April 30, 2005

Memory Upgrades

My memory stinks, so I have to rely on help.

For a while, i tried using a PDA (Palm Pilot) and that solution is great for a large number of things. But lately, the help comes from a variety of sources.

First among them is the Hipster PDA. I saw this idea first on the 43 Folders website. A hipster PDA is just a bunch of 3×5 cards held together with a mini clip. The input device is a pen. You can read all about it on the original 43 Folders post “Introducing the Hipster PDA. But, really, what you see is what you get.

This works for me, where a pocket notepad never did. You can’t rearrange the pages of a notepad, you can’t replenish the pages and it’s often a pain to rip out the pages neatly. For me, these are big advantages for the hipster PDA.

I use it any time I need to take quick notes. Pages can be subject-oriented (a list of items, for example). Or, you can use part of your PDA for developing ideas. One idea per page, and as time goes by you can fill the card in with more detail for a given idea. Colored cards can be used to partition the PDA. Or the cards can have different meanings.

But I can’t always write down notes. Note taking is a less than safe activity when you’re driving. For those times, I use a little voice recorder. In my case, It’s an Olympus digital voice recorder, because i wanted the ability to upload my notes to the computer. It turns out, I don’t do that as often as I thought I would — it’s actually better to transcribe the notes onto my hipster PDA when I get the chance. Then everything is in one place.

The final part of my memory upgrade system is my digital camera. Sometimes it’s my little Fuji FinePix A303. Sometimes I just use the lousy camera in my phone or in my voice recorder. But even the lousy resolution is great for shopping. Example: you see something that might be a perfect gift for someone else, but it’s not convenient to buy it (or their birthday is 8 months away) and you’d like to remember it for later. Take a picture. It’s not art, but it’s practical.

How do you keep track of stuff? Or am I the only one who needs this sort of help?

Bonus - My Hipster PDA currently consists of:

  • Various 3×5 cards from the campus store and OfficeMax
  • A gold colored mini clip (I’ve got a whole bunch of ‘em)
  • A uni POWER TANK pen. Made by Uniball. However, I’d consider using one of these for versatility: the classic Bic 4-color.
Posted by James at 10:40 PM | Comments (6)

Boomerang Book

I came home from a late night movie on Friday and saw this book on the kitchen table.

“That book looks strangely familiar.” I thought.

I took a closer look, and it came back to me. This is a book I read when I was a kid. At about age 10 (and for a number of years to follow) I was intensely interested in supernatural mysteries. I read whatever books I could get my hands on regarding ghosts, UFOs, cryptozoology, disappearances, and the like. During that time, this was one of the books I read. I recognized it and the pictures inside.

Not only had I read this book, but I had borrowed this particular copy of this book. I saw the note in the back declaring that the book belonged to “North Middle School.” There is no North Middle School any longer — now the building is an elementary school. Clearly this book had remained in the building’s library and one of my daughters had taken it out.

A look inside the cover revealed the record of how many times it had been taken out before 1989. I was in the middle school 28 years ago or so, and I know I took the book out and would have renewed it a number of times. The record shows somebody did just that. What’s more, this book was not borrowed from the library all that often. A number of stamps indicate that it went home with somebody during my time as a pupil at North Middle School. But there weren’t many takers in the 10 years that follow, until they switched to an alternate method of stamping (with a card insert.)

I mentioned this to my wife, and asked her who borrowed it. She said, “M borrowed it, and she’s had it for a while now. She keeps renewing it.”

I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised that she’s inherited this interest. But it still struck me as odd that this book has found its way back to me for a while.

Posted by James at 5:57 PM | Comments (2)

Sin City

Speaking of Sin City

Yes, what you’ve heard is correct. This is an extremely violent movie. It’s about the people living in a city where violence is commonplace. However, this film certainly accomplished a couple of things.

It’s the first time I’ve felt that a Frank Miller story really came through on the screen. I found myself wishing that they had chosen to do “The Dark Knight Returns” instead - a somewhat less violent Miller story with an aging Batman as its main character. From his performance here, Mickey Rourke would have made a halfway decent Dark Knight.

There’s a lot of acting talent in Sin City. There’s a lot of narration (it’s a comic book, after all). Amid the graphic violence, there are a few genuinely horrific cinematic moments, which is a good thing if that’s what you’re looking for. And there are engaging characters. There must be a heck of a lot more to the tormented hulk of Marv (Rourke) than they revealed in this story. And Dwight (Clive Owen) refers to his past a number of times. If you like the idea of a of prostitute-assassins, you’ll love Devon Aoki’s Miho. But if they had spent all their time on one story, maybe we could have gotten a little more depth. Hinting at it makes for some rich segments, but give me one, good story that is going to stick with me. If you’ve got the depth, please use it.

I find myself agreeing with some of the reviewers who said that Bruce Willis’ storyline (Hartigan) was the weakest story. Hartigan is a cop who saves a girl from a serial rapist/murderer and then takes the fall for the crimes because of a corrupt government. When he gets out, he finds that a few things have changed. There’s wrong, and there’s wrong, and there’s this. Hartigan is a decent character, but he doesn’t stand up against the two other major storylines: Marv’s steam-engine rampage to find Goldie’s killer, and the prostitute’s efforts to keep the truce of Sin City in place (with the help of Dwight).

Fans of Jessica Alba: this role does not feature much in the way of effort on her part, and her appearances are brief.

The real accomplishment here, I think, is in making the comic-bookishness believable. Your brain eventually compensates for the stark contrast, except for those moments where the director injects color for dramatic effect. But style shouldn’t be a gimmick. It isn’t a gimmick here if you consider that it allows the story to be told without seeming as graphic.

I can’t decide whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. But to the violence here… is it really any worse than The Bride’s rampage in Kill Bill? No, I don’t think so. And, in the end, this film didn’t sit with me like Kill Bill: Vol 1 did the first time I saw it. Much of the film delivers its story nonchalantly, and even the soundtrack is relatively subdued (unlike the music you hear in the trailers). I kept expecting to hear the trailer music, but it never materialized. Perhaps the film makers are trying to tell us they don’t expect us to cheer on the violence and get all worked up.

I give Sin City an “of some interest.”

Posted by James at 11:12 AM

April 29, 2005

Family Guy

In case you need the reminder:

Family Guy. First new episode since it was cancelled. Sunday, May 1 on FOX - 9PM EST.

Posted by James at 11:24 AM

Shotgun News

Some goofy news to go with your Shotgun

  • Doomsayers Say Benedict Fits World End Prophecy
    • The prophecy — widely dismissed by scholars as a hoax — is attributed to St. Malachy, an Irish archbishop recognized by members of the Church for his ability to read the future.
    • Benedict, believers say, fits the description of the second-to-last pope listed under the prophecy before the Last Judgement, when the bible says God separates the wicked from the righteous at the end of time.
    • Did he say “Saint Malarkey?”
  • Norwegian Court Convicts First Woman for Rape
    • Perhaps it’s sexist bias, but is a lawsuit necessary here? OK, he’s not happy about it. But nine months in jail?
  • Optical Computer Made From Frozen Light
    • Frozen light? When do I get my white chocolate flavored lightsicle?

[Edited to add: I would like to detract my flip comment “is a lawsuit necessary here” for a number of reasons. See the comments for details and elaboration.]

Posted by James at 9:27 AM | Comments (39)

HiHo Shotgun

  • Violent HiHo Sequel (Animated, Japanese, Flash)
  • God Bless You Responses (Irreligious)
    • Neat page of responses to “God bless you” for people who don’t speak the god talk. Some of the more polite ones are very nice.
    • Polite: “Thanks for your sentiment!”
    • Reciprocating: “To your health! Peace!”
    • Weird: “Curse you, Red Baron!”
  • Free Fonts (Graphics)
    • Download a boatload of free fonts.
  • Guess the Google (Game)
    • See a number of images. Try to guess the keywords that were used to get those images from a Google image search. It’s fun!
    • Example: you see a rose, a playground ball, an apple, a stop sign… looks like the word “red” to me!
  • Omnivore (Article, Advice)
    • Author is little bit of a jerk, but it touches on something I’ve been wondering about lately. How do you become a person who eats everything? The reason I wonder is that I’ve often marvelled at the ability of a food critic to eat anything and everything. To criticise effectively, you have to eat a variety. And even though I’ve come a long way since I was a kid, there are still foods I eschew because I don’t like them.
    • Another aspect of the article, faddish food “allergies.” Knowing people who have actual medical issues with certain foods, it irks me slightly when people express bizarre “allergies” that they have decided they have.
      • Suddenly, everybody has become lactose-intolerant. But the truth is that very, very few of us are so seriously afflicted that we cannot drink even a glass of milk a day without trouble. I know several people who have given up cheese to avoid lactose. But fermented cheeses contain no lactose! Lactose is the sugar found in milk; 98 percent of it is drained off with the whey (cheese is made from the curds), and the other 2 percent is quickly consumed by lactic-acid bacteria in the act of fermentation.
    • Another example: MSG. While MSG isn’t necessarily good for people with sodium-sensitive hypertension, people went nuts over the MSG in Chinese food, claiming all sorts of reactions. However, you rarely hear about them complain about glutamate’s found in Mexican food, other prepared foods… or those naturally occurring in tomatoes! This bugs me, because some people really do have food issues.
    • Everyone has the right to choose to eat what he wants and there are plenty of good reasons to choose not to eat certain foods. But don’t tell me you’re allergic to foods that start with the letter “J” because some chiropractor told you.
    • See also: comments on Greek food which relate to a number of different conversations I’ve had with friends recently. Wow. Long comment for a shotgun entry.
  • Darth Side (Blogging, Humor)
    • It’s Darth Vader’s blog! Some of the entries are quite funny.
  • Make Fire wiht a Can of Soda and a Chocolate Bar (HowTo)
    • I tried this, but it was taking too long. I will try it again and will report back on some sunny day that I can get it to work.
  • Individual I (Symbolism, Activism)
    • Individual-i
    • Individual-i stands for: Freedom from surveillance, Personal privacy, Anonymity, Equal protection, Due process, Freedom to read, write, think, speak, associate, and travel, The right to make your own choices about sex, reproduction, marriage, and death, The right to dissent
    • The Individual-i symbol is not owned by any organization. There is no platform, no organizational structure, no meetings. This symbol is in the public domain: uncopyrighted, untrademarked, unowned. Anyone can use it for any purpose.
  • Fake or Foto? (Graphics Game)
    • Is it a photograph of a real-world object, or is it computer generated?
  • Serenity (Movies, Trailer)
    • Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) takes his “Firefly” TV show to the big screen. I thought it hadn’t gotten a fair chance on TV, so I’m glad to see this. For those who never saw it, it’s like Deadwood meets Cowboy Beebop or Star Trek. The movie appears to expand on some of the same material the series presented, specifically dealing with the character River. We never got a chance to find out what her deal was.

