March 31, 2006

Lazy Shotgun Blues

Posted by James at 9:46 AM | Comments (6)

March 30, 2006

Hair of Doom!

If you liked the cheerleaders in curlers story, you’ll love this new one.

Straight-A Student Pulled From Class Over Hair Color

Be sure to click the story to get a look at the hairstyle, then come back here.

Shocking, eh? Clearly a threat to education.

What is with these principals?

Posted by James at 3:02 PM | Comments (10)

DWD: Driving While Dissenting

Woman Gets $100 Ticket for BUSHIT Bumpersticker

“When he approached the car, he had his hand on his weapon, and I was in my nurse’s uniform with a stethoscope around my neck. He asked for my license, and then said, ‘Any idea why I stopped you.’

“I said no.

“ ‘You have a lewd decal on your car.’ ”

Georgia SJC struck down its lewd bumpersticker statute 15 years ago. So, yeah, this was an attempt to squelch free speech. “I’ve had enough of this Bushit” isn’t actually lewd in any case.

If you’re lucky and you get pulled over for your bumpersticker, maybe the police find a legitimate reason to ticket you.

Posted by James at 9:08 AM | Comments (16)

March 29, 2006

Audubon Supports Cape Wind

In 2003, I posted about the Cape Wind project. Back then, my friends brought to my attention some concerns about the project related to possible impact on avian wildlife.

Mass Audubon studied the impact and has come back with a position:

The Massachusetts Audubon Society has given preliminary support to a proposed wind farm in Nantucket Sound after studies allayed concerns that the farm’s turbine blades would cause significant harm to birds.

Jack Clarke, advocacy director of Mass Audubon, said extensive studies conducted during the last four years showed that sensitive species, including endangered roseate terns and piping plovers, generally avoid the 24-square-mile footprint of the proposed project.

“Our preliminary conclusion is that the project would not pose a threat to avian species,” Clarke told The Boston Globe.

That’s great to know, and makes me feel even more strongly that we need to try this alternative fuel generation. It’s not completely unqualified support, and studies are still being done. But they also acknowledge the need for more environmentally-friendly power generation that helps all species on this planet.

I hope this means there will be more support in the future for this project. It’s especially startling to me that there has been such opposition to something like this far off the shore and really not in anyone’s backyard, yet Weavers Cove LNG has gotten very far with their plan to put a huge LNG tank across the river from me and will be filling it with tankers which require traffic to be halted a few times a week.

Posted by James at 4:41 PM | Comments (7)

Wiki Wednesday

It’s Karen’s blog meme. I don’t usually do memes, but what the heck.

Peat swamp forest
Peat swamp forests are areas of land where the peat, created by the leave compost has become a boggy marsh and the forests are resposible for this. However vast areas of forests are being logged at incredibly high rates.
This ecology-related article is a stub. You can help Wikipedia by expanding it.

Without peat, you don’t get Scotch whisky!

Posted by James at 4:00 PM | Comments (4)

Poor Tom!

Poor Tom DeLay! Here’s the newest burble of fine Republican whine:

Earlier, the former House majority leader told activists he agreed with their premise that there is a “war on Christianity. “Our faith has always been in direct conflict with the values of the world,” DeLay said. “We are, after all, a society that provides abortion on demand, has killed millions of innocent children, degrades the institution of marriage, and all but treats Christianity like some second-rate superstition.”

No, Tom. Some people who call themselves Christians choose to practice it like it’s some second-rate superstition. And I daresay a few bad apples are doing whatever they can to spoil the whole bunch.

Hint: your apple is looking rather bruised, Tom.

Not to belabor the point, but I know plenty of Christians who are uncomfortable with imposing their beliefs on others, and who don’t think the state should take the place of their god by enforcing their god’s rules as law. The problem arises when people like you think that controversial subjects should be decided by what you think the Bible says. If Christians don’t believe in having abortions, they won’t have them. Nobody is forcing them.

So when you stop practicing your religion like you’re the mullah in some country that follows sharia law, maybe you’ll see things differently.

(P.S. This whole thing smells like a man grasping at support after being wounded by scandal. Smells like desperation. Poor Tom.)

Posted by James at 8:33 AM | Comments (7)

March 28, 2006

The Anti-Gay Bigotry Gloves Come Off in Tennessee

Gay couples adopt to molest says TN Representative

“We also have seen evidence that homosexual couples prey on young males and have, in some instances, adopted them in order to have unfretted access to subject them to a life of molestation and sexual abuse,” she said.

“In all cases to paint with a broad brush strokes is unfortunate,” said adoptive parent Dr. Christopher Harris.

Harris is a pediatrician by day and a single gay adoptive parent by night.

“She brings such joy into my life,” he said. “It’s always said pediatrician doesn’t finished his training till he or she has a kid.”

Harris fits every requirement for the state’s definition of a good adoptive parent: loving, healthy and financially stable. He is also gay, and for Maggert, that means he’s unqualified.

She has about as much proof of this as she has that hetero couples adopt specifically to molest children. This is outrageous. Of course, she bases her opinion of “facts” from James Dobson’s insane/inane “Focus on the Family.”

This level of anti-gay bigotry is shocking to see in a congressperson. But it shows that people are willing to take one attribute and discriminate to push their own moralistic agenda. If it were more socially acceptable to discriminate against some other group, like hispanics, blacks, electricians, left-handed people or whatever, you’d be seeing the same sorts of abuses there.

If there is a method in place to vet adoptive parents, there is no reason it shouldn’t apply equally to all prospective parents. This is a huge load of BS, and on extremely shaky logic to boot.

Posted by James at 2:14 PM | Comments (13)

Lyricritical - Splinters

Every week, I will post a snippet of a song lyric. One verse or so. There are two ways to play.

  • For your left brain: Try to identify the lyric (without a Google search). Guess artist, or artist and song name. It’s OK to be wrong. It’s just a stupid game.
  • For your right brain: The more important half of the game. Pause for a moment and give us a one-word impression of the lyric. This word could be how the lyric makes you feel, your assessment of the lyric, criticism of the lyric, praise of the lyric, whatever. It’s your one-word impression. Simple. Just pause for a second, think and come up with a word from whatever stream of consciousness is running through your brain. (OK - you’re going to need help from your left brain for this one, too).

Feel free to only play one way or the other if you don’t feel like playing both.

And watching lovers part, I feel you smiling
What glass splinters lie so deep in your mind
To tear out from your eyes with a word to stiffen brooding lies
But I’ll only watch you leave me further behind
Posted by James at 9:07 AM | Comments (10)

March 27, 2006

Bush Iraq War Then and Then

“You say we’re headed to war [in Iraq]. I don’t know why you suggested that,” he said. “I’m the person who gets to decide, and not you.” - Bush, Dec 31 2002
But behind closed doors, the president was certain that war was inevitable. During a private two-hour meeting in the Oval Office on Jan. 31, 2003, he made clear to Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain that he was determined to invade Iraq without the second resolution, or even if international arms inspectors failed to find unconventional weapons, said a confidential memo about the meeting written by Mr. Blair’s top foreign policy adviser and reviewed by The New York Times.

BONUS UPDATE:

From the same article linked above:

The memo also shows that the president and the prime minister acknowledged that no unconventional weapons had been found inside Iraq. Faced with the possibility of not finding any before the planned invasion, Mr. Bush talked about several ways to provoke a confrontation, including a proposal to paint a United States surveillance plane in the colors of the United Nations in hopes of drawing fire, or assassinating Mr. Hussein. [emphasis mine]

This is the aspect that Dave mentioned in the comments on this post.

Our president has few qualms about whether he ought to get the war started, but how was under discussion. And fooling you into thinking Saddam had attacked first was one of those ways.

You’re just along for the ride.

Posted by James at 8:29 AM | Comments (5)

March 26, 2006

Look, I'm Blogging

So, I’ve got this blog thing. And I thought I would post on it.

Friday

So, after work on Friday ( *”after work” is just an expression we use on our project; it doesn’t technically exist) I called into Keri’s show and answered one of the trivia questions. It was the first time listening that I actually knew an answer (actually knew 2 of the answers - when it rains, it pours). This entitles me to a prize of some sort, and accolades which I will hang on my wall at work next to Lady Ada Lovelace.

In any case, I must have missed the part about when I could pick up the thing, but I decided to stop by the station anyhow on my way to Stop & Shop and home. When I got there, the place looked closed-ish, but since there were a number of cars in the lot I rang the doorbell anyhow. I later found out was a pretty obnoxious and earsplittingly loud buzzer. [Mental note: better to show up during more reasonable hours.]

