December 31, 2004

New Year Stuff

I wished people a “Happy New Year” last year and the year still turned out pretty crappy overall. Apparently I have no pull in that department. Sure, there was a lot of good this year, but many crappy things happened.

“You should be thankful for the good!” some may say.

Screw that! Wrong holiday. Thanksgiving was last month.

When do we get a holiday to admit just how many crappy things happened over the year? To focus and wallow in the sheer crappiness of existence? To spur on depression to the point where everyone is driven to drink. New Years Eve, that’s when. In the wake of the holiday devastation, people cling together at parties with loud music to drown out the voices in their head and drink copious amounts of alcohol to silence thoughts of negativity. It’s depression follwed by denial, aided by chemicals.

The next day they nurse sore heads and face the fact that nothing has changed overnight and they’ve gotten the worst possible start on the new year.

In an earlier, more naive time, I might have been judgmental about this, but not today. Let them have their fun. Time’s winged chariot and all that.

So I hesitate to wish you all a Happy New Year in traditional fashion. As I said, I have no illusions that it will make a difference. But as I type this, BriWei has already IMmed me with his Happy New Year wish and I cannot fail to return it. So, let me at least extend to you the wish that you can stave off the crappiness that seems pervasive and focus on the good. I hope your New Year is happy!

Perhaps you can stick to your resolutions. I plan to have none. But I do have a plan to try to get more organized. Stay tuned for news of that effort’s failure!

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

Last Shotgun

… of the year, that is.

  • Secrets of Firefox 1.0
    • I love Firefox, and you can too. If you’re a geek, check out these secrets.
  • Firefox Broadband Speedup
    • I haven’t tried it yet, so I can’t recommend it. If you like, take a closer look at customizing your Firefox speedups, customized to your own computer’s quirks here.
    • Mike adds some detail on these tweaks, which may cause Firefox to run worse in some cases. So, know your tweaks.
  • Beginner’s Guide to Firefox
    • If you aren’t using the Firefox browser, you probably should be. Take a look at the beginner’s guide to learn what it’s all about. It’s not flashy, but it will tell you a little bit about the browser. My recommendation, though, would be to just download and install the browser. Just start using it. You’ll likely never look back.
  • Organizing Your Thoughts
    • One of my hopes for the new year is to get better organized, to become more efficient and to reduce stress. Here’s a page that gathers together some tools that help you organize your thoughts. Also, see the link to the page of tools to help you think. Whatever works!
  • Snopes: New Years Superstitions
    • New Years superstitions are some of the most idiotic.
  • Retroception
    • Fun game where you try to hit the targets after they disappear.
  • ASCII Generator
    • Generates little pictures of text strings with your input.
  • Sneaky Cheap!
    • Make being cheap fun! Be sneaky cheap! Check out the recommendations!
    • Buying a computer, then opening it up and taking the ram out. You take it back, and claim that there was no ram in the computer, and insist that they give you the proper amount.
    • Renting a house for $600 and getting four roommates who pay $150 each
    • OK, it’s meant to be funny. The guy wants to expose creative freeloading schemes, but he mainly seems to think they’re funny. I guess I think it’s funny what people will do, too.
  • Chrysalis Snacks
    • Grossest Korean snack yet? Exposed on this German-language site.
    • Babelfish translation: “The judgement: The Dinger represents a olfaktorsiche challenge right after to opening, because the smell reminds rather of chemical materials as at food. The taste selbst ist best as sweet-sourly to describe and at least bearable, the consistency of the larvae for local Esser however at best habituation needy: outside knackig hard, inside galertartig.”
  • Human Clock
    • It’s a clock using pictures of people.
  • Sexual Averages
    • People are fascinated by how they measure up against other people in the world of sexual activity and physical attributes.
  • Necronomonopoly
    • It’s the Cthulhu-mythos version of Monopoly, but the rules are a little different. Be the last sane person on the board to win!
|   \ _ _|  \/  |___ _ __  ___ _ _| |_ _  _ _ __  
| |) | '_| |\/| / _ \ '  \/ -_) ' \  _| || | '  \ 
|___/|_| |_|  |_\___/_|_|_\___|_||_\__|\_,_|_|_|_|
Posted by James at 12:29 PM | Comments (2)

December 30, 2004

Bye, Ryan

Today was Ryan’s last day at SimCalc.That sucks, but he will be moving on to bigger and better endeavors in the future.

We went to a Thai restaurant for lunch with Sara (who also will be gone, but I understand that’s temporary) and Derek. Satay, Thai Iced Tea, Pad Thai, Tamarind Duck and Spicy Basil Rice. In the background we were treated to psychotic music box tunes that got inside my head and made me feel slightly insane. To drive the tunes home, the waiter whistled them to as on one of his numerous visits to refill our water glasses.

Thai Taste in Dartmouth is not bad. The food was good and we were given our own little room so that we could best enjoy the tinkling toy music, which is still in my head, dammit.

Ryan lives just across the street, so he probably won’t be a stranger. It’s been a cool 4 years. Best of luck, Ryan, in your future endeavors. Time marches on.

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

Tsunami Relief and MoveOn

MoveOn wants to urge our government to commit more resources now and provide global leadership to prevent further suffering.

http://www.moveon.org/tsunamirelief/

They also provide a link to Oxfam’s Asia Earthquake Fund.

Oxfam is a Boston-based international relief agency. Brian was asking about the percentage of money used for relief. Oxfam says on their site:

In 2003, nearly 78 percent of funds went directly to our programs. The balance supported fundraising (10.7 percent), member recruitment (5.4 percent), and administration (6.5 percent). Overall, we made major investments in humanitarian relief and rehabilitation programs in Iraq, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and southern Africa. Oxfam also invested in the public awareness of global trade issues surrounding our Make Trade Fair campaign.

I’ll be donating to Oxfam.

Posted by James at 12:40 PM | Comments (2)

December 29, 2004

How to Help

This appeared in yesterday’s Boston Globe. A list of just some of the aid agencies accepting contributions to assist victims of the tidal wave and earthquake in Asia.

How to Help

Posted by James at 11:45 AM | Comments (6)

December 28, 2004

Offensive

Last night Bull and Sarah were over the house and we had a great extended-play game of Apples to Apples.

One particularly difficult moment came up when Sarah had to choose which of our cards best represented “Offensive.” She was presented with:

  • Hollywood
  • Saddam Hussein
  • The New York Yankees

Lobbying is allowed, and she illustrated her fluctuating opinion about the different card choices by sliding the cards up as we made our arguments. I championed “Hollywood” as it was my card (my hand was low on offensive things after having gotten rid of car bomb, terrorist attacks and Madonna).

It was clear that nowadays “Pathetic” is a better word for Saddam (Maggie’s contribution). I gave up pushing Hollywood when I pictured A-Rod slapping the ball out of Arroyo’s glove.

In the end, Sarah applied her wisdom. Traveling with Bull and the Navy has taken her from her native land of Australia to Bahrain, then Maine and now Washington State (with many stops in between). She chose the Yankees. We love Sarah.

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

Name That Movie 19

Name it! Next picture around 11:00 AM!

Clue 2:

Clue 3:

Clue 4:

Posted by James at 9:55 AM | Comments (20)

December 27, 2004

Dream Recipes

Had an odd dream last night. I won’t go into all the details, because they’re mighty boring. However, it boiled down to a bunch of people (I don’t think I was with anyone who actually exists in real life) exploring some long, extradimensional corridor which turned out to be a lure that aliens were using to trap humans.

Yeah, so, the usual.

