November 29, 2005

Frustration

There are few things as frustrating as being faced with a complex, difficult to solve problem, the solution of which is partially out of your hands.

But one of those more frustrating things is to be stuck with such a problem and then see a simple, easy to solve problem go unfixed indefinitely.

Posted by James at 2:38 PM | Comments (5)

November 28, 2005

Zathura, Harry Potter and Chicken Little

Took the girls to see “Zathura” yesterday.

One of the difficulties of having kids is that you can’t run off to the theater with your wife and friends to see movies any time you want. On the flipside, though, you can run off with the kids and see pretty much any children’s movie whenever the kids are free.

Over the years, so much of what has been available for kids entertainment has been dreck. We may look fondly at the entertainment of our youth, but a lot of it was dreck back then as well. There has been an explosion of entertainment for children as we have grown older, so there is a lot more worthless crap out there. However, there’s a lot more good stuff as well.

So, a parent interested in seeing good stuff has to get better at choosing stuff. Poor Maggie once got stuck having to see the Jimmy Neutron movie with M before it sunk to about the level where it belongs — cable TV. At the time, I htink I was watchign the slightly-better first Harry Potter film with K.

In any case, you pays your money and you takes your chances. But sites like RottenTomatoes help you separate the wheat from the chaff beforehand.

On to the mini and micro-reviews of 3 recent offerings for the kids.

Chicken Little (imdb)

Some films look so bad in the trailers that you are pleasantly surprised in the theater. I don’t know if this is a tactic, or just the result of poor trailer editing. “Chicken Little” was just such a film. However, that’s not saying much.

My comment upon leaving the theater was that this was a cute film, and fairly innocuous. But that’s no kind of praise, especially at today’s ticket prices. “Chicken Little” is about a chicken trying to win the approval and attention of his father, after a long year of being ridiculed for a mistake he made when he declared that the sky was falling. His misfit band of friends are the best thing he’s got going for him. Well, that and the love of his father, even if Dad doesn’t seem to understand him.

Eventually, as many kids movies do, all heck breaks loose and Chicken Little has a chance to redeem himself. The story is pretty simple, and this frenetic movie is aimed at, by my estimation, approximately 5-year-olds. My kids, at 8 and 10 weren’t exactly bored, but didn’t exactly feel enriched when they left. There certainly wasn’t much to talk about in the car on the way home.

If you must, rent the thing when it comes out on DVD. As I said, it is cute. But it’s at about the level of a lot of kids TV nowadays, so it doesn’t really take advantage of the fact that its got you trapped in a theater for 90-or-so minutes.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (imdb)

These movies are getting better in some sense. However, the books weren’t getting any better, so perhaps it’s just the movies and hte books coming closer together?

A few things are certain, and I will bullet-point them to save you some time.

  • Harry Potter films must cut out a bunch of stuff to fit these long books into a 2+ hour movie.
  • Much of what they have to cut out will be stuff you liked about the books.
  • Much of what they keep will have to be extremely close to what you read in the books, for fear of a fan backlash to this money-making behemoth.
  • The amount they do cram into the movie necessarily makes the film seem rushed.
  • Much of what they do keep is action-oriented because film is a visual medium. Combine this with the above point and you have a rushed, frenetic film.
  • Wow — the kids are getting older.

there are a ton of aspects of these books to be developed. the coming-of-age stories alone could make their own movies. My problem with this franchise is simple: a movie has to find its own heart, and these films are locked in to the books as tightly as the money in a goblin bank. The filmmakers do not have a whole series to work with, as Peter Jackson did with Lord of the Rings. Jackson could figure out his story arcs beforehand, choosing what to develop ove the three films. With HP, each film has been independent. You have to finish before the 2 hours are up. A filmmaker making 4 films over time could have chosen when to emphasize certain aspects of the story, spread out over 4 films. This hasn’t been possible, and the movies suffer for it.

But how is this film? It’s spectacular, visually. And there are quite a few great moments. If you read the books and you enjoy films, you have to go see it. It’s basically a way to see what you’ve already read. If you haven’t read the books, I can’t imagine why you would bother. The films have got to be almost completely incoherent to you.

So, you already know if you want to see HPatGOF. Don’t let me stop you, or encourage you: you’re on your own with this one.

Zathura (imdb)

Cutting to the chase, this was easily the best of the three films we’ve seen in the last few weeks. You want to see an endearing kids film, with adventure and excitement, then see this one.

Remember what it was like when you were a kid and you found an old toy, or something or other in your parents attic? I do. I remember finding old books, an old chemistry set and other toys form ages ago with their unfamiliar mix of colors on the boxes and their weird printing. Apparently, Jon Favreau remembers, too.

This film is set amid sibling turmoil and parental angst. The kids don’t get along and the parents divorce puts a strain on everyone. Dad is doing what he can to cope, but that’s only getting the kids so far. When an emergency forces him to leave them at home (don’t worry - there is a 15 year-old in the picture, although she’s not the most responsible) Danny finds an old game called “Zathura” in the basement of this old house they have adopted as their new family home.

“Zathura” (the game) is a little mechanical marvel of a board game, and instantly evokes the chipped-paint glory of the games of my parents generation. It’s not battery powered, it’s wind-up powered. It expels slightly yellowed cards. It’s not clear how the thing works, but there are gears and chains.

As soon as Danny starts playing the game and shows the card to his brother Walter (it takes 2 people to play the game, after all!) things go from dead boring to deadly dangerous. As meteors (not meteorites, you will notice) perforate the house, they begin a journey from childhood to…. somewhere else, engaging their imaginations, their minds and their emotions. I expect that it is no coincidence that an early casualty of the game is the TV, which stops working as soon as the game magic takes over. Too subtle a message for you? Wait a few minutes for the kicker, because the universe of Zathura is not about subtlety.

There’s foreshadowing, as guns in the first act are put to use in the third. There’s repetition of a theme. There’s in-joking. There’s gotcha moments. There’s “Oh — so that’s why - now it makes sense.” In short, the story is well-structured.

Jonah Bobo as the 6-year old brother Danny and Josh Hutcherson as older-brother Walter are a believable pair. It’s every younger brother who wishes his older brother would pay attention to him, and every older brother who wants his father all to himself. Kristan Stewart’s Lisa - the rather-be-somewhere-else teenager, is sufficiently annoying in her role that you’re glad the teen doesn’t play a larger part in the story. She does have some funny lines, however, as when her father laments her use of the term “hook up” which she has intended to use innocently. “I wish we had never rented ‘Thirteen.’” she huffs.

Critics have said this film is too much of a repeat of Jumanji (also based on a Chris Van Allsburg book). I didn’t care all that much for that film. I didn’t dislike it, but I guess it didn’t grab me. Maybe Robin Williams overpowered it.

Zathura, I like. A lot. Maybe the space theme helped. This is, in some sense, a Sci-Fi movie. Not hard science fiction by any means1, and with a healthy dose of fantasy. But many of the classic hallmarks of Sci-Fi are there. A mysterious technology. A universe with its own rules. Social effects. An alternate reality that lets us explore themes about ourselves.

Among these three films, the only one I can really say “Go see!” is Zathura, which actually made me feel like a kid for a while, whereas the others just made me feel cynical.

1 In this film, a flaming couch can continue to burn in space. It’s not space as we know it — it’s retro space.

Posted by James at 9:32 AM | Comments (14)

November 27, 2005

O, The Horror of Cube Zero

I’ve written a (brief) review of the horror movie “Cube Zero” for the horror book/movie review site “O, The Horror.”

