September 29, 2006

Disgusted Shotgun

I'm disgusted with our government today. With anyone who voted in that horrible law. Here are some links I collected this week, but I'm not in a very good mood.

  1. YouTube - The Creed Mixtape

    Creed, the creepiest member of "The Office" is the focus of this simple montage of clips. Think of it as simply a bunch of the best Creed all edited together.

    to video tv
  2. Learn to Create a Firefox Search Plugin in Less Than 2 Minutes

    Let Firefox users more easily search your site. Give them a search plugin!

  3. Mouse Print

    It's sorta like the "Selling It" page of Consumer Reports, but in blog form. "Mouse Print" refers to the idea that companies are shrinking their caveats to smaller and smaller font sizes.

  4. "Little Superstar"

    I have no idea what's going on here. Chuck sent it along and it's given me the willies ever since. Some kinds of abomination of dance.

Posted by James at 11:55 AM | Comments (1)

Did You Notice What We Lost?

Senate’s passage of detainee bill gives Bush a win (Boston Globe)

“We can just pick up somebody on suspicion [and] hold them forever,” said Leahy, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. “We’re about to put the darkest blot possible on this nation’s conscience. . . . We’re exporting freedom across the globe, but we’re cutting it out in our own country. What hypocrisy.”

The habeas corpus amendment failed, 51 to 48, with four Republican senators — Chafee and John E. Sununu of New Hampshire among them — joining all but one of the Senate’s Democrats on the losing side. […]

“It will grant the president the privilege of kings, allowing him to imprison any critics as alleged enemy combatants, never to see the inside of a courtroom or to have the chance to challenge their detention or their treatment,” Warren said. “What would we say if another country passed a law making it legal to snatch US citizens and detain them indefinitely?”

The habeas corpus part of that bill was to provide habeas corpus. That didn’t pass, but the bill has passed.

So, you’ll be hearing all about how the Democrats wanted to vote for terrorist rights in the next month. And we’re stuck with this horrible law.

If that wasn’t bad enough, watch this video of some reporting on CNN of what else was hidden in this bill. The president has pardoned himself for all possible war crimes.

Have a terrific weekend.

Posted by James at 8:07 AM | Comments (6)

Media: Be A Witness to Darfur

Instead of sending all of you an email, I’m posting this here.

Be A Witness is a campaign of the American Progress Action Fund. Thank you for pushing the major television networks to cover the the genocide in Darfur. You can help by telling your friends to join you as witness to genocide.

Subject: Join me and tell the TV networks to cover genocide in Darfur

I am inviting you to take action to tell the TV networks to do their job and cover the situation in Sudan. I already sent a message to and you can too by visiting

Please go to and take action today!

Posted by James at 7:56 AM

September 28, 2006

He Said They Said on Terrorists

I don’t know if you followed the recent kerfuffle over Fox’s Chris Wallace/Bill Clinton interview. A summary for those that missed it:

Wallace interviewed Clinton (transcript at Think Progress)

Wallace asked a sharply-worded question “why didn’t you do more to get Bin Laden.”

It got Clinton’s dander up, for a number of reasons. Clinton insisted:

  • There is an anti-Clinton administration context on Fox and in the wake of the recent ABC docudrama regarding the government’s response to terrorism.
  • That context is based on distortions and falsehoods contradicted by the 9/11 Commission report, yet claimed to be sourced to the 9/11 report.
  • Republicans criticised Clinton for “wagging the dog” when he did try to get bin Laden. But now they want to say he didn’t do enough.
  • The Bush administration has never had to answer such a question from Fox on any efforts (or lack of efforts) to get Bin Laden in the months before 9/11/2001.

It was also refreshing to hear someone honestly admit that they failed in something. Clinton did fail to get Bin Laden, but as he pointed out, he tried pretty darn hard during a pretty difficult time in his presidency when others were more concerned with distracting him. Richard Clarke’s book makes that pretty clear, the efforts and the errors. But if you listen to conservatives on the radio, they dismiss Clarke for various ridiculous reasons. As soon as you write a book in this country, you’re a book huckster, to them, no matter whether you have facts behind you or not. If there’s a rumor you might run for president, there’s another strike against you. So, rumors can sink you, and you’re even worse off if you’re a credentialed expert who worked for (and was loyal to) four different administrations. You’re an expert on terrorism. Ah, but you wrote a book to share you’re experiences with the world. You’re off to the dismissal bin, sorry.

And, lest I forget, the crowning gem of right-wing logic about Richard Clarke, is the interpretation of the fact that Bush underused Clarke in the early days of the current administration. People seeking to discredit Clarke cast him as a spurned employee because Bush demoted him. Get this, I actually heard someone say that Clarke thought he had a “divine right” to an influential position on national security — forget that he was an expert and served three different administrations. Some people would call that proving oneself, earning respect.

The real story is that Bush was very concerned about Iraq when he came into office. I won’t rehash his interactions with Clarke over the vanity war in Iraq (read Clarke’s book, I urge you). And that he wasn’t interested in people with expertise built up over the years as much as he was interested in getting yes-men and think-alikes who would move the Iraq agenda forward. Whether taking the eye off the ball lead to disaster is a more complex question, but clearly Bush was less concerned about al Qaeda than Clarke thought he should have been, and Clarke struggled to get his concerns (concerns Clinton took seriously) heard. And they were not.

This clashes head-on with the Republican re-election message and the CLoW (Conventional-Lack-Of-Wisdom) of right-wing hawks. Such clashes with reality are common nowadays, and especially in election years, providing fodder for The Daily Show, etc.

Speaking of Condi Rice

But I really wanted to talk about Condi Rice, because she has problems of her own. Clinton made a statement she objected to:

WALLACE: Do you think you did enough, sir?

CLINTON: No, because I didn’t get him.


CLINTON: But at least I tried. That’s the difference in me and some, including all the right-wingers who are attacking me now. They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try. They did not try. I tried.

So I tried and failed. When I failed, I left a comprehensive anti-terror strategy and the best guy in the country, Dick Clarke, who got demoted.

