November 30, 2004

Fun With English

A recent post of Chuck’s reminded me of a language-related thought I had this morning.

“I notice you are calling her ‘Liz’ for short.”


“Have you been calling her ‘Liz’ for long?”


It’s a wonder anyone learns to understand English.

Posted by James at 7:38 PM | Comments (3)

Godzilla News

Gojira!There’s another Godzilla movie on the way. NPR was reporting it this morning on Morning Edition.

I like Godzilla. So sue me.

Truth be told, I like a lot of Japanese things, especially offbeat things. I have 3 weird Japanese films at home, from Netflix, ready to be watched and about 8 more on the short list.That doesn’t even include less quirky films like the Kirosawa films Julie has lent me.

You’ll hear about those in due time (and if I ever get un-swamped enough to watch them). But now, Godzilla.

Ryuhei Kitamura is the director of Gojira: Fainaru uôzu this latest (final?) Godzilla film. The name is familiar to me because I just discovered his other popular Japanese films on a recent visit to Newbury Comics. His film “Alive” is one I’ve gotten from Netflix.

I’d thought the Godzilla franchise was already over (and I’d told Julie as much) but I’d gotten it wrong. Not only is there this new Godzilla film which has yet to be released here, I’d overlooked a 2003 film which is set to be released on DVD in a couple of weeks.

Here’s a quick review of recent Godzilla movie history. Since Godzilla history is somewhat mixed up and I don’t completely grasp all the separate threads (some of them concurrent) I’m concentrating on the time after 1995, when the original (by some accounts) Godzilla melted down, producing energy that revived baby Godzilla (who, presumably, has grown into the post-1995 Godzilla).

  • Godzilla 2000 (1999) aka. Gojira ni-sen mireniamu
    • This is a weird film where Godzilla battles a UFO which later becomes a tentacled monster. Notable as the first Godzilla film to feature a fully CGI Godzilla in certain scenes. Godzilla reins supreme in the end, which makes sense, since puny humans can’t do much to defeat a nuclear-powered mutant dino.
  • Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000) aka. Gojira tai Megagirasu: Jî shômetsu sakusen
    • This film is actually the most decent of the recent Godzilla films. There is a lot going on, with the main attraction being Godzilla attacked by a bunch of little insect monsters which are explained as being food for Rodan long ago. I never understand what the Japanese plan to do to deal with Godzilla (it never makes sense to me). Since nothing ever works with Godzilla, you really have to just get out of his way. But, as always, they have a plan.
  • Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001) aka. Gojira, Mosura, Kingu Gidorâ: Daikaijû sôkôgeki
    • Not as good as the previous movie, although the cheesiness is up a notch. Lookit the wires! It wouldn’t be a Kaiju movie wihtout some of that. But I couldn’t care less about Baragon, one of the most pathetic Godzilla monsters. What’s he doing there? Holy cow, there was a Frankenstein vs. Baragon. Weirder and weirder.
  • Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (2002) aka. Gojira tai Mekagojira
    • What could be better than another story about Godzilla fighting his mechanical alter-ego built from the skeleton of a previous incarnation of Godzilla? Well, Godzilla vs. Megaguirus was better, but this one is a visual spectacle, with people running around in anti0Godzilla flight suits. More talky than I would have liked, but still good.
  • Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003) aka. Gojira tai Mosura tai Mekagojira: Tôkyô S.O.S.
    • Haven’t seen this one yet, but since it features Mothra and Mechagodzilla, it can’t be all bad. However, I’m told it’s pretty close to all bad. Releases on DVD this month.
  • Godzilla: Final Battle (2004) aka. Gojira: Fainaru uôzu
    • Promises to be the last Godzilla movie for a while, and reports are mixed, but it features a slew of monsters from previous films, international locations and a new “Monster X.” Perhaps it will even be shown in theatres around here, providing me my first opportunity to see a new Godzilla film on the big screen since the absolutely horrible (but I didn’t know better) Godzilla vs. Megalon.

For a look at the more general and wide-ranging confusing Godzilla timeline, check this page out. You can see they haven’t been too concerned with keeping one Godzilla story arc consistent.

Also: Toho Kingdom provides a ton of Kaiju monster resources. Personally, my favorite Kaiju is Gamera.

Posted by James at 12:23 PM | Comments (1)

Name That Movie 15

Chuck likes to start out with a computer display when he does his Name That Movie puzzles, so that’s what we’ll do this week. I’ve made it too easy for him lately. Have at it!

Posted by James at 9:21 AM | Comments (22)

November 29, 2004

Loaded Questions, Loaded People and Apples

Saturday was a mixed bag. We were disappointed when Chuck and Patty couldn’t make it, but Julie, BOB, Patti, and Mike were slated to show. But with new games to play and food in the offing, we were ready to stuff ourselves and have a few laughs. We were not disappointed on those counts.

My mind is always on the food, and I had wanted to make something simple. That never seems to work out as I fixate on a recipe. I went from envisioning a veggie stew (easy in crock pot) to teriyaki salmon (relatively labor intensive) and finally settled on something I’d wanted to try for a while. Shrimp Mozambique. While the shrimp peeling took some time, my friends didn’t seem to mind sharing the company of the kitchen and talking. If you’ve never had Shrimp Mozambique before, it’s shrimp in a number of spices (Goya seasoning) cooked in onions, parsley, garlic, butter and beer. It’s quite good served over rice. I’d also made an experimental potato dish, slow cooked in rosemary and dill. That worked as well.

Mike, unfortunately, did not make it when his car broke down in an extremely inopportune spot. He was met with several misfortunes that evening, which we later found out when I spoke to him over the phone. Our phone connection was bad, but apparently he did not go without dinner — his sister came to his rescue. We missed you, Mike! Next time.

The absences resulted in a huge surplus of food. Julie brought a huge salad with veggies and mushrooms. Bob and Patti supplied a great coriander Asian chicken noodle soup with rice noodles. They also brought a gluten-free pizza and a wonderful gluten-free apple crisp, and a couple of excellent wines as usual. Guys, you’re spoiling us.

By the time my plan to make a chocolate-flavored beverage which some call a chocolate martini (I hate calling anything without vermouth a martini) everyone was already full of food and spirits. But we forged ahead anyhow.

We played two new games that I liked immensely. Loaded Questions and Apples to Apples. Loaded Questions leads to all sorts of goofy situations and personal question type fun, so it makes for an interesting party game. Apples To Apples is a deceptively simple game of matching nouns to adjectives on cards, and judging the answers. It sounds a lot less than what it turns out to be when it’s played. Although, if you get lousy cards in that game, it’s not nearly as much fun as it ought to be.

In any case, after Bob and Patti left, I was zonkered, and I believe I fell asleep on the couch while we watched a few Family Guy episodes. What more can one ask for. Thanks, everyone for attending and we’ll see the rest of you at the Christmas party, or the next shindig.

Posted by James at 9:44 AM | Comments (4)

Geocaching Coincidences

Thanksgiving was the usual, and everything came off well. Having learned to play “Pitch” the night before with my cousin Bob, we taught Maggie and my sister and had a 6-person game with the 2 couples. But we played cutthroat rather than partners. Next time, I think partners is in order.

On Friday, I had a fun, but odd day of geocaching with the girls.We made it to four neat locations. This campfire ring was at the old Children’s Museum in Dartmouth. Now it’s a YMCA. We found the cache there after a breakfast as Percy’s Place. (cache GCHPJM)

From there, we worked our way west to uncover some caches we’ve long overlooked. First, one at the Slocum River Reserve. A beautiful river I failed to get a picture of, but Mattie did notice this odd-looking tree.

Next it was the Allens Pond cache where i did take a nice shot of the ocean coastline.

When we got to the cache, the kids made some trades and Kit chose a small plastic frog. After reading the logs back at home I found out that the frog had been left by my buddy Chuck when he was visiting the area.

Our final cache of the day was a new Travel Bug Hotel in the area in an interesting little spot. It’s not the prettiest little spot, but it’s got an old railroad switch and some tracks that would have photographed well, but we were preoccupied.

Mattie actually found the cache this time, pretty much on her own. I am realizing the benefit of having curious people low to the ground with you on a hunt. She was tenacious and it payed off. As I often do, I was flipping through the previous logs and saw one from the day before that said “I think I might see Dr. M and the girls.”
That struck me as very odd, since it was written the day before, on Thanksgiving by a geocacher I was not really familiar with. Weirded out. Maybe they weren’t referring to me and there was another “Dr. M” out there. When I re-hid the cache, I noticed 2 police cruisers and a truck next to my car (the cache was only a few yards from the car.)