An older gentleman opened the door for me and told Keri I was there. She must have wondered what sort of lamer was showing up after work hours. (See note above about how I have had the concept of “work hours” drummed out of me) Anyhow, she was gracious and gave me a look around the station. The New Bedford station that shares the building was broadcasting a show, but the offices were pretty quiet otherwise.

The view from the back of the station is Brayton Point Power Station. You know, it may be one of the top polluters in New England but the view of the power plant and the river in the near pitch blackness of night is oddly impressive. Like a weird cardboard cutout floating out there with blinking a light here and there. The two radio towers are pretty noticeable as well. It gets pretty dark over the river.

So Keri and I talked for a while, and it was great to meet her. We traded stories and stuff. Soon we are going to have to have a Aces Full meetup of some sort. I like the idea of a picnic, but the weather just isn’t ready for that yet. Some other suitable venue will need to be chosen and a date cleared.

BTW - I hate the phrase “meet and greet” except when used for humorous effect. So I won’t use it, except for humorous effect. Just saying.

And when I my jabbering ran low, I wandered off to Stop & Shop. So it turns out that if you show up where someone is, you meet them. It’s almost like that’s the definition or something.

Saturday

Saturday was K’s Birthday. She and Maggie were off at the GSA “Flurry” most of the day. M and I played the kid’s version of Monopoly. I felt bad, because I won both times. If you’re unfamiliar with the kid’s version of Monopoly, it’s pretty much completely a game of chance. So much so that you cannot possibly throw a game. Unless you reverse-cheat.

Is reverse-cheating (i.e. dumping some of your money back to the bank) any worse morally than purposefully throwing a game so your daughter can win one? I think it’s important to play games that your kids have a chance of winning, and perhaps playing games less ruthlessly helps kids to gain some confidence. But if you blatantly throw a game, that doesn’t really help them much. First of all, a smart kid will likely figure it out.

That’s why I like Fluxx (the card game). It’s easy to have cards that will win the game for you in one or two turns, but if you play slightly unwisely you can delay the game and your kids can figure out a way to win in the meantime. It’s really a prolongation of the game and not, technically, throwing it. The subtle ethics of kids games.

When everyone got home, my in-laws came over and we had angel hair pasta and salad. And K opened her gifts.

Once everyone left, K and Maggie went to sleep and M and I stayed up to watch Zathura on DVD.

Sunday

Typical lazy Sunday. In other worlds, I alternated between lazing around and working, once breakfast was over. Breakfast was pancakes for the girls. It was Meet the Press, Irish Breakfast tea and fried eggs for me. And then I watched “The Phantom Gourmet” reveal details about Boston sandwich shops. This place “Kelly’s” sounds good. When are we making a field trip? I guess the closest one is in Natick. “The Real Deal” in Roxbury has also been recorded for future reference.

After looking at all the good choices for sandwiches in Boston, I wonder why the heck I ever step foot into Subway, except for the fact that the sandwiches are somewhat reasonably priced. But holy cow they have a lot more good choices for sandwiches there than we do around the university in Dartmouth. Note to self: twist some arms and convince everyone to go to get Riccardi’s takeout one day this week. Eggplant parmesan sub, please.

The girls all tried out inline skating in the driveway. They are braver than I am, I think.

I wasted the day working when I probably should have been playing or doing something to the house or getting ready to do my taxes. You might call that dedication. We call it just part of your normal low productivity week. Yeah, I think my brain is melting. There was a time when we had times of not-so-intense working in between the times of intense working. You know, recharging, letting the brain be creative. Some of my best ideas occurred during those times, puttering around with an idea for a few weeks. Wonder where those times went? (insert toilet flushing sound)

Never mind that.

Visited my folks, returned here. Once the girls were done with their own tasks, piano, homework, cello, off to bed they went. Maggie prepared her lecture notes and I put on Office Space in the background as I contemplated possible changes to this weblog. Instead of doing the taxes… which probably wouldn’t take me long anyhow.

It’s late. I’m tired. But I’ll feel better about the day if I can slip in a viewing of Good Night, and Good Luck.

This I now attempt. I’ll let you know what I thought about it tomorrow. If I have time.

G’night.

Posted by James at 11:43 PM | Comments (14)

March 24, 2006

THE TV HAD BETTER NOT BE ON HGTV Shotgun

  • Dick Cheney’s Suite Demands - March 23, 2006 (funny, wtf, politics)
    • If Cheney stays in your hotel, he wants all the lights turned on. You know, to flush out the boogeyman. I think the CIA got in there and redacted the word “blanky.”
  • He Really Likes His Dell (humor, funny, video)
    • QVC patron gives us TMI about how much he likes his Dell computer.
  • Don’t Shoot the Puppy (flash, game, fun)
    • This is one of the more bizarre ideas for a game I’ve seen in a long time. You’ll figure it out as you go along, if you have the patience to. But the gist is: don’t shoot the puppy. It's harder than you’d think.
  • Fedex T-shirt (clothing, funny, humor)
    • It’s a strange idea. A t-shirt that makes it look like you’re always carrying a FedEx package.
  • AtomFilms: The Wand (animation, flash, video)
    • What happens when a wand can grant you anything you wish?
  • Attention and sex (thought, lifehacks, philosophy)
    • Controlling your attention rather than shattering it is the key to deeper experiences and a richer life. Now how do I get rid of all these distractions? I think I’m addicted to them.
  • Spore Gameplay Video - Google Video (video, advertising, game)
    • A video (on Google) demonstrating the game called Spore.
  • Spore (game, videogame)
    • This game looks incredible. Evolve from a spore, to an animal, to a spacefaring race.
  • Ironic Sans: Idea: Pre-pixelated clothes for Reality TV shows (humor, tv)
    • Save the reality tv show producers some effort. If you find yourself on camera, make sure your sponsored garments have their logos pre-pixelated.
  • Babble: The Ultimate Word Game (game, social)
    • It’s Boggle, online, against the whole world! A new puzzle every day.
  • How To Make a Secret Hollow Book: - How To Do Stuff (diy, howto, security, tricks)
    • Cool! Make your own hollowed-out book for hiding your stuff. Not really rocket science, but maybe a fun Saturday project. I bet a kid would love something like this. I may make them for my daughters.
Posted by James at 9:19 AM | Comments (13)

March 22, 2006

Gummi Worm

I should probably give up trying to make up drinks. I don’t drink enough to try out a ton of variations and really refine them. But I have a stubborn creative streak and this weird idea that one of these times, I’ll create a drink that someone says “Hey - that’s really good!’

So. The quest goes on.

The Gummi Worm

  • 1.5 oz gin
  • V8 Splash Mango Peach
  • 1 oz sour mix
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters

Half-fill a collins glass with ice. Add the gin, sour mix and bitters. Stir. Fill the rest of the glass with the Mango Peach V8 and stir again carefully.

Keep in mind, I am just on the upswing from my cold and recently lost my sense of smell.

Well, it seemed like a good drink last night, but I’ll wait for independent verification. Maggie just made a face when she tasted it.

Posted by James at 11:12 AM | Comments (33)

The Peril of Jug Bands

We’ve been busy in the office, but in the afternoons we keep Keri’s show on and listen.

Yesterday, as she was interviewing the Bristol County DA and when she asked him about the increase in gang violence in Fall River, he talked about some of the problem coming from Boston and then we swear he said something about these young troublemakers forming jug bands.

Jug Bands?

Ryan and I could scarcely believe it. I broke into the chorus of “Barbecue.” We went back to work thinking we’d heard wrong. Maybe he said “drug bands” or “drug gangs” or something.

But apparently not. He actually did say “Jug Band.” He may have meant “rap group.”

In any case, we wary of neighborhood kids looking to put a hole in the washtub!

(As Julie pointed out, we had a conversation about jug bands this weekend. Which is why I thought I was hearing things. I thought it was just lodged in my mind from a previous conversation. Nope, it was just synchronicity.*)

Later, she interviewed someone in the neighboring office (Let’s call him Mr. B). When the interview was over and he was walking down the hall, I tried to make eye contact and say “good job” because we have very few opportunities to interact and he’s the only person in his office that we don’t have a warm relationship with. His staff is always very friendly, but I don’t think he likes us. I caught his eyes, and just as I was starting to nod and say “Hey, good job in the interview and who was that nut who called and was all on your case about a previous casino study? What a wanker he was.” Mr. B darted off back to their side of the house. I’d barely gotten to “Hey.”