Rice responded:

“We were not left a comprehensive strategy to fight al Qaeda,” Rice told a reporter for the New York Post on Monday. “Big pieces were missing,” Rice added, “like an approach to Pakistan that might work, because without Pakistan you weren’t going to get Afghanistan.”

This might sound familiar, because Clarke once had to face her claim that Bush never received any al Qaeda plan. Memos contradicted her claims in that case, and again now.

According to the Raw Story website, pesky memo evidence contradicts her. Plans specifically mentioned Pakistan.

The strategy document includes “three levers” that the United States had started applying to Pakistan as far back as 1990. Sanctions, political and economic methods of persuasion are all offered as having been somewhat successful. […] The memo sent by Clarke to Rice, to which the Clinton-era document was attached, also urges action on Pakistan relating to al Qaeda. “First [to be addressed,]” wrote Clarke in a list of pending issues relating to al Qaeda, is “what the administration says to the Taliban and Pakistan about ending al Qida sanctuary in Afghanistan. We are separately proposing early, strong messages on both.”

Details of the plan in the attached documents are redacted for national security reasons. Of course, now the semantic battle begins what’s a “plan” vs. a “strategy” vs. “a series of steps.”

It’s Republican Re-election time in Washington, and contradicting the CLoW is bad for re-election, especially when Republicans expected to portray themselves as saviors against terrorism rather than the bungling ideologues they’ve proven themselves to be.

To the luck of the reality-based American community, there is a whole ‘nother story about how the Republican game plan of fear mongering the country into their waiting arms is hitting a September Snag.

Dispute on Intelligence Report Disrupts Republicans’ Game Plan

Watching the president shuck and jive over the intelligence report deserves its own post, which I don’t have time to write.

But, in short, if you like more terrorism it turns out that the Iraq war was a really, really, really good idea.

Will Democrats effectively exploit plain facts and informed opinion to their political gain? Hey, fortune favors the bold, guys.

Posted by James at 11:37 AM

September 26, 2006

Fall in New England

As the weather gets cold like Kerry Healy’s treatment of the “3rd Party” candidates
the leaves start to turn the color of Christy Mihos’ tan
The weather becomes calmer like Deval Patrick’s demeanor
and people feel great just to be here, like Grace Ross at a debate.

(Oh, yeah. Cutting, incisive, revealing, in-depth, informed, reasoned, and all-about-the-issues political commentary here on Aces Full of Links)

Posted by James at 4:05 PM | Comments (14)

Would You Rather?

My new meme is to ask you silly “Would You Rather” questions. Your job is to think and answer them.

On the day when you spend the most time with strangers, assuming you couldn’t give any explanation, Would you rather

  • go through the day wearing a lobster bib, or
  • go through the day wearing a blue bib from the dentist office?

Since Maggie tells me those questions are too close to one another (hey, that’s what makes the question interesting!!!) here’s one that’s a little more varied.

Would you rather

  • have a rare brain malfunction that only allows you to hear music from Britney Spears’ repertoire for the rest of your life, or
  • lose hearing in one ear and sight in one eye?
Posted by James at 11:55 AM | Comments (20)

September 24, 2006

My Geocaching Statistics

My Cache Stats as of 9/24/2006 (Get your own CacheStats at

Cache Finds
Total Found: 79 (# found/attended logs) Find Rate: 0.103 per day (0.7 per week)
Caches: 79 (# unique caches visited) Average difficulty / terrain: 1.72 / 1.61
FTFs: 3  

Streaks Most finds
Most consecutive days with a find: 5 Most in 1 day: 4
Most consecutive days without a find: 163 Most in 1 month: 17

Year Total Found Rate
Number Date # Days between

Category Cache Log Comment
Most memorableCache Across America – Rhode IslandViewThe rope swing was a blast. We had to come back for more fun.
Favorite MultiUMD 2ViewClever means of finding the coordinates, great little bushwhack. All around one of the best.
Most difficult findKid's Cache IViewThe puzzle, then the puzzling spot.
Most difficult terrainCliffsides and GrapevinesViewSide of a huge rock, and it required ropes and a harness!
Most embarrassingWest Westport Travel Bug StopViewStepped in something yucky, and then met another cacher while cleaning up.

US States (2): MA, RI
Countries (1): United States

(maps from

Posted by James at 8:30 PM | Comments (3)

September 23, 2006

Picasa Web Albums: Mnaeesh

Google just upgraded Picasa to include a web album feature. If you take digital photos for fun and aren’t using Picasa (or some other photo management software) I urge you to try out the free Picasa software.

In any case, here is my attempt to add the web album to my blog here. This particular web album is about my fun this evening making the Lebanese bread known as “mnaeesh.” A favorite of my entire family. It consists of bread topped wiht a mixture of spices known as za’atar. In the Boble Bible, the main component of za’atar was known as “hyssop.” But nowadays “hyssop” refers to an entirely different plant.

In any case, here’s what an imbedded Picasa web album looks like:

Sep 23, 2006 - 7 Photos
Posted by James at 10:55 PM | Comments (2)

September 22, 2006

Am I supposed To Care?

Time to play “Am I Supposed To Care?”

The government is trying to legalize torture.

Am I supposed to care that Chavez called our president a name?

Give me a freaking break.

Posted by James at 7:25 PM

Dated Shotgun

An extremely taxing week. I'd be looking forward to doing nothing this week, but I went and committed myself to a bunch of new stuff! At least it's interesting new stuff!

Now, on to the goofy links:

  1. ?????????????????????? > ??????? > ??? > SMOKERS? STYLE

    Japanese images tutoring citizens on proper smoking etiquette.

  2. How Not to Act on J-Date

    Sent along by Patti, this is a tale of bad behavior on a date. Live and learn!

  3. I-Mockery's Ultimate Guide to the Halloween Candies of 2006!

    A quick look at some new candy including candy that screams and moans at you. Ready for Hallowe'en yet? I don't agree with this guy's taste, but now i know there's a Fear Factor-themed candy.

  4. 50 Dark Movies Hidden In A Painting

    It''s a promotion for the new Dark Chocolate M&Ms I mentioned earlier. Find 50 dark movies using clues hidden in this painting.

