda back at SimCalc and enjoying our laurels.

Unless I miss my guess, Ryan has caught the urge to geocache. And Team SimCalc is thinking of where and how it should place its first UMD cache.

On to the next!

Posted by James at 10:49 AM | Comments (2)

UMass Dartmouth Red Trail Map

redTrailThumb.jpgWe walked the UMass Dartmouth Red Trail today in search of the “UMD 1” geocache. More about that later. This has allowed me to make rudimentary red trail maps. I’m making the maps available in case anyone interested can see where the red trail goes.

It’s a nice trail, well-marked and easy to follow. It starts out behind the football field at UMass Dartmouth and ends at the track below the power lines near Chase Road.

If you want to get to Chase Road from there, however, you’re faced with privately owned land marked “No Trespassing.” If you travel north along the power lines (there is a sort of trail underneath them) you will likely encounter mud and water where the trail dips. Parts of the trail are impassable to the north of the red trail end, but if you go off-trail you can find a secondary, less-beaten trail that is merely muddy rather than submerged.

I do not know what is to the south-southwest, following the power lines.

The best course of action is to turn around and backtrack to the trail head. “UMD 1” geocache is in the vicinity of this trail.

Posted by James at 12:02 AM

August 25, 2004

Religion Survey

Religion Definition
are you mono or polytheistic?Neither. I’m Atheistic.
do you subscribe to a major religion?No
how do you feel about Jesus?Sincerely interested in what he said and try not to get turned off by the fanatics.
what holy book do you feel is most accurate (Bible, Koran, etc)I’m assuming you mean accuracy in morality. I don’t use a holy book as the basis for my moral beliefs.
do you believe in reincarnation?No
do you believe in the traditional heaven and hell?No
do you believe in ANY heaven and/or hell?No
do you think the god(s) are vengeful or nice?N/A
do you believe in angels?No
do you believe in miracles?No
do you believe in predestination?No
do you believe in original sin?No
do you believe in freedom of will?Yes
do you believe in souls?No
what do you think will happen to you when you die?I won’t be able to do the things I enjoy anymore. But I won’t have to do the things I don’t enjoy, either.
do you think there will be an armageddon?No
why do you think we exist?We’re part of the structure of the universe.
do you believe in life on other planets?I believe it is likely that some sort of complex life has or will have formed in the universe.
do you believe in evolution?Yes
do you think religion and science will always oppose the other?I don’t agree that they need to, but I think people can always adopt some belief that runs counter to what we know about the universe.
what would you say to God if you met him/her/them today?I’d ask him if there is any reason I should believe he exists.
anything else we should know?No


[CLARIFICATION: I don’t think this is a particularly good survey, but I saw it on a couple of other sites and decided to fill it out just for fun. It makes surveys easier if they are asking about your belief in god and you plain don’t have any.]

Posted by James at 1:22 PM | Comments (6)


On fish stinking from the head down:

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and senior generals share responsibility for the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and failed to ensure that overseas military prisons were running smoothly, a review panel said yesterday in a final report that portrays the extent of prisoner abuse at military camps around the globe as greater than previously known. (Boston Globe)

So the inverstigative panel is saying that aggressive techniques (i.e. torture) “migrated” from Guantanamo to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Dear reader, if torturing certain human beings doesn’t bother you all that much (and may whatever deity you call home have mercy on you) then how does the thought of torture creeping from one part of government to another grab you?

Posted by James at 9:06 AM

August 24, 2004

Name That Movie 1

New game where we name that movie from some bit of information. This time, it’s a picture. If no one gets it today, I’ll update the entry with another picture tomorrow later today.


OK. Name that movie. Let the guessing begin. And don’t be shy.


Here is the second picture:


And a clue. The movie title is morbid.

Posted by James at 1:08 AM | Comments (32)

August 23, 2004

Purple Is the New Red

Harshness of red marks has students seeing purple (Boston Globe story)

Apparently, red is being perceived as too harsh for correcting papers nowadays. Purple markers are taking the day. Purple is more “royal and authoritative.” Red is “over the top in its aggressiveness.”

With public schools falling apart as students are forced to use old textbooks that are falling apart, leaky schools, unfunded “No Child Left Behind” people do what they need to do to keep sane. They turn to things that make them feel good, like purple markers.

Posted by James at 1:39 PM | Comments (3)


Continuing on our adventures in Letterboxing and Geocaching, we attempted a quick trip yesterday. It was back to BCC, the site of our previous “failure”.

This time, instead of letterboxing, we were geocaching armed with a Magellan Meridian Gold GPS device. (aka. MeriGold) There are many, many more geocaches in the area than there are letterboxes, so having the GPS opens up many more opportunities for getting out there and enjoying the countryside.

I thought it would make things easier, but it didn’t. Not exactly. But it did make for a lot of fun. And this time the discoveries were a little more generous.

We decided to take on the “Don’t Fence Me In” geocache (GC48A8 on

This was not our first geocach, technically. We’d already successfully logged the JFK Virtual cache, but virtual caches are merely locations. They are a lot of fun, too, but the kids and I really wanted to find something that someone had hidden.

So, we took on this geocache. It was very close to a couple of letterboxes we were looking for last time, so we knew the trail. In addition, it was a hybrid geocache, meaning that a letterbox was hidden along with it. (Somewhere there must be instructions for finding the letterbox — perhaps on the Letterboxing North America site but we didn’t have those.

We used a shortcut trail that we saw some kids using to get into the forest in the middle of the trail we used last time. This made for a shorter trip, as the cache was hidden near the middle of the trail.

We quickly found the coordinates and were standing near the cache. However, knowing “where” the cache is is the easy part of geocaching. The trouble is finding it. GPS devices like the MeriGold are supposed to be accurate down to 3 meters. But there is enough variation (and interference from fences and trees) to make your search area a little larger than you expect.

While we were wandering around, a young teenager biked up the trail, locked his bike to a tree and set off into the woods. He returned shortly while we were reassessing our search and stood next to us without speaking for some reason. I nodded “hello” to him and he wandered off again. I was relieved when he unlocked his bike and pedaled off. Geocaching and letterboxing are for everyone, but I did not want to find the cache in front of someone who may not be interested in the sport. There is a reason they hide these caches well. When non-geocachers find them, they are sometimes plundered for their contents.

Caches usually contain notes in them inviting people to participate in the sport if they have come upon the cache accidentally. They are asked to take something from the cache if they wish, but please leave something of their own in return. And re-hide the cache carefully.

Once the teen left, I returned to the trail and looked for likely hiding places. This time I used my small keychain flashlight for looking under things. The foliage was heavy and the hour was late, which made a flashlight necessary. Next time I need to remember to bring a brighter one. But the teeny tiny Maglite Solitaire performed when it was needed.

In a thorough search of the area, I suddenly saw some plastic among the leaves under one of the very many large rocks just off the trail. I called the girls over and we moved some smaller rocks to finally reveal the cache! And just behind it was the letterbox. Both were in Rubbermaid containers, well-protected from the rain.

We stamped with our stamps in the letterbox notebook and we signed the cache notebook. I also took a postcard of BCC from the cache (scanned and displayed above) and the girls took a rubbery little sea creature. In their places I left some surprises of my own.

We were lucky to have some privacy going through the cache and re-hiding it. It was close enough to the trail, and the trail was busy enough that I worried it would be revealed. This cache has survived a while, it’s a nice one, and I’d hate to be the one to cause it to be revealed. It was surprisingly close to a teen hangout where someone had a campfire. Many people have probably leaned against the rock not knowing there was something hidden beneath.

In any case, the Sun’s rays were getting long and we didn’t have time to pick up another cache, so we headed home to get some food.

I think the postcard is a great find from the cache. If you look at the larger scan of the card you can see the North Watuppa Pond in the background and Route 24. In the foreground is BCC, and in the bottom left corner is the pond with the non-forest walking trail. It is in the forest between the pond and Rte. 24 where the cache lies.

Why did I say above that geocaching is not easier than letterboxing? Because you still have to search for a well-hidden cache once you get to the location. Caches must be hidden sufficiently to protect them, so once you are there it is a game of hide and seek.

Posted by James at 10:19 AM

August 22, 2004

We Can Do FAR Better

Kerry’s new ad speaks for itself. Check it out.

The phrase in this new ad “We can do better” reminded me of a recent post on Mike James’ Tread Lightly On The Things Of The Earth. And this led me to another weblog entirely, and thinking about the choice between George W. Bush and John F. Kerry.

I stop by Tread Lightly now and again because I like Mr. James’ sincerity, and he wears his heart on his blog. Also, he has a great sideblog with links (I have got to get mine working again). In this particular post, he quotes from The Village Gate. Formerly The Right Christians, The Village Gate transformed a weblog into a community for religious progressives. These are sincere religious folks with a progressive, rather than conservative, attitude toward their faith.