By the time we were done, the police cruisers had backed off. I never did find out what they were looking for, but one of the officers was peering out over the South Watuppa (see PDF map. We were about where the words “Rte. 6” are, near the end of the indicated rail line)

There was a woman in the truck, and as we were getting in the car, she said something to me. It turned out she was geocacher jana11d, the woman who had left the log yesterday. As a result of being scared away from the cache by muggles, she had forgotten to leave a travel bug there. Completing the weird coincidence, she returned the next day with her travel bug and ran into me and the girls for real.

Considering I had decided to go to that cache only minutes before we pulled into the parking lot, I found that very odd. This is the first time we’ve actually spoken to another geocacher on the trail.

Posted by James at 8:52 AM

November 26, 2004

Scoff Alien Skull Shotgun

Still too sluggish to post a really full shotgun. What’s with the alien skull? Read on.

  • How-To: BroadCatching using RSS + BitTorrent to automatically download TV shows (Tech)
    • BitTorrent can get me my favorite shows when I forget to record them?? Sounds great.
  • Wiki Game (Game)
    • They’ve thought up an interesting game using Wikipedia. Basically, It’s a race to get back to a target page in the fewest number of links. Kind of an online “Six Degrees” type activity.
  • The Danger of JackHammers (Image)
    • Notice anything in the picture more dangerous to an unborn child than the sound of jackhammers? Me too. Sharon sent this along.
  • Thanksgiving Horror Tales (Article)
    • Imagine being a Thanksgiving cooking help line staffer. People have the most bizarre questions.
    • And one phone call began: “You don’t know anything about kitty litter, do you?”
  • Anagram Generator (Fun Tool)
    • Nothing beats the fun of anagrams. OK, so that’s not true. But I never knew I could rearrange the letters in “Aces Full of Links” into “Scoff Alien Skull” until I visited this site.
  • Low Rider (Image)
    • I have no explanation. Safe for work. Is that the Knight Industries 2000 in the background?
  • 12-sided Calendar (Crafts)
    • Fold your own unique calendar!
  • A Collection of Word Oddities and Trivia (Word fun)
    • On which I learned about “LLANFAIRPWLLGWYNGYLLGOGERYCHWYRNDROBWLLLLANTYSILIOGOGOGOCH” which is the longest place name in the world, beating out Massachusett’s own “Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchabunagungamaugg”
Posted by James at 7:54 AM | Comments (6)

November 25, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, all.

I’m thankful to be surrounded by a great family, wonderful, intelligent and thoughtful friends and to have the health to enjoy it all.

Have a great day.

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

November 24, 2004

I Found Out That I'm The Devil

(The title of the post has little to do with the contents, it’s a Will Ferrell reference)

So, I got another small spate of hate mail. Another idiot stumbled upon the “Twelve Reasons” post. WHat’s sad and amazing is that these latest offerings are from people WHO WOULD AGREE WITH ME on the subject of the rights of people. But they were too stupid or angry to read the very clear explanation that the post is facetious — ridiculously so.

I want to say something about the opposition being so ridiculous that it’s easy to confuse satire with real homophobia, but I can’t excuse the responses I get. Someone took the time to sling insults but couldn’t take the time to read and understand. That’s going to get us nowhere, on either side. I don’t abide that behavior in people who disagree or agree with me.


realname: pissed off

comments: You are one ignorant Bitch. Just because two homosexual people adopt a child, doesn’t mean that the child will be gay. Your not taught to be gay, your born that way. God i hate douche bags like you!

Dear “pissed off,”

The piece was intentionally ridiculous. It’s called “satire.” It’s labeled as satire. I linked to the originators of the piece, who are a pro-gay/lesbian/Bi group!

So, we agree on the heart of the issue. Unfortunately, I think you’re a near complete failure. Not only are you incapable of reaching out to people who disagree with you, you can’t understand the people who would otherwise agree with you. If brains had a reset button, yours ought to be pressed.

realname: eliza

comments: I think you are highly sexist and racist and dont deserve a web page you stupid ignorant morron!!

Dear Eliza,

At least I can spell “moron.” If you can’t afford a dictionary, take a walk down to your local library and ask them to see theirs. Get the reference desk staffer to open the book to the page with the “M” words. Ask him to flip over to “m-o-r.” Scan down until you find the word “moron.” And then check out the look on his face when he sees your picture there!

Ugh, what a waste of time and energy. I hope you at least got a laugh out of this to get you by the sad realization that we share the planet with these people.

Posted by James at 9:34 AM | Comments (11)

November 23, 2004

Your pod bay door is open, Hal

Homeland Security has set the alert level to “Tighty-Whitey.” Or, if you prefer:

Top 10 Polite Ways To Say Your Zipper Is Down
10. The cucumber has left the salad.
9. Quasimodo needs to go back in the tower and tend to his bells.
8. You need to bring your tray table to the upright and locked position.
7. Paging Mr. Johnson… Paging Mr. Johnson..
6. Elvis is leaving the building.
5. Your Mercedes is NOT all the way in the garage.
4. Our next guest is someone who needs no introduction.
3. You’ve got a security breach at Los Pantalones.
2. Men may be From Mars…..but I can see something that rhymes with Venus
1. You’ve got your fly set for “Monica” instead of “Hillary”.

I believe the list is from David Letterman.

More euphemisms here.

Posted by James at 5:08 PM | Comments (1)

Name That Movie 14

Let the guessing begin.

Name That Movie clue 1

Second clue:

Name That Movie clue 2

Third Clue:

Name That Movie clue 2

Posted by James at 2:43 AM | Comments (30)

National Treasure

This film is OK. Unfortunately, it needed to be a lot better.

Nick Cage’s character is no Indiana Jones. The problem is that Indy is an icon based on other serial characters and has staked out a lot of the good character territory. Perhaps partly to not seem like “Indiana Jones 4” this film gives us the fairly bland Benjamin Franklin Gates.

Sure, he’s got history. And famous actor ancestors (just like Indy). But he’s missing the boyishness and the flourish. He’s missing the humor and the ironic turns of strength and vulnerability. He’s no icon.

The plot of the movie itself is diverting enough, but it won’t put you over the edge. Even the worst Indiana Jones movie (Temple of Doom) at least had Indy.

Even the cinematography was a little flat.I rarely found the camera increasing the level of excitement, even when they used that “whooshing” gimick that seems to be everywhere these days.

There are a few eye-candy moments and a chase scene that doesn’t break any new ground.

This wasn’t a horrible movie. I was mildly entertained. And I liked the subject matter. The acting was reasonable. But none of it came together because of what was missing. Very little seemed at risk, and the character motivation was often implausible.

I felt the same way I felt when I watched the last Star Trek franchise installment. And that’s not good. Stay home and watch an Indiana Jones movie.

Posted by James at 1:37 AM | Comments (2)

November 22, 2004

Other Rambunctious News

While we’re talking about badly-behaved people:

Entire 8th-grade class suspended over food fight on meatloaf day

A cafeteria food fight on “meatloaf day” led to the suspension of the entire eighth-grade class at a Memphis school.

The students were suspended after refusing to clean up the mess they caused.

The principal suspended the entire 8th grade at this Tennessee school and called for a meeting to talk to the parents. So, what happens at the parent meeting?

“I came here for a meeting! A meeting go ahead and whoop me man do what you gotta do!” said the man as police arrested him.

Has anyone checked the water supply in Memphis?

Posted by James at 10:43 AM

MBD: Stupidity Watch

Monday Round Up: Stupidity Watch

Pacers-Pistons Brawl

No doubt you’ve heard about this. As I don’t follow sports, I first encountered the story during the SNL news. If you’re not familiar with the story, a huge brawl began at a Pacers-Pistons basketball game after Pacer Ron Artest fouled Ben Wallace during a layup.They got into a scuffle, and then Artest attacked a fan in the crowd after someone nailed him with a cup of soda. It’s all right here in a Sports Illustrated timeline of the brawl.

NBA commissioner David Stern has suspended Artest for the remainder of the season, and other players also received stiff suspensions.

Patrick Ewing expresses the opinion:

“Wow. That’s a lot of games. I guess they did what they thought was in the best interest of the league.”

“It’s a little harsh,” he said. “It’s wrong what they did. But I mean, to suspend him for the whole season? Sixty-some games? That’s rough.”

The guy stormed the fans with his fists swinging. As if basketball isn’t in enough trouble already. Stern makes it clear that this sort of activity is a career decision. But this one cracked me up. In response to the suspensions:

Said guard Derek Anderson: “It’s shocking. Whatever they did, I know not to do.”

Whatever they did??? Har. What’s shocking is the empty-headedness in professional sports.

Most Dangerous Game

Maggie sent this insanity along.

Hunter kills five, injures three after tree stand dispute (You can search Google news for more on this story)

Basically, some hunter went nutzoid and started filling the air with lead over who could sit in a tree stand. After being wounded, the men called in reinforcements, who became new targets for this fellow who was “chasing after them and killing them,” with a SKS 7.62 caliber semiautomatic.

