March 31, 2005

Schaivo Has Passed

I really have no desire to comment, but because of the recent discussion I thought it made sense to mark the end of this bizarre and morbid affair.

It’s over for Terri. I hope the traveling circus can move on so that this will be over for us, too.

Posted by James at 5:06 PM

March 30, 2005

What's Brewing?

A Honey Brown Ale, that’s what.

It’s been over 8 years since I’ve brewed. Closer to 10, actually. But yesterday my cousin Bob called up from a brewer’s supply store and said “OK - what do we need to brew tonight!” And we were off.

Last night we threw together our first batch. It took a number of hours. We went with a recipe that the homebrew supply fellow had on hand. Dark and light malt extract. An ounce of Northern Brewer hops for the bittering. An ounce of Fuggles hops for the aroma. Irish moss for clarity. And, of course, honey.

There were a number of small mishaps. Glassware was broken. There was 1 messy boil-over in which we lost some of the wort. But no real harm to the beer, which is what’s really important.

Our initial gravity was measured at ~1.038. That’s close to 5% potential alcohol, but realistically, 75% efficiency in fermentation with malt extract is a general rule. So we may end up with a little over 3% alcohol. A weak beer, but a beer nonetheless. That’s alcohol by volume, not by weight, btw. The wort was quite bitter. I think it’s going to result in a successful first attempt. So far, the indications are promising.

The picture you see to the right is the homebrew as it appeared last night before I left my cousin’s house. The yeast were not yet producing alcohol They were still in the “breathing and multiplying” state in which they take in oxygen. Later, they will begin to produce alcohol and Co2 as they consume the sugars in the wort. And then, when that’s done in a couple of weeks, we have beer.

We’re not bottling this brew. It’s going to go into a custom draft system built by my cousin. A modified soda draft will be used to force-carbonate the beer, chill it, and pump it up from his basement to a tap he has in his kitchen.

He took a picture of the beer this morning when he woke up and, look, krausen! That’s evidence that the yeast is now producing Co2 (and alcohol). “Krausen” is the frothy head that forms in the fermenter.

You can see a few more pictures in my Brewing Gallery, but you’re basically looking at the best of them here.

I’ll keep y’all posted on our progress.

Posted by James at 5:06 PM | Comments (14)

MA Senate Likes Stem Cell Research

And they did it to an overwhelming degree.

Senate votes 35-2 in favor of stem cell bill (Boston.com)

Overwhelming. But things are a lot less certain in the MA house of representatives. While here are enough votes to pass the bill in the house, there may not be protection from a Romney veto.

I can’t put it any other way: based on his personal beliefs, Romney is planning to oppose the will of the people of the commonwealth (as expressed by their elected representatives), siding with diseases over life.

I hope that the voice of the people on this matter will be loud enough to overcome the gubernatorial veto. How the heck did he ever get to be governor? I hope we have learned our lesson.

Posted by James at 4:30 PM | Comments (8)

Magic Keyboard

The Ghost KeyboardI found this box with a keyboard in it next to a coworker’s office. I found the packaging to be really interesting.

Looks to me like this keyboard is not your normal keyboard. It’s for ghosts! Look at the picture — we’ve caught a ghost on camera using the thing! What an amazing idea. Why hadn’t anyone thought of this before? It will revolutionize spirit photography. Instead of just randomly trying to get pictures of ghosts, you can make computer equipment for them and then set up a webcam to catch them in the act of posting to their weblogs. Not only is it science in action, but a good bit of spooky Halloween fun.

Or, maybe it’s a promotional tie-in to the Invisible Woman from the new Fantastic Four movie.

There is the possibility I’m completely wrong about the meaning of the photograph. It could be that this image is just a visual shorthand. Artistic license. But what is the message? My guess is that it is saying:

Congratulations on the purchase of your new keyboard! When you use new computer equipment, it makes you feel special inside. You’ll feel more productive, and you might even be more productive. Please, enjoy the new keyboard as much as you can. Office work will wear you down, killing your soul just a little bit at a time. Slowly you will feel like you’re fading away from existence until everything that ever made you special dies, trapped inside your shell of a body. Soooo…. anyhow. Enjoy the keyboard and all.

Yeah. that’s probably it.

Posted by James at 12:07 PM | Comments (5)

March 29, 2005

Invisible Pink Unicorn

Invisible Pink Unicorn

The Invisible Pink Unicorn is a being of great spiritual power. We know this because she is capable of being invisible and pink at the same time. Like all religions, the Faith of the Invisible Pink Unicorn is based upon both logic and faith. We have faith that she is pink; we logically know that she is invisible because we can’t see her.

Because we were talking about religion, and because a number of my readers are not followers of a particular mainstream religion (as far as I know) I thought you might get a kick out of her holiness the Invisible pink Unicorn.

The IPU is a parody of theism. Because of this, I imagine some might find it insulting of their religion. Of course, one should always be able to joke about one’s beliefs and the IPU does not target any specific religion as a target.

And the humor of it serves a valid function. When theists are confronted with it, it ought to remind them that, while we are immersed in a culture that reeks of theism (God is even on the money) to nontheists:

their preaching is likely to be viewed by atheists as having all the credibility and seriousness of [the atheists] preaching about the IPU[…]. (quoting from the Wiki page on IPU)

Yes, I think it’s amusing. I don’t find the need to be in-your-face about my atheism. Many people find personal strength in their theistic religion, they are serious about it, and they respect my right to not share in their religion. I have a great respect for these people. Luckily, they also have a sense of humor (by definition, because all people I respect have a sense of humor).

It seems to me that the IPU (blessed be her holy hooves) is fairly gentle satire, as satire goes. After all — she’s pink. And who doesn’t like unicorns? Part of my amusement in stumbling upon this the other day was simply in finding a relatively positive, creative way to blow off the steam that builds up from being inundated by references to God practically 24/7. The prevalence of God-talk perplexes us. For every action there is an equally perplexing reaction.

I leave you with the web page of the Invisible Pink Unicorn that you may download the logo for yourself, for your own purposes. Hmmm… Stickerguy?

Posted by James at 11:19 PM | Comments (6)

Ballz





Ballz


Originally uploaded by drmomentum.

Ok, it gets slightly more weird.


When I came home tonight, a second ball had joined the one from this morning. This ball doesn’t belong to us either, but it has been seen outside the house before.


Clearly, the wind has been rearranging things. But it’s odd to me that we should have 2 balls, neither of which belong to us, blow into the front yard.


For the sake of the picture, I have moved them closer together. But they were withing a few feet of each other when I first spotted the pink one hiding there in the dark.

Posted by James at 8:04 PM | Comments (6)

Ball





Ball


Originally uploaded by drmomentum.

I don’t know where this ball came from, but it was sitting in our yard when I left for work this morning.


It’s between 18 inches and 2 feet in diameter. Like an exercise ball. The wind must have blown it in. But from where?

Posted by James at 4:42 PM | Comments (2)

Name That Movie 30

As usual: Name That Movie is here. Six images from one movie. As the clues are revealed, you try to guess what the movie is.

Guess early and often. The first image is here, the rest will be linked to below. Check the comments to see other people’s guesses (a group effort) or make your comments without reading what other people have guessed.

Clue 1:

Link to Clue 2
Link to Clue 3
Link to Clue 4
Link to Clue 5
Link to Clue 6

Guess away!

Posted by James at 9:13 AM | Comments (29)

March 28, 2005

Religion Quiz

Well, I don't believe that a quiz can really tell you that much about "what religion you should be" but since my blog is for entertainment purposes only, what the hell. Let's give her a go.

I scored as "atheism?" You are all shocked. But Satanism as number 2? These people obviously didn't have any quesitions about how I feel about supernatural forces. Or maybe I just don't know enough about Satanism.

You scored as atheism. You are... an atheist, though you probably already knew this. Also, you probably have several people praying daily for your soul. Instead of simply being "nonreligious," atheists strongly believe in the lack of existence of a higher being, or God.

atheism

75%

Satanism

54%

Paganism

54%

agnosticism

42%

Buddhism

33%

Islam

25%

Judaism

17%

Christianity

8%

Hinduism

0%

Which religion is the right one for you? (new version)
created with QuizFarm.com

Go ahead and take the quiz, and we can talk about how much it kinda sucks.
Posted by James at 8:57 PM | Comments (31)

March 27, 2005

Simmah Dahn Nah

I have a lot of sympathy for the family. The protesters, on the other hand, are asshats.

The noise prompted Schiavo’s brother, Bobby Schindler, to come out and ask protesters to tone down their behavior.

“We are not going to solve the problem today by getting arrested,” he told the restless crowd. “We can change laws, but we are not going to change them today … You are not speaking for our family.”

Polls are showing that most people agree with Michael Schiavo’s position, the law and Terri’s wishes.

Even among christians:

A Time Magazine poll released on Sunday found a majority of Americans surveyed who called themselves born again Christians or evangelicals agreed with the decision to remove Schiavo’s feeding tube. The poll was conducted March 22-24.

People do not see this as a culture of death. They see it as a personal decision that they would make for themselves, and a bunch of meddlesome, grandstanding government officials getting as much mileage as possible.