  5. Loudness war - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    My "Wiki of the week" is "Loudness war." Short description: escalating changes in audio recording mastering to appeal to the masses at the expense of quality. Nobody was killed.

  6. T-Qualizer Music T-Shirt

    Wear your equalizer. Via Karen at verbatim.

  7. Pimp Doggie Pet Costume

    That is one stylish-looking dawg. Found by DG .

    to funny wtf
  8. Five Tips to Increase Your Likeability

    If I ever decide to become more likeable, this seems like a decent short list of where to start. And if you don't agree, then screw you.

  9. Cool Tool: LightInSight

    It's a fresnel lens you stick to your windshield and it allows you to easily see when the traffic light changes without craning your neck (when you're first in line).

  10. Brilliant But Cancelled - DeathWatch - Fall '06

    Bet on which shows will be cancelled first. Win prizes!

  11. How to Dissuade Yourself from Becoming a Blogger - WikiHow

    In case anyone is on the verge of starting a blog and needs to be stopped. Give this url to anyone you know who really ought not to have a blog.

  12. Viral Video Chart

    I loves me some viral videos. But I love it better if I don't have to surf a lot of junk just to find new ones.

  13. What's That Bug?

    These guys identify bugs based on pictures they've been sent. Or you could look through the site and identify the bug yourself.

Posted by James at 10:49 AM | Comments (2)

September 21, 2006

Squirrel Infestival

I heard a bus passing this morning and feared that M’s bus was somehow running 10 minutes early, so I rushed to the door.

As I swung it open, I almost hit a squirrel that has been stalking our front door since school started. The startled rodent scurried away to the safety of the tree in our front yard. M and I sat on the steps to await the bus.

Soon we saw the squirrel staring at us from the middle of the road. “Hey, squirrel - get out of the road!” we warned him as a car came up the street and stopped. He ran up the tree again. That’s when I noticed a squirrel running up the road and into a neighbor’s yard. And another one creeping around the other side of my Jeep’s front tire.

“We’re surrounded. It’s a squirrel invasion.”

While two of the squirrels ran around our tree, another pair of squirrels ran out on a limb of a neighbor’s tree which comes very close to our house. One of the two (an especially rust-colored one) jumped on the house while the other one gave us a dirty look, and stared down at us until M’s bus came.

Is this some squirrel holiday I don’t know about?

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


Hey, all, Oktoberfest has started and nobody told me! Well, it’s not as though I could have flown off to Munich to enjoy Oktoberfest. But it’s nice to be told.

Oktoberfest facts:

  • Back before Sam Adams made an Oktoberfest beer, my favorite beer was Paulaner Oktoberfest Märzen. It comes all the way from Munich, so you don’t see it a lot. I haven’t had it in a while. I think a side-by-side is in order someday soon.
  • The term “märzen” comes from the German name for the month of March when beers were brewed while the weather was not prohibitively warm. The beer was then stored for many months in cool caves.
  • Unlike the wimpy “War of Christmas,” which is a joke, there actually was an “Attack on Oktoberfest.” Sadly, in 1980, a bomb killed 13 people and wounded over 200.

In any case, raise your stein to das Müchner Kindl, step over the Bierleichen (beer corpses) and we’ll check back with you sometime in early October when the fog clears.

Posted by James at 6:49 AM | Comments (1)

September 19, 2006

Positive Primary Results

Keri just announced on WSAR that Sam Sutter has won the primary for Bristol District Attorney. There is no Republican challenger, so that means Sam Sutter has replaced Walsh as Bristol DA. That’s great news! It was time for a change. And it’s gratifying to see that lots of money and incumbent politics didn’t keep the lesser candidate in office. Congrats to the voters for being well-informed and getting to the polls.

Also, Deval Patrick, a guy I’d actually like to see as governor, becomes the Democratic candidate for Massachusetts governor. That’s wonderful. His running mate will be Tim Murray. My feelings on the Lt. Governor race were not as strong, but from what I hear, the Democrats project Patrick/Murray is a strong ticket against Healey or Mihos or Ross. I have a really good feeling about the general election for governor.

Good outcomes in elections is an unfamiliar feeling lately. Wow.

Posted by James at 10:47 PM | Comments (14)

Among The Primaries, A Partisan Moment

I vote every chance I get.

There are some hot races in today’s primary vote. It’s important to stay informed and get to the polls.

But there is an added benefit to voting in Massachusetts if you’re a liberal.

You get to vote for Ted Kennedy, and then tell every right-winger that you did. They hate that.

All kidding aside: Massachusetts residents, if you haven’t yet, go and vote, yo!

Posted by James at 4:01 PM | Comments (1)

Post Like a Pirate Day

Avast, ye! All you freebooters and picaroons!

It’s September 19th, Talk Like A Pirate Day! Damn, I just can’t get excited about it this year.

While most of us look forward to this time of year, because it is the most socially acceptable time of year to talk like a pirate, there is a darker side to “Talk Like A Pirate Day.”

Recent studies show that there is widespread workplace discrimination against people who talk like pirates. People who try to talk like pirates at meetings are met with derision. There is a chilling effect against talking like a pirate and polls show that, as a result, many people are intimidated into silence. So many workplaces prohibit swords that would-be-pirate-talkers are left with little recourse.

Worse still, many pirate enthusiasts who look forward to this day all year find that reality does not live up to their expectations. Along with the decorations and the heady aroma of oakum and tar, an emptiness engulf some. There is an almost measurable spike in suicides. It’s important that if you do find yourself feeling like you’re in Davey’s grip this pirate season, pick up the phone and call another Jack Tar and maybe share a plate of salmagundi.

Some claim that it’s not coincidence that there are so many problems this time of year, and they point to a concerted “War on Talk Like A Pirate Day” — with even kids in the schools subject to organized anti-pirate propaganda. While it may seem absurd, some schools let the day pass without even mentioning pirates. “Pirates are the reason for the season” has become a rallying cry of those who feel oppressed.

In the face of this injustice, many pirate adherents have proposed to dissolve “Talk Like a Pirate Day” and replace it with “Act Like a Pirate Day.” Indeed, that smarmy and holier-than-thou anti-pirate coworker will not be so quick to make fun of a pirate accent while he’s looking down at the hilt of a cutlass sticking out of his chest.