Before he ran out of bullets, he’d killed 5 people including a father, his teenage son, and a woman. As if that weren’t tragically stupid enough, there are the comments.

“I worry about deer being the cause of problems, because sometimes even neighbors can have fights and arguments over a deer,” he said.

Call me crazy, but I don’t think it was the deer out there killing people left and right. If these were deer photographers all we’d have is a bunch of bad photographs of angry people, and maybe someone would have a black eye. A hobby that puts you out in the woods with a gun among people who like to shoot at things carries some risks that are obvious to me.

Hunters are just regular people, just like you and me. Just like the people you encounter at your favorite professional sporting event. Imagine yourself at a Pacers-Pistons game, for example. Would you want to be in the woods with all those people… armed? I leave it to you.

I wear blaze orange when I geocache in the woods to distinguish myself from the game. In the case of these folks, their blaze orange became the perfect target, I imagine. Senseless.

To be fair to hunting, 5 people killed is a very unusual hunting story. And I’m told (and I’m inclined to believe it) that the responsible hunters far outnumber the irresponsible and nutzoid variety. However, judging by the stories of people I know who live near hunting areas and my experience wandering through, (stray bullets, shot up signs, beer bottles) that latter, fully-armed category are a subject for close observation by Stupidity Watch.

Posted by James at 8:48 AM | Comments (5)

MBD: Weekend

Monday brain dump: The Weekend.

A generally blah weekend. There was a bright point, however, as Julie visited with cole slaw to complement the bbq-flavor pulled pork I am trying to perfect in the slow cooker. The pork sandwiches were a success.

I will be a master of the slow cooker. It is just a matter of time.

We all watched Elf afterwards, marred only by discovering my daughter had been inexplicably bitten by a tick. She’d been outside at a birthday party, but it is ironic that after a summer and fall of geocaching in which we had no insect problems, she’s bitten in someone’s back yard in the latter part of November. The tick was removed after a bit of an ordeal, but the daughter is fine.

Posted by James at 8:40 AM

November 21, 2004

Oh, And

House and Senate negotiators have tucked a potentially far-reaching anti-abortion provision into a $388 billion must-pass spending bill, complicating plans for Congress to wrap up its business and adjourn for the year.

The provision may be an early indication of the growing political muscle of social conservatives who provided crucial support for Republican candidates, including President Bush, in the election.

We lost the election. Does it mean we’ve given up? Come on, people. This crap is getting ridiculous.

Posted by James at 1:45 PM

Oops - Did We Really Pass That?

I have very little analysis of this story, I just wanted to call attention to it.

Congress debated legislation Saturday giving two committee chairman and their assistants access to income tax returns without regard to privacy protections, but not before red-faced Republicans said it was all a mistake and would be swiftly repealed.

In other words, opening the door to the misuse of tax documents in the pursuit of one’s political enemies.

Libertarians, enjoy. Big government conservatism is here to stay, and it “likes to watch.”

The Republicans who snuck this into the tax bill at the last minute are saying it was some sort of mistake. Perhaps the mistake is that someone noticed it.

Some Democrats didn’t accept the assertion that the provision was a mistake and demanded an investigation.

“We weren’t born yesterday, we didn’t come down with the first snow,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. “This isn’t poorly thought out, this was very deliberately thought out and it was done in the dead of night.”

I’m with her. How does something like this get written and inserted by mistake? Laws do not write themselves.

Young and Stevens have pledged not to take advantage of this new ability to peek into the financial undergarments of the American people. Of course, there will be new chairs in January as a result of the election.

Posted by James at 12:55 PM

November 19, 2004

Oh Yeah, I Killed Dad

Bizarre story coming out of Sommerville, MA.

mother’s deathbed confession led police on Thursday to a dead body in a storage locker freezer, and officials said the corpse may be that of the woman’s husband whom she murdered more than a decade ago.

The woman apparently told her children as she was dying that their father had not died in a car crash as they thought but that she had in fact killed him and that his body was in a rental storage facility in Somerville, Massachusetts

Ryan and I are really wondering about the details here. The woman has since died, but how did she cover up her husband’s death? I’m guessing it wasn’t a close family, he had no one waiting for him and she just told people that the guy had hit the road. When she later told them of the supposed car crash, it was either past the time that they would have had a funeral or the children weren’t interested in attending. So law enforcement was never alerted to this guy’s disappearance.

It’s the sort of gruesome thing you hear about in elaborate murder mysteries.

Posted by James at 12:51 PM | Comments (1)

Chronicles of Shotgun

Girlfriend's LapThe weekly post of sundry links.

  • Shotgun Guide (Rules)
    • “Ever have the problem of catching a ride with someone whose car doesn’t have much of a back seat? At times like these, it is important to know the rules of calling shotgun. Never again will you let someone take advantage of you because you don’t know the rules.”
    • The rules to the everpresent phenomenon of calling “SHOTGUN!” for the all-important shotgun seat.
    • Example: ” One is allowed to ride shotgun as many times as he can call it, but for himself only. No one can call shotgun for their slower friend, unless the friend has a speech or mental handicap that prevents them from calling it for themselves.”
    • Also: “In the instance that the normal driver of a vehicle is drunk or otherwise unable to perform their duties as driver, then he/she is automatically given Shotgun.” News you can use.
  • Reviews of Chastity Belts (?)
    • OK, what? These are equal-opportunity belts, both sexes. Not safe for work, unless you’re Rick Santorum.
  • While You Were Away (Pranks)
    • Worried about what to get your co-workers this holiday season? Here are a few ideas to get you started.
  • Need A Bigger Truck (Oops!)
    • A story told in pictures of what happens when your truck is too small. via JimC.
  • Girlfriend’s Lap (Toys/Accessories)
    • It’s a foam pillow shaped into the comfy form of a woman’s miniskirt-clad lap. The link is to a review of the product in TechJapan. I was completely weirded out (StrongBad voice) by this yesterday.
    • “Just looking at this “Lap Pillow” made my heart race, but touching it made my heart race even faster. The sensation of softly sticking to the skin-like texture…the polyester tight skirt. It’s real.”
    • Newsflash: It’s not real. It’s a goddamn pillow.
  • World Wind 1.2 (Earth Imaging)
    • ” World Wind allows any user to zoom from satellite altitude into any place on Earth, leveraging high resolution LandSat imagery and SRTM elevation data to experience Earth in visually rich 3D, just as if they were really there.”
    • I haven’t had a chance to try this out yet, but it’s right up my alley, with possible applications for geocaching.Found via Vowel Movement.
  • Remote Hunting (Stupid)
    • Attaching guns to webcams? What an incredibly stupid idea you’ve discovered! Next up: sharks with laser beams.
  • iBitch (Short Film)
    • Short film about the sad state of future virtual girlfriends. Somehow, this made me think of that girlfriend’s lap pillow. Not really all that safe for work, because of the, er, “equipment” near the end of the film.
  • Ian’s Shoelace Site (Knots)
    • All about shoelaces, lacing and knots. Find out why your shoelaces are coming undone. Also, repair your aglets! Be a frugal yankee and head off the fray. Also found via Vowel Movement.
  • RegEx Reference Sheet (Tech Reference)
    • I have a bad memory. I like to have a reference sheet for writing regular expressions. This one is short and to the point.
  • Shamings (Prank)
    • It’s not safe to get drunk and pass out. Your picture might show up here.
    • Lives up to its tagline: “It was the worst we could do.”
  • Plime (Game)
    • It’s a riddle of some kind.
  • ABC News Covers The Discovery of the Orgasmatron - (News)
    • I had to check the URL twice. Device for pain management stumbles upon pleasant side effect.
  • Cutethulhu (Animation)
    • Movie about a cute plush toy. Brief detour to Providence’s Swan Point Cemetery.
  • (Questions)
    • A site fill of questions, quizzes, jokes and the like. Rate them, answer them, etc.
  • Canadian MP Assailed for Anti-Bush Stunt (News)
    • “Renegade Liberal MP Carolyn Parrish has once again enraged members of the opposition and her own caucus after tossing a George W. Bush doll on the floor and grinding it under her heel on a satirical television show.”
    • Sent by Rui.
  • Turkey Dinner Bush Doll (playthings)
    • “The President’s surprise 2003 Thanksgiving Day visit to the U.S. troops in Iraq has inspired Talking Presidents to create a new action figure, Turkey Dinner Bush.”
    • It’s Great Moments In History time.
Posted by James at 8:10 AM | Comments (10)

November 18, 2004

Dear Person

You might know who you are. You said or thought that I wasn’t taking the situation seriously. I told you I was, and it was the truth. What I didn’t say at the time was that I don’t take you seriously.

Just to clear that up.

Posted by James at 11:20 AM | Comments (3)

Cake and Aspergers

Saw this story being discussed on a web board:

Poison cake sickens students

Two 13-year-old seventh-grade girls from Cobb County, Ga., were held on assault charges Wednesday after being accused of serving poisoned cake to about a dozen students who later became ill and went to a hospital.