As for what that means, the way I see it described on their website is in counterpoint to the “religious right.” The original “Right Christians” moniker was a play on “Christian Right.” I thought the following comment on an entry apt:

Space aliens have taken over my religion and I don’t give two hoots and a damn why. I just want them to stop. Concrete ideas urgently needed!

I have to feel for these people. If I had a religion, I wouldn’t want the sort of folks she’s frustrated with speaking for me or representing me in the media.

But let’s look back at the quote that got me to The Village Gate in the first place:

Here’s the quote from the entry that got me there:

Ultimately, this election persists in becoming an intelligence test for the American people. It�s not only on policy matters, either. Do we still have the moral discernment to detect the difference between a total fake and a flawed but honorable and competent human being?

By intelligence test I think he means an all-around ability to sift through the information hurled at us during the election process. He has highlighted something that many of us Kerry supporters believe. Kerry isn’t the best of all possible presidents. He, (in fact like many people) is flawed. But we find his flaws to be minor compared to Bush’s marching us in the wrong direction in his efforts to consolidate the religious right / pseudo-conservative base and fulfill his own priority to get Saddam.

I agree. This election is a test. As Bush engages in dirty tricks through a network of rich family friends backing attacks on Kerry, how many people will decide that’s not the way they want their president to work?

Giving Bush the most possible benefit of the doubt, if it was important in the course of the world to go half-cocked into Iraq, that time has passed. The man who failed to plan for the peace needs to go and let someone who can more effectively energize and enlist the essential international help without which there is no war on terror.

If there was a reason to deficit spend as if there is no tomorrow (never mind evoking the near-term Armageddon fantasies of Pentecostal Christians) and shift the tax burden away from the wealthy and toward the middle class, that time has passed. The man who touts education reform while starving educational programs yet still grows the deficit needs to go. Let someone in who may not get very far with a conservative congress, but has experience finding common ground.

If there was a reason to cast a chilling effect on scientific research by, among other things, refusing to fund what promises to be the next big advance in medical scientific knowledge, that reason is over and now we need to play catch-up. The man who lied to us about the number of available stem cell lines just so that Karl Rove could throw a bone to the people who failed to come out and vote in 2000 needs to go. Give us someone who will craft a scientific policy that does not kowtow to religious extremism.

Alright, that little bit of speechifying is over, so I can talk a little more about what I found on The Village Gate. The quote that drew me there was part of this story, which I haven’t read elsewhere, about a Bush and RNC religious advisor who recently resigned. Deal Hudson is described by the National Catholic Reporter as “a 54-year-old, thrice-married former Baptist minister, is a regular White House visitor, a leading Bush campaign Catholic proxy, and a widely quoted partisan unafraid to use his pen to serve the Bush cause.”

In short, he was a public moralizer whom Bush and the DNC relied on, specifically as a liaison to Catholicism.

It turns out that public moralizing wasn’t his only hobby. He left Fordham University and paid a settlement of $30K in 1994 after
is came out that he manipulated underage female students into drunken sexual encounters. I can see why Bush felt a kinship with this guy.

Anyhow, as an atheist who has morals it’s good to read religious folks who have morals calling out the loudmouth holier-than-thou Bush advisor’s who contribute to his administration’s God Squad.

Also found on The Village Gate, it turns out that God can transubstantiate a wheat wafer into his body, but he can’t do the same for a rice wafer to allow a Celiac sufferer to receive communion. Not only that, but after the little girl in the story already received her First Communion (with the rice wafer) the Church came back at her to tell her: “Oh, by the way. Your First Communion is null and void. Her mother (also a Celiac’s Disease sufferer) got to tell her daughter that she hadn’t actually received the sacrament after all.

In any case, I’ve this group blog to my Bloglines list.

More links:

Posted by James at 10:30 AM | Comments (8)

August 21, 2004

The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra

The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra is a goofy attempt to make fun of old B scifi-horror films by making a bad scifi horror film in the same vein.

The only difference is, this time they know they’re making a bad film. That’s funny, right?

But that’s an odd idea. Why is it any funnier than the actual old really bad films? If they did a perfect job at it, it wouldn’t be much funnier because it would be exactly like them. So, is it funny at all, and if so, why?

  1. The original B movies are funny. So, in that way, this one is funny as well.
  2. In this one you know that they know they’re acting badly. They know you know the writing is supposed to be lousy. So it is like being in on a joke, and everyone likes being in on a joke.
  3. Despite what other people have said about this film being different from other send-ups, it actually does exaggerate some of the badness of old films. And thank goodness, because it wouldn’t be nearly as funny if it did not.

That third point is important. You can’t just make a bad film and expect it to be funnier than the bad films already out there. You have to exaggerate or at least concentrate the most ridiculous stuff into one film. Sometimes it is very subtle. Letting the camera linger far too long on a man laughing maniacally, yet self-consciously is a sudden reminder that even real maniacs don’t laugh like that. Having dialog that repeats itself repeatedly again and again makes you imagine the 7 year old who must have worked on the script, or the adult who had the excitement of a 7 year old but not much more in screenwriting chops. Sometimes it is less subtle, like having your actors stick their faces into their food because they’re aliens learning Earth customs from a woman who is made up of four different forest animals. Come on, that’s over the top even for the worst B movies.

So, this film is subtly funny if you are a B-movie fan. I imagine it was also quite difficult for the actors to act so self consciously. They really did a good job. My favorite character was the forest ranger. At the beginning he looked like someone had just stuck him in the ground where he was standing to answer tourist questions. Later in the film he’s more mobile but still exuding an almost perfect vacuous friendly aura of desiring to be helpful. All completely low key.

There are a number of excellent quotable lines from this film, but I’ll let you discover most of them for yourself. The one that struck me the most was:

“Aliens? Us? Is this one of your Earth jokes?”

I expect it will remain a cult classic. Read Chuck’s much review for more details. Except he is wrong about the filming. On the extras they reveal it was 11 days (10 1/2 plus a half day to film the miniatures. Heh.)

Posted by James at 6:22 PM | Comments (2)

Sink or Float? (P.2)

As promised in a previous post, I am providing my observations on the soda cans, and more. Read on to find out what sinks, what floats, why, and the limitations of the displacement method.

  1. a 12 oz. can of Coke
    • Coke sinks. Although the bubble inside the can causes one end to pop up so that it sits more or less upright in the bottom of the tub.
  2. a 12 oz. can of Diet Coke w/ Lime
    • Diet Coke floats!
  3. a 12 oz. can of C2 (half the sugar of regular Coke)
    • C2 Floats!
  4. a 12 oz. can of ginger ale
    • The 12 oz. Can of ginger ale sinks.
  5. an 8 oz. can of ginger ale
    • The 8 oz. Can of ginger ale… floats!

So, in summary, we have the sugar-containing sodas sinking and the non-sugar or part-sugar sodas floating. Except for the 8 oz. can.

Why does the 8 oz. can float? My theory is that the headspace in the cans (the big gas bubble) is constant for this style can. So the gas bubble in the smaller can is a larger percentage of the volume of the can.

Of course, one way to describe whether something is going to sink of float is by its density. Pure water has a density of 1 gram/cubic centimeter. Anything with a higher density will sink. Anything with a lower density will float.

I set out to determine the densities of the various cans. Measuring the mass was easy—I own an Ohaus electronic self-calibrating scale that has gram precision. I used the displacement method to measure the volume of a 12 oz. can (obviously, it’s more than 12 oz. all together) and also of an 8 oz. can.

Unfortunately, I do not have an accurate way of measuring volume down to the milliliter, which is what I would need for this. Or, I would need to use a much larger vessel and immerse a larger number of cans at once. Either way, you’ll see that I did not get an accurate volume measurement.

I measured the 12 oz. can to be about 390 ml. I measured the 8 oz. can to be about 275 ml.

Here are the mass measurements:

  1. a 12 oz. can of Coke = 384g
    • density calculated at 384g/390ml = .985 g/cm3
  2. a 12 oz. can of Diet Coke w/ Lime = 371g
    • 371g/390ml = .951 g/cm3
  3. a 12 oz. can of C2 (half the sugar of regular Coke) = 374g
    • 374g/390ml = .959 g/cm3
  4. a 12 oz. can of ginger ale = 384g
    • 384g/390ml = .985 g/cm3
  5. an 8 oz. can of ginger ale = 263g
    • 263g/275ml = .956 g/cm3

See the problem?

All of them are less than 1. That means they’d all be floating. I know the mass measurements were good, so it means my sloppy attempt at the displacement method was off. But these values are so closely clustered that we can use our experimental results to get a better estimate of the volume of one of these cans.