In any case, toss back some rum or mix up a Grace O’Malley. And enjoy “Talk Like a Pirate Day” however is your custom.

Posted by James at 8:24 AM | Comments (9)

September 18, 2006

Woeblogging Update

Efforts to get “woeblogging” into the vernacular continue apace!

(one strike, Google still thinks you may have meant to type “weblogging.”)

On the poison ivy affliction from the last woeblogging entry, it’s nearly all gone. Yet I’m vaguely itchy all over. Boy I sure am sensitive to that stupid plant.

Posted by James at 10:00 PM

Fall River on NPR

Hey - Fall River, MA, city of my origin, got mentioned on NPR!

Robert Reich, Clinton’s Labor Secretary and former candidate for Massachusetts governor, mentioned the Spindle City in an editorial about the anniversary of Katrina and the plight of displaced poor. It also appeared on his weblog:

Sometimes cities actively try to get rid of their poorest citizens. Not long ago officials in Fall River, Massachusetts, tried to raze a low income housing project and not replace it with any other affordable housing.

Er, wait. That’s not a good thing. Never mind.

Posted by James at 9:55 PM | Comments (1)

Good Questions About GPS Devices And Compasses

GPS Says NoI got a good question about the image to the right. I’m going to break it down into two questions. The image is confusing partly because of the way the GPS works and partly because I was not careful in the way I arranged it.

Q1: Is the GPS really telling us which direction is north in this picture.

A1: In a way “no” and in a way “yes.”

(Part a) “No” in the sense that this GPS does not have a compass feature in it, even though one of the display screens looks like a compass. I cannot turn it on, put it down, and have it tell me which direction is north, like you can with a compass.

Here’s what it does do. If I am traveling more than 2 miles per hour, it uses my change in location to tell me where north is with respect to my direction of travel. The angle I hold the GPS does not matter, only my direction of travel matters. The GPS assumes that I’m holding it with the top away from me, and that that is my direction of travel. So, if I walk east at 3 MPH, and hold the GPS flat in front of me, the display of the GPS will show “EAST”.

If I were to stop and suddenly walk backwards quickly, the display will suddenly reverse and now show I am walking west, even though I am still facing east. It’s the walking that matters.

This becomes obvious if you walk north while looking at the display and then stop completely. The display says “NORTH.” Turn in place in a circle. The whole time it will continue to say “NORTH” even as you face every compass point.

This causes all sorts of problems for beginner geocachers, and it’s no wonder because it’s just not obvious.

(Part b) “Yes” this GPS is trying to tell me something about north even while I’m not moving. The little sun icon is telling me that if I line it up with the Sun, even if I am not moving, the “N” on the display’s dial should point north. That fact, combined with the shadows (which line up with the bottom and top edges of the image) indicate that the “N” on the GPS dial is basically indicating north, but only because I have placed the GPS down semi-carefully.

The problem is, scrutinizing this picture I can see that I wasn’t that careful. A line through the sun and the center of the display is not exactly horizontal. But it’s close. If it’s off, you can blame the way I placed it.

Q2: But wait a minute! The needle on the compass doesn’t match the needle on the GPS. What gives? Is it a problem with magnetic north?

A2: You’re right, the needles don’t line up. In this case, that’s because of another feature of the GPS that happens to be activated. The “needle” on the GPS display isn’t trying to point north. It’s trying to point me to a nearby geocache which happens to be at a bearing of about 204 degrees (that’s south-southwest) and 19 feet in that direction. It’s the fake dial on the GPS display that’s trying to give us our compass directions (as described above).

Of course, the actual compass on the right has a needle that moves freely to indicate north, and a dial below that can be spun arbitrarily for different purposes. In this picture I’ve basically tried to line the dial up with the body, and line them both up with the needle, but I wasn’t being careful about it. So, ignore the green dial.

BTW - the GPS is set to use magnetic north because that makes it easier for me to use it with my compass.

Bonus Q3: Hey, don’t some GPS receivers have a built-in electronic compass?

A3: Yes, some do. Since I carry a few pretty responsive magnetic compasses anyhow (they don’t need batteries and you shouldn’t be out and about without a backup) I don’t feel the need for the electronic compass. Keeping them separate allows me to look at a different display of the GPS while looking at the compass.

Posted by James at 7:23 PM

OMG Spinach!!!!!

We ate some spinach last weekend, and Maggie ate some more during the week. So we were a little worried about those warnings about e. coli contaminated spinach. A lots of people have gotten sick and a couple of people have even died. It has been a little nerve-wracking. I think we’re pretty safe at this point, not having been sickened by our leafy repast. However, I’m never going to look at bagged greenery the same again, and I bet the bagged spinach business has taken a nearly irreparable PR hit. I didn’t notice a run on bagged salad this weekend at Stop & Shop either.

Of course, It could be worse. It could have been something that explodes and kills four people or so every day. Those are bomblets, not spinach.

If e. coli spinach was a big story, imagine how big exploding spinach would have been.

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

WWWTP - Story and Bonus Question

CRSo, lots of people were able to answer the question posed in the last post… “What’s wrong with this picture.”

That’s great!

Here’s the (short version) story behind the picture.

While geocaching, we came upon this compass rose. As K’s shadow passed over the tiles, I noticed her shadow was almost exactly north to south. Because she was vertical, that would have to mean that the Sun was directly south. The Sun is only directly south in Massachusetts at noon (EST), and the clock was reading 3PM. That implied that the compass rose was not indicating north.

I got out my magnetic compass and put it on the ground. Sure enough, it told me that north was actually about 60 degrees west of what the compass rose was indicating. (See detailed image) 60 degrees is quite a bit to be off by.

I had my GPSr, of course, and so I double-checked with the satellite data. A good GPSr can tell you not only where you are, but also where the Sun should be in the sky. Since the GPSr doesn’t have a built-in compass (mine doesn’t, anyhow) this feature can be helpful in finding north. You point the Sun icon on the display toward the actual Sun, and it gives you a rough idea of north. Here is another picture showing the face of the GPS, and showing that the satellites agree with the magnetic compass. If the Sun is directly to our left then north is definitely not directly to our right.