Bonus!

  • Gnomz (Comic Creator)
    • Make your own little pixel comics!
  • Pleasantly Plump May Be OK (News)
    • OK - lose a few pounds through healthy living if you feel the need to. But, boys and girls, you may be fine just the way you are. So don’t obsess. (He says this as he plans to enter a weight loss phase.) But I mean it. A few extra pounds might not be so bad, if you’re eating healthy foods and getting exercise.
    • “People shouldn’t think that this study gives them a free trip to the pork rind buffet,” said Keith Ayoob, associate clinical professor in the department of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. Experts agree that a good diet and exercise are important for health, but some question whether the multibillion-dollar diet industry has misled Americans about the health hazards of being a few pounds overweight.
  • PHP Cheat Sheet (Geeky, Tech)
    • Shout out to all you programmers in my audience. Word. Every coder loves a cheat sheet, no?
  • Gmail Drive shell extension (Tech, Useful)
    • Take a Gmail account, install this utility on your PC and suddenly you have a 2GB drive that wasn’t there before… storing files in your GMail account! Use it on multiple machines and transfer files from home to work. Neat! (There are some file size and filename restrictions)
Posted by James at 9:11 AM | Comments (7)

April 28, 2005

Rainbow Sky





Rainbow Sky


Originally uploaded by drmomentum.

The boss yelled “rainbow” and this is what I saw when I went to the window. Spring in New England.


Everything is moist and growing, the sky is clear after an April shower and we’re rewarded with a beautiful example of light refracting into the colors of the spectrum.

Posted by James at 4:56 PM

The Bridge

The first thing I did when I saw that Google was allowing people to get color satellite pictures through their beta Google maps was to look at the city where I was born, Fall River, MA, and the surrounding areas. These are my stomping grounds, somewhere between Providence Rhode Island and Fairhaven, MA — a roughly 18 mile radius circle, centered on Fall River.

In any case, one of the more curious features on the Google map sat picture is the image of the Brightman Street Bridge. It’s a draw bridge and the satellite just happened to get a picture of it in the “open” position. More than a couple of other people noticed it, too.

It so happened that this week I got caught twice in traffic because of openings of the Brightman Street Bridge. The second time, I was actually on the bridge while it was open. Since it took about 20 minutes of the barge to go through, I had plenty of time to get out of my Jeep and take a few pictures.

Here’s a picture I took while the barge was actually passing through the bridge, in a position very close to that represented in the satellite picture.

You can check out these links for all the pictures I have uploaded:

  • The satellite picture of the Brightman Street Bridge
  • View from the Jeep
    • I took this picture before it occurred to me I would be there a while and i might as well stretch the legs. I’m not actually on the bridge proper, but rather on the ramp of paved earth that leads onto the actual suspended part of the bridge.
  • Closer shot of the draw bridge
    • I got a little closer for this picture. A fellow driver got out of his car and came over to me. “Everybody’s pissed off” he said. “There’s nuttin’ you can do about it. So I’m going to get some fresh air.” Then he lit a cigarette. He was a nice enough fellow, but he had a penchant for repeating the obvious. At least he didn’t seem to think my photography was unusual.
  • The Barge
    • This is probably some sort of energy-related barge, headed for the coal-burning electric plant up the river.
    • A few people turned their cars around and left the bridge, leaving spaces in front of our cars. We could have moved are card even closer to the drawbridge. Friendly motorist guy said to me “People want me to move up. I ain’t leaving my vehicle on the bridge when that barge is coming through. It hits the bridge and we’re all dead!” He was overly-dramatic about it, but I too was nervous about being stuck too far out on the bridge in case of an accident.
  • Tug Boat Helps Out
    • Cute. You can see why they made a kids show based on tugboats. Little boats with a big job.
  • Barging Through
    • This is the photo also shown above and to the right. I crossed to the other side of the bridge and took it. Friendly Motorist Guy followed me over there. As I peered over the side of the bridge at the waters of the Taunton river, he said to me. “I can’t believe people jump off this bridge to commit suicide. If you did a belly flop all you’d get was a stomach ache.” He did have a morbid streak, didn’t he? All the more fun, I suppose.

They can’t finish the new, higher bridge soon enough for me. It had been years since I’d actually been on the bridge during an opening. Even though I was in a hurry that day, it was neat to see this up close again.

Posted by James at 2:21 AM | Comments (15)

April 27, 2005

Neocons Don't Cry

Is it because they have no hearts? I can’t tell.

I recently saw a graphic which labeled the Democratic party crybabies. I’m pretty sure this came from Freeper Hell, the land that is best left out of conversation as it might frighten the children. Shades of people with no cognitive function allowed to roam around and accost others with patriotic slogans and righteous indignation — such imaginings are enough to turn good beer sour.

Now, I have my own problems with the Democratic Party. But the neocon who graced us with the “crybaby” graphic was actually using it to slam people who criticise Bush, not using it to criticise the Democratic party itself. Sloppy thinking? Yes, just another example from that crowd. But we’ll forgive it and move on to our main point.

I’ve noticed that neocons suck at graphics. I don’t know why this is. But the reason I know it’s true is that I mostly suck at graphics (and I’m slow) and even the poor parodies I create are better than their pedestrian dreck.

So, in the spirit of “helping.” Here’s a graphic I made to help them communicate their idea better. That idea being, of course, that if you don’t agree with Bush, you’re a crybaby. See, no need to drag the Democratic party into this, as anyone can disagree with Bush. My graphic can be seen here, on the right. It drives the point home that, “We ain’t want no dissenters ‘round hea!”

Did you know that if you are a dissenter, you may be making people around you uncomfortable? You might not get invited to the next Bush rally.

So, remember. Toe the line. Drink in the status quo. Go with the Flow. Learn that funny walk! Do whatever you need to do to blend in. But above all, avoid dissent at all costs! Someone might call you a crybaby! (audible gasp)

Use this image to tell people that you’re one of them. They can relax around you.

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

Evite Accusations

I recently sent out a message to some friends about how I’m trying out Upcoming.org to schedule events rather than using Evite.

In this message I leveled an accusation that Evite was harvesting email addresses when you try to invite friends to an event. I probably ought not to make comments like that without giving some background, and upon revisiting the subject I find that I cannot locate the article I originally read.

The upshot was this: While Evite has a decent privacy policy on their website, and allows you to opt out of unsolicited mail, when you send an invitation to a person who is not registered with Evite they have to create an account before they can opt out of the spam. Also, Evite does not have an option for people who would like to say “I don’t want to be a member and I never want to get invitations through your service. Put me on a block list.”

This is probably like a lot of online services (especially that second part, which is understandable, but unusual). I must have stumbled upon one or two people who were peeved at Evite and gave too much credence to their complaints.

But it does seem to be true that you can only opt out of Evite’s giving your address to their “associates” if you’re a member.

This is a really sticky realm of privacy. As more of these tools appear on the net to help you manage your personal life, and your connections with your friends, more personal network information is handed over to them. It becomes more and more important that a service have a really solid privacy policy, because people are naturally compelled to connect, and they have a need to keep track of their friends contact information. Naturally, since we are online more and more, we want this information organized and accessible.

On the worst end of friend email harvesting is the “free offer.” I know my university address is hopelessly compromised by my own time on USENET, but also because relatives (my friends know better) thought they were doing me a favor when they forwarded me some questionable free offer.

But there are plenty of other time that you hand over a friend’s email address. E-cards at birthdays. Forwarding stories from news organizations. Online address books. Heck - email itself is completely insecure, so every time you send your friend an email, someone could be sniffing the packets for valid email addresses (although I have never specifically heard of such a violation specifically — spammers are a generally more lazy lot).

Right now, for me, email spam is at a manageable level. That’s because only my close friends have my personal address, and my compromised professional address goes through a decent spam filter. I third and fourth addresses I use for either questionable offers or the possibility that the address will be displayed on the WWW where it will be harvested. I check these less often than my main email, but both of these addresses serve their purposes: , .

For your own reference, I don’t mind if my email address is used for useful purposes (I don’t mind referrals to news stories, for example). And, since I like to get invited to stuff, I have an Evite account so if you include me in an Evite, I don’t mind that either.

If anyone knows any details regarding services that are harvesting friends email addresses, let me know. I want to be a good net citizen and not inadvertently cause them future spam-related grief. But, on the other hand, I don’t want to make unwarranted charges against useful services. But sometimes, it’s tough to know where your information is going.

Posted by James at 11:17 AM

April 26, 2005

TV: Make With The Funny

I’m pretty negative about most TV, but there seem to be more good shows lately than I have time to watch. That’s not really saying too much, though, because I don’t go out of my way to watch much TV, and I can barely remember to record my favorite shows so I can watch them on the treadmill.

At any rate, I thought I’d let you know about the shows I think are the cream of the crop in laughs lately.

Arrested Development

I can’t say enough great things about this show. After renting the first season from Netflix, Maggie and I were immediately hooked by the antics of the Bluths, a group of overgrown children trapped in a familial relationship with each other. Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) lives in the deteriorating model home built by the Bluth Company to sell real estate and construction contracts.

The instability of the house itself is a metaphor for the family, which is more than slightly askew.But the cast of characters is both immature and vulnerable making them outrageous but also strangely endearing. The show is held together by the voice over work of Ron Howard. The narrator is there to tell us when the characters are lying, what they’re thinking, and to give you quick background info on each person when needed in the form of seconds-long flashbacks.

Each episode is an intricately woven story, usually with Michael learning something about himself and his family. Along the way, the jokes are nonstop. I have many ideas about why this show is so funny, but I don’t have the time to bore you with my amateur writer’s analysis.

Seriously, I think that if you haven’t been watching Arrested Development, you need to get your hands on it. We rented them from Netflix and were able to catch the second half of season 2. Because Arrested Development is in danger of not being renewed, I just ordered the AD Season 1 disks on the theory that Fox is considering DVD sales as part of whether they ought to run the show (this worked with Family Guy).

My recommendation: if you haven’t seen the show, watch the first 3 episodes on DVD and then you’ll know whether it’s your type of humor or not. My guess is, you;ll be hooked. For more detail, I refer you to this Arrested Development fansite.

Robot Chicken

On Sunday nights at 11:30, The Cartoon Network shows the approximately 11 minutes of inspired stop-motion action figure insanity that is Robot Chicken. Heavily relying on jokes from generations X and Y, this is an extremely frenetic show.

Some segments last no more than 3 seconds. The idea seems to be to cram as many crude jokes into 11 minutes as possible, but get in 2 longer segments in as well.