If you haven’t seen any of the “Cube” series of films, they are about a mysterious device comprised of a number of large room-sized cubes. Within this device, people suddenly find themselves. That is, people become conscious and find themselves inside one of the rooms of the “Cube” and can’t remember exactly how they got there. Is it a form of imprisonment? Torture? Experiment? Well, that’s a good part of the mystery, isn’t it.

I swear that, by the end, it is a super-insightful and clever movie review.

Posted by James at 11:53 AM

November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hosted by Putfile.com
Have a great day enjoying all the things for which you are thankful.
Posted by James at 12:45 PM

November 23, 2005

Grace O'Malley

Last weekend, we came up with a new drink. I have named it “Grace O’Malley” with the help of Julie who suggested a female pirate name.

Here’s the recipe:

Grace O’Malley

1.5 oz Absolut Citron (or other citrus vodka)
1.5 oz Parrot Bay Pineapple Rum
1 oz Cranberry Juice
1/2 oz Lime Juice

Shake all ingredients together over crushed ice and strain into a cosmopolitan glass.
Garnish with lime wedge or pineapple wedge.

Notes

  • Grace O’Malley was a seafarer in the 16th century. And she may even be a distant relative of ours, considering that she married a Burke and had children named Burke. I found this out after we chose the name.
  • I used Smirnov Citrus when I made this, and it was still quite good. You don’t have to break the bank with flavored vodka.
  • Enjoy your Grace O’Malley responsibly.
Posted by James at 3:16 PM | Comments (8)

Thanks

Posting this today, for my readers who won’t be on a computer tomorrow.

If I had time, I’d write an essay on what Thanksgiving means to me. I don’t, so I’ll borrow from a comment I left on Karen’s Blog, and edit that a little bit.

For years I have watched people celebrate Thanksgiving by basically eating and thanking God for what they have. I think that’s fine, if they want to do that.

I like to acknowledge the people I know for many of the good things I am thankful for in my life. And since I can actually thank them for real, this becomes an opportunity at Thanksgiving, and a bit of a tradition of my own.

I started thinking about it when I saw people thanking God for miracles of modern medicine which were surely the result of the hard work of a number of scientists, researchers and doctors, and administered by their own doctor. People deserve to be acknowledged and thanked rather than have their efforts trivialized.

Go ahead and thank God if you are so inclined. But why not also thank the actual people?

So, here is a bit of that.

My dear blog readers: thanks for participating in this little hobby of mine. For those who comment: your feedback is valuable to me and is part of what justifies having a weblog. Thanks to all the people who repeatedly visit and subject themselves to my weblog, thanks for the attention. I appreciate your traffic.

So, thanks..

Posted by James at 1:11 PM | Comments (5)

You and James Read... Stuff.

There Is No God

According to Penn Jillette.

Penn is, as he puts it, beyond Atheism. He doesn’t not-believe in God, he believes that there is no God. He says it works for him.

Believing there’s no God means I can’t really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That’s good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around. […]

Believing there is no God means the suffering I’ve seen in my family, and indeed all the suffering in the world, isn’t caused by an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent force that isn’t bothered to help or is just testing us, but rather something we all may be able to help others with in the future. No God means the possibility of less suffering in the future.

Congress reduces its oversight role

Since Clinton, a change in focus

Back in the mid-1990s, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, aggressively delving into alleged misconduct by the Clinton administration, logged 140 hours of sworn testimony into whether former president Bill Clinton had used the White House Christmas card list to identify potential Democratic donors.

In the past two years, a House committee has managed to take only 12 hours of sworn testimony about the abuse of prisoners at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison.

See, this seems like a problem to me. My first thought was that this is because we have one party controlling the government, but: “Party loyalty does not account for the difference: In 1993-94, the Democrats were investigating a Democratic administration.” So, I think it’s just that we have had less general willingness for the government to police itself.

Al-Jazeera-Go-Boom?

If Bush had had his way.

Al-Jazeera’s HQ is in the business district of Qatar’s capital, Doha.

Its single-storey buildings would have made an easy target for bombers. As it is sited away from residential areas, and more than 10 miles from the US’s desert base in Qatar, there would have been no danger of “collateral damage”.

Dozens of al-Jazeera staff at the HQ are not, as many believe, Islamic fanatics. Instead, most are respected and highly trained technicians and journalists. […]

The No 10 memo now raises fresh doubts over US claims that previous attacks against al-Jazeera staff were military errors.

Great.

A senior diplomat in Washington says Bush was making a joke. While he’s at it, why not write a memo about wiping Muslims off the face of the Earth. I’m sure that will improve the situation.

Posted by James at 9:15 AM | Comments (2)

Mid-Week Shotgun

Yer gettin’ your Shotgun Post early this week, because of the holiday. Wheeeee!

Posted by James at 8:16 AM | Comments (6)

November 22, 2005

Trackbacks - More Trouble Than Help

I’ve disabled trackbacks on all my old posts. Why? Trackback spam. They far outweighed useful trackbacks.

So, here’s the deal. If you are commenting on my blog post on your weblog, and you’re linking to my story from your weblog, it’s OK by me if you post a comment on an entry saying “BTW - I’m talking about this post on my weblog.” or something similar, with a link back to your comments.

And spam sucks.

Posted by James at 3:43 PM | Comments (3)

Pomegranate HowTo

Open!I’ve created a Flickr Set detailing how to disassemble a pomegranate for those interested in my technique. No doubt those who have been eating pomegranates for years will either be familiar with this method, or will have their own, better methods. I offer this for the curious.

Flickr Photoset: Pomegranate HowTo

I’ve been eating these fruits ever since my grandfather started buying them for me as a treat when I was too young to remember just how young I was. It was always a very special thing. Where some people see a lot of trouble to go through (getting newspaper so you don’t make a mess, etc) I see a sort of ritual that signals you’re doing something fun and special.

Going through trouble for something you enjoy isn’t trouble at all. It’s anticipation, preparation, and the actual execution of an enjoyable event.

Pomegranate, Flower-EndOne thing I do not detail in this photoset is the mess that the juice can make. I probably should have taken a photo of that (maybe I’ll add one next time) but part of my point here was to dissect the fruit and spilling the least possible amount of pomegranate juice. You’ll see in the pictures that I did just that. Really, barely any drips occurred. Once you get good, you can eat a pomegranate without dripping anything. However, sometimes especially with a really ripe fruit, drips cannot be avoided. Thus, the newspaper.

Additionally, don’t wear really good clothes. The seeds can squirt if you are squeezing too hard, or if you break a seed unexpectedly.

Pomegranate Facts!

  • Cleopatra used pomegranates to stain her lips red. Early lipstick!
  • Pomegranate is called “Granada” in Spanish and “Grenade” in French.
  • Although grown in parts of this country (CA and AZ) the pomegranate is a native of Iran and has long been cultivated throughout the Mediterranean.
  • You may see “Pom Wonderful” on some pomegranate juice bottles. “Wonderful” is a particular cultivar of pomegranate known for better juicing.
  • The pomegranate has been used to symbolize a number of things, including the in dissolution of insolubility of marriage. For instance, it is used in Greek mythology by Hades to bind Persephone to him.
  • Recent studies are confirming some health benefits of pomegranate juice, including its effect on the prevention of prostate cancer.
Techtags:

[CORRECTION, noted above. I meant the insolubility of marriage. Come on people, someone should have picked up on that. The pomegranate is a symbol of a strong bond between two people.]