It ended in a wood-paneled rec room, and once you got there, you couldn’t get out. Eventually the aliens showed up, and one of them gave me a mug of coffee which had ground chourico in it. It wasn’t as bad as it sounds, but I don’t recommend trying it at home.

There was a funny sea shanty printed on the side of the mug, and I thought about taking a photograph of it to post it here because I knew I wasn’t going to remember it.

I didn’t have my camera with me in the dream, though, so you’re out of luck.

Posted by James at 9:59 AM | Comments (1)

December 24, 2004

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all. Whatever your belief system, may you find peace. May Christmas day find you among friends and family in good health and contentment.

That is my wish for you all.

Posted by James at 6:11 PM

Heathen Holiday Shotgun

Deck those halls with lots of shotgun.

Posted by James at 10:04 AM | Comments (4)

December 23, 2004

Have Fun Storming the Staples

Sometimes to get a bargain, you have to be willing to run, and be a little persistent. And a little crazy. This is a story of our Wednesday night consumer adventure.

The Family

I haven’t told you about my family. They’re bargain maniacs. And among my extended family, my cousin Bob is an expert at getting assembling new computers out of good old equipment, reselling, reinvesting money in new equipment. In other words, he can create computer value, and he knows how best to leverage technology dollars for whatever given purpose. And he has his ear to the ground for bargains.

Bob’s Dream

He has had a dream to create a “LAN party” setup at his house — a bunch of machines with fast processors and graphics cards that will run the latest games so that we can compete with each other over a network and go nuts. He’s made money here and there buying and selling computer systems, trying to cobble together some pretty nice machines that will run smooth and fast. He’d recently come close to achieving this dream with some dual processor machines he’d put together, but though they were fast processors, they didn’t allow the graphics cards to run at their full potential.

But by selling those machines to people who needed the processor power, plan is finally culminating now in the purchase of 3 Compaq systems that will all take fast graphics cards through their 8X AGP ports and run games at high speed. Impressive speed well over what is needed to play the latest games, like Half Life 2.

When he told me how much he paid for those machines, I thought “Hey - for that money, I could process digital video a lot faster and I’d have the option to play the newest video games.” Also, with his help and some equipment, I’d be able to build my daughters a system, and Maggie could use my old machine for some processor-intensive stuff that it is still good for even though it’s pushing 4 years (this Dell Dimension has been solid as a rock all the years I’ve owned it).

How much would I be spending in this plan? All I had to do was buy 1 computer from Staples (the same one he’d already bought 3 of and had working in his office). I had to shell out $250 for a computer that Buy.com has online for over $500.

Scratch that. There is a fifty dollar rebate. The final out of pocket cost is going to be two hundred dollars. $200! As I did with my Dell Dimension, I may upgrade this when I find amazing deals on memory and other components, but $200 is a low price to pay for a $500 computer that’s going to give me performance nearly indistinguishable from a 10x more expensive computer once I add couple of upgrades I have on hand. Video card, 200GB Ultra HD, etc, etc.

Finding The Deal

The deal was so good, we found that the Staples in the area had sold out, and the sale was over at the end of the week. Bob had already purchased 3 and his cousin Ramsey had bought the last one at a Staples which, earlier in the day, had had a whole pallet-full.

What to do? When Don arrived we had just determined that a Staples under 20 miles away had a few of the systems left. Problem: I wasn’t going to be anywhere near that Staples tomorrow, and judging by how these systems were disappearing, they weren’t going to be around for long.

Don noted that the Staples wasn’t too far away, but they closed in just over 18 minutes. No way we could make it.

Bob had the computer department kid on the phone and tried to convince the kid to hang on there for a few extras minutes. He seemed to go for the idea at first, but then wavered. We decided to hop in the car anyway.

Road Trip!

Bob hopped behind the wheel of his Mitsubishi Evolution, I took shotgun and Don dove into the back seat. As he fired up the engine, Bob also dialed the store on his mobile phone just to let them know we were on our way. As we left the driveway, the clock warned us that there was not much time at all to get there. As we did not know the exact distance, we didn’t know how close a call it would be. However, we did have the Evo on our side, which, I am told, can bend space-time.

Bob handed me the phone, as he was ready to drive and I spoke to the woman who answered.

“Hello - we talked to a guy in ‘computers’ earlier and he said he’d hold a machine for us tonight. We’re going to come for it now, will you let us in when we get there.”

“We close at 9, sir,” she responded. “The doors will be locked at that time.”

I thought I was talking to the girl we had contacted earlier, so I asked “Can I speak to the guy in ‘computers,’ please? We were talking to him before.”

“I’m sorry, sir,. I’m the manager, and I’m the one who locks the store up. We have to close it at 9 by law. The lights are on a timer and they automatically turn off.”

Wha? I thought. If the lights turn off at 9, how do they clean up the place and do what they need to do when they lock the customers out. I figured I was getting nowhere, so I said “Thanks.” and hung up.

“I was getting nowhere with her.” I told my two companions. We figured at that point we just needed to get there before 9. Bob had it figured that we might get there just at 9 if we fold space-time.

So Close

Moments later, we were nearing the exit for Staples, and I called the manager back to try to get her to change her mind.

“Hi - it’s me again. We’re very close. Could you possibly consider letting us in so we could buy this computer?”

“The doors are locked. The lights are already dimming.” she said. I repeated that to Bob and Don and got looks that said to me “Yeah, right.”

“Tell her we’re right at the exit,” Bob said.

“We’re just about to take the exit. We’ll be right outside the store soon. Won’t you let us in?”

“No, I can’t let you in. We have to close registers. I have to be out of here by 9:30. The lights are on a timer.”

“But we’re going to be there in just a couple of minutes, we’re off the highway now.”

“We have to do things that we can’t do if there are customers in here.” That, I believed.

“Haven’t you ever done this for anyone?” I said in my most pathetic voice.

“No, we’ve never let anyone in, ever.”

“Not ever? Really?” Now I was just stalling.

“No, never.”

“If you see us in front of the store, you won’t let us in?”

“Sir, I can’t let you in.”

At this point, I figured the conversation was over. I was not getting anywhere. “You’re really not going to let us in?”

I don’t think she could believe I wasn’t taking the hint. “No.”

I thanked her again and hung up the phone. Coincidentally, the car was also running out of gas and we weren’t sure whether, once we made it to Staples, we’d be able to make it to a gas station. But once Bob sets his mind to a problem, he follows through. We did not divert course to find gas, we rolled into the Staples parking lot at 9:03 PM. We were at the door at 9:05.

Peekaboo

We could not only see the manager and the employees in there, but there were also customers still in the store (naturally).

This time, Bob called her back. He continued the previous conversation, and she continued to say she wouldn’t unlock the door.

“Look, I’m right behind you. I’m looking right at you!”

She turned around and saw Bob, hung up the phone and shrugged. Bob pointed to the people at the checkout and spoke to the window, exaggerating his words so she could read his lips “You still have customers in the store! You can let us in.”

Verification

Eventually, she had to come to unlock the door to let the other customers out. And we were there. One of the customers said to us “We just made it here at five of nine.” I’m not sure why he thought we’d be interested, but kudos for him!

“We already khow what computer we want,” Bob put to the manager again. “Just give it to him, run his card and we can be out of here. The kid in computers told us he’d let us in if we got here five minutes past 9. We were here at 9:05. I’ll wait in the car so you only have one guy in there.”

“He did? I’ll have to verify that,” She said. She locked the door and wandered off. It was cold.

“Did he say that?” I asked. Bob and I were both cold. Bob shrugged. “Yeah, he said he’s be here a few minutes after closing.” Actually, he did say something like that. Before he waivered. He probably thought “Yeah, we’ll be here… oh, wait a minute… who is managing tonight? Never mind.”