The closest two cans that had different results were the C2 and the regular Coke. C2 is 374g. Coke is 384g. So a sanity check for the volume of the can is between 374 and 384 cm3. My 390ml measurement is off by at least 6ml. That is no surprise, since I was trying to read it off the side of a fairly wide-mouth vessel with gradations of 50ml.

Perhaps I should put a graduated cylinder on my wish list.

In any case, if we have the volume estimated at 379cm3 (right in the middle of our range, for lack of a better guess) then we get these densities:

  1. a 12 oz. can of Coke — 384g/379ml = ~ 1.013 g/cm3
  2. a 12 oz. can of Diet Coke w/ Lime — 371g/379ml = ~ .979 g/cm3
  3. a 12 oz. can of C2 — 374g/379ml = ~ .987 g/cm3
  4. a 12 oz. can of ginger ale — 384g/379ml = ~ 1.013 g/cm3

(We still don’t have a more accurate volume for the smaller can, sadly)

How could I get a more accurate volume measurement with only my scale?

I could puncture a hole in one of the cans and drain out the contents. Then, I could cut a small, regular shaped hole around my puncture, small enough to cover with some good waterproof tape but large enough to admit sand. Then, I could add sand to the can up to a total weight of 375g and see if that sinks. I could successively add a gram of sand at a time until it sinks. The volume of the can would be around the sink/float crossover point, where the can is neutrally buoyant. At that point the grams and the cubic centimeters (or, milliliters) would be equal.

Maggie and Chuck both wondered how much of a difference salt water would make (both knowing that salt water is more dense). The answer is “a good bit of difference.” Surface ocean water is generally considered to be 1027 kg/m3 — around 3% salt and 1.03 g/cm3 for our purposes.

Every one of the cans above is less dense than surface ocean water and would float.

Since I drink my beer from bottles, no beer was used in this experiment. At least, not in the measurements.

Posted by James at 12:02 PM

August 20, 2004

On Learning and the Calendar

Maggie found the following quote while doing some research:

“Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils.” -Hector Berlioz

Posted by James at 10:24 PM

Li'l Shotgun

The combination of having a crappy morning and not having surfed much during a very busy week results in… a “Li’l Shotgun.”

  • Bad Movies . Com
    • The place for B-movie fans to find out about… more B movies!
  • Tech Documentation Funnies
    • Unclear technical documentation is a source of amusement. It’s more visual than it sounds.
  • Tombstone Generator
    • In the tradition of other fine sign generators comes… the tombstone generator.
  • Queen Alien - made of LEGOS
    • Yep, someone has a queen alien fixation. But the results are still cool.
  • Oliver the Elf game (Flash)
    • Frank and all his other penguin pals have raided Santa’s sleigh. It�s up to Oliver the Elf, to find those gifts and return them back to the Kringle Toy Factory so Santa can make his deliveries.
  • He drank liquid nitrogen
    • …and lives to warn other people against doing it.
  • Sex and the Name
    • How is your name related to sex appeal? Find out. (thanks Patti)
  • Zombie Infection Simulator (Java)
    • How long dies it take to infect the whole city with evil zombies?
Posted by James at 9:22 AM | Comments (1)

August 19, 2004

Sink or Float?

So, how good are you at comparing an object’s density to the density of water? A friend recently mentioned that David Letterman sometimes has a “What Floats?” segment. My kids do that, too, although they don’t have their own TV show.

We here at Dr. Momentum Labs are not to be outdone. So I have this little thought experiment for you. I have placed a number of different cans of beverage into a tub of cool tap water and noted their buoyancy. You lot, if you wish, get to guess what I saw, and why I saw it.

Here are the items I tested:

  1. a 12 oz. can of Coke (not pictured)
  2. a 12 oz. can of Diet Coke w/ Lime
  3. a 12 oz. can of C2 (half the sugar of regular Coke)
  4. a 12 oz. can of ginger ale
  5. an 8 oz. can of ginger ale

So, masters of the world of physical knowledge… what did I see? No fair trying the experiment yourself and reporting your results. If you’re going to try it, register your guesses first, and your reasoning. I’ll post my observations on Saturday.

Posted by James at 10:56 PM | Comments (10)

Kerry's Retort

Kerry dope-slaps the Swift Boat Veterans for Bush, and our Coward-In-Chief himself.

“Thirty years ago, official Navy reports documented my service in Vietnam and awarded me the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts,” Kerry said in remarks to a firefighters convention.

“Thirty years ago, this was the plain truth. It still is. And I still carry the shrapnel in my leg from a wound in Vietnam.”

Kerry calls out Bush for using these people to do his dirty work. Cowardice is as cowardice does.

Posted by James at 12:58 PM | Comments (7)


I just finished watching the first season of Nip/Tuck on DVD. It’s pretty compelling television.

FX has crafted a series about plastic surgery, depravity, love, and the loss of love. At its core there are values, but there is a vein of rot that weaves through it. The focus of the show is a practice of two early doctors in their early 40’s. They apply their skills as plastic surgeons for their south Florida clientele. One doctor has the life every man thinks he dreams of, but it is an empty, tormented shell of a life. The other man has the family that many dream of, but his marriage is falling apart. His wife has unresolved issues with the other partner in the practice and it’s all a big, unbelievable mess.

Watching an episode of this is almost like watching the X-Files. Each episode is named after a patient, and the surgeries are the centerpieces of the stories. I mention X-Files because, while these are based on real surgeries, the stories are often odd. A man who wants his breasts removed, a woman with “tankles” (tank ankles) people with psychological issues, and insecure model-wannabes parade through the office in a way that makes you think there is some sort of epidemic sweeping the nation and the only solution is plastic surgery.

The procedures themselves are often so graphic that the editing team on the series had trouble stomaching the footage while they were working on it. The effects artists are that good.

But while the blood may turn your stomach, it’s the characters and the situation that are likely to give you knots and make you uncomfortable as they stumble into trouble and just make a complete mess of their lives. Every character on the show has a vulnerable side in the writer’s attempts to confuse you as much as possible. It’s clear they don’t want bad guys and good guys in the series, just messy, ugly relationships that hold the promise of blooming into some kind of beauty but either miss the mark slightly or fail miserably. Mostly, they fail miserably.

On the inside, these people’s lives are damaged, unhappy, and even tortured. They hold up a decent outward appearance of contentedness and even go to lengths to improve that appearance. An outward appearance is deceiving, and preoccupation with it can be an indication that so much has fallen away on the inside that it doesn’t sustain itself. This is true for relationships and the physical bodies that house our personalities.

There isn’t really a moral here. The show doesn’t need to try to make a metaphor between plastic surgery and the lives of the doctors. But the patients are just another aspect of the Nip/Tuck universe where people go to extreme lengths for what they think will make them happy. Sometimes it works. Sometimes they’re way off because change does not happen from the outside-in.

To come back from the philosophical, Nip/Tuck can be outrageous, but it packs a dramatic punch that is addictive. I count it among my current guilty television pleasures.

Posted by James at 3:10 AM | Comments (4)

August 18, 2004


When I see two films within a short period of time, I can’t help but compare them. Recently, I saw The Bourne Supremacy and thought it was an OK film, but not much worthy of writing about. The critics seemed to really like it. As an action film it was passable. And though the camera work was distracting during action scenes, there were decent car chases. But I didn’t find it especially memorable.

Last night, I saw Collateral with Jamie Foxx and Tom Cruise. Here is a better film, and I can’t help but compare. In Bourne Supremacy you never get the feeling that Jason Bourne is in any particular danger. For one thing, the darn movie proclaims his supremacy for chrissakes. And he’s basically a Superman. It’s fun to watch him put the pedal to the metal and go after the baddie, but there isn’t much complexity to it. Those who call Bourne a thinking man’s James Bond have probably allowed a bit of rust to accumulate on their thinker.

I’m no genius, but I know a decent character interplay when I see it. What’s more, I can feel it. And that’s what you get from Michael Mann in Collateral. Cruise is a cold-blooded sociopathic hit man. Foxx is a guy in a cab who is a decent fellow but working below his potential. When they collide, the result is not predictable. Yes it’s got its movie moments. But, unlike Bourne, this movie is a question that holds my interest. Unlike Bourne, Foxx is extremely vulnerable. Unlike Bourne, the outcome is not completely clear.

In The Bourne Supremacy, the shocking surprises are nearly all used up at the beginning of the film. In Collateral you’ve got a shocking situation that lasts through the film.

Comparing two films isn’t much of a review, especially if you haven’t seen the other film. So here’s the lowdown. In Collateral, Foxx’s cabbie picks up a fare he’d rather not have. After that he must wrestle with a number of questions, look within himself for the strength to get through the night, and come to terms with what matters to him.