[UPDATE: Someone has noted on another site that I don’t tell you how to eat it once it’s opened. You can remove the seeds by hand and use them in cooking. Or you can chew the seeds and swallow them. Or you can chew the seeds gently to release the juice, suck down the juice and spit out the seeds.]

Posted by James at 1:41 AM | Comments (8)

November 21, 2005

Rock Out With Your Bock Out

Rock Out With Your Bock OutPretty much my favorite beer in the whole wide world is Sam Adams Chocolate Bock.

A little background. I first had this beer last year, when Derek showed up to the Caroling Party with a bottle or two of the stuff. The details are fuzzy, but he said something like “You have to try this.” Everyone who did, agreed. It is a beer-lover’s delight. Dark, smooth, rich, chocolaty, malty, not too bitter. Creamy. And, well, dreamy.

I went out myself and hunted down a few more bottles in the weeks afterward, introducing it to other people I knew.

Fast forward to last week. This is a seasonal brew, and Derek had heard from a local liquor store that soon SACB would be hitting the shelves. He was given an exact day, in fact.

Alas, the appointed day came and he got a phone call from a friend informing him that the Bock was not only NOT on the shelves, but they hadn’t heard anything about it from the brewers at the Boston Beer Co!

A sad day for our heroes.

Dejected, Derek found his way to my office to commiserate. He told his tale of woe, and said that he was coming in to work to forget his sorrows. Industrious, even when there is no beer to be had. Derek is an admirable person.

The pain was palpable. I, too, grieved, since I had planned of buying a number of bottles myself. I said to Derek something like: “Well, if it’s Chocolate Bock ye be seeking, you happen to have wandered into the right place.**” I then bent space and time* and reached behind me to produce a chilled, unopened bottle of last year’s Sam Adams Chocolate Bock.

( * I didn’t actually bend space and time, but if you explain how a magic trick works, it spoils the magic.)

( ** These were not my exact words. The exact words are important to the trick and are too powerful to be contained on a web page)

We couldn’t let it go, of course. After the last known bottle of Chocolate Bock was gone, I decided to call the company and find out what they had to say. I called the next day.

Cutting to the chase, they informed me that Sam Adams is not releasing Chocolate Bock this year! After I threatened to cry (seriously) and threatened that others would cry as well (they would) they divulged to me that we might be seeing the brew in January or February. This sounded a wee bit suspicious… I mean, don’t they know when they’re going to release the beer? Can’t I have an exact day for my calendar?

I guess not, and I’ll have to deal.

But if you see any bottles of last year’s Chocolate Bock… could you drop me a line?

Links

Techtags:
Posted by James at 9:33 PM | Comments (8)

Pomegranates

PomegranatesI bought a few pomegranates the other day, and a lady walking by made a noise when she saw them in my basket. She asked me how much they were. I told her “$2.50.”

“Apiece!?” she replied, seemingly dismayed.

I told her “They’re not cheap.”

Usually, I wait for a sale on them. You can get them for $2 each. And I won’t buy them when they’re really small and the market wants $2.50. I wait until they’ve got the big ones.

It occurred to me that a decent ice cream cone can run you around $2.00, if not more in some places. And a pomegranate, in my book, is better than an ice cream cone and less fattening. So people need to give me a break in the store when I’m buying these things. Thankyouverymuch.

My method for eating the things, for those interested:

I get a sharp knife and usually cut off the bit that sticks out around the flower end. I’m left with something more smoothly spherical.

Then I cut into the skin about 1/3 to 1/2 cm deep from the flower end down to the stem end (longitudinally), dividing the surface into 4 equal sections. The point here is to just cut the skin, not go too far deep into the fruit.

Now, the cuts all meet at the flower end, forming an “X.” I cut the skin a little deeper at the X, because there is pith underneath where the flower was. Maybe about 1 1/2 cm - 2 cm.

Once that’s cut, I try to pry apart the sections, leaving the fruity seeds intact as much as possible. Usually, the fruit comes away reasonably well, but sometimes it helps to pry with something not very sharp — like a butter knife.

Don’t squeeze the thing too hard, or you’ll break the seeds and let the juice out.

Now, once you’ve exposed the clusters of seeds, they’re easy to eat, for the most part. You can knock them off with your fingers, but I prefer to use my teeth. Don’t bite right in, because you’ll bite through the pith. Just scrape them off with your teeth, basically.

Posted by James at 12:49 PM | Comments (5)

November 20, 2005

Look, Up in the Sky!

My father-in-law is introducing people to astronomy.

On clear nights, Greg Stone can be found in his back yard with several children and a variety of telescopes.The children and their parents share the joy of discovering what’s out there in the universe at any given time. “Now that I’m retired, I’ve really gotten into it full throttle,” Mr. Stone said. “It’s exciting but it’s more exciting sharing it with people.”
Posted by James at 3:32 PM | Comments (4)

November 19, 2005

Mendocracy

In case some Bush drone again says to you that everybody had the same intelligence on Iraq:

It was enormously telling, in fact, that the only part of the Senate which did see the un-sanitized National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq—the Republican-led Senate Select Intelligence Committee—shockingly voted in the fall of 2002 against the simple authorization of force demanded by a Republican President. Panicked, the warmongers in the White House and Pentagon pressured CIA Director George Tenet to rush release to the entire Hill a very short “summary” of the careful NIE, which made Hussein seem incalculably more dangerous than the whole report indicated.

Read “The Big Lie Technique” in The Nation.

I haven’t had many intelligent Republicans (or conservatives I respect) try to tell me that congress had the same intelligence on Iraq that the White house had. Aside from some places online, I’ve chiefly heard it from national knee-jerk Bush-supporter mouth-frothing radio pundits. And from their lesser brethren, like a rabid local “stifle dissent” show host, who actually told a caller he knew “absolutely nothing” when he tried to correct the record on who had what intelligence.

I’m sure an apology or retraction is coming any minute now.

So, have you heard anyone insisting that the president didn’t manipulate intelligence? Or that the congress had the same information that the president did?

How do they explain this? Shuck and jive: “You’re not a patriot. You’re helping the terrorists.”

It’s amazing that “not helping the terrorists” involves swallowing so many lies.

Posted by James at 1:05 PM | Comments (1)

Movie Trailer Notes

Firewall (trailer)

In Harrison Ford news, it looks like there’s a new movie where Ford recreates the equivalent of a couple of seasons of ‘24’, but on the big screen:

He’s a security software expert whose family is held hostage while he is forced to help them rob the bank he has been working to protect.

The trailer is so-so. But I am interested to see Harrison Ford in another action movie. I’ve been missing the guy.

Hoodwinked! The True Story of Red Riding Hood(trailer)

Tell me they didn’t get this idea from The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by A. Wolf

Still, it looks amusing.

Bloodrayne(trailer)

The trailer looks slightly less lame than the last teaser I saw, and there are a lot of good people in it. But the little dialogue in the trailer is super-lame. “She could mean the end, or the beginning of the world as we know it.” Huh?

Why, Ben Kingsley… why? And isn’t this movie superfluous with the similar “Underworld” and “Blade” franchises out there? “Blade 2” is the movie to beat in that arena, and this one doesn’t look like it can do it. We’ll see.

Hostel(trailer)

Ew. Icky.

It looks like ‘Saw’ and but without the clever psychological aspect. Just the torture.

