June 29, 2007

Pawsoxwin Shotgun

Victory! The PawSox broke their 4 game losing streak last night in dramatic fashion. And we think we got on TV.

And, we ate a lot of junk food. Her're yer links.

  • The 5 Basic Survival Skills (camping,outdoors,howto,health)
    • I'm glad there are only 5 basic survival skills, because if there were 1,489 basic survival skills, I'm not sure I'd have the time to learn them.
  • glumbert.com - Dramatic Chipmunk (animals,funny,video)
    • It's only a couple of seconds long, but this ground squirrel (it doesn't really look much like a chipmunk, but whatever) is practicing its dramatic look.
  • Summer Camp 2007 (animation,political,humor,funny)
    • This short flash animation tells parents what sort of enlightening camps their kids can expect to visit this year. Politicians, trust fund slouches and neo cons are skewered.
  • Woodland House (house,fun,architecture,diy)
    • Live like a hobbit. Build your own woodland house. This fellow says any able-bodied person can do it.
  • OptOutPrescreen.com (credit,consumerism,privacy)
    • Opt out of the major credit bureaus' lists for pre-screened credit offers (i.e. junk mail). Less credit junk mail also means fewer opportunities for ID theft. Before you give your info to *any* website, always research that site first.
  • Google Mobile (cellphones,communication,tool,tips,handy)
    • Use text messages to get info from Google.
  • Ask Google Image Search (funny,humor,search)
    • What happens when you ask Google Image Search to answer burning questions in your life?

Then there's my Twitter feed, and my friends' feeds...

Posted by James at 9:03 AM | Comments (4)

June 28, 2007

Don't Tailgate the Romneys

You have got to be kidding me.

Before beginning the drive, Mitt Romney put Seamus, the family’s hulking Irish setter, in a dog carrier and attached it to the station wagon’s roof rack. He’d built a windshield for the carrier, to make the ride more comfortable for the dog. […]

As the oldest son, Tagg Romney commandeered the way-back of the wagon, keeping his eyes fixed out the rear window, where he glimpsed the first sign of trouble. ”Dad!” he yelled. ”Gross!” A brown liquid was dripping down the back window, payback from an Irish setter who’d been riding on the roof in the wind for hours.

Found via this Time article.

Side note: The co-author of that Boston Globe piece is the younger brother of a friend I had while growing up in Somerset. Nice to see a local guy making good. I remember hanging out at with him and his brother at his house once and doing chemistry set experiments; they’re a great family. His sister was an Apple rep around the time I was starting my job at the university. I think I still have the brightly colored Apple T-shirt that became part of my work wardrobe at the time. (Co workers and I felt is was our duty to dress like geeks. I can’t remember why.)

Posted by James at 8:00 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

June 27, 2007

A Mom goes "Over the Top" at RIAA

In poker, when someone raises you and you make a big re-raise, you are said to be “going over the top” of your opponent. You’re not only standing your ground, you’re asserting the strength you expressed when you made your initial bet. You’re aggressively telling your opponent “you just made a big mistake by raising me.”

A disabled, single mother from Beaverton has filed a federal lawsuit against the Recording Industry Association of America, claiming that she is the victim of abusive legal tactics, threats and illegal spying as part of an overzealous campaign to crack down on music pirating.

The recording industry sued Tanya J. Andersen, 44, in 2005, accusing her of violating copyright laws by illegally downloading music onto her computer. Andersen claims in a suit she filed last week in U.S. District Court in Oregon that the recording industry refused to drop its case after its own expert supported her claims of innocence.

The RIAA accused her of downloading some pretty misogynistic music, ignoring all the evidence to the contrary. She was not a fan of the music she was accused of stealing according to the record club of which she was a member. She was able to easily locate the teenaged boy who used the screen name she was accused of using — and his MySpace page admitted to illegal downloading.

