January 31, 2005

Spinoccoli Calzone

Spinoccoli Calzone
Spinoccoli Calzone,
originally uploaded by drmomentum.
(click for larger view)
Saturday was calzone day. I only got a picture of one, and it was awfully blurry. I did what I could to recover — you can see here a calzone filled with italian cheeses, broccoli and spinach. This one belonged to Maggie.


These were my first successful calzones, and I’ll be getting a little more daring int he future. We remained simple this time.


My own calzone was a breaded chicken, cheese, pepperoni concoction. One of these days I’ll try working out a buffalo chicken calzone.

Posted by James at 11:56 AM

Stuff

Stuff is getting very hectic here, especially this week. I’m going to give the “Name That Movie” a break this week.

So if you notice a low post-volume this week, don’t fret. I’m not going away.

Posted by James at 9:03 AM | Comments (4)

Not Kabang

I don’t know why I didn’t blog about this last week, but I was almost in the middle of an accident. Maybe it’s because I expect a lot of people were almost in accidents last week. But this week it seems like last week was a bit nutty.

I was on rte 79 on Thursday, nearing a point where an onramp snakes up on the right. There is a little hill and you can’t see the onramp traffic until you get over that hump. It’s OK, though, because you are quite far away when that happens.

When I saw the traffic, I saw it was crawling and I wondered why. I didn’t have long to think about it because suddenly the Mitsubishi Gallant in front of me, a big white boat of a car, was spinning in the road.

I took my foot off the gas, and lightly touched the brake, because by now I could see that he had hit a patch of dirty snow and the road in front of me looked clean. As his car blocked the highway in front of me I wondered if the cars I had passed earlier were still right behind me. I saw an SUV of some kind, but I couldn’t spend the time staring in my rearview.

Now I was approaching the car. There had been significant distance between us, but I was closing. He was switching gears to try to move out of the way of oncoming traffic. I probably could come to a stop before hitting him. Well, if it weren’t for the slippery road.

Then I saw why he’d (unwisely) hit his brakes. A car had hit another car ahead, and they’d both ploughed into a snowbank on the shoulder of the overpass. The two drivers were walking around their cars. On the highway at the convergence of this traffic. If I had been closer to the Gallant, and I’d hit it, it would have become a people plough and I would have squished both of them.

Note to my readers (who, I’m certain, know better): DON’T WALK AROUND OUTSIDE YOUR CAR when you’re in the path of oncoming traffic and the road is slick. Better to get hit inside the car. If you must be outside, get away from the traffic altogether. In this case, there was nowhere to go, they needed to be in their cars.

The Gallant was able to move forward enough to allow me to pass behind it. Rather than contribute to the congestion on the bridge, I drove on just as I saw flashing police lights trying to make it up the traffic-laden onramp.

My children’s bus got into an accident on Friday. Apparently, it happened before the bus picked up any kids. Through no fault of the driver, a car just ploughed into the thing.

So the effect of that last combination of storms definitely extended through the work week.

Posted by James at 8:48 AM | Comments (16)

January 29, 2005

What is odd about it?

What is so odd about this blog post? If you follow along, you might catch on. It is not similar to what you would find in a normal paragraph. I am hand-crafting it just so you will find an unusual situation is facing you.

I must inform you, writing this is a bit of hard work, as Bush would say.But Dubya might squint at this awkward composition all day and fail to twig to anything surpassing ordinary writing.

Still thinking about it?

I am too worn out to go on. I’ll quit now and go pass out for tonight.

Posted by James at 2:07 AM | Comments (24)

January 28, 2005

Snow Cappucino


Snow Cappucino, originally uploaded by drmomentum.

Didn’t feel like going to the local coffee shop for an expensive frozen drink, so I threw one together with what was lying around at work. Namely, some flavored stuff and thousands of cubic feet of snow.


It is delicious. You’ll want to experiment on your own to get a ratio of ingredients you like, but try starting here:


Fill mug with snow. Add 1/3 cup of syrup. Add 1/4 cup of milk. Mix. Taste. Add syrup, snow, milk or sugar as needed to achieve desired taste and consistency.

This is the second post in which I’ve discussed eating snow. Is it safe?

There are contaminants in snow. As you might know, snow cleans the air. Each snowflake catches contaminants int he air and carries them to the ground. However, these are the same contaminants you are breathing in in large volumes every day — much greater volumes than you will experience in a cup of snow.

When you breathe in, many of the larger contaminants are stuck in your nose hairs, in the mucous covering your breathing passages. Eventually that mucous is swalloed and ends up in your stomach, just like where the snow ends up!

The only real danger from eating snow happens if you are stranded in the wilderness. Eating significant amounts of snow for hydration lowers your body temperature and increases your risk of hypothermia.

But as far as pollution is concerned, a cup or 2 of snow is no different than what you’re breathing in all day, every day.

So, enjoy, if you are so inclined. Just don’t grab snow off the highway, the side of the road, where people or animals have been walking, or off the top layer. The fresher the snow the better, because contamination can happen after the snow has been lying around on the ground.

Posted by James at 5:05 PM | Comments (4)

Shotgun Posteria

  • Squashed Philosophers (Reference, Education)
    • Want to know what the great philosophers said but don’t have the time to study them all at length? Check out this website for summaries of their great works. Not as concise as the Monty Python Philosoper’s Song but, perhaps, more thorough and accurate.
  • Scientific American: Making Memories Stick (Article)
    • Here’s an article about how we remember. This would be the highbrow section of the Shotgun this week.
  • Wikipedia: Unusual Articles (Odd Info)
    • Oh, no! It’s an informaniac procrastinator’s dream. I have to stay away from this until the weekend. Someone has collected links to what they deem to be the most unusual articles in the Wikipedia group encyclopedia. Learn:
    • What’s a pornocracy?
    • Who is Optimus Prime?
    • What is Quantum Immortality?
    • What is the link between Satanism and Pokemon?
    • Also the origins of this are explained here.
    • If you’re me, and you wander in here, put a fork in yourself. You’re done for the day.
  • NutritionData.com (Food, Tools)
    • Great website which allows you to look up the nutrition facts on many, menay foods and ingredients. What’s more, it will help you plan your diet. You can create a pantry of ingredients and track your daily intake of nutrients. You can make up a recipe and use this website to generate a nutrition information label! Share the info with your friends. Also offers a “fullness factor” for foods that could help you choose food substitutes that are better suited to your weight-loss goals by making you feel more full for less caloric intake.
    • Found via Mike’s delicious linkdump.
  • CSPI’s Guide to Food Additives (Reference Food)
    • Learn details about a plethora of food additives. Not to sure why it’s in your food? Check here. CSPI is a tiny bit alarmist, but their information is pretty good. Learn about Chuck’s favorite soft drink additive, Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO)!
  • How To Use Eye Talk! (Makeup, Society, Video)
    • Apparently, some Asian women would like more open-looking eyes. The solution, a glue called eye talk! Watch this video for an explanation.
    • You think mascara is bad?
  • Random Plot Generator (Evil)
    • “Advice for the Good Auxiliary Character (Good Guy’s Sidekick): When selecting a love interest, I will keep an eye out for the spunky, moderately attractive tomboy type who is about my height. The stunningly beautiful ones are probably spies from the Evil Overlord, and are only trying to sweet-talk valuable information out of me or tempt me over to the other side.”
    • “Advice for the Evil Overlord: If I decide to hold a double execution of the hero and an underling who failed or betrayed me, I will see to it that the hero is scheduled to go first”
    • Hit reload for more valuable advice.
  • Tech Support (Flash Cartoon)
    • Disgruntled cat laments bad tech support from an Indian fellow. Profanity filled diatribe of frustration. Via Bob McC.
  • Yatta (Flash)
    • You remember Yatta. It’s back, by lack of popular demand. “ Not again. ” Oh, yes.
  • Scary Squirrel World (Animals, Reference)
    • Your source for squirrel info.
  • Linux Switch Ad (Flash Parody)
    • Funny Apple Switch parody. Advice from a super villain.
  • Quit Smoking (Flash)
    • I don’t see how this would help you quit. Do you?
  • A Humble Old Label Ices Its Rivals (Article, Vodka)
    • In blind taste tests, a surprising (maybe not) vodka rises to the top. Maybe it’s time to conduct our own blind taste tests?

More:

Posted by James at 11:15 AM | Comments (5)

Fafblog on Social Security

I couldn’t help but notice that Fafblog has an excellent FAQ explaining the Social Security Crisis.

And, boy, does it sound like a problem.

Q: Tell me more about this crisis in gritty detail!
A: The fireball is huge and loud and expensive and there is grinding guitar music on the soundtrack informing everyone that we are bad, bad dudes! The radiation turns all old people into very poor mutants who must scavenge and eat each other for food. Eventually the robots come: they are unstoppable. What has science done!
Q: I�m scared! How can we avert this terrible future?

Be afraid.

Posted by James at 7:40 AM | Comments (2)

January 27, 2005

Exploit

Steve over at Absit Invidia has been the target of an MT Exploit attack. I’m just now familiarizing myself with what that means, but for him it means that his host kicked him off line for a while and he’s (rightly) none too happy about the whole situation.

Take pity on the guy who deserves a heck of a lot better, and curse those spammers.

Aces Full is probably vulnerable to the same attack, so I’m starting to wonder where I am going to look for alternatives and ways to head off any similar problems…

Posted by James at 3:20 PM | Comments (5)

Small

To “You know who you are,”

I may not know who you are, but you know who you are. You are a small, small person. And you have to look at yourself in the mirror and know that.

It bothers you that I might find out who you are. That’s because you know you’ve screwed up, and that you are a small, small person.

I just wanted you to know that I may not know who you are, but I know it wasn’t an accident. I’ve done the Google searches.I know what you can and cannot find.


To the other readers of my weblog, sorry you have to read this entry. I really don’t want to elaborate on this or explain it. If you’re confused by it then just know it has nothing to do with you.

Posted by James at 12:12 PM

More Food

If you know me, you know I like cooking. You might also know that I think Alton Brown is one of the best sources of info about cooking.

I haven’t watched every one of his TV show episodes, mainly because I’m just not that diligent about TV. However, I do own two of his books. I’ve read one (“I’m Just Here For The Food”) all the way through and it was excellent.As a viewer of the TV show would expect, it’s full of surprising facts, tips on improving your cooking and precise advice. I highly recommend this book for beginning cooks and experienced cooks alike. It’s a really fun read.

For Christmas, I got his latest book — a volume I eagerly anticipated.

“I’m Just Here For More Food” specializes in baked goods, an area I love! SO I was happy to see it appear under the tree.

But this book just became available, meaning it is a first printing. I noticed something odd about it.