Robot Chicken is easily the funniest original 11 minutes that Cartoon Network has to offer these days. Yes, “Sealab 2021” is funny, and I get a chuckle from “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” but neither of those shows have the relentless pace of Robot Chicken.

From the fevered brains of Seth Green (Scott Evil, to you Austin Powers fans) and Matthew Senreich, Robot Chicken skewers the Transformers, Michael Jackson, Cannonball Run, He-Man, the Super Friends, and, of course, Cartoon Network’s own fans.

Often celebrity voices in the parodies are the actual voices. For example, a long segment lampooning the “this is your brain on drugs” commercial was voiced by the same actress, Rachael Lee Cook. Celebrity voices abound, including generous helpings of the cast of “Family Guy” (Seth MacFarlane, Mila Kunis, Alex Borstein). Listen carefully and you’ll hear Macaulay Culkin, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Topher Grace, Mark Hamill, Scarlett Johansson, Pat Morita, and Ming-Na (oddly, as Mary Kate Olsen).

Mark Hamill voices Luke Skywalker in one episode in a brilliant, short Star Wars parody of the famous “I’m your father” scene. In the parody, Vader goes on to reveal more and more of the secrets of the Star Wars universe (revealed in subsequent films) to an increasingly incredulous Skywalker, until Luke accuses him of not taking the situation seriously and walks out, disgusted. In seconds, they put their finger on something that has been bugging fans for ages.

Robot Chicken is worth a peek, if you’re up ‘till 11:30 on a Sunday night. Unlike SNL on Saturday night, if you don’t like it you’ve only wasted 11 minutes.

SNL

SNL hasn’t been great lately, but I just wanted to mention here that the Tina Fey/Amy Poehler combination on the news is definitely working. If you’re inclined to watch it, the news is still the best part, consistently, of SNL. But it’s still no “The Daily Show.” (The Daily Show is not on this list because, idiot I am, I am not watching it.)

Family Guy

I don’t have time to write a proper review of my favorite animated comedy, but since it’s coming up on Sunday, I have to mention Family Guy here.

Seth MacFarlane created something amazing. It’s an animated program with more pop culture references than The Simpsons and with a slightly more twisted sense of humor. Maybe it’s not fair to compare the two, but while I find The Simpsons funny, I find Family Guy laugh-out-loud funny every single time. Even on repeat viewings.

It’s the crazy characters. A dog that drinks martinis and once ran off to Hollywood to “find himself” but ended up working in the adult film industry? A baby who wants to take over the world and has an ambiguous sexual orientation? It certainly sounds strange. But I’m at a loss to describe why it’s funny. I think it’s because MacFarlane has created such vividly outrageous characters.

As with nearly every type of comedy, you need to subject yourself to it to know whether it’s for you. But I find that there is something in common among the shows I’ve listed here. A good knowledge of culture and an ability to both subtly and outrageously lampoon it. Also, there is a heavy overlap in the people involved. Robot Chicken and Family Guy both involve Seth Green, and they share voice cast. Amy Poehler is married to GOB (Will Arnett). There are regional connections. Poehler was born in Burlington, Massachusetts and Family Guy is set in the fictional New England town of Quahog, RI, though it also crosses over into MA from time to time. Seth MacFarlane grew up in this area.

So, we’re seeing some exceptional people working in bringing us laughs on TV lately.

Posted by James at 7:26 PM | Comments (4)

Found in Dartmouth

Ryan and Sara (perhaps re-inspired by the travelogue in the previous post) set out this evening to see if that road continued northwest to pass over the Paskamansett river.

The road I speak of is the Gidley road (See note #10 in the travelogue). We turned off this northwest passage to explore the south, and that is when our troubles took a turn for the worse.

Ryan and Sara found that the old cowpath road does indeed cross the river at an old bridge. They did not proceed all the way to Chase road, but clearly the trip is possible.

Coincidentally, I spoke to Jim, my boss, who says that this is indeed the trip he made. He ran up this cowpath cross-country style. Then, after crossing the river, he cut through a yard to get to Chase road and sprinted back to the office. For him this is a very believable 6 minutes, 30 seconds. And that’s what he’s claiming.

I do not intend to race him.

Posted by James at 7:14 PM | Comments (2)

Lost in Dartmouth

Last week, on Thursday, I made the mistake of agreeing to wander around in the woods with Ryan and Sara like some latter-day Lewis, Clark and Sacagawea. We didn’t actually get lost (we knew exactly where we were, thanks to our directional senses… and GPSrs) but we couldn’t get from point A to point B.

Their plan was to find the passage between Stephen’s new house (near Tucker road in Dartmouth) and our offices. My mistake was joining them.

As the crow flies, it’s under a mile. Our boss, Jim, claimed he was able to make the trip through the woods in 6 minutes. We got this information second hand, through Stephen. Let em tell you, I am extremely skeptical. However, at the time we believed he (at the very least) made the trip. And, if he did make the trip, he is an extremely quick fellow.

I’ve never told the blog about Jim before, but let me give you all you need to know at this point. The man is a runner, and a very fit one at that. He’s probably the most fit person I know in my parents’ age group. Last year, on a Thanksgiving day run he caught his leg on the remains of an old metal sign. This sent him sprawling and he fell and broke his kneecap. I got to see the X-rays; it was definitely broken.

He ran back home, about 4 miles with the broken kneecap.

So, you see, when we’re told that Jim made it through the woods from point A to point B in 6 minutes, covering a distance of just under a mile, we’re skeptical but not too skeptical. After seeing the man do pull-ups by his fingertips on a door frame, you stretch your imagination.

Map of the lost trip in DartmouthSo, we parked to the east and set out for the west. How bad could it be? I estimated that if Jim could do it in 6 minutes, we could do it in 30. On the outside.

We left on a 30 minute tour that stretched out near 2 hours. We never made it across. We encountered marsh and swamp, thorns and mud, a river we couldn’t cross and a pretty pond. But mainly we wandered around in the woods, with purpose but no luck. By the time we were done we were smelly, sweaty, swampy, and cranky.

The day began with my computer covered in toilet paper. It ended with the three of us exhausted, wandering in the thorns. At the moment, the quest to find a possible passage west-southwest seems to me like the story of the Oak Island Money Pit I read as a child.

Instead of writing out a chronicle in detail here, I superimposed the GPS track on a satellite picture. Click the image to the left and it will take you to an annotated map of our journey. I thought that would be more fun. ‘Tis especially fun to note is how we slowed down as the terrain got much worse. In the Flickr annotations, I’ve added timestamps. Can you tell where we were zipping along and where we were stuck in the briar patch? Probably.

One additional link, Yahoo Maps actually shows the Paskamansett River, unlike Google maps. You can see that as we traveled south, we had to come further east and things just got worse. You win some, you lose some.

Posted by James at 2:16 AM | Comments (15)

Name That Movie 34

Instructions: see the clues, one by one. Guess what movie they are from. Comment. Repeat.

On the day I post the images, I post them one at a time, with a delay in between. It’s for suspense and it gives the users a chance to play along with each other in the comments. If all the clues are already posted, then play at your own pace. Look for the answer in the comments.

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

Posted by James at 2:08 AM | Comments (39)

April 25, 2005

Encryption?

Do any of you ever use encryption for files or messages?

-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
Hash: SHA1

Can you check a PGP signed message?
-----BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE-----
Version: PGP 8.1 - not licensed for commercial use: www.pgp.com

iQA/AwUBQmzqQzuo9MMQIBzHEQKevgCeJrIa7MSaqJ44ffc0ZwDEz6hw8IEAn2MH
uWqEOQSoCV4wL/Kjd/XDhwNx
=62Di
-----END PGP SIGNATURE-----

Have you ever generated a PGP key?

For those unfamiliar with the concept, PGP is a 2-key encryption method which uses a pair of keys to allow secure communication between two parties. Instead of a password (which could be guessed or compromised) the sender encrypts a transmission with the receiver’s public key. The receiver’s private key can be used to decrypt the message.

A sender can use multiple public keys to encrypt a message, enabling more than one person to decrypt the message with their own private keys. The public keys can be (and are) shared freely out in the open because they are only used for encryption. You only have to protect your private key.

My PGP public key is on my websig (and has been there for a while now). And I’d be happy to verify the fingerprint for anyone who wants to do so over the phone or via IM. (The key is also still available on at least a couple of key servers). I wouldn’t mind getting a few people to sign the thing as well, to establish a web of trust.

Let me know what you think about encryption, whether you ever use any, and what you think of PGP.

Posted by James at 8:57 AM | Comments (8)

April 24, 2005

Starting With A Bang

We’ve done 10 geocaches in the last week, which is a pretty decent start to the season. I posted about the first two previously. Here’s the 4 from last Sunday (April 17):

In addition, an old bane of mine, Shoreline Public Access Lucky #7 has finally been re-archived after a second confirmed absence. (Read a little about my history with Shoreline PA#7 here and here is the archived page.)

Read on for a few details.

The Force

The girls are developing quite the geocaching sense. Some call this “the Force” — when it’s very strong it’s the ability to find a geocache with little or no help from the GPS.

At first, the kids searched for caches like they would search for the TV remote in a messy living room. In other words, they’d look for it as if it had been arbitrarily dropped, or perhaps kicked underneath something. But that’s not how geocaches are hidden. Geocaches are hidden with intent, usually to be difficult for muggles (non-geocachers) to find. Sometimes, they’re hidden to be easier for geocachers to find; sometimes they are hidden to be challenging for even geocachers to find.

In all cases, a human has hid them with an idea n mind. So, finding a cache can be an exercise in getting into the mind of the cache-hider.

As you begin to get more experienced geocaching, you definitely begin to minimize the time spent searching. A side benefit of this is that you have even more time to enjoy some of the beautiful locations you encounter. That’s certainly a plus for most of the caches I’ve been to, be they at the shore, in the woods or at some strange forgotten location.

Little Finds

So, more and more often I’ll get close to a cache and one of the girls will find it first because they have pruned the less-likely locations from their search and are focusing on the sensible ones. You can always go over the less-likely locations later, if you haven’t found the cache.

It’s great, because the sport is a lot more fun if everyone can participate in finding the cache. The kids are no longer dragged along. Instead, they are active. And they appreciate their developing roles. Instead of “when are we going home” their comments are more often about the next cache.

Sunday

Sunday I had only Meeba with me. The younger one was off camping with her mom and the Brownies.

We set off for Providence because there is a decent density of caches there. You can get a lot of interesting finds in Providence in a relatively short amount of time if you’re on the ball.