They were hell bent on persecuting her for a few thousand bucks just for the sake of not having to back down. It was so important to them that they never back down that at no point did their lawyers take a time out to apply some common sense and ask whether they were in the right. Clearly, the idea of being right was foreign to them — unnecessary. To be right, you have to ask the question “am I right?” Their attitude was one of “might makes right.” By threats and persistence, they just figured they would intimidate her into backing down. The threats included:

  • We will financially ruin you
  • We will interrogate and intimidate your 10 year old daughter
    • (A woman claiming to be the girl’s grandmother was snooping for info at the girl’s former elementary school)
  • We will not stop until you pay us thousands of dollars

After she filed a counter suit for their illegal and abusive tactics, RIAA lawyers eventually came to the conclusion that they would be happier if she dropped that suit, and so they offered to drop theirs in return for Ms. Andersen giving up her rights and dropping her suit.

Instead of taking that deal, she demanded they provide proof she violated their copyrights. They dropped their suit. She is continuing with hers.

Tanya J. Andersen, a disabled, single mother, is a hero in my eyes. Bullies, like the RIAA, are on a power trip. It takes someone who is willing to fight to show them that not everyone is so easy a target for their abuse. She was right, she showed them that they had overplayed their hand, and without the evidence they needed they were forced to slink away.

I only hope that she can find justice when the court hears her case against the RIAA.

Posted by James at 9:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 26, 2007

Shut Up and Heal

A NYT story today highlights a study that found that doctors are very chatty about themselves when they are taking care of patients.

If you’d told me that alone I would have figured that they were just trying to put their patients at ease and get through the day pleasantly. However, the research shows that the chatty doctors are not very focused on their patients.

To their surprise, the researchers discovered that doctors talked about themselves in a third of the audio recordings and that there was no evidence that any of the doctors’ disclosures about themselves helped patients or established rapport.

It paints a picture of self-absorbed doctors yammering on all day about themselves, trapped in some sort of disassociated fugue. Is that an overstatement? Not according to the researchers’s assessments of some of the interactions:

“We found that the longer the disclosures went on, the less functional they were,” Dr. Beckman said. “Then the patient ends up having to take care of the doctor and then the question is who should be paying whom.”

The researchers studied the conversations looking for any hint that patients were helped when the doctors talked about themselves.

“We looked for any statement of comfort, any statement of appreciation, any deepening of the conversation,” Dr. Beckman said.

They found none.

Perhaps this is something to keep in mind when evaluating your doctor. I can’t remember this happening to me (at least, not with my current doctors). I have had dentists and hygienists who had this tendency, but luckily, none of our doctors. And especially our children’s specialists have always spent extended amounts of time talking to us, always about our concerns.

If you know more about your doctor than your mailman, maybe it’s time to think about getting another doctor.

Posted by James at 12:15 PM | Comments (6)

June 25, 2007

Would You Rather?

You’re walking in the woods. Would you rather…

  • Find an old diary or
  • Find a rare flower
Posted by James at 10:29 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

June 22, 2007

Circus Shotgun

Boom

Boom!

  • Cucumber Pepsi (drink,news)
    • I am not kidding.
  • The Future Is A Big-Ass Table (parody,microsoft,computer,humor)
    • A parody of the "Microsoft Surface" video teaser.
  • Incarcerex! (advertising,parody,political,video,funny)
    • Are your poll numbers lacking? Incarcerex is the prescription for you!
  • Word Processor Review — DonationCoder.com (review,software,online)
    • A pretty darn good comparison/review of a ton of different word processor programs, including 3 web applications.
  • Prove You're Not A Bot (comic,humor)
    • Funny comic -- I've definitely been there.
  • MP3 to iPod Audio Book Converter (tools,ipod,free)
    • Converts MP3s to a more iPod and audio book-friendly format. The iPod will remember where you left off int he book between sessions (apparently.)
  • Paper Airplane Tips (paper,crafts,howto,fun,origami,diy)
    • Tips on making the world's best paper airplanes.
  • -RATMAZE 2- (games,retro)
    • Eat cheese. Run. You are a rat in an 8-bit world.

Then there's Twitter and the chat room for sharing videos.

"Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge." -- Charles Darwin

Posted by James at 8:15 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 21, 2007

Totally PG

What's My Blog Rated? From Mingle2 - Online Dating

Mingle2 - Online Dating

Posted by James at 5:01 PM | Comments (9)

Black Bagels in Bed

A song of breakfast in bed gone wrong.