So, where are these protestors coming from? When they were checking out FOX news and heard “remove feeding tube” they thought it applied to them.
Or maybe they thought it was a NASCAR event. Your guess is as good as mine. Because they don’t appear to be adding anything to the discussion. Well, except for that one clever stunt to try to bring water to Terri — on which she would have drowned, since she can’t swallow. These protesters don’t inspire confidence that they actually understand what’s going on here.

Posted by James at 9:12 PM | Comments (7)

Change In The Weather

The weather must be getting better.

How do I know? The increased geocaching activity. Actually, more like a boom. A number of people have found my Somerset Offset Cache (GCM0P0) in the last week or so, including somebody who left the cache’s first travel bug! It was a small one — there isn’t much room in there.

Hey, this weekend alone there are 3 new finds. The first of the three, on Saturday, was logged by Team SimCalc (Ryan and Sara) who made short work of the cache this time around and encountered fellow cache seekers. Their prize was that they got to take the Black Knight Travel Bug from the cache.

Afterward they swung by the ranch for Coney Dogs and conversation.

In other geocaching news, Capt. Barney Kale has been out and about. He has not yet left Massachusetts, but the rumor is that he is bound for Georgia.

Photos:

I certainly hope the weather is changing, and that it has a positive effect on the health of our fellow Bay Staters. This area is under attack by a number of nasty bugs, including rotavirus.

Mattie has been sick with severe cold symptoms this weekend (including fever last night and all of today, which kept me home while Maggie went to her sister’s for Easter). You know things are bad when our pediatrician warns us to steer clear of the hospitals because they’re full of kids carrying… spraying the aforementioned gastrointestinal scourge.

Rotavirus is lots of fun. It’s the most common reason for severe vomiting in kids, can live on surfaces for up to 2 weeks and (here’s the fun part) immunity after infection is incomplete. You can get it again! I’m pretty sure I know at least one young adult who is currently dealing with this. Feel better soon, Derek.

Damn, you, rotavirus. Damn you!

Posted by James at 8:43 PM | Comments (2)

March 26, 2005

Peepsperiments

As the Pagan Rabbit season is upon us, it seems appropriate to post (very) briefly abotu Marshmallow Peeps. Over the years, we’ve had a lot of fun with these spongy sugared treats. I love the things. Used to be they were only available for the eastertide season. But now they have versions for every holiday.

But the only true form is the peep.

The texture is where most of the allure comes from. You bite into one of these and the spongy yielding gooeyness is surrounded by a crusty granular texture experience unlike any other consumable. At the same time, you get a burst of sugar that sends insulin pouring into your blood stream.

Yes, we love the peeps.

So I considered doing some stress-testing on peeps, or whatever, but someone else has done the hard work for me.

For example, it turns out that peeps aren’t soluble in water and a number of other solvents. No, you have to resort to organic solvent phenol before seeing serious solubility.

If you’re interested in other peepsperiments, check out the Peep Research site.

Posted by James at 1:03 PM | Comments (4)

March 25, 2005

Warning Sign Shotgun

In years to come, people will look back on my blog and say “Did you see this guy’s weblog? Why didn’t we see the warning signs???”

So, you have been forewarned! Onto the links!

  • Squares 2 (Game)
    • Simple and fun flash game. You’re a rotating black square, you must pick up the other black squares. Avoid the red squares!
  • Dress Up Like Master Chief! (Nerd Antics)
  • Feynman Lectures on Physics (Science)
    • Audio files of the complete Feynman lectures. Feynman rocks. Physics rocks. Get smart.
  • Castle Wolfenstein in 5K (Game)
    • It’s the classic first-person shooter game, written in Javascript, within 5k!
    • Doesn’t work in Firefox, though. You’ll need IE.
  • Bloodmobile (Flash Video Music)
    • They Might Be Giants music video by Dave Logan
    • The Bloodmibile is your circulatory system. TMBG is the Schoolhouse Rock of the 00’s.
  • Sobriety Test (Video, Police)
    • The guy is drunk, but he almost got away with it. Wink!
  • Teenage Mom (Video , PSA)
    • Get ready for Teenage Mom - the ultimate gaming experience! It’s an anti- teen pregnancy video in the style of The Sims 2. Clever. But it promots condoms, so you’ll never see it on TV here in the US.
  • Credit Card Prank II (Pranks)
    • So, how important is it that you sign your actual name on that credit card slip? This man was intent on finding out. Watch as his attempts to mess up the system get more and more outrageous. Awesome — I love this guy’s sense of humor. Reminds me of so many of my friends.
  • House of Cosbys #1 (Flash Animation)
    • What happens when you try to clone too many Cosbys? Aside from the detrimental side effects, you get a super Cosby on every 10th cloning! Har! Funny little short animation.
  • Whack The Dead (Game)
    • Stop the zombies with your shovel.
  • FireTune (Internet Optimization, Techie)
    • FireTune is an easy-to-use tool for speeding up your Firefox installation. It works, my copy of Firefox has definitely become more speedy since I’ve used this. Allows you to back up your configuration, so you can go back if you don’t like having a faster browser.
  • Slaps (Game)
    • Online version of the classic game of “Slaps” where you try to slap your opponents hand. If you miss, it becomes the other player’s turn to slap your hands, so slap carefully.
  • High Speed Film Video Clips (Science, Video, Slo-mo)
    • Fascinating videos using high speed film. SLow motion technology reveals what happens when a water balloon pops, when a moth flaps its wings, when a cube of Jell-o hits the ground. Many, many videos. Check out the Hall of Fame for the most interesting ones.
  • 100 Games in 1 Semester (Games)
    • These students (calling themselves Experimental Gameplay) aim to make 100 games in one semester.
    • Each game must be made in less than 7 days
    • Each game must be made by one person, including all art, sound, and programming
    • Each game must be based around a certain “toy” ie. “gravity”, “vegetation”, “swarm behavior”, etc.
    • I am addicted to Tower of Goo!
  • TV Tropes Wiki (Language, TV/Movies)
    • TV is full of visual idioms. This site catalogues them, along with plots, devices and characters.
    • Here’s where you can find out what an Aesop is.
      • An Aesop is when a character articulates some lesson learned at the end of an episode.
    • Better still, learn about the oft-used Double Aesop!
      • That’s when a character describes his Aesop to another character, and the second character has the epihany that the same lesson applies equally to his own situation!
      • eg, In Arrested Development?, scrawny George Michael tries wearing leather to appear butch to his cousin, while Michael decides to stop being the family doormat and start being more ruthless. Near the end George Michael gives up the leather thing, and being questioned about it by Michael, goes on about not being able to change who you are. Michael realises this applies to him as well. Double Aesop.
      • Frequently done with a guest character, to apply the moral of their story to a longer-running established story. eg, In CSI Grissom once realised the way this week’s killer felt about his victim reflected the way he himself felt about Sara Sidle (I kid you not).

There you have it, fellow netizens. Thanks to all my sources this week. I’ve stopped inlining source references to streamline the shotgun. If you send me a link and would like to be sourced, let me know. This week I got them from all over, and was sent at least one by Bob McCown.

Now is the time on Shotgun where you discuss. Don’t be too productive; it’s Friday, folks.

Posted by James at 6:56 AM | Comments (5)

March 24, 2005

Don't Be Caught Legally Nonbinding

”Living wills,” documents in which people spell out their wishes for specific circumstances or specific procedures, are not legally binding in Massachusetts, and specialists warn that they can be problematic since they may not cover the specific situations that eventually occur. Dr. Michael Grodin, director of medical ethics at Boston University medical school, suggested instead that people write out some general guidelines and give them to their health proxy.

This article form the Boston Globe provides recommendations for what MA residents can do to prevent a horrifying scenario in which you cannot articulate your wishes and there is no way to legally express them.

  • www.healthcareproxy.org is a website with resources to help you put together your own health care proxy. It’s available thanks to the Massachusetts Medical Society.
  • http://www.betterending.org/ is the site of the Central Massachusetts Partnership to Improve Care at the End of Life - a community coalition of professional, civic, business and religious leaders committed to the vision that all persons in Central Massachusetts live their last days in this life as comfortably as possible, in the setting of their choice, according to their expressed wishes, while they and their families are supported by a caring community.

If you are concerned about what is happening in Florida with Mrs. Schiavo and the ridiculous lengths to which your president, his brother and congress have gone to meddle in a painful personal matter, these resources should be of help.

(Thanks, Patti, for the article link)

Posted by James at 4:02 PM

The Plight of Michael Schiavo

Rather than one coherent essay on an aspect of Terri and Michael Schiavo’s fight to let Terri pass on with dignity, this is a loosely-strung together collection of a few of my thoughts on the matter.

It is natural for the mind to believe, and for the will to love; so that, for want of true objects, they must attach themselves to false. - Blaise Pascal

When I first heard of Terri Schiavo, maybe a year ago, it was on local talk radio. The show’s host was up in arms about how they were murdering this woman. At that time, he didn’t have very much information on the subject, yet he was incensed.

Yesterday I turned that same show on. I rarely agree with this man, but in the intervening year he has had time to review what available facts there are, and he’s completely changed his mind on the subject. He now sees that the parents are acting out their wishes without regard for what Terri would have wanted. Our gut reactions are often different than the opinions we form once we have broken through the initial media headline and gotten a closer look at the facts.