Oh well.

  • I don’t believe in synchronicity. It was coincidence. )
Posted by James at 9:11 AM | Comments (21)

March 21, 2006

Moldy Crackers

Bob McC sent me this story, which I found interesting after watching “The Atomic Cafe” this weekend with Julie and Maggie. (Maggie has a brief description and review of the film on her website)

From the story:

Workers inspecting the structural foundations of the Brooklyn Bridge have uncovered a Cold War-era trove of basic provisions that were stockpiled amid fears of a nuclear attack.[…] The estimated 352,000 Civil Defense All-Purpose Survival Crackers are apparently still intact, said Joseph Vaccaro, a supervisor at the city Transportation Department. The metal water drums, each labeled “reuse as a commode,” did not fare as well, and they are now empty.

Mmmm. Nothing like patriotic civil defense crackers!

[UPDATE: Oops, forgot the link to Maggie’s review when I first posted this.]

Posted by James at 2:12 PM | Comments (8)

Lyricritical

OK, time for a new game. This one is really easy. (and dumb maybe, but my brain is mush at the moment and maybe this will stimulate things)

Every week, I will post a snippet of a song lyric. One verse or so. There are two ways to play.

  1. For your left brain: Try to identify the lyric (without a Google search). Guess artist, or artist and song name. It’s OK to be wrong. It’s just a stupid game.
  2. For your right brain: The more important half of the game. Pause for a moment and give us a one-word impression of the lyric. This word could be how the lyric makes you feel, your assessment of the lyric, criticism of the lyric, praise of the lyric, whatever. It’s your one-word impression. Simple. Just pause for a second, think and come up with a word from whatever stream of consciousness is running through your brain. (OK - you’re going to need help from your left brain for this one, too).

Feel free to only play one way or the other if you don’t feel like playing both.

NOTE TO LURKERS: I know you’re out there; I read the server logs. If you’ve been waiting to participate, now is the time. At the very least, it’s a one-word comment. Live a little.

This week’s lyric:

I don’t know were we are
Fearful eyes don’t see very far
Drivin’ in my daddy’s car
Ashtray full of his cigars
Posted by James at 8:39 AM | Comments (25)

March 19, 2006

Take a Number

US evangelicals warn Republicans

At a news conference in Washington, some of America’s most influential conservative leaders said the current perception among evangelical Christians was that the Republican majority was not doing enough for them.

Join the club. As far as I can tell, he’s not doing enough for anyone. And when he does stuff, he seems to screw it up. So, I guess it’s debatable whether we really want him to do anything.

But let me add: what a bunch of whiners. They got their president and still whining.

In other news, I thought this article, though critical of Bush and conservatives, was a fair commentary on criticism about who has the ideas that will improve the country. Republicans lately cast themselves as a party of ideas, while criticising Democrats for a lack of ideas. Chait points out that it is political power, not ideas, that translate into action and change.

Posted by James at 10:16 AM

March 18, 2006

Snowclone

I’ve had lots of snowclones, and didn’t even know it.

A snowclone is a way of re-using an idiom via a familiar formula to create a new idiom — the form is a cliché. And it’s something that my friends and I do a lot.

The formula would be something like this: Dammit, Jim, I’m a X, not a Y.

You vary the X and the Y to create new versions.

I’m pretty sure my friends have come up with a snowclone, varied a snowclone, and exhausted a snowclone all in one night. See the Wikipedia list of snowclones.

Posted by James at 10:07 AM | Comments (2)

March 17, 2006

Extraordinary Maneuvers

The Coast Guard is concerned about changes in the Weaver’s Cove LNG plan. More than concerned. “The waterway appears to be unusable in its current state.”

This is good news for people opposed to LNG. Read the full PDF, provided by friends in the media (thanks, Keri). Barney Frank has also put it up on his site.

Posted by James at 10:56 AM

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!

Get thee to an Irish pub.

OK - I likely won’t be anywhere near an Irish pub today, despite being Irish on the paternal side. Work. Then home. Maybe some Jameson. Yes, the cold is feeling a little better.

Around this time, 11 years ago, we were awaiting the birth of my daughter and I wrote a bunch of limericks for a Guinness/The Cheiftains/Air Lingus contest. And I won! The prize was a bunch of Cheiftains CDs and some Guinness. Sadly, no trip to Ireland.

Slainte!

Posted by James at 10:48 AM | Comments (3)

Combat Wayback Machine

As you read about the largest air assault since the Iraq war began, why not take a moment to reflect?

Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.” - President George W. Bush, USS Abraham Lincoln, May 1, 2003

And, while you’re at it, think about the people who swallowed it hook, line and sinker.

And think about how, according to people like Chris Matthews, we enjoy the fact that we got what we voted for. We got what we wanted.

“We’re proud of our president. Americans love having a guy as president, a guy who has a little swagger, who’s physical, who’s not a complicated guy like Clinton or even like Dukakis or Mondale, all those guys, McGovern. They want a guy who’s president. Women like a guy who’s president. Check it out. The women like this war. I think we like having a hero as our president. It’s simple. We’re not like the Brits.” - (MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, 5/1/03)

I’m not completely sure, but I think he was trying to compliment “the Brits.”

[BONUS: Media Matters covers how the media has basically ignored Bush’s flip/flop on the subject of timetables. What kind of protection is this, that the media is offering? Allow the president to beat his detractors over the head with dire predictions about the effects of timetables, until the White House completely flips on the issue. Under cover of darkness.]

Posted by James at 8:00 AM | Comments (3)

Dipsomania Shotgun

  • Welcome to Flow in Games (flash, game, simulation)
    • Weird game in which you direct a simulated organism, feed yourself and try to evolve.
  • Chowhound.com: For Those Who Live To Eat! (cooking, food, forums, reference)
    • A board for everything food related. How did I not know about this? OMIGOD. Now I am doomed.
  • Windows Live Local: Somerset High School (maps, photography)
    • A birds eye view of my high school alma mater. You can see the courtyard. Amazing. Scroll around to look at how the baseball game is going, and how many people are playing tennis. Windows Live Local has spotty coverage in my area, but it’s pretty amazing where it does have coverage.
  • MS Ipod Parody - Google Video (tech, design, video, humor, funny)
    • What if Microsoft had designed the box for Apple’s iPod? This video was actually an internal Microsoft video before it escaped.
  • Watch The Scientology Episode "South Park" Creators Say Hayes Is Quitting Over… | The Huffington Post (comedy, satire, video)
    • Hayes didn’t have a problem when other belief systems were skewered. But, very sensitive when it comes to Xemu and the body thetans. Nutfudge. Watch the episode.
  • Monty Python’s Silly Walks Generator (viral, fun, humor, flash, animation)
    • Build your own silly walks and share with friends!
  • Boston Cocktails (blog, boston, local, alcohol, drink)
    • A good Boston-based blog discussing alcoholic drinks. It’s a fun, informative read for anyone interested in amateur mixology. And maybe dipsomania.
  • Jack Handey on Art (art, humor, article)
    • Jack Handey gives his (humorous) comments on what sort of art he’d like to see.
  • Beautiful Earth Desktop Image Generator (earth, astronomy, science, art, images)
    • Use this website to generate beautiful images of the Earth in day and night, fit for wallpaper on your desktop.
  • Google Mars (google, maps, science, astronomy, robotics)
    • Google maps… Mars!
  • Happy Mars Face Crater (funny, photos, astronomy)
    • This Mars crater is just happy to be there. Or is this evidence of optimists on Mars?
  • Cheney's Got a Gun (animation, flash, funny, politics, satire, video)
    • Bob Rivers puts the veep in his sights with this song/Flash animaiton.
  • Hellbound (game, flash, fun)
    • As you fall into the bottomless pit, try to jump on the heads of the other guys. Don’t get caught at the top or touch the bottom of the screen, though.
  • The Torn-Up Credit Card Application (privacy, security, humor)
    • This is why you should OPEN AND COMPLETELY SHRED every credit card application you get. With a shredder. Because even a ripped up application can be used to get a new credit card… sent ot a different address!
Posted by James at 7:56 AM | Comments (11)

March 16, 2006

Iraq Disconnect

Conservatives are liberal on Iraq

I was listening to a snippet of the Laura Inghram show the other day, and she was all excited because when she went to Iraq (the woman can’t go three minutes on her show without mentioning that she went to Iraq, and she seems to repeat it to every caller) she brought back a letter condemning John Murtha for his recommendation that we pull our troops out of the country.