It’s upsetting (and hard to imagine why) that these girls would do such a thing. But here’s what bothers me, personally, about the story. The father mentions that one of the girls has Aspergers. We don’t know anything else about the situation of these girls except that one has Aspergers. The press is choosing to report that as if it is significant detail, but there is no indication it is significant at all. I wouldn’t be surprised if some people come away from the story thinking that Aspergers makes someone likely to poison people.

I feel it necessary to point out that people with Aspergers tend to be gullible. It is quite possible that the girl who suffers from it was succumbing to peer pressure, if Aspergers played any part in this incident at all. It’s not an excuse (neither is Aspergers) but in lieu of decent reporting we are left to wonder why it is implied that Aspergers is worthy of reporting.

So, I fully expect the opinions of ignorant people to begin flooding in, telling us what Aspergers is without ever having met someone with the syndrome. But I suppose the many-eyed beast needs to be fed.

Posted by James at 10:40 AM | Comments (31)

November 17, 2004

Bidding war for 'Virgin Mary sandwich'

A decade-old grilled cheese sandwich bearing what could be the image of the Virgin Mary is garnering intense interest on an internet auction site.

The sandwich went up for sale on eBay last week, drawing bids of as much as $22,000 US before the auction site pulled the item down on Sunday. Nearly 100,000 page views had been recorded before the auction was ended.

This is great! It’s a sandwich with the mother of God on it. No matter what your beliefs are, you have to acknowledge that a meal in the shape of such holiness is both a tasty snack and wholesome, too!

In honor of this, let’s have another “Top N Listmania.”

In the comments, post your “Top N Strange Places for Familiar Faces.”

Posted by James at 3:34 PM | Comments (12)

The Top N Reasons it was time for John Ashcroft to go

Results from last week’s “Top N” question.

The Top N Reasons it was time for John Ashcroft to go

  1. Because the Justice Department kitchen ran out of Crisco
  2. Leaving is the only way for him to stop those impure thoughts about the Bush twins.
  3. He couldn’t stop fondling the Boobs of Justice. (It was the statue of Justice that was upsetting him, right?)
  4. Retiring to get that bulging right eye problem fixed once and for all.
  5. No more bibles left to thump in continental United States
  6. Taking sabbatical to investigate reports of offensive sculptures in Florence, Italy
  7. God told him “Nice job. The war on terror has ended.”
  8. Ashcroft was frightened off by an Anthrax letter
  9. Asscroft was worried the Supreme Court would find him unconstitutional.
  10. He had to leave Washington because he couldn’t stand seeing the offensively phallic Washington Monument every day, and he couldn’t find a blue curtain big enough to cover it.
  11. He discovered so many books he wanted to read, while purusing everyone’s library records, that he had to retire to have enough time to read them all.
  12. God called him, but his secretary picked up the phone and said that he was in a meeting and couldn’t be disturbed, and God got annoyed and fired him and told him to go home.
Posted by James at 2:59 PM

November 16, 2004


This story makes my head a-splode.

A long-running American cultural clash has flared yet again, with a trial in suburban Atlanta this month over teaching evolution in public schools. Several Georgia parents are challenging a local school board’s decision to require biology textbooks to include a prominently placed label stating that evolution is ”not a fact.”

Look, people. I don’t want to get into a whole long diatribe here. So I’ll put it plainly. In a science class, you teach accepted science. Evolution is accepted science. No matter what your religion might say, it’s miles away from controversial or cutting edge. It’s boring, established, well-supported, peer-reviewed science, as much fact as everything else in your science textbook. There is no scientific reason to put any sort of a sticker differentiating evolution from other parts of the science textbook.

There may be a religious reason, but science class is not the place for that.

Your public school science class is a place to teach established science. Not nonscience (so-called Intelligent Design). Not pseudo science. School is not an appropriate battleground for new science (never mind ideologically-driven fringe ideas). The evolution science taught there is not new, nor is is it at all controversial in the scientific community. The place for these battles to be fought is among the scientists doing the research and writing the journal articles.

You want to teach about creation in a religion class? Knock yourself out. I think that’s great. But I don’t want mixed messages sent in science class any more than I would want a religion class interrupted by an explanation that turning water into wine is physically impossible, or a sticker on the Bible warning that the events in the Old Testament are not fact.

Putting the ideological cart before the scientific horse leads to ignorance and absurdity. As Voltaire warned, those who can make you believe absurdities can cause you to commit atrocities.

Posted by James at 11:31 AM | Comments (1)

Name That Movie 13

Here we go. Lucky 13.

Guess away! Second clue around lunch time.(If necessary) Who has the eagle eye today?

Third clue:

Posted by James at 9:22 AM | Comments (10)

November 15, 2004

Powell Said To Be Leaving Administration

Sources close to the administration say that Powell and three other Cabinet members have submitted their resignations from the Bush Administration.

When asked to confirm this information, queries were met with the comical, if clichéd, chirping of crickets.

Posted by James at 12:11 PM | Comments (7)

Microsoft to go on Hiring Spree

Ballmer Head BobThe economy must be improving!

In Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh.

The celebration continued with chicken vindaloo for everyone! Except for a few folks back in the states.

Said Steve Ballmer, CMB (Chief Monkey Boy), Microsoft Corporation, “I… love… this… country, Wooooooo!”

When asked to comment on yet another blow to people in the United States who like to have jobs, a Bush administration spokesman mumbled something about god and 9/11.

Posted by James at 8:19 AM | Comments (2)

Cheney's Health

CheneyDick Cheney returned from the vet yesterday amid speculation he had heartworm. Growling at reporters who inquired about his health, Cheney said “It’s a cold. [EXPLETIVE] off!” before Mary Matalin yanked firmly back on his chain.

“He’s fine,” said Matalin, who was acting as Cheney’s spokeswoman this weekend.

The vice president then bounded off to romp and play amid calls of “Good puppy” and “Isn’t he a pretty puppy.”

Posted by James at 7:54 AM | Comments (1)

November 14, 2004

Reflections of God

If god is a reflection of his followers (which is how I sometimes view him) there are times I say “Good show.”

Dear God,

Thank you for the little ones that you have trusted me. Please help me to keep them safe, help me keep them clean and free: Of violence, the filthy need of slaughter as a manly deed; Of cruel words, or thoughtless acts, or ignorant discrimination; Of living high by tearing down, belittling others’ Gods or nations; Of the mighty dollar’s bold subversion of sexuality into perversion. Let me teach them to withstand hypocrisy of my fellow man.

From The Village Gate: A letter on moral values.

It continues:

God, help me show them to accept that differences abound, whether gay or straight, boy or girl; white or yellow, black or brown. Help me teach them not to fear our difference, but to revere, the spirit in us, pure Sophia; nurturing the spark you place, finger of your gentle mind, ‘hind the poorest, beaten face. Help me show them all the good, and how to do the best they could.

Help them love the world they see; thanks again.

Did I mention I really like the Christians who run that site?

It occurs to me that if it feels bad to think your country is being pulled out from under you by misguided zealots, it probably feels worse if you think this is also the situation with your religion.

Posted by James at 11:42 PM

Evil Hobbies & Jumpy People Don't Mix

I’m getting the feeling that geocaching is the new D&D. Perhaps geocachers are on the cusp of being called a terrorist organization and plopped right smack-dab into the axis of evil.

Bomb scare turns out to be part of Internet game

Yep, this is a story about how a guy in Indiana was retrieving a geocache, someone saw him replace it, and the police were called because, naturally when you see someone place a container somewhere in Indiana, you assume it is a bomb.

We’ve been told over and over again to “report any suspicious behavior” and I think it is making people a little paranoid. To be fair toward law enforcement, they were doing their job. Once they’re called into this situation, they don’t know what’s going on. If they’re not familiar with the sport, all they know they’re dealing with is some odd behavior.

Legal, Harmless, Misunderstood

According to discussions I’ve read on geocacher forums, the guy who retrieved the cache returned to the scene (that’s how they caught him) and when he didn’t approach any closer to the gathering crowd and law enforcement, somehow they took this as a sign he was nefarious.

The guy had 4 kids under 9 years old in his car and after talking to police he offered to retrieve the cache and show them it was harmless. After talking to him they decided, instead to shoot the container to see if it would blow up.

The fellow who hid the cache had gotten permission from the land owner, but apparently the owner was not available at the time the “suspicious container” was reported. In many ways, this is just a case of people overreacting, and perhaps says something about choosing a location for a cache. There are lessons to be learned about busy areas, urban areas, informing local law enforcement about your hobby, and paranoia.