But how do I know what Terri would have wanted? I am basing that on what an excruciating trip through the legal system has unambiguously determined. Michael Schiavo has the legal right to execute Terri’s wishes, and that he is accurately representing them.

Can’t Let Go

It’s natural that the parents are distraught over this. Nobody wants to see their child’s life cut short. But a quick look at the actions of the Schindlers reveals that they have, over time, wandered away from reality and retreated to a fictional world that is more comfortable to them.

But it was not always that way. As with so many things, the rift between Schiavo and the Schindlers began with a dispute over money. So, too, the rift between the Schindlers and reality began to widen.

An article in the Miami Herald recounts:

In 2000, despite conceding their daughter’s persistent vegetative state, the Schindlers said they still believed she knew when they were there. When Felos, Michael Schiavo’s lawyer, asked Bob Schindler if he thought Terri would be tormented by her current state, he replied ”Yes,” but added, “she’s not that cognizant to be aware of it.”

Actually, the Herald article provides a number of illuminating points.

  1. The Schindlers have, at various times, conceded the severity of Terri’s situation.
  2. The Schindlers now cast Michael as an adulterous husband, but supported his dating early on. A cynical view might be that both opinions were motivated by their desire to gain custody. However, if we take them at their word, they thought at the time that dating was a healthy part of Michael moving on.
  3. The Schindlers felt betrayed by Michael when he didn’t share a vastly reduced malpractice award with them. Ironically, that money has now nearly all been spent on Terri and no longer exists to be argued over.
  4. Amid conflict of interest claims, Michael offered to donate Terri’s entire estate to charity if the Schindlers would give up their battle against his defense of Terri’s wishes. They refused. Michael has shown that he is motivated by concern for Terri and not any money. He’s turned down offers of a million, and even 10 million dollars.
  5. Court guardians have found that Terri has been treated well.
  6. As noted above, the Schindlers have conceded both that Terri would be tormented by her current state and that she is not cognizant of it.

At times, the Schindlers have articulated rational responses, but they persist in following with irrational conclusions and actions.

In point #2 above, they articulated that it was healthy for Michael to move on. However, people only move on when something is lost beyond retrieval. In Michael’s case, he feels his marriage counts for something, and his responsibility for Terri remains as long as she is kept in this state. The Schindlers would like to have it both ways. Is she lost beyond retrieval, or not? To them (apparently) Terri is no longer a fit wife, and they would like this to invalidate her marriage. They give the impression that Michael should move on and let them have her for their own purposes.

One might guess that their own purposes have to do with parenting Terri — fulfilling their duty as those who brought her into this world.

Parents In Grief

Terri’s father says he believes she would be tormented by her current state. Luckily, he further believes that she isn’t aware of that state. But were she aware, he’s clear. It would be torment.

This is an acknowledgment that Terri never wanted to end up in the sort of artificially induced state that is her current existence. As a parent, emotions are going to have their way with you. But it is reassuring that Terri’s parents at least have had moments where they saw through to Terri’s wishes.

Parental responsibility may run counter to a child’s wishes when that child has not reached adulthood, but the parent-child relationship must mature just as the child does. It must develop into a relationship of mutual respect. This is still a special relationship, but is now an adult relationship. Regardless of how incapacitated an adult becomes, one can never truly return to being a child. For whatever length of time, they had adult wants, desires and intentions.

The Schindlers, in wanting to ignore the law, Michael, witnesses and Terri’s own wishes, want Terri back as a child. In a real sense they’ve regressed her in their minds. They don’t want Terri the adult back — that Terri’s choices (those that go with the pact of marriage and decisions about her own future) are not to be honored. What is to be honored is her helplessness, her not-even-infantile level of physical functioning.

The Schiavos acknowledge that the adult Terri is gone, and they have further worked hard (perhaps unconsciously) to erase the adult Terri’s previous decisions.

In extreme grief, maybe that’s perfectly understandable. I feel strong sympathy for the parents because I can’t imagine their suffering. I don’t agree with what they’ve done and I don’t think it’s healthy for them, for Terri, for Michael or for anyone. But when you break from reality, you get what you get.

In this case, sadly, you get Terri, of whom nothing is left but a doll with some bodily functions upon which the Schindlers can project their parental feelings upon, but which can never return those feelings. Unfortunately, you get Michael trying to take the Schindler’s advice and move on, but he is held fast by a responsibility born out of love. It is his respect for the sanctity of marriage — his respect for Terri and the bond of his marriage to her.

Parents never take such a public oath. Parents do have a responsibility to their child. But the marriage supersedes that unless there is some indication the marriage had failed back when Terri was still able to communicate her wishes. There is no such indication.

The Cause

The people rallying to Terri’s cause are not her parents, and they do not share this emotional break from reality. They don’t have the same excuse.

I have very little respect for the lengths to which they have capitalized upon Terri’s hardship and the hardship of those directly involved.

I have not the time nor the interest to explore all of their machinations. And, I’m sorry to say, this is where my sympathy for the Schindlers ends as well. They have actively participated in the wielding of the media to manipulate me, you and everyone else.

Let me give what I feel is a representative example of the thought processes at work. I had a woman yesterday base her entire argument against Michael Schiavo and what the law ruled in his case — her entire opposition to Michael Schiavo, on her opinion that “he had the look of Scott Petersen.” Clearly, the courts failed to take such weighty evidence into consideration. A man who has suffered the tragedy of losing his wife, worked with her parents in exerting extraordinary effort to bring her back, and has stood by her partially-animated physical remains for 15 years has been reduced to being compared to a convicted killer based on a sound bite, or a picture on the news.

The height (or nadir) of this ridiculous situation is what’s recently happened in congress. But the Daily Show said it best.

We have huge and growing problems in this country. Health care is one of those enormous issues. But instead of even touching the problem of health care, they condescend to the cause of Terri. Is this, perhaps, a principled act of congress? I can’t think of anything more cynical. The legal fight has been going on for 12 years (Terri herself has been in this state for 15 years — longer than I or any of my college friends have been married) If congress had been concerned about the issues surrounding this case, ample time was available to explore the law.

No, the 11th hour is the time to stage a burlesque for the faithful and the brainless. I know principled people who believe the feeding tube should be replaced and Terri should not be allowed to die (for religious reasons). I respectfully disagree with that, but even those people see that congress is misguided. A show is being put on.

Congress seems to want to crawl inside the psychosis of the Schindlers and share that space for their own cynical reasons. The president solemnly returned from his vacation to sign the bill. We know he can’t be counted on to act the adult and set congress straight on their self-destructive behavior.

True leadership would take this opportunity to highlight the problems with our medical system. The money spent on Terri’s voodoo curse is a metaphor for the self-destructive course our entire medical establishment is on.

Medical Manipulation

There, of course, is the issue of what will happen to Terri as she is left to pass away.

I have it on medical authority that she will dehydrate (a natural process for people in such a situation) and that applying terms like “thirst” and “hunger” is inappropriate in that they apply to feelings that don’t exist for Terri and only serve to raise, in us, emotional images. She will not die of hunger. She will not starve to death. Rather, her bodily functions will cease from a lack of water and nutrition.

It is natural that without the artificial intervention that has kept her in a doll-like state, her body will simply cease to function. What is artificial is holding her in limbo when so much of her brain is gone that she has neither an existing quality of life nor any hope for recovery. It is artificial to agree to go along with the Schindler psychosis and enable them to maintain an object onto which they can project their parental feelings.

It’s no surprise that people have focused on such emotional words in Terri’s case. We’re emotional beings and we know the feelings of hunger. Come to your own conclusion as to whether you’re being cynically manipulated or inadvertently manipulated.

Marriage

At the center of all this is the issue of marriage. I might as well say “at the center of the hypocrisy in all this.”

Over time we have been treated to squeals about the sanctity of marriage and how that institution would be damaged if the privilege were extended to those who want to marry those of the same sex.

Now, in our government, we see the actual value placed on the pact people form when they enter into the institution of marriage. Marriage denial is a convenient punishment to inflict on those segments of society for which the socially conservative harbor distaste. And in this way, marriage proves useful, proves that it has value.

When marriage gets in the way of our cynical political purposes, congress brushes it aside.

Conclusion

There has been no conclusion to this story for 15 years. They’ve zapped Terri’s brain in an attempt to get her back and all they got were responses to electrical stimulation that depressingly parody a living being. On and on it has gone.

It’s maddening to see that Michael Schiavo has had to struggle so long in this horrible limbo and that our government has fought tooth and nail to keep it going. And when the legal system repeatedly gave them no traction, the emotional twisting and media manipulation have allowed the “Save Terri” crowd to strike out at her husband for their purposes.

With any luck, we are only days away from this whole horrible nightmare being over. Or are we? If congress can reach down and assert itself like that in Terri’s case, what’s to say that if you wander into the wrong territory and present a good political football that you might not be the next subject of congress’ attention.

Far fetched? I would have said so before. It is beyond the pale that it has happened in the first place.