Underworld - Evolution(trailer)

Speaking of “Underworld.” This whole genre is well past tired.

“A powerful immortal has returned! Vowing to release an unimaginable evil! Now, only one stands between their rise and the destruction of all mankind!”

Well, that’s new. Do they think people are going to shell out $9 every time Kate Beckinsale puts on black latex tights? Apparently, yes.

The Fountain(trailer)

Wins “Most intriguing Teaser.” A story spanning 1000 years, with immortals Rachel Weisz and Hugh Jackman? Pencil me in.

[Update: Superman Returns (trailer)

Looks like they’re going for a real redemption angle. Jor-El voice over says he sent his only son to help the people of Earth, by giving them an example of light. Bonus points for the voice over (Anthony Hopkins — am I wrong???). Bonus points for using the original score (at least, for the teaser).

I’ve never been a really big Superman fan, but it’s grown on me with ‘Smallville’, especially since they’re starting to drop the teenie-bopper aspect of the series this season and working more on story, less on one-shot X-Files.
]

Posted by James at 10:36 AM | Comments (5)

November 18, 2005

A Million Years Indeed

Q: When a waitress/bartender looks at your license and tells you that she would “never in a million years” have thought you were actually 38, what can you conclude about your appearance?

A: You look like you are gullible.

Posted by James at 5:08 PM | Comments (7)

Here's Your Shotgun

Once again, I was light on the websurfing this week. Here are the links deemed most worthy. Don’t miss the last, which is DEFINITELY not least. Also, there’s always my Flickr photoblog if you’re bored.

Posted by James at 10:52 AM | Comments (3)

November 17, 2005

Happy Bunny

cute but psycho
you are the cute but psycho happy bunny. You
adorable, but a little out there. It's alright,
you might not have it all, but there are worse

which happy bunny are you?
brought to you by Quizilla
Posted by James at 3:45 PM | Comments (11)

Republicans Demand Investigation of Truth, Cite Liberal Bias

WASHINGTON (AFOL) Senate and House of Representatives Republican leaders called for an in-depth investigation into “the truth” claiming that recent appearances of “the truth” seem to be biased toward liberals.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R.-Ill., and Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., dispatched an official letter to the chairmen of both the Senate and House intelligence committees asking them to initiate a joint inquiry into why the truth has been so troublesome. Of specific concern is why the truth was more often than not at odds with the message that the Bush administration and the Congressional Republican Leadership have been giving to the American people.

The letter states that the truth “could have long-term and far-reaching, damaging and dangerous consequences to Republicans, and will imperil our efforts to remain in office.”

Senator Trent Lott, R-Miss., told FOX News that he believes the truth may be coming from somewhere outside of the control of the current Republican majority government. He said that some of the information he is seeing reported in the media bears little resemblance to Republican talking points.

President Bush addressed the nation Thursday morning, supporting the investigation and voicing administration concerns about the truth. “Reasonable people can disagree about what is going on in the world, but it is irresponsible for the truth to contradict how we misled the American people.”

Not being able to resist taking a direct swipe at critics of the Iraq war, the president had this to say about prewar intelligence. “Leaders in my administration and members of the United States Congress from both political parties looked at the same carefully crafted White House intelligence reports on Iraq, and reached the same conclusion. It wasn’t until after the truth started to rear its dangerous head that my poll numbers began to drop.”

The president then issued a dire warning, seemingly off the script. “If my popularity was to have fell below 25%, that would be a mere… a clear message to our enemies that the American people want another terrorist attack. It is deeply irresponsible for pollsters and the American people to ally themselves with terrorists in this way. Terrorists are folks who watch CNN just like you do. Except the terrorist is sitting there with explosives waiting for the poll numbers to drop.”

Assuming that the investigation will confirm that the truth is biased against conservative Republicans, the congressional leadership is already crafting a bill to balance the truth. A political commission will be formed to monitor the truth and counterbalance it with new “fairness information” that will soften the truth and make it more palatable to Republican sensibilities. The leadership is working with Vice President Dick Cheney and consulting with organizations that are already familiar with modifying the truth to suit specific purposes. Most notable among them are the pro-Creationism “Discovery Institute” and FOX News Channel.

Scott McClellan further clarified the Administrations position in yesterday’s press briefing.

Q: “I’d like you to clear up, once and for all, the ambiguity about the truth. Can we get a straight answer? The President says we don’t alter the truth but Cheney has gone to the Senate and asked for an exemption on —”

MR. McCLELLAN: “Helen, we will continue to work with the Congress on the issue that you brought up. The way you characterize it, that we’re opposing the truth, is just flat-out false, because there are laws that are on the books that prohibit lying to the American people and Congress. And we adhere to those laws. And if we haven’t adhered to them, we’ll work with congress to redefine truth. If the truth thinks the President is going to let it get in the way of our job, then the truth is simply mistaken.”

Posted by James at 10:38 AM | Comments (8)

November 16, 2005

That's a Spicy Lunch!


Lunch Combo
Originally uploaded by drmomentum.
The last couple of days I've been having this combo for lunch.

Progresso Southwestern-Style Chicken plus a shot of Blair's After Death hot sauce (with chipotle!).

Just adding about 1/4 tsp of the sauce to the soup makes it mouth-burning hot. And that's a good thing. The soup itself is not bad, with a broth thickened with corn flour, giving it a very southwestern flavor.

However, the kick is what really makes this puppy great. Thoughtful Sharon brought that sauce back from the actual southwest. Thanks, Sharon! It's a deliciously nuclear-hot sauce which is addictive. I ate a package of chicken strips I got from the market while dipping them into this stuff. It nearly burned my insides out, but it was worth it.

If you click the link and browse my other recent Flickr photos, you'll see that I finally got fed up and cleaned my office.

Damn exciting stuff.
Posted by James at 12:10 PM | Comments (5)

November 15, 2005

Politics Trumps Science at FDA?

The GAO has issued a report stating that the recent FDA ruling on relaxing access restrictions to "Plan B" contraception was "unusual" in a number of ways.

Notable among the irregularities was Former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Mark "I'm Proud of Scott" McClellan's involvement in the decision. He came out as an opponent early on. In an environment of wide support within the FDA on the science, the proposal was inexplicably rejected.

Many proponents of easier access to Plan B charge that political considerations had intruded into the FDA decision-making, which is by law supposed to be based solely on scientific evidence.

The key findings of the GAO report were that the FDA did not employ its usual procedures and scientific standards in weighing the Plan B application. GAO investigator Marcia Crosse said it was unusual for top FDA officials to get actively involved. The decision to reject the application was signed by Steven Galson, the senior officer of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, because lower-ranking officials disagreed with his conclusion.

McClellan has said that his involvement with "Plan B" was "consistent with his usual practices."

Really? Were all his other actions at the FDA corrupt as well?

This story will surprise exactly nobody. But it is, nevertheless, outrageous.

Posted by James at 8:05 AM | Comments (7)

November 14, 2005

Taunton Driveby Souping

Taunton man hurt in soup can attack

The short version: some teens in Taunton were the victims of some sort of a thrown-object attack on their car. In response, they went to the supermarket and purchased a can of soup, and threw it at John R. Finch.

After an investigation, police contacted the youths and their parents. Carreiro said the youths “freely admitted” to throwing the can of soup, but claimed they meant to throw it at someone else.

Prado was driving the car and Rebello threw the can, Carreiro said.

I don’t know whether to be happy that this wasn’t a drive-by shooting, or upset that there might be something in the water upriver from us that is causing all this lame Taunton news lately.