There was a clear homage to one of my favorite movies, Rear Window during the final reel. If Mann is thinking of Hitchcock, it comes through in this film. Earlier in the film, Foxx has a conversation with Jada Pinkett Smith. It’s casual and enjoyable. Soon he has nearly the same conversation with Cruise, only this time it’s uncomfortable. He’s being questioned, and it’s an interview, though Foxx doesn’t know it. Foxx’s cab driver is a good reader of people, but the source of his emotional discomfort is not his passenger. His passenger has merely precipitated it.

Here’s a bit of character “arithmetic” to think about. If your character doesn’t have any room to grow, your character is expendable and just might find himself not surviving the film. If your character has room to grow, that’s not always a guarantee of survival. You may just stick around long enough to finally learn that important lesson and then kick the bucket dramatically while you are still awash with the epiphany. The moral? Films are dangerous places for characters.

Posted by James at 1:37 AM

August 17, 2004

MoS Trip and Lord of The Rings Exhibit

The Boston Museum of Science trip was a success. For those who might be interested in a Duck Boat tour or the Lord of the Rings exhibit, read on to find out what I thought of the whole thing.

Cutting to the chase, Lord of the Rings Motion Picture Trilogy: The Exhibition is almost a must-see for any halfway-serious fan of the movie trilogy with the means to get to Boston before it leaves.1 More about the exhibit later on.

The whole family went to Boston with my daughter’s Brownie troop. They’d planned a Boston Duck Tour as part of the visit. I’d never been on one and it was both novel and entertaining.

These boats are WWII amphibious landing vehicles, repurposed to giving tours of Boston. This tour begins at the Museum of Science and includes a drive around Boston Common and toward the Back Bay, then down a ramp into the Charles River, under the Longfellow Bridge to where the river widens out.

For those familiar with Boston, the following pictures may be of interest. I left my GPS device on during the tour. Here is the track superimposed on a topo map, and then the same track overlaid on satellite photos. If you squint you can see the start and end points of the trip labeled (starting around 11:05 and ending around 12:20) and the waypoints marking where the Museum is (MoS) and where the ramp is. There actually is no ramp in the satellite picture, because it was recently relocated and the satellite photos are old.

The driver/tour guide was very lighthearted, entertaining and full of interesting information about Boston. He vaguely resembled John Billingsley from TV’s “Enterprise.” A tour can hinge on the attitude of the guide, and his pleasant manner made for a relaxing experience. The kids (though there were many of them) each got a turn at steering the boat once we were in the river. The loop where we were turning around in the images above was where Mattie and Kit were at the helm. Again, it’s a credit to the guide to note that he kept 20 kids engaged in a tour for an hour and a quarter (while driving), and the kids deserve some kudos for their behavior. I wish I could do that when we go on long automobile trips.

The pedestrians of Boston are used to seeing these duck boats lumbering around town and “quack” at the tourists as the go by. It is proper and encouraged to respond in kind.

After the tour, we had lunch and then split up to view the exhibits. I have little new to report about the museum itself; most of the exhibits have not changed since our last visit. So I will tell you a little bit more about the LoTR Exhibition.

You buy admission timed by the 1/4 hour. In other words, there is a time on your ticket regarding when you will be allowed in. You can stay as long as you like, but they limit the people entering the exhibit by at any one time. It prevents a huge clump from rushing in and clogging the displays.

Within the exhibit you will see actual maquettes used in the filming of the trilogy, costumes ant props of major characters, armor, weapons, full-size reproductions of a troll, featurettes accompanying some of the displays, and a few gimmicks highlighting the special effects techniques.

The gimmicks required you to stand in line. It’s up to you to decide if you need to participate in them. What struck me the most, however, were the props and costumes. Once you’ve seen these things in person you are impressed with the films all over again. If you’ve ever seen movie props in person, or costumes, you have probably been slightly disappointed. Many props and outfits, which look amazingly realistic on screen, look silly in person. SPFX and the magic of film both have transformative effects.

Not so with Peter Jackson’s work. It becomes obvious why the movies look so detailed. It’s because everything is detailed. From orc armor to Sauron’s frightening physical manifestation, you see everything. A Nazgul, Orthanc, and even the one ring, encased in Lucite and eerily illuminated within its own room. You’ll see Aragorn’s ranger clothing which Viggo Mortensen insisted on wearing all the time so it would get beat up in convincing ways.

The gimmicks were cute. Sit on a horse cart with a friend and through the magic of SPFX you will be as large as Gandalf and she will be hobbit-sized. And then, you can reverse positions. Have your face scanned and then rendered in stone by a computer. Participate in a crude version of motion capture, the method used to animate Gollum. Have a computer tell you, by your height, whether you’re a wizard, dwarf, hobbit… or whatever.

All are included with the price of admission, but you must stand in a medium-sized line. My advice: everyone looks much the same scanned in. We skipped the face scan after watching a few kids do it. The live motion capture was fun. The horse cart image was very entertaining. For $5 extra, they will take your photo. No cameras are allowed within the exhibit, so this is your one shot if you want a picture of anything there. In my estimation, the pix weren’t great. But it was fun to watch.

My favorite costume was the imposing armor and helmet of Sauron. But one of t he most striking displays is the corpse of Boromir, in the burial boat, as you leave the exhibit. You’d swear it was Sean Bean lying there, more lifelike than an actual corpse.

There are museum employees who are in among the displays allowing visitors to interact more closely, like holding an actual sword, or feeling chain mail.

No cameras or large bags are allowed in. If you have a backpack, they make you carry it in front of you. We’d deposited our stuff in a locker, but that costs $1.00 in quarters. So I do not have any pictures of the displays.

However, out in the lobby they have the polyurethane foam maquettes that were used in the movie to represent the Argonath. Those are the photos you see in this post (click for larger).

They were still imposing and dramatic looking in person, since even the models are quite tall. I’m guessing 15 feet or so.

In conclusion, it was a very satisfying visit for us, and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the films or is interested in the details that go into making an elaborate fantasy film.

1 I know it’s going to other cities, Singapore and Sydney among them, but I have no idea where else in the US it may be going.

Posted by James at 10:21 AM | Comments (6)

August 16, 2004

Watery Weather

Ugh, I hate this weather. Yesterday evening it finally started to cool off a little, but the combination of heat and humidity prior to that was just plain uncivilized weather. Were I superstitious, I’d imagine this was punishment for telling Ryan and Derek that we were past the worst summer weather on Thursday. When it’s so humid that things start smelling musty of their own accord, that’s when I get antsy. Luckily, it isn’t like this for more than a handful of days each year in Southern New England. Thoughts of dry autumn air are keeping me going.

It doesn’t help that the flashing around our chimney seems to have failed and our roof developed a leak in the last rainstorm. Boy, is that annoying.

But I will take annoying any day over the destruction Charlie left in its wake. Here, we just got a soaking. There it’s over 11 billion dollars and lives lost. What never ceases to amaze me, in Florida or in Massachusetts, are the folks who do not evacuate when the authorities suggest it. What is it about hopping in the car and going elsewhere that is so distasteful to some that they’d rather risk getting sucked up in a tornado, spawned from the hurricane?

October, you can’t get here quick enough.

This weekend we had our first experience geocaching, which I will detail later. Today is a Museum of Science field trip with my daughter’s scout troop. So no more posts until we return.

Posted by James at 8:17 AM | Comments (7)

August 14, 2004

More Than The President

It almost seems like a waste of time to give any more attention to the Swift Boat Liars For Bush, but Chris Matthews on Hardball shows he tear apart a piece of garbage when he smells it. Media Matters for America has a detail and some clips from a recent Hardball in which O’Neill lies about himself (claiming he’s not a Republican from Texas when he lives in Houston and has donated consistently and heavily to Republican candidates and voted in Republican primaries). He distorts and prevaricates about Kerry’s record but then ultimately is forced to admit courage on the part of Senator John Kerry.

Matthews concludes the program:

“Well, I’ve already heard enough that he’s [Kerry] done more than I ever did for my country and a lot more than anybody else … and more than the president.”

Posted by James at 8:50 AM

August 13, 2004

Relaxing Computer Activity

Julie sent along the following activity. I don’t know who wrote it, but it is attributed to a Toby Hale.

How to start your day with a positive attitude.

  1. Create a new folder on your computer.
  2. Name it “George W. Bush.”
  3. Send it to the trash.
  4. Empty the trash.
  5. Your computer will ask you: “Do you really want to get rid of
    George W. Bush”?
  6. Answer calmly, “Yes”, and press the mouse button firmly…

For what it’s worth, below is the actual (slightly less satisfying) dialog I get on Windows 2K Professional. You don’t get any window on MacOS X — it assumes you want to delete the thing if you’re putting it in the trash.