Old news is new again!

Anyhow, she was also praising a 60 Minutes report on Iraq which showed the good that the soldiers are doing for the country, and how nice the troops are to the kids and such.

(The big bad liberals want you to think that troops are hitting Iraqi kids in the face with the butt of a rifle and such, of course.)

I know lots of people in the military and they’re great people. I have no doubt that we’ve got troops in Iraq treating kids with respect and kindness, and no doubt that there are troop-friendly Iraqis. But amid all her cooing over how great things are in Iraq, a huge disconnect hit me.

People Helping People

There are lots of reasons to help people. There are reasons of emotion (compassion) and there are reasons of practicality (helping people helps society and in turn helps everyone). Here in this country, we argue back and forth about how best to help people. Some forms of help are more likely to succeed than others, and peoples opinions vary.

Conservatives often argue heavily against social programs that help people in this country. Sometimes they even get quite adamant about it. They say we shouldn’t have safety nets and social programs because because people will become dependent on these social programs.

One of the reasons that we do help people in this country escape poverty is that poverty makes your country weak. If you want to attack a country from within, what do you do? You find the impoverished and disenfranchised and offer them something that the mainstream society isn’t offering them. This is similar to how gangs form. Add a charismatic leader and you might end up with a bunch of malcontents looking to cause some serious trouble. They might tell people it’s a good idea to blow up a federal building or the Olympics or whatever. An impoverished population can breed terrorists more efficiently. It’s not the only reason we help people, but it’s a darn good reason to quell poverty.

Over Here, Over There

So now we have the same argument applied to Iraq. Laura was saying on her show (effectively) that the Iraqi people are now dependent on our help and they will fall victim to terrorism if we leave.

Supporters of the war would say that a little differently than I did. They would say “if we leave too soon.” Implying there is progress and an eventual end. But when they reference progress it always seems to be the rebuilding of stuff that Iraq already had before we invaded. And that is a strange sort of progress — toward getting things to be more like before the war. When Iraq had a terrible dictator (a threat to his people) but was not a breeding ground for terrorism (a threat to Iraqis and the whole world). I don’t like dictators, but America drove out its king when it was ready, not when some other country decided it was ready.

So, here’s the disconnect. Why do the president’s supporters think that government help of the type that produces dependencies is suddenly effective when you apply it on the other side of the globe? This change of heart should have resulted in war-supporters throwing a ton of support behind more help for the poor in this country. More education to help people to stay out of poverty on their own. More programs which would keep this country strong. Because we know our own people a heck of a lot better than we know the Iraqis. And we have a heck of a lot greater chance of crafting programs that will help people without necessarily causing long term dependency on the government.

Noise

On the other hand, it seems increasingly likely that we will leave Iraq less stable than when we found it (admittedly, minus a terrible dictator) and possibly with a government that cannot prevent terrorist breeding grounds from flourishing.

So why do they argue this philosophy only in places where it seems the least likely to work?

At the very least, I’d be happy if I never had to hear about how bad social programs are from people who continue to support the war.

I do know some people who seriously consider themselves conservatives and do not support the ongoing fiasco. It’s the ones who call themselves conservative and have swallowed this Iraq foreign policy claptrap that I can’t figure out.

Posted by James at 10:22 AM | Comments (7)

Overheard Between Me and My Blog

Blog: “Good morning.”

Me: “Bleh. cough

Blog: “So, um, did you read Unbecoming Levity yet today?”

Me: “Ah, no. I got out of bed and stumbled over to the keyboard here. I don’t have a computer hidden in the bedroom so, no, I didn’t read Chuck’s blog yet.”

Me: [Surfs over to Chuck’s blog.]

Blog: [Looks dour]

Me: Oh, crap. [Checks the Aces Full archive archive for January. Scrolls down to January 13. Nada.]

Blog: You don’t love me anymore!

Me: Happy belated 4th anniversary?

Posted by James at 8:03 AM | Comments (12)

I'b Thick

Ugh. Maggie has had this cold for over a week now, and the kids had it on and off (in school, out of school, repeat). Now, I have joined in the fun!

I usually take the pharmaceutical route and drug myself up but good so that I can go to work. But I’m a zombie and everything is sort of hazy. And that’s only from one little antihistamine!

Blah. Blech. Blech, I say!

Posted by James at 8:00 AM | Comments (11)

March 14, 2006

Spying Isn't Just For Terrorists

It’s also for pacifists.

ACLU Releases First Concrete Evidence of FBI Spying Based Solely on Groups’ Anti-War Views

Two documents released today reveal that the FBI investigated gatherings of the Thomas Merton Center for Peace & Justice just because the organization opposed the war in Iraq. Although previously disclosed documents show that the FBI is retaining files on anti-war groups, these documents are the first to show conclusively that the rationale for FBI targeting is the group’s opposition to the war.

Emphasis mine.

So, disagree with the administration and get the FBI on your case. If that isn’t a blatant indication that things have gotten out of hand, I don’t know what is.

The government is investigating people who

  1. Haven’t committed a crime
  2. Are not suspected of being terrorists
  3. Are not known to associate with terrorists.

“Well, why don’t we all just agree with the president then” is not an appropriate answer to this problem.

[Bonus Link: Flash animation on spying]

Posted by James at 2:16 PM | Comments (10)

Pi day

HAPPY PI DAY!!!!

Posted by James at 1:59 PM | Comments (4)

March 13, 2006

Article 3 Amended and Passed

The town meeting was very interesting.

The rules of order of a town meeting are an experience in themselves, and take some experience to follow, but it didn’t take long before the structure became obvious. Some people in the audience had a little difficulty (especially at the end) but the moderator did a good job keeping people on the subject.

The short story is that the people of Somerset passed the article to contribute $25,000 to support the legal battle against siting LNG right across the river from our town.

The article (#3 out of a total of 9 articles for the evening) passed.

There was some discussion over the wording of the article and how it would be funded. Ultimately we voted to amend the article to remove “taxation” as a source of funding (they can’t raise funds for this contribution by raising taxes at this point). Instead, the funds would come from “undesignated funds” and perhaps from state or federal grants, such as from Homeland Security. I’m not sure what the chances are of such grants, but there it is.

Here is the first page of the meeting’s warrant.

I have used strike through to show the amendment (wording as close as possible from my scrawling notes) to article 3.

Article 1 also resulted in some discussion. There was some dispute over the use of $10,000 to help settle an appeal in a conflict between the planning board and (I believe) the zoning board. I was having some trouble following that. However, we amended that article to remove the $10,000 appropriation, which upon later comment was revealed to have contained some money that would have been used to prepare the legal fight against the LNG pipeline which will pass through the town. Oops — perhaps the meeting voted a little too quickly on that one.

I took some notes, but I’m never going to be a star reporter. I am not familiar enough yet with who is who. But I guess there is time for that.

in any case, support at the meeting for keeping Somerset in the LNG fight seemed strong. Does that mean more activity against LNG at future meetings? I guess we’ll see.

Posted by James at 8:11 PM | Comments (13)

Town Meeting in theSC

I haven’t been very involved in town politics. Even though I have lived nearly my entire life here since we moved to Somerset when I was 3 years old.

There are various reasons for that, but suffice it to say that I have been intensely focused on other things (both important and trivial) most of the time.

Now, as our children move through the school system, we have started to become more a part of this community rather than just existing here as residents. Maggie, especially, as she has volunteered in the schools and lead scout troops. We get the town paper, and I read it every week. And I’m not always impressed with the town leadership.

Now this LNG (liquefied natural gas) issue is heating up. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission wants to allow a company to put an enormous LNG terminal right across the river from us, in Fall River. Local communities all have something to lose if this plan is successful.

As I look through the paper and listen to the local radio station, I’m not seeing the local outrage over LNG translating into action on the part of our elected officials. That goes for our representation in the state house and senate, and at the town level.

There is a perception in “The SouthCoast” that there are people in the state (on Beacon Hill) are looking to screw over this area of the state. It’s OK for landfills, giant roman candles and such, but when it comes to a rail system and economic improvements, they forget we exist.

More on all of that later, I’m sure.

But tonight there is a town meeting which will include a decision on funding a legal defense against this LNG site. I will be attending because it’s time I got more familiar with how the town is run. And I’d like to see what the town leadership has to say about what it is doing to make sure that a disastrous plan does not come to fruition. They’d better have something interesting to offer.