So the bonus question is, why do you think they got it wrong? Can you guess what my theory is, or perhaps come up with an even better one?

Here’s some help. A google map indicating the area where the compass rose exists:

Here’s a non-interactive map indicating the approximate shape of the park, and the orientation. The compass rose is roughly at the indicated point. It’s more or less centered in the park.

Image Hosted by

North is “up” on this map. And you should be able to figure out what “compass rose north” is based on the other images.

Any guesses why the compass is off by as much as it is? I don’t have the definitive answer, but I can give you my theory after I see some of your theories.

Posted by James at 11:10 AM | Comments (5)

September 17, 2006

What's Wrong With This Picture? Navigator Edition

Wouldn’t it be cool if I had a weekly feature called “What’s Wrong With This Picture” in which I posted pictures and asked you to come to some conclusion based on the pictures I’d presented? Yeah, I think that would be cool.

Unfortunately, that would mean I would have to be clever enough to come up with a good visual puzzle 52 times a year. It doesn’t seem realistic, considering my current schedule. But I took some pictures this weekend that I was going to show you, and instead of coming out and explaining the pictures, I’ll let you tell me “What’s Wrong With This Picture.” I’ll explain things later (and add a picture or two), but you folks will likely figure this one out fairly quickly. So think about the picture before looking at the comments, unless your thinker is on the fritz.

OK we have one picture and some additional details listed below:


  • Picture was taken in Fall River, MA.
  • Date and time of photo : approximately 2006:09:19 14:55:17 Eastern Standard Time
  • The girl in the photo is standing straight, vertically.
  • The photo was taken outdoors with no artificial light or flash.

What’s wrong with this picture? Read on to find the answer.


The short answer is that the compass rose is not correctly aligned to north. Details are in the comments, and in the next entry.

Posted by James at 11:02 PM | Comments (6)

September 16, 2006

m&m - Light and Dark

Click to enlargeA couple of weeks ago there was a sale on m&m candies and I took the opportunity to buy a bag of the White Chocolate m&m’s and Dark Chocolate m&m’s. Here are my impressions.

White Chocolate m&m’s

I love white chocolate, so I was surprised to find that I didn’t really like the White Chocolate m&m’s much. The reason? The white chocolate flavor is so subtle that it is overpowered by the flavor of the candy shell. As a result, these candies don’t taste much different from the regular m&m’s and you have to fill your mouth with them to get a hint of white chocolate.

A major feature of white chocolate is the creaminess, and a candy shell defeats that creaminess.

There were cute little pictures on the candies, which was nice, but I prefer to that when I actually like the candy itself. There’s no reason to buy these over regular m&m’s.

Dark Chocolate m&m’s

I’m also a fan of dark chocolate, so I was really looking forward to a semi-sweet version of m&m’s. I was pleasantly rewarded by this version of m&m’s because the slightly bitter and assertive flavor of dark chocolate works well in this m&m delivery system. It turns out that darker chocolate better balances the sweetness of the candy shell, and that’s good news for those of us who don’t like our candy overly sweet.

I find these to be at least as good as regular m&m’s, and perhaps even better. If given the choice, I would likely choose Dark Chocolate m&m’s over the original, so I hope they keep these as a choice in the future.

Posted by James at 12:00 PM | Comments (7)

September 15, 2006

Big Bug

Big Bug
Originally uploaded by Dr Momentum.
Does anybody know what sort of bug this is? My Leatherman in the
picture is exactly 4 inches long. This is a pretty sizable
caterpillar. Sharon spotted it and alerted the rest of the office.
Posted by James at 1:24 PM | Comments (10)

Filed Shotgun

  1. You Forgot Poland - Wonkette

    Bush forgot Poland -- no meeting with the Prime Minster. Oops!

  2. The Best Time to Buy Everything

    Buy at the right time and get a deal.

  3. ...creativity in a telly stylee

    I can't stop watching this neat video mashup site. Especially the "weird" video content.

  4. Light

    What's going to happen? Is the light pole crooked?

    to video
  5. Catalog Card Generator

    Make your own custom card catalog card. Found via Karen at "verbatim."

(image hosted by ImageShack)

Posted by James at 11:57 AM | Comments (2)

Like Poop Goes Through A Goose

When I read really bad arguments, I react with a combination of frustration and amusement. Especially when one of my friends is involved. So I feel the need to post about an on line conversation I recently read, just to share with you some of what I felt. And to gawk at bad argument tactics.

I won't detail the who or where of the source of this material, because I'm not sure that the friend wants attention called to the website where I saw this conversation, so let's just focus on the words themselves, posted here for their educational value.

Background: the conversation is about the proposal to control geese in a city park by letting one resident shoot some of the geese. Certain facts exist:

  1. It has not officially been established whether the geese need to be culled. The issue started because one hunter saw what he thought was a problem and decided on one solution he preferred.
  2. Because of #1, the city has not yet considered whether there might be alternative solutions, if it is established that there actually is a goose problem.
  3. As far as I know, nobody has polled the surrounding residents of the park to see what they think.

Despite all the uncertainty surrounding this issue, there seem to be a number of residents with a "close your eyes and full speed ahead to the solution: Guns!!" attitude. Without the facts or logic behind them, lets look at how they get by in an argument. I've changed the names of the people to protect their identity.
Huey: "The Mayor of Fitchburg needs to worry a little bit more about humans being shot (ref. Saturday's shoot-out) than geese being shot and eaten. But this is typical of the radical left ... more concerned about animals than humans."
Interesting that Huey concedes that "the radical left" (as she name-calls her opponents) are at least concerned about animals. The "radical right," I suppose, is more interested in shooting than it is in humans.
Dewey Writes: "Hmmm here's an idea...invite all the illegal aliens living in the area to the park for a day to play Catch Me If You Can. If you catch a goose you can take it home and eat it. The city could have the proper authorities there to round up all the illegals and have them deported.