But it is a cute idea.

Posted by James at 12:35 PM | Comments (7)

Goodbye, Julia

TV Cooking Show Host Julia Child Dies

I’m very sad to see her go. She was an original, a great teacher via television and I loved her subtle wit. I also enjoyed it when she teamed up with Jaques Pepin.

Thank you, Julia Child.

Posted by James at 11:25 AM | Comments (3)



Yesterday I heard someone in my office quoting someone else in my office. They used the word/phrase “shot-diddly-otgun.” Sometimes I think I am living in cray-diddly-azy world.

  • Build A Better Bush
    • Extreme makeover for Bush. Great fun.
    • “This November, we Americans pick our President, but until then, lets pick on our President. Use the pop-up menues to change Mr. Bush’s face”
  • Name Statistics
    • How popular is your name? Find out (if its in the top 30). According to this list, “James” is the most common name. But “Burke” isn’t even on the list.
  • Risus - The Anything RPG
    • It’s a free role playing system, meant to be good for assembling a quick RPG on the go (as in at conventions, or during late night beer-and-pretzel sessions)
  • Chris’ Compendium of Free RPGs
    • After finding Risus, I decided to look for more free and open source RPGs, and I stumbled upon Chris’ compendium. The list is pretty long. On it I found Stick Guy which looks fun and silly. Furthermore, Stick Guy is on another site devoted to RPG authors. It’s called IKM1KT.
  • Fahrenheit 2004 (Flash)
    • In the wake of JibJab’s famously famous election cartoon comes “Fahrenheit 2004” a similarly themed animation but pitting Bush against Michael Moore to the tune of “She’ll Be Comin’ Around the Mountain.” (Thanks Sara, for the link)
  • reflections (Game)
    • This is a nifty interactive game in which you use beam splitters, mirrors and such to divert a laser beam to hit light bulb targets.
  • A Murder Of Scarecrows (Game)
    • This is a unique and delightfully stylish game that looks a little like Edward Gorey drew the art. It’s simple but creepy-fun. Fling the seeds at the scarecrows to make them swing their arms and scare the crows away. If you fail, the birds will suck the life out of your scarecrows (their roots will disappear). (Found via Mike’s linkdump)
  • Mittens the Cute Kitty (Flash)
    • Mittens is a cute kitty of indeterminate gender in this crude, minimalist silent animation. He/she also needs better impulse control.
Posted by James at 9:47 AM | Comments (1)

August 12, 2004

Fair Play Is For Suckers

A photo in the Yale yearbook shows Bush in what appears to be the middle of both an illegal tackle and a punch to the face of another player. In fact, whomever wrote the caption specifically mentions Bush delivering a “gratifying” sucker punch. The full photo accompanied a story in the L.A. Times “He’s Got The Bad Boy Vote Sewed Up.”

So, we see at a fairly early age Bush exhibiting skills that help him to keep his conscience clear during dirty political campaigns. Fair play is for wusses and suckers. Bush is above that.

Mike pointed the photo out to me, and later I came upon the accompanying story through this post on Tom Tomorrow’s site. It seems there is no shortage of Bush photos which give us some insight into the man. Perhaps that’s why Mike has started “Bush Du Jour.” It is a growing collection of photos of the man. No commentary, just the photos. I’ll definitely be visiting there, and adding it to my weblog reader.

There is no way to prove what the caption describes. This could be a punch to the face, or it could merely be Bush illegally jumping off the ground to take this guy’s head off. I am skeptical about the punch, but the unsportsmanlike behavior is incontrovertible.

Posted by James at 5:02 PM

Election To Be Monitored

U.S. to Get International Election Observers

Yep. We’ve got a great reputation for fair elections here, and so there is international interest in helping us out. And, amusingly enough:

“OSCE members, including the United States, agreed in 1990 in Copenhagen to allow fellow members to observe elections in one another’s countries,” Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs Paul Kelly replied in a letter to the 13 lawmakers. “Consistent with this commitment, the United States has already invited the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) to observe the November 2, 2004, presidential elections.”

In fact, the OSCE also sent a small delegation of monitors to the 2002 mid-term elections, but the 2004 mission is expected to be much larger. Nonetheless, the 2002 delegation, which observed voting in Florida, submitted a critical report that included recommendations for improvements.

Republicans are up in arms that anyone might be watching our elections. I’m honestly not sure why since they’re surely not planning anything shifty. Ironically, it was during Bush the First’s reign that we agreed to participate in this program.

In other news Top Evangelicals Still Await GOP Invite. Falwell has not been asked to open the RNC with a “bless this mess.” But if you’re worried that Bush’s base will not be well-represented, don’t.

“We’ll have a huge presence there,” she said. “We have the president.”

Where are all the folks with extreme religious views and agendas? It’s the old “Madge” answer. “You’re soaking in it.”

[Regarding the photo above, no, Robertson is not mentioned in the post. But I can’t pass up using that picture again. For Evangelicals.]

Posted by James at 3:22 PM | Comments (1)

Pre-empt Moore

It’s not up on yet, but I had this idea for a banner this morning…

How many people wish they could go back in time and stop Michael Moore from writing his last couple of books or making Fahrenheit 9/11? Well, there are no time machines, but to prevent having the same feeling around 2006 or 2007, they can act in November.

Posted by James at 10:42 AM | Comments (4)

August 11, 2004

Kerry: Lifesaving So-and-So

LAS VEGAS, Nevada (AFOL) - Chic Hecht, Republican former Senator of Nevada thanks his lucky stars for Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.

On July 12, 1988, a piece of apple lodged firmly in Hecht’s throat. Despite the help of some of his Republican colleagues, Hecht quickly lost consciousness.

Just then, Kerry spotted him and rushed to Hecht’s side to perform the Heimlich maneuver. After four attempts, the apple dislodged and Hecht’s life was saved.

However, a group calling itself Useless Heimlich Watchers For Truth claim that Kerry and Hecht are lying about the incident. Mr. Tea Cosi, a rabid right-wing bigot who ghost writes for the group reported that, although he wasn’t there, Kerry must be lying.

“He must be lying,” Cosi said.

Cosi’s addled but stout companion John O’Ninny, said he was in the same building somewhere a few days after the incident and so he knows firsthand that Kerry is lying.

“Kerry is lying,” O’Ninny said.

When pressed for details, O’Ninny said “Well, I’m still waiting for the Republican’s check to clear but I guess I can fill you in. Kerry actually put the apple chunk in Hecht’s windpipe. Jammed it in there good. I have people who will say that on camera. We had to ply them with hookers, but they’ll talk. As soon as the check clears, you understand. More hookers equals more details.”

Indeed, when pressed, O’Ninny was able to trot out a number of bitter men who were willing to contradict documented facts.

“Kerry grew the apple that choked Hecht,” one said.

“Kerry was waiting in the hallway, just hoping Hecht would choke so he could deliver the maneuver,” another said.

“Kerry was actually not trying to save Hecht. He was dry-humping the guy. And he looks French. Can I have my hooker now?” exclaimed another, who was indignant, but not completely sober.

“Kerry wasn’t even in the building,” one fellow was certain. “And what’s with taking four tries to save the guy? Lame.”

“My dear fellow!” one man began “Why, Kerry stabbed Hecht and left him for dead. Make sure you get that down,” he said as he adjusted his hat and squinted at a wastebasket. He then rapped at the wastebasket repeatedly and insisted “Spell my name right. It’s M-A-G-O-O, good sir.”

When asked why the people who were actually there would lie about the incident over so many years, O’Ninny had some insight. “Well, if it’s working for them anything like it’s working for us, they’ve been paid off by a large political party.

This bit inspired by this story and, of course, the Swift Boat Republicans for Bush Falsehoods.

And, yes, that selfish so-and-so Kerry really did give Hecht the Heimlich in a cross-partisan life-saving maneuver. Hecht and his wife now call Kerry every year to recount the year’s events in their lives together, made possible by Kerry’s quick thinking and decisive actions.

Thinking and acting. Refreshing.

Posted by James at 11:27 PM | Comments (5)

Phone Use

My daughter 7 years old, and already she spends more social time on the phone than I do. A lot more.

Posted by James at 7:36 PM


For those of you who didn’t listen to the MP3 on tribal sovereignty from the previous post, here’s the transcript of the Bush quote.

Said the president, “Tribal sovereignty means that — it’s sovereign. You’re a — you’ve been given sovereignty, and you’re viewed as a sovereign entity. And, therefore, the relationship between the federal government and tribes is one between sovereign entities.”