We are stuck with the aftermath of this case. In districts where it plays well, the second part of this gambit will surface. Every one of the democratic members of congress and senators who were forced to vote “Yes” on nonintervention in Terri’s case on their principles will have that vote come back to haunt them if the politics of the region are ripe for it.

A Glimmer

Just as I was finishing this, Patti sent me the following story:

“An ABC News poll conducted on Sunday found a 63 percent to 28 percent majority in favor of removing the feeding tube from Schiavo, who is severely brain-damaged. The poll also found that the public, by a margin of 70 percent to 27 percent, opposes congressional involvement in the case. Fully 67 percent of the poll’s participants thought members of Congress were more focused on using the Schiavo case for political advantage than on the principles involved.” - The Schiavo case: A political victory that wasn’t

Wonderful news about how people are seeing through the bullshit. In very few hours, a federal judge refused to order the feeding tube replaced, then this poll, and now a judge has refused a desperate bid for the State of Florida to take custody of Terri (again, treating her like a child) to get that tube put back in and continue this macabre exercise.

Perhaps this has gotten bad enough, ridiculous enough that we’ll be ready the next time it happens. Maybe nobody will ever have to go through this again. Until the next time Congress, Jeb and George want to intervene where they can do the most damage.

Additional Links:

Posted by James at 3:41 PM | Comments (3)

March 23, 2005

Effects of War

The effects of war stay with us, as a society and as an individuals, long after the participants (survivors) head home.

For example, remember the story about Jeffrey Lucey last summer? The young soldier returned home and killed himself because he could not bear the burden of his memories, including allegedly being ordered to kill two unarmed men in Iraq.

What, you don’t remember this story about one of the costs of war? Why, that’s odd. And if you do remember it, you’re probably a MA resident, a Boston Globe reader or a Frontline viewer.

We’re told “War is Hell” and somehow that is supposed to dismiss all such incidents. If you like sausages, it’s best not to look too closely at their manufacture.

So, is this what democracy looks like up close?

Jeffrey Lucey paid the ultimate price when he stepped up to do what his government (you) asked him to do. His burden has ended, but his family is still paying that price. They and many others like them have to make sense of the changes we have put them through.

Posted by James at 9:32 AM | Comments (1)

Name That Movie 29

Name That Movie is going old school today. It is a black and white film and is probably going to be a little bit of work for you to guess. However, I never know — I could have among my readership some loyal fan. It’s always a surprise to me.

With that, here is the first image, followed by subsequent images. There will be 10 9 in all if we get that far.

Clue 1:

Link to Clue 2
Link to Clue 3
Link to Clue 4
Link to Clue 5
Link to Clue 6
Link to Clue 7
Link to Clue 8
Link to Clue 9

That’s it — all the clues are up.

You can’t be first if you don’t guess!

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

March 22, 2005

AFK

I’m going to be away from the keyboard for a big chunk of the day today, so Name That Movie is going to have to be put off until tomorrow.

To make you feel better about this, how ‘bout some chocolate? (turn your speakers down a bit, if you’re at work)

Posted by James at 12:18 AM | Comments (1)

March 19, 2005

The Marketplace of Bad Ideas

Greg sent me a link to this story in the New York times about how some IMAX theaters are refusing to show certain movies because they might offend their viewers by describing scientific fact which contradicts their religious belief.

IMAX theaters and museums in areas with Christian fundamentalist populations are afraid that people will avoid the films or worse. You can see the snowball effect here, right? If a movie can’t be marketed at certain theaters, that lowers it earning potential. While the Boston MoS, New England Aquarium and Providence IMAX theaters might have no problem showing the film, the pressure on future film productions is obvious. The marketplace will cater to the lowest common denominator.

Luckily, science isn’t a marketplace whose currency is how reassuring an idea is or whether it conforms to religious belief. Even so, it would be a sad loss if films could not reflect our scientific understanding of the world because of economic pressure from a few. It would be sad if “educational” entertainment becomes that much less educational.

Posted by James at 10:22 AM | Comments (5)

The Ring 2 (Review)

Summary: Don’t expect to be scared witless; it’s creepy but not quite as alien as the original. Instead, you get a halfway decent story, believably acted. Plus, there’s enough Samara to drive home the point that she is a dangerous chick to mess with.

When the filmmakers set out to make a sequel to creepy remake “The Ring” the first thing they must have done was dismiss the idea of remaking the japanese sequel “Ringu 2.” The japanese sequel was simply horrible. Impossible to understand and not particularly interesting or scary.

In addition to that problem, Naomi Watts had become a star in the intervening years and was not interested in making a plotless horror flick full of “cat scares.”

These influences are felt strongly in The Ring 2.

“The Ring” and its various follow-ups (in both manga and film) are based on the novels of Koji Suzuki, a popular japanese author. I have read the manga and I can attest that they would not make for successful American cinema if they were to be closely adapted. In the novels, a completely implausible scientific explanation for Sadako’s (in English, Samara) unholy powers is presented to the audience. This context is off-putting enough to sap one’s willingness to work at understanding the rest of the story.

Luckily, the American version of The Ring 2, like its predecessor, surpasses the original.

We catch up with Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) and her son Max (creepily listless Simon Baker) as they are finally settling into their new digs far away from the horror of the first film. Unfortunately for them, Samara is back. Last time she seemed to want to haunt your TV (and to kill you.) This time she wants… gee, what does she want?

And that’s part of the mystery. Why is Samara back? What does she want? How do you get rid of something if you don’t know why it keeps coming back in the first place? Rachel would sure like to know, but when your son has suddenly and mysteriously fallen ill, a mother can be a bit distracted.

Unlike the first film which generated creepy atmosphere mostly from strange images and odd music, this film has decided to have a stronger plot and go for a more emotional horror response. Rachel was driven by the threat of Max dying in the first film, but it was formulaic than. Of course she’s going to try to save him. The gimmick was in place and the plot moved along.

Max was creepy before because his mystery was the mystery of childhood that adults forget and never understand. Children can tell us things we have forgotten, and this odd wisdom is a mystery to us. In horror films, children tell us about the evil spirits and the adults are in frightened awe.

In The Ring 2 parents will identify with the mystery of an unexplained illness. The helpless feeling of a child who cannot tell you what is wrong with him when there is something clearly wrong. The frustration, the uncertainty and the impotence are all real life horrors, and Naomi Watts conveys them convincingly on screen.

But while we have experienced illness as a real thing, Rachel (and we) know that Max’s condition is no ordinary illness.The job of answering the questions I posed earlier is now driving the plot forward. What does Samara want?

And rather than giving us a goofy scientific explanation of her powers (we keep them supernatural here, and who cares where they come from) we get something more compelling. And, Rachel hopes, something she can work with.

Along the way there are some startling visuals and genuine jumpy moments, but not by slasher standards.

I went to The Ring 2 expecting to be creeped out of my skin like I was with the first movie. Instead, I got a decent story wrapped in an emotionally charged movie about the mother-child relationship. I don’t know if the original audience will appreciate the shift in focus, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Posted by James at 12:17 AM

March 18, 2005

Coming Attractions Round Up

  • War of the Worlds (new teaser)
    • Any alien that frightens little Dakota Fanning like that is bad news.
  • Sin City (new trailer)
    • Less stylish than the old trailer, this movie still looks pretty impressive. I hope that music is from the film’s actual soundtrack.
  • Fantastic Four (trailer)
    • Tough to tell much from the trailer, but the effects look decent.
  • The Island (trailer)
    • Michael Bay’s upcoming “it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature cloning sci-fi pic. It’s got action and Steve Buscemi. I see homages to other sci-fi even in the trailer. I hope it’s not too derivative.
  • Kicking & Screaming (new trailer)
    • General Will Ferrell funniness. Kids soccer should offer a wealth of opportunity for comedy. The trailer looks only “kinda funny” but it’s Will Ferrell and I have yet to be really disappointed.
  • Zathura (trailer)
    • Weird! By the writer of Jumanji… this looks very Jumanji-like.
  • Dark Water (trailer)
    • Based on the Japanese horror. Haunted house-type movie. Of course, all the houses in Japan seem to be haunted nowadays. This doesn’t take place in Japan though, so what do I know. I haven’t seen the original Japanese film because it’s conveniently not available in this country yet. As with “The Grudge” I’ll have to see the remake before I get a chance to see if the original was any good.

The Batman Begins trailer has been out for a while. I’ve mentioned Wallace and Gromit’s movie before. Hitchhiker’s Guide, of course.

What movies are you anticipating?

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

Polymorphic Shotgun

Another Friday, another Shotgun post!

  • Sheep Reflex Test (Interactive test/game)

    • No, it's not an attempt to test your “sheep reflex.” It's an online game to test your reflexes. Use the tranquilizer gun to tranq the sheep as soon as they break from the herd. The quicker you can tranq the sheep, the better you will score.

  • Draw Boba Fett (How To)

    • Bored in your meeting? Practice doodling Boba Fett's helmet. What else are meetings for?

  • Kid's Show (Twisted Video Spoof , NSFW)

    • I don't know how to describe this. First, a warning: parts of it are quite offensive. So you need a strong stomach. At the very end, a turkey is beheaded (which I didn't really want to see). You've been warned.