Even thought I haven’t had time to read through the whole thing, I was eager to jump around from recipe to recipe and check out ones I could try. I wanted his advice on crepes, focaccia, and a food I have long been familiar with, pizza dough.

There was nothing strange about his crepes recipe. However, the first time I made his focaccia, I wasn’t paying too much attention and my dough started to come out a little wet. As I kneaded by hand, I found myself adding more and more flour. I wasn’t keeping track of how much. Eventually, the dough came out great.

The same thing happened the second time. This time I’d suspected that I’d forgotten to add one of the cups of flour. So I compensated later on. I figured it was my mistake.

Slow to catch on, even the third time I was not wise to the fact that there was something wrong with the recipe. Again in the kneading process I used my experience in baking to compensate with yet more flour until the dough felt right.

I feel like a dope now, but to be fair to myself, the focaccias came out excellent, so it is no wonder I didn’t question his recipe. I generally assume I am at fault.

I wanted to make pizza as well, so I looked at the pizza recipe. Here is the list of ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ cups water
  • 25 mg children’s chewable aspirin
  • 11g salt
  • 5g sugar
  • 8 cups of flour
  • ¼ oz instant yeast

Notice anything odd? The aspirin, right? Yeah, that threw me for a loop as well. But a note in the sidebar says “for the vitamin C.” OK. I guess Alton knows something I don’t. You see, children’s aspirin contains aspirin, and not much else. And since I know people who are allergic to the stuff, I wouldn’t put it in food. Even this small amount.

But, believe it or not, that’s not what raised the biggest flag for me when I went to make this recipe. It was the number of cups of flour involved. 8 cups. The ratio of water to flour in familiar dough recipes is roughly 1 wet to 3 dry — 1 cup water to 3 cups flour. This ratio was roughly 1 to 6.5 — more than twice as dry.

I’ve seen variations on flour. There ought to be no way this recipe would work. Not the kind of pizza I was familiar with. Could I have been so far off all these years in making pizza? When it came time to try the recipe, I couldn’t even bring myself to do it. I modified the recipe, changing it to about 5 cups, then adding a bit more water.

Only after that did it occur to me that something was very, very wrong.

A quick net search confirmed it. Lookee here. If you scroll down to the bottom of that page there are a litany of corrections for the first printing. Among them:

Page 238, Pizza Dough
25 mg of vitamin C should be substituted for chewable children’s aspirin; the correct volume of all-purpose flour is 4 cups. The first sentence of the recipe instructions should read: Dissolve the vitamin C in the warm water, then add to the work bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.

Well, whaddaya know. And that was just one correction among many. So I spent a chunk of Sunday going through the book making the changes, lest I be fooled again. In one case, I even needed to reprint a couple of pages and paste them in, the brownie recipe was so out there.

Maggie is now making fun of Alton whenever I mention his name. We watched “Good Eats” last night and when he’s say “2 cups” of whatever, Maggie would say “Or 8 cups.. or 10 cups… maybe.” Maybe she’s peeved because she’s the one who paid for the book.

I’m giving the man more slack. It was a first printing. And the corrections were on-line. No real harm done. However, it means that you can’t really trust that focaccia recipe I posted earlier, because I didn’t keep track of how much flour I used to compensate. I’m going to either have to try his recipe straight, or make up my own variation. I liked how my focaccia came out. So I need to make it again and weigh the dough to figure out how much flour I end up using.

Despite these errors, AB’s books are really good. Even not having read through this baking one, I’ve learned a lot.

But, where the hell did the children’s aspirin come from? I want to know.

Posted by James at 8:23 AM | Comments (5)

For The Record

For those keeping track of the weather repercussions here in sunny Southern New England (yes, it’s currently quite sunny):

  • My kids are going to school today for the first time since last Friday. However, many of the surrounding cities and towns have just given up and canceled school for the week.
  • The roads are still terrible. They just haven’t been able to clear all of the snow off. In some cases it’s because there’s no place to put it anymore. I’ve heard New Bedford is particularly bad. At least a couple of people there who have to park in the street have told me they’re afraid to move their cars. People are going stir crazy.
  • The most treacherous road I faced was last night on 195 returning home from work. There were patches where snow and dirt had mixed, creating a slippy cake-frosting sludge. You’re going along on a relatively clear road, then suddenly it’s “Ahhhhhh!” Hopefully, they’ve taken care of that today.
  • The university was open yesterday, but students tell me that the roads were inadequately ploughed.
  • Clear weather is forecast for today. However, another storm is coming for next week. Will it be rain? Snow? I can’t imagine another intense storm. Where will we put the snow — this stuff isn’t melting.

It’s a winter freakin’ wonderland.I wonder how my geocache is faring? Maybe I should check on it.

Posted by James at 8:14 AM | Comments (6)

January 26, 2005

Bush Payola Media Machine Rolls On

Maggie Gallagher, conservative syndicated columnist who can be read at NRO among other places, boosted Bush’s $300 million marriage initiative without disclosing that she was being paid to boost said initiative.

When first asked about the lapse, she had this to say for herself:

“Did I violate journalistic ethics by not disclosing it?” Gallagher said yesterday. “I don’t know. You tell me.”

Ok. Here you go Ms. Gallagher: YES (you dope)

Apparently, “conservative” (and that term must be referring to their use of brain cells) columnists have an amazing disconnect among their wallets, their written opinions their ethics and their selective memories.

Ms. G has since admitted that it was a lapse, and blames poor memory. Right. Who would imagine that someone being paid by the administration to promote an idea might be biased in their opinion about said idea? Why, it’s a real leap to make that connection.

Read more about it here.

Posted by James at 9:48 AM | Comments (1)

Get used to it

Nature to Southern New England:

It’s winter. Get used to it.

Posted by James at 9:15 AM

January 25, 2005

Google Video

Something you want to tell me about this little suitcase, freckles?

Google now does video searches of recent TV programs. I found the above image and text by searching “Lost” for suitcase. The text is from the captioning. Is there anything Google doesn’t do, or won’t do in the future?

Posted by James at 10:39 AM | Comments (9)

Name That Movie 23

School is still cancelled where I live, and the university is even closed! However, dedicated idiot I am, I’m on my way to work. But at least we have this Name That Movie to play with:

Guess away!

Second Clue is Here.

Third Clue is Here

Fourth Clue is Here

Clues Five and Six

Posted by James at 10:04 AM | Comments (40)

January 24, 2005

When Life Hands You Snow

Make snowcones.

That’s strawberry snow on the left and maple snow on the right. Delicious.

In the worlds of Alton Brown:

I’m not saying it’s the best thing in the world for ya, I’m just saying it’s the best thing in the world.


Posted by James at 6:33 PM | Comments (2)

Wal*Mart Fact-Checking

In the first decade after Wal-Mart arrived in Iowa, the state lost 555 grocery stores, 298 hardware stores, 293 building supply stores, 161 variety stores, 158 women’s apparel stores, 153 shoe stores, 116 drugstores, and 111 men’s and boys’ apparel stores.

For more details, check out PurpleOcean’s Wal-Mart Fact Checker. You can print out your own fact sheet there.

Bottom line is, people can’t make informed decisions if they’re not informed. Wal*Mart throws its immense weight around in television advertising, yet even if folks had the money to get the facts out, the networks have shown a fear of doing anything to upset anyone with money when it comes to running ads.

PurpleOcean is tracking how the word is spreading about WalMart. As the word spreads through signups, they’ll be donating money for health care to uncovered Wal-Mart workers. Thanks, Dave, for the link.

Posted by James at 2:00 PM | Comments (7)

January 23, 2005

Taunton River


taunton_river, originally uploaded by drmomentum.

As soon as the sky cleared, I took this picture of the Taunton river from our second floor deck.


You can see the gray sky and equally gray river, though the waves are no longer evident. The seas have calmed down and the wind is no longer blowing snow everywhere.


This was our cue that it was time to go out and start digging.

Posted by James at 6:52 PM | Comments (7)

Hey. Anyone Notice the Snow?

The snow is so bad, why, there isn’t a blog within 70 miles that isn’t posting about it! So, without further delay, it’s bandwagon-jumping time. I apologize for my host, which seems to have been cutting in and out. Electricity problems, I suppose.

Check out this image. It’s fun!

See the radar reflectivity? The darker green areas are the areas of heaviest snowfall. Notice that nasty dark green band south east of Boston extending down south of Providence. At the base of that dark band is where we are. In the area between Swansea and the Taunton River there is (for some bizarre reason) unusually heavy snowfall. And the animation loop shows that the storm is just hovering here for the most part in the last few hours.

This morning they were predicting a total of over 30 inches in the greater Fall River area by the time we dig out. As Teen Girl Squad would say, “Dag, yo!”

If you want to see some obligatory pics of the impressive drifting, look no further than this of the swingset as it looked this morning (click for full sized image):

My paltry blizzard-like-conditions photo album is here.

It would be cool if I had the space and bandwidth to upload some Quicktime movies of the snow blowing around. But maybe it’s just as well. If I had the room I’d probably be out hiking around the neighborhood with my camera.

Perhaps I will have an actual substantive post for later.

Posted by James at 12:05 PM | Comments (2)

January 22, 2005

Blizzard Pre-Bloggin'

So, it’s said there is a blizzard on the way. If it’s bad, we get to look back on it in years to come and say “Remember the blizzard of ought-five? No? You were only a little whippersnapper back then.”

The town is already abuzz, along with the whole northeast…

Why Ask Why?

Why pre-blog the blizzard? Because I likely won’t be able to blog during, that’s why. If the blizzard does hit, the chances of losing electricity are very good. And we don’t have a generator. Actually, I may queue up a blog post or two on the laptop, but no posting unless there is power for the cable modem.

I was out by midmorning to do some errands while the girls tried to sell more cookies. Let me say that a the only thing more dangerous than a blizzard is being trapped inside during a blizzard with boxes and boxes of Girl Scout Cookies that have not yet been sold. The horror. The calories. The horror.

The supermarket was already jammed full of people. I saw the people fighting for eggs. If you know anything about snowstorms, you must get as many eggs as possible in the house. It’s an imperative. I already have 2 dozen in the house from my last shopping trip. If I’m going to be stuck in, I’m going to experiment with cooking. Even if the power is out I’ll be cooking away ‘cause “I’m cookin’ with gas!” Though my newfangled oven won’t work. Damn, that means no bread. Only cooktop action.

Meals On Ice

Now is the time to start looking at your freezer and thinking “What’s in there that I can eat?” Power loss means slow refrigeration loss. The good thing about winter, of course, is that it has a built-in refrigeration backup plan. Bags of snow, or packing a large cooler with snow every few hours.