But there is another aspect of this story that bugs me at the moment. It’s the aspect where I have a hobby that is completely harmless, is in fact beneficial in a number of ways (CITOing, exercise, using and therefore valuing our natural resources, teaching about the outdoors, navigation and such). Regardless of the innocence and benefit of the activity, ignorant folks are suddenly fearful of it. And the press, eager for a sensational story, pounce.

Check out that Star Press article. I’ll highlight some quotes and give my responses.

A call came in at 2:12 p.m. saying that someone had seen an unknown person place a suspicious box

The only thing “suspicious box” serves to do is make the situation seem less silly. The box itself is not suspicious, and if it were then a description of the box would be in order. What, exactly, does a suspicious box look like? We should know so we can look out for them. No, the box wasn’t really suspicious. It was a box in an unexpected location. There is a difference.

After three nervous hours, and after a bomb squad member fired a .50-caliber round into the suspicious black box, police declared the area to be safe again.

Actually, they fired a special bomb-disrupting round designed to knock the sense out of the thing. The intent is to knock wires loose, if there are wires. And, I believe, the round also floods the thing with water.

Players can then log on, find the coordinates and go looking for the black box.

What the heck is a “black box?” Sounds more mysterious than the truth. I guess it would have made the incident sound even more silly if the game had been described thusly: “Players can then log on, find the coordinates and go looking for the tupperware container, old plastic pickle jug or small Igloo cooler.” Ooo! Creepy!

He also said players never know the real names of people stashing the boxes or even who else is playing.

I know several players who were already friends of mine, and since starting geocaching I’ve met new folks, and I know their names. I know people who use their real name as their handle. We never know the names? We never know who is playing? Sensationalism.

The description of Cook (the geocacher) comes off as very favorable. But at this point in the piece they seem to be going for “poor, misguided guy caught up in a bad activity.”

The piece ends with a great quote:

“People have to understand that I’ve been to three FBI and CIA briefings in the last two weeks, getting briefed on terrorists and terrorism,” Mahan said. “They need to find another game.”

We have to understand that, why? So we can understand the overreaction? And the final suggestion floored me. Because of unfounded paranoia and ignorance, geocachers need to find another game.

I guess we’re lucky the guy hadn’t been to two weeks of gang violence briefings. Then he would be chasing down wandering groups of suspicious-looking youths with round, high-pressure inflated projectiles.

The truth is, any activity can be subverted by terrorism. A terrorist could suicide-bomb and sporting event where people congregate in numbers. Someone could case a neighborhood by pretending to be a runner or cyclist. Heck, a guy could get dressed up in a uniform and walk right up to your house and leave a dangerous package there. Does that mean we need to get rid of the US Postal Service, UPS and FedEx?

I’ll be chalk the sheriff’s comment to having had a bad day and made to look silly, but it is unfortunate it made it into print.

Inaccurate Perception

So, the next year will probably give us an indication of whether geocachers are thought of as a shadowy group of individuals or people who like to enjoy the outdoors and solve puzzles.

D&D got a bad name that remains in the minds of some unimaginative people to this day. Or, perhaps they were overly-imaginative.

In any case, it’s clear that a combination of education about geocaching and a little less paranoia on everyone’s part is called for.

Additional Links:

Posted by James at 2:00 PM | Comments (10)

November 13, 2004

Well, It *Is* November.

Somehow, I wasn’t prepared for the snow on the ground here this morning. The weather has been getting colder, the weather report said there was a possibility of snow, Bob McCown instant messaged me to say the snow was falling to the north. My boss said the snow was coming as he left the office.

Yet, somehow, I was not ready to see a pile of snow on my driveway, complete with the snow plow leavings.

So, I guess it’s winter now.

Posted by James at 9:44 AM | Comments (11)

November 12, 2004

Space Marine Shotgun

The title of today’s shotgun is a reference to how I spent my night and most of the early morning. Playing HALO 2 with my cousin in cooperative mode. The game should be renamed “Suddenly It’s 4 In The Morning.” HALO 2 has broken entertainment records, and many a sleep schedule.

  • Virtual Toad (amusement parks, nostalgia)
    • Virtual Toad is somebody’s attempt at recreating “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” in 3D computer graphics. I assume this is so future generations can know the fun of one of my favorite defunct Disney Rides. I loved this goofy attraction when I was a kid. Like many things, it’s something I enjoyed that my kids will likely never experience.
  • F—- The South (rant, expletive-ridden)
    • This rant has been going around on the net. I post it here for a couple of reasons that I need to be honest about.
    • Firstly, though I have come to some acceptance of the recent election, I have not forgiven Bush/Cheney ‘04 for dragging out the “Massachusetts Liberal” canard. And the fact that it plays well against MA residents also continues to piss me off. So a good rant can soothe the soul when those in power and the people who voted for him are affirming that it’s OK to tar your homestate as a producer of political boogeymen. Personally, I’m not for tarring an entire region (unless truly in jest) especially since liberals in the south probably have it hard already and won’t appreciate being lumped in with those whose politics they oppose. So, I post this in jest to counter the apparently acceptable “Massachusetts Liberal” slur.
    • Note: When Steve calls me a Massachusetts Liberal, it’s not the same thing. He’s both a New Englander and a Red Sox fan. And I think he just has to repeat it so much because he’s mortified to be in agreement at all with a Massachusetts Liberal.
    • Also Note: I’ve blanked out part of the name of this link. The link contains copious profanity.
  • Dragon Illusion (arts and crafts, illusion)
    • This site offers a cutout paper sculpture that can be fashioned into a startling optical illusion. It’s little dragon that seems to turn his head to follow you as you move around. If you get it right, this illusion is not subtle at all, but very dramatic. If you don’t have time to make the model, at the very least you must view the video which illustrates the effect very well.
    • I made the model and let my kids play with it and it wasn’t long before they were quite spooked out. Fun for the whole family.
    • The main page of the website has other fun stuff, and is worth checking out if you like illusions and freaky toys.
  • Virtual Bartender (Not Work Safe, subservient)
    • Remember Subservient Chicken? Same idea, but like the beer commercials in a feminist’s nightmare. It’s got a geeky sense of humor, though. Tell her to “fight” and another bartender shows up for a quick light saber duel.
  • Cat and Rabbit (Flash, asian, music)
    • I’ve had this link up here before, but the kids love it, we were talking about it last weekend with Mike and Julie, and it’s a catchy tune.
  • Light bulbs and Bush (humor, political)
    • Brian tells us how many Bushies it takes to change a lightbulb. Put it in the “laughter is the best medicine” category.
  • Walking the walk on family Values (article, politics, society)
    • Speaking of Massachusetts Liberals (Brian is still from Massachusetts!) how do we fare on so-called family values.
    • “For all the Bible Belt talk about family values, it is the people from Kerry’s home state, along with their neighbors in the Northeast corridor, who live these values. Indeed, it is the “blue” states, led led by Massachusetts and Connecticut, that have been willing to invest more money over time to foster the reality of what it means to leave no children behind. And they have been among the nation’s leaders in promoting a living wage as their goal in public employment. The money they have invested in their future is known more popularly as taxes;”
    • How amazingly novel. Yep—it’s the liberal agenda to encourage “family values.” But we Massachussets liberals just call it everyday life. But is this surprising at all? People who have something often take it for granted as simply a part of their life. People who don’t have it turn it into a rallying cry.
    • Meanwhile, Patti informs me that Falwell is resurrecting the Moral Majority. Oh, for chrissakes.
  • Drunken, Naked Brit Estonia Invasion (bizarre)
    • This story was too weird not to log.
  • Fringe Science Hijackers (informative, pseudo science)
    • Quack researchers try to convince women that abortions will give them breast cancer. Here’s why the media is no help against these buffoons.
  • Filter You Own Cheap Vodka (alcohol)
    • This works? OK, you have my attention. Cousin RJS, we have to try this.
  • Lawnmower (video)
    • You will believe a lawnmower can fly. Really.

OK. I’m spent.

Posted by James at 10:12 AM | Comments (15)

November 11, 2004

Further on the Traffic Mess

Here’s a better story on the reckless car thief who caused so many people grief yesterday on I-195.

The Herald News reports how Elvis Rodriguez went loopy after trying to steal a car from a park and ride in Somerset.

Smith said the situation began to develop just after 3 p.m. when Rodriguez, who was released from the Bristol County House of Correction in early October after serving time for “numerous traffic offenses, drugs and larceny,” was attempting to steal a car from the Park and Ride on Route 103.

The suspect had the hood of the car open and was trying to hot-wire the vehicle when its owner approached him. At that point, Smith said, Rodriguez pulled a screwdriver on the man and threatened to kill him.

Apparently, this is a “go with your strengths” situation. Unfortunately, getting away was not one of the strengths.

What follows is a cross between GTA3 and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.

Around 3:30 p.m., Smith said Somerset police began receiving numerous 911 calls and responded to the area.