We’d sent Don back to the car so that if we sent him back tomorrow to pick up the machine, they wouldn’t hold it against him. I’m not positive, but I think Don had told us various things like “You’re nuts”, “They’re going to call the cops”, “They’re going to be really happy to do business with you now if you have to come back tomorrow” and the seemingly prescient (at the time) “She’s not going to let you in.” Bob and I joked that if he did come the next morning, they’d recognize him and beat him with sticks once they got him in the store.

We were hopping around to keep warm in the wet, cold air. A woman drove past in a nice car and asked if they were still open. “No,” Bob replied. “And they seem to be really strict about that.”

Resolution

The manager appeared at the doors again looking deflated. She said, “You want to $200 computer?”

“Yes!” we said.

“OK, come on. This is a really bad thing I’m doing.”

“No,” I said. “It’s a really excellent thing.”

They fetched me the computer as I waited at the counter. I paid for the thing and exited the store with my prize, laughing like an idiot. We joked that we ought to get up early and be here before opening and try to convince them to open the store early for us. Hee! Bob asked for directions to the nearest gas station.

To celebrate, we bought every flavor of Haagen Daas that Stop & Shop had, returned to Bob’s house and played pitch. Now I have a bunch of computer equipment at my house I have to figure out how to redistribute. But I think it’s going to be fun, and I’ll laugh every time I think of the night we stormed the gates of Staples to pay $200 for a computer on charm and annoying persistence.

Epilogue

When we left Stop & Shop, our return-trip brought us back past Staples. It was 9:36 at that time, and we noted that the lights were still blazing (so much for the timer) and there were cars in the parking lot. There may well be some sort of timer that dims the lights, but we got a kick out of imagining that Staples would devise a plan that would leave a slow-moving closing crew stumbling in the dark. I’m glad she let us in, and it seemed to be to be the sensible thing to do. She probably figured, “either I call the police or I sell these guys a computer.” I’m glad she didn’t call the police, but made the sale instead.

Clearly, there are no commissions. But thank you Ms. Staples Store manager, wherever you are.

Posted by James at 3:10 AM

December 22, 2004

Why I'm Up Nights



ClownsWillEat, originally uploaded by drmomentum.

The new button on my hat.

Posted by James at 12:10 PM | Comments (5)

NTM 18 Answers

Here’s the answer key to NTM 18

  1. Twas the Night Before Christmas
    • “Long words… LONG WORDS!”
  2. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
    • The Jim Carrey version. can’t say I liked it, but it was a visual spectacle. Here’s a schene where a Who is using a big gun to decorate her house with Christmas lights.
  3. Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas
    • This is one of my favorite specials because of its simple but deep message. The scene depicted is Emmet taking the extreme step of putting a hole in the washtub to make a washtub base.
  4. The Year Without a Santa Claus
    • Everyone remembers this special for Heat Miser and Cold Miser. It’s not one of my favorites, but those miser brothers sure sing a catchy tune and so this special becomes somewhat compelling. They’re too much.
  5. Star Trek: Generations (1994)
    • Picard is trapped in the Nexus where people experience perfect joy. His is a big, happy family he never had gathering (including his recently deceased nephew Renee) gathering around the tree at Christmas time.
  6. Toy Story
    • At the end of Toy Story, Buzz and Woody no longer have anything to worry about. And then Andy gets a dog for Christmas in the final joke of the film.
  7. Christmas Vacation
    • A Holiday must-see. Goofy Clark Griswald and his hapless family weather the trials of Christmas in this National Lampoon goof-fest. Gotta love cousin Eddie. Ultimately, his heart is in the right place.
  8. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
    • It’s the first HP movie. Not much here to distinguish between the first and the second, except that for the first they used more of these long shots to show off Hogwarts.
  9. The Santa Clause
    • Tim Allen’s wife is wondering where here ex-husband has gone off to, but he’s not in this lineup.
  10. The Meaning of Life
    • It’s Christmas in Heaven, all the children sing. It’s Christmas in heaven, hark, hark those church bells ring. It’s Christmas in Heaven, the snow falls from the sky. But it’s nice and warm and everyone looks smart and wears a tie.
    • It’s Christmas in Heaven, there’s great films on TV. The Sound of Music twice an hour and Jaws 1, 2 and 3. There’s gifts for all the family. There’s toiletries and trains. And Sony Walkman headphone sets and the latest video games.
    • It’s Christmas, It’s Christmas in Heaven. Hip, hip, hip, hip, hip hooray! Every single day is Christmas Day!
  11. Trading Places
    • I consider it a Christmas film. I love the part on the train near the end.
  12. Arrested Development
    • George Bluth Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor) has disappeared from the live works of art showing of the Sistine ceiling. A woman in the audience cries out “There is no god!”
    • The episode takes place at Christmas. You may not know it, but you should be watching this show. If you haven’t been, for god’s sake rent the first season DVDs as soon as possible.
Posted by James at 10:07 AM | Comments (4)

December 21, 2004

Oh god.

It’s the SimCalc office party. Saints preserve us.

Posted by James at 9:59 PM

Happy Solstice!!

Enjoy the first day of winter, the reason for the season.

Posted by James at 5:48 PM | Comments (1)

Name That Movie 18

Something different for the holiday season. 12 different images. 12 different movies/TV shows. Each of them having something to do in one way or another with the holiday season.

Your mission: figure out what movie or show you’re looking at. Bonus points: what it the significance of the scene, or what details can you add about the scene.

Since they’re all going up at once, make a sincere attempt to guess before checking the comments. It’ll be more fun that way. I expect no one will get this entire list without help or Googling. The final answer will likely be a collaboration among you, but try it on your own first for the most fun. Ho, ho ho, here you go!

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
Posted by James at 3:54 AM | Comments (27)

December 20, 2004

A Series Of Unfortunate Events (Review)

Taking a moment to savor the post-party respite from holiday bustle, the girls and I attended a showing of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of unfortunate Events yesterday. Here’s the lowdown.

Brad Silberling directs this beautiful children’s nightmare.

Children are strangers in this world. As strangers, immigrants from nowhere, they rely on their parents as their guides. The main characters of this film, the Baudelaire children, have their guides taken from them in a mysterious fire that also leaves them homeless.

They are subsequently cast from one guardian to another in search of what they have lost, including home, security, and a conduit to their family’s past.

Fortunately for the Baudelaires, their parents did not leave them wholly without guidance. Their innate talents which were encouraged by their parents still serve them well. Violet has developed an ability to invent and solve problems. Klaus has a love of studying books. In the film this manifests as knowledge he has already absorbed from books, but in the original work he dives into books to find useful information, often taking reasonably long periods of time to study the text. Sonny is a mere infant, but even she has a cleverness and the ability to bite, and makes use of that.

These, our heroes, are plunged into a nightmarish vision. Literally, this film paints what appeared to me as a child’s nightmare. Ephemeral but urgent, the scenery is all slightly surreal. Count Olaf, their first replacement guardian and nemesis, is played appropriately over-the-top by Jim Carrey. I’m not much of a fan of his previous foray into screen versions of kid lit, but his depiction of Count Olaf here meshes with the surreality and discomfort inherent in the fears that exist in a child’s world. Olaf is not just mean, he’s off-kilter. He’s not predictable; his mind is incomprehensible. He’s what these children, who have come to rely on a certain order of thought, fear. He’s chaotic evil. As such, Carrey’s portrayal is quite appropriate.