    • However, other parts are hilarious. It's children's TV gone way off-kilter. Via Mike's link blog.

    • Funny line that sticks in my head the most: “Can't pray the gay away.”

  • 13 Things That Make No Sense (Science article)

    • An article in New Scientist magazine about 13 intriguing and challenging mysteries facing modern science. From the horizon effect to the Pioneer anomaly. As Spock would say... Fascinating.

  • Words You Might Know (Vocabulary, links included below)

      • One of the basic concepts of Bokononism, the secretive island religion of Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle, is that of a granfalloon. A granfalloon is a recognized grouping of people that, underneath it all, has no real meaning. The prototypical granfaloon in Vonnegut's book is Hoosiers: the main character of the book finds himself journeying to an island nation in the company of fellow Indianans, but other than the fact that they hail from the same state they have no significance in each other's lives.

    • hendecasyllabic

      • a word or line of eleven syllables.

      • It's today's Wordsmith.org word of the day.

    • floccinaucinihilipilification

      • the action or habit of estimating something as worthless.

      • I stumbled upon this word randomly yesterday. Now I have to find a way to work it into conversation.

  • Duct Tape Wallet (DIY)

    • Need a new wallet? Make one from duct tape, the 3M way!

  • Copyright Myths (Publishing, Law)

    • Learn “10 Big Myths” about copyright.

  • The Perception Laboratory's Face Transformer (Fun Graphics Play)

    • You can use the Perception Laboratory's Face Transformer to change the age, race or sex of a facial image, to transform it to the style of a famous artist, to make an exagerated caricature or even make an ape of yourself!

    • Upload a picture of yourself to this Java applet and it will all ow you to transform yourself in a number of ways. The images included in this post above are me (as painted by El Greco) and Maggie (as painted by Botticelli). Or, you could age yourself. Yow.

  • A New Bunny (NSFW, Flash Animation)

    • In response to Warner Brothers' creation of a new “extreme” set of characters to update Bugs and the gang, some animators have made this spoof of Buzz Bunny. It's extreme...ly rude. You've been warned.

    • Here's the story which triggered this satire.

  • Pocky Ad (Advertising)

    • Just a weird ad for the Japanese product “Pocky.” Infectious guitar riff. And Pocky doesn't do that – I've tried.

  • Brave Penguin (Image)

    • He'll look back on it and say “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

Posted by James at 8:45 AM | Comments (8)

March 17, 2005

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!

Here’s an obligatory link to a site containing facts about the day, and about the Irish.

I’m Irish on my father’s side. I’ll be having lunch with Dad, and I will likely raise a Guinness and toast all of you while I’m at it.

Here’s to a sweetheart, a bottle, and a friend.
The first beautiful, the second full, the last ever faithful.

Finally, some wisdom from a well-known irishman:

It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious. — Oscar Wilde

Posted by James at 10:58 AM

What's In a Name?

Convicted murderer (and rapper) “C-Murder” Denied Retrial, Faces Life Imprisonment

Miller was found guilty of second-degree murder for allegedly killing 16-year-old Steve Thomas at a nightclub in New Orleans suburb Harvey back in 2003. He faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole. According to his lawyer, Ron Rakosky, Miller may still appeal the verdict.

No word on whether the appeal includes re-evaluating that name. Suggestions include “C-Innocent,” “C-Parole,” “C-I’ll-Be-Good-I-Promise.”

Meanwhile, former World-Com CEO Bernard Ebbers is regretting changing his name to “S-Fraud” after his de-facto life sentence.

Posted by James at 9:40 AM | Comments (2)

March 16, 2005

People Will Little Note, Nor Long Remember...

Yesterday was my 11th anniversary at my current job.

As with the 5th, 10th and every other anniversary, it passed unnoticed. Anyone else out there been at the same job for 11 years?

Posted by James at 8:11 AM | Comments (31)

March 15, 2005

New Friend: Karl Mari

Sharon returned from a long weekend bearing gifts! It was her birthday last week, and because she is awesome she has given us all treats. I came in this morning to find a delicious Cow Tail, Pez Sours, a Coke Evil and a sticky slinky-bodied octopus. I’m sure I mentioned it before, but Sharon rocks.

I named the octopus Karl Mari. Ryan got an alligator and gave him a cool name: Icki-Bob, so I had to give Karl a cool name as well. Please don’t point out to me that Karl is not a squid. When you get your own slinky, sticky octopus, you can give it your own cool name.

When you throw them on to the wall, they stick, and then flip-crawl down the wall. Their crawling is very efficient and dramatic because their bodies are part plastic slinky.

Thinking myself clever, I threw Karl onto the ceiling so that he would stick up there for a while and then fall on the desk. I threw him… he stuck, but he got far too friendly with the ceiling.

He stuck up there pretty firmly. After a good 20 minutes had passed, he showed not the slightest signs of releasing from the surface. His stickiness was gripping the slightly rough, non-glossy ceiling paint with incredible strength. He was fairly bonded to it.

So Karl had to be carefully removed in a slow, manual process. It was not easy work. Karl has a couple of rough surface spots now, but he’s a trooper. Sticky as ever and he crawled down the wall immediately after. He got right back on that horse.

As you can see from the photo, he left a little stain. It’s Karl-shaped. Head, snout, tentacles and all.

No matter where Karl eventually goes, he will be forever remembered. He’s truly left his mark.

P.S.: I was warned

Posted by James at 3:19 PM | Comments (7)

Forget the Ax

Axes are so 19th century in Fall River. Today’s weapon of choice: the machete.

After making two arrests in connection with Sunday’s gang-related machete attack, police are scouring the city for a third suspect, who may be on the run.

Posted by James at 10:20 AM | Comments (5)

Name That Movie 28

I have a feeling this one is going to be easy. But I never can tell.

As always, guesses in the comments. Don’t look if you think it might spoil your guessing. More clues revealed throughout the day (this one has 7).

Link to clue 1 (also visible above)
Link to clue 2
Link to clue 3
Link to clue 4
Link to clue 5
Link to clue 6
Link to clue 7

Now it’s up to you.

Congrats to Chuck for Guessing this one!

Posted by James at 8:45 AM | Comments (20)

March 14, 2005

TV Zapping

Back a few weeks ago when I was home because the campus was closed (snow) and I was recovering from the flu. I decided to do a little science experiment with the kids.

I chose one of the experiments listed on the Science Toys page that appeared in a Shotgun post a while back.The experiment involved building your own Franklin Bells out of soda cans. “Franklin Bells” are two bells with a light clapper hanging beneath them. Static electricity buildup causes the clapper to fly toward one of the bells until it contacts, and then it flies back.

I ended up modifying the activity, but a good time was had by all. Continue reading for pictures and a video of the outcome.

The TV is covered in foilThe static electricity is provided by the television set. When the TV is turned on or off, a charge accumulates on the surface of the TV screen. This charge can be gathered by placing a large sheet of aluminum foil over the screen. (see the image — click for larger) Once harnessed, the electricity could be used to charge up one of the Franklin bells, which is supposed to cause the clapper to fly from one bell to the other, making noise and amazing everyone! First the clapper is attracted to the newly charged can, then (as it acquires charge from touching) it is repelled. It hits the other can, discharges, and repeats until the charges are not strong enough to move the clapper.

Well, it worked. The clapper did fly back and forth. The girls thought it was neat. I described some facts about static electricity. But we noticed other things. The foil would move a lot when the TV was turned on or off. And we would get zapped a little bit (it stung) if we touched the can during the experiment.

I was amazed that you could harvest so much static electricity off the TV screen. But I was even more “shocked” when I was holding a grounded wire and brushed the can by mistake. Once I was better grounded, the shock was enough to make my hand go a little numb. That’s a pretty good amount of voltage. It occurred to me that we ought to be able to see that much voltage jump a gap through the air.

First, we set up a stiff wire near a hanging piece of aluminum foil. Similar to the Franklin bell, the plan here was to have the very light foil move when the wire got charged up. The difference in charge would attract the foil. But when the foil got close enough, we hoped to see (and hear) the circuit complete as the electricity jumped the gap.

It worked!

But all that movement was getting in the way of actually seeing the spark fly. So I rigged 2 wires. One was connected to the TV foil, the other was grounded. This time I could adjust the gap and keep it stable. After some experimentation, I found a decent gap distance (it was a little over a centimeter).

A forked sparkFinally, we were able to get some pretty dramatic sparks captured on film, and very loud zaps!

As you can see here, we even got some sparks that forked like lightning. The larger image is even more impressive.

I’ve made a small video of the experiment which you can check out in the links at the end of this entry.

Its important to point out to children that, while playing with low powered static electricity is fun, you can get zapped a little bit (the kids both wanted to feel what it was like, and got very small zaps). But high-powered AC wall voltage is an entirely different ballgame. Children (and all people) need to understand that you playing with wall current can be very dangerous. I blew up a wall socket and a toy as a kid once because I was playing with the household electricity. I was lucky I wasn’t hurt, and it sure made me respect the stuff.

While electricity can be dangerous, it’s also a heck of a lot of fun, and it’s fun to get familiar with what you can safely do with it.