There's a stain on my notebook where your kosher dill was
And there's lox in the pages, now I've got myself lost.
I've been trying to tell you that my toaster's not right
And I've burned every bagel though the setting is "light."

Oh, turkey's gone
But we've got lean roast beef
Crunchy burned bagel
Unpleasant to eat

Oh, salmon's smoked
And I've burnt all the bread
I spread honey mustard
Black bagels in bed.

Feel free to add verses.

Apologies to Squeeze

Posted by James at 2:54 PM | Comments (0)

So Much For Standards

sprint

This is a screen shot of a web page running in Internet Explorer 7.

If you create your web page using browser-specific crap, and force people to use a non-standards-compliant-browser to see your content, you cannot trust the maker of non-standards-compliant-browser-x to keep their non-standard crap working.

Which makes your website look foolish in the near future.

This has been a public service announcement.

Posted by James at 2:12 AM | Comments (4)

Horn-y Teenagers

I embarrassed Maggie at the mall by (as she describes it) “acting childishly” in the food court.

Four teenage boys were exiting Dave & Buster’s restaurant while we were eating dinner. These kids, who looked to be about 14 or 15, had some sort of lung-powered air horns that made an obnoxious noise when they blew through it. The noise was loud enough to be disruptive all the way from the balcony over the food court.

If they hadn’t been so young, I would have thought they were drunk. The intoxication of youth, I suppose.

They kept blowing, and laughing, blowing and laughing. The noise was constant and stopped their conversations to look up at them.

They started down the escalator, coming toward us, and it became apparent that the noise had only been bearable because of their distance. They were right behind a teenaged couple when they blew their horns again loud enough to give the pair a jolt. The couple turned around and shot them a look of “WTF?” which served to set the teens into a round of derisive laughter. And pointing. That raised my ire.

Apparently, that set someone else off as well, because at that point a serious-looking police officer (not a “mall cop” - he looked more like state police) strode over and began to say something to the youths, who were suddenly a lot more quiet.

As their guffaws died away, I couldn’t help myself. I let out an artificially loud laugh of my own, drawing looks from all the tables around us, and in view of the noisy quartet.

This behavior was met with an immediate reproval from my wife on the grounds of childishness. I didn’t disagree. We discussed that clearly the youths wanted attention, though they probably got the kind of attention they were not interested in. I mused aloud that I might have uttered the stock Nelson Muntz “Ha ha” and Maggie suggested that, while this would still have been childish, at least it would have been funnier.

I could swear I heard a few claps of approval as the officer led the youths back up the escalator to D&B’s for some unknown purpose. Perhaps to make them return the horns.

M suggested that the official was simply going to make them walk back down again, this time quietly. A disciplinary technique we used to use when we got less-than-acceptable behavior from the children was to force them to repeat a task until they had satisfactorily demonstrated they’d learned to do it politely. Slam a door in our house (in anger) and you might find yourself walking in and out of that room repeatedly shutting the door quietly. We haven’t had to do that sort of thing in quite a while now. It works. The officer did not put them through that, but whatever he did say to them did the trick. They faded into the background of mall teens.

OK it was childish. But, come on. If you have to sit through the obnoxious first and second acts, you ought to get to heartily enjoy the finale.

[UPDATE: I believe this was the toy they were using. It’s louder than you’d expect. Hey, look - RI Novelty also carries them…]

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

June 20, 2007

Mojito Misfire

Wrong!

Bad Crate & Barrel

Maybe they’re trying to start their own trend, but this gets a “D minus” in the 2007 scale of coolness. Let me count the ways.