The film almost resembles another of those dreamy horrors of childhood, the fairy tale. As so much of what happens is unbelievable, one can almost imagine it has been dreamed. And there is a moment in the film where the clouds seem to part and we can see our way clear to the daylight. But the night is always there, waiting to greet us when the dreams of daytime fade.

While material is heavily taken from the first 3 books, this film is basically its own story based on Lemony Snicket’s first book. Even though it reveals plot, it doesn’t ruin the books for anyone who might be interested in reading them. The experience of reading the books is much different because, as my daughter put it, none (or very few) of the details from the books are in the film. They’ve taken the main ideas and then built a film around those.

I praise that effort, because we don’t need an exact retelling of the books. If this film is taken as something separate, I think it’s a really enjoyable children’s movie, and one of the better fairy tale movies I’ve seen. The children are able to find some of what they are looking for within themselves, a time-honored message about growing up. But growing up doesn’t happen all at once, and they have found barely any of the answers they are looking for. There are no happy endings in the Baudelaire life, just moving on to the next situation.

Posted by James at 9:23 AM | Comments (5)

December 19, 2004

Glögg

Let’s talk a little about glögg.

Glögg is a traditional Swedish drink enjoyed in the winter time. It’s a mulled mixture of wines and brandy that I have been making for guests of our caroling party for many years now. We drink it upon our return from our trip singing at the neighbors.

My motivation in making glögg does not stem from heritage (I’m Irish-Lebanese) unless you count a taste for alcoholic beverages from both sides. No, it began when I first thought I’d try to make traditional wassail. After looking at some of the recipes for wassail, I didn’t think it sounded very good. Subsequently, I see that people have varied their recipes for wassail so widely that my glögg recipe probably qualifies under the most lax definition. But back on that first caroling party year, I stumbled upon a glögg recipe and it sounded a lot more appetizing. So glögg became our tradition as well.

I am no glögg expert, but we do have a regular visitor to the party who is from Sweden and she’s assisted me in verifying that the end product is glögg. This is reassurance I need, as I’d never had the stuff before I started making it.

For folks who have asked me to provide my recipe: The secret is, I don’t follow a recipe but very loosely. I started from a recipe and wandered. However, I think glögg is really good, and it deserves to be enjoyed more on cold winter nights. So how about we do it this way. Since I can’t exactly tell you how I make the stuff, because it varies, I’ll write up a recipe that’s as close as possible and we can talk about that.

Glögg

1 bottle of port
1 bottle of dry red wine
1/2 bottle of sherry

4 cinnamon sticks
12 whole cloves
4 peeled cardamom seeds
one whole orange peel (and the juice)
one whole lemon peel (and the juice)
1 cup raisins

2 cups of brandy
1 cup sugar

1 cup blanched, peeled almonds (optional)
4 dried figs, chopped (optional)

Instructions:

Combine the wines and the spices (cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, orange peel/juice, lemon peel/juice) and raisins. Bring to a simmer, but keep from boiling.

Separately, combine the sugar and half the brandy. Heat this mixture until the sugar becomes a syrup. Some people caramelize the sugar, while I haven’t tried it this way, it sounds great.

Combine the syrup with the wines and all and let that sit over a very low flame for at least an hour. After you’ve mulled it like that, you can take it off the flame and add the remaining brandy. At this point it can be stored in the fridge for a few weeks.

Before serving, warm it back up in a saucepan or crockpot with the figs and almonds. It’s served hot.

Variations:

I haven’t always found whole cardamom. I have resorted to using the powdered stuff and it seemed to work OK.

You can use more brandy than I have described here. If you do, you might do without the sherry. I’m told by Kari they use aquavit instead of brandy in Sweden. I added vodka one year and it was far too alcoholic. Got a bit carried away.

I don’t usually caramelize the sugar. In fact, sometimes I just add the sugar with the spices and add all the brandy at the end. Don’t tell anyone.

And that, pretty much, is glögg. Burke-style.

Side note about cardamom. I only recently realized that it is the predominant flavor in Swedish Fish.

Posted by James at 8:40 PM | Comments (1)

Canes

Steve’s still blogging about the holidays, as well he should. The solstice is nearly here, for goddess sake! I like reading about the holidays as long as you darned red-staters don’t call it Christmas! Har.

My comment is not on the main point of Steve’s post, but on candy canes — their symbolism and meaning.

First, I’ll tell you what they mean to me. They are a funny shaped peppermint candy that you see around Christmas. They symbolize sweet breath refreshment, the worry that the damn thing is going to break, and a pen that I had as a little kid which I got as a souvenir from some Christmas-themed park up north of here. And that’s about it for this heathen holiday reveler. But, of course, they have a history regardless of what they mean to me.

Recently, a number of people have taken to saying that the candy is shaped into the form of a “J” because of some candymaker in Indiana who created it to symbolize Jesus. The red stripes are variously blood, or lashings at the hands of Pilate, or whatever. All made-up stuff, but I’m sure it looks good on a photocopy, fax, email, or church bulletin.

The way I understand it, white straight candy sticks were enjoyed at Christmastime before the canes ever existed. Eventually someone had the idea to form them into the shape of a shepherd’s staff.

I can’t speak to the stripes, other than that they didn’t start appearing on canes earlier than around 100 years ago.

Snopes has some info on it. I don’t have a lot of references to point to, as the books I have at home don’t really discuss the candy cane among the elements of Christmas. It’s never been an important symbol of the holiday, it’s primary function being a candy and then later a seasonal decoration.

I agree with what Ms. Mikkelson says at the end of the page on Snopes. And it’s clear that people are going to see whatever symbolism there that makes them the happiest. I have absolutely no beef with that. If they want to see it as a “J” for Jesus, that’s their business.

On the other hand, people who actually claim it was originally shaped as a “J” for Jesus shouldn’t try to foist the apocryphal history on others. Don’t backstory your symbolism, folks.

[Edit: To remain perfectly clear, this “‘J’ for Jesus” falderal is not something Steve even mentions. His post is only peripherally related to this. I just took the opportunity to riff on candy canes and the ability to separate personally meaningful symbolism and the history of a holiday tradition.]

I wish I knew where that candy cane pen got to. It was awful cunnin’.

Posted by James at 4:58 PM | Comments (8)

Holiday Kick-Off

I wasn’t much in the Christmas spirit this season. Truth be told, I’m still not really grasping that there’s just a week left before the holiday.

However, last night was the first real feeling of Christmas I’ve had this year. Our tradition of the yearly caroling party with family and friends on the Saturday before Christmas had us out in the brisk air belting out tunes while the neighbors ran for cover.

Arguably, last night was the most successful caroling party in our history of hosting them. As the roaring fire blazed, people started filtering in and greeting each other. There are people we only see once/year, at this party and we have come together nearly every year to sing about peace on earth and goodwill toward your fellow man, sharing this seasonal kick-start with each other.

In addition to the people who have been attending for over 10 years, a lot of other friends, old and new made their presence felt as we had the largest group of carolers yet. As a reward, our numbers too big to ignore, we had people actually coming out of their houses before we got to their houses to hear our attempts at seasonal standards inluding “We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” “Joy To The World” and others. The kids insisted on their twisted version of “Rudolph” and I actually lost my voice after we ran smack dab into another house party down the street.

We were greeted by Santa Claus (of all people!) who heard all the kids Christmas wishes while we regaled him with “Santa Clause is Coming to Town” and other off-key selections.

Stumbling back to the ranch, the glogg was a bigger hit than I can remember in recent history.

After most of the party broke up, Maggie and I spent some time with Mike, Bob, Patti, Ryan, Sara, Sharon, Derek and Neve in front of the fire. Way past all our bed times we discussed various issues of news and entertainment, professors of CompSci old and new and “things that sneak up on you.”