This supports my anti-gun-control belief that when teens can’t get guns, they will simply attack each other with Chickarina.

(hat tip, Julie)

BTW - My grandfather used to work for the Brockton Enterprise (where the story link leads), for a very long time.

Posted by James at 1:35 PM | Comments (7)

November 12, 2005

President of "Deeply Irresponsible"

It’s good to check up on the code words now and again.

And when the president is desperately flailing around, he’s at his rhetorical best.

In perhaps his most aggressive speech since winning reelection, President Bush yesterday attacked Democrats for suggesting that he misled the nation on intelligence used to justify the war in Iraq, saying that such criticism sends the ”wrong signal” to American forces, emboldens the nation’s enemies, and tries to ”rewrite the history of how that war began.” […]

”While it’s perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began,”

The gall used to claim his detractors are “rewriting history” is amazing, if typical. Bush’s approval rating is not down below 39% because people are rewriting history. It’s in the gutter because of the way he has conducted his administration, including the shifting justifications for the war. We were there — we don’t need John Kerry or the Democrats to give us a history, rewritten or otherwise. We were there. And that’s why Bush’s approval is in the toilet.

Republican strategerists tell us it shows real strength to take on the guy you beat in an election? Here’s a suggestion, if you want to improve your approval rating: do something to improve the country. It’s another indication of why this administration is struggling lately to see how they react to dissatisfaction. It can’t possibly be anything Bush has done, so attack other people.

From anywhere else you might imagine that dropping approval ratings would be met with a new vision for the country — something to bring this divided nation back together again. No such luck. He needs to find a scapegoat to satisfy his warped perception of reality.

I was wondering where I heard this phrase “deeply irresponsible” before. I was pretty sure he had used it, and I wanted to know the context so that i could gage just how bad things are when GWB uses “deeply irresponsible” to describe something. I googled it and found this from the presidential campaign:

The Bush campaign accused Kerry of “a pattern” of trying to cut intelligence funding. Bush personally accused Kerry of attempting to “gut the intelligence services” with a “deeply irresponsible” 1995 proposal.

As FactCheck.or summarizes it, “Bush Strains Facts Re: Kerry’s Plan To Cut Intelligence Funding in ‘90’s President claims 1995 Kerry plan would “gut” the intelligence services. It was a 1% cut, and key Republicans approved something similar.”

And, of course, when you look at the context of Kerry’s proposal:

Kerry’s proposal came five days after the Washington Post had reported that one intelligence agency, the super-secret National Reconnaissance Office, had quietly hoarded between $1 billion and $1.7 billion in unspent funds without informing the Central Intelligence Agency or the Pentagon.

Bush called Kerry’s support of the miniscule, bipartisan-approved cut “deeply irresponsible.” So, now we have a yardstick for the seriousness of his use of the phrase. The man is ridiculous.

You can’t trust a word that comes out of the president’s mouth. Not even the ones which are halfway coherent.

As for the rest of his “firing back” at his critics, there is only one way to interpret this:

These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America’s will.”

When Bush is under fire, he doesn’t wrap himself in the flag. He scurries to shield himself behind our servicemen and women. The troops didn’t misinterpret intelligence. The troops didn’t pressure our intelligence services. People aren’t disappointed in our troops. We are deeply disappointed in you, Mr. President. We are deeply troubled. Deeply dissatisfied. And we feel that it is your own deeply irresponsible conduct which has brought your approval rating so low.

Deflecting the blame is just par for the course.

[UPDATE: OK - I take it back. He wraps himself in the flag, too]

Posted by James at 12:45 PM | Comments (5)

Crockpot Condoms





Crockpot Condoms


Originally uploaded by drmomentum.

Sorry - I can’t look at these SLow-Cooker liners wihtout thinking the are really “Crockpot Condoms.”


You have to admit, it’s a much catchier title.


However, crockpot condoms are not cheap; these are 75 cents a pop. For htat kind of money, I will just soak the thing, thanks.

Posted by James at 11:10 AM | Comments (1)

November 11, 2005

Indieflicks

Karen of Verbatim notes that Empire online has posted a list of the 50 best independent films. Of. All. Time.

Copycat I am, I am going to follow her lead and post very brief comments on each of the films. Am I doing this for some sort of film-viewership cred? Hardly. I have seen a lot of films, but I can’t really lay any claim to having thought deeply about them. The truth is that I have been a fairly naïve film viewer over my career of movie-watching. If I were more serious it would probably be easier for me to write reviews.

And so we get to the real reason I am doing this. Because I have promised to write some reviews and I hope that this will be some sort of warm-up. With Netflix links. Star ratings (out of a possible 5) given for films I’ve seen.

50. El Mariachi - Personally, I wasn’t super thrilled. But it was fun. 3 stars.
49. Run Lola Run - I love this film, and the soundtrack. My full “Lola” review is on Epinions. 5 stars.
48. Cube - It was an intriguing horror film. Unique and a little frustrating. But that’s part of the horror. 3 stars.
47. Blood Feast - Never heard of it. I have enqueued it for completeness sake.
46. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre - A classic, obviously. Genre-influencing, so it is difficult to give it a star rating. It’s not a film I would rush out to see again. I’m not a huge fan. I will compromise at 3 stars.
45. Mad Max - Mel, you’re a nutjob, but I liked you as Max. I liked the sequel better. I give you 3 stars for this one.
44. Amores Perros - I really enjoyed this film’s creative storytelling. 3.5 stars
43. Shadows - Doesn’t really interest me. Haven’t seen it.
42. Swingers - Really good film. 4 stars.
41. Dead Man’s Shoes - Not available on Netflix. Figures, because it really sounds good. That’s an IMDB link instead. I’d like to see this film.
40. The Descent - Also not available on Netflix. Another film I’d like to see. 2005, so perhaps just not out on DVD. Brit horror. I hope this doesn’t mean they’re waiting for a crappy USA remake before releasing the DVD here. But I bet that is the case.
39. The Passion Of The Christ - Tempted to see it, just for the violence and zombie aspects. But, I’ll pass.
38. Grosse Point Blank - Couldn’t get into it. 2 stars. Sorry, fans.
37. Being John Malkovich - Inspired weirdness. 4 stars!
36. Buffalo ‘66 - enqueued.
35. THX-1138 - Good slow moving sci-fi. 3.5 stars worth.
34. The Blair Witch Project - 2 stars, just for the innovation and creepiness. But never makes it to scary. Just go out into the woods at dusk alone and you’ll be more scared than this film will make you feel. Ooo, and a cellar hole can be scary, too. Real life is scarier than the Blair Witch.
33. Shallow Grave - Gritty fun. 4 stars.
32. Two Lane Blacktop - Zzzzzz. What? Oh, no, not really interested.
31. Pink Flamingos - Not really interested, but I’ve added it to my queue at the bottom (in the hinterlands) where it will likely die a slow death. Netflix says I will like it. Eh..
30. Sweet Sweetback Baadasssss Song - Not a fan of 70’s blaxploitation..
29. Bad Lieutenant - enqueued
28. In the Company of Men - enqueued
27. Dark Star - I don’t remember ever seeing this, but I must have. Re-enqueued.
26. Lost in Translation - Great! 4 stars.
25. Drugstore Cowboy - Not really interested.
24. Happiness - Been in my queue forever.
23. The Evil Dead - Good cheesy horror. Sam Raimi is a master. 4 stars (yes, I’m rating harsh). I like some later stuff better, but htis is really creative.
22. Nosferatu - Powerful creepy! 4 stars. I was lucky to see this with friends at the Avon with the Alloy Orchestra live soundtrack performance. Mike gave me the audio CD last year because Mike rocks.
21. Roger And Me - Seminal documentary. A must-see. 5 stars.
20. Slacker - enqueued.
19. Lone Star - Sounds promising. Enqueued.
18. Withnail And I - Not interested.
17. City of God - Interested, but not sure I want to be upset by it. Enqueued anyhow.
16. She’s Gotta Have It - I don’t gotta wanna watch it.
15. Blood Simple - Liked it, but didn’t go ga-ga. 3.5 stars.
14. Stranger Than Paradise - Not yet available. Not yet decided whether I want to see it.
13. Memento - Loved it. 5 stars. Can’t remember whether I liked “Following” better.
12. Eraserhead - I will never forget seeing this in a midnight show with Rui at the Avon. Extremely disturbing, but it was fun to try to interpret it afterwards. A haunting 4 stars.
11. Bad Taste - I just have never felt motivated to see this.
10. Mean Streets - Just not enough time so see all these streety types of movies.
9. Sideways - Hated the characters, but thought it was really well done character film. 4 stars.
8. The Usual Suspects - Loved this movie - 5 stars. Put this on your must see list right now.
7. Sex, Lies, And Videotape - Just not my kind of movie. A frigid housewife, a philandering husband and a stranger who likes to videotape people and have sex? I grudgingly give it 2 stars.
6. Night of the Living Dead - It’s a seminal horror zombie film! Dirty secret: I’ve never loved this film. 2 stars. Only later did I enjoy zombie films as comedy crept into the mix. And then, of course, the new Dawn of the Dead.
5. Monty Python’s Life Of Brian - 5 stars, of course.
4. Clerks - 5 stars. Smith’s first movie is chock full of good Smith dialogue.
3. The Terminator - 5 stars. Horror/Scifi… Arnold and Cameron… what’s not to like?
2. Donnie Darko - I love this interesting take on a sci-fi idea. 5 stars.
1. Reservoir Dogs - Have only seen parts of it. I just don’t care. One of those films you know you’re supposed to watch, but I think I missed the boat.