  1. Traditionally, you don’t rim a mojito glass with anything. I doubt Papa Hemingway would approve.
  2. For those who don’t stand on tradition (and I am certainly not above improving on tradition for the sake of a better drink) there are practical objections. It is pointless to rim a mojito glass; you drink a mojito with a straw!
    • Any drink with ice in it is meant to be drunk with a straw, because nobody wants ice clacking against his or her teeth.
    • Your guests may or may not like mint leaves slipping into their mouths whenever they take a sip. As a good host you must assume they don’t want that, and so you must supply a straw. And don’t taunt them by rimming the glass.
  3. That glass pictured is not a mojito glass. You serve a mai tai in that glass. A mojito is served in a tallish glass, like this. Why? Well, at least in part it’s because a mojito is a fun drink to look at, with the mint leaves and the lime, but it doesn’t look so good all crammed together in a small glass. And you need room for the club soda not to foam up and spill over. In a pinch, sure, you could use any glass. But a taller glass, like a Collins glass is still preferred over a highball glass. We just use whatever tall glass we have at home. But not a highball glass.
  4. This product is aimed at the newbie or the well-meaning relative who wants to get you a gift from Crate & Barrel. They heard you like mojitos, but they have no idea what one is. They get you the sugar and “voila!” you have no use for it. I think that’s smarmy.

Dear Crate & Barrel,

How about instead of highball glasses and mojito rimming sugar you put a display up front with mojito glasses and a muddler. And maybe a seltzer bottle at a decent sale price. You know, stuff that would actually be useful at a mojito party.

Sincerely, Mojito-Lovers everywhere, especially me.

I was so befuddled by the rimming sugar I forgot to even check whether you carried a muddler or a seltzer bottle and I muttered to myself until my wife led me out of the store. The mall is a place you can always pick up a blog post or two. See the next entry for more.

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

Bacardi Silver - Mojito

Anheuser-Busch has released a new flavor of Bacardi Silver to take advantage of the recent popularity of the mojito.

Bacardi Silver- Mojito is a flavored malt alcohol beverage, like many other alcopops (or, the even sillier name “malternative”). The difficulty in making a mojito in a bottle is to capture the light flavor, and fresh lime and mint. Also, it ought to taste somewhat like rum.

Upon first taste, Bob’s wife Liz said “It tastes like the gum!” I thin that’s a decent summary description. It tastes like an alcoholic version of the Orbit Mint Mojito. That’s because of the mint flavoring they used; it tasted like spearmint gum.

Compared to a mojito, this drink is strong and sweet; think of what a non-alcoholic mojito soda for kids would taste like, then add alcohol. Very sweet, it had that thick and cloying taste you find with most alcopops. Lime flavor more like limeade and not really any noticeable rum flavor. It was not a substitute for a mojito.

However, it was not half bad so long as you didn’t pretend you were drinking a mojito. It was definitely better than the super-cloying watermelon alcopops out there (Smirnov and Bacardi). If you like alcopos then you’ve probably prepared to overlook the shortcomings of this drink.

Bacardi Silver - Mojito gets a mixed score. Don’t expect it to taste like a mojito; expect Mike’s Hard Limeade with Mint.

Posted by James at 9:12 AM | Comments (8)

Cuban Revolution

Cousin Bob and I made a run to Providence yesterday to get takeout from Cuban Revolution restaurant on Aborn street (map).

It’s just a brief walk southeast from Trinity Brewhouse and a similarly short walk west from the Providence Performing Arts Center.

Our mission was to obtain Cuban sandwiches and Roast Pork sandwiches. We ordered a bunch of both and relaxes with a Caipirinha and a Mojito. The Caipirinha was good; unfortunately I didn’t look to see if he used actual cachaça in the drink. It didn’t taste like rum, and it was strong, but I don’t have a reference for judging it.

The Mojito, on the other hand, was as good as you ought to expect from a Cuban restaurant. That is to say, it was quite good. Possibly the best I’ve had at a restaurant and almost as good as the ones we were making last year. Bob says that last time his mint wasn’t muddled enough, so he specifically asked for a decent muddle, and the bartender did not fail us.

When we arrived home, the sandwiches were, miraculously, still warm.

A Cuban sandwich has roast pork, ham, salami, Swiss cheese, pickles, mayo and mustard. The mustard and pickles and salami were dominant, and the bread was thin and flavorful. Never having had a Cuban sandwich before, I deemed this sandwich “good.”

The pork sandwich was a different story. It’s the Cuban, but lose the ham, salami and pickles and load up on the pork. The pork sandwich was just excellent. Their roast pork was shredded and juicy, and the mustard gave it a little kick. The bread is the same in both sandwiches, almost pastry-like and soft, with a chewy crust.