Burr's Pond WaterfallOn the way, we passed by Burr’s Pond. Burr’s pond is a good example of the “I-never-knew-this-was-here” effect of geocaching. If I wanted to take the girls hiking, I’m sure there are plenty of places in New England I could drive to that offer beautiful vistas. I’ve been to some of those places in Vermont and New Hampshire. But what is most surprising is the number of little, relatively unknown (except to the locals) trails, woods, walks and ponds that are accessible to the public. There are books you can buy that list some of these places. You can even get a pamphlet from the state that tells you about some of them. But Geocaching gives you a reason to stop by and check them out. You won’t always encounter a beautiful vista, but nearly every place I’ve been has had something unique to offer aside from the hunt itself.

Burr’s pond offered a little dam with a waterfall, a pretty pond and a cache that was across a long-gone bridge. This last element meant we had to take a walk around the pond to get to an area we could easily see with our eyes. But it was a nice start to the day.

This particular cache seemed neglected by its hider. There was no logbook, so I improvised a new logsheet.

The Grave

After Burr’s Pond, we proceeded to Swan Point Cemetery in Providence to visit the grave of famed author H. P. Lovecraft. Most of the time it took to do that cache was taken up by my meandering way of sneaking into northeast Providence (I couldn’t just go through the center of town like a normal person). I followed the river down to the cemetery’s enormous entrance and we were led straight to the grave by the GPSr. There were a couple of other interested parties, but other than that it was an unspectacular grave. There is a somewhat grandiose proclamation about the man himself on the headstone. But i will let you discover that for yourself. Swan Point is worth the trip, especially if you’re passing through Providence and like graveyards.

We drove around the cemetery for a while, seeing some beautiful monuments. The long, straight roads in front of the entrance were prime locations for people-watching. It was an incredibly sunny day and folks were out with their dogs, skating, walking, running, sitting and reading, gathering in groups to converse. That was a day that people seemed to be getting out in the city and re-connecting with their surroundings and their neighbors. A few short days later and they’d be unexpectedly sweltering. But for that day, the weather was a restorative.

Dogs

The next two (last two) caches of the day were both in dog parks, and very close together. They were just south of the cemetery. They seemed ripe to be picked off because of their unusual proximity. There are rules against 2 caches very close together, and these were not even a tenth of a mile apart.

These caches were “Gone to the Dogs” and “Doggie Park.”

The names were true to the locations. We scouted them by driving in a big circle around them. They were crawling with dog owners. People were arriving and departing every few seconds with their pooches of various sizes, shapes and colors. It was like a dog show, except only a few of the dogs were worthy of showing. We saw a greyhound, a dalmatian, a beautiful shaggy orange mutt and some extremely thin, tall, regal-looking dog.

Meeba and I found a place to park close to the cache, and visited with a local leash less dog that was wandering around sans owner. There were signs everywhere for owners to clean up after their dogs, but I saw nobody there with any visible means to do so. And when you get that many dogs together in a park, you certainly see one or two taking advantage of the opportunity it presents.

We hit the trail and came upon the cache quickly, but the traffic was too heavy for us to do anything about it. Reaching to grab the cache would have revealed the location to muggles, a no-no and a disservice to the thoughtful person who hid the cache. So we waited for a break before making our move.

There were 2 travel bugs in this cache, which made it quite a good find. We wasted little time in logging our success and waited for another break in the traffic to re-hide. Meeba played lookout and I did a good job of returning the cache to completely hidden.

With that, we set out for the last cache of the day. The trail took us down the side of a very steep hill, which we negotiated with some difficulty. We got within around 200 feet of the cache before I discovered a problem.

Here you can see a satellite picture of Blackstone Park, which is the area of the two caches. See the line of missing trees running east-west? At the bottom of that valley, there’s an aqueduct. Just wide enough that I might be able to jump across it. But not with a pack and not carrying Meeba. The walls of the valley were steep, but there was no visible place to cross. (If I’d done my homework, I’d have known that far ot the east there was a bridge, but I wasn’t really interested in going too far out of our way.)

A tree was enticingly laid across the aqueduct where I was. On a good day, I might try to shimmy across, but I wasn’t about to try to get Meeba to do that. It’s not really her thing.

So, we stared at where we thought the cache was and wondered what to do. To the northwest of the park, there are ouses. I didn’t want to park my car and tromp through private yards, but I thought it worth a scouting trip to go back with the Jeep and see if there was a way through from the north.

It turns out that there was! We climbed up the hill to the Jeep and drove to an elevated park on the north. We then clambered back down and Meeba made the find, eyeing the location from a safe distance, which gave us the chance to find a way in and avoid the swampy water that had settled at this side of the valley.

Mud Advice

That’s another detail about geocaching (and plain being in the woods around here) that you learn after a while. Water gathers in strange places, and you can step in mud if you’re not careful where you walk.

In geocaching, you might find yourself wandering around not looking at where you step. Maybe you’re looking at your GPSr, or just casting your gaze about. If you assess an area for mud, or other feature you’d like to avoid, that’s a good time to try to figure out if you can see a cache from a distance. People place caches at all times of year. A spot that is dry in August may be quite moist in April. So your cache hider may not expect you to be stepping into the drink.

And mud can be dangerous. A thin layer of greasy mud can cover harder ground and stepping on that is a little like stepping on a buttered nonstick pan.

After retrieving that final cache of the day, we still had time to make it to my sister’s house for dinner. After cleaning up a little bit.

Last Wednesday’s geocaching will have to wait for another post.

Posted by James at 10:53 PM

Weekend Quiz

Frozone
Which Incredibles Character Are You?

brought to you by Quizilla
Posted by James at 11:05 AM | Comments (8)

Land of the Lost Elf

Ferrell vs. SleestakJulie informs me that Will Ferrell has been chosen to star in a comedic treatment of the 70’s Sid & Marty Krofft TV show “Land of the Lost.”

It’s being directed by the same fellow who directed Anchorman… Adam McKay.

This is potentially hilarious. No firm word yet if this project is a crossover-sequel to the movie “Elf.” In fact, I am currently the only one making this ridiculous suggestion.

Posted by James at 10:02 AM | Comments (1)

April 22, 2005

Skiing With Natasha

Ryan informs me that “Skiing with Natasha” has made it into the Urban Dictionary.

It’s a recently-formed euphemism around here. I won’t go into details on its origin, but you can guess that it moved from the literal to the metaphorical.

Posted by James at 11:41 AM | Comments (2)

Alumni Shotgun

On the day of the UMass Engineering alumni meeting, I bring you. Alumni Shotgun Battle!

Allez Links!

  • Blow Darts (video, humor)
    • Brian sends along this solution to the “Honeydew List” problem. Hosted via Putfile.
  • Professor Drops Hammer on Laptop Thief (News)
    • As chronicled on BoingBoing, see 9or listen) to what happens when you steal the laptop of a professor at Berkeley.
    • “I’m not particularly concerned about the computer. But the thief, who thought he was only stealing an exam, is presently - we think - is probably still in possession of three kinds of data, any one of which can send this man, this young boy, actually, to federal prison. Not a good place for a young boy to be.”
    • Here’s a pixel comic based on the above story. Listen to (or watch, or read) the story first, though.
  • Satchmo: Oops I Did It Again! (Music)
    • Mindbending rendition of “Oops, I Did It Again” by… um, Louis Armstrong.
  • How To Ask Good Questions (Tips)
    • This is a somewhat long missive regarding how to ask for technical help. Very good tips that apply to asking other sorts of questions as well.
    • On “Volume is not precision” for example:
      • “This is useful for at least three reasons. One: being seen to invest effort in simplifying the question makes it more likely that you’ll get an answer, Two: simplifying the question makes it more likely you’ll get a useful answer. Three: In the process of refining your bug report, you may develop a fix or workaround yourself.”
  • Cafe Press Custom Bumper Sticker for $2.99 (Shopping)
    • Got something to say that nobody else is saying for you? Make a bumper sticker.
    • Also comes in smaller rectangle and oval varieties.
    • Mike was even good enough to bookmark a link to this handy template to get you started.
  • RJD2 - 1967 (Music Video)
    • Ohio design crew Leftchannel and Ohio DJ RJD2 combine forces for this bit of photoreal eye candy.
    • Neat 3D effects (or 2.5D) made from still pictures. Pictures are from Cuba.
  • Inflatable Pub (Gear)
    • Take it with you! I need one of these. Apparently, this pub can be erected in 10 minutes and has room for a bar with 30 customers. But it’s likely you have to supply your own beer.
  • Shower Scene (Cinematography)
    • It’s the 2 Psycho shower scenes (the original Hitchcock one and the Gus van Sant remake) superimposed. For Hitchcock fans only, I think.
  • Tom DeLay, Neo-Luddite? (News) (Reg Req’d)
    • “Absolutely. We’ve got Justice Kennedy writing decisions based upon international law, not the Constitution of the United States? That’s just outrageous,” DeLay told Fox News Radio on Tuesday. “And not only that, but he said in session that he does his own research on the Internet? That is just incredibly outrageous.”
    • Found via DigitalDivide.net
  • Prank Your Garbage Man (Pranks)
    • Good for Halloween? Scare the wits out of your garbage man with this harmless prank. Better get the timing right, though.
  • The Junior Christian Science Bible Lesson Show (Video)
    • Is this serious? Let the alien teach you about God’s protection.
    • In a word: LAME. I couldn’t nearly make it through the whole thing. You won’t either. This has got to be a joke. Enki? Are these people reading the Necronomicon?
    • Mr. Gray spaceman is green. WTF?
  • Li’l Brudder (Flash - Homestar)
    • Finally - Li’l Brudder has his own show! Clearly, he can make it on his own! He’s got one leg up on life.
  • We Love Japan! (Video)
    • Obligatory Weird Japanese Video. Is this a tourism promotion?
    • Come to Japan! Be creeped out by weird proto-human monsters.
Posted by James at 8:42 AM | Comments (2)

April 21, 2005

TP'ed





TP Desk


Originally uploaded by drmomentum.

This is what happens when I am out of the office and unable to guard my workstation.


The handiwork of Ryan and Sara, but most assuredly the idea of Sara, whom I have dubbed the “Queen of TP.

Click through to Flickr for notes on the image.

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

Shootin' Ex Cathedra

I got a kick out of Bil’s Gabe’s recent post on A Cry For Help:

So I’m glad Ratzinger was selected. I kind of hope he goes medieval on everyone. “I’m Catholic, but I don’t see a problem with the pill.” EXCOMMUNICATED!

I agree.

JPII was too stingy with the excommunications. What good is it being Pope if you can’t use that power? I think the Vatican should develop an excommunication pistol.

It would look (to mortals) like a normal suction-cup toy gun, but this gun would have the power to toss you into the fiery abyss of non-Catholicism. For extra symbolic effect, it would have a clip of 7 suction cup darts. Harnessing the Pope’s ability to channel divine inspiration, the gun would have a supernatural ability to hit its intended target with uncanny accuracy.