If you’re brave enough to put your frozen food outside, good luck fighting off the raccoons, rats, coyotes, skunks, cats and such. Better to eat the stuff yourself than to feed the local scavenger ecosystem. Unless you go into full mountain man mode and just lure the critters in for the freshest possible meat. In that case, you’ll want to stock up on ammo for your 2nd-amendment-ensured varmint gun.

Back at the supermarket, people are all abuzz. The blizzard is coming! The blizzard is coming! Buy milk, flour, sugar and eggs because there’s nothing a visiting blizzard likes more than a big ‘ol birthday cake.

Thanks, Dad

I figured I’d better get some ice melt, too, and a spare shovel. After that, I stopped by Dad’s house where he was also caught up in preparedness fever. “Do you have lamps?”

“Huh?” I brainily replied. Why is he asking about my lighting needs? I told him we have flashlights and plenty of batteries. I resisted the urge to pronounce it “batch-rees” instead of “bat-er-ees.” I have no idea where that came from.

Of course he was asking about hurricane lamps. As we looked over his array of flashlights at the ready should we lose power (so that’s where I get that from). He presented me with one of his lamps. Seeing its purple coat of paint, I mumbled a suggestion that this thing was only for decoration. When he said we were going to test it out I htought “Who am I to argue!” We filled the thing with lamp oil and it worked like a charm. Except for the leaking. So, if we lose power, fear not — I have a leaky hurricane lamp for light.1

Once back home, I started thawing steak from the freezer. I’m eating in style.

Prep Work

Now, there is just the waiting. Final preparations include:

  • Blizzard safety kit, placed in the charge of my eldest daughter. Contains heavy plastic and duct tape in the event of radioactive “dirty” chemical or biologically hazardous snow.
  • Move wood close to the house, and bring some wood inside in case we lose heat.
  • Cover the wood pile with a tarp. Hope the wind doesn’t blow it off.
  • In the case of heavy snow, certain things might be covered and difficult to find, especially in the dark. Use the GPS to mark waypoints for the locations of:
    • My car
    • The woodpile
    • The bathroom
    • All the flashlights in the house
    • The nearest package store
  • Begin to panic because the only lime I have in the house is over a month old and the only non-flat tonic water is diet!
  • Charge camcorder battery and camera batteries to capture blizzard hijinks later on.

I’m sure there are other things I ought to do to prepare. But I refuse to start drinking until the girls are tucked in bed, so that will have to wait.

If we don’t lose power, I’ll see you later. Otherwise, see you on the other side.

Links:

1 To test the safety of the leaky oil lamp, I held a lit match to the part of the lamp that was dripping. Try as I might, I couldn’t get the dripping oil to ignite. Then I drained the lamp down below the neck of the fill hole, which the instructions specify. As long as you don’t tip this baby over, it’s golden. But you still can’t post to the internet by its light. Not bright enough.

Posted by James at 3:57 PM | Comments (8)

Focaccia Recipe

focacciaI think I promised to provide this recipe a while ago. Regardless, Bil asked me for it, so I’m posting it here. While it’s not an overly complex recipe, it’s probably not the first bread recipe you want to try out. If you’re just starting baking bread, there are many simple recipes that will give you the feel of it, and there are a couple of books I can recommend.

However, if you like to jump right in, I say why not?

The focaccia recipe is below the fold…

Rosemary Focaccia

1 tablespoon Rosemary
1 cup Water
2/3 cups Water
4 tablespoons Olive oil
1/2 cup Cornmeal
6 1/2 cups Bread flour
1 1/2 tablespoons Instant yeast
4 teaspoons Salt
  • Crush or grind the rosemary to make the pieces smaller and release the oils. A mortar and pestle are helpful here.
  • Optionally add any other spices that go with rosemary. Thyme, basil, dried roasted garlic, etc.
  • Steep the rosemary in the 1 cup of water as you bring it to a boll in a small saucepan.
  • Slowly mix in the cornmeal and continue to mix , until it thickens, about 30 seconds.
  • Add the remaining water and oil to the saucepan, mix as thoroughly as possible (I find that the cooked corn meal stays somewhat lumpy here) and bring the mixture up to between 115 and 120 degrees F.
  • The mixing directions are geared toward using an electric mixer. If you do not have an electric mixer, mix with a wooden spoon in a large mixing bowl.
  • If you have an electric mixer, place the liquid mixture into the mixer bowl and fit the mixer with its dough hook.
  • Add 2 cups of the flour and the yeast.
  • Mix with on a low speed until smooth.
  • Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes - it is currently a “sponge” and should rise a bit in that time.
  • On low speed, stir in the remaining flour and the salt until the dough cleans the side of the bowl
  • Knead for 5 to 7 minutes. (By hand it will take about 10 minutes)
  • Turn the dough out into an oiled bowl, covered.
  • Allow the dough to rise for 1 hour.
  • Punch down and spread the dough out flat inside a 13” deep dish pizza pan. If you don’t have a pizza pan like that, just use any heavy sheet pan and form the dough into a rough rectangle.
  • Cover with a clean kitchen towel, and allow the dough to rise for 1 1/2 hours.
  • Preheat the oven to 450 F
  • While you are heating the oven, use your fingertips to dimple the dough, then drizzle olive oil over the surface. If you like, sprinkle the surface of the dough with kosher salt and whatever spices you desire.
  • Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown. I find the crust improves if I bake for 20 minutes then remove from the pan carefully and finish the last 5 minutes on the oven rack directly.
  • Remove from the pan to a cooling rack or cutting board. I like to let the bread rest for 15 minutes, but you might not be able to wait. Cut as desired and serve!
Posted by James at 3:12 PM | Comments (3)

January 21, 2005

Family Guy Update

The best animated series of the last 5 years is coming back to television, and we finally have a date and time.

Sunday, May 1st 9/8c on FOX

Further, FOX’s website and Family Guy weblog has some footage of the voice actors from the show involved in a pre-recording rehearsal session. See it here.

Yes, Ryan. There is a Santa Claus.

Posted by James at 4:23 PM | Comments (3)

Surprises

Continual proof of my extreme good fortune in knowing cool and thoughtful people.

Ryan visited the office this week and replaced our old daily office calendar with a new one. The new on is The Onion: Ad Nauseam. Fun stuff! Today’s news headline: “90 Percent of Americans Now Wearing Laminated ID Badges.”

Also, Sharon has been producing surprises in the beverage department, kindly introducing me to some new cider, unusual tea, and a really weird beverage which I hesitate to call “beer” before I actually try it. I’ll post some more specific reviews of that stuff soon.

Thanks, guys!

Posted by James at 10:55 AM | Comments (3)

$40 million Shotgun

  • The Hasselhoffian Recursion (Mind-bending GIF)
    • Marginally safe for work, David Hasselhoff’s groin recurses infinitely.
  • Gmail As A Second Brain (Productivity)
    • Tips on how to take advantage of Gmail to store your thoughts.
  • Getting Back To Work (Productivity)
    • A productivity toolkit.
  • Cliche Finder (Language)
    • Search and find cliches for any occasion based on a given word. Give it a visit, unless you’re as busy as a one-legged man at an ass-kicking contest.
  • The ESP Game (Information Science)
    • Has nothing to do with psychics. Instead, it is an experiment to help come up with better keywords for image searches on the internet. You are paired up with another player and to progress in the game you must type in the same word to describe the image you are both looking at. There is no communication betweek you — you’re just allowed to progress if one of your words matches your partner’s. Oddly addicting, and it’s for a good cause… the cause of SCIENCE!
  • FOX Deals With Dissent (Conservative Media Goons)
    • Oliver Willis has this clip from FOX on his weblog showing the unusual situation of an actual, live person critical of the administration getting on air, and how flustered they are by it. It’s amazing that they immediately see a person with this sort of opinion as a crisis or threat to them. That’s journalism!
  • Surrealist Compliment Generator (Absurd words)
    • “Though I may never see you again, I wish you the warmest clam chowder, the finest of embalmings, and the best in stainless steel cadaver pans that money can buy.”
  • Fictional Chemical Substance (Reference, Humor)
    • This is the Wiki entry for made-up elements in Sci-Fi stories. Think “Atmospherium.” If you don’t know where that was from, but want to know, this entry is for you.
  • You do not just walk into Mortor. (Funny Gif)
    • This funny gif has been making the rounds. Boromir parody.
    • UPDATE: Mike provided a mirror. Now the link works. Thanks, Mike!
  • Gay Alert Level (Humor)
    • Homeland security’s new project. (Thanks, BobMc)
  • Kraft Dinner (Food)
    • Apparently, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese is called “Kraft Dinner” in some other parts of the world. And someone believes it needs its own web page.
  • Propagandocracy (Politics)
    • Article about how propagandizing is endemic to this administration.
  • Regret The Error (Media)
    • “Regret The Error reports on corrections, retractions, clarifications, and trends regarding accuracy and honesty in North American media.”
  • Full Body Floss (Movie Clip)
    • Guy claims he is running long piece of dental floss through his entire body. Gross. More disgusting than you are thinking while you’re reading this. Contains nudity. Definitely not safe for work. But yet I couldn’t skip posting it. It’s so out there.
  • Beast 50 2004 (Criticism)
    • List of the 50 most loathsome people of 2004. See if your favorites are there!!!
  • Weird Pictures of Cats (Humor)
    • Weirdest pictures of cats ever seen on a Russian web page. Eva.
Posted by James at 10:45 AM | Comments (11)

January 20, 2005

Happy Inauguration Day

Happy Inauguration Day, Folks!

For those in other countries, let me explain. This is the day that the corporations who paid lots of money to keep Bush in office throw him a huge party to remind him who he’s working for.

Just so we’re all on the same page.

Here’s a fun poll to entertain you while you watch the event on the TV:

Caught trying to cover the inauguration, what do you say to try to pass as a right-wing blogger/harmless?
“Dubya is teh new hawtness!”
“Who would look better barefoot and pregnant, Michelle Malkin or Ann Coulter?”
“Look, over there! It’s a gay! Get him!”
“Security? Thank goodness! I lost my media payoff check. Can you help me find it?”
“No habla ingles!” (then, start cleaning the room. Helps if you are not very pale)
“Officer, can I touch your gun?”
“‘Remember, Satan appears as wolf in sheep’s clothing.’ - First Peter chapter 5, verse 8 as if you didn’t know!”
  
Free polls from Pollhost.com
Posted by James at 12:54 PM | Comments (5)

Sense Sensibility

Brian wrote an entry on his blog about his ideas for a moderate party stance in response to a comment I made to him on an earlier post of his.

I don’t fancy myself much of a political strategist or political scientist. I’ve got a general knowledge but do not consider myself exceptionally knowledgeable about history. I offer this caveat just to put my comments in perspective as exploratory rather than an attempt at being authoritative.