The menu boasts “Best Steak Sandwich in RI” and I’d like to try that next time, but for my money the roast pork sandwich is a winner. And worth the field trip. A good night would be: park at the mall, walk to Trinity for a beer and wings as an appetizer, then over to Cuban Revolution for dinner and a mojito… then back to the mall for a movie to prepare for driving. Try to ignore the strip club across the street. And don’t stand outside and yell “Viva La Revolucion!” They don’t seem to like that.

Posted by James at 8:20 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 19, 2007

Test Your Net Culture Savvy

Think you’ve seen every internet phenomenon that’s haunted the minds of countless web surfers?

To test that knowledge I have created an Internet Phenom Quiz, and Amy at EAForums has been nice enough to host it for me. This quiz will ask you about people and “things” who are known for their internet exposure. It’s multiple choice, so if your memory for names is bad, that ought to help.

Here’s a sample question to give you an idea:

What computer-generated animation appeared on Ally McBeal before spreading to animated gifs everywhere?
  1. Crazy Frog
  2. Dancing Baby
  3. Hamster Dance
  4. Badger Eyes

There are 22 questions, it’s a difficult quiz (I’d say 50% correct is a good score), and it’s timed (although ample time is given).

If you care to test your geekiness: TAKE THE QUIZ.

And, if you’re still feeling bored after that, hang around EAForums a while and engage in discussions. Current Events and Symposium are where the most timely discussions are. They’ve had a Bush supporter exodus since defending the president became harder and harder work; folks of all ideologies are welcome to civil discussion.

Posted by James at 8:45 AM | Comments (17)

June 18, 2007

Would You Rather

This week’s “Would You Rather”

  • Would you rather have a good friend in every town in the USA or
  • Would you rather have guaranteed free temporary lodging at an adequate motel in every city in the USA?
Posted by James at 11:45 AM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

June 16, 2007

Bridge Follow-up

K's Bridge

Educational Bridge

Perhaps you recall this post about bridges and the MCAS test.

Here’s the update. My daughter’s bridge is pictured at right. And there were no bridge questions on the 6th grade MCAS. (I guess they could be coming in a later year.)

Her bridge held 86 lbs.

Posted by James at 3:52 PM | Comments (6)

June 15, 2007

Ron Crews Shotgun

Goodbye Ron Crews. Don't let the door hit your ass on the way out.

Happy fun time!

Don't forget the Twitter feed. -- and those of my friends.

Posted by James at 8:08 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

June 14, 2007

The Marriages Will Continue Until Morale Improves

A proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage was defeated today by a joint session of the Legislature by a vote of 45 to 151, eliminating any chance of getting it on the ballot in November 2008. At least 50 votes were needed to advance the measure.
Legislators vote to defeat same-sex marriage ban - Local News Updates - The Boston Globe

Looks like we’re not going to have the “opportunity” to vote a class of citizens out of their rights.

Posted by James at 2:39 PM | Comments (8)

June 11, 2007

Would You Rather?

Someone has taken a clandestine video of you and put it up on the internets!!!

Would you rather it be of you:

  • Dancing or
  • Crying

Assume it is not one of your better moments dancing.

Bonus “Who’s Hotter” Hitchcock Edition

Who is hotter?

Go to it.

Posted by James at 10:14 AM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

June 10, 2007

The Genius of Lolcats

Image by lilith penguin

Hosted by Imageshack

The genius of Lolcats is that somehow they took something that I thought was just about the most boring thing on the internet (pictures of people’s cats1) and recycled them into amusing visual one-liners.

I’m sure people took pictures of their cats before digicams. But with the ability to cheaply snap countless pictures, they can now do it on a whim. And the internet is more than happy to spread cat pictures to the four corners or the globe. And I had pretty much zero interest in them.

But give them their own silly language and “reveal” their inner monologues and suddenly I’m looking through a whole website of the darned things and I can’t stop myself.

It may not be the most sophisticated humor, but it has an innocence that is refreshing and beats a lot of the more sophomoric stuff that is so easy to find on the internets. And, since it’s an effective form of recycling, it’s good for the environment!

1 I’m sure you love your cats, and I think they’re nice, too. Cute, even. But most of the pix are just not as fascinating as you think they are. Sorry.