This party embodies what I feel is most important about this holiday: the connections we make. It warms my heart to see how this party has become a real tradition, evoking in me memories of the huge Christmas parties my family had when I was a tyke.

Now I’m almost ready for Christmas. Thanks to everyone who helped make the party a success. Our work preparing (mostly Maggie’s work) only sets the stage. It’s the people who really turn it into an event to remember.

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

December 17, 2004

Burning Down The Love Shack

A cabin in the US state of Georgia believed to have inspired the party hit Love Shack by cult band the B-52’s has burnt down.

Cult band’s ‘Love Shack’ gutted

Arson is suspected.

Posted by James at 11:52 AM

Unidentified Flying Shotgun

Hope everyone enjoyed Hanukkah this year. While we don’t celebrate it in our household, the last 2 weeks have been lousy in a number of other ways and I expect things to pick up very soon.

The shotgun title refers to this day (December 17) in 1969 when the USAF closed “Project Blue Book,” concluding that there were no extraterrestrial spacecraft behind all those compelling UFO sightings. Was all that money down the drain? No way. We got that TV show out of it in the 70’s.

  • Project UFO (imdb)
    • OK, so this isn’t much of a link to start out with. It’s the lousy TV show in 1978 that I watched with rapt attention to learn all I could about UFOs. Hey, I was only 10 years old. Took me a while to realize it was all a bunch of hooey. No surprises here: the show is not available on DVD.
  • On This Day 1 (History)
    • Find out what happened this day in history! From the Beeb.
  • On This Day 2 (More History)
    • Find out what happened this day in history! From the Old Gray Lady.
  • Stream: Unbecoming Levity (Humor, Word Fun)
    • Have you checked out what Chuck is doing over at his weblog lately? He’s having some goofy fun with word origins and imaginary dialogues. So far he’s written two of what he’s calling Stream entries.
    • Each entry is a conversation among 3 characters: Carly, Terrence, and the knowledgeable Chad. Part frustration and part goofiness, these conversations open the door to questions about word origins and history. He follows them up with references to more information online. I can’t do it justice in a summary or excerpt, you’ll just have to read them for yourself.
    • So far he’s written Stream: Analemma and Stream: Plex. Go read them both.
  • Midnight Eye (Fansite)
    • The latest and best in Japanese cinema. Great resource for an Asian film freak like myself. It’s not just anime, yo.
  • Creationism Science Fair (Parody)
    • Elementary School Honorable Mention: “Pokemon Prove Evolutionism Is False” - Paul Sanborn (grade 4)
  • Ugly Christmas Lights.com (Fun)
    • “This site is here to show those houses where the residents are likely celebrating a happy holiday, but have no sense of decency in how they choose to celebrate. We will show the garish, the ugly, the weird. For your own sake, and the sake of your neighbors, do not try this at home.”
  • Acme Products Catalog (Humor)
    • Someone was paying close attention to the cartoons. I think I cot this one from RMcC
  • Wrap Hell (Shopping)
    • Can’t find that perfect wrapping paper for the holiday? How about the perfectly inappropriate paper instead?
  • Puppy Killers (Video)
    • How much money would someone have to pay you to kill a puppy with your bare hands? This video puts the question to the man on the street.

That’s all for now. I have to do something useful.

Posted by James at 11:35 AM | Comments (7)

December 16, 2004

Netflix Replacement Shipped?

This was interesting. I wonder if any of you out there who might be Netflix users have seen this before.

Netflix sends you an email notice when they’ve shipped you a DVD, and also when they’ve received the DVD that you have sent back. I was checking my email this morning and I got a “We’ve received” message for the film Tomie Replay. That struck me as odd since I’d never gotten the dvdin the first place, so I couldn’t have returned it. Yes I had it on my queue and yes earlier in the week I got an email notice that it had been sent to me. But it hadn’t gotten to my house yet.

Weird! I checked my queue on the website and I noticed this:


It appears as though something happened to the first disk and they’ve shipped a replacement. Did something happen in the postal system? That would be a logical guess. But I’m still left wondering.

Has anything like this ever happened to you other Netflix users? Netflix seems to have deftly handled whatever it is that happened (they’re sending a disk with a minimum of disruption of service). But, being naturally curious, I wonder what precipitated this situation.

Posted by James at 11:43 AM | Comments (87)

December 15, 2004

Micro Madness: Toothbrush

People tell you you can disinfect things by microwaving them. Frequent subjects of this are your kitchen sponge and your toothbrush.

I guess four minutes is too long for toothbrushes. Click to enlarge.

Posted by James at 10:22 AM | Comments (28)

December 14, 2004

McCain and Stormin' Norman vs. Rummy

In separate interviews, McCain, of Arizona, said he had “no confidence” in Rumsfeld, citing his handling of the war in Iraq and the failure of the Pentagon to send more troops, while Schwarzkopf, the allied commander in the first Gulf War, said Rumsfeld seemed to be passing the buck when quizzed last week about the armor supply for troops on the ground. (MSN)

Have I already overused “why do they hate America?” Because, if I have, please let me know.

Posted by James at 10:18 PM | Comments (1)

Name That Movie 17

Better late than never, it’s the new Name That Movie. Good luck, all!

The second image sooner or later…

Posted by James at 9:55 AM | Comments (18)

December 13, 2004

Family Circus Collection

This is the time of year when people, hard-pressed to find a gift for someone, settle on buying favorite comic strip retrospectives for their loved ones. For instance, last year I bought Maggie a "Peanuts" collection.

Family Circus has its own published collections, books like I Had A Frightmare! which can be found at Amazon.com. But I think they went about the collections wrong.

I think they ought to have chosen the strips carefully based on category rather than collect them chronologically. I have constructed a poll so that you can play publishing executive. If you were the person choosing to make the next Family Circus collection, which theme would you use for the books? Vote below!

What is your favorite familiar subcategory of the "Family Circus" comic strip?
Ones where dead grandparents show up as spectres
Ones where "Billy did the strip this week!"
Ones where god personally shows up
Ones where Billy runs all over the neighborhood
Ones where Dolly (or some other child) just can't pronounce a word correctly, to the delight of everyone
Ones where "Not Me" is responsible for some wrongdoing
Other (tell us in the comments)
  
Free polls from Pollhost.com
Posted by James at 12:05 AM | Comments (7)

SNAFU un-Snafu'ed

Apparently, the database software that supports Aces Full of Links died temporarily. But all appears to be normal now. I should be getting my mail at all the usual addresses.

That’s one recent source of stress I can cross off the list.

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

December 10, 2004

Paper CD Case

I know I’ve posted about Paper CD case origami in the past, but recently I went looking for more info on the subject, so I thought I’d blog what I found in case anyone else wanted the information and had trouble finding it.

What I’m talking about is the ability to take a sheet of regular 8 1/2 × 11 inch paper and folding it into a container for holding a CD or DVD. It’s fun, and the case can be very nice if done right. Here are some links to the info.