It sounds like Brian wants to adopt a very liberal philosophy for running the country, but wants to approach it differently than the Democrats, who have been in a shambles lately regarding their ability to articulate and provide clear leadership. (I don’t think the Republicans have been much better at providing leadership, but they have clearly been better communicators). Kudos to him. “Sensible” has its own problems as a name (remember “Brights”?) but I think what he’s articulation is a frustration with the polarized nature of the debate in this country.

But let me take a closer look at Brian’s post for a moment. I wanted to see, in his examples, how the extremes compare.

[Religion has] always been a tricky gray area, but people tend to fall out on the far ends of the spectrum. On the one end we have people who want creationism taught in the schools. On the other, we have people who get angry when someone says Merry Christmas to a mixed group of people in a corporate setting.

In this example there are 2 extremes. One wants creationism taught as science in school. Public school is clearly an area in which government is involved. So this part of the example is about how the extreme has an effect on government. The other extreme in his example is a disagreement about how a private social situation is handled. Since no one is suggesting that the government step in to prevent people from saying “Merry Christmas,” it has no parity with the other example which seeks to use government to push religious dogma.

His example about abortion exhibits the same phenomenon. The social conservative extreme is described as wanting to stop (presumably via the government and its laws) “any abortion under any circumstance or any acknowledgement of birth control.” On the left, we just have the extreme behavior of T-shirt wearing and a particular attitude about abortion. Again, there is a parity gap here.

This is completely unintentional on Brian’s part, but what does it mean? I can’t read Brian’s mind, but it would seem to me that a liberal is going to consider the opposing party’s effect on the government as “extremism” while simultaneously being annoyed that some actual extreme and marginal factions of his own wing are exhibiting behavior that undercuts his desire for the liberal position to be taken seriously.

That’s my read. And lest this post be perceived as my picking on Brian, I want to say I agree with his sentiments and his central idea.

Lately, I’ve been trying to check in with Left2Right , and academic group blog with some pretty intelligent liberal minds trying to find ways to reach the right. (their self-description is here)

Personally I think it’s a more complex question than finding a middle. For me it is. Maybe that’s why I’ve tried to start reading more about liberalism, libertarianism, the left and traditional Democratic issues. There’s an interesting series of posts on Left2Right called “Letting Roe Go” (third installment here, with links to previous ones).

I don’t have any simple suggestions. Before you can compromise, you have to know what you stand for. It’s not a simple thing to go through all these issues, come up with opinions and then try to gether them under the umbrella of a unifying philosophy. Individually, it can take a lifetime. The Democrats need to find a unifying philosophy. I’m trying to do it personally.

The left do not “stand for” pride in abortions. We do not define ourselves by the folks who are upset by a quasi-religious holiday greeting.

We might be proud to live in a country that allows women some control over the reproductive workings of their bodies. We might be proud that we don’t force all people to celebrate at Christmastime. But the extreme application of the freedoms we stand for is not the focus.

Think of a full pint glass of beer as freedom for everyone. To fill a beer glass completely, sometimes you have to spill a little foam over the lip of the vessel. Better that little foam be spilled than to hand someone a slightly empty pint glass. Think of the extreme folks wearing T-shirts as that little bit of foam which ultimately is of no consequence.

On the other hand, there is a perception that these extremes are representative. This is a real problem. More thoughtful discussion on strongly held beliefs is great, but people in T-shirts makes good TV and will supersede a hundred discussions. Even here, I choose to entertain myself and my readers with an occasional extreme because it’s fun. So, maybe the first step is to be able to distinguish political discourse from blowing off steam. Talk radio has blurred that line if not completely erased it.

Blaming talk radio will get us nowhere. We have to be for things. We have to be strong in our beliefs, the roots of our beliefs and the reasoning behind them. “Protecting the rights of all people” as Brian begins, is, indeed, a good place to start.

Posted by James at 12:09 PM | Comments (4)

January 19, 2005

PayPal and Stuff

Here’s something I don’t like about PayPal. How they put you in an awkward spot to leverage you into becoming a paying “Premier” business member. For your informaiton “premium” means “expensive.” Read on for details.

PayPal allows you to accept a payment from another PayPal member (for something like Girl Scout Cookies). All you have to do is sign up and you can use PayPal both to send money and receive money.

However, if you want to get credit card payments, you have to have a business account with PayPal. I compeltely understand why this is — this is how PayPal makes its money. Credit card transactions cost money, so they would have to charge for being the middleman in that transaction anyhow. I have no problem with the idea that they need compensation for that.

What I do have a problem with is that if I tell you I can accept PayPal payments, but I’m not a Premium Premier or Business member (so I can’t accept credit card payments) they will still let someone try to send me a credit card payment. Then they notify me of what has happened. I can either accept the payment by upgrading to a business account or I can reject the payment.

Clearly, this is just a way to leverage their users into upgrading. Instead of making it clear to the person making the payment, preventing the transaction in the first place, they hold the payment hostage and force me to send an awkward message to the nice person trying to send me a donation for cookies.

I’m not a business. You can count the dollars going back and forth on your fingers and toes. I will never be a premium Premier member. It’s throwing money away. So why would they allow this transaction to begin and force me to contact the other person?

It’s annoying as heck, and PayPal shouldn’t do it.

[Update: It’s called “Premier” instead of “premium.” And all I’d be agreeing to if I allowed the credit card transaction would be to allow them to take a cut of the transaction. But as I am accepting donations, so there is no profit involved. Maybe I should just eat the cost of the credit card transaction. I’m certainly not going to take that out of the money that’s going to the troop. But I don’t like the way PayPal handles it, nonetheless. I would have liked to have given the option to turn off credit card transactions until I decided to accept them.]

Posted by James at 12:50 PM | Comments (7)

January 18, 2005

Angel Light? Right.

Some guy claims he’s invented a beam of energy that can make things see-through. Hookay.

Put aside how ridiculous the article sounds for a moment. If you had discovered such a thing, wouldn’t you have taken a picture of it? Maybe fired up the video camera for posterity? Hell, I light some crepes on fire and it’s a bloody home movie. You’d think a major scientific breakthrough would warrant at least some iZone sticky film.

I used to think crackpot people were funny. As I get older, I find them to be a little scary.

Posted by James at 6:07 PM | Comments (1)

Name That Movie 22

Here is your first clue. Subsequent clues will appear as the day progresses.

Note: I will post the rest of the clues as links so that anyone coming late can reveal the images one at a time.

Second Clue - Link

Third Clue - Link

Fourth Clue - Link

Fifth Clue - Link

Posted by James at 8:32 AM | Comments (23)

January 17, 2005

Crossovers Are For Geeks

J.J. Abrams hid a little nugget in last Wednesday’s Alias episode. Near the beginning of the episode, Sydney is talking to Jack away from a party. At the end of the scene, some music from the party can be heard. It’s “You All Everybody” by Driveshaft.

Fans of Lost are familiar with Driveshaft. It’s the band that stranded Charlie (Dominic Monaghan) belonged to with his brother.

Of course, it was the talk of the geeky fan network. But since I watch these shows during workouts, I’m seeing them on tape days after they air. So I get behind the times.

But the people who make these shows know their audiences, and they know that in jokes are geek favorites. For research on this phenomenon, watch every episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Posted by James at 12:25 PM | Comments (5)

January 16, 2005

Aflame


Aflame, originally uploaded by drmomentum.

Today I experimented with crepes. This image is my attempt at a suzette, which I whipped up as an afterthought.


This image is blurry, but I also got it on DV tape. The children were running around in an excited state because, even though I told them that something was going to happen and even though I had the cameras out, they though something had gone horribly wrong when the pan burst into flames.

Check below the fold for some better images of the crepes themselves, which were my first attempt, and quite successful.

Crepes are somewhat easier than I thought. The key (once you get the recipe itself correct) is in the swirl.

Those images above picture different stages of the crepemaking.

First, they’re cooling on a rack. Next, you see two crepes rolled and plated, waiting to go into the pan. Next you see that Kit wanted to know if we could read a newspaper through the crepe. Actually, you can tell what is behind the crepe. Can you make out that logo? Next you see a stack of 11 crepes. Finally, my favorite serving suggestion, strawberries and whipped cream. Click any image for a larger picture.

Posted by James at 5:31 PM | Comments (7)

King Arthur (2004)


“Grrr. I’m gonna smurfing bite the head off this movie!”

Plain old action and gore film makes sense, until the chick shows up.

Details follow below the fold.

It’s not surprising they have put Ms. Knightley front and center in the advertising for this film (especially now that it’s on DVD), she appears more prominently in all of the posters and in the DVD jacket art. It’s understandable, that she appears in the skimpiest outfit she wears in the film, but I find it slightly annoying that they have her looking normal skin-colored. In the film, Ms. Knightley plays Guinevere who is a Woad. The Woads in this movie all cover themselves with a blue-gray pigment when in battle gear, so you never see anything close to what you see if you take a look at the dvd art. Compare and contrast. Original poster. New promotional material. Image from the film(scroll down for 3rd image).

In any case, about halfway through this film, if you are like me, you’ll be thinking:

_”Hey, this movie is not half bad. Superhuman knights are forced to fight britons (the pagan, forest-dwelling woads) for Rome because of an old debt of their ancestors, even though they are britons themselves. The invasion of the ruthless saxon army heralds the end of the roman occupation, but not before the knights must accomplish one final, deadly mission to secure their freedom.

Exciting stuff. Sure, there’s a bit too much of the prancing around. And I have no idea whether any of this makes any historical sense. It’s certainly nothing like the Arthur stories I remember. But if it turnes out to be a good movie, I don’t care all that much.

But where’s Kiera Knightley? Isn’t she in this movie?”_

Soon after that, Knightley shows up as the woad Guinevere, saved by Arthur from roman Christian torturers. What? Whatever.

Immediately, the movie plunges downhill. Guinevere speaks perfect English. Why? She immediately becomes a source of really bad lines that were obviously meant to sound cool and funny coming from a tough woman. But they sound dumb, and I don’t blame Ms. Knightley. This is a woman who was supposedly starved and tortured, and she’s in pretty good spirits and quickly none the worse for wear. And we have to listen to her cooing at Arthur about how her father talked about the legendary knight. I’m sorry, but that just creeped me out as I started trying to do the math.

Before the end, there are a few very well executed gory battle scenes. In fact, if you stick with the beginning and end you have a passable mindless action movie. But the plot tries to play catchup in the middle when you really have been fine without anything complex.

In short, this movie is mostly harmless. Feel free to fast forward almost any time Guinevere is on the screen, thanks to the screenwriter.

Posted by James at 10:56 AM | Comments (3)

January 15, 2005

Focaccia


focaccia, originally uploaded by drmomentum.