It’s better in the MP3, but Bush’s inability to explain “sovereignty” is stunning. Bush is that kid in class that didn’t read the assignment, but genuinely thinks he can talk his way around it when he’s called on in class.

Teacher: Mr. Bush, would you tell us a little bit about To Kill a Mockingbird?

Bush: Well, it is a book. …And there’s a mockingbird in it. And they talk a lot about whether you ought to kill it or not. And one guy is thinking about killing a mockingbird. But someone else (probably a librul) doesn’t want to shoot it. And, in the end, the mockingbird gets shot.

Now, sometimes I didn’t read an assignment (this never happened with Harper Lee’s famous work) and Mr. Newton would sense that and call on me. I would always make something up to answer him, and ramble on for a minute or two, wandering far afield in as entertaining a way as possible, Mr. Newton would ask, in his mock-stern manner “Are you finished?” and I would say “yes” and then promise to read the assignment.

The sad thing about Bush is that, even though you can hear people laughing in the background, he clearly isn’t joking in his answers.

Posted by James at 2:03 PM | Comments (15)

Voice of Experience

Don’t tax the rich: Bush puts his mouth where his money is

“Real rich people figure out how to dodge taxes,” Mr Bush said on Monday during a campaign stop in suburban Washington.

And from this we are to conclude, what? That taxing the rich is a losing proposition? That if I could only learn how to dodge taxes efficiently, Bush would be for taxing some other sector instead. No, wait — this is one of those famously funny Bush jokes, isn’t it?

His continuing comments provide me an excuse to launch into a rant. [The following quote is from Kerry:]

“My goal, my diplomacy, my statesmanship is to get our troops reduced in number and I believe if you do the statesmanship properly … it’s appropriate to have a goal of reducing the troops over that period of time.”

Ah. If you “do the statesmanship properly.” Of course. Thanks for the candor, the clarity and the detail, Mr. President. [I should have been paying more attention. Bush wouldn’t be talking about statesmanship or troop reduction. Not macho enough. Coverage of Kerry’s statement here. Of course, Kerry isn’t the president and does not yet have the power to implement plans that would lead to actual troop reductions.]

I’m afraid we already have a troop reduction going on. 900+ troops “reduced” permanently. Over six thousand troops “reduced” physically in some way or other.

Way back at the start of the war, a war supporter who has since fled a bipartisan discussion forum refused to call this a war. To him it was a “liberation.” Well, this liberation comes with a mandatory Iraqi civilian reduction as well. Ten thousand or more Iraqi civilians have been “reduced” or “liberated” or “collaterally damaged” or whatever doublespeak for “killed” you prefer to use.

Saddam is gone. What happened next? The Portland Oregonian is reporting that on the day of the handover, soldiers of the Oregon National Guard came upon members of the new Iraqi regime getting comfortable with Saddam’s absence. They were abusing prisoners. To their credit, the soldiers stopped the guards and tried to help the prisoners. But they found the facility was involved in a much larger operation of torture and abuse. Then they were ordered to stand down, and they withdrew from the prison. We’ve removed Saddam, where is Iraq going now? (Here is the NPR story, if you’re interested)

If you’re counting on Bush to make you safer, think again. Washington, under his administration, is prone to outing operatives and moles if it is politically expedient. No, I’m not just talking about Valerie Plame. The Christian Science Monitor reports on a recent administration leak to bolster Bush’s case for raising the threat level right after the DNC in Boston, when too many eyes were on Kerry. In their eagerness to make the story look credible, the administration outed one of their moles, computer expert Mohammad Name Noor Khan. This was someone working with us to infiltrate al Qaeda (you remember them. Radical. Hatred. Blowing up things) This particular story is pretty outrageous. I’ll let you judge whether outing and neutralizing one of our moles was worth the political points.

I have to get some sleep. I’ll leave you with this sound bite of Bush answering the questions of a Native American group. Listen closely for the barely stifled laughter in the background. Bush stumbles around trying to say something that sounds knowledgeable, but it is obvious he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

What’s it mean to be a “sovereign nation.” Hey, that’s easy—I went to Yale! It means your nation is sovereign!

If you’d like to do some brief reading, I recommend this story on Rumsfeld admitting (back in October) that the cost/benefit is against us in the current approach to the war on terror.

Posted by James at 1:17 AM | Comments (6)

August 10, 2004

Cuddly New Yorkers

And they say California is weird.

New Yorkers embrace cuddle parties

The grab fests are called cuddle parties, and since they started in New York in February, hundreds of people have paid $30 (16 pounds) each to touch and embrace others in intimate gatherings. […]

But the rules are clear. The PJs stay on the whole time and participants are reminded of Rule No. 7: “No dry humping!”

Have all the other means of social interaction failed so miserably that we have to resort to this? I like to think I’m open-minded, but can’t people get together over something… some mutual interest… anything?

Posted by James at 1:58 PM | Comments (5)

The Economist on Why I Love MA

Patti pointed out an excellent article in the Economist. It quickly dispels the myth of Taxachusetts and goes on to note a number of excellent attributes of the Bay State. You’ll have to grab it at the newsstand or subscribe online to read it. But here are a couple of highlights:

In contrast to the rest of the country, ticket-splitting is common in Massachusetts. So is bucking the party line. This year, some Republicans opposed a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage; some Democrats supported it (it passed). Half of all voters are registered independents. And thanks to a referendum on property taxes in 1980, state and local taxation is well below the national average. (Massachusetts, which used to be second in terms of state and local taxes as a percentage of income, has now dropped to 36th). Mr Kerry does not represent a high-tax, one-party state.

The author goes on to note that we’re not fond of country music radio or the Left Behind novels. I like that just fine. Actually, I’m fond of good country music, but the only stuff that seems to make it to radio is complete crap, unless you’re listening to KPIG, Radio Paradise or the like… online. I prefer a good radio station that plays some country to a lousy radio station that always plays that “Country Music Awards” garbage.

But I digress. I agree with the article’s point that the liberal tendency of Massachusetts lies in its open-mindedness rather than an adherence to a party line. We don’t like being told what to think—not by either party. That’s why half of our registered voters do not affiliate with either party. In my case, my parents raised me to be suspicious of parties and not to affiliate, but to think for myself. I’ve tried to live up to that. Though I have rarely found much to agree with in the Republican party, I do not call myself a Democrat.

But I love living in Massachusetts. I’m proud of our state. While you’re free to think your state is better, you’re free to be wrong, too.

Posted by James at 1:01 PM | Comments (3)


Considering a large purchase in Massachusetts? Remember that the upcoming August 14th is a Sales Tax Holiday There are some exceptions, and the detailed rules are here. I thought I ought to remind you in advance, but it occurs to me that retailers and officials around the state will not be making it easy for you to ignore.

But don’t get too excited. It’s like getting a 4.76% discount, which is not much of a sale price to crow about. Look for sales timed to coincide. In fact, you can use SalesHound.

Posted by James at 7:55 AM | Comments (2)

August 9, 2004

Don't Worry, Have Some Water

Traces of the anti-depressant Prozac have been found in Britain’s drinking water supply, setting off alarm bells with environmentalists concerned about potentially toxic effects.

The Observer newspaper said Sunday that a report by the government’s environment watchdog found Prozac was building up in river systems and groundwater used for drinking supplies.

Posted by James at 9:25 AM

August 8, 2004

Wacky Iraqi In Hot Water

Judge: Arrest Warrant Issued for Chalabi

Why does this feel like “cleaning up loose ends?”

[Update: I’d forgotten this, but Chalabi’s nephew, arrested wanted for murder, is the head of the tribunal in charge of Saddam’s prosecution.]

Posted by James at 8:21 PM

Lead Toys

If you’ve got kids and if you’ve ever let them use vending machines, you may be interested to know that certain types of metal jewelry from China and India found in these machines are basically lead with a gold-colored plating over them. The lead can leech out in concentrations tens of thousands of times higher than what is allowable in paint. The CPSC recently announced a recall of many pieces of metal vending-machine jewelry.

also, see this story.

If a child sucks on the jewelry or swallows it, the consequences can be serious, said Binns, who is also an associate professor of pediatrics and preventive medicine at Northwestern University’s medical school. “Sucking on it certainly would be sufficient, or handling it and putting your hands in your mouth,” she said.

Posted by James at 1:23 PM | Comments (3)

August 7, 2004

Boston Gets Tough

Boston Globe: Law enforcement agencies vow, We’ve had enough

[F]ederal, state, and city law enforcement will combine undercover and uniformed forces, a more significant level of cooperation than was attained during the antiviolence campaigns of the late 1980s and early ’90s, when the city saw a sharp rise in gang violence and homicides. […] Residents will “see more police presence in the city than they’ve ever seen,” reminiscent of the law enforcement presence in some areas of the city during the convention.