Posted by James at 10:20 PM | Comments (9)

June 8, 2007

Non-Paris Hilton News Gripe

I was listening to WJAR Channel 10 news on the radio this evening. You know, for news.

I only catch the end of Keri’s show on WSAR anymore. I rushed home like everyone to begin the weekend with the kids. We had an exciting evening of relaxing and watching Short Circuit and Star Trek Voyager together. We actually watched Short Circuit online through Netflix which was pretty cool, although the couch is nowhere near my computer.

Back to WJAR.

As I was getting out of my car, Gene Valicenti started to tell me that the series finale of The Sopranos was coming up, and we were going to find out “who gets whacked.” And then he went on to basically set up the situation going into the finale.

In other words, he summarized the season that I haven’t seen. On the news.

I watch The Sopranos on DVD. That’s the way I like to watch The Sopranos and Deadwood and a lot of other shows on HBO and Showtime. It’s not that I have to watch them on DVD - I like watching them that way. That is a choice of mine that comes with the risk of finding out important plot information beforehand. I accept that risk. I have some control over what I read, and I minimize the risk.

But WJAR Channel 10 news decided that I needed to know the situation going into the series finale. Because I can’t possibly be a fan and not be watching it on HBO.

OK, so I found out a little bit about the plot. Not a huge deal, right? Except that I had the spoiler revealed to me during a supposed news show. Can it really be true that the function of evening news is to ruin the plot of The Sopranos last season for me? Is there nothing in the region or the world left to report on, and I need to have the last season of The Sopranos summarized before I get a crack at watching it?

I can’t believe I’m actually saying this, but Paris Hilton going back to jail is actually more valid news than doing a story on the series finale of The Sopranos in which you help run my future enjoyment of watching the final season. WJAR, why not do some real investigative reporting, find out what happens in the finale and blurt the ending out to all the fans in your broadcast. Isn’t that called a “scoop?”

Or, here’s a better idea; stop calling your show “news” and rename it “PM Magazine Plus Weather and Sports.”

Meanwhile, here are a few things that actually happened in the world that you could have reported and even elaborated on.

Aw, Hell. Just do what I do and read Google News.

Posted by James at 11:09 PM | Comments (7)

The Wrong Trousers

This is a video of the group “The Wrong Trousers” performing the classic Buggles tune “Video Killed the Radio Star.”

These kids are cool!

Posted by James at 5:15 PM | Comments (2)

Destination Wedding

Photo by Manassas Cakery

Hosted by ImageShack

I happened upon this thread in some forum about “destination weddings” and had a few observations to make.

A destination wedding is when you plan your wedding far away from where you (or any of your guests) live.

In this specific case, the bride is upset because her future husband’s family is saying that if they can’t attend the wedding they’re not going to attend an informal (i.e. no dinner served) reception party that the newlyweds plan to have upon their return from the honeymoon.

In my opinion, the in-laws are being unnecessarily spiteful in refusing to attend the after-the-fact local reception. However, I think the bride is missing the some of the point — she’s snubbed the local families with her plans and ought to expect that they know what their decision means. I applaud her for wanting to have a party for them (albeit, a cheap one) when they return, but recognize that these sorts of decisions come with a price.

Brides and grooms: the wedding reception is not really for you. It’s for your guests to have a chance to celebrate your new union and share in the joy. The marriage is for you. The honeymoon is for you. And nobody says that you must have a wedding reception for your guests, but that’s what people expect. And when it doesn’t happen as they expect, they feel they’ve been snubbed, no matter what your motivation was. In fact, they have been snubbed.

One of the commenters in that thread said it well:

Since you and FH have made a decision that means their attendance is very difficult and comes at a high price, they are figuring it means they are not particularly important to the two of you, and that their attendance is not something you much care about.

While the in-laws are being spiteful, it seems to me that they at least have some cause to feel hurt. And, as it turns out, the groom admits that part of the reason he wants the wedding far away is that he didn’t want his family there. So these folks have correctly understood that they are being snubbed.

It cracks me up when, later in the thread, the bride says “I think so-and-so hit it on the head” (so-and-so was the one person who told her simply “stop feeling guilty.”)