Thanks for indulging me.

Posted by James at 10:02 PM | Comments (5)

Kung Fu Shotgun

  • The MoodGYM Training Program (health, psychology, online)
    • Cognitive Therapy is showing results against anxiety and depression lately. This specific online program is reported to have shown effectiveness in some research trials.
  • FAL.net - Horrton Hears a Heart (humor, literature, parody, writing, nostalgia)
    • What if you crossed E.A. Poe with Dr. Seuss?
  • TV Cream's Top 100 Toys (toys, nostalgia, history, 80s)
    • Nostalgia abounds in this list of the top 100 toys from the era of my childhood.
  • Paris Hilton doesn\'t change facial expressions (funny, animation, images, weird, wtf)
    • An animated image of Paris Hilton showing the exact same expression in a number of pictures. How does she do that?
  • occams_razor.gif (GIF Image, 320x70 pixels) (images, gif, atheism, philosophy, science)
    • It slices. It dices. It removes superfluous supernatural entities. (Animated gif from angry atheist site)
  • The Ministry of Unknown Science - Kung-Fu F--- You (funny, humor, video)
    • A master and his disciple face a bitter challenge in a lost art. Warning: rude gestures.
  • Mitch Hedberg: Letterman 2002 (humor, comedy, video)
    • Mitch Hedberg was a very funny man. A very troubled funny man, and it was sad to lose his talent. Here is one of his Letterman appearances. He is just a funny guy.
  • The Political Dance Party (flash, politics, humor, animation)
    • Semi-lame animation of "I'm too sexy" with political notables.
  • FREAKONOMICS BLOG (blog, science, news, economics)
    • The blog of the authors of the popular and excellent book "Freakonomics."
  • Copyright Website - Info (reference, writing, law)
    • Good site for copryight law. A reference, and a wizard to help you determine whether your intended use of a work falls within your rights.
  • I Will Survive (animation, funny, holidays)
    • A little pre-thanksgiving entertainment from a turkey.
  • Seventh Sanctum (writing, language, resources)
    • Tools for Writers, Gamers, Artists
Posted by James at 8:37 AM | Comments (5)

November 10, 2005

TV Viewing Public and TV Execs Declared Brain Dead

Fox is pulling its Monday 8 p.m. hour block of comedies “Arrested Development” and “Kitchen Confidential” for the rest of the November sweeps and is replacing them with repeats of the drama “Prison Break.”

I couldn’t care less about “Kitchen Confidential” but cutting back on Arrested development is comedy heresy.

That this show is not more popular is a testament to the vast wasteland of the TV viewing audience.

Fox has not ordered a full season’s slate of episodes for either show yet and is not expected to, TV Week said.

Really. I guess people want crappy shows. I think it’s great that “Prison Break” is doing so well. It’s a fun show. But they will be showing reruns of it, instead of “Arrested Development.”

Insanity. Is it one step from cancellation?

Posted by James at 7:53 PM | Comments (9)

Robertson's Warning for Dover

If I were to notify my readers every time Pat Robertson said something stupid, my fingers would heat up so quickly from all the typing that they would burst into flame and melt my keyboard.

However, once in a while, it’s worth some fun. And this is a 2-birds-with-1-stone post because as Thirdmate mentioned in the comments of the previous entry, there were victories against anti-science as well as defeats.

PHOOT!
On today’s broadcast of “The 700 Club,” Robertson told Dover residents, “If there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God.” The founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network explained, “You just voted God out of your city.”

Why didn’t they tell us in Sunday school that it was possible to vote God out of a city?

Well, look out folks. Because now that God has been evicted from Dover, he must be wandering around looking for a place to live. While I have sympathy for the homeless, I’m not sure this is a guy you want in your city. The way Robertson describes him, he’s a vindictive son-of-a-bitch. (Hat tip to The Plank)

Additional links:

Redstate.org laments that the Incoherent Design supporters were Republicans. What can I tell you?

Will the Kansas board face a similar revolution to Dover’s? We can hope so. I’m sure there are plenty of Kansans that don’t want their schools to be the laughing stocks of the nation. However, when you hear things like this incredible spin:

But conservatives are betting that the new standards, which don’t “ban” evolution, but critique the theory, won’t provoke the same reaction.

“What actually did happen was so innocuous,” said Judy Smith, Kansas director of Concerned Women for America, which supported the new standards. “It just allows for academic freedom for teachers, instead of dogma in science.”

…you realize that without the ridicule it simply will not sink in that Kansas Science™ is dug in and that sensible Kansans will be stuck in the dark ages without some help.

“I sure hope so. I hope that we elect a school board that has some notion of what science is.”— Walt Hull, blacksmith, Lawrence

We’re pulling for you, Walt. Best of luck.

And, to finish off this thought for now:

Senate Democrats pressed the Republican majority yesterday to complete a thorough investigation of the Bush administration’s handling of prewar intelligence, including alleged White House efforts to silence critics.

According to the Kansas Board of Education, the investigation into scandal in the White House is science, and Patrick Fitzgerald is a scientist! It’s not just science (say it with me, now) it’s Kansas Science™ can-I-get-an-amen.

Posted by James at 2:50 PM | Comments (6)

You and James Read the News

That wacky, wacky news.