Can we expect any help for the gang violence that is plaguing New Bedford? I won’t hold my breath. Someone please let me know if they’ve implemented anything more dramatic in the Whaling City than handing out more parking tickets and perplexing the citizens by buzzing the neighborhoods with a helicopter. Little help?

Posted by James at 2:53 PM | Comments (4)

Fun in Failure: Letterboxing

You may have heard of a pastime called
in which participants use a GPS device to locate hidden caches (and also to hide them).

Letterboxing is the less technological cousin of geocaching. Instead of global coordinates, you’re given clues that you must follow to locate a hidden waterproof box. Once you find the box, you open it and locate a small notebook. Use your personal stamp to stamp an image in the notebook. The box will also contain its own stamp, and you should use that to make a mark in your own personal notebook.

So, as you go along you accumulate stamps in your personal notebook and you leave your mark from letterbox to letterbox.

Yesterday, I had the day off and we decided to try out this fun activity. Who doesn’t like trodding around in the woods on a summer day for a bit of adventure? I rounded up my daughters and we took to the road.

We set out to find four letterboxes in the vicinity of Bristol Community College. BCC has a pond beside it and a nice paved walking trail that circles the pond while winding a bit back and forth.

There is also a nature trail that wanders through the woods that lie between the BCC campus and route 24.

We took to the trail after slathering ourselves with sunscreen and spraying exposed areas with insect repellant. These were our directions. The directions are clear enough and easy to follow.

Pushing through thick brush (thistles and such) at the early part of the trail, but we forged ahead. Almost immediately we met with a young man and woman who appeared to be calling it a day. They were geocaching and having some trouble with the GPS device. They were aware that there were letterboxes in the area, and indicated that they had seen them before. We continued on the trail.

This site had four locations to visit. We arrived at each location, followed the instructions, but to no avail. We came up empty at each location after spending considerable time. We were certain we’d found the places the letterboxes should have been. Without question at least 3 of the 4 letterboxes had been removed. In the case of the remaining location the clue spoke of a red oak tree and a jumble of rocks. We found this. The jumble was so large that the letterbox could have been anywhere. If it was there it was likely moved from its original location, because it was not near the red oak tree.

This trail was obviously a popular trail for people to hang out, and each of the locations was very easy to find. It’s likely that someone would have come upon the letterboxes not knowing what they were. And in that case, they might remove the box, not knowing that a number of people would be looking for it. Or, perhaps, it was malicious. Ho knows? I explained this to my daughters.

By the time it was all over, we’d had a decent hike, after all. And we’d gotten to wander around on an interesting trail we hadn’t known about before. As an added bonus, a western eastern tiger swallowtail graced us with its presence. We spotted it among the thistles at the beginning of our hike and as I tried to photograph it from a distance it gracefully obliged and lighted upon the nearest thistle plant which was mere inches from my daughters.

The hike back to the car was through the center of campus. Along the way we passed a refreshing fountain, and the girls stopped to cool themselves off as the wind blew the fountain spray toward us.

This won’t be our last letterbox adventure, but I hope our next one is a bit more fruitful. Eventually, I hope to leave a letterbox or two of my own. I already have a few ideas for locations. But I would like to see an actual letterbox before I hide one.

Posted by James at 12:08 PM | Comments (2)

August 6, 2004

EAForums move

For any of my readers who happen to also be EAForum members, EAForums has moved server. You’ll be able to find it at the usual URL soon, but until then, if you’re jonesing, look here:

If you’re not an EAForums member either ignore this, or take the opportunity to join a lively online community.

Posted by James at 4:18 PM | Comments (4)

Motivational Shotgun

I hope you’re paying attention. There will be a quiz later. Really, people, these shotgun posts only work for you if you give them your all. Work with me here!

  • The Invisible Web Revealed
    • “‘The Web is increasingly moving away from being a collection of documents and becoming a multidimensional repository for sounds, images, audio, and other formats.’ Because much of this information is not accessible to many general search engines’ software spiders, we need to look for specific search tools that will lead us to this hidden content.”
  • Peasant’s Quest (Game)
    • You’ve seen the trailer, now play the game. The Burninator would want you to!
  • Route One Cinema Pub
    • It’s a cinema! It’s a pub! It’s in North Attleboro! I’ve never been there, it must be a really small place, I’ll probably never go, but it sounded like a good idea to me.
  • Discordian Games
    • You don’t need to have read the Illuminatus Trilogy to appreciate some of these nifty games. “1,000 Blank White Cards” sounds like a real, goofy, creative kick! I may even try it with the kids.
  • McDonalds Ads Gone Bad
    • Some anti-McD’s adbusting. Warning, some are pretty nasty.
  • Subservient President (interactive thingy)
    • Remember the subservient chicken? Same deal, but this time it’s Dubya. For greatest effect, pretend you’re corporate America or an evangelical organization.
  • American Dad (video)
    • It’s a pilot for “American Dad.” Seth McFarlane’s animation project. It’s not Family Guy, but it’s pretty funny.
  • CIA Asks Bush to Discontinue Blog
    • “After he mentioned our Monday message-of-the-day in a Saturday post, we’ve really been pushing him to not talk about campaign strategy,” Gillespie said. “He’s not that involved in the planning anyway, so it shouldn’t be too much to ask.”
    • “We’re not trying to stifle the president’s creativity,” Gillespie added. “We think it’s great he’s taking an interest in writing.”
    • It’s the Onion, of course.
  • Map24 (Java)
    • Neat, Java-enabled interactive map.
  • World As Blog
    • Nifty map where notes pop up every time certain enabled blogs log a post.
  • How To Be Creative
    • I thought this was a neat blog post.
Posted by James at 3:29 AM | Comments (1)

August 5, 2004

Come Again?

Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.

- George W. Bush - August 5, 2004

C’mon. Is he drunk when he gives these speeches?

Posted by James at 12:24 PM | Comments (12)

Imploring the USA

“The Boss” speaks out in the pages of the New York Times.

Like many others, in the aftermath of 9/11, I felt the country’s unity. I don’t remember anything quite like it. I supported the decision to enter Afghanistan and I hoped that the seriousness of the times would bring forth strength, humility and wisdom in our leaders. Instead, we dived headlong into an unnecessary war in Iraq, offering up the lives of our young men and women under circumstances that are now discredited. We ran record deficits, while simultaneously cutting and squeezing services like afterschool programs. We granted tax cuts to the richest 1 percent (corporate bigwigs, well-to-do guitar players), increasing the division of wealth that threatens to destroy our social contract with one another and render mute the promise of “one nation indivisible.”

Found via JJdaley.

Posted by James at 10:00 AM | Comments (9)

August 4, 2004

Social Entity Quiz

It’s lazy post viral meme quiz time.

The Changeling
Category X - The

Witty, amusing and a bit weird, you’re welcomed
into most social groups, even though you don’t
‘fit in’ perfectly .

What Type of Social Entity are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Posted by James at 9:13 PM | Comments (13)

Blog Previews/Getting Organized

Bri had an interesting idea. Publishing a preview of upcoming blog posts. It’s like blog trailers. I don’t usually like talking about future blog posts because it takes away a little of my impetus to write if I give summaries of things I have not yet written. And then I feel obligated.

Brian’s list is long, and it hints at a lot of interesting stories. It’s probably a good way for him to remember stories he’d like to post. I used to take blog notes myself (and probably still should). Nowadays I record ideas on a voice recorder for blog posts and other projects because I tend to forget them, and it takes me a long time to write almost anything decent.

Any of you out there have a system that works for you to remember stuff you want to do/write? I recently borrowed a book (see below) from the library that had a very promising-sounding system, but I was too swamped to get organized and implement it in my life. But I am probably going to buy the book and force myself to establish good habits. What I liked about it was the focus on eliminating stress by getting stuff off your mind, but also getting things done.

I eagerly await Bri’s posts, but I hope that publishing a list like that becomes a motivating factor, but not something hanging over his head.

Posted by James at 2:25 PM | Comments (8)

Sweet Jesus, I hate Bill O'Reilly

Sweet Jesus, I Hate Bill O’Reilly, International

Sweet Jesus, I hate Bill O’Reilly, International is an organization
dedicated to the dissemination of information that exposes
Bill O’Reilly for what he is: The most dangerous man in “news”.
(When stating aloud, you should always use air quotes.)