I can see the liberals now..reading this and gulping down another glass of kool aid before responding. Cheers!!"
By the way, the thread I'm getting these quotes from is not very long. These folks entered a discussion and launched immediately into a combination of 4th grade schoolyard tactics and burping up whatever they heard on Rush Limbaugh that day, which had nothing to do with the issue. Don't be amazed, this is typical of the forums for the local paper here in the greater Fall River area as well. The people who call themselves conservatives are the loudest voices. And rarely very conservative at all. But, apparently, if you met them in person, you'd be able to tell them by sight. The liberal would be the ugly one:

Louie Writes: "A liberal is the kid in school who had no friends and had to resort to giving away his desert to get kids to talk to him.

A conservative is the good looking, atheletic, popular kid in school who, through thorough effort and dilligently applying himself, made it look like everything came easy to him. Curse those handsome devils."

Curse them, indeed! I find this especially wonderful. Imagine the low self esteem of a person who has to keep the above fiction in his head to quiet his demons. Imagine further that he has himself so convinced of it that he posts it publicly for other people to see!

Well, this radical left-liberal has to go off and "dilligently" apply himself to an "atheletic" endeavor. I hope you enjoyed your Weenie Words of the Week.
Posted by James at 9:00 AM | Comments (15)

September 14, 2006

Shelters Losing Funding?

Chuck posted this item on his blog about the plight of Massachusetts battered women’s shelters, specifically DOVE which is completely losing its funding.

The article, paints a bleak picture of the options that area women in violent situations face when it points out:

[…] if the shelter shuts down, there is only one other shelter between Boston and Cape Cod that is specifically designed for victims of domestic violence: Womansplace in Brockton. Funding for the Womansplace shelter, which has 12 beds, was slashed by one-third this year.

If you’re in Norfolk county and want to find such a shelter, you can go to this webpage listing DOVE, Womansplace and other resources. That from the Norfolk county DA’s office.

Here in Bristol, there are numbers you can call as well.

If the funding is being slashed, it seems like the future of these shelters is in question. Suddenly, the state income tax rollback doesn’t seem like such a good thing when you realize that the people who suffer the most from reduced services are people with nowhere else to turn.

Posted by James at 9:20 PM | Comments (4)

BSG Webisodes

Can’t wait for Battlestar Galactica (easily the best scifi on TV and a good sight better than the majority of scifi movies) to start its new season? Itching to find out what they’ve got in store after revealing huge changes to the direction of the story in the season ender?

Then start early with Battlestar Galactica Webisodes — 4 so far of what will be 10 in all, appearing on the website every Tuesday and Thursday.

New broadcast episodes start October 6.

If you aren’t a Battlestar Galactica fan, then you make me sad.

Posted by James at 3:07 PM | Comments (8)

September 13, 2006

Better Than Pepper-Ball Guns

Nonlethal weapons such as high-power microwave devices should be used on American citizens in crowd-control situations before being used on the battlefield, the Air Force secretary said Tuesday. The object is basically public relations. Domestic use would make it easier to avoid questions from others about possible safety considerations, said Secretary Michael Wynne.

Best quote ever:

“If we’re not willing to use it here against our fellow citizens, then we should not be willing to use it in a wartime situation,” said Wynne. “(Because) if I hit somebody with a nonlethal weapon and they claim that it injured them in a way that was not intended, I think that I would be vilified in the world press.”

I bet my university is calling this guy up right now to get some test weapons lined up for the next time a New England team is in the playoffs.

(Hat tip to Leslie)

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

Au Bon Pondering: Chocolate Cake Muffin

We were at Boston Children’s yesterday, and whenever we’re there we stop at the Au Bon Pain, and get a mozzarella pesto tomato sandwich to share.

I invariably float toward the pastry shelves and gawk at the different offerings, transfixed while Maggie is ordering our sandwich. Staring back at me are the apple-filled pastry, the buttery coffee cake. Shortbread cookies are plain, or dipped in black and white chocolate to make them hyper-caloric. Various types of croissant beckon… plain… with cheese… with ham and cheese…

I ogle the pastry while busy people are zipping around me, the hospital patients, parents, doctors and other employees all with purpose and speed. All I can do is look because I’m “trying to be good.” Maggie says I shouldn’t torture myself with the voyeurism, but even when I’m not being a glutton, I am one for punishment.

What Muffins?Calorie for calorie, these pastries are pretty much equivalent to Ring Dings. But they look all highfalutin, including the names. Here (pictured) we have a “Chocolate Cake Muffin.” In the real world we have a name for these things. They’re called “Chocolate Cupcakes.” It raises the question*: “what is a muffin and how is it different from a cupcake?”

Having baked both muffins and cupcakes from scratch on numerous occasions, I think I well know the difference. And it’s not rocket science. A muffin is a sort quick bread baked in a muffin tin. A quick bread is a heavy bread raised/leavened chemically (with baking powder, for example) instead of biologically (with yeast). The chemical leavening takes less time than yeast, thus the name “quick bread.” A cupcake is a cake baked in a cupcake tin. A cake is… OK, here’s where we get into trouble.

Cakes are leavened chemically, like quick breads. But cakes usually use a finer flour than quick breads, more sugar and more eggs to yield a much lighter texture. The mixing and baking methods are different. Some will argue that there is a continuum of cakes to quick breads, with carrot cake inhabiting the frightening no-man’s land in between. I’ll give you that. But carrot cake aside, people can tell a banana bread, a lemon poppy seed bread and cornbread from a chocolate cake based on the texture and heft.

I grant you that there is no difference between muffin tins and cupcake tins (not that I know of). Cupcakes and muffins are the same shape. When I started ranting about chocolate cake muffins in the car to Maggie, she thought I said “chocolate muffin” and argued that a chocolate muffin is different from a chocolate cake. I agree completely. However, it is an oxymoron to have “cake” in the name of a muffin. It’s like “soufflé soup” or “drumstick ribs.”

Let’s be honest here. This thin veneer of “muffinhood” does not obscure the clear message of “cake.” They know that “muffin” sounds more healthy to people than “cupcake” and more like a food an adult would be caught eating. But they throw the “cake” in the name because they definitely want you to know what it’s going to taste like. They want the selling point of “cake” — no mistake. The benefit of the word “muffin” in the name is illustrated by the following conversations:

Conversation #1

Id: I’m hungry.