  • Paper CD Case.COM is the most elaborate place to fulfill your CD case needs. It’s a foldable CD case document generator. You fill out an online form and it will generate an Adobe Acrobat PDF file that can be folded into a CD case including the information about the CD on the case. It’s pretty spiffy. There’s even a way to search for albums to pre-load data into the form.
  • An American CD Case PDF is a document describing how to fold the CD case without having printed anything out in advance. It’s the same method as the one above, but without using a printer.
  • R&OS Paper CD Wallet - another online document generator. This one lets you choose fonts.
  • Double CD Case. This one’s neat, too. You can improve it with a little tape, or cutting a slit in the back to tuck one of the lower flaps into, but that’s not strictly origami.
  • Origami Envelopes and Letters. Why stop at CD cases? Fold your own envelopes. Be cool. Spruce up that note you were going to pass in class. Lend that extra bit of romantic excitement to that saccharine poem you were going to present to a loved one. Show the recipient of your death threat that you have enough time on your hands to fold paper, and therefore have enough time to be an effective stalker.
  • Origami Theme Page - notable because the author actually calls the Paper CD Case a “challenge.” It’s probably the easiest thing I’ve ever folded. I’m no origami master.
  • My spell-checker keeps telling me that “origami” is not a word and that what I really mean to type is “orgasm.” Stupid, libidinous software.
Posted by James at 3:29 PM

Hazards of the Holiday

Ryan points me to this story:

“Dancing on desks could do them and you a lot of damage,” they said. “Likewise, the boardroom table is meant for weighty documents, not overweight executives.” […]

“Keep a close eye on those who may drink too much,” the organizations advised. “Alcohol makes some people aggressive rather than friendly. The party will be spoiled if it ends in a punch-up or harassment complaint.”

RoSPA and the TUC were condemned by some as killjoys but said they were only trying to help.

“We are not being party poopers,” RoSPA Occupational Safety Adviser Roger Bibbings said.

Do you think anyone will remember their warnings about the copy machine after a few bottles of wine?

Posted by James at 11:16 AM | Comments (4)

Whoop! There's Shotgon

Another week gone by? I can scarcely believe it. On to the links.

  • Movie Mistakes Advent Calendar (Movie Fun)
    • From the Movie Mistakes website. Each day in the run-up to Christmas, check out a new error in a popular movie.
  • Dubya: The Movie (Trailer, Humor)
    • If you watch one trailer this week, make it Dubya: The Movie. Starring… well, watch the trailer and find out.
  • EatSushi.com (Online Guide)
    • Everything you wanted to know about sushi, but were too hungry to ask.
  • HanziSmatter (Foreign Languages)
    • It’s a website devoted to analyzing those kanji characters you often see people getting tattooed on their bodies. Apparently, kanji characters are among the cheapest tattoos you can get, and tattoo parlor owners don’t really care what your tattoo really says.
  • Unsafe Search (Searching Fun)
    • _While Google allows you to filter pornography and explicit sexual content from your search results using their “SafeSearch” feature, they do not provide a means to search exculsively for such adult material. […] The unsafe search works by performing two Google queries, a normal query and a query with SafeSearch enabled. The set of “safe” results is then subtracted from the set of normal results to yield only “unsafe” entries.
  • OYEZ (Reference, Law)
    • US Supreme Court Multimedia. Hear the words of the court with your own ears. Reminds me a little bit of May It Please The Court, which Maggie bought for me years ago. Great for listening in the car.
  • Skeletal Systems (‘Toon Art)
    • Michael Paulus displays his gallery of cartoon character skeletal systems. Hello Kitty. Fred Flintstone. Pikachu.
  • Arguments Creationists Shouldn’t Use (Rhetoric)
    • Creationist website listing arguments that even they believe are bogus. The list is longer than you would expect. Nonetheless, you will likely have encountered any number of these arguments on occasion.
  • Roshambot (Game)
    • Play Rock, Scissors, Paper. Learn about the philosophy of Roshambo.
  • Audubon Seafood Wallet Card (PDF file, Safe Seafood)
    • Not all seafoods are equal. This card will help you choose if you’re concerned about environmental impact of the foods you eat. You can print it out for your wallet.
  • Have You Accepted Baby Jesus Yet? (Creepy Flash Thingy)
    • Creepy baby Jesus head stares at you. I have no idea what it’s all about.
  • Recursive Art (Flash Art, Trippy)
    • Stare at this self-referential animated photograph for a while and ponder your navel. Or something.
  • CatCow? (Brief Flash Animation)
    • It’s a cat. It’s a cow. It’s too early in the morning for this sh**.
  • Everyone Else Has Had More Sex Than Me (Flash Music Video)
    • Cute rabbit sings about personal insecurities. I can’t make out most of the lyrics, but good fun anyway.
  • Missile Balloons (Prank)
    • Affix these balloons to your vehicle and watch the fun as missiles pursue you from destination to destination.
    • Found via rmccown.org
    • And wouldn’t it be fun to have an inflatable T-72 tank to keep your neighborhood safe? Or any of their other products, for that matter.
Posted by James at 7:53 AM | Comments (3)

December 9, 2004

Gas

Q: How do you know when the gas indicator in your car is broken? A: You’re walking a mile back to your car with a 2 gallon container full of gas.

So, apparently my gas gauge is not accurate and the “low fuel” dummy-light on my car is broken. Yes, I ran out of gas on the way to work this morning. I knew the gas was low, but looking at the gauge, I figured I had at least enough to get to work. In fact, I thought I had enough to get to work AND BACK considering that the gas dummy-light hadn’t come on.

However, what I didn’t know was that the dummy-light was broken and that the gauge was not giving me an accurate reading. It was frozen at a low, but not empty, reading. I should have noticed it wasn’t moving, but I didn’t.

It’s OK. I needed the exercise. It’s amazing how much better a car runs when it’s got gas in the tank.

Apparently I splashed some on my jeans. I smell like a mechanic. My grandfather always had gasoline on him and it never bothered me that he smelled like gas when I was a kid. But as an adult, I hate when I get the stuff on me. Especially when its time to eat and the smell is on my hands.

As I think about my grandfather, though, this cloud of petrol fumes surrounding me gets considerably more bearable. I miss you, Jid.

Posted by James at 12:31 PM | Comments (25)

Lost

I’m hooked on ABC’s Lost.

Right now it is (IMHO) the best show on television, and it has some tough competition.

They’re re-running the first 2 hours next Wednesday. I suggest that if you’re at all interested, you catch at least the first 2 hours. If you’re not intrigued, you’ll know the show is not for you. But it’s got the mystery of a “The Prisoner” and the character interplay of a Stephen King novel. I dare you to dislike it.

Posted by James at 10:03 AM | Comments (12)

December 8, 2004

Happy Chanukah!

Have a great Chanukah, people!

Posted by James at 5:04 PM | Comments (9)

Wish Listing: Froogle

Anyone out there use Froogle? It’s Google’s online shopping search engine and it’s supposed to help you find good prices for things.

Recently, I’ve found that it’s got a “wish list” feature, much like Amazon.com’s wishlist. Only with Froogle your wish list can refer to many merchants rather than just the ones under the Amazon umbrella.

The functioning of the wish list is simple.You search via Froogle. When you find something you like, you put it on a shopping list. You must log into your Google account or create one to do this.

Items on your shopping list can be check marked for inclusion on your wish list. Wish List items are displayed publicly on your wish list page. You can then share the URL for the wish list with your friends and family.