I’ve been experimenting with focaccia lately. I’ve taken a basic recipe from Alton Brown and added herbs, basically making a tea out of them before cooking the 1/2 cup of corn meal which gives the bread some body.

If you click the image, you will be able to view the annotations on Flickr.

Posted by James at 10:52 PM | Comments (22)

January 14, 2005

Don't Click This Link

Deathball. NotPron

It’s a long (rumored to be 81 pages long) interactive internet riddle/game that requires you to do some thinking. Knowledge of HTML is helpful. Knowledge of computers is helpful. It’s easier on a Windows machine, and they say it requires Internet Explorer for best results.

Derek and Jake just showed it to me, and it is a rather engaging little game.

I warn you. This one appears to be both addictive and requiring a lot of your time and brain cycles. Expressly designed to reduce your productivity to zero.

Posted by James at 5:49 PM | Comments (7)

1% More Shotgun!

  • Southern Mississippi library system bans Jon Stewart’s best-selling book (Ridiculous News)
    • Libraries in Mississippi join Wal-Mart in banning Stewart’s book over the naked SCOTUS picture within. If it’s naked, it must be porn. JimC alerted me to this one.
  • Woman Tore off Ex-Lover’s Testicle, Court Told (More Ridiculous News)
    • “A jilted woman today admitted ripping off her ex-lover’s testicle with her bare hands after he refused to have sex with her. Amanda Monti, 24, flew into a rage after her ex-boyfriend, 37-year-old Geoffrey Jones, rejected her advances at the end of a drunken house party. She yanked off his left testicle, which was later handed to him by a friend with the words: ‘That’s yours.’”
    • Via Messenger Puppet
  • biojewelry (Strange Commerce)
    • A company website that claims to be interested in culturing bone for jewelry. Like wedding rings.
  • Mushroom Expert.com (Reference)
    • A one stop location for learning about those wonderful fungii.
  • The Duel (Flash Animation)
    • A penguin and a squirrel and the Duke boys… it’s all too much. Set to banjo music, it makes little or no sense.
  • Uniroyal Fun Cup (Racing Game)
    • A fun little flash racing game. Really good graphics for flash.
  • Die Screaming With Sharp Things In Your Head (Weird)
    • Your source for photos of impaled garden gnomes. And you didn’t even know you needed such a source.
  • FlashcardExchange (Education Resource)
    • A place where people upload flashcards for other people to use. Flashcards mostly for vocabulary, but also for sign language and such. You can view them online, or print the printable ones!
  • The New Adventures of the Elephant Man - Part 3 (Flash)
    • Yeah, it’s pretty much true.
  • Make A Flake (Flash Game)
    • Make your own paperless paper snowflake.
  • Choose The Blue (Activism)
    • Where’s your money going when you buy from, say WalMart of Home Depot? Choose The Blue can help you find out. Thanks, Maggie.
  • Bush uses new nickname for senator.
    • First Pootie-poot and now this. If you like having a person around who lies to act like he’s your boss and he can call you whatever diminutive name he likes, you’ll love our president. A senator learns that there is no getting through to this bozo, as he adheres to the letter of the request but misses the spirit of it.
  • Clean Your Screen For Free (Funny Flash)
    • This application gives you a free and time-tested way of cleaning your monitor. Try it out!
  • MARATHON Trilogy - Free! (Video game)
    • Bungee has released its classic Macintosh FPS game “Marathon” for anyone to download and play. That’s awesome.
Posted by James at 1:38 PM | Comments (6)

Windy

It’s been a busy couple of days here, so the shotgun post is delayed. It will be up today, though.

As I was driving in to work this morning, I went over the Brightman Street Bridge and there was a bird (a swallow of some kind) flying overhead, about 40 feet above the road. It was flapping madly, yet it was stationary… hovering where it was as the wind held it in place above the center of the bridge.

I swear I’ve had whole weeks like that.

Posted by James at 11:32 AM | Comments (8)

January 13, 2005

Happy Bloggiversary

Today, Aces Full of Links is 3 years old! We’ve escaped the terrible twos!

The first post appeared on Jan 13, 2002. That was the month the Ashcroft breast-cover-up hit the web. Heady times.

It’s been a fun 3 years. For the first two years we gained a reader every six months. I’m happy to announce that the ratings folks tell me we now gain a new reader every five and a half months!

Isn’t it time for Aces Full of Links to do what all desperate forms of entertainment do around the 3 year mark? Shouldn’t I be having a baby, adding a sidekick, going on some pointless road trip (think the Brady bunch in Hawaii)? Maybe I need to introduce a pesky and everpresent youngster (“Whatchoo talkin’ about, Aces??”).

Or, I could follow the example of other TV shows and simply turn evil. I could start saying how much I love Trent Lott and call all of you folks “Moonbats.” You’d call me a “rightard” and there would be long battles in the comments section.

That’s no fun. There are all ready a plethora of right wingnut sites. I think it’s best to stick to my strengths. Steady and reliable nonsense peppered with random acts of logic.

Posted by James at 8:49 AM | Comments (5)

January 12, 2005

What age do I act.

You Are 28 Years Old

28

Under 12: You are a kid at heart. You still have an optimistic life view - and you look at the world with awe.

13-19: You are a teenager at heart. You question authority and are still trying to find your place in this world.

20-29: You are a twentysomething at heart. You feel excited about what’s to come… love, work, and new experiences.

30-39: You are a thirtysomething at heart. You’ve had a taste of success and true love, but you want more!

40+: You are a mature adult. You’ve been through most of the ups and downs of life already. Now you get to sit back and relax.
What Age Do You Act?

I guess they didn’t have a slot for “3.”

Posted by James at 7:20 PM | Comments (11)

Local Radio

I have to love the local radio here in southeastern MA.

The AM radio station has a weekly show with a chiropractor who talks about how dangerous modern medicine is (his hook is something offensively ridiculous like “properly prescribed medical treatments are the leading cause of death”)

Then this morning I heard an ad for a local… I don’t know what you would call it.

“Learn about your aura with our on-site aura photography. And it’s not only for you; we will also take your pet’s aura.”

Calgon, take me away.

P.S.

Oh yeah, then the right-wingnut host comes on at quarter-past 10 and trashes the New Bedford Standard Times for doing a front page story on heroin use in New Bedford calling it “not news” and “an ad for those left loonies who are pushing methadone clinics.”

Granted, it could be a lousy story, I haven’t had the chance to read it myself. (here it is) but all I learned from his rant was that he hates liberals and he wasn’t happy that there was a picture of a needle on the front page, sticking out of someone’s arm.

This is why I usually listen to books on tape in the car.

Posted by James at 10:30 AM | Comments (12)

Today's Poll: Sources of Info

So, where is it that you get most of your information?

Where do you get your information?
I’m always logged in to the VAX
The ‘net
The Information Superhighway
The “internets.”
The interweb
The Daily Show
The worldwideweb
The web
Google
Free porn sites
  
Free polls from Pollhost.com
Posted by James at 7:56 AM | Comments (2)

January 11, 2005

Cheesy Free iPod Request

Interested at all in helping me get an iPod? Read on.

There is a company offering “free” iPods. Not really free, of course. I have to bug my friends to get the thing.

I don’t usually do these free-whatever deals, but I know someone who got the iPod so I figured I’d give it a shot. I have to fulfill an “offer” and then get 5 other people to do likewise.

It turned out that one of the offers is pretty darn easy, and something I was already considering. Now I just have to get 5 other people to sign up using my affiliate link:

http://www.freeipods.com/?r=13677003

If 5 of you folks do that… well, I guess we’ll see what happens.

The offers you have to choose from are mostly the usual credit card sign-ups, a Columbia DVD club, BMG music, Wall Street Journal subscription, USA Today subscription. I noticed there was a “try 2 weeks of Blockbuster Online free” as one of the offers. I signed up for Blockbuster’s Netflix clone because I wanted to see how it was anyway and it still apparently counts if I cancel when the 2 weeks are up. So that seemed like the one for me. I’ve already gotten 3 DVDs and 2 coupons for free in-store rentals.

In any case, if you’re interested at all in helping, click the link I provided above and look into it for yourself. I only get credit if you sign up through that link. Sign up ONLY with a throwaway email address. Might I suggest Spamgourmet for creating such an address. Or, just let me know and I will send you a Gmail invite to use. Don’t use your personal email. That’s why I’m posting this to the blog rather than using their site to send out invites. If I use their form, that would give them your real address. An enormous no-no. Use an address that you will toss into the trash like a used Kleenex when you’re done with the offer.

And then, after you complete an offer… like a virus… like the Ring… you can try to sign up 5 people and get your own iPod. Of course, I will report back here on the success/failure of this endeavor, if I can get 5 signups.

Oh, and feel free to tell me cheesy offer promotion doesn’t belong on my weblog in the comments.

Posted by James at 8:20 AM | Comments (8)

Name That Movie 21

It’s not too late… to name it. Name it good:

Next image soon. It depends on how lively the guessing is.

Second Image Here

Third Image Here

Posted by James at 8:13 AM | Comments (18)

January 10, 2005

Weird Monday

‘Twas an odd day. Below the fold, more details than you wanted to know about it. Brain dump.

The brakes in my car have been shot, which annoyed me because they’re only months old.

It doesn’t explain my bad mood, but it helps. See, I tried to get them fixed last week, but the Midas where I usually go is now out of business. And I didn’t go to any back up plan.

But today it occurred to me that A) there is a Midas just down the street from where I work and B) I am an idiot. As coincidence would have it, when I called at lunch time they said “bring her in right now!” It was a relief to get that taken care of. Amazing how these things wear on your mind.

It was 1.3 miles back to the office and I decided to jog back. In a leather jacket and stuff.

Savior

Sara, who I haven’t seen in over a week, happened to be driving down the road and saw me huffing and puffing (I’m slightly out of running shape lately, and the cold air made a mess of my lungs). I don’t look at drivers when I run, so she had to pull up next to me and beep before I even looked at her and noticed who she was. She took pity and drove me back to the office. She left after taking care of her business and catching up on office talk and telling me about Laura’s wedding, which sounded nice.

At the time, I hadn’t realized I’d stepped in dog poop. Literally, somewhere on my walk back. I just thought something in my office smelled bad. So half the conversation with Sara I’m thinking “What is that smell, and boy I hope Sara hasn’t smelled it because I can’t explain it.” It really bugged me. I thought perhaps it was the garbage, which never made it out the door with ‘S’ this morning. I think something is bothering S.

I overheard S telling my Boss that her birthday is approaching. Did she also say something about her mother dying on her birthday years ago? And that she felt partly responsible? Not sure I heard it right. It was one of those things that one tortures oneself over. She wasn’t responsible, it sounded like it was an accident where her mom was somewhere where she wouldn’t have been if not for S. And she died. Now she’s a wreck on her birthday every year. Boss, himself able to deal with real, terrible hardship, said he tried to forget days like that. Cindy pointed out that it was S’s birthday which makes it tough to forget. But one has to move forward. Easy for me to say, no?