Posted by James at 12:33 PM | Comments (2)

March 12, 2006

I'm Easy

That stupid Burger King commercial with the guy trying to ride the giant chicken… “big buckin’ chicken…” I admit I laugh at it.

And in the end, when the chicken is chasing around the rodeo guys… that cracks me up.

Yes, the stupid giant chicken chasing around cowboys to a soulful accompaniment may not be genius, but look at those feathers fly. Surreal. It would be even better if the chicken caught the guys.

Yes, I know it’s an ad. Yes, I know I’m falling for their evil plot to amuse me.

Wanna fight about it?

Posted by James at 12:05 AM | Comments (1)

March 11, 2006

Bush Aid Was Stealing, Gets Arrested

Lauded for his strong conservative values, Claude A. Allen was nominated by President Bush to sit on the nation’s most conservative federal appeals court. And if democrats hadn’t raised questions about his nomination, he’d probably be sitting on that court today.

Instead, he was the top domestic policy advisor to the Bush administration.

And during his time in control of the White House’s domestic policy (Bush likes to delegate, so you can assume his top aides had quite a bit of power) he was buying items from Target stores, hiding them in his car, returning to the store to get another one and then using his receipt to return the second one and get his money back. Not just expensive stuff, like stereo systems. He did the same with items as cheap as $2.50.

The Police Department said that as a result of an investigation it opened after the initial incident in January, it found that Mr. Allen had received refunds of more than $5,000 last year at stores like Target and Hecht’s. Mr. Allen was arrested on Thursday and charged in connection with a series of allegedly fraudulent returns. The police said he was charged with a theft scheme over $500 and theft over $500.

Back in January, after store employees caught him engaging in his scheme, he resigned his position as White House aid. “To spend more time with his family.

Maybe Mr. Allen considers the Montgomery County Police part of his extended family. Who knows. But we do know that the first rule about conservative values is don’t get caught practicing them.

I’m not a doctor, so I can’t say for certain that this guy was pathological. But is it really that surprising that Bush put a kleptomaniac in charge of domestic policy?

If you pay off your credit card debt, you might be investigated for being a terrorist. But if you have a tendency to steal from Target, you can still make it past the White House background check.

Posted by James at 9:10 AM | Comments (3)

March 10, 2006

Lame Duck Shotgun

Weekly list of diverting and/or interesting links. Quite sparse this week. A lot going on. Not as much time for surfing.

  • Platial.com (maps, social, tools)
    • Map marking! Create marks that tell people where important things are and/or where important things happened to you.
  • Alt Number Combinations (productivity, reference, tech, windows)
    • Microsoft has the lamest possible interface for accessing nonroman characters and diacriticals via the keyboard. If you choose to use the Alt key, this page of 4-numeral codes will be useful to you.
  • The Elements, by Tom Lehrer (flash, science, funny, music, physics, animation, fun)
    • Classic song "The Elements" but illustrated with some animations.
  • YouTube - Real Life Simpsons Intro (video, tv, parody)
    • This is neat. The Simpsons intro, but re-done with live actors.
  • Splash Back - get all of the globs off the screen by pumping them (game)
    • This was a good productivity sink for me. It's a little bit like a puzzle. But with slime.

One more link, in the hope this will make it easier to find in the search engines:
* Opposition Site to Weavers Cove LNG in Fall River

Posted by James at 7:36 AM | Comments (9)

March 9, 2006

Say This 5 Times, Fast

“Lawrence’s synchro-cyclotron produced the first man made mesons.”

Posted by James at 8:29 AM | Comments (5)

Faith-Based Homeland Security

What?

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to help the Federal Government coordinate a national effort to expand opportunities for faith-based and other community organizations and to strengthen their capacity to better meet America’s social and community needs, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Establishment of a Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives at the Department of Homeland Security.

(a) The Secretary of Homeland Security (Secretary) shall establish within the Department of Homeland Security (Department) a Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (Center).

No need to worry about terrorists anymore. Homeland Security has so much time on its hands, we’re going to use it to break down the barriers between federal money and church activities.

And I thought I was going to make it through the morning without a WTF? moment.

[PS: For those following at home, we have 3 recent examples of how Homeland Security is protecting us from the terrorists.

  1. Shaking envelopes of mysterious powder out the window
  2. Putting the breaks on teachers’ credit card debt payoffs (and here)
  3. And now, taking on the task of funneling tax money to churches.

Busy days for Chertoff and associates. And, again, glad to see terrorism and civil emergencies are not keeping their plates full.]

Posted by James at 8:21 AM | Comments (4)

Penny Decay

I thought this was cool.

My daughter’s 5th grade science class is doing “elements” so the teacher has assigned them all an individual element on which to write a report. K asked for “a hard element” (I have no idea why) and so she was assigned “lawrencium.” Great. Other kids are writing reports on how important copper and iron and oxygen are — what the heck do you say about lawrencium?

Well, she worked it out. But along the way she had to understand radioactive decay.

She found an experiment on the net that demonstrates how “half life” works.

Basically, you put one hundred pennies in a box, face-up. Then, close the box and shake it 5 times to randomize the pennies. Since the pennies only have 2 states (heads and tails) they should approximate being half heads and half tails after any session of shaking.

You open the box, remove the “tails” pennies (these are the pennies which have decayed) and repeat the experiment until all the pennies are gone. If, at each step, you count the remaining pennies and plot them on a graph, you see an exponential curve go from 100 to 0. If each session of shaking is considered a half life, you see how many half lives it takes to get rid of a radioactive substance if you have 100 atoms of the stuff.

Sometimes, that last atom refuses to decay for a few half lives! But that’s the fun of probability.

Repeat the experiment a few times and you see that the pattern always arises — it’s not just an artefact of your first trial.

And she loves that she was able to show me an experiment. Goofy experiments are nothing new in our house (See static electricity fun), and I think this upcoming summer is going to bring more of them. We’ve got plenty of experiments and engineering stuff (robotics, water rockets, a mini jet engine I found in Make magazine, the hydrogen rocket my in-laws bought me which I haven’t had a chance to try yet…) upcoming in the next year. With plenty of pictures, I expect.

(PS: The static electricity demonstration I linked to above was from almost precisely a year ago. March must be the beginning of weird experiment season in our household.)

Posted by James at 7:33 AM

March 8, 2006

Immy on Thurs

Pssst. The word on the street is, we’re going to toast Sharon’s birthday at the Irish Immigrant in New Bedford on Thursday (tomorrow!) night, from around 9-ish on. If you like to celebrate, you’ll be there.

It’s a secret, so don’t tell Sharon. Or anyone.

(PS - maybe dinner at TKs first around 7-ish then wandering to the Immy afterwards)

Posted by James at 1:27 PM | Comments (3)

Asking For It Part II

Two points I wanted to elevate up to the level of blog post.

  1. Study Warns Women About Spring Break
    • So, now that women have been warned, any woman on spring break who is beaten, raped and killed will be said to have been “asking for trouble.” At least, by the mentality of a certain radio show host and the people who agree with him.
    • (see comments on this subject in the earlier post)
  2. Hypothetical: If a talk show host says things that perpetuate a lack of respect for women, and those words have the potential to upset a lot of people, and some of those people get really angry, then by choosing to express his opinion, was he “asking for it” when some loony kidnaps, tortures, beats, rapes and kills the guy?
    • This is why I have a problem with that sort of opinion. It leads to some pretty stupid places. A talk show host, or anyone expressing his opinion, has a right to express that opinion. Even if the opinion is ignorant or contemptible, they have a right to express it without fear of violent crimes perpetrated on them as a result. And if they do fall victim to some violent person, they deserve not to be blamed for it while the violent act is, in part, rationalized.

(BTW - for those following along at home, the answer to the hypothetical is “No.”)

Posted by James at 12:44 PM | Comments (11)

Behind the Curl

Cheerleaders at Somerset Middle School who wore curlers in their hair Friday were required to remove them because Principal Elizabeth Ponte said they were a “distraction to the educational process.”

I have to wonder about this. If you read the story, it comes off sounding like anything that the cheerleaders do that differentiates them from other students lands them in trouble with the “distraction” rule.

My main concern in school is whether the kids can concentrate and learn. And, having been in schools and having seen what the environment can be like, I understand well that students are inundated with distractions. And concentration on school work can be a problem.

But I can’t shake the feeling that this is a bit of an overreaction. And I want to know whether the same rule has been applied to other groups. Hypothetically, what if the football team were to shave their heads before a game in a show of solidarity? Would they be sent home because baldness is a distraction and you can’t glue your hair back on?