It’s a nice idea, but there are a number of disadvantages of Froogle Wish List vs Amazon’s:

  1. Froogle wish list cannot be used to buy a gift to be sent to someone you don’t know face-to-face
    • Unlike Amazon’s wish list, with Froogle you have to have the stuff shipped to you (through the various retailers) and you have to find a way to get the gift to your recipient. That’s fine for people in your close circle of family and friends, but increasingly we have friends online that we may want to buy for, and we may not have anything but an email address for them.
  2. Tough to find someone else’s wish list
    • If you want to see someone’s Froogle wish list, you have to know they have one and have to search for the email address they used. People use multiple email addresses nowadays, but there is no way to associate multiple email addresses to your Froogle list. Amazon is only slightly better — you can search for name and location, and you can browse a person’s profile to be confident that you are looking at the right person. But in both cases you’re better off if the person publishes his or her wish list.
  3. Even though you’re allowed to search multiple vendors for an item, once you put the item on your list you must have narrowed it down to one vendor.
    • I like the idea of searching multiple vendors. I wish my shopping list were equally non-specific. In fact, for a wish list they ought to allow you to post items that are much more general. Since Google itself is not selling you anything, why not allow people to add things like “I want someone to take me to the opera” or “I’d like anything having to do with Godzilla or Robots.” Why not? Amazon doesn’t allow this either, but Amazon is specifically trying to sell you stuff.

Froogle is great for searching. I never would have found this goofy nesting Godzilla thing without it. But the wish list needs some work. It’s a decent start. For now, I’m using Froogle and moving things over to Amazon for the convenience of my family and friends.

But wish listing aside, Froogle’s shopping list feature is great during the gift-giving season because I can put ideas for other people on it with notes.

Posted by James at 9:04 AM | Comments (4)

Clarification

I know some people found the image posted yesterday to be a little irreverent, and even disrespectful. But I think it is arising from a misinterpretation of the picture.

Some people interpreted the look on Jesus’ face and his pose to mean that Jesus was laughing at Spider-Man. This is simply not the case. Jesus is laughing with Spider-Man. Jesus and Spider-Man are good friends.

Posted by James at 8:11 AM | Comments (5)

December 7, 2004

Reader Mail: Highs and Lows

My last two reader mail submissions show the breadth of reader mail I get. Most of it is negative, but I was surprised with a positive entry yesterday.

Here is the text of it, and it speaks for itself:

I found your blog entry on phreaking while I was doing some searching on Google. Many assume phreaking is dead because free calls are not the point anymore. There is still a healthy community of them. Here are a few links.

Phreaks and Geeks forum
http://www.binrev.com/forums/index.php?showforum=21

Default radio - Phreaking internet radio show
http://www.defaultradio.com

HackerMedia - My site that keeps track of phreaking/hacking/geek related internet radio and video shows
http://www.hackermedia.net

Wow! It’s friendly, helpful, coherent and speaks well of its writer. Kizzle gets “Best New Reader Mail of the Week!”

It especially stands out against the background of the usual reader mail, such as this message I got today:

email: NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS

realname: cANTaFFORDtoLiE

comments: You’re pretty funny even though you are a moron. I think that Fiona Apple is a beautiful girl and she shouldn’t be exploited by someone who is jealous of her talent. Try getting a life.

Hookay. I had to search my own archives to find out what I might have said about Ms. Apple to elicit such a response.

Here is the only entry that came up when I searched for “Fiona”

Here’s what I said in that post:

Fiona Apple “fansite”

This is the very definition of too much time on one’s hands. I can almost understand having one such altered picture of Fiona Apple… but 34? Must be seen to be understood.

And then I included a link to a particular Fiona Apple gallery. I left my comments vague on that old post back in 2002. Here I will spell it out: I think its odd that someone would have a website devoted to pictures of Fiona Apple altered to conform to a “big nose” fetish.

Unfortunately, looking at the original post still leaves me mystified as to why this person thinks I’m a moron. He thinks I’m funny, though. Maybe he thinks I am the creator of that gallery.

Really, the only explanation is that “cANTaFFORDtoLiE,” in actuality, “cANTaFFORDaCLuE.”

Posted by James at 5:50 PM | Comments (10)

Demonstration Purposes


SpideyJesus, originally uploaded by drmomentum.

No real disrespect meant to Spidey or Jesus, though I did tag this image on Flickr as “may offend.”

Posted by James at 2:18 PM | Comments (3)

Vagrant Candy

Nestle “Drifter

What’s the image we’re supposed to get? An unsavory character who wanders from town to town offering candy to kids? Weirdest candy bar name ever.

Posted by James at 10:05 AM | Comments (10)

Name That Movie 16

NTM 16 - 1

OK early risers. Take your first guesses at what specific movie this is. You’re only wrong if you don’t try! I’m prepared to go out to 5 images for this one, but I don’t think it will go that far.

Next image at 11 EST 10 EST, and then a third at 11.

As promised. Image 2:

NTM 16 - 2

Image 3:

NTM 16 - 3

Image 4:

NTM 16 - 4

Posted by James at 2:32 AM | Comments (28)

December 6, 2004

Coming Attractions

Inspired by Sara’s post, here’s a list of upcoming or current film attractions I’ve got my eye on for one reason or another.

The Ring Two (trailer) (Spring 2005)

I really liked the first film. I’m a big fan of asian horror, and I have seen the original Ringu and its sequel. I’ve also seen a Korean remake. So far, I like the American remake best. They definitely improved on the original visually. Even without the improvement of Naomi Watts, “The Ring” edges out “Ringu” slightly.

Meet The Fokkers (12/22)

Sequel to meet the parents. I think Ben Stiller is funny.

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (imdb) (12/17)

We enjoy the books. I guess I’m “looking forward” to this in the sense that I’m hoping it doesn’t stink. We’ll be seeing it in the theatre unless the reviews are horrid.

House of Flying Daggers (trailer) (imdb)

Natch. It’s got fighting and Ziyi Zhang. And decent reviews.

Azumi (trailer) (imdb)

It’s not yet out on DVD here, and I have no idea when it will reach the US, but it’s a samurai film by Kitamura with a female lead. Based (surprise) on a Japanese manga. Apparently, there’s already a British DVD. International DVD release timing baffles me. In the case of many movies, the rights holders don’t want to release the original on DVD in the US because they want a chance to release their often-crappy remake.

The Woodsman (trailer) (imdb)

The producers of “Monster’s Ball” bring us another uncomfortable subject, and another excellent performance if the trailer is to be believed. Kevin Bacon plays a pedophile released from prison, struggling with his problems. I don’t know if I’m going to want to rus out and see this, but I doubt I’ll be able to ignore it. The film makers have taken on a huge challenge.

White Noise (trailer) (imdb) (1/05)

I’m a sucker for horror films, and this one looks to be sufficiently creepy to get me out to a late show. Michael Keaton stars in what looks like Poltergeist, but with audio white noise instead of the TV. As I said, I’m a sucker for this stuff.

Blade Trinity (trailer)

Who knows if it’ll be any good. But the last one was the Aliens of vampire films. Can’t help but be curious about the followup.

High Tension (trailer) (imdb) (02/05)

Actually, it’s Haute tension — a French slasher film. Tagline “Hearts will bleed.” Valentines Day release date.

More later…

Posted by James at 9:00 AM | Comments (7)

December 4, 2004

Netflix Friends

Netflix has added a feature called “Friends.” It’s a social networking layer on top of their movie database. The purpose is twofold:

  1. To allow Netflix customers to see the ratings and reviews of other Netflix customers and create a social web of recommendations.
  2. To encourage subscribers to draw their friends into Netflix.

Regular readers: If you already have Netflix and want to be added to my list so you can see my movie ratings (I’ve rated over 1100 films by now) just drop me a note and I’ll invite you. At the moment, you only have access to the “Friends” feature if someone has invited you.