Running Man

The Boss was in and out all day, between dental appointments and having his knee X-rayed. I guess I never told you this story. Boss was on his yearly Thanksgiving Day run and he caught his pant leg on the remnants of a metal sign pole that Dartmouth had thoughtfully left sticking out of the ground. SMACK - down he went, breaking his patella in twain. This man is unstoppable, for he ran the three miles home with a frickin’ broken kneecap. Yeah.

And just in case nobody believed it was broken, I got to see the X-rays today. The walk-in clinic doc gave them to him, and he had them for comparison. He’s healing nicely, if you must know, and is now allowed to run in shallow water.

Scrape

About an 30 minutes after the boss left, I had my Eureka! (you reek-a) moment and went outside to clean my shoe. As I sprayed cleaner on my shoe, I saw many round slices of orange behind the bushes in front of the office. Leavings of the holiday season. Mulled wine.

I tried to bribe Sharon into driving me back to Midas. They’d called and said the car was ready. Dirt was getting into my brakes, causing them to jam and wear. Sharon dropped me off, but wouldn’t take any bribes of coffee or the like. I’d asked Jake if he wanted something from Dunkin’ Donuts, but he declined as well. For a moment, I thought the world had gone topsy-turvy. Was this really New England, or was it some alternate universe where all the students don’t drink coffee?

As I had not had lunch, I was looking for some excuse to get something to eat. I ended up, instead of DD, going to Stop & Shop to grab some oranges and noodles and such.

Coincidence

As I drove through the Stop & Shop lot, I saw Sara walking by my car, towards the store. I parked, and we walked in together. Weird coincidence.

The lines were long, even in the Express. Especially in the Express. But there was a very zealous bagger in my lane. She was maybe in her 20’s and wearing a blazer. Likely the checkout manager. One woman had bought a bunch of stuff and a 12 pack of soda. The woman wasn’t going to be able to carry all of it, so the manager ran to get a carriage and when there were none in the store actually scurried outside with the soda to find a carriage. She just ran zip, zip, zip with the soda 12 pack. It was actually quite amazing. The customer went off after her, so I don’t know what happened there.

When the manager returned, I was carrying my oranges and the noodles were in a bag. She made sure to ask me if I was OK with that arrangement (the checkout clerk had bagged the noodles for me.) I said it was fine.

Julie has the flu, and I called her on the way home to find out if she needed anything. I kept her from needed sleep, but I tried to be funny. Mostly, I think I brought up annoying news and very little of help to her in her current condition. I hope it turns out to be a mild, short-lived flu.

Back at my parents’ house, we had dinner. We talked about comedians, especially ones for whom no one could think of the name.

Now I’m looking at the frogs. They’re swimming around and around, unusually active tonight, swimming up to get air, swimming down, floating in between. Playing frog tag.

G’night.

Posted by James at 9:31 PM | Comments (3)

Wallace & Gromit and the Curse of the Wererabbit

October 2005

Behind-the-scenes footage at IFILM.

Posted by James at 9:04 PM

The Ring 2 - Trailer

The first full length trailer for The Ring 2 is here.

Ooo! Creepy.

Posted by James at 9:02 PM | Comments (1)

Film Bits

I haven’t been keeping up on reviewing movies, so here’s a quick-as-possible rundown of some recently-viewed video. I’ll list them here and you can see my opinions in the full entry. The reviews range from almost-complete-reviews to just my 2 cents.

  • Garden State
  • The Blind Warrior Zatoichi
  • Wicker Park
  • The Guyver (Animated Series ca. 1986)
  • Resident Evil: Apocalypse
  • Species III
  • Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.
  • Arrested Development
  • I’m Not Scared
  • Ju-Rei: The Uncanny
  • Jersey Girl
  • Alive (2002)
  • Gozu
  • The Stepford Wives (2004)
  • The Chronicles of Riddick
  • Saved!
  • Close Your Eyes

Garden State

I started out watching Garden State in a thoroughly depressed mood and immediately thought I’d made a horrible mistake. It’s about a guy whose life has become aimless living in L.A. and is called back home to N.J. after a 9 year absence when his mother dies.

As we delve deeper into his life we see a past and present full of repression and numbness. A random encounter with a slightly odd girl leads him to step outside himself for a brief time.

This film is comprised of thoroughly enjoyable performances by writer/director/actor Zach Braff and Natalie Portman. It somehow avoids beign sticky-sweet and hits “endearing” just right. This is a “cream of the crop” twentysomething movie. The soundtrack is top notch and this film is worth a rent just as a way to preview the CD.

The Blind Warrior Zatoichi

(aka. Zatôichi) The title character, a masseur/swordsman, is something like an uber-samurai. Under the guise of a weak old man, Ichi is actually a supersensitive warrior with a blade that puts Wolverine’s adamantium claws to shame.

A feast for both the eyes and ears, the plot follows Zatoichi as he wanders among a cast of characters who are at odds with each other and about to clash. Among the players are the heads of 2 local gangs, an old warlord who is hiding out, training his replacement, two street-wise, vengeful geisha hiding a secret, a bumbling gambler and a humble and generous middle-aged woman, a powerful ronin who has lost his honor and will take on a new job as yojimbo and the ronin’s deterioratingly ill wife who would prefer her husband not have to kill to care for her.

This is one of the best recent samurai movies I’ve seen. Perhaps as a reference to Ichi’s blindness, this film seems especially creative with the sound, even to the point where there is a big dance number (!) at the end. This comes the closest to a samurai-musical I’ve seen, but mostly the sounds are worked into the plot. You;ll have to see it to get what I mean.

Also, the swordplay and copious blood appear to be computer-enhanced. This is a pretty gory film, as battling samurai don’t pull punches. I give it one of my highest recommendations - very entertaining.

Wicker Park

The trailers led me to believe Wicker Park was one of those weird Single White Female films. In fact, previews almost seemed like a ripoff, with a couple of small twists.

This film is more about mystery, character and emotion. There’s only a bit of the psycho roomie vibe thrown in.

Pretty-boy Josh Hartnett lost his true love years ago when she disappeared mysteriously, and now finds himself on the verge of engagement to his boss’ sister. A chance overheard phone conversation leads him to think that his true love is closer than he thought.

Hartnett does pretty well with mediocre dialogue, he’s got some acting chops. The plot is revealed in a series of flashbacks, some Rashomon-style, as you learn that something unusual has been going on. You’ll need to pay close attention; the plot is, at times, difficult to divine as you sort out who knew what, when and when X, Y and Z happened.

To the credit of the writers, they do sew up most, if not all of the plot holes, though it doesn’t always seem that way. If the movie was at least diverting, I found the ending simply horrible. In the final analysis, this is less a thriller than a date movie. But I can’t dismiss it entirely, as the plot reminded me of some aspects of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Well, and Three’s Company, for that matter. In the final analysis, I give it a “lukewarm.”

The Guyver (Animated Series ca. 1986)

TV anime from Japan (Kyôshoku sôkô Guyver), dubbed for English-speakers in the late 80’s. Almost bearable story about a young man who finds a powerful super-suit. The best thing about this series is how it reminds one that the only value of really old TV anime is in the nostalgia of it. As I never saw “The Guyver” - that nostalgia is missing. So, my review is “bleh.” Not even really suitable for children.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse

Also not suitable for children. Nor for adults.

The precursor to this film, Resident Evil, was a slightly-better-than-mediocre action/horror/SPFX-fest. Throw in Milla Jovovich and you’ve got yourself enough box office to warrant a sequel. Based on a video game, the original Resident Evil film was of the “lets explore this dangerous area where man has been playing god and a computer has gone insane” variety. Lots of chances for creepy stuff to happen deep in the government research facility. And zombies.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse, on the other hand, eschews the previous film’s success and they instead play up the zombie angle. This movie was released during a time when everyone seemed to want to redefine what a good zombie film was. Three of those attempts were at worst entertaining and at best truly pushed the boundaries and reinvigorated the genre (from least to most creative: 28 Days Later…, Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead). Every other recent film with zombies has pretty much been a stinker, this one included.

The twists here are just not good enough. Our main character, Alice, is now genetically enhanced. Whoopie. Also, instead of just zombies we have some jumping creatures with exposed brains (mutants, I think) and huge mutated killing machines with guns, one of which is Alice’s former friend. The government wants to see them face off in Racoon City, where the zombie outbreak has been locked down.

And frankly, I don’t give a damn. You probably won’t either. Do yourself a flavor and see Shaun of the Dead instead.

Species III

“Daddy, why do some movies go direct to video?”

Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they make a stop off at the SciFi Channel first. Like Species III. They even got Natasha Henstridge to make an appearance, briefly. But nothing can save this movie from the bowels of mediocrity. Exactly what you’d expect from a channel that has replaced good SciFi (like Farscape) with psychics and ghosts.

I had low expectations, and they were not met.

Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.

Gojira tai Mosura tai Mekagojira: Tôkyô S.O.S. is not a fan or critic favorite. But it’s at least as good as genre films from the 90’s and outshines quite a few of the old Godzilla films. Yeah, those older ones are loved for their cheesiness, and some of that is still here, too. But Tokyo S.O.S. is just good ol’ G pounding Mecha-G and vice versa, with Mothra thrown in for good measure. The underlying plot is that the original G’s bones (which are used to construct Mecha-G) must be returned to the sea for the Kaiju to be at peace. So say the tiny Cosmos, little fairy women who have returned to issue their warning.

No reason to quibble here. It’s a Godzilla movie. I liked it, and eagerly await the next one (the last one?).

Arrested Development

Arrested Development? You must see this show. Rent it if you have to. It’s the best comedy on TV. A wealthy family has fallen on hard times with their scion imprisoned, and the responsibility falls to Jason Bateman to hold it all together.

Problem is, as the title implies, they are all no better than children. Excellent dialogue. Excellent narration by Ron Howard. Funny actors. I don’t want to tell you much at all about this show, just see the damn thing. Renews my faith in TV comedy.

I’m Not Scared

I was curious about this Italian film Io non ho paura after seeing the trailer with “Super Size Me.” A young boy discovers something mysterious in a hole in the ground while playing with friends. His father returns from an absence and things don’t seem quite right.

This film is told from the boy’s perspective, and in many ways could almost be an Italian Spielberg film. Almost a non-extraterrestrial version of E.T. However, this film takes a much darker turn. Very suspenseful.