When I was in school, cheerleaders and the field hockey team wore their entire uniforms, as far as I can remember. I suppose times have changed in the 26-or-so intervening years.

What do you folks think? Overreaction? Or is this a case of “it’s already tough enough for them to focus to begin with?”

Posted by James at 7:50 AM | Comments (39)

March 7, 2006

Asking For It

I’ve just uploaded a new post to Thing of Ugly — the co-blog I share with Maggie.

It’s called “Asking for Some Respect” and it deals with the issue of whether a woman who is beaten, tortured, raped and murdered is “asking for it.”

And what it reveals about the thinking of some people.

Surf over there, why don’t you?

Posted by James at 4:42 PM | Comments (5)

You and James Read the News

You didn’t ask for it. But, dammit, you’re gonna get it. My take on a short stack of news. As always, an uncomfortable mix of the serious and the humorous. (image by Chad Miller )

Many of these stories deserve their own post, but I am pressed for time.

Contents:

  • Ex-FEMA director admits errors, calls for Chertoff’s resignation
  • Germans Selling Powdered Alcoholic Drinks
  • Homeland Insecurity
  • Troops: Don’t Read the Liberals!
  • Pay Your Debt? You’re A Suspected Terrorist!
  • Grand Theft Taunton
  • Taunton flasher ‘aggressive, brazen’


Ex-FEMA director admits errors, calls for Chertoff’s resignation


“I should have owned up to the public very early in this disaster — probably on Monday and Tuesday — that’s how catastrophic it was, how serious it was, and that we were going to have problems,” Brown said.
New take on Brownie: Bush was propping him up because he knew the full depth of White House incompetence and couldn’t get out of its way. It must really have rankled him to have the nation coming down on his head and seeing the White House take little of the flak off him for their role in the screwups.

Germans Selling Powdered Alcoholic Drinks


And experts are worried about the possibility of abuse , especially in minors.

You know me, I’ll try lots of weird foods. But they’re never going to make a powdered Gin and Tonic as good as B.O.B. and Patti serve. Never.

Homeland Insecurity


What’s the protocol for handling an anthrax threat in the offices of the Department of Homeland Security?

If you said “Shake the powder out the window” then you shouldn’t be surprised at this story.

An envelope with suspicious powder was opened last fall at the headquarters. Daniels and other current and former guards said they were shocked when superiors carried it past the office of Secretary Michael Chertoff, took it outside and then shook it outside Chertoff’s window without evacuating people nearby.

The scare, caused by white powder that proved to be harmless, “stands as one glaring example” of the agency’s security problems, Daniels said. “I had never previously been given training … describing how to respond to a possible chemical attack.”
Chertoff, dude. You gotta lock that down.

Troops: Don’t Read the Liberals!


Wonkette is reporting that the Marine web has something in common with the Chinese government (as my friend Brian I. put it). They filter content that is politically objectionable to the current government.

If marines want to read Bill O’Reilly’s website, or catch a dose of Rush Limbaugh, it’s all good. But try surfing Air America Radio or Al Franken’s website and they are blocked. The reason given? “Forbidden, this page is categorized as: Internet Radio/TV, Politics/Opinion.”

Opinion considered harmful.

Pay Your Debt? You’re A Suspected Terrorist!


Walter Soehnge learned that the government is keeping tabs on us to such a degree that you can’t even pay off your credit card debt without Homeland Security getting involved. It’s not just that they get notified… it’s worse.

When Walter decided to pay off his credit card debt to the tune of $6,522, something odd happened. The money never made it to the credit company.

They were told, as they moved up the managerial ladder at the call center, that the amount they had sent in was much larger than their normal monthly payment. And if the increase hits a certain percentage higher than that normal payment, Homeland Security has to be notified. And the money doesn’t move until the threat alert is lifted.
It would be a bummer if you got hit with a surcharge as a result, wouldn’t it? As did Edie Booth.

Upon calling the credit card company, Booth was told that Homeland Security would not allow her to make two payments from two different sources in the same day.

Booth was then slapped with the $140 overcharge for causing the hard working boys at Homeland so much inconvenience.
Let’s call it the Chertoff Stupidity Tax.

Grand Theft Taunton


Sometimes, reality is more ridiculous than a video game. As when two Providence women were fleeing police after allegedly shoplifting in Taunton.
When the suspects’ vehicle reached the ramp to westbound I-195 at about 80 mph, Mitchell said, it “bottomed out, flipped over and crossed three lanes of 195 west, ending up in the median strip on its side, facing east.”
See, when ridiculous stuff happens in Fall River, it’s not always Fall River’s fault. But now do you see why we in the Bay State are so critical of you Rhode Island drivers?

Taunton flasher ‘aggressive, brazen’


Apparently, a crazy fellow is wandering around the mall in Taunton, cornering women and exposing himself to them. This is just gross, but I feel the need to warn my local readers.

He’s driven up close to women, sometimes cutting them off, and then doing something that is, thankfully, unspecified, which includes exposing himself to women and children.

So, look out folks. The guy is getting more daring, he’s possibly using a stolen license plate, and I worry that this could escalate as he tests the waters for what he can get away with.

Posted by James at 11:53 AM | Comments (8)

March 5, 2006

Attaboy, Kevin

In less than a year we have now lost another of the original people on our project. Last July we lost Jim Kaput — the intellectual father of the SimCalc Project. This weekend we lost Kevin Zeppenfeld — the man he chose to manage his brainchild.

Kevin, the manager of a number of Kaput’s projects, fought with characteristic tenacity against cancer. But after a long battle, King Kev (the moniker he sometimes used) is now at rest.

I thought I’d take this opportunity to reflect a bit. Read on, if you’re interested.

Kevin’s way of thinking was very systematic. In the first days of the project, I remember Kevin as a guy who had processed the wisdom of the world into rules about how best to proceed with different situations. Order was important to him, from the plastic ties he would use to organize computer cables to his frequent use of the process of elimination. He liked things ordered, organized and under control.

He worked hard. His dedication was evident to everyone. He carefully managed the money of the project, but somehow did this without seeming stingy. He was generous enough with resources so that we all had cutting edge technology to stay familiar with where the world was going. When Palm Pilots looked like they were going to revolutionize handheld devices, he didn’t just order one for the project. He got them into our hands so we were using and thinking about how to use handheld devices, which led to ideas about miniaturizing our software product. He knew that this would feed innovation, and it did precede our creation of a calculator version of our software. He also knew that up-to-date equipment would simply make things go more smoothly, and help us to be more productive.

He expected other people to perform to high standards. But he also believed that fair rewards followed hard work. This led to dedication when we were pursuing a goal. Thankfully, those early days were a healthy mix of crunch activity and opportunities to regroup, reflect and use our imaginations.

Productive imagination was always one of the themes of our project from early on. We were always more concerned about results rather than the restrictions that were placed on us. From early on we focused on getting those results by doing what was practical and necessary. This was due, in part, to Kevin’s practical-minded influence.

His approach to dealing with people outside the project who could help us was often an interesting mix of practical and personal. When someone helped out the project, they’d find that they, too, were rewarded (maybe with some of their favorite beverage - an “attaboy” as we came to call it).

When you returned a piece of work to Kevin, you could be certain that he would respond with a comment or criticism. That was because he considered it his job to scrutinize the work and come back with a comment — any comment — to show you he had checked the work. He stayed involved at that level, even when he was deeply into other things. He admitted to sometimes slipping an error into his work just to see if you were paying attention, but I never really knew for certain if he was serious about that.

A lively, hands-on approach, Kevin made him an irrepressible personality, and it was impossible not to notice him if your world intersected his. He tended to do memorable things because he was confident in himself and that his high productivity gave him leeway to be himself. On one humorous occasion, Kevin was having password trouble with the financial management software at the university. He called up computing services to reset his password, but their system also actually let them see the existing passwords. The lady who helped him saw what the problem was right away and told him that a typo is what was tripping him up. She said to him, “Kevin, ‘bigboobs’ is has only two ‘o’s in it.” The incident didn’t embarrass him at all, as far as I could tell. Passwords were supposed to be secret, after all, and I wouldn’t put it past Kevin to use a memorable, risqué password just to find out if anyone else had access to it. Kevin had a bit of deviousness to his problem-solving.