Catholics the world over would toe the line for fear of the dreaded “THWAP!” that signals another soul cast out of the Church, and the telltale angry red circle on the forehead of the heretic… a mark that curiously will yield neither to soap nor Noxzema.

Posted by James at 9:25 AM | Comments (3)

April 20, 2005

Low Post Week

This has been a week of low posting so far. I’m taking today off to spend with the girls.

I’m not making excuses, I just thought you might be interested in “what’s up.”

Yes. Geocaching, of course. But we’re taking it easy in the heat.

Posted by James at 10:12 AM

April 19, 2005

SOM: Hitch

Hitch
Speaking of Movies

Maggie and I saw Hitch last night. I don’t know why we did that. We knew we didn’t like that sort of movie. But we both like Will Smith, so we weren’t thinking completely straight.

There were funny moments, but the film is far, far too long. And too sappy. And too Hollywood romantic comedy. Like I said, I like Will Smith. But, please, please Will — do something funny that’s a little more daring, interesting, and with a lot less Hollywood.

Maggie and I tried to decide how much we don’t want to see this film again. Here’s what we came up with:

I’d rather allow myself to be slapped than see this film again.
but
I would rather see this film again than be fondled by a drifter.

So, it’s somewhere in between there. Maggie said she’s rather watch a speech from the president, providing that the speech were shorter than “Hitch.” I have decided that 75% is my break even point. If the speech is shorter than 75% the length of Hitch, then I’d rather watch the speech.

So, there you go.

This isn’t exactly a review, which is why I’ve created the new designation “Speaking of Movies.”

Posted by James at 12:07 PM | Comments (2)

Name That Movie 33

There are 7 clues in all this week. However, one of them is not an image! So get your headphones ready.

Instructions: see the clues, one by one. Guess what movie they are from. Comment. Repeat.

Link to Clue 2
Link to Clue 3 (it’s an MP3 file)
Link to Clue 4
Link to Clue 5
Link to Clue 6
Link to Clue 7

Those are all the clues! Enjoy!

Posted by James at 9:26 AM | Comments (32)

April 18, 2005

Crystal Potatoes


Crystal Potatoes
Originally uploaded by drmomentum.
On Saturday I cooked Alton Brown's recipe for perfect fingerling potatoes.

The market here doesn't have fingerlings, so I used small white potatoes instead.

The amazing thing about this recipe is that you boil the potatoes in 2 quarts of water with 1 1/4 pounds of salt. The salt had a great effect on the cooking of the taters. The outcome is more like baked or roasted potatoes, rather than boiled.

I think this is because the salt water boils at a higher temperature, more like baking than boiling. And the salt seems to prevent the potatoes from getting waterlogged.

In the final step of the recipe, you pull the potatoes out of the water and place them on a cooling rack for 5 minutes or so. As I pulled them out of the water, the salt began to crystalize on the surface of the potatoes, making a delicious salty coating.

I think that it came out slightly saltier than it was supposed to because I allowed too much water to boil off, concentrating and crystalizing the salt on the surface of the water. Next time I will either use a little less salt, or cook it in a larger pot, covered.

The potatoes were tender and perfect, and the salt was, after all, yummy.
Posted by James at 5:06 PM | Comments (13)

Cars

I don’t know why, but lately I’ve had the urge to take pictures of cars. Probably because I want to take more photos, and I drive a lot. So I see a lot of odd cars. I guess you, my blog readers, are along fro the ride.

Here’s a New Hampshire car with a couple of mustachioed gentlemen speeding westward. At first, I thought they might be returning from the Cape, headed for home. That’s often what I think when I see out of state plates on 195. However, if these guys were headed North, they would have gone up 24. They were either headed for Providence or points west. Who knows? In any case, their shades were cool but their license plate was askew.

Saw this car lurking around the grave of H. P. Lovecraft with its owners nearby. Later (pictured here) it was parked completely abandoned near a steep cliff overlooking the river. Nobody was in sight.RI tags. Did something eat ‘em?

Posted by James at 4:06 PM

Battleships and Mills

This weekend was our first of the season to spend any significant time geocaching. The weather was amazing through the entire weekend, so it was perfect.

Saturday

Saturday (as usual) we got a late start. My fault, as I did not have any of the usual geocaching software installed on my relatively new machine. Once that chore was over I had the essentials in place. What are the essentials? To me, those would be:

  • GSAK (Geocacher’s Swiss Army Knife)
    • Keeps a local database of your found caches. Actually, it’s a local database of any waypoints you want to keep track of. Will download or upload to your GPS at the drop of a hat. Renames the uploaded waypoints based on an abbreviation of the cache name, not the silly, unrecognizable number.
    • Also, can sort by distance. Can print out compressed cache pages. Can translate waypoint files. Can read the Pocket Queries I get for being a member of Geocaching.com.
  • QuakeMap — Mapping software/Satellite pix and waypoints manager
    • Sometimes a list of waypoints isn’t enough. Quakemap can take a pocket query and display all of your waypoints on the map (satellite picture). Having a 2D view like this makes cache hunt planning much less haphazard. You can much more easily see which caches are near which other ones, and plan accordingly.

If you’re grabbing one or two caches on a weekend, these tools may not be strictly necessary. But more than that, and they really help with the planning. I’m not one of those 10+ caches in an afternoon people (I could be, but i don’t get up early enough, and the kids get tired!) but I can’t see how you’d even come close to that many caches without this sort of help. Highly recommended, both of these software tools are free to try, but cost money to continue using. Both are well worth the very low cost they ask, especially when you consider that Magellan asks for over $100 for their extremely crappy software which is useless for most things but required if you want to upload maps to your Magellan Meridian Gold. Yes - I actually had to shell out the dough for that one, too, because I didn’t want to rely on the GPS’ built-in maps. Wish it were legal to “go in” on that software halfsies with someone else.

But I digress.

We started with a micro cache at Battleship Cove.

This micro was tiny, and a good start. It took some “geocacher radar” to find, which was good. The radar gets a little rusty over the winter here. But it came right back. This micro didn’t take us long.

It was then onward to our second cache of the season.

Perhaps the most notable thing about this cache was the rutty, nearly impassible roads which led to the parking spot.

This was a great cache location. The hike was only a short walk from the car — less than 1/4 mile.

M & K had decided on new cacher nicknames. M is now “Trillian” apparently because she was taken with the commercial for “Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” (I didn’t even know she’s seen the commercial or knew anything about it). Meanwhile, K has dubbed herself “Meeba.” I think it’s short for amoeba.

So, Trillian and Meeba and I came upon an old, stumbling stream among some pretty neat ruins of an old building. There is hardly anything left, so it’s impossible to tell just what the building was by looking at it. But it probably was a house or a mill.

Meeba made the find, as we began wandering around, and she was quite pleased with herself. As well she should be, because none of us were holding back in the search. The girls seem to have even more enthusiasm for geocaching than they did last year. Perhaps the long, tough winter has something to do with that, or perhaps they’ve just gotten a little older and better able to participate.

After making our trades, we hiked back to “Astrid.” Yes, my Jeep now has a name, thanks to the efforts of many people. The girls were originally calling it “Jeff” but as I do not like the name “Jeff” at all, a new name was required. I think Chuck suggested “Astrid” and I think that’s an interesting name. Since the kids seem to want to hear a name more than hearing “the Jeep” I was eager to get that settled and over with.

In any case, we were glad to have the Jeep. We were on roads in this area last year in the Saturn. The roads were murder on the Saturn, and to get down the road at all, I had to swerve madly back and forth. The potholes were easily deeper than the Saturn’s clearance. With all the swerving, I probably only made an effective 3 miles per hour down the road in a Saturn.

This year, we were able to drive more or less straight down the road as the Jeep bucked wildly at times as it negotiated the hills and valleys that ought to have been flat road. We did avoid some of the potholes which were filled with water. There’s no way to see the bottom of some of those and it’s not worth the risk to go barrelling through where you might get your wheel entirely stuck.

We zipped home for our first outdoor cooking of the year as well, rounding out a great “welcome to the light” Saturday. Happy outdoor season has begun.

Sunday we hit 4 more caches, including a famous author’s grave site. That post is coming soon…

Posted by James at 1:12 AM | Comments (9)

April 16, 2005

Ribbon Fish

I had the idea last week that the “Support Ribbons” were a lot like Jesus Fish. Same basic shape, right? One is upright and the other is on its side.

It’s funny when you find that someone else has already had the same idea.

Posted by James at 10:57 AM | Comments (2)

April 15, 2005

Very Nice Man

“Very nice man” charged with murder of Truro woman.

I heard this story from Sara, and I remember us talking about it months ago. Truro was taking voluntary samples from all the men they could to find out whose semen was left behind when this woman was raped and killed.

We wondered at what person would volunteer his DNA if he knew it would be incriminating. Apparently, we were shortsighted in that regard.

The other thing that gets me is the last couple of paragraphs of the story. The part about how nice a man he is, reportedly.

A woman who identified herself only as McCowen’s longtime girlfriend said he was not capable of murder.

“He’s a very nice man,” she said outside court

No kidding? You were his girlfriend. You think he is nice. There’s a shocker.

The guy has not yet had his day in court, so I’m not comfortable concluding he is guilty. But his semen inside a woman who was found stabbed and naked from the waste down is pretty incriminating. His lengthy criminal history does not indicate any violent tendencies, and he was nice to his girlfriend, so there is that.

I don’t fault this woman for the naive words attributed to her in the paper, because what else is she going to say? Maybe she’s a poor judge of character. Maybe the guy is really good at compartmentalizing. She’s not convinced, and if this has happened quickly, she’ll have trouble adjusting to the idea.

Who wants to think they have misjudged someone so close to them? Heck, who wants to think that someone who was so nice to them is capable of rape and murder?

It brings to mind a rule of thumb I heard of long ago. I think it was advice for people on dates. “A person who is nice to you but not nice to the waiter is not a nice person.”I even mentioned it in a previous post.

Why do we need such a saying? Because we know that it can be hard to judge some people, and that you can tell more about someone (sometimes) by how they treat a “use neutral” third party. But, to be of use, this shouldn’t be taken too literally.

What I mean is, a clever person will certainly try to be nice to the waiter if he knows it will look good to you. So, for the devious person, you really have to observe when it is not clear you’re observing, to see those slips. I don’t know how you explain this to someone so that it becomes practical advice. But the “nice to the waiter” quote above is a decent way to summarize it. It’s a sad truth that, especially in relationships with the possibility of romantic attraction, you can’t always judge someone by how they treat you.

Obviously, if they treat you poorly, that’s a bad start. But how do you teach someone a sensible level of suspicion?

This takes on more significance for a parent, when I feel it’s my responsibility to equip my daughters with the abilities they ought to have. Abilities that I think many people don’t have. But some of these things are hard to quantify and even harder to teach.