No Swearing Needed for Oil CEOs

Not the profanity kind.

Big oil CEOs under fire in Congress

Even before the remarks got started, Democrats and Republicans debated whether the executives should have to swear to tell the truth before the panel.

Alaska Republican Stevens, head of the Senate Commerce Committee, rejected calls by some Democrats to have the executives sworn in, saying the law already required them to tell the truth.

Oh. OK. Right. Even though, according to Kos, even the baseball players testifying before congress were sworn in, during that whole steroids business. But, really, why bother?

Maybe congress felt sorry for them about the whole closing ANWAR thing.

Study finds more sex scenes on TV

Characters on TV are having sex more often -- in fact twice as often as they were in 1998 -- according to the Kaiser Family Foundation's biennial study Sex on TV 4, released on Tuesday.

What do you expect after putting all those Viagra, Cialis and Levitra commercials on TV?

Kansas to World: "I thought the jury was still out on science."

Kansas' criteria challenge evolution
In win for intelligent design advocates, school board rewrites science standards

In addition, the board rewrote the definition of science, so that it is no longer limited to the search for natural explanations of phenomena.

Let me clarify the insanity for you. Not only is Kansas going to teach ID, they're redefined science to include... well any darn thing you want. In Kansas schools, science is now simply any "systematic method for continuing investigation." So, if you're attending different churches to see which ones appeal to you the most... SURPRISE! You're doing Kansas Science™.

The less you know, the more stupider you get.

Health Experts Agree on Plan to Combat Flu Pandemic

The experts say they urgently need money to carry out their anti-flu pandemic programs. The United Nations is organizing a big fund-raising conference in mid-January in Beijing.

Unless you're planning to blow up the Asian flu virus, or torture it, I have a feeling you're going to have a hard time getting money from the US. Sorry, but trying to stop it by "disappearing" a bunch of chickens and turkeys is not sexy enough for TV. Next.

STD Alerts

St. Louis has worst gonorrhea rate in nation

Sorry to hear it, St. Louis. However, we in theSC (and Bay Staters in general) are not to be outdone.

Mass. issues alerts as STD cases multiply (a story from back during the summer)

A rare sexually transmitted disease has appeared twice in Massachusetts this year, at a time when chlamydia rates are rising and an increasing number of gonorrhea cases are drug resistant.

New trends in STD infections have prompted the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to issue three recent advisories: on gonorrhea, syphilis, and the rare lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV).

In actual good news, HIV rates are dropping in this state. Did I actually read that 1 out of 20 people in DC are HIV positive?

Trust US

Recently, our representatives told North Korea to shut down a nuclear reactor. And we stressed the building of trust:

"You know how you build up trust? You live up to the agreement," said Mr. Hill. "You come up with solid implementing schemes that enable you to move forward and show that what you've agreed to do in the agreement, you're actually doing and that's the best way to build up trust."

Why wouldn't they trust us, with our goodwill and diplomatic capital being at such an all-time high internationally?

Gee, I guess pissing the world off doesn't necessarily pay big, strong, influential dividends after all.

And this doesn't help, either:

VENEZUELA'S president has threatened to give Cuba and China F-16 fighter aircraft from his arsenal, insisting that the US has failed to fulfil its maintenance commitments for the combat planes. (via Scotsman com)


Lame-Ass Drama In Taunton

Teen charged with kidnapping former girlfriend in vehicle

An East Taunton teenager is charged with kidnapping after police say his ex-girlfriend had to jump from his moving car Tuesday to free herself from his jealous ranting.[...]

Machado's ex-girlfriend, a 19-year-old East Taunton woman, told police that Machado was driving aimlessly around East Taunton, shouting slurs at her because another man had called her on a cell phone.

Dude, check it out. You are lame AND in the newspaper.

And that's quite enough reading the news for now.

Posted by James at 9:02 AM | Comments (11)

November 8, 2005

Armchair Sadism

Riding in to the university this morning, I got a good dose of local radio. In the space of about 15 minutes I heard Barry (the late morning host) egg a caller on in his insistence that the Bush administration has not aggravated Muslim world opinion against the United States.

His supporting example was “look at the terrorist attacks before Bush was president” in specific, the 1995 nerve gas attack in the Tokyo subway.

OK, fella. Now Aum Shinrikyo (the Japanese death cult) are Muslims? Did Barry correct him on this? Forfend. I have never heard him correct an agreeing caller on even the most blatant mistake.

Soon after, a woman called in to support the use of torture. She happily said it was sometimes necessary, and when Barry asked what sort of torture she would recommend, she just laughed and said she wouldn’t make a very good torturer.

The conversation eventually turned to the riots in France and as Barry was making a point of his own, she interrupted him and joked, “Maybe if they tortured some of those people they wouldn’t have a riot.” Nice.

Finally, another caller wanted to weigh in on the riots and he rambled on for about 3 minutes trying to describe why he thought there had been a similar problem in Louisiana after Katrina. It was painfully obvious as he started out calling them “poor people” and then redacting and narrowing his definition to “poor people who don’t have any motivation to better themselves” that he was zeroing in on something. Like a bug circling a flame, he didn’t want to get right into it, but couldn’t exactly put his finger on what sort of person it was that he felt was responsible for rioting. It’s almost as if he had the words, but didn’t want to say.

Gee, I wonder what sort of person he was getting at?

I love morning radio. And “Armchair Sadists” are my favorite new demographic.

Posted by James at 11:14 AM | Comments (30)

November 7, 2005

Liberal Church? Here Come The Feds.

But he criticized the war in Iraq, saying that Jesus would have told Bush, “Mr. President, your doctrine of preemptive war is a failed doctrine. Forcibly changing the regime of an enemy that posed no imminent threat has led to disaster.”

On June 9, the church received a letter from the IRS stating that “a reasonable belief exists that you may not be tax-exempt as a church … ” The federal tax code prohibits tax-exempt organizations, including churches, from intervening in political campaigns and elections.

Question the war in Iraq, and the IRS come knocking.

Tell people how to vote based on the abortion issue, gay marriage or other conservative hot-buttons… heck, you’ll probably get some faith-based initiative funding!

In an October letter to the IRS, Marcus Owens, the church’s tax attorney and a former head of the IRS tax-exempt section, said, “It seems ludicrous to suggest that a pastor cannot preach about the value of promoting peace simply because the nation happens to be at war during an election season.”
Posted by James at 2:25 PM | Comments (9)

November 4, 2005

Sawed-Off Shotgun

Kaput’s memorial is going on on campus today, and I overslept this morning. So, in a bit of a pinch. Shotgun today is sparse.

So, Mike suggested something: Sawed-Off shotgun! Maybe once a month I give you a much abbreviated list of links, and you folks put in your favorite Friday finds in the comments. Come on, you know you’re surfing the web on Friday. Might as well share the wealth.

So, here we go. A few to start you off, including a contribution from Bob McC.

Posted by James at 1:11 PM | Comments (7)

November 3, 2005

You and James Read the News

(Yes, you do. Not much in the way of amusing headlines today, however.)

Riots in Paris

Don’t skip over this entry. It’s not “Rugrats in Paris” — it’s “Riots.” Seven straight days of riots in Paris suburbs and, even though I’ve turned on CNN and Fox a couple of times (a couple of times more than usual) I haven’t seen this story on TV in the last 7 days. After a week, though, we’re finally seeing some of it.

I think if there were similar riots in New York it would be reported all over the world. The news media baffles me.