A passerby told Patrolman Lance Mello that Rodriguez had headed south on Brayton Point Road. Mello went down the road and turned east onto O’Neil Road, looking for the suspect.

Rodriguez then entered O’Neil Road at high speed, almost striking Mello’s cruiser, as he drove onto a sidewalk and headed west.

As the suspect went west on O’Neil Road, Patrolman Jared Linhares was approaching from the east when Rodriguez swerved into his lane.

Linhares and Mello turned around and chased Rodriguez north on Brayton Point Road, east on Route 103 to the rotary at Riverside Avenue, south on Riverside Avenue, west on Alden Place and back onto Route 103 west.

On Route 103 west, Rodriguez, crossed over the eastbound lane and drove down the I-195 west off-ramp.

Linhares and Mello followed Rodriguez down the ramp and watched him cross three lanes of traffic, heading east in the westbound high speed lane, Smith said.

“They felt helpless at that point, because something was bound to happen,” Smith said.

Once the suspect entered I-195 west, Smith said the police officers temporarily called off their pursuit, but then went onto the highway after hearing a crash.

I spent around 2 hours on the road, with a few thousand other people because this guy didn’t know when he was in a losing situation. After reading the chase description, I made a map of his trip.

It appears he was trying to get back to Fall River, but was not familiar with the area. Either that, or he thought he could hide in the side streets near the river. But once you’ve gone back there, there’s nowhere else to go—no back door. So he had already lost. He was lucky enough to get by the cruiser when he got back onto Brayton Point Road, but when he drove up toward the Brightman Street Bridge, he must have seen the traffic up there and realized there was no way he’d make it. So he passed through the Brayton Point Road intersection 3 times, the last time when he ironically finally found access to the highway right near where he started, but in the wrong direction.

It’s lucky no one was killed. The worst it meant to me was that hours were wasted on a night I had plans with my wife, and I ended up smelling like diesel fuel. I hope the woman they took away on a stretcher is OK.

Posted by James at 10:53 AM | Comments (4)

Somerset Offset

My first geocache hide:

Somerset Offset
N 41° 45.088 W 071° 08.209

“Offset” refers to the fact that this cache is an “offset cache.” An offset cash a type of “multi-cache” where the coordinates don’t lead you directly to the cache. You arrive at the coordinates and then solve some sort of puzzle that reveals the location of the cache. In this case, the puzzle will give you the cache’s actual coordinates. Mine is a very simple puzzle. You fill in some digits in the cache coordinates by answering a few questions about the name son a war memorial.

When I was mulling over my first cache hide, Chuck had suggested that I use a place that meant something to me. It’s a good suggestion for a number of reasons. Not the least of all is that you will need to return to the location frequently to check on the status of the cache. Once you leave a cache you are its steward, and to keep the game going you have to manage the caches that you leave.

I have planned out about 3 caches, but I made this one my first because it is in the town where I grew up and involves sites I have visited many times. Also, these waypoints will bring people to a memorial that deserves to be seen, and then to a location that is at least a decent spot to visit. I could leave a number of caches in pretty ugly spots. I’d rather start out with places that have a view, or something worth looking at.

If you’re a geocacher in southeastern Massachusetts, have at it!

Posted by James at 10:19 AM | Comments (2)

November 10, 2004

Traffic Hell

The westbound lane of the Braga Bridge has been closed to traffic after an accident occurred following a high speed police chase.
The accident happened in Somerset.
According to WJAR Channel 10 news police gave chase to a car which was heading the wrong way on Interstate 195 when the accident occurred.
Drivers can expect major delays on both the eastbound and westbound lanes of I-195.

I just spent hours in that mess. Apparently some bozo was playing Grand Theft Auto 3: SouthCoast for real. Multiple crashes, erratic driving, severe vehicle damage, high speed chase, and driving the wrong way on an interstate.

More info (but not much) in the Projo.

Posted by James at 8:35 PM | Comments (2)

November 9, 2004

Don't F*** With The Calico

Ashcroft LetterIn a startling defeat, John Ashcroft has given in to the evil of the calico cats1 and resigned from his post as Attorney General. No word as to whether he was booted so that a dead guy could take the post instead.

We at Aces Full of links will be missing John in the next 4 years of the bush administration. His replacement will surely be less interesting, if not less conservative. Ashcroft’s handwritten letter (you can’t trust the Justice Department computers, apparently) tells us that securing the nation’s safety has been achieved! It’s a done deal! Better still, corporate integrity has been restored! No pesky worries about corporate fraud due to the caped crusaders of the corporate Fraud Task Force.

The fellow whose agenda implied he was more interested in pornography than terrorism says:

Americans have been spared the violence and savaging of terrorist attack on our soil since September 11, 2001.

Terrorism since 9/11… terrorism since 9/11… Hey, whatever did happen with that Anthrax terrorist guy? Not terroristy enough?

I’m kicking off a new “feature” on the blog called “Top N Listmania.” A little bit of community humor. I propose a subject and we all post our top (humorous) items to be placed on the list. In other words, a collaborative top 10 list a-la-David Letterman, but not limited to 10 items.

This installment: The Top N Reasons it was time for John Ashcroft to go

Your submissions, please, in the comments. The list itself will be enshrined it its own post in a few days. Have at it.

1 Ashcroft denies he considers calico cats to be agents of the devil. But after the original story hit the news, isn’t this just what a crafty Attorney General would do to confound the forces of darkness. You know it is.

Posted by James at 10:58 PM | Comments (9)

Name That Movie 12

NTM12 Clue 1

Guess what?

NTM12 Clue 2

Because there is so much good guessing, I’m putting all the images up. So here is the third:

NTM12 Clue 3

Posted by James at 10:18 AM | Comments (22)

November 8, 2004


I think enough time has passed that I can now look at the election somewhat objectively, offering a reasoned analysis of why Kerry lost. There has been a lot of over simplification in the election analysis. For instance, some have adopted the silly notion that the Christian right took the election by force of numbers. To oversimplify the election that way is completely wrong-headed. I prefer a different over-simplification.

Clearly, that first debate was the turning point of the election, and people were reacting in two very different ways. The split is right down the line.

Nearly half the country were dissatisfied by Bush’s performance and decided to vote against him.

The other half were voting for the scary tall man to stop making the monkey sad.

That the vote went the way it did is encouraging for the nation, because it shows the depth of compassion we, as Americans, feel. For how can a society be judged if not by how it treats its monkeys?

Posted by James at 7:01 PM | Comments (2)

Celestia - Space Simulator

File it under “Why didn’t I hear about this before?” There’s a free space simulator (open source, of course) called Celestia. It runs on a number of modern operating systems, including MacOS and Windows. It allows you to basically fly around the known universe, orbit and track various celestial objects.

For example, you can hover over the surface of Io and peek at Jupiter. Then you can turn back and look at how far away the Sun appears from out there. You may then choose to zoom toward the Sun and turn on orbit tracks, and check out the plane of the planets.

When you get bored with Celestia’s built-in objects, you can download extensions. And if you get bored with the real world, you will notice that some of the extensions are for things like the planets Vulcan and Bajor, a Star Destroyer, the Discovery spacecraft from 2001, and the Babylon 5 space station. That’s what you get when you have an open-source project. The geek movie wars played out on an open range.

But luckily, space is enormous. And that’s one thing this softward definitely drives home. When you’re zooming out from the Hubble spacecraft, you notice that the Earth barely changes in size before the Hubble completely disappears. Same thing with other moons satellites. There are a lot of large objects out there with a lot of emptyness in between, and a lot of perspective.

Posted by James at 11:59 AM

November 5, 2004

Voice of the Shotgun

  • (Didn’t Know I Was) UnAmerican (Mp3, Video)
    • A pleasant little song about your freedom of speech and what you believe.
    • From Mike’s links.
  • Florida State Electronic Voting System (Short Movie)
    • Was going to post this before the election, but the links weren’t stable. They’re better now and it’s still as funny as it was before. Well, maybe a little less funny. Thanks to Chuck and Rui for bringing this to my attention.
  • Cryo Mouse (DIY)
    • Best mouse mod. Eva.
  • Course On How To Throw Cards (Skillz)
    • You’ve got 4 years to kill. Why not learn to throw playing cards?
  • Tiki Tissues (Shopping)
    • I never realized Target had a sense of humor. This proves they do.
  • (Apology)
    • Speaks for itself.
  • New Map of North America (Bitterness)
    • This has been going around the ‘net. I think it oversimplifies, and “Jesusland” is somewhat inflammatory but I admit to finding it damn funny when I first saw it. So I share it with you.
    • Sent to me by lots of people.
  • Gravity (Game)
    • Simple, fun little game where you try to defeat gravity for a certain amount of time. Try to get your little object to orbit the gravity sources as long as you can. Each round increases the number of gravity sources. Reminds me of a program Chuck and I used to fool around with in college.
  • Slapper (Game)
    • Almost as fun on the computer as it is in real life. Try to beat the computer with your reflexes. Slap the hand!
  • The Big Lebowski Random Quote Generator
    • “You’re entering a world of pain.”
  • Post-Election Daily Show Clips (Short Film)
    • You need a laugh.
  • Freeper Reactions to Elizabeth Edwards’ Cancer (Collected by Oliver Willis) (appalling)
    • “God is not mocked, you reap what you sow. I’m sorry folks but we all have to learn that you cannot go around spewing hatred and leave the door wide open to satan.”
    • On second thought, don’t follow that link.
Posted by James at 11:46 AM | Comments (8)


The New York Times: The Day the Enlightenment Went Out

America, the first real democracy in history, was a product of Enlightenment values - critical intelligence, tolerance, respect for evidence, a regard for the secular sciences. Though the founders differed on many things, they shared these values of what was then modernity. They addressed “a candid world,” as they wrote in the Declaration of Independence, out of “a decent respect for the opinions of mankind.” Respect for evidence seems not to pertain any more, when a poll taken just before the elections showed that 75 percent of Mr. Bush’s supporters believe Iraq either worked closely with Al Qaeda or was directly involved in the attacks of 9/11.