Ju-Rei: The Uncanny

Ju-lei: shinrei misuterii fairu is a DV-cam-made exploitation of the recent ghost-tales we’ve been getting from Asia. Ghosts are similar to what you’ve seen with Ju-on and Ringu. The innovation in this story (actually, it’s been done before) is that it’s told backwards. A number of interrelated stories about ghosts are thrown at you in reverse order. Ghosts may be people you’ll see alive later in the film.

A couple of the segments were genuinely creepy. But most are of the form “there’s a ghost here. Eeeek! Isn’t that scary?” The exception was the segment about a little boy waiting after school to be picked up by his mother. He’s in a stairwell with a malfunctioning light. “Mom… is that you…?”

Skip it, unless you’re a fan of the genre.

Jersey Girl

Jersy Girl. I don’t have time to give this the full review it doesn’t deserve. Suffice it to say that this movie just wasn’t for me. I’m a fan of Kevin Smith’s work. All I can conclude is that he’s trying to branch out to reach people other than me. Loved George Carlin in it. Disliked pretty much everything else. Ben Affleck, many times, didn’t even seem like he was taking the film seriously. Come to think of it, he comes off like that in a lot of films, doesn’t he? Anyhow, I didn’t like it. See Chasing Amy instead. Far superior even with Ben Affleck.

Any film with Liv Tyler in it suffers a bit of a minus, in my book. LotR was good enough to eclipse her, but, on average, she is an acress I avoid. Why Smith thought he should get the no-chemistry duo from Armageddon back together again is completely beyond me.

Alive (2002)

No, this isn’t that 90’s survival movie. This is Alive , the weird Japanese film by Ryuhei Kitamura based on some even weirder manga. A parasitic creature lives on the body of a host, possessing it and giving it destructive power. It will only move if it can find a body with a stronger will. Otherwise, it kills everything it encounters.

Convicts are used to test the strength of the parasite. And it turns into a long excuse for many fight battles with Matrix-like SPFX layered on a pretty thin plot.

Still, it was better than Resident Evil: Apocalypse. By a lot.

Gozu

I can’t summarize Gokudô kyôfu dai-gekijô: Gozu. Anyone familiar with Takashi Miike knows his stuff is weird. Odishon? And violent. Dead or Alive? This is a cross between them. A Japanese mafia movie as if written by David Lynch.

All I can say is, it was out there. Weirdest movie ever. There is no one I can recommend this movie to, for fear they will look at me funny for the rest of my life. “You told me to see that???”

The Stepford Wives (2004)

Apart from some entertaining twists (like adding a gay couple) this is pure dreck. I expect that’s partly because of too many cooks. Frank Oz probably had a different vision for The Stepford Wives, judging by the outtakes, but I’m willing to bet he wasn’t given a very free hand. Oh well. This movie stinks. See the original, which I barely remember.

The Chronicles of Riddick

In The Chronicles of Riddick, the director wanted to go in a different direction than its precursor, the very satisfying Pitch Black.

Turns out, it was a bad idea. Lots of action, lots of SciFi, but it comes off as a slightly-better-than-average Sci-Fi Channel direct-to-video. With better production values.

Yes, Riddick is an interesting character, but I pretty much hated all the other characters, and most of the performances. Thandie Newton? ACK! Get yourself in a better film. And while your at it, your acting was way over the top.

Saved!

Maggie and I both enjoyed Saved!, but it pulls far too many satirical punches to be highly recommended. In the end, it’s got some great characters and they poke gentle fun at a heavily religious school. However, it is extremely gentle fun, for the most part.

By the end, you realize this is really a teen movie. Judged as that, it is a very good one. But in general, I found it to be only slightly better than a decent diversion.

Close Your Eyes

The original title of this film was “Doctor Sleep.” The title of Close Your Eyes was chosen by a focus group, I can only assume, as a recommendation and warning to all future possible audiences.

I have to go along with that recommendation.

Posted by James at 7:41 AM | Comments (6)

January 7, 2005

Netflix Profiles

Netflix has a new feature that I know at least one person will be interested in.

JimC once posted a comment (it may have been on the old Aces Full of Links) that he’d like to have the ability to divide his DVD queue so that of the 3 movies he was allowed to have out, 1 was from a “kids queue” and the other 2 were for adults. In other words, he wanted to manage his daughter’s DVDs separately.

Netflix has added just such a feature. Each account can now divide itself up into profiles, allocating a certain number of “out” disks to each profile. Each profile has an entirely separate queue, recommendations, and everything. Nifty!

Read more about the feature here on the Hacking Netflix blog.

Posted by James at 5:46 PM | Comments (10)

Krugman on Fiction

Great article from Krugman today in the NYT. (registration or bugmenot req’d)

There are some flaws in it, but it sums up the “creeping shock” as I like to call it, that pervades this post election season. Krugman goes down a list of stuff we’ve been watching as if they are bits in the plot of a bad novel he’s writing, and if anyone had written this a few years back, nobody would have believed it.

The article culminates with the plot point of the confirmation of Alberto Gonzales.

The principal objection to making Mr. Gonzales attorney general is that doing so will tell the world that America thinks it’s acceptable to torture people. But his confirmation will also be a statement about ethics.

As White House counsel, Mr. Gonzales was charged with vetting Mr. Kerik. He must have realized what kind of man he was dealing with - yet he declared Mr. Kerik fit to oversee homeland security.

Did Mr. Gonzales defer to the wishes of a president who wanted Mr. Kerik anyway, or did he decide that his boss wouldn’t want to know? (The Nelson Report, a respected newsletter, reports that Mr. Bush has made it clear to his subordinates that he doesn’t want to hear bad news about Iraq.)

As I watch, I feel I must conclude that we don’t need a relaxation of ethical standards in this country, mainly because the people in power have done away with inconvenient ethical standards altogether. I suppose, however, someone needs to make it official.

Posted by James at 3:36 PM | Comments (5)

First Shotgun

…of the new year!

  • BadTattoos.com (“Aht”)
    • When you go there, proceed immediately to the gallery. Yep, it’s lousy tattoos. Oddly compelling bad art.
  • Cheerleader Toss (Game/Ad)
    • In this game, you try to toss the cheerleader through the basketball hoop. The site is complete with a video of some people doing it in “real life.” Amazing what they can do with computers these days, eh? It’s an ad for a few different companies, but it’s a fun diversion. Oops - slammed her into the backboard again.
    • Sara sent this one along.
  • The Gallery Of “Misused” Quotation Marks (Humor)
    • It’s a museum for poor quotation mark usage. Isn’t it great when you find someone who shares a pet peeve of yours? I think shared grammatical pet peeves are fun.
  • Rational Calendar (Calendrics)
    • JimC sent along this interesting thing. A fellow has created a calendar on which every date falls on the same day of the week, and he’d like to get you to switch to using it. My link is to BoingBoing covering the story. Rational or irrational? You make the call.
  • Painter’s Wheels (Shockwave Toy)
    • Play with this thing to make funny shapes on the screen that move around. No other way to describe it.
  • T-Shirt Undies (Apparel)
    • Make your own ladies undergarments with old T-Shirts. Recycle!!!!
  • Potter, Potter, Potter, Potter (Flash Earworm)
    • Remember the badgers? Well this one has Harry Potter in it.
  • Gotta get my stuff done. (Procrastination Movie)
    • It’s a little film about procrastination. Funny and true.
  • Cool Tools (Gear Weblog)
    • This fellow likes to blog about cool and useful tools/gadgets/chemicals/stuff. Nice. In the future, on Aces Full I’ll probably borrow the idea and tell you about the various gear that make my life easier.
  • News Loves Big Heads (Photos)
    • Here’s the proof.
  • DURL (Internet Tool)
    • An RSS feed for del.icio.us URL queries
    • Basically, it will allow you to monitor whether people are logging or “delicious-ing” a particular link. But it also provides links for Furl, Bloglines and other services where people keep track of stuff. Mostly for ego browsing.
  • Philosophy of Liberty (Animation, Philosophy)
    • Libertarianism explained in symbols. Interesting. I guess PBS is theft, after all!
  • Top 10 Consumer Privacy Tips (Advice, Privacy)
    • Protect your privacy and identity with these tips.
  • Streamline Adobe Reader 6 (Tech)
    • Is it slow for you? Speed it up.
  • Quake Maps and Sat Pictures (News)
    • The BBC has put together this interactive map with satellite pictures of quake and tsunami damaged areas.
Posted by James at 8:44 AM | Comments (12)

January 6, 2005

Mini Meme: Top Referrer Word

Here’s a little mini meme I’d like to start among the blogs I read, because I’m curious.

What is the top search engine referrer word from your webstats. In other words, when you look at the list of words that appear in search engine hits of your website, what word is at the top?

Mine is:

gay

If you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you’ll know it’s because of my reprinting (with permission) of someone else’s humor on the gay marriage issue, making me really proud that my blog gets most of its search engine traffic because of a bit I didn’t even write.

If you do this, trackback to me so I know you’ve done it.

Posted by James at 10:17 AM | Comments (7)

"Rhymes With Tucker" Carlson Sacked

Julie sends me off to bed for sweet, sweet dreams with the news that smug, jive-ass turkey, fake-folksy neck-adornment poster boy Tucker Carlson has been fired by CNN. And that may cause Crossfire to be cancelled as well.

Said Jonathan Klein, Chief Executive of CNN U.S. network, “I guess I come down more firmly in the Jon Stewart camp,” apparently referring to Stewart’s public de-pantsing of Carlson on Crossfire late last year.

Media Matters for America calls Carlson a “serial misinformer” as it reports that MSNBC is considering picking the whining cur up for themselves. They list some of Carlson’s recent Bush toadying, like robotically exaggerating the Social Security non-crisis. (You want to see a financial crisis, look at the future of Medicare. Where are Bush’s priorities?)

Also, ridiculing Canada was quite an accomplishment. Quoth Carlson “The average Canadian is busy dogsledding.” Now there’s hard-hitting reportage you can sink your canines into.

Sadly, this guy actually has a show on PBS. I have to wonder, does public television feel the need to balance their coverage? That is, countering their fact-based reporting with Carlson’s numerous instances of right wingnuttery? What does PBS get for their money with Carlson? They get a guy who has equated homosexuality to adultery. Compared Democratic efforts to track racial data to the practices of Himmler. Refers to the leadership of the Democratic party as “grouchy feminists with mustaches.” Reported lies about Paul Wellstone’s memorial service. Doctored Al Gore’s words to better cast Gore as a fanatic back in 1997.

Balance is one thing, but you don’t balance facts with sensationalist BS.

When PBS hired Carlson, I suddenly found better things to do than send them money at pledge drive time. I applaud CNN for apparently having sense that PBS has lost somewhere along the way. PBS, if you want my support, follow CNN’s example. If MSNBC wants him, I guess that’s their problem. Me, I think he’s better suited to be the new mascot of KFC. But then, I’m not sure the chickens would fall for his too-forced-to-be-charming insufferably boyish mendacity.