Superego: It makes sense to eat something and avoid low blood sugar.

Id: Yum!

Superego: What’s that you have there?

Id: A muffin.

(time passes)

Conversation #2:

Spouse #1: What did you end up having for lunch?

Spouse #2: I was in a hurry, so I had a couple of muffins.

And there you have it. “Muffin” in this context is a useful fiction passed on from the baker to the patron to subdue the superego and any other pesky adults. By removing that barrier, they sell more cake and everybody is happy. I’ll leave the moral implications to you, the reader.

On a final note, a word of caution. Whenever there are unsupervised and poorly-supervised children about, keep in mind that by buying pastry from open shelves that are less than three feet from the floor means that you are buying pastry that quite possibly has been fondled, poked or taste-tested by young children. I conclude this as a result of direct observation. People who have a problem with this might want to stick to the uppermost rows of pastry, or make their selection from the back.

[*] Note that it raises the question, it does not beg the question. Please help stamp out the blandification of language by avoiding common misuse of the phrase “begs the question.” Yell at the TV when politicians and city officials do it! Do it for the children!

Posted by James at 8:33 AM | Comments (13)

September 12, 2006

Olbermann Quotes Serling

And long ago, a series called “The Twilight Zone” broadcast a riveting episode entitled “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street.” In brief: a meteor sparks rumors of an invasion by extra-terrestrials disguised as humans. The electricity goes out. A neighbor pleads for calm.
Suddenly his car — and only his car — starts. Someone suggests he must be the alien. Then another man’s lights go on.
As charges and suspicion and panic overtake the street, guns are inevitably produced.
An “alien” is shot — but he turns out to be just another neighbor, returning from going for help.
The camera pulls back to a near-by hill, where two extra-terrestrials areseen, manipulating a small device that can jam electricity. The veteran tells his novice that there’s no need to actually attack, that you just turn off a few of the human machines and then, “they pick the most dangerous enemy they can find, and it’s themselves.”
And then, in perhaps his finest piece of writing, Rod Serling sums it up with words of remarkable prescience, given where we find ourselves tonight.
“The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices - to be found only in the minds of men.
“For the record, prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all its own — for the children, and the children yet unborn.”

When those who dissent are told time and time again — as we will be, if not tonight by the President, then tomorrow by his portable public chorus — that he is preserving our freedom, but that if we use any of it, we are somehow un-American…
When we are scolded, that if we merely question, we have “forgotten the lessons of 9/11”… look into this empty space behind me and the bi-partisanship upon which this administration also did not build, and tell me:
Who has left this hole in the ground?

Read it here or watch the video on YouTube.

And while we’re at it, Be Afraid. Some details on the midterm re-elect the Republicans strategy.

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

September 11, 2006


“Duty to God ahead of country, others and self is the credo of suicide bombers.”Penn Jillette on the subject of the Boy Scouts of America and their answer to the question “Can an individual who states that he does not believe in God be a volunteer Scout leader or member?”

Official answer from their FAQ: No. The Scout Oath represents the basic values of Scouting, and it addresses the issue of “duty to God” before duty to country, others, and self.

I miss back when I was a scout and BSA wasn’t a religious organization. Thank goodness that the GSA is not.

Posted by James at 5:25 PM | Comments (10)

Important Remembrance Today

Sometime in your day today, pause and reflect on the more than 205,000 people who have died in motor vehicle accidents in the last 5 years, counting back from today.

That’s a lot of people. Well over ten times the population of my hometown. More than ten filled with accident victims. From all walks of life.

It’s bizarre to think that every year, a group of people double the size of my town’s population are killed in that way. Every year, at a pretty stable rate for the last few years. It’s so abstract that it stops short of being horrifying for some reason. But emotions are weird like that. The people are no less dead. Their families and friends no less distressed and devastated.

Posted by James at 1:15 PM | Comments (4)

September 10, 2006

For Family Guy Fans

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usI only realized yesterday that American Dad and Family Guy are starting the new season tonight. 8:30 PM EST and 9:00 PM respectively. (Also, some show called “The Simpsons.”)

I’ve given you 8 hours warning, so don’t blame me if you miss it.

Posted by James at 12:03 PM | Comments (2)

Sunday Morning TV Gauntlet

  • Wake up late from late Saturday night
  • George Stephanopoulos at 9AM
  • Meet The Press at 10AM
  • Phantom Gourmet at 11AM

Holy crap, it’s noon and I haven’t really done anything today. I’d better hit the treadmill.

Posted by James at 11:59 AM | Comments (1)

September 8, 2006

Senate Wanker Shotgun

Just four links today. It was a busy week with very little websurfing. (Benadryl for the still-rampant poison ivy rashes tends to slow one down in the off-work hours) Wheee!
  1. How Superman Should Have Ended

    A little video about how the first Superman movie ought to have ended. Sent along by Bob McC.

  2. Ricky Gervais - Microsoft

    Part 1 of a "training video" for UK Microsoft employees, starring The Office's Ricky Gervais.

  3. GigaSize

    Want to send a really large file? Don't clog your recipient's inbox, send that puppy using Gigasize, for files up to one gigabyte!

  4. YouTube - Muse - Knights of Cydonia Music Video

    Inexplicable mix of cliches makes for a crazy western-themed video. Campy fun!

Bonus political link:

Senator Allen's bill-submitting shenanigans

U.S. Senator George Allen today stole a Department of Defense appropriations amendment written, printed and prepared by Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill), and then announced the amendment as his own, moments before Durbin was prepared to introduce the amendment on the Senate floor.

It fell to Sen. Durbin to act like the adult and just sign on to the new amendment. George Allen is a senate wanker.

Bonus Cartoon:

xkcd is consistently the my favorite recent online comic, despite the crude stick figures.

Here's one called "Beliefs."

Posted by James at 12:53 PM | Comments (2)

September 7, 2006

Moonlit Night

Find The Cat
Originally uploaded by Dr Momentum.
Last night, the moon was particularly bright. It was quite spectacular driving home from Berkley with the moon illuminating the trees and road at midnight.