Links:

  • Static Electricity TV Zapping - The Movie! (hosted at Putfile.com) The video is about 1.2 MB.
  • Check out my Experiments photo gallery to see all the pictures from this experiment in one place. All the photos from this experiment are dates Feb 25, 2005. Notice the last image in the series — there are a bunch of colorful artefacts in the video signal. I am guessing that the spark caused some kind of electromagnetic interference that momentarily messed up the CCD of the camera. I was holding it pretty close.

Details on the video:

I used the free Windows Movie Maker (Windows XP’s answer to iMovie) and, predictably, they only support Windows Media Player format as an output method. I’ve got to get my laptop fixed, or get better video software for the PC.

For those interested, Windows Movie Maker is halfway decent for making quick movies. It’s quite a bit better than some pay software I’ve used if your needs are simple and you want something done fast. But the lack of ability to save to other codecs (especially Quicktime codecs) is just nasty. It may be a proprietary thing on Apple’s part. The best Apple codecs are not open formats. However, Movie Maker doesn’t give you much choice at all.

Posted by James at 7:45 AM | Comments (11)

March 13, 2005

Ketchup Coincidence

On Friday, as I was getting ready to leave the house, I saw that Maggie had left a handful of 6 Heinz ketchup packets on my jacket. We’d gotten them from Smokey Bones when I’d brought takeout home. Ironically, they’d loaded us down with ketchup but had stiffed me on the fries that were supposed to be included in my order.

We didn’t need the ketchup at home, so Maggie figured I could take them to work with me. But I was in a hurry, so I didn’t throw them in my bag. I was afraid if I put them in my pocket, I’d forget them there and explode at some inopportune moment. “What do I need ketchup for at work?” I thought. Thinking I was being clever, I said something stupid like “Is there going to be some ketchup emergency today?”

A few hours later, it was lunchtime at the office. Ryan decided he was in the mood for Wendy’s and we thought “why not?” It made me think of the ketchup, so I told the story to Ryan and Sara. They pointed out that I could have used the ketchup (perhaps Maggie is psychic?) but I knew I wouldn’t have used it anyhow. I didn’t want any ketchup, and I didn’t get any from Wendy’s. So Maggie had not anticipated a ketchup need on my part.

But the day wasn’t over.

As we were finishing our lunches, Nina, who works for another organization in the building wandered over to our doorway. She was about to eat her lunch (French fries and chicken fingers) and she required an additional ingredient — something we found out she likes to eat in quantity. “Do you guys have any ketchup?” she asked.

She must have been surprised that such an innocuous question could evoke such laughter. After I explained the humor in the situation, she told us she could easily have used all the packets for her lunch. She customarily uses a ton of ketchup and doesn’t like to go without it.

Experience from the kitchen at McDonalds notwithstanding, I think that’s as close as I’ve ever seen to a ketchup emergency.

Posted by James at 12:49 AM | Comments (11)

March 12, 2005

Snake Dancer

Snake Dancer
Snake Dancer,
originally uploaded by drmomentum.
This is M’s Snake Dancer.

She built it out of Legos from a set that included an electric motor, powered by a battery. The original set was intended to build a monkey which can climb up a string. We built that, but now she’s moved on to other creations.

“Snake Dancer” is second or third in a series of machines that flop around on the floor. This particular one reminded her of a snake. Thus the name.

The combination of Legos she’s stuck to the thing make its movements oddly random and lifelike. You can see it flop around here in an .AVI format movie. The video is a little dark (I took it with my still camera) but you’ll get the idea.


Posted by James at 9:48 AM | Comments (6)

March 11, 2005

The Shotgun Brings You Back

I ain’t tellin you no lie.
The shotgun brings you back.
On that you can rely.

  • Mac $200 Rebate (Deals)
    • DealNews alerted me to this up-to-$200 rebate on certain Mac hardware if purchased through Amazon.com. As a surprising number of acquaintances of my blog have mentioned plans to buy a Mac soon, I thought I’d post this deal.
    • Interesting: I’ve long been a fan of Macs, and they’ve only gotten better over the years. Grudgingly, I’ve acclimated myself to PCs for a number of reasons, but I continue to be a multi-platform fellow, not beholden to any one if possible, semi-experienced on many. What’s interesting is that lately I’ve seen a number of hardcore Windows techies (I’m talking about IT people who work for large companies) suddenly all excited because they are getting MacOS X laptops. MacOS X is also rising in popularity among “getting things done” folks and the business crowd. As far as I can tell, this is a somewhat separate from the Mac’s rising popularity as an “accessory” to the iPod. I have no idea what this all means.
  • 25% off 1 book at Borders (Deals!)
    • Speaking of deals, here’s a coupon for you, for this weekend. It’s 25% off any one book or audio book at Borders or Waldenbooks. This is another find through DealNews. (Actually, I get sent these coupons directly from a Borders mailing list, but you can often find them on DealCoupon.) We happily use these coupons all the time. That’s why we have too many books. Note: Only good through the 14th!
  • Graph Paper Grid PDFs (Stationery)
    • I love stationery. I love graph paper. Here’s a website that has PDFs of different sorts of graph paper in PDF form so you can print them out when you need them in a pinch. Hey, you never know when you might need hex paper.
  • Magical Trevor 2 (Animation, Flash)
    • Sequel to the wildly popular (in my house, anyway) Magical Trevor.
    • Heck, while you’re at Weebls Stuff, why not check out a couple of other animations?
  • The Price is Right - 420 (Clip, Stoner Comedy)
    • Hipster fellow is chosen for the Price Is Right and uses the opportunity to use “420” as much as possible.
  • Tickler File - How To (Getting Things Done, Article)
    • For anyone interested in the “Getting Things Done” organizational system, here are instructions on building your own tickler file.
  • Most Useful Websites to Reporters (Reference, Search)
    • Someone’s pretty decent list of useful reference websites. It’s just a long, flat list, but worth a browse if you like this sort of thing.
  • 101 Zen Stories (Philosophy, Life, Stories)
    • When Mamiya, who later became a well-known preacher, went to a teacher for personal guidance, he was asked to explain the sound of one hand.
    • Mamiya concentrated upon what the sound of one hand might be. “You are not working hard enough,” his teacher told him. “You are too attached to food, wealth, things, and that sound. It would be better if you died. That would solve the problem.”
    • The next time Mamiya appeared before his teacher he was again asked what he had to show regarding the sound of one hand. Mamiya at once fell over as if he were dead.
    • “You are dead all right,” observed the teacher. “But how about that sound?”
    • “I haven’t solved that yet,” replied Mamiya, looking up.
    • “Dead men do not speak,” said the teacher. “Get out!”
  • 10 Things I have Learned (Advice)
    • The advice of a designer, not all relating to design.
    • Everyone always talks about confidence and believing in what you do. I remember once going to a class in Kundalini yoga where the teacher said that, spirituality speaking, if you believed that you had achieved enlightenment you have merely arrived at your limitation.
    • Decent advice, also given in the book Are Your Lights On?
  • Why Blogging Can Be Good For Your Career (Advice, Career, Blogging)
    • Many folks look at it as a danger, but it doesn’t have to be.
  • The Party Party, Featuring RX (Music, Political)
    • George Bush is now “RX” - a pop singer/rapper. The folks at this website have taken his speeches and turned them into pop songs, some of them quite impressive. I recommend you listen to “My Name Is RX” and “Imagine,” which are the best, in my humble opinion. “KGBtv” is pretty good as well.
    • Saw this via Mike’s link dump. Lyrics may contain expletives.
  • 10 Ways To Stop Identity Theft Cold (Privacy)
    • Rather than what to do once your identity has been stolen, here is some advice for preventing the situation in the first place. Most of these will seem like common knowledge, but a timely reminder or two can’t hurt.
  • Would You Pay 5 Cents For A Song? (Article, Music)
    • Would the average person bother pirating music if songs cost a nickel?
  • Posting And You (Animation, Useful, Funny)
    • It’s so true. If you have ever spent any time in any forums, you’ll laugh and nod, and probably think this should be required viewing.
    • In the style of those old-time public service messages. Cute.

BONUS!

  • Spank The Monkey (Interactive)
    • A weblink blast from the past. Flamjam’s “Spank the Monkey.” One of the first links ever posted on Aces Full, it was gone for a long time. Here it is again.
    • You get an extra song if you spank at over 200 MPH.
Posted by James at 9:54 AM | Comments (5)

March 10, 2005

Summer on the way?

In a recent comment I took comfort in the thought that time is on our side and the recent weather will soon be forgotten as we take to the outdoors in a celebration of spring.

But can we be so sure that summer is on the way? Now is a fun time to mention the year 1816, known to New Englanders as “Eighteen Hundred and Froze To Death”.

It was the year without a summer in New England.

Cold waves prevented crops from growing. There were extended periods of frost and near-freezing temperatures. It snowed in June.

Certainly an unusual situation. And those people had to face drops in their food supplies because of the uncooperative weather. So, I can take a little more snow, I suppose. Though I am an autumn person, I’m going to savor the summer this year. And the spring, if we have one.

Posted by James at 8:51 AM | Comments (9)

First They Came For My Information

First they came for my information
and I did not speak out
because I was not one of those people who is paranoid about my information getting out.