Posted by James at 2:33 AM | Comments (8)

The Bloggies Are Coming. Look Busy.

Yes, it’s that time again. Nominations are open for the 2005 “Bloggies” — that is, the 2005 weblog awards!

For those of you who don’t have your own weblog, let me explain what this means to a blogger who takes any amount of time out of his busy life to work on his weblog. There are a number of stages you go through when thinking about the Bloggies. Here they are:

  1. Denial: I don’t care about the Bloggies. Even if I got a nomination, I still wouldn’t care.
  2. Amazement: Wow. Look at these categories. I have no chance in any of these!
  3. Insecurity: Would I even qualify for “Best American Blog”? Can you criticize the president and still be considered for that category?
  4. Anger: F*&% the Bloggies!
  5. Fear: Holy crap. I hope no one who might nominate me for anything heard that and was turned off. I’m doomed!
  6. Whining: Why isn’t there a “Best Aimless Lebanese-Irish Southern New England Blog with a Poker Reference in the Title” category? These categories suck.
  7. Depression: If I were a reader of my own blog, would I even nominate it for anything? Probably not. I have no idea what my blog is about, why should anyone else. Lousy crap for crap.
  8. Resignation: I have as much chance of winning “Best Asian Blog” as I do of getting even a nomination in any of these other categories. Might as well face it.

Why do I have a weblog? Why do I spend time on it? What is my weblog about?

I have no freakin’ idea. Maybe I’ll have my own freakin’ Bloggies.

Posted by James at 2:03 AM | Comments (3)

January 5, 2005

Other Blogs Rundown

Here’s a quick rundown on what’s going on at some of the other blogs I most often read.

Anyhow, that’s a quick look around. I actually read quite a few blogs via Bloglines, so if you can see who I’m reading.

BTW, if you have a lot of blogs you want to keep up on and you don’t want to install a newsreading client on your machine, Bloglines is the way to go. It’ll tell you when there are new posts, and in may cases blogs publish full entries so you can read it all in one place without too much surfing. Reading blogs doesn’t have to be like remembering to visit 1,000 websites anymore.

If any of you are already using Bloglines, feel free to share a link to your public Bloglines reading list in the comments.

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

Workin' the Martian Car Wash

Shades of the Shoemaker and the Elves:

Rover team leader Jim Erickson at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, told New Scientist that a process still not understood has repeatedly removed dust from the solar panels. “These exciting and unexplained cleaning events have kept Opportunity in really great shape,” he says.

Whatever the process, it has taken place while Opportunity was parked during the Martian night. On at least four occasions over a six-month period, the rover’s power output increased by up to 5% overnight. […]

Now an inspection of the rover’s surface using its own camera has confirmed that dust has been removed from the vehicle.

Those friendly Martians didn’t even charge us. I hope we left them a good tip. (via daleynews)

Posted by James at 7:59 AM | Comments (1)

January 4, 2005

A Fish Stinks From The Head

A document released for the first time today by the American Civil Liberties Union suggests that President Bush issued an Executive Order authorizing the use of inhumane interrogation methods against detainees in Iraq.

See the ACLU for details.

Shocked. Shocked, I say. I guess it rolls downhill, but it has to start somewhere.

[Update: It says “today” in the quote, but this is actually from Dec 20, 2004. Just in case that wasn’t clear.]
[Update 2: The WH has denied that the order exists.]

Posted by James at 7:47 PM

Awkward Silence Filler

You know those awkward silences which crop up in conversations sometimes. Maybe it’s at a holiday gathering, or some other forced social situation. Suddenly, someone tells the room he voted for Bush. Or maybe a hush falls over the crowd as people feel waves of guilt related to not being killed in a tsunami. Or perhaps a boring conversation simply comes to a halt. What is the best thing to say in those situations — to fill that painful silence? I’ve chosen some plausible things that might spring to your mind in those situations. Which would you be most likely to utter?

What’s the best thing to say in those awkward moments?
You are sooooo good looking.
Cheat commandos, rock, rock on!
Did you catch that NASCAR match on the telly last night? Smashing good time.
There’s always room for Jell-O. It’s a scientific factoid.
I’m sorry, did you say something?
Let’s see who is the most patriotic. Whoever holds his hand over the candle flame the longest wins!
  
Free polls from Pollhost.com
Posted by James at 4:43 PM | Comments (19)

Name That Movie 20

Here it is! Name it!

The movie was guessed early today, so for people who want to try it on their own and haven’t gotten it from the first image, I’ll provide links to the later images. Avoid the comments until you’re done guessing, then tell us how you did!

Posted by James at 1:21 AM | Comments (14)

January 3, 2005

The Evil That Games Do

Running a Christian-themed video game review website has its pitfalls. Some of them can be amusing.

I imagine that the primary consumers of such a website are parents concerned about the games their children are playing, and that this is a valuable resource for them. Fair enough. As someone with at least a little contact with the gaming world, I’ve seen my share of games I wouldn’t want my daughters playing.

However, one of the pitfalls I refer to above is that there may be some, to put it mildly, over-judgmental people in your audience. I’m sure this comes as a shock.

For example, check out the review of a Japanese video game for PS 2. It’s clear that this review is written by someone who likes the game, but is trying to give it a quick, honest appraisal of aspects of the game to which Christian parents might object. Suddenly, a fight breaks out in the comments section. Look at these criticisms hurled at the poor reviewer.

Does anyone know if the Japanese lyrics are offensive or not? Repeating profanities in another language does not seem appropriate (if there are any).

There was nothing in the review about profanity in the lyrics.

There is also a lack of Biblical education applied to the Appropriateness section. One scripture screamed out at me while reading this review. That Holy Scripture is Colossians 2:8

That scripture is: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” I can only assume he means that he doesn’t feel this game is leading the players to Jesus. Newsflash, it’s a video game. Perhaps, instead, he is implying that the reviewer should spend more time with a Bible and less with a PS2. I’m sure that would improve his reviews.

The reviewer gives back with both barrels, and in the end another commenter tells the reviewer:

If you are a Christian you should be humbling accepting his loving rebuke in all maturity.

You have to read the thing to get the full enjoyment.

I credit Cruel Site of the Day with the hat tip on this one.

On the plus side, the game (Katamary Damacy) sounds like goofy Japanese fun, right up my alley.

Posted by James at 11:23 PM

"One, two, three, jihaaad!"

I know the Economist would be informative. But part of the reason I don’t get a subscription is that I don’t want to have to read stuff like this:

“…they detained 70 men from districts indentified by their informant as ‘bad.’ In near-freezing conditions, they sat hooded and bound in their pyjamas. They shivered uncontrollably. One wetted himself in fear. Most had been detained at random; several had been held because they had a Kalashnikov rifle, which is legal. The evidence against one man was some anti-American literature, a meat cleaver, and a tin whistle. American intelligence officers moved through the ranks of detainees, raising their hoods to take mugshots: ‘One, two, three, jihaaad!’ A middle-tier officer commented on the mission: ‘When we do this,’ he said. ‘We lose.’”

Saw this excerpt from an Economist article on James Wolcott’s site.

Iraq these days seems like a whole lot of war-fighting sandwiched between trying to help the Iraqis on one side and events that would scare shitless anyone who lived in such an area.

Faced with stories like this, continuing supporters of the war have to either conclude that

  1. the reporters are full of shit (maybe this guy is another Michael Moore with an axe to grind… and there’s another, and there’s another) and/or
  2. in the balance, the Iraq war comes out on the plus side.

(There are also the people who say we’re in there and so now we can’t leave, but even they must have an opinion on stories like the above.)

I’m going to pooh-pooh any conspiracy theories that nothing like what appears in this Economist article ever happens. Seeing Michael Moore behind every headline is paranoid, and with the US elections in the past there is no longer the excuse of making Bush look bad to get rid of him. Agenda are still possible, but can any reasonable person believe that these reports are created from whole cloth when we have seen footage to the contrary?

I give the majority of the military the benefit for being noble representatives of our great country, but this isn’t about a general tarring of the military. This is about part “2” above. What happens in the balance.

So, assuming we’re talking about factual events, my question is, how do you figure any sort of balance? Is it even possible to say an actual balance exists when events don’t, in reality, cancel each other out?

We can focus on all of the “good” stories we want over here, (see Steve’s FOX news post) but all that will do is reinforce or influence our own perceptions here, and the perceptions of others here. The perceptions of Iraqis toward us are in the hands of our representatives. However wonderful the majority of those representatives may be, there is evidence that we have some pretty sucky ones as well.

What’s that mean for the future of Iraq and our future? I’m going to say it’s probably not happy things.

“Their contempt for Iraqis is undisguised and dramatically expressed”

I think I need to overcome my squeamishness and cheapness and subscribe to the Economist. Of course, there’s always the library. Support your local libraries, in Iraq and elsewhere!

Posted by James at 4:50 PM | Comments (1)

Oh...



Oh…, originally uploaded by drmomentum.

Oh, ____.

Posted by James at 2:14 AM

January 2, 2005

Free/Cheap Books!

I’m trying to clear my shelves, so I’m giving away books. Here’s a list. If you’re interested, send me an email and I’ll happily give you the book for free. If you’re not local and your willing to pay for shipping via media mail, maybe we could do that, too.

Anyhow, here are the books. If no one’s interested, I may try Book Crossing some of them. In fact, even if I give these books away, I may register them with Book Crossing just for the hell of it.

Let me know if any of these books strikes your fancy. I probably have more books around here I’d be willing to part with.

Also, I’ve got a few books listed at Half.com. I might be persuaded to part with them for less.

Posted by James at 10:30 PM

Disaster Relief via Amazon

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay Learn More

Donations go to Red Cross Disaster Relief.

Posted by James at 10:13 PM

Cascading Neatness

Actually, it’s more like “the cascading effect” which can be cascading for neatness or cascading clutter.

Some people have a place for everything and everything in its place. I’m not one of those people partly because it doesn’t make sense when new things (like books) enter the house.

I have a desk, and I dump things on it and then I move them off when the desk becomes a disaster. But when there is no place for things to live once they leave my desk, we have a traffic problem. Backup on the desk.

Enter “Cascading Neatness.” Things get moved from here to there. Then from there to wherever. As long as there is a place to move something, I can keep the desk relatively neat. But with full bookcases, the desk becomes like a secondary bookcase. Not good for neatness.

So, Maggie and I went through the bookcase quickly today and did just a little bit of culling. Altogether I think we cleared over a shelf and a half of material, with very little pain. Yes - the bookcase will soon be filled again, but at least I’ll be able to clear my desk.

Links:

Posted by James at 3:36 PM | Comments (5)