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

Slime Mold Shotgun

  • And Slime Molds For All (News)
    • Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld have been honored by each having a species of slime mold beetle named after them. Congratulations, fellows.
  • Senses Test (Quiz)
    • Take a timed quiz which tests your senses, and your knowledge about them.
  • Garden Gnome Justice (Odd news)
Granny’s got a gnome. Granny’s got a gnome.
The burglar’s on her home.
She’s there all alone.
What’s she gonna doooooo?
The fright he put her throooooough.
When the cops arrived to help her,
The perp was laid out on his back.
Ya know she threw her garden buddy.
The thief got slightly bloody
From her makeshift fairy tale attack.

(Apologies to Aerosmith)
  • RhymeZone (Reference)
    • A rhyming dictionary online.
    • I found out that nothing rhymes with “statue.” However, since, “back at you” kinda does, there still is a role for artistic license.
  • Funny things to do with your microwave oven page (Radiation Fun)
    • Brings back memories of nuking marshmallows at Brian’s house. Nostalgia!
  • Hidden Pictures (Visual Fun)
  • Se7en, Performed By Stuffed Animals (Video)
    • It’s the gripping climax to the movie “Se7en” re-enacted with stuffed animals. If you haven’t seen the movie, skip this because it ruins the ending, and the movie is worth seeing. If you have seen the movie, you ought to check this short film out.
  • Storm The House (Flash Game)
    • In a bad mood? Maybe shooting stuck figures will help. Here in this game you must shoot many stick figures in an attempt to prevent them from invading your house.
  • Flying Dog (Video)
    • Pilots? STRAP IN YOUR DOGS.
  • So You’d Like To Date Hulk Hogan’s Daughter (Advice)
    • You’d like to date Brooke Hogan, but you don’t know where to begin? This handy guide will… guide you. Isn’t it great that Amazon provides these guides.
    • OK - it’s a parody of an Amazon guide.
    • And it’s mostly funny if you’re passing familiar with wrestling.
  • Smoking PSA — How do you like the odds? (PSA)
    • Great PSA against smoking. I have very little problem with the habit myself, in theory. But in practice it’s pretty nasty to be around smokers. Except, for some reason, my grandmother.
    • Back on topic, this presents the smoking odds in a slightly more visceral way.
  • Mood Car (Autos, Tech)
    • “Japanese car maker Toyota is working with Stanford University in the U.S. and Edinburgh-based company Affective Media to create the car that can read your feelings.”
    • Once it does that, it tries to help you out with them. In addition, the external lights on the car alert the other drivers to the fact that you’re angry so that they can, I suppose, expect you to drive like a jerk.
  • Salary Clock (Tools)
    • Cool! See how much your making, watch the seconds tick by.
    • Depressing: compare it to a number of celebrities.
  • Unitarian Jihad (Article, Humor)
    • “Greetings to the Imprisoned Citizens of the United States. We are Unitarian Jihad. There is only God, unless there is more than one God. The vote of our God subcommittee is 10-8 in favor of one God, with two abstentions. Brother Flaming Sword of Moderation noted the possibility of there being no God at all, and his objection was noted with love by the secretary.”
    • “Greetings to the Imprisoned Citizens of the United States! Too long has your attention been waylaid by the bright baubles of extremist thought. Too long have fundamentalist yahoos of all religions (except Buddhism — 14-5 vote, no abstentions, fundamentalism subcommittee) made your head hurt. Too long have you been buffeted by angry people who think that God talks to them. You have a right to your moderation! You have the power to be calm! We will use the IED of truth to explode the SUV of dogmatic expression!”
    • Tee hee. So, when are these people taking over? Be prepared. Use the Unitarian Jihad Name Generator to get your own Unitarian Jihad Name.
  • National Day of Reason (Holiday, Politics, Thought)
    • “Many who value the separation of church and state have sought an appropriate response to the federally-funded National Day of Prayer, an annual abuse of the constitution. Nontheistic Americans (including freethinkers, humanists, atheists and agnostics), along with many traditionally religious allies, view such government-sanctioned sectarianism as unduly exclusionary.”
    • Thursday, May 5th

Bonus:

  • Ripley IQ Game (Game)
    • Waste your time trying to jump the marbles, removing them one by one as in checkers. The idea is to try to get it down to 1. So far I’ve only gotten it down to 2. Annoyingly addictive.
Posted by James at 9:35 AM | Comments (9)

April 13, 2005

Theocracy On The March

“The Village Gate” is a website where religious progressives discuss their issues. It’s often a good place to regain the feeling that there are other sane people in the world, and many of them are religious.

In any case, Case Wagenvoord posted an article called The Theocratic Right which begins by describing why the popular view of the Religious Right as a unified block is incorrect and unfair. It ends discussing the cynical nature in which religion is used by the philosophical originators of the Neo-Conservative movement.

Effective opposition to the theocratic right must come not from the left but from the mainline churches. It is they who must show the country that Christianity is not about power, but love and compassion. They must be the ones to expose the hollow theology behind the theocrats. It was heartening to see that the Episcopalians, the Presbyterians, the Methodists, the Lutherans and the Congregationalists issued a joint statement condemning Bush’s 2005 as “unjust.” Hopefully, this is only the opening salvo.

And the left must stop treating all Christians as if they’re a bunch of red necks looking for a sinner to stone or a Commie to kill for Christ.

Food for thought.

A lot of what I read here is written by alarmed Christians who are worried about the increasing volume of the most radical people who call themselves Christians, and how these people are garnering more and more attention from a headline-hungry media.

Our friends and neighbors, these people need all the help they can get. But is this really what’s happening? Irreligious neocons cynically using god-talk to corral the masses?

Posted by James at 3:32 PM | Comments (4)

April 12, 2005

Hunting The Wild Tax Break

According to critics in Congress, top officials at natural history museums and animal rights advocates, this form of charitable giving allows wealthy hunters to go on big-game expeditions essentially at taxpayers’ expense — an arrangement so blatant that one animal trophy appraiser advertises his services under the headline: “Hunt for Free.” The taxpayer subsidies also encourage hunters to track down and shoot the largest, fittest and rarest of the world’s animals, the critics say.

That’s right. Huge tax breaks for hunting rare species — even endangered ones.

Big-Game Hunting Brings Big Tax Breaks - Trophy Donations Raise Questions in Congress - Washington Post.

The dead animals are appraised at over ten times their value at auction, and the IRS falls for it.

Just think, in one trip you could wipe out your entire income tax liability. Spend the huge refund on something nice! Like, more ammo.

Posted by James at 11:51 PM | Comments (9)

Pay No Attention

Posted by James at 3:35 PM

Support Fashion?

I was inspired by this cartoon. In case that link goes broken, it’s a political-style cartoon lampooning the recent fashion of cheap magnetic yellow ribbons placed on cars to “support the troops.”

Here’s the deal:

  • We all support the troops. You may as well assume that by default. Some of us even pay our taxes. Many of us try to go beyond that. The troops are our families and friends. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t support the troops, but I leave it to them to self-identify.
  • These ribbons are not troop support. They are fashion. I don’t have to explain the difference to you, because you already know it.
  • I’m not saying that the ribbon tells me you don’t support the troops. I’m saying a yellow magnet is, at the very least a mass-produced twice-removed symbol turned fashion.
  • Fashion is goofy.
  • Fashion is at its goofiest when it pretends to be something other than fashion. Think: celebrities with mass-produced t-shirts for a fashionable cause. Think: cars with mass-produced yellow ribbons. Give it up, fashion — we’re on to you.
  • Celebrity fashion is often goofy when it is ostensibly for a worthy cause. You can go ahead and remove the word “fashion” from that sentence.
  • Yes, the yellow ribbon has meaning as a symbol for family members away at war. See below.
  • Yes, it’s even possible for a T-shirt to make a statement. Mass produced somewhere, and soon it becomes fashion. Don’t ask me how large the run needs to be, I don’t make the rules. Don’t blame me if you don’t know it when you see it.
  • The ribbon is a nice symbol for bringing the troops back home safely (it was used for the hostages in Iran this way). The symbol doesn’t mean “I support the troops.” It really is more like “I remember my loved one” or “My thoughts are with them.” both of which make more sense than the vague and ineffectual “I support the troops.” Also, possibly ‘May the troops come home safely” — again, fits the yellow ribbon symbolic history more closely, and actually makes sense/is decipherable.
  • But the magnet is not the ribbon. Something has gotten lost in the translation. Maybe it drips out of the magnets while they’re hanging on the metal hook in the craft store. I don’t know. Maybe it is an unfortunate effect of the process of turning it into mass-produced fashion.
  • Yes, I recognize that the magnets can be used sincerely.
  • The first thing that pops into your head when you see a celeb with a mass-produced fashionable cause T-shirt on is how sincere they are. Right?
  • Here’s some background on yellow ribbon symbolism.
  • This post is not funny enough.

OK, so I need to work on the funny. Inspired by the previously referenced cartoon, I recognize that many things could be supported. And since support is such a wishy-washy word, I’ve got a lot of leeway. As it occurs, we ought to have ribbons that support (or encourage support) for any number of things. Thus, the here-pictured ribbon is necessitated.

Gravity, is, of course, a natural phenomenon. “Natural” sounds good. But nature is harsh and cruel. There are times we should resist nature. Here is one of those times.

Lest you think this is some sort of sexist statement, I want to say I created this ribbon mainly for the issue of comfort, not for any physical aesthetic that I feel women should aspire to. Additionally, there is the issue of the cumulative effects of gravity, which may seem trivial in youth. While one can be cavalier early on, in later years the clock may not be reversed. Finally, there is the simple principle of the thing. If nature is going to be cruel, it is our responsibility as technologically advanced humans to resist, to fight, to struggle, to prove we are alive. And again, to dissuade you from the idea that this is a sexually motivated, I feel equally strongly that man-breasts should receive the proper structural reinforcement. See the series “Seinfeld” for a lamentation of the lack of culturally accepted garb that are up to the task of supporting the man-breast.

For those men out there with no man-breasts, I am trying not to leave you out in the cold. We all know that gravity is not a female problem. We men are not without our gravitational burden. Some, more burdened than others, but such is another aspect of the cruelty of nature, best left for another day.

Dear readers, I hope you have been enlightened and amused. If not, there is ample opportunity for you to surpass me. I have made the blanked-out yellow ribbon available in the form of a large gif. You can make your own ribbon. I can even send along the Photoshop document if you ask. I support your efforts to make your own ribbons!

(The ribbon I support your breasts” was scrapped after careful consideration due to possible injury to my person inflicted by a potentially enraged distaff member of this household.)

Putfile.com is hosting the ribbon graphics.Thanks, Putfile!