Kevin used to keep his grill under the back deck stairs at the office. In the summer time we would have cookout lunches. Kevin would visit the local warehouse store and buy a bunch of steaks. Grilling steaks was one of his notable skills. After marinating them he’d toss them on the grill and in no time there would be a platter literally heaped with beef in our office. Friends of the project would be filing through to eat and to discuss our work and our progress.

Kevin and Kaput were partners in crime, often heavily involved in projects outside of work in addition to their professional association. Some of these projects would rise to the level of domestic adventures, something you might read about in a fictional story. If they had a video camera handy, they’d chronicle their exploits. At the yearly Christmas party, you could rest assured that Kevin would pull out that year’s video and you would witness, firsthand, the time they attacked Kaput’s barn. Or you’d be gazing at footage Kevin captured of Jim perched atop a cherry-picker truck. You’d be treated to a view from the imagined “Kaput Tower” which they wanted to erect over Dartmouth as a future base of research operations. Kevin added fuel to the fire of such plans.

We would hear about his home life often in the early days. His obivous love of being a family man would suffuse his stories, even when he would recount, with exasperation, how his family adopted a dog against his wishes. We’d commiserate as he would give advice to younger members of the project on the dos and don’ts of family life.

Kevin was true to himself, and his illness did not change his approach to work and life as far as I could tell. He continued to be involved with the project to an extent well beyond what could be expected, considering what he was going through. On a number of occasions he risked comfort to be personally involved, (his immune system was very sensitive late into his illness) until it became obvious that it was also impacting his long term health. I choose to remember Kevin as I first met him, on a project with a close-knit group of people, driven to follow their ideas.

For his role in helping us to achieve all that we have to this point, Kevin deserves a steak and an attaboy.

Attaboy, Kevin.

Posted by James at 8:56 PM | Comments (14)

Fan Mail

Yay! Time to reach into the mailbag!

From: xxxxxx@aol.com
To: Me
Subj: (no subject)

Your are nothing but a miserable pathetic little man who has nothing better to do with his life then to spew lies about the so called conservative media. why don’t you go one on one with Bill Oreilly so the world can see you for what you really are. A misguided fool.

Dear loving reader,

Thanks for sending in your well-considered and eloquently expressed “thoughts.” Here at Aces Full of Links, we employ a crack team of researchers to vet our articles for entertainment value. However, we understand that sometimes articles will not be enjoyed to their fullest extent in certain cases. For best results, make sure you are compatible with the following requirements:

We work hard to bring you the best blog possible, but we’re only half of the equation! Thanks for your understanding.

Sincerely,
Dr. Momentum
Head Sanitation Engineer
Aces Full of Links

Posted by James at 7:26 PM | Comments (11)

March 3, 2006

I've Got Hangups

Simple politeness is just that, simple.

I get wrong numbers all the time. It’s no problem. I’ve gotten wrong numbers on my phone at work at the university and I’ve actually helped people find the right number (if they were trying to reach someone on campus and didn’t have a directory). It’s not much trouble to extend a little courtesy.

Most of the wrong numbers I get just say “Oops - sorry. Wrong number.” And I say “OK, no problem.” And we both hang up.

But lately I’ve been getting more calls where I pick up the phone, there is somebody there, they listen to me say “hello” and they just pause for a few seconds… and then hang up. Yep - I get hangups.

Show some courtesy, people, please. At home we get these calls all the time. I got one of these calls on my cell phone today from California. click! Thanks. Yesterday I got a call from another extension on campus (in fact, I think it was somebody I KNOW although he might not have known I was on the other end, because his phone might not have a display) and I considered calling the extension back.

I have done that, on occasion. Called someone back. “Hi - I just got a call from this number. I was wondering if there was a reason for it.” Then I get a “sorry, it was a wrong number.”

A society with caller ID is a polite society!

Posted by James at 3:04 PM | Comments (1)

The week in thanks

Thanks, Mike, for leaving a bottle of port at the house when you came last weekend. Port can smooth out a rough week. Thanks, Portugal, for producing port. Thanks to whomever imported it. Thanks, Maggie for not knocking me on the head for spilling port on the rug. Twice. Thanks, Gonzo, for making the stain disappear. Thanks to cousin Bob for the durian candy, and for not thinking any less of me for not finishing it. Thanks Sharon and Ryan for taking the challenge and not holding that bad taste in your mouth against me (I hope). Thanks Keri for mentioning the site on the air. I have to assume that this is the reason that someone in the Taunton area actually recognized my picture of a jar of pickled eggs on my Flickr photostream, and left a comment. For that matter, thanks to all my comment-leavers here and in Flickr, because otherwise I’d be talking to myself. (lurkers, feel free to unlurk!) Also - the folks who send me links and news: Bob McC, Patti, Julie, Mike…

Thanks to “Woo” or whoever that little person was, waiting for me at the door when I got home last night.

It’s an incomplete list, but it’ll do.

Posted by James at 1:25 PM | Comments (4)

Krispy Sugary Shotgun

As we do every week here on Aces Full, here is your “shotgun post.”

It’s Friday, so let your productivity slide into oblivion as you surf these links.

Posted by James at 1:20 PM | Comments (1)

Crispy Goodness

Made some Rice Crispy Treats last night. And, of course, I had to take a bunch of pictures because, what else do you do when you’re the only person awake in the house?

Check out the photoset for the running commentary, or view it as a slideshow.

If you look online, you can find tons of variations on the recipe.

Here at Aces Full of Links, we’re all about the food.

Posted by James at 9:14 AM | Comments (13)

March 2, 2006

Dawn of the Durian

Durian HuskLast night I was at my cousin Bob’s house. He told me that he’d been saving soemthign from his trip to California that he wanted me to experience.

We went out back onto his porch, in the freezing cold, and he showed me this studded, brownish husk, about the size of a football. He was careful only to touch the outside, and when another friend of ours tried to touch the inside, Bob warned him off, vehemently. “Don’t do that or you’ll never get the smell off you!”

“What the heck is this?” I asked.

“It’s a durian,” he replied, as if I knew what that was. But I did know what it was, because as the smell wafted in my direction, it occurred to me.

“It’s that fruit that smells like a corpse!” I exclaimed.

OK, that’s not quite accurate. I’ve never actually heard a durian described as corpse-smelling. However, that’s not too far from the truth.

A durian is a southeast Asian fruit known for its hard shell, its soft creamy inner lobes and the pungent smell it emits. To quote wikipedia:

the ripe flesh is a complex hybrid of volatile sulfurous compounds, including ethyl mercaptan (C2H6S), and some of which are unidentified. These compounds oxidise upon exposure to air and are responsible for the unusual odours that develop. Due to this odour, it is forbidden to bring durians as hand luggage onto aircraft belonging to some airlines, to carry them on Singapore’s Mass Rapid Transit system, or to store or eat them in many hotels.

Ethyl mercaptan is a thiol — a volatile, noisome compound that the human nose can detect in very small quantities. Thiols are responsible for the smell of skunks and rotting corpses. Natural gas is odorless, and for safety reasons they add mercaptans to it so that when small amounts leak into your home, you know almost right away.

Bob told me that he had saved one of the lobes. It was in a cooler next to the husk. With a weight on it.

He removed the weight. He opened the cooler. The smell hit me and I began to feel an urge to gag. It was actually inside another container. He opened this container, revealing something that was wrapped in foil. As he picked it up, I said “you’re going to touch that thing???”

At this point I was coughing and gagging. I have a particularly sensitive olfactory sense, but this was just plain overwhelming.

As he unwrapped the foil I expected it to just fall out. But it was actually still sealed inside a plastic Ziplok bag! “Do not open that thing.” And, it was frozen. And it still stunk.

Later, he offered me a durian-flavored candy. I have a reputation to uphold, so I ate one. I lasted about 15 seconds until I’d had enough.

The taste of the candy was sweet with a strange rotten overtone. Once it is in your mouth, the smell is distinctly “gas leak.”

Bob gave me a bunch of the candies, which I brought into work today. Only Sharon and Ryan have been brave enough to try them. Ryan kept a straight face through his experience. Sharon looked pretty offended by the flavor. They both spit the candy out. There just really is no reason to subject yourself further to the flavor once you’ve figured out the experience.

But they spit the candies in my office trash, and that was a problem. A few minutes later I was starting to gag from the smell. I grabbed the trash bag and took it out to the dumpster. The smell still lingered a while, so I lit a Yankee Candle.

“Don’t burp.” - Sharon R.

It’s just as bad when the flavor comes back on you.

I have a few of the candies left. Anyone want to try one?