The secular states of modern Europe do not understand the fundamentalism of the American electorate. It is not what they had experienced from this country in the past. In fact, we now resemble those nations less than we do our putative enemies.

Where else do we find fundamentalist zeal, a rage at secularity, religious intolerance, fear of and hatred for modernity? Not in France or Britain or Germany or Italy or Spain. We find it in the Muslim world, in Al Qaeda, in Saddam Hussein’s Sunni loyalists. Americans wonder that the rest of the world thinks us so dangerous, so single-minded, so impervious to international appeals. They fear jihad, no matter whose zeal is being expressed.

Sent to me by the Brights. You know, those people who wanted to organize folks who believe there is such a thing as “secular values” against the rising tide that Bush surfed in on this week. But their name leaves a bad taste in our mouth. So, whatever.

Shotgun post will be late today.

Posted by James at 10:18 AM | Comments (10)

November 4, 2004

Wisdom From Albert

Albert!I just thought I’d toss some Albert Einstein quotes. He was a smart guy, and some of his quotes apply today. The quotes are his, the context is mine.

On the subject of people voting for more of the same:

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

On whether we ought to give up:

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”

Posted by James at 9:10 AM | Comments (7)

Name That Movie 11

Name That Movie 11 - Image 1

Guess Away!

Name That Movie 11 - Image 2

Name That Movie 11 - Image 3

Posted by James at 8:53 AM | Comments (18)

November 3, 2004

Religion Laid Bear

A priest, a Baptist minister and a rabbi were having a little friendly wager about which of them was the best at preaching to the unchurched. They agreed among themselves that anybody can preach to a human being, but if you’re really good you ought to be able to go out and win yourself a bear as a convert. So they all went out in the woods and a week later they came back to compare notes.

The priest went first, and he had a bunch of scratches and bruises and bandages to show. He told the others, “I found myself a bear and tried to baptize him, but he started to slap me around, so I wrestled him to the ground, and sprinkled holy water on him. Once I did that, he was gentle as a lamb.”

The Baptist minister, who was on crutches with a broken leg and a few missing teeth, also said he had found a bear to convert, “but I can’t just sprinkle him, I gotta dunk him to baptize, and the bear didn’t want to be dunked. So I rassled him and we managed to roll down a hill into the river, and I grabbed him and dunked him, and once he was baptized, that bear started to study the scriptures with me.”

The poor rabbi looked up from his hospital bed. He was in a full body cast and a head wrap with black eyes and a broken nose, one arm and one leg in traction. He weakly said, “Teaching the Torah was easy, but oy! You ever try to circumcise a bear?”

Posted by James at 10:49 PM

My First Real Laugh Today

Q: What’s the difference between the Vietnam War and the Iraq War?

A: George W. Bush had a plan to get out of the Vietnam War.

Thanks, Yeti.

Posted by James at 2:07 PM | Comments (2)


So, what now?

As a vehicle for change, the electoral process has failed us.

We love our country. We believe it’s going in the wrong direction. But we apparently weren’t able to convince a majority of people that Kerry could do better. At the moment it is not clear to me why that is so. But with record turnouts it is clear that people on both sides wanted their voices heard. It means that there was remarkable interest in the election and it also means that record numbers of people did not want this president re-elected.

So, what now? Get angry, depressed, and swear off politics? Withdraw, move away, abandon what we believe in?

I hope not. I hope we don’t avail ourselves of the opportunity to wallow in a post-election funk for more than a very brief time. Apart from some last minute counting that I am not involved in (I’m not hopeful, but it needs to be done for closure) the election is over. But we go on. And we have to find a way to be effective in its wake. We have to find a way to communicate better.

Or we could give up. But that would just suck. For my part, I’m going to go for a run with my wife in the cold New England air. Today is like yesterday, but without the hope. But so what? We’ll find new hope somewhere else in America.

Posted by James at 9:12 AM | Comments (29)

So, How'd It Go?


Posted by James at 4:07 AM | Comments (16)

November 2, 2004

Frog Election

My daughters attended the polls with my wife this morning.

So impressed were they with the process, and so important do they hold this election that they have decided our two frogs want to vote. They’ve declared that the fake log where the frogs hide is their polling place.

Because of this, they are picketing the polling place (the frog tank) with pro-Kerry slogans. My daughters want to make sure the frogs pull the correct lever. Don’t worry that they’re unfairly exposed to only pro-Kerry messages. The frogs made their opinion clear during the debates. They seemed agitated whenever the president screeched.

Posted by James at 4:03 PM

By the way.

Name That Movie will be tomorrow. Today is the election. And cake.

Posted by James at 12:46 PM | Comments (1)

Election Day

Election CakeI got to the polling place a little late this morning, past 10:00. We vote at the local library, and when I arrived the place was buzzing.

I joined the short line at the polls. The young girl in front of me was having trouble, apparently because she had recently moved. Her name wasn’t on the list and she was referred to someone in charge.

I chatted with the one of my neighbors, a nice lady who always works at the polls. She complimented me on my daughters—we’d just seen her on Halloween for trick or treating. They checked my name, I got my ballot, and I went to the booth.

I voted, and then I noticed a ballot question I was unaware of. There weren’t any state questions, so this took me by surprise. It was about joint custody in divorce cases. Maggie called me on my cell just as I was voting, and I had to put her on hold as I completed the process.

I took my ballot to the machine that collects them, and in it went. I’d voted! I stepped outside for a brief conversation with Maggie as a wonderful feeling washed over me. When I returned to the library, I bought a cake from the Friends of the Library organization with a big goofy grin on my face. The cake would help celebrate election day back at the office.

It occurred to me that I felt something pretty strong in voting. I did my part, perhaps the least part, but an important part in this process of setting the course of this nation of ours. I’m not a senator, nor a representative, nor a lobbyist, nor a huge campaign contributor. But I can participate—I can cast my vote. No one else can cast it for me.

Perhaps it’s from having been a Catholic, but the polls almost had an element of the unburdening that comes with giving a confession at church. How appropriate, a place I for which I have reverence, the library, is the place we go to cast our vote. It’s the place we go to release our vote into the world where it will lend itself to the cause of democracy.

I don’t know why anyone doesn’t vote. We’re getting together in one cathartic moment. It’s a feeling of power, and of pride in our system.

As I left the polls, I looked around at my small New England town doing it’s New England things. All the people I’m used to seeing, the fall foliage, and the crisp air. These are things I love about the area. And we love our voting. I’ve said before that I consider the autumn to be even more a time of renewal than the spring time. Even more so when we have a chance for renewing our government in election. We renew our faith in the system, and renew our voices—reminding government that it is us.

I’m not liveblogging the election, but I will be blogging pretty much as usual as I work.

Steve and Chuck are going to be liveblogging, however. And Steve is doing so for the Jimmy Fund.

Posted by James at 11:42 AM | Comments (8)


The polls are already open in most of the country. Get the heck out and vote, wherever you are.

You might hear or read of some voter suppression efforts by the Republican Party on behalf of Bush. DON’T PAY ATTENTION, JUST GO AND VOTE.

If you stay home, the thugs have already won, no matter who takes the election. By showing up to vote, you affirm your desire for this country to remain one where the people have a voice. You will win a personal victory, at the very least. You will participate in revolution without firing a shot.

They hope you will lose heart. Don’t. People have died for the right to vote. You will prevail over some lowlife Republican operative. In many areas there will be people at the polls to help protect your right to vote. But they can’t help you if you’re home—you have to go.