Posted by James at 4:06 AM | Comments (12)

Name That Movie 32

Guest Host!
Guest Host!

This week, we have a guest host who has created the images for Name That Movie. It’s Maggie of Pandora’s Tea Room. I haven’t worked out a specific schedule for this week’s NTM, but there are 8 images. I doubt anyone is going to get this one on the first image.

Instructions: see the images, one by one. Guess what movie they are from. Comment. Repeat.

Link to Image 2

Link to Image 3

Link to Image 4

Link to Image 5

Link to Image 6

Link to Image 7

Link to Image 8

Posted by James at 2:26 AM | Comments (41)

April 11, 2005

Wings 2 Go

Wings to Go is now in New Bedford.

Observe

Posted by James at 12:40 PM | Comments (6)

April 10, 2005

Word of the Week

This week’s word of the week is “shibboleth.” Try to work it into conversation as much as possible.

Maggie mentioned the word yesterday and I thought it tied in with our recent dialect quiz.

The word is used to mean a word or phrase that distinguishes one group of people from another based on pronunciation. It’s also used more broadly to mean a word or phrase that is so common to a particular group that the usage of the phrase marks the speaker as being from that group.

The word has its origin in the bible, where the actual word “shibboleth” was used as a password:

And the Gileadites seized the passages of the Jordan before the Ephraimites; and it was so, that when those Ephraimites who had escaped said, “Let me go over,” that the men of Gilead said unto him, “Art thou an Ephraimite?” If he said, “Nay,” then said they unto him, “Say now ‘Shibboleth.’” And he said “Sibboleth,” for he could not frame to pronounce it right. Then they took him and slew him at the passages of the Jordan; and there fell at that time of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand. (Judges 12:5-6, KJV)

The Ephraimites couldn’t get the “sh” right, and that marked them for death.

If you hear somebody talk about “the Democrat party” today, that is a shibboleth for dittohead conservatives, as they have some strange aversion to “the Democratic party.”

A shibboleth can also be bound together with an idea, since the use of certain phrases express certain beliefs. “Liberal elite” and “limousine liberal” are far right shibboleths used to frame their enemies. One far left shibboleth of secular humanists is “fundangelicals” — used to combine fundamentalist Christians with evangelicals.

A shibboleth needn’t be a negative term about one’s perceived enemies, but those shibboleths are sometimes easier to identify because they’re being yelled louder. “Compassionate conservatism” could be considered a shibboleth when used by someone who actually believes it (as we saw all over the place in the run-up to the 2000 election).

Shibboleths often have a nasty aspect to them, because they are usually about exclusion, not just identificaiton. The word itself is (not surprisingly, considering its origins) popular on the conservative right because of the desire to identify liberals by their speech. But groups create all sorts of jargon, and with jargon comes shibboleths. According to Thomas S. Elliot (in an article in US News and World Report) the term “secular humanism” was invented by the far-right to label their boogymen. Nowadays, some people self-describe as secular humanists, so it’s less of a shibboleth.

For fun, here is the Wiki entry on “Shibboleth.” Say the word “unionized” aloud and then scan down the page to read about “Humorous and fictional shibboleths” That would be a shibboleth more in the original sense.

Know of any interesting shibboleths (of either pronunciation or usage?) Post ‘em in the comments.

Posted by James at 1:33 PM

Deathstravaganza

[…] Fox anchor, Shepard Smith, solemnly told the world that “facts are facts” and “it is now our understanding the pope has died.” Unfortunately, this understanding was reached 26 hours before the pope actually did die […]

Yet you could also argue that Fox’s howler was in its way the most honest barometer of this entire cultural moment. The network was pulling out all the stops to give the audience what it craved: a fresh, heaping serving of death. Mr. Smith had a point when he later noted that “the exact time of death, I think, is not something that matters so much at this moment.” Certainly not to a public clamoring for him to bring it on. _[Frank Rich Op Ed from NYT: A Culture of Death, Not Life_

Why is it that we have to have this media circus when certain people die? Is that really honoring the dead?

You want a culture of death? How about a culture obsessed with the afterlife to the point where a favored series of books is all about the destruction of the world in which the righteous have already fled the building (and their lives) to leave unfortunates like atheists and Jews to suffer.

This agenda is synergistic with the entertainment culture of Mr. Bush’s base: No one does the culture of death with more of a vengeance - literally so - than the doomsday right. The “Left Behind” novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins all but pant for the bloody demise of nonbelievers at Armageddon. And now, as Eric J. Greenberg has reported in The Forward, there’s even a children’s auxiliary: a 40-title series, “Left Behind: The Kids,” that warns Jewish children of the hell that awaits them if they don’t convert before it’s too late. Eleven million copies have been sold on top of the original series’ 60 million.

Make of it what you will, but I’ve had enough of the bleated attacks on secular humanism and the rest of us who reasonably focus on making this world a better place because we believe it may be the only world we get. I’m tired of the epithet “culture of death” flung at the people they disagree with on that basis alone, but with the thin veil of superior morality tossed over it.

The Pope has died, and I have searched for something to say about it. He was a world leader, and while I agree with the article I have quoted above about media obsession, I feel his death is significant because it may represent a shift in the leadership of the Church. It may result in less enlightened or more enlightened leadership — that remains to be seen.

I am not an expert on the Pope’s life, so I don’t feel I can or should write much of an essay on him. But the article reminds me of one thing I did like about this Pope. He recognized the contributions of science, specifically in the area of the science of how life evolved on this planet.

He didn’t seem concerned with refuting the scientific evidence that there is evolution taking place, and that the Bibile is not literal truth in its description of the origin of man. He clearly accepted that evolution is scientifically accepted fact.

When religious leaders eschew dogma that would stand in the way of human knowledge, that’s a win for every human being. Because it means that religion is choosing not to stand in conflict with the efforts of honest people striving to learn as much about our observable universe as possible. There is no reason religion needs to be in conflict with our study of the universe.

When religion does the opposite, it is only steps away from other dangerous attempts to redefine the world in religious terms. If religion can deny the empirical, it can deny anything. What is there to stop it from marching further and inspiring people to fly planes into buildings and such?

Posted by James at 1:02 PM | Comments (6)

April 8, 2005

Dialect Test

Forget religion. What does your dialect reveal about you?

This test is supposed to rate you Yankee or Dixie.

I rated at 53%, which inexplicably puts me barely into the Dixie category.

Weird, but I guess it’s a result of too much pop culture exposure.

Posted by James at 11:48 AM | Comments (12)

Shotgun, Sucker

  • Leech Meets Nose (Odd News)
    • “This form of leech infestation has not been previously reported” — Something to be thankful for.
    • Found via Vowel Movement.
  • Zookeeper (Game)
    • It’s a game in which you rearrange 2 animals to make rows of 3 or more, eliminating those animals. Once you have reached a goal, you level up.
  • Drunk Walk (Game)
    • Help the drunk german guy stumble home from the pub.
  • Acronym Finder (Words)
    • Need to know the meaning of an acronym ASAP? This resource is for you.
    • Also includes a buzz-phrase generator to annoy your coworkers.
  • 911 Call From Hell (Humor)
    • If this 911 call is real, this poor woman has bigger problems than how her hamburger is prepared.
  • Poker Chip Shuffle (Tricks)
    • Look cool on the poker table. Learn to shuffle those chips.
  • AntiMagnet (Humor, Activism, Curmudgeon)
    • “We support the guy in China who makes these idiotic Magnets”
    • It’s a magnetic sticker antidote to the yellow, pink, camo and other ribbon magnets you see everywhere.
  • Where’s That Wedding Ring? (Video)
    • Sent along by my cousin Bull. All I can say is “I hate when this happens.”
  • Rite in the rain Notebooks (Wares)
    • Isn’t stationery cool? I am an addict. These notebooks are made of a special paper that can be written on when wet. Pair it with one of those astronaut pens, and you’ve got my stationery geek attention.
  • Cookie Monster Eating Fewer Cookies (Odd News)
    • No, it’s no joke. The Cookie Monster is going to be branching out into fruits and veggies, and fewer chocolate chip delights.
    • Next up, Oscar the Grouch is going to be prescribed mood lifters.
  • Tiny Turkey (Animation)
    • The story of a tiny turkey. And SCIENCE! Short. Weird.
  • Area 52 : Google Map (Maps)
    • Sat pictures of the famous focal point of UFO-obsessed people. See the aliens? Me neither.
  • Boston Flyover (Animation)
    • Mike noted this flyover of downtown Boston. Especially useful if you want to know what the inside of the Fleet center looks like from the air, or if you need to get to a Dunkin Donuts while parachuting.
  • The Atari Group (Geek Video)
    • Yeah. I have no explanation. But it’s kinda geeky and rude.
  • Chocopies (Animation)
    • Chocopies will melt your eyeballs with a saccharine blast of animation. And give you diabetes.
  • Let’s Get Spayed (Video)
    • Promoting the control of pet populations. Cuter when you’re neutered. You’re so much more than a reproducer.

Bonus:
* Google Q&A
** Google continues to improve, adding answers to commonly asked questions like:
*** How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll pop?
*** What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?
*** How many people live in Alaska?

That’s all for now.

Posted by James at 10:14 AM | Comments (3)

April 7, 2005

Server Troubles

I had some domain name server problems, as many of you noticed. Thanks for trying to notify me, but all my email goes through this domain name, so I didn’t get the notices until the problem was resolved.

In the future, for those of you inclined to contact me when this website goes down, I’ll still be reachable at my backup address: . For now, feel free to continue using whatever email address you’re using.

Posted by James at 4:13 PM

April 6, 2005

Earthquake

There was an earthquake in the area yesterday, reported by the Globe.

A magnitude 2.3 tremor with its epicenter about 6 miles north of New Bedford, no tsunamis are expected. Although there may be one or two nervous people out in Acushnet donning their rain gear.

Ryan says he heard it, as did the rest of his family. Sara, who was with him, says he’s full of it. My words, not hers.

Posted by James at 4:11 PM | Comments (3)

Speed Hump





Speed Hump


Originally uploaded by drmomentum.

It really seems like someone was not really thinking straight when they approved this sign.


Is this some sort of public service recommendation? Is it safer if you do it quickly?


What gives?

Posted by James at 3:04 PM | Comments (3)

UMD Memories

You may have heard, Google now does satellite pictures. Here’s the URL to look at UMass Dartmouth. And in the image above, I’ve made my own composite from many close-ups. You’re looking at a much scaled down version — the original is very detailed.

Someone had a neat idea to use these sat pictures to map memories onto locations using Flickr and notes. So, I’ve done basically the same thing using Flickr with UMD (formerly my alma mater Southeastern Massachusetts University).

I have two images:
* This is an overview of the area surrounding the campus, with notes.
* This is a detail of the main campus, with notes.