Posted by James at 9:28 PM | Comments (1)

December 3, 2004

Shotgun - Touch the Monkey

  • Matricide (Disturbing News)
    • “Rachelle Waterman, (aka Rachelle Ann Monica Waterman and “smchyrocky”), a 16-year-old girl from Craig, Alaska, USA, has been charged with the first degree murder of her own mother.”
    • This story was all over blogs this week. A very strange tale, in which a girl has been accused of having her mother killed. And then she posted the following to her weblog: “”Just to let everyone know, my mother was murdered.”
  • Wikinews (News Tool)
    • While we’re talking news, have you seen the new Wikinews? It’s a collaboratively written free content news source. Harnessing the power of 1 million monkeys to edit the news. ;) Seriously, though, this promises to be an interesting source for news and news trivia. It’s at a temporary beta home, but will eventually move to a permanent URL.
  • Bigger Truck Needed (Oops)
    • In case you missed it last time around because of server overload, the pictures of the truck that wasn’t big enough for the job.
  • Low Rider Plane (Shockwave Movie)
    • Brief footage of a plane making an odd landing. Sent by rmccown.
  • Careful with those gift cards (Financial)
    • Motley Fool gives you the details on the pitfalls of holiday gift cards.
    • Hint: Check the rules on them. Sometimes they “leak” value, or expire.
  • Traffic Pulse: Providence (Traffic Monitor)
    • It’s a tool for telling you how bad the traffic is at any given time. Check it before you hit the road! I’ve given a link here to the map for Providence, but they have other cities. Top level is Traffic Pulse.
  • How To Kill a Mockingbird (Animation)
    • A student strays a little in his report on “To Kill a Mockingbird.” It’s a little long, but worth a few yuks.
    • “This time it was personal!”
  • Bush Christmas Ornament (Junk)
    • Worst Christmas Ornament Ever.
    • Show that you know the true meaning of Christmas. Hang the likeness of our president on your tree! The site does not say whether it is equipped with a sound chip so that it can mock women on death row just before their execution. Very Christ-like!
  • The 10 Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time
    • Ayn Rand’s A Selfish Christmas (1951) - In this hour-long radio drama, Santa struggles with the increasing demands of providing gifts for millions of spoiled, ungrateful brats across the world, until a single elf, in the engineering department of his workshop, convinces Santa to go on strike.”
  • Christian Right Lobbies To Overturn Second Law Of Thermodynamics (Humor)
    • The Onion created this news story, and JimC sends it along. DANG! M.C. Hawking no longer has “Entropy” as a free download on the website. It is a sad day. I wonder if I still have a copy somewhere.
  • Shanties and Sea Songs (Lyrics)
    • If ye wanna be a pirate, ye gotta know yer shanties. Yarrr.

NOW IS THE TIME ON SHOTGUN WHEN YOU DISCUSS!!!

Posted by James at 7:54 AM | Comments (13)

December 2, 2004

Do You Know The Muffin, Man?

Did I mention how good Dunkin Donuts Pumpkin Spice muffins are? Yesterday, Sara brought some in for us, and I mentioned it in passing, but failed to describe how deliciously addictive they are.

Today, MK waltzed in with muffins for all of us, and she doesn’t even work here. She appears, says “Hi,” bestows muffins and then breezes out after a couple of minutes. Huge thanks, MK. If it’s possible to drown one’s sorrows in a muffin, then this is the muffin tailored to that purpose. Sara and MK are truly emissaries of pastry goodness.

Posted by James at 11:07 AM | Comments (10)

December 1, 2004

Food News

  • Yesterday we took advantage of Super Tuesday at the local Subway and found that Subway has acquired a rapid toasting machine. Feeling the heat from Quiznos? That’s my guess. They might need to change some of their subs to take advantage of the new toaster, but it is a step in the right direction. I am still thinking that a D’Angelo’s #9 has both places beat.
  • Sara came into the office this afternoon with a tale of a lousy morning. I’ll leave the details to her if she posts them on her weblog. The point is, her reaction to a lousy morning was to buy us Dunkin Donuts pumpkin spice muffins. It became my lunch. Thanks, Sara!
  • New favorite cereal: Honey Bunches of Oats with Peaches. I swear they’re putting crack in the stuff. It was on sale last week at the market and I am now hooked.
  • Derek is having a Johnny Cupcakes party on Friday. (a Cupperware party) They make cupcakes and Johnny Cupcakes himself attends, selling his line of cupcake-themed clothing. I like the claddagh.
  • A story notable for not involving food: Lava Lamp Left on Stove Explodes, Kills Man
  • Filed under “You might have a problem”, Virgin Mobile (a phone company operating in AUS) offers customers the ability to block outgoing calls to certain numbers from their mobile phone on nights when they plan to get drunk. The intent? To prevent the phenomenon of making embarrassing drunken phone calls. Seriously. You can still spend the night with the wrong person, and Virgin Mobile can’t help you with that problem. Sorry.
Posted by James at 2:03 PM | Comments (6)

Damon Manifestation

Damon!Yankee fans Cursing at Damon pic

Still disturbed by the Boston Red Sox’s Curse-ending success, Yankee fans now have to put up with seeing a likeness of Beantown sparkplug Johnny Damon on lampposts in Brooklyn.

A stenciled image of the long-haired outfielder with a red B on his cap has been popping up across Carroll Gardens, driving Bomber fans bananas.

Har! Here at AFOL, we do not encourage the defacing of public property. However, is it considered de-facing if you’re adding a face? Oh, no! I’ve stumbled into one of those stupid faux-philosophical questions that people like to ask, like the one about parking on driveways and driving on parkways.

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

You're Worth It

Wide LoadSeen in a parking lot yesterday: A big old Yukon taking up two parking spaces. This instantly struck me as an image that really said something.

You might say that it said “I don’t want my car scratched” and that was certainly the intention of the driver. But what the driver is doing and what was communicated are two different things. You see, this person has parked fairly close to the entrances of Stop & Shop and Best Buy. When it’s not the height of the Christmas shopping season (when Parking lots can sometimes completely fill up) there are a number of places to park where you won’t get scratched or dinged. Specifically, these are far-out-of-the-way spaces. If no one else is parking there, there is little chance your car will come near another. And on a beautiful day like yesterday, you get some exercise walking to the door. That’s a message that says “I don’t want my car scratched, but I respect you all enough to park at a distance where our cars will not interact. I’m taking some responsibility, but I don’t mind walking if it means my car doesn’t get scratched.”

Instead, this person chose a different message. It’s a message reinforced by the choice of vehicle. A gas-guzzler, to be sure. I don’t fault someone for owning an SUV. They may have a need to tow things. Who knows? But it can’t be denied that they are using more resources. And being able to afford a Yukon, they can probably afford those resources. It’s part of our system — that’s the way it works.

However, here we see this person is taking up 2 spaces. The message could not be more clear.

Hi. I’m worth at least 2 of you. And as a person of more intrinsic worth, I needn’t follow the rules you poor sods are bound to.

This picture is a great shorthand representation. BTW, the license plate is XXX XXX, in case you were wondering.

[NOTE: the brake lights are not on in that picture. The car is empty. You are seeing a reflection of the camera flash.]

Also seen in the same parking lot visit:

StogieThis is an entirely different message. Though I found it funny that someone would leave their cigar on the dirty running board of their truck, Ryan says he sees this behavior often. I was amused, because it says to me that the flavor of the cigar is not sacrificed much by having it sit basically on the dirty ground, and that the owner (who will return and re-insert the thing) doesn’t mind placing his lips where he steps.

But there is also a message here that is a counterpoint to the one above.

I like to smoke cigars, but some find it offensive. While I go inside, I’m going to put out my cigar and keep it here for later.

It’s somewhat of a mystery to me why the cigar is not just extinguished (as this one was) and placed in the vehicle for later retrieval. However, it’s still considerate to leave it behind when you’re going to go somewhere where it will not be appreciated.

Posted by James at 9:21 AM | Comments (18)