Nonsmoking actor puffed up to 50 cigarettes a day

Apparently, David Strathairn took up smoking because cigarettes were an important prop in his role as Edward R. Murrow.

News Flash: a lot of people smoke because of their jobs. But not too many of them take up smoking while playing a guy who died of lung cancer in his 50’s.

Democrats Seek a Shift to Issues That Will Favor Them

When Republicans are doing any sort of political maneuvering, it’s always hidden under some rock somewhere and lately seems to involve breaking the law. When Democrats practice politics, it’s headline news.

King Kong Looks Awesome

OK, it’s not really news. It’s a web trailer. But still. Peter Jackson, a giant ape and Naomi Watts. What’s not to like?

Fake Drug Doesn’t Need Trademark Protection

Panexa is a fake drug.

The two fellows who made it up can’t sell parody T-shirts of it on CafePress because CafePress is afraid it violates a trademark… What? The lawyers must have told them to shoot first and ask questions later.

Posted by James at 9:29 AM | Comments (15)

November 2, 2005

Closed Session Antics

I wish I had time to post about this closed session move on the part of Senate Democrats. Here’s the short version though:

Now that you’ve found your cajones, I hope you don’t lose them.

If you’re not up to speed on the closed session of congress, and the hissy fit that Bill Frist threw, all you really need to know is on Fafblog, in an entry I would have written if I could have.

In short, you should enjoy as much as possible watching Republicans who whine about congress being “hijacked” for an investigation of why we went to war. After all, just recently we had congress hijacked because of one person in a persistent vegetative state. Frist had a front row seat for the video, remember?

Where was the worry then that we were not having the people’s business done? Frist, sit down and stop whining.

Posted by James at 1:37 PM | Comments (1)

November 1, 2005

Halloweekend

Jack O' Lit A rundown of this last weekend in bite-sized pieces, and nice stuff people did for me.

Thursday

Sara and Laura took me to lunch at the Olive Garden. Sara discovered sangria. Later, after work, Sara, Sharon and I visited iParty for costume stuff and I began to realize that I probably was not going to be able to pull off a Captain Jack Sparrow when Sharon kept suggesting women’s clothing and I got a mental picture of how that was going to look. A Haloween costume is supposed to be scary, but not that scary.

Thursday night’s plans were completely messed up by pub-closings and people backing out, but we ended up at the Irish Immigrant where my “friends” told the band I was having a birthday. Therupon I was compared to two girls who were turning 21 and told “This guy is forty-two.” Happy Birthday. Somehow, I limited myself to two Guinnesses and 1 “PBR.” It was a good time, but I won’t be rushing out to drink Pabst Blue Ribbon any time soon.

Friday

While the kids were having a Halloween party with the Junior troop, Stephen (as always) suggested “Kelly” cosmos at “Not Your Average Joe’s” after work. We discussed various crises and drowned a sorrow or two. Stephen dissed one of the Non-Kelly bartenders when she offered to make him a cosmo. Ouch.

The rest of the night was spent chilling at home. Everyone was exhausted from the week before, and from frustrating people.

Saturday

I worked a bit during the day, K and Maggie had Junior Jubilee and were away. When M and I finally got out of the house to do an errand or two, I got most of the way to the mall and realized the car was running on gas fumes and needed fuel. Sadly, I had forgotten my wallet.

Scrounged all the cash in the car to buy gas to get back to the house to get my wallet. I think the appropriate phrase here is “smooth move, Ex-Lax.”

After successful shopping, we made it back home within about 10 minutes of Julie arriving, and then Maggie and K right behind her. It was time for the first pizza-making of the season.

K's first pizzaJulie presented her invented drink, the VOxie, and I didn’t hate it, but I liked it about as much as I like Moxie. It’s been nearly 20 years since I’ve had the stuff last, and I don’t feel like I’ve been missing anything. The first time I had it, I was working at Shaw’s on Plymouth Ave in Fall River and I thought “I have to try that!” I soon discovered that it was not very good warm, and cooling didn’t numb the taste buds enough. But I’ll give you this – VOxie is a warrior’s drink. But I think prune juice and rum are more my speed.

We talked about my cousin’s cool new set of poker chips, and how heavy they are in their rather small case. Julie had carried a heavy present in the house and she handed it to me to use as a prop, because it was about the same size as my cousin’s poker set case. And it was heavy.
As I blathered on about poker chip weight, Maggie and Julie kept straight faces. But I’m sure had a good inward laugh at my expense. When I unwrapped the gift it was, of course, an awesome set of weighted poker chips. I had really had no clue, but is that so unusual?

We invented the Dr. Momentum. Which will get its own post.

K made her own pizza, and was proud of her creation, but also generous.

We relaxed until K got sick later in the evening from not-too-clear causes. This puts a lot of stress on Maggie and the night was effectively over. To quote K: “That looks like my pizza.”

SNL was so-so, but Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were back to their form in Weekend Update.

Sunday

Sturbridge Trick or Treat Our original plans to celebrate my birthday in Sturbridge were canceled because we thought K was sick. However, as the day wore on we realized she was well enough to enjoy the “Things That Go Bump” festival at Old Sturbridge Village. So, we high-tailed it west and met up with Maggie’s family for a night on the town in the 1840’s. There were many attractions to occupy our attention such as juggling, storytelling, magic, dressing up, a living gargoyle, 1200 Jack O’Lanterns, and kettle corn. Trick or treating commenced while we soaked in the ambiance of a pitch-dark OSV.

Maggie did a great job with the hair styling for M’s Leia costume, and K was the perfect little witch.

We sang to the radio in the car all the way home to cap off a very enjoyable birthday outing.

At home I was greeted by numerous on line well-wishes from friends and acquaintances.

Monday (Hallowe’en)

Work, of course. I was the only one in the office who bothered to suit-up in costume. C’mon, people!

Sara and Sharon gave me my office birthday card, with various signed exhortations to have fun and/or work harder and/or use chemicals to forget work. And, awesome penguins on the front.

When I got home, it was time to hit the neighborhood. At 10 and 8, my daughters have a much larger range for trick-or-treating. And the weather was good. This meant: more candy than any previous year.

We quickly moved from house to house, and their little containers were too full after only a few. Of course, a number of the houses were fairly throwing the candy at them. I think people were getting a little less foot traffic than they expected and were fearing having to stare-down an overabundance of goodies. Or, it could be that they were just very generous folks.

One woman saw the overabundance in their little baskets and fetched empty plastic shopping bags for them to transfer candy into. This afforded us a dangerous increase in candy-carrying capacity.

We returned home literally weighted down with sugar, barely able ot raise an arm to wave at friends encountered on the road.

But now it was time for pumpkin-carving. And seed-roasting. This went more smoothly than usual, and we went for a skull motif.

Jack O' DarkAfter carving our Jack O’Lantern, we install it in its honored place on the mantle, turn off the lights and tell scary tales. K told a very long, rambling story about evil, haunted pumpkins and magic pumpkin seeds.

I tried to tell 3 old scary tales I knew, but was met with “we know that one” every time. Time to get some new stories. They even knew the Vanishing Hitchhiker. So I went a little older and gave them the hook-handed murderer story, which K told me was going to give her nightmares. I said “don’t worry, it’s only a TRUE STORY!”

That’ll teach them to diss my scary tales.

The kids were also excited to finally give my my birthday presents. I have plenty of Jeeves to read, among other fun gifts.

It was a good birthday/Halloweekend.

Posted by James at 7:51 AM | Comments (9)