Americans: you live in one of the greatest countries in the world. But you may think to yourself “big money and powerful interests are so arrayed against me, what’s the point.” Look at all the talk over the last 2 years about the popular vote. People are watching. The world is watching. No matter what state you are in, your vote will count. Why? Voting for Kerry in a blue state will help to legitimize his presidency by showing more general support. So if you think your Kerry vote doesn’t count because you’re in a blue state, think again. Every vote is needed.

So get off your bottom and get out there!

I know I’m preaching to the converted. But on the off chance that I reached one person, thank you for listening.

But it’s already clear that the people of Florida - and, I believe, America as a whole - have refused to give in to cynicism and spin.

Far from being discouraged by what happened in 2000, they seem to realize more than ever - and better than those of us in the chattering classes - what a precious thing the right to vote really is. And they are determined to exercise that right.

And it’s not just in Florida. Similar stories are coming in from across the country, wherever early voting is allowed: everywhere, huge numbers of voters are coming to the polls, determined to exercise their democratic rights.

I hope you are right, Paul Krugman, because we need to feel the next president has won a decisive victory. Whomever wins, it will be better for all of us if it happens with either a large margin of votes or simply an unprecedented voter turnout. Both would be nice.

(Thanks, Greg for pointing me to this Op-Ed.

Posted by James at 1:55 AM | Comments (3)

Two Very Different Visions

ABC has an investigative story on Bush and Kerry campaign rallies.

The point of the investigation was simple. Wear an opposing T-shirt and try to get into a Bush or Kerry rally. Or, get into the rally and then put on the T-shirt. The ABC producers who were involved got legitimate tickets and acted courteously. In this way they could observe the campaign’s reactions to the T-shirts alone.

What follows is interesting.

Different Approaches

Both campaigns clearly did not want the media to focus on these opposition representatives at their rally. However, The two campaigns had very different approaches to handling the situation.

At the Kerry rally, the people were surrounded by Kerry signs to shield them from the cameras, and they were told that they could be ejected if they caused trouble (but they were actually welcome to stay).

At the Bush rally, they were not tolerated at all. They were ejected, and law enforcement was involved. Read the story (it;s not long) for the complete details.


For me it comes down to this. For the Kerry campaign:

And at Kerry’s Boca Raton rally, one of the faithful Democrats could be seen calming a woman upset at the sight of the Bush-Cheney T-shirts.

“Feel proud that we let them in,” he said. “That’s what democracy is all about, that’s what we’re fighting for.”

For the Bush campaign:

“Hey folks, it’s a private event,” he said. “Can you find your way to the nearest exit? Maybe some law enforcement can help?”

Campaigns are often thought of as a good test for a candidate because they are, in a number of ways, a microcosmic version of running the country. Larger themes are played out in small during the campaign. Day to day crises are handled, problems solved, money spent… it’s a harrowing endeavor and a crucible that helps us determine whether a candidate is qualified for the job.

During this stressful times, elements of an administration’s true nature is revealed. This exclusion is a leitmotif of the Bush administration. This is the America you’re voting for when you’re voting for Bush. Throw in the dirty tricks that the Republicans are unleashing on the desperate hours (“Gay Marriage” push polling in Michigan, An attempt to cause a hoax endorsement scandal with Gen. Schwarzkopf in the final 48 hours..) shows a party on its way to losing something larger than the election. The party is losing its soul, if it hasn’t lost the damn thing already.


By soul, I mean its basic connection on a core level with American values. Personal freedom, responsibility to the truth… hell, good sportsmanship even.

Don’t vote for that America. I don’t care what you think you agree with them on. If the core is rotten, none of the other stuff matters. If you can’t tolerate disagreement, how can you hope to make any friends? If you feel it’s so important to win that you resort to the sort of low tactics Rove is known for, what is it that you’ve won, really? The golden egg of power, sure, but you kill the goose for it. Eventually, in its place will be, not a goose, but some foul creature that you’ll neither recognize nor want to keep company with.


I’ve learned a lot from this election season. No matter the outcome later today (or whenever this is all settled) I will have learned something valuable. I learned it as I made lamented the presidency of Bush out of my frustration with the man. I learned it as I struck out at what I saw as his mistakes and his manipulations.

I learned something about my nature, my reactions, how I communicate with people. This weblog was a part of that. I am still trying to understand what I’m learning about myself, and maybe I’ll write something long and boring about it sometime. But for now, I’ll leave you with this:

One campaign surrounds its candidate with the faithful and makes them swear an oath.1 One can speculate why, but we know from other contexts that the candidate is willingly shielded from critical opinions. They have built around him a warped version of reality. Within a warped reality you cannot seek to convince others (you don’t need to—everyone agrees with you). Those who disagree are not potential converts, they are outsiders.

Another candidate lets people into his rallies and hopes they will change their minds

Which America do you want to live in? The one that survives by embracing and extending, or the one that contracts into a hard, jingoistic core, tossing off anyone who doesn’t take the oath until it must operate as if it is under siege? And do we have a responsibility to be like one or the other vision for our own part? As Mahatma Gahndi said “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

(Thanks to TalkingPointsMemo for bringing this story to my attention)

1 Jesus Himself said, “But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Matthew 5:34-37). (Bible Tools: “Should a Christian Swear an Oath (Matthew 5:33)?”)

Posted by James at 12:50 AM

November 1, 2004

My Prediction

Steve wants us to make predictions.

I hate making predictions, and I hate justifying them. But I’ll do it to be a good sport.

Kerry will win the election in a reasonably decisive victory, but there will be no Democratic shakeup of congress. I will not gloat, but I will celebrate.

Why will Kerry win? New voters. There is a good reason why Rove and Co. are scared into loose bowel territory by get out the vote efforts, and there is a reason that surrogates have been spreading the ridiculous illegal vote meme (“Democrats want every vote to count, not every legal vote!!!”). I never get tired of hearing that one on AM radio, despite the fact you never hear anyone arguing for the counting of illegal votes.

So, get out there and vote tomorrow.

Posted by James at 11:27 AM | Comments (2)


I’ll try to make this brief. I endorse Kerry for president.

The reasons are numerous and are written all through the history of this weblog. But, in brief, Bush is neither what he said he would be, nor is he competent to remain president.

In 2000, many of us felt lukewarm about the choices. I didn’t like Bush from the start, but I imagined that, were he to become president, things wouldn’t change much. He said he’d work with the Democrats — and people told me he’d done that in the past. He said he’d bring the country together after a divisive campaign.

Once elected, it was as if a switch had been thrown. Bush has not shown an ability nor an interest in compromise. And in the years since he was elected we have found out that his “uniter” spiel to be a load of rubbish. Bush saw the country unite itself in the face of a terrorist threat, but he viewed it as political capital to be spent in his pursuit of a wholly separate war in Iraq which had the added detriment of diverting American resources from the actual war on terror and bringing Osama bin Laden to justice.

This expensive endeavor has required running up huge deficits as Mr. Bush’s policies have not energized the economy. Worse, instead of paying for the war, Bush paid for a tax break so that our children will be left with a legacy just so Mr. Bush could satisfy part of his base.

This administration relies on secrecy to advance its agenda which is a worrisome precedent. In fact, people on both sides of the aisle should worry about the damage of bad precedents set in the fervor of a campaign where fear of a shadowy enemy is a centerpiece. This has been the pattern of numerous disastrous leaders.

I attribute many of Mr. Bush’s failings not to malice (although he reportedly has his vengeful streak) but to incompetence. Evidence of this is his “Hulk smash” foreign policy. The road to Baghdad was immediately followed by a floundering occupation that is dragging into a quagmire. Planning, support, peace, all seem to be inconveniences. Especially when they cause political flak at home.

The incompetent often are able to focus on one thing. For this administration, the one thing is politics. Politics win out over other considerations, and that is bad for America.

These are all reasons why Bush needs to go.

John Kerry has experience in the Senate which will allow him to work with the opposition party. Bush supporters would like to claim the moral, military and patriotic high grounds. They would like to paint the opposition as not on board for the war on terror and for protecting American interests. Kerry brings with him the entire opposition—people opposed not to America, but to this administration. The same people who support Bush now ought to continue to support American under a Kerry president. As we largely share the same values and Kerry has pledged to be strong on terror, presumably their patriotism will lead them to support a president Kerry as the country is one again more or less united. After four years of insinuating a Democratic lack of patriotism it would seem like an impossible “about face” for these people to withhold support for a Democratic president once the time comes.

Kerry has led bravely in the past. Kerry has a history of rooting out corruption, fighting drug trafficking, and gathering intelligence. The man has had hands-on work that is parallel to the information war on terrorism that George W. Bush can only dream of.

John Kerry has the competence, interest, and intelligence to lead our country. He will face opposition in congress, and perhaps that will stem the feast of spending upon which the current president has engorged himself.

Kerry for president because incompetence in the Oval Office is no longer a viable option. And incompetence should not be rewarded with a second term.

Posted by James at 8:21 AM | Comments (3)