I guess you can’t keep lying without pissing someone off eventually. But in the interest of getting people away from violent solutions, they do have the following T-shirt.

please don’t
Kill Bill O’Reilly

Posted by James at 1:25 PM | Comments (7)

August 3, 2004

Interactive Protest On The Go

Kinberg will be taking his road-spraying bicycle to the Republican National Convention in New York this fall, where he’ll ride around spraying slogans submitted over the Web and beamed wirelessly to the bike. […]

Kinberg made his printer out of five solenoid-triggered spray cans, loaded with washable chalk. […] Kinberg is working on a Web interface that will allow anyone on the Net to submit a 120-character note […] that will be sent to his cell phone. If he decides to print the message, he beams it via Bluetooth to his onboard PowerBook.

Wired News: Bike Writer Pedals for Protests

There’s an interesting form of protest. Non-destructive (the chalk washes off) and it’s also participatory. I expect he will get flooded with messages, a lot of them counter to his cause. Perhaps we’ll see a follow-up story. The implications are interesting. He creates a unique communication technology (sidewalk messages) and uses the web to leverage other people’s creativity in helping to get his message across. Clever.

The Wired article has some video of the bike in action. Thanks, Julie, for sending this along.

Posted by James at 11:58 PM | Comments (1)

Dying For a Clean Needle

Needle handout prompts arrest: 8/ 3/ 2004

Needle-exchange activists handed out illegal syringes on the streets of three Massachusetts cities yesterday, and in New Bedford the distribution resulted in the arrest of a woman working for a health-awareness organization.

Only in New Bedford did this activity result in an arrest. In New Bedford, the HIV infection rate is extremely high, and it is in part because of sharing needles. Comments by officials drive home the lack of rational thought that has gone into opposition to a needle exchange program:

Bristol County Sheriff Thomas M. Hodgson, long an opponent of needle-exchange programs, said disobeying a law because one doesn’t like it leads to lawlessness.

“Some people think marijuana should be legalized, but the law is that it’s not,” he said. […]

He’d hate to think what would happen if someone who got high after receiving a government needle injured someone in a motor vehicle crash, he said.

If you aren’t familiar with our sheriff here in Bristol County, those are his nonsensical statements.

Disobeying the law leads to lawlessness? It’s convenient for him to ignore the consequences of the law so that he doesn’t have to get into a discussion about the effectiveness (now and again) of civil disobedience.

Then he changes the subject to talk a little about pot. These folks are not arguing for the legalization of drugs. But thanks for raising our awareness about dangerous pot activists.

His comment on someone getting into an accident with a government needle is laughable. I’ll cut to the logical chase. He’s saying that HIV infection is a tool in the government’s arsenal to enforce the law against drug use. Just like arrest and prosecution, HIV infection is a deterrent. He’s saying that the rapid spread of HIV in our area (from drug users to other drug users, to their sexual partners and their sexual partners and who knows who else) is an acceptable side effect of the government’s policy.

If that sounds harsh, I’ve just gotten started.

Step by step: he says it would be a burden on his mind if someone used a clean, government needle to get high, and then caused an accident. On the face of it, this ignores that an addict will use whether or not he has a clean needle. The only charitable interpretation of his statement is to assume that he meant the user would not use if he hadn’t had that clean needle. In other words, he was deterred by HIV infection.

However, HIV infection is obviously not an effective deterrent:

Additionally, figures derived from the 1995 Massachusetts Department of Public Health AIDS Surveillance Program indicate that New Bedford now possesses the second highest incidence of HIV/AIDS per 100,000 people in Massachusetts—199.7, not including prisoners. The only city in Massachusetts which exceeds New Bedford’s count is Boston.

Further, the primary mode of transmission of this deadly condition continues to be through intravenous drug use. Sixty-seven per cent (67%) of the recorded cases in New Bedford as of April 1994 were reported as resulting from this practice. This practice of injecting drugs is only accountable for 30% of the Massachusetts HIV cases and 24% of U.S. HIV infection cases. Naturally, this reveals the high rate of drug use in the City compared with other urban areas in the state and country.

Our sheriff apparently chooses to ignore the failure of law enforcement to have a positive effect on HIV transmission, and the poor effect of HIV infection as a deterrent.

Perhaps the sheriff would say that he didn’t mean law enforcement views HIV as a deterrent. In that case, the interpretation of his statement is even worse. In that case, he’s saying he doesn’t want the use of a government needle on his conscience because of the possibility of car accidents, but the rampant spread of deadly diseases through inaction is not going to weigh on his mind. So an innocent dying in a car accident or two is abhorrent, but rampant spread of diseases among a section of the population (including innocents) is not so bad.

Why is that? Is he imagining two different slices of the populace being affected? We could speculate on how race and socio-economic status play into this opinion, but that would be groundless speculation in lieu of other facts. Heck, the reason could be as simple as a subconscious desire to punish people who use drugs, and people who have sex. But we needn’t plumb the depths of the sheriff’s psyche to know that his statement is misguided, even in a charitable interpretation.

Here’s where this really gets to me, though. Hodgson is a Republican, and the perception that led to our election of a Republican sheriff is, presumably, that he will be tough on threats to the population because he will be a tough enforcer of the law.

In this case, I really have no complaint about his enforcement of the law. The activists were breaking the law, they knew the possible consequences and presumably are prepared to take responsibility (there was an officer right there as they prepared to break the law, so this is a reasonable assumption).

It is the political nature of the sheriff’s activities and his inane comment that are problematic. He’s up for re-election this year, of course, and he’s never far from a newspaper reporter, it seems. But his expounding gives us a peek behind the curtain. In this case, we see an extremely shallow and naive outlook on clean needles and social responsibility. It’s the sort of opinion you expect to get out of an uninformed, FOX news-watching, half-drunk bar patron rather than an official who has some control over how these matters are handled. Someone who views law enforcement as a war on crime.

But, if you want to talk about war, let’s talk about the war that is waged daily on the human race by dangerous and deadly pathogens like HIV, Hepatitis, and others that are spread by needle sharing. These diseases are an enemy more determined than any terrorist—an enemy that truly has no humanity. This is a war we’ve fought throughout our evolution, and will be fighting into the foreseeable future. These enemies do not discriminate. They will infect and kill at every opportunity.

You can’t make friends with a human disease, and thinking you can use it as an effective tool in law enforcement is like saying the threat of terrorism on a building can be effective in law enforcement. Tolerating and abetting disease is worse than negotiating with terrorists. Disease has no loyalty, and you cannot see the consequences of this disease spreading out of control. In the fight against disease, if you’re not with us, you risk being complicit in the death and destruction disease leaves in its wake. Not only does it exact a human cost, but an economic one as well. A diseased populace is not a hopeful, efficient, prosperous populace.

The sheriff points out that HIV wouldn’t spread as well if folks just stopped using addictive drugs. The naivete’ is incredible. It’s as though, if we ignore a problem it doesn’t exist. Yes, drug users have a personal and a social responsibility for the effects of their drug use. But their brains are addled by addiction and they act accordingly more often than not. We, presumably, are thinking clearly. So what is our excuse? They are not absolved from their responsibility, but this is not a blame game. Once blame is assigned, the game has not been won—we’re still left with the problem and more blame to spread around.

This is what it comes down to, for me: officials embracing and blustering provincial attitudes in ignorance of the human toll. We have tough talk on the issues that will make them look tough, but political insanity on true human tragedy.

If you vote in Bristol county, I urge you to look into Leo Pelletier, our sheriff’s challenger in the upcoming election. And, wherever you are, hold your officials to a high standard when it comes to policies that affect the spread of disease—a true unrelenting enemy.

Posted by James at 10:42 AM | Comments (5)

Snuffed Sniffer

A police sniffer dog died of a suspected overdose while out hunting for drugs, British police said on Monday.

Todd, a 7-year-old Springer spaniel, had been looking for drugs in a field and car in Preston, northern England, when his handler noticed he was looking unwell.

Shades of Brian in Family Guy episode “The Thin White Line”. “Hey, how about a little less questions and a little more shut the hell up.”

Posted by James at 12:42 AM | Comments (17)

August 2, 2004

Active Again

Aside from some DNS issues, this site appears to be up and running again with far less trouble than anticipated. Hooray for Don, the server administrator!

techie talk:
Unbelievably, my Movable Type installation survived a wholesale copy from the old server to the new, database and all. It’s nothing short of amazing. This saved me from having to export all the entries and re-import them, breaking some links and confusing the search engines.

This is surely cause for a bottle of cider.

Posted by James at 11:43 PM | Comments (6)

August 1, 2004

Server Move

Aces Full of Links is in the midst of moving to a new, faster server. This should not affect you, the readers, except that you might experience a day or two without posts when the domain name switch occurs. (It takes time for the name to propagate.) And I’ll be trying to make sure that all my posts and images are backed up. I’ll let you know when the server move is over. Thanks for your patience.

Posted by James at 10:46 AM | Comments (1)