Posted by James at 11:22 AM | Comments (16)

Do They Make Levees Against Public Opinion?

Caught on tape: Bush’s advisors warning him about the severity of the upcoming storm:

In dramatic and sometimes agonizing terms, federal disaster officials warned President Bush and his homeland security chief before Hurricane Katrina struck that the storm could breach levees, put lives at risk in New Orleans’ Superdome and overwhelm rescuers, according to confidential video footage.

Caught on tape: Bush telling everyone that everything is going to be OK.

Linked by secure video, Bush expressed a confidence on Aug. 28 that starkly contrasted with the dire warnings his disaster chief and numerous federal, state and local officials provided during the four days before the storm.

Afterwards:

In an interview Thursday on “Good Morning America,” President Bush said, “I don’t think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees.”

Yeah, we knew he was lying through his teeth before, but now we actually have video showing that people were specifically warning him about what was going to happen. See, what Bush mean to say was “I don’t think anyone listened to the warnings about the breach of the levees.

Posted by James at 8:26 AM

March 1, 2006

Warning: This Post Might Please You Secularly

The New York Post’s Page Six gossip column reports that cable network Showtime has picked up 26 episodes of the canceled cult sitcom Arrested Development. The show was axed by Fox after three seasons of Emmy-winning hilarity due to perennially low ratings. Neither network had anything to say officially.

Is there hope for the goofy show? Will lovers of the show have to get Showtime? Will we wait for the DVDs? Is there anything to this rumor? Stay tuned.

With “My Name Is Earl” and “The Office” out there, good comedy will not completely disappear from TV. However, we will welcome Arrested Development back with open arms!

“What do you expect, mother, I’m half machine! I’m a monster!” - Buster Bluth

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

Losing Battle

I’m still not completely decided on this Dubai port deal. However, I do think it’s shady that we will be allowing details about port security to be distributed internationally. It doesn’t seem like we ought to be doing that no matter who owns the port.

Details of this story aside, it is very difficult to avoid feeling a measure of schadenfreude at how this has blown up for the administration. They have sown Arab distrust. They have played up any whiff of terrorism for the maximum political gain. They are addicted to mentioning 9/11, and especially like to bludgeon their opponents with the phrase “post 9/11 world.” To see this come back to bite them on an issue that wasn’t even on the radar screen two months ago is, at the very least, informative. And a little validating.

Come on — don’t say you don’t feel it, too. For years Bush has stuck to demagoguery and jingoism as his two favorite food groups. His supporters ate it up. And now he’s had a helping of a similar recipe served up to him, and he’s going to have to finish his plate. Unpracticed at using a veto (he hasn’t seen a right-wing-congressional spending bill he hasn’t liked) he whines that he’s going to stretch his atrophied muscles for this.

Except, when you’ve been weakened by repeated dumbassery (yes, I just made that up) your congress isn’t counting on your support in the upcoming elections:

New Jersey Rep. Jim Saxton said Wednesday that Republicans can override any veto from President Bush regarding legislation that would halt the pending sale of shipping operations at Port Newark and five other major U.S. seaports to an Arab company.

Even if they can’t override the port veto, some people have plans to thwart it in other ways.

The people don’t give him the benefit of the doubt. As Tim Russert said on Sunday “there were four fundamental judgments made by the administration. One: There would be weapons of mass destruction found. That is not the case. Two: We would not need large numbers of troops to occupy Iraq for years on end. Three years in, we still have 130-some thousand troops. Three: We’d be greeted as liberators. And four: That the Shiites, the Sunnis and Kurds would all come together and unite as Iraqis and not break down into tribal or sectarian warfare.

Even as the President’s supporters try to spin the failure of those four judgments, they know that they are spinning. They know that, fundamentally, Bush misled us. And that’s why they’re largely not willing to give Bush the benefit of the doubt. Like it or not, they’ve come to know him at least as well as the rest of us.

That, at least, feels like validation. And the fact that the president is experiencing blowback as a result… in this mess of a situation we find ourselves in, I admit it is small comfort. But it’s there. Bush will go away eventually and we all inherit the mess. But at least his supporters know he screwed it all up, even if they can’t say it.

Posted by James at 12:15 PM

Mitt Romney's Abortion Opinion Wayback Machine

I had so much fun with “Now and Then” with the president, I thought I’d try a little bit of the same with Gov. Romney.

Then: (Feb 1994 - Running for Senate against Kennedy)

I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country. I have since the time that my mom took that position when she ran in 1970 as a US Senate candidate. I believe that since Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years we should sustain and support it.”

Then: (April 2002 - Running for Governor)

I respect and will fully protect a woman’s right to choose. That right is a deeply personal one, and the women of our state should make it based on their beliefs, not mine and not the government’s.” Making sure that he was being fully understood, the former Mormon bishop reiterated his position. He said, “The truth is there is no candidate in this race who would deny the women of our state abortion rights. So let’s end an argument that does nor exist and put to rest these cynical and divisive attacks made simply for political gain.”

Now: (Feb 2006 - Hopeful about stepping up to be Bush’s replacement as lackey of the religious right)

Gov. Mitt Romney said he would sign a bill outlawing abortion, even in cases of rape or incest, and agreed to meet with the state’s Roman Catholic bishops to discuss their bid to exempt Catholic Charities from gay adoptions. […] “If Gov. Romney were the governor of South Dakota he would sign it,” Teer told political newsletter The Hotline yesterday. “The governor believes that states should have the right to be pro-life if that is the will of the people.”

From expressing a conviction about protecting the reproductive rights of women all the way to basically caving if the legislature we’re willing to go along with curtailing that right. That’s quite a large gap, governor.

Do you want to know what I think? I don’t think you ever actually believed that a woman had this right to control her body’s reproductive systems. It’s clear to me that where you were running, who you were running against was the predictor of what you believed. Conviction and leadership aren’t about cowtowing. Having convictions means protecting the minority when the majority would take away their rights. You don’t say “I think slavery is wrong, and it’s important to make sure nobody becomes a slave, but if the majority wants it I’ll let them enslave the minority.” It’s patently ridiculous, just on the face of it.

The name for cowtowing to the majority is “mob rule.” Cowtowing to a religious minority is, I dunno, theocracy?

In any case, banning abortion is not the majority opinion in this country. Two thirds of Americans support the right for a woman to choose to stop a pregnancy in the first trimester. So I have no idea what alternate universe Romney’s spokespeople are imagining.

Romney, I hope that we can soon send you well on your way to political obscurity.

Also worth a read:

  • Maggie posted a related story on our less-frequently-updated co-blog Thing of Ugly. It’s called Peanut Brain Can Count To Three. Do read it, for that usual “Thing of Ugly” flair. Find out what ironic fate she wishes upon Bush!
  • Chuck was the first to bring this story to my attention on Unbecoming Levity. South Dakota is sending this one out to the nation, in the hopes that the Supremes will overturn Roe v. Wade. Is there any negative prediction about Bush that hasn’t come true yet?

If you’re not angry, you’re probably not paying attention.

Posted by James at 11:24 AM | Comments (3)

Oh, so that's where all the reporters must be!

Bush faces tough questions in Afghanistan
Bush, who had vowed to capture bin Laden dead or alive after the terrorist assaults on New York and the Pentagon, faced questions about the failure to capture the Al Qaeda leader from both American and Afghan reporters at the press conference.

It’s not as though this is a tough new question… We’ve been asking it for a long time. Hell, we’re coming up on 5 years since the 9/11 attacks. It’s been a long time since Bush issued his memorable “wanted” line. And we asked this question a lot just before the election.

I guess the president has to go to Afghanistan to have his feet held to the fire about it.

Here’s a brief trip down memory lane. Any Bush supporters care to explain it?

  • September, 2001: “Bush offered some of his most blunt language to date when he was asked if he wanted bin Laden dead. “I want justice,” Bush said. “And there’s an old poster out West… I recall, that said, ‘Wanted, Dead or Alive.’”
  • March 2002: After not being able to find Bin Laden, Bush declares: I don’t know where he is. I — I’ll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him. (from a rare White House Press Conference)
  • March 2006: “I am confident he will be brought to justice,” the president said of the fugitive Al Qaeda leader during a news conference outside the Afghan presidential palace.

Judging by his current efforts, Bush’s strategy is clear. We’re going to kill Bin Laden by letting him die of old age. See, it’s all in how you spin it. And if you work the word “kill” in there, Fox News will lap it up.

Posted by James at 8:40 AM | Comments (3)