With apologies to Pastor Martin Niemöller.

In yet another apparent theft of U.S. consumers’ personal data, LexisNexis, a major compiler of legal and consumer information, has said that about 30,000 of its records - including names, addresses and Social Security numbers of individuals - may have fallen into the hands of thieves.

[…] The concern in such cases is that criminals can use the information to open credit-card accounts in other people’s names or engage in various other forms of so-called identity theft. (International Herald Tribune and more stories here)

Maggie woke me from my morning torpor (ok, mentally at least) with this story. Even if you think corporations are not going to use your data in ways that you disapprove, or that impact your life adversely, how about if they’re just sloppy with hanging on to your data?

This is the early 21st century version of the bank robbery. Except, in a bank robbery you just lose the money you had in that bank. If your information is stolen and your identity is used, it’s going to continue to haunt you.

Links:

  • The adcritic link above is to an ACLU commercial about a possible future of corporate database sharing. Found on Mike’s link dump. It’s a dystopic and (possibly) exaggerated view, but the point is something that information sciences people have known for a long time. The combination of databases can bring about unforseen possibilities. For those not in control of the data this means unintended and possibly unwanted consequences.
  • What to do if your identity is stolen. via the FTC.
  • Has Your Identity Been Stolen? (Slate)
Posted by James at 8:22 AM

March 9, 2005

WTF?

It was in the 40’s yesterday, and now it’s 11 degrees outside and windy. And there’s snow in the driveway.

Simply craptacular.

Continued…

I’m sure we all have our stories of the last 18 or so fun hours. I stopped in at Newbury Comics in North Dartmouth before going home last night. When I left the office it was raining, turning to sleet and it was hovering around freezing. I went into the store and did my shopping for about 20 minutes or so.

When I came out there was sleet mixed with snow whipping through the air and coating everything. The doors of the Jeep were frozen. The ground was covered with a quickly freezing slush. The temperature had dropped to 22 degrees, and was still dropping.

The ride home was a mess, but nothing spectacular to note.

I spread ice melt on the driveway before I entered the house, and it’s a good thing. Where the salt fell the driveway is relatively clear now (after having been shovelled). Everywhere else, the snow froze to the ground.

Ugh.

Posted by James at 7:54 AM | Comments (30)

March 8, 2005

Name That Movie 27

Try to guess the movie! More clues as the day wears on! Comment if you have a guess. Avoid the comments if you don’t want your guesses colored by other people. Have fun!

Clue #1
Clue #2
Clue #3
Clue #4
Clue #5
Clue #6
Clue #7
Clue #8
Clue #9

Posted by James at 8:49 AM | Comments (40)

March 7, 2005

Free Subscription

I have a vague memory of being a student, or maybe even just out of college and wanting a free subscription to some computer technology magazine. I don’t remember the name of the mag. It was one of those newspaper-like mags that you only ever got as a free subscription. You had to fill out a form telling them how great you were (I am the head of a computer tech department! I manage 50 people! I spend thousands of dollars a day on computer equipment!) and if you fit the profile, they wanted you looking at their advertisements magazine.

I think that, at the time, answering honestly gave you a free ticket off their subscription list.

Today, I guess just having the title “Chief Software Developer” must command some sort of attention, because I’ve gotten 3 calls from InfoWorld in an attempt to “update my contact information.”

I don’t remember subscribing to InfoWorld; I have a vague memory of receiving it in the mail, but I don’t read any IT-related print periodicals. If I want info on IT, I read it on the web.

InfoWorld called me in the middle of a meeting 2 weeks ago, and I told them “I’m in a meeting.” Then they called me last week and I gave it to them straight “I don’t want my contact info updated. Thanks anyway. You can cancel my subscription, if that is the consequence.”

They called again about 10 minutes ago with the same request. I, once again, told them I don’t want or need a subscription. Have a nice day. click.

Are they going to call me every week now? I’ve gotten pretty good at hanging up, so I don’t actually mind too much. I don’t like the interruption, but mostly I’m just disappointed that it isn’t someone interesting on the phone.

Posted by James at 3:30 PM | Comments (9)

Cache Maintenance Visit

Back in February before I got the flu, the kids and I made a visit to GCM0P0, the Somerset Offset geocache. Yes, it was a slightly overdue maintenance visit, but the blizzard snow had made the prospect of wandering around less than appealing. By Feb 20th, the snow had subsided to a level that was quite easily traversed.

I retrieved the cache while the kids cavorted nearby. It was exactly where I’d left it, but someone had cached in and trashed out the beer can. When I’d initially hidden it, there was a beer can in front of the hiding spot. True to form, geocachers had kept the area relatively clean.

Cache Logbook and $2I took the cache to a comfy location, opened it up and photographed the contents. Apparently, someone has left a little pot in my geocache! Thank goodness it’s the legal kind.

The logbook was in good shape (donated by Maggie, it’s made from the “burn book” that came with the Mean Girls DVD.) I made a photographic record of all the comments and signed entries in the book. Some folks go through the logbook and compare the signed entries to the entries on the website. I may check that later. It’s been fun to see the handwritten comments.

Signing a geocache logbook is a variable experience. Sometimes you’re in such a secluded location you can take your time. Other times you’re afraid you’ll be spotted and you scrawl something as quickly as possible. I like to draw a little picture along with my signature. Lately it’s been a sloppy Bill The Cat. Ack! In the few seconds people take to sign, it’s fun to see what they want to record. Mostly, people comment on how much they like the location, how easy or difficult the find was, and whether/what was left in the cache.

I replaced the cache and gathered up the kids. It was early in the morning and there was practically nobody about. For February, that’s not unusual. But as the year progresses through spring and into summer, this area will be crawling with Muggles.

Prospective geocachers, this is the time to go hunting for it. :) Of course, there have been 3 snowstorms in the time since I checked on the cache! But that won’t stop the most intrepid cache hunters.

Posted by James at 8:14 AM

March 4, 2005

Bite My "Addy"

Some people use the abbreviation “addy” for “address.” It’s usually heard when they’re talking about an email address, but I’ve also heard it used for a postal address.

“Give me your addy”

“What was your addy again?”

“Don’t give your addy out to just anyone.”

Where the hell did this come from? It sounds dumb and I hope it doesn’t catch on, but it’s already hit the UrbanDictionary. There is no “y” in “address” so I don’t know where you get “addy.” In written use, “addr.” would make more sense as an abbreviation. I think “addy” is used because these people don’t like typing something that they couldn’t pronounce if they were reading the message aloud, as if they’re moving their lips while they’re typing their forum posts. If they start actually saying “addy” because they can’t manage the energy to say the words “address” in spoken conversation, that really frightens me.

So, here is my unsolicited advice, offered freely.

“Addy” sounds both cutesy and dopey. If that is what you’re going for, then by all means use “addy.” Otherwise, take the time and type out “address.” If you must abbreviate, try “addr.” and include the period to let people know it’s an abbreviation. Heck, the abbreviation for “abbreviation” is “abbr.” so this is not going to surprise anyone. People will know what you’re talking about from context and you won’t sound like someone who just stumbled onto the net yesterday with a free AOL disk you got in the mail. Or worse, someone who has never put pen to paper before.

[ Disclaimer: Nothing personal against anyone who uses this foul abbreviation. Your behavior is your own business. I’m just doing you a favor by telling you what it sounds like. And in case you’re wondering, yes, I am right.]

Posted by James at 11:34 AM | Comments (17)

Post-Flu Shotgun

Lots of links this week.