The night was cloudless, but a slight haze brightened the sky around the moon. As I passed through several low areas where there were coves, I ran into banks of fog that hung about 4 to 5 feet off the ground and coated my windshield with a sticky film that resisted the wiper blades.

The leaves on the trees appeared to glow in the night. It reminded me of how much I liked driving at night and some of the weird adventures I have when I'm out after midnight (like that time on the way back from BOB and Patti's house)

Once home, I pulled into the driveway at an angle with my headlights illuminating Maggie's garden, because I thought I saw something moving there. Sure enough, a friendly cat was nibbling on one of the plants.

Can you find the cat trying to hide in this picture? I snapped the photo with my phone through the windshield.

Our secret visitor scampered off after my headlights turned off
and I tried ot get a closer look. I guess I'm not the only one who enjoys the moonlit night.
Posted by James at 8:31 AM | Comments (5)

September 6, 2006

Bush Stays Course While Baghdad Burns

One thing good friends are for is for making you examine your opinion more closely and articulate it. In response to Chuck, and to try to explain that I’m not simply suggesting that we suddenly withdraw all troops from Iraq, I explained what is eating me about Bush’s Iraq policy and his insistence that we continue to pour money and lives into the Iraq money pit backing a non-plan that the administration can’t seem to let go.

I’ve elevated (and edited) my comment up here to its own blog post.

Iraq is currently a free-for-all, with Sunni fighting Shia, Shia fighting Sunni and everybody fighting us. It’s not at all clear what we’re supposed to be doing there. It’s not at all clear that we can fight the many organizations that are popping up to oppose us while protecting ourselves and the Iraqi citizens. I disagree that an actual date exists (like 2025, as far away as it is) where we finally declare victory using Bush’s “plan.” It’s not at all clear that time is what we need, and therefore not clear that buying that time with money and lives is any sort of bargain.

That doesn’t mean I’m arguing for sudden withdrawal. But I am arguing for some sort of leadership.

It seems to me like what happened is that we’ve been suckered into handing Iran all the power in the region. The first Gulf War left Iraq the way it was for a reason, and I think that reason was (in part) Iran.

If we were to withdraw now, the Shiites of Iran would basically take Iraq and be breathing down the neck of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. A disaster.

Either we need to suddenly have the military power to subdue and occupy Iran, too, or we need to find some political solution that Iran will agree to. The expense of fighting Iran, I fear, would make Iraq seem like the cakewalk that the hawks originally promised.

Bush’s way is to keep spending money and lives holding the line with no improvement while he fritters away his remaining years in office, leaving the problem for the next administration. I want Bush to take responsibility for what he’s done and start working on a solution now. Get help from the Sunnis. Swallow some pride. Do some damn thing other than bleed more money and lives in what is the stupidest-ass war I’ve ever heard of.

Bush has made fools of all of us. And when his term is over, he will cut and run as he has with other messes he has made. And we are left holding the bag.

Posted by James at 12:11 PM | Comments (2)

September 5, 2006

Iraqspeak Translation

Doesn’t it bug you that whenever someone suggests that the current approach isn’t working in Iraq, neocons scream the phrase “cut and run?” And continuing on this ruinous course is considered “staying the course.”

I object to “cut and run” because the phrase is intentionally chosen to make it sound like we’re going to get out in the least responsible way possible. I’m not an expert on how to extract ourselves from this situation, but since the current course does not seem to be leading to peace, it’s clear to me that it’s time to stop occupying Iraq and come up with another solution that might have a chance of working. It’s also clear that as long as this administration stubbornly insists that it has a good course (never mind the fact that they don’t even appear to have a discernible course), they are not open to alternatives which may improve the situation.

So, let’s brainstorm some alternatives to “stay the course” that describe what that really means. Hint: staying the current course in Iraq means occupying an increasingly inhospitable country as the sectarian violence convinces more and more people that a civil war is taking place. It means losing more troops over a mistaken approach to foreign policy. If it can be phrased to sound more like what it is, maybe opponents of this Iraq policy will actually have something to say in response to “cut and run.”

So, here are my suggestions to start us off. “Stay the course” really means:

  • “Stay and die”
  • “Spend and die”
  • “Go down with the ship”
  • “Close our eyes and pray”
  • “Kiss our hindquarters goodbye”
  • “Beat ourselves with a dead Iraqi horse”
  • “Bite the IED
  • “Throw more troops on the fire”
  • “Let’s stay distracted”

I put it to my creative readership. Come up with some better phrases.

Posted by James at 3:31 PM | Comments (18)

September 1, 2006

Last Summer Shotgun

Image Hosted by
Summer is basically all over except for the screaming. But that's OK, because Fall is on the way. That means mosquitoes are on their way out. Nasty little suckers.
  1. Top Gun: A Requiem For Goose

    What if TopGun were a silent movie. Let the funny begin!

  2. Official Seal Generator

    Fun! Make your own official-ish looking seals. (See the one to the right created in tribute to the non-commenting lurkers here on Aces Full. We salute you, and thank you for your patronage!

  3. Geek to Live: 6 ways to find reusable media - Lifehacker

    FInding reusable art and music on the internets.

  4. Gas Prices - MSN Autos

    Find the cheapest gas prices in your area.

  5. Jiffy Lube Scam Revealed (Again) - Consumerist

    Watch these video reports on how Jiffy Lube blatantly charges for repairs it doesn't do. Are you getting the repairs you've been charged for at your mechanic?

  6. Stuck on Iwo Jima

    Some Marines singing about their time at sea. Link courtesy of Bull.

  7. Baby Panda Sneeze

    A baby panda's sneeze is bigger than a baby panda.

  8. ElectronicSurvivalKit

    Interesting idea: make yourself a kit containing important electronic information. See the regular "survival kit" link on this page as well.

  9. Octopus Keychain: A to Zoo

    For people who are interested in my octopus keychain, this is the website of the company that sells them. Lots of other animals and prehistoric bone styles. All from pewter. Detailed and really neat-looking.

Posted by James at 9:40 AM | Comments (5)