Check them out. Hover your mouse over the image to make the note rectangles appear. Mouse off the image to make them disappear, to see the underlying image better.

If you would like to do something similar on your own, feel free to grab one of my UMD composites (use the “all sizes” link above the photo.) Or, if you want my composite image at the highest resolution, just ask and I’ll send it along so you can crop it any way you like. Then you can sign up for your own flickr account and place your own notes.

If you do this, let me know and I will link to it from here.

Posted by James at 12:48 PM | Comments (16)

April 5, 2005

Name That Movie 31

Moviesign!

Anyhow, it’s another Name That Movie!

Seven video captures from a movie. I reveal them throughout the day. You look at them one by one and try to guess the movie. Late-comers can play at their own pace. Don’t view the comments unless you want to risk a spoiler. Everybody wins.

Image 1:

Link to Image 2
Link to Image 3
Link to Image 4
Link to Image 5
Link to Image 6
Link to Image 7

Cheat Commandos, Rock, rock on!

[ Someone has named the movie in the comments, so I’ve decided to put all the remaining images up here now for those who have been avoiding the comments and playing on their own ]

Posted by James at 2:03 AM | Comments (24)

April 4, 2005

Closer (Movie Review)

The common example of chaotic action that always seems to be given when discussing the complexity of the world is that of the turbulent flow of water. Under certain conditions, the flow of water can be smooth and glasslike — a laminar flow. As the speed increases and/or other conditions change, suddenly the smooth flow is interrupted and replaced with a turbulent, chaotic and unpredictable flow whose messiness is beyond the ability of people to understand.

Closer” is about the love lives, and therefore the lives of four people. But rather than focus on a continuous history of smooth and turbulent periods in their relationships, this film condenses time by removing the laminar parts and only giving us the turbulent, disturbing, unpredictable and messy parts.

Alice (Natalie Portman) is the angelic beauty who captures the attention of Dan (Jude Law) on the streets of London. Dan, a struggling obituary writer, seems to have little going for him except for his wit and his stunning good looks. The film wastes no time entangling the two in a flirtatious knot, and even less time introducing photographer Anna, (Julia Roberts) a more mature desire for Dan’s wandering eye. With disconcerting little effort and less intention on her part we see this Anna slice the knot in two. And that’s in the first 10 minutes.

So it is a bit jarring that the film jumps around a bit, back and forth. Hint: it actually nearly always moves forth, apart from a couple of very brief instances of flashback. We experience these lives as one emotional punch followed by another.

By comparison, the film takes its time introducing Larry, (Clive Owen) a dermatologist. I’ll save you from the amusing specifics, but Dan cannot predict where his life is about to go and neither can we. Well, perhaps we can guess at the short term, but that’s the thing about chaos. It gets less predictable as time passes.

“Closer” is adapted from a Broadway play, and the snappy dialog feels like it. It keeps the film moving, but also harms the realism.

I saw this movie billed in the ads, by a shill fan, as “Finally! A love story for grown ups!” Well, sure, the subject matter is for adults only. But I found the quote ironic considering how much like children the characters actually act. There’s nothing very adult about the neediness, or the inability to commit.

If it hadn’t been for a couple of humorous turns in the film, I think I would have considered it a waste of my time. The problem is that I don’t feel I can relate to the characters enough to take much away from the film. Certainly there is the feeling of “Hey, wouldn’t it be great to be as good-looking as these people?” But, then, if nothing else this film says loudly that beautiful people treat other people like crap. And since they surround themselves with other beautiful people, you understand that being one of these people means you’re going to consistently be treated like crap by those closest to you.

For those of us (I assume most of us) who have come to terms with our looks (it is, after all “Finally a love story for grown ups!”) we’ve long ago stopped caring about what the beautiful people do.

So, then what you’re left with is this film almost like a zoo exhibit. The beautiful person in his and her natural habitat: a screwed up set of relationships, none of which you can envy. From a distance, these people are beautiful. But when you get closer, you can see all their flaws.

Posted by James at 8:49 AM | Comments (26)

April 3, 2005

Bottoms





Bottoms


Originally uploaded by drmomentum.

My daughter’s dolls were bored earlier today and decided to take advantage of our new photocopier.


I think this is a behavior we need to discourage. But someone in the household clearly greenlighted this, since the kids aren’t supposed to play with the copier.


Those dolls need to learn about the risks of photocopier misuse.

Posted by James at 5:13 PM | Comments (1)

April 1, 2005

Another Faith Quiz

Beliefnet has a better “faith” quiz than the one we were playing with last week. (Currently being discussed on EAForums [Link to discussion])

Here is is, The “What’s Your Faith?” quiz on Beliefnet

My results this time make a lot more sense:

1. Secular Humanism (100%)
2. Unitarian Universalism (96%)
3. Liberal Quakers (83%)
4. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (79%)
5. Nontheist (76%)
6. Neo-Pagan (64%)
7. Theravada Buddhism (63%)
8. New Age (46%)
9. Bahá’í Faith (45%)
10. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (43%)
11. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (43%)
12. Reform Judaism (41%)
13. Taoism (41%)
14. Orthodox Quaker (36%)
15. New Thought (34%)
16. Mahayana Buddhism (33%)
17. Jehovah’s Witness (32%)
18. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (30%)
19. Sikhism (30%)
20. Scientology (29%)
21. Jainism (20%)
22. Seventh Day Adventist (18%)
23. Hinduism (16%)
24. Eastern Orthodox (14%)
25. Islam (14%)
26. Orthodox Judaism (14%)
27. Roman Catholic (14%)

What do you folks think? Better or worse?

Posted by James at 11:00 PM | Comments (13)

Quotes To Know

A poet once said, “The whole universe is in a glass of wine.” We will probably never know in what sense he meant that, for poets do not write to be understood. But it is true that if we look at a glass of wine closely enough we see the entire universe. There are the things of physics: the twisting liquid which evaporates depending on the wind and weather, the reflections in the glass, and our imagination adds the atoms. The glass is a distillation of the earth’s rocks, and in its composition we see the secrets of the universe’s age, and the evolution of stars. What strange array of chemicals are in the wine? How did they come to be? There are the ferments, the enzymes, the substrates, and the products. There in wine is found the great generalization: all life is fermentation. Nobody can discover the chemistry of wine without discovering, as did Louis Pasteur, the cause of much disease. How vivid is the claret, pressing its existence into the consciousness that watches it! If our small minds, for some convenience, divide this glass of wine, this universe, into parts—physics, biology, geology, astronomy, psychology, and so on—remember that nature does not know it! So let us put it all back together, not forgetting ultimately what it is for. Let it give us one more final pleasure: drink it and forget it all! — Richard P. Feynman, Lectures on Physics

Posted by James at 10:44 PM | Comments (1)

Don't Go There

Maggie sends this story along. She doesn’t like to “brag” which I guess is why she didn’t post this to her blog. But I think it’s funny, not bragging, so her loss is my gain. (Slightly edited)

K’s playing with her JumpStart 4th grade software and she asked me where the Amazon river began.

I said, “I think it’s Brazil,” and she said no. She had tried Brazil. So I found a map and I said “the mouth is in Brazil.”

She said “the mouth is the end of a river. The source is the beginning.”

I said “shouldn’t the mouth be the beginning, and the anus should be the end?”

She said, “Let’s not get analogical.”

I thought it was just cute and funny, but apparently analogical is a word and she used it correctly. Which just makes me feel, in my ignorance, like a verbal slacker.

Posted by James at 1:54 PM | Comments (4)

MA Embraces Culture of Life

… by making the Stem Cell bill veto-proof.

House approves stem cell research
Measure garners veto-proof margin

Romney will still not sign the bill, but I guess that will look good on his resume when he runs for president. Stood up to the scary Massachusetts Libruls!

Posted by James at 1:47 PM | Comments (8)

Happy Day

Happy April Fools!

Posted by James at 9:42 AM | Comments (12)

Lazy Shotgun

A busy week means less surfing. But I never know how many links I’ve really accumulated throughout the week until I shotgun them…

  • Coin Manipulation (Tricks)
    • Learn funky coin manipulation skills. If only I had the time and dexterity.
  • Batman: New Times (Animation)
    • A whole, impressive little film done in virtual Lego blocks. Voices by Courtney Thorne-Smith, Mark Hamill, Dick Van Dyke and… Adam West!
  • Audacity (Tools)
    • It’s a free audio recorder and manipulator for Windows. It’s pretty damn good — better than a shareware product I paid $10 for just two years or so ago (and lost the key to in a system reinstall).
  • Oops! Sorry, Chuck (April Fools)
    • I had a little accident while reading your blog this morning, Chuck. I hope it doesn’t bug your readers too much. Chuck? What are you doing, Chuck. Wait! Don’t be upset! You don’t have to. Ahhhhhhhhh!
    • All this fun via NetDisaster.
  • Trippy Motion Illusion (Optical Illusions)
    • No, it’s not an animated GIF. It’s a static picture which gives the illusion of motion. If you don’t believe, just print it out and see the same effect on paper.
  • The Hacker’s Diet (Eating)
    • A systematic plan for losing weight. It’s a lot of planning and work, but it is pretty much guaranteed to work. Especially for life hacking geeks.
  • FreeConference.com (Work Tools)
    • This site will allow you to set up free conference calling through their service. It will provide everyone with phone number they can call, and you’ll all be in a conference. The numbers are not toll free, however, so charges apply.
  • FOXBlocker (Tools)
    • Order one of these and you may never have to watch FOX news again. Reminds me of the time I wandered onto FOX News and realized they didn’t know what they were talking about.
  • Hidden Camera Mishap (SNL)
    • Old SNL skit about a failed take in one of those hidden camera coffee commercials. Chris Farley is featured.
  • Pig Blast (Game)
    • How long can you keep the pig int he air by sheer force of flatulence?
    • Look out for that white bird!
  • Age A T-Shirt (How To)
    • Go for the “lived in” look quickly. I’m sure this works with lots of clothing, but some T-shirts just have more character after fading. Personally, I prefer the new look. I already have too many old Ts.
  • Flatulent Matrix (Movie)
    • Second fart-related shotgun link of the day. This one adds noises to Matrix footage to comedic effect.
  • Paris Hilton Transformation (Body Mod)
    • See the frightening transformation of Paris Hilton. Yes, she looked pretty damned normal once. Next up - she’s going to turn into LaToya Jackson.
  • She Freakin’ Blocked Me (Flash, Song Parody)
    • Parody of the Puddle of Mud song. Danger in the world of chat.
    • I can’t tell you how many times this has happened to me.

Well, That’s the shotgun for this week. Actually, I have a link with bunnies in it, which I may post later.

Posted by James at 12:04 AM | Comments (5)