  • Find local sales at SalesHound or SalesCircular (Deals)
    • You can use these two online services to browse the sales in your area. I’ve been using SalesHound for many years now, but SalesCircular is a new one to me. These can help you plan a weekend shopping trip.
  • MyBlogLog (Weblogging Tools)
    • Find out which links your blog readers are clicking most often. What is most interesting to your audience?
  • phosphor_alpha_4_248 (Shockwave Game)
    • Shockwave 1st person shooter of impressive quality
  • Mediabuilder GIFWorks
    • Build little text-based animated gifs for your website. It does a lot more than that, but that’s the only aspect I tried out. Via Mike’s linkblog.
  • Designers Toolbox (Webdesign Tools)
    • Tools to help with many aspects of the web designer’s job. From designing, to legal, to business-related.
  • 20 Ways To Say No (Advice, Tips)
    • Learn how to say “No” to extra work that you can’t handle.
  • EssentialPIM (Organizational Tools)
    • Absolutely free, powerful PIM. Manage your contacts, appointments and outline-structured notes all on this tiny application. You can even put it on your thumb drive and carry it around that way, to run it on any computer without having to synchronize.
  • Use Cases: What’s The Problem? and Use-Cases Part II: Taming Scope (Articles, Design)
    • Two good articles on applying use cases to web design. From the web design blog “A List Apart.”
  • She’s Got A Chicken To Ride (Flash Animation)
    • Ahhhh… misheard lyrics. In this case, it leads to a goofy animation.
  • Motivation (Images, Humor, Parody, Comics)
    • Comics-themed motivational posters. My fave is the Conan image on page 2. A favorite quote Chuck and I would repeat from the first Conan movie.
  • Unlucky Skydiver Scott (Video)
    • Skydiving is fun. Unless your chute doesn’t open. Watch what happens when Scott loses his chute on the way down. As if losing your chute isn’t bad enough, that wasn’t the end of his bad luck.
  • COWBELL!!!! (Video, LOUD)
    • Can’t get enough cowbell? Here’s your chance. It’s loud and repetitive. You’ve been warned.
  • E-Mail Icon Generator (Tool, Graphics)
    • Use this tool to make a graphical badge with your Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail or other email address. Like this one:
  • TREASURE BOX (Game)
    • Kind of a puzzle game where you try to allow a little red ball to progress along its journey. Surreal fun, and a definite Friday timewaster.
  • Spidey’s Greatest Bible Stories (Religion/Humor)
    • Bet you didn’t know Spidey was in the good book.
  • Lotsa Helping Hands (Assistance)
    • A solution for organizing to help those in need among your family, friends, community. The answer to “what can I do to help” when tragedy strikes. See Brian’s post for more details.
  • Disney Fonts: Florida Project (Graphics)
    • Free fonts that look like the ones you see at the Disney resorts. Brings back childhood memories.
  • Prachka (Game)
    • Slide the box to its destination using the obstacles to stop it. The game is addictive and fun. I got pretty far before I realized I had work to do.
  • SmarterChild (Tool)
    • AIM robot agent which provides information and reminders. Add it to your buddy list, tell it you need a reminder at 3:00 PM and it will send you an IM at that time. It does a lot more, too.
  • FamilyGuyQuotes via AIM (TV)
    • Add a new buddy to your list and IM this bot every so often for a different Family Guy quote. It was online all week and just mysteriously went offline about 5 minutes ago. But if you add it to your list, you’ll know when it comes back and you can check it out.
  • Balance (Animated Short)
    • Balance is not easy to achieve.
  • Parabolic Template (DIY)
    • I love clevery DIY projects. This guy has created a template for boosting your home wireless signal by focusing it, so you could extend the coverage to one part of your house and block coverage on the other side of a wall or whatnot. My notebook is broken, so my wireless network is off, but I’d love to try this.
  • The Freebie Source (Stuff!)
    • Want to hear about free offers? This is the place for you.
  • Optimize XP (Techie)
    • Hints for making your XP computer ruin run faster and smoother.
  • The Ring 2 TV Spot (Movie Trailer)
    • Check out the new “The Ring 2 trailer TV spot down at the end of the list. It’s tricky! And creepy.
  • Giant Steps (Animation)
    • Engaging building-themed animation. It’s fun eye candy with a relaxing jazz soundtrack.
  • Online Java Traffic Simulator (Simulation)
    • Why does traffic happen? Experiment with this simulator and find out for yourself. I could do this all day.
Posted by James at 8:18 AM | Comments (8)

March 3, 2005

Drive Safely

I’m posting this now rather than in the shotgun because it has the potential of helping someone survive the winter.

Winter Driving Tips

Winter is supposed to be almost over, but we know better after being repeatedly hammered with lousy driving condition this year. Can’t count on anything. And some conditions, like black ice, can creep up on you.

The best advice, given at the top, is that when things are really bad just stay off the road. If your employer doesn’t understand, then you have to wonder whether your job is worth losing your life. What gall some employers have.

Another good bit of advice that I haven’t heard widely repeated is how to avoid a collision once you are in an a near-collision situation. Sometimes you’re sliding out of control, or someone else is sliding and you are in their path. The tendency in these situations is sometimes to stare right at whatever you’re about to crash into (or what is about to crash into you). You’ll have better luck avoiding collisions if you don’t fixate on the other car/pole or whatever. Instead, focus your attention to one side of the object or, if it’s moving, behind the object and work to steer your vehicle out of the way.

It works. The deer-in-the-headlights reaction often makes people more of a target, or steers them right where they shouldn’t be going. I’ve been in both situations — transfixed and headed for a crash and of a more calm mind and focused away from the dangerous obstacle. Guess which situations turned out better.

Drive safe, folks!

Posted by James at 9:29 AM | Comments (14)

Older Women

I was going to write: “So, Mary Kay Letourneau finally gets out (and plans to marry her former student) so now it’s time for another teacher to step in and fill the role of archetypal hard-up female teacher preying on minors.”

Police: Teaching Intern, 30, Had Sex With Teen Student (added twist: woman’s toddler was in the back seat at the time).

But we have at least one other contender in a Ms. Stephanie Bissell. Okay, so she’s not a teacher, but her young lover is only 14 and she’s already pregnant. That has got to count for something, no?

Looking around the net at these stories, it appears customary to say something like “Huh, huh, where were these 30-somethings when I was a libidinous teenage boy, huh, huh!”

Ah, the excitement of getting on TV by being famous in your entire county for having been the plaything of an older woman who should have known better. And what youngster wouldn’t want to have his life marked by a decision he made in his teen years (well known for producing some of the most well-thought-out decisions, ruled by reflection and not hormones)?

I read these stories and they beg some sort of comment, but I have no idea what to say.

Let’s try this: Guys, you’ve got to take better care of your wives if some pimply 14-year-old is the new competition and he’s winning.

Nah. That didn’t really hit the spot. Clearly, my news commenting is in a slump.

Posted by James at 9:05 AM | Comments (13)

Passionada: Ann and Hope Casino

Last night I watched the film “Passionada” starring Sofia Milos (CSI:Miami), Jason Issacs (The Patriot) and featuring Emmy Rossum who recently made a splash in The Phantom of the Opera but has been in recent high profile movies The Day After Tomorrow and Mystic River (as the ill-fated Katie Markum)

Passionada is a harmless film. The performances are convincing, and the story has a decent premise. Set in New Bedford, MA, it tells the tale of Celia Amonte, widow of seven years and get teenage daughter Vicky. Celia hasn’t moved on from losing her husband. When hard-luck gambler Charles Beck enters their lives and is smitten with the disinterested Celia, Vicky sees a chance for Celia to start a new romance and for herself to learn the secrets of card counting in Blackjack at the local casino. Deception and romance ensue.

SInce I never got the sense Celia was suffering much from not having a man in her life, I never bought Vicky’s motivation to get the two main characters together. And Charles Beck was a likeable enough character, but you can’t really root for him too much because… well, it’s not as though he’s all that compelling. We have no particular reason to bond with him. He’s just some layabout.

In any case, the only interest I had in this film was that it was largely shot on location in and around New Bedford, MA. In fact, Maggie, the girls and I were driving by the old Ann and Hope parking lot one night a few years ago and saw the film crew set up around the old Ben Franklin craft supply building, which had been bedecked to suggest a casino. A scene was being shot in the parking lot, so we stopped to watch from a distance.

It turns out, this scene did not make it into the actual film. But it is on the DVD in the form of a really horrible alternate ending. If you are at all familiar with th area, you might recognize the “Casino” as Charles is driving by on Faunce Corner road, and then later at night in the scene we witnessed being filmed.

While it was fun to see this and other New Bedford area locations in the film, it’s not enough to justify seeing (which is why you probably have never heard of the film).

One thing that is really weird is that the story relies on at least one casino being in the area (two if you count the alternate ending). Do the film-makers know something we don’t?

Posted by James at 7:58 AM | Comments (1)

March 2, 2005

Where Rabbit?

If you’re anything like me, you want to see the trailer for the first Wallace and Gromit full-length movie. “Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit

So click the link already and watch it.

Posted by James at 5:52 PM

March 1, 2005

Infowar

When the public doesn’t agree with the Republican-controlled government is it time for bipartisan meetings? High profile discussions?

Silly you — it’s time to wage information war on the American people.

Polls show widespread skepticism of Bush’s proposal for creating individual Social Security investment accounts for younger workers, and Democratic lawmakers have voiced nearly uniform opposition. The Washington Post reported over the weekend that some allies of the president are focused on possible split-the-difference deals that would significantly scale back Bush’s proposal, yet enable him to claim an incremental victory.

The Treasury Department yesterday announced the formation of a Social Security “war room” and the hiring of three full-time employees to help coordinate and refine the administration’s message on the issue. The war room, which the administration is calling the Social Security Information Center, will track lawmakers’ remarks to their local news outlets, to help the White House detect signs of Republican concern or Democratic compromise. (free reg. reqd.)

War is such a useful model, we’ll just use it everywhere. I think we’ve eased into the idea that the administration will manipulate the media if necessary to change our thinking. So a war room is not that big a deal to the devoted.

Posted by James at 9:31 AM

Name That Movie 26

Here’s this week’s Name That Movie! You know the rules: I reveal one image at a time throughout the day. You can post if you have a guess. Avoid the comments if you want to try to get it on your own. Here’s the first image:

Further clues will be posted as links, right here, as the day goes on!

Note: Since someone (Chuck!) already guessed the movie, I’m posting the rest of the images here, all at once. So, avoid the comments if you want to guess. You can play through the whole game at once.

Link to image #2!
Link to image #3!
Link to image #4!
Link to image #5!
Link to image #6!
Link to image #7!

Extra credit: What’s that video game in the first picture, and what console is it running on. It’s not Missile Command. Sufficient information is given in the movie to figure it out.

Posted by James at 9:27 AM | Comments (21)