If you want to go to Barbados to have your wedding, it’s your decision. But what you’re doing is basically asking people to come on your honeymoon with you. That’s not really fun for them. It’s not their honeymoon; it’s not their planned vacation. It might not be feasible or convenient for them. Expect people to tell you “Have a good time and we’ll see you when you come back.” Don’t try to guilt them into coming and don’t expect that the ones you didn’t want to attend in the first place won’t figure it out.

If there are people who you wanted to attend but they say they can’t, don’t be surprised. You can’t just tell people to fly off to Barbados and put their life on hold, no matter how happy they are for you. You chose to be isolated for your wedding, embrace it.

And, local families: if your loved ones want to go off to Timbuktu to get married, let ‘em go. Explain to them that you hope they have a good time and suggest a party when they get back. Yeah, they’re leaving you out of the ceremony, but celebrating with them when they get back shows that this is what was really important to you.

What do you think?

Posted by James at 8:51 AM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

Caturday Shotgun

Why Caturday? I dunno. Enjoy.

As always, there's Twitter , too.

Posted by James at 8:47 AM | Comments (2)

June 7, 2007

Rum Raisin Fruit Salad

It’s fruit salad season. Scour your local supermarkets and farm stands for great prices and delicious selections of summer fruit like watermelon, cantaloupe, grapefruit (Ok, not local here and not in season, but good) pineapple (Again, not local. Sue me.), honeydew melon… whatever you like.

My recent fruit salad had watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple and red seedless grapes. Over that I squeezed the juice of a lemon and the juice of a lime. The fresh lime juice was a great addition; it clings to the watermelon.

To this I also added a couple of hands full of raisins which had been soaked in spiced rum for about 2 days. The results? Yummy.

It’s not at all a strong rum flavor; the raisins don’t absorb as much as you would think. However, it does add a slight kick. Use cheap rum, though.

Posted by James at 8:28 AM | Comments (7)

Bloody Helpful

  1. Bleed into a tube
  2. ???
  3. Profit!

Last Tuesday we took M north to Boston Children’s Hospital for her (thankfully now infrequent) checkup with her pediatric rheumatologist. (Don’t worry - she’s still doing quite well.)

While we were at the hospital, I donated blood. Either Maggie or I nearly always give blood whenever we visit Children’s Hospital. Knowing I was going to donate, I made sure I had eaten something in the morning and had plenty of fluids in me.

They are always very friendly at the blood donation center of Children’s Hospital.

If you’ve never given blood at a place like this before, I can shed some light. I was going to write a first person account of my visit, but it was actually a pretty uneventful donation, as it usually is. So I thought I would just list some details that may be of interest to the neophyte.

  • I like donating at Boston Children’s Hospital. The staff are friendly and they need the blood for kids. “Give Pints For Half Pints.”
  • You are asked to go over a checklist which helps you determine whether you are eligible to donate. All easy questions.
  • You’ll be given a card with a number to call in case you think of something afterwards which makes you question whether they ought to use your blood. Like if you realize you were sick with a cold.
  • They take your blood pressure and check your blood’s iron content with a finger stick.
  • They put you in a comfy reclining chair where you can relax and think deep thoughts. Nobody will bother you during your donation.
  • They’ll clean your arm and carefully tap a vein while you squeeze a ball to keep the blood flowing.
  • You’ll be done in minutes, and then you get to have all sorts of snacks.

Please give blood, if you can. If you are more comfortable in one place, then return to that place and give.

I am most comfortable in Boston. Donating at Boston Children’s is especially rewarding to us because they give you a pass for free parking at the hospital (It’s like free money!) and they’ll give you a T-shirt promoting blood donation. The friendly staff make you feel quite special. Add that to the excellent snacks and you’re definitely coming out ahead. Your body is making the blood anyhow, you may as well get something out of it. Boston Children’s is where I began giving blood during a stressful time when we were facing a chronic disease and close friends of ours had a newborn with tragic heart defects admitted to the very same hospital. It wasn’t hard to imagine the need we were assisting with. Childhood tragedy had become more concrete.

I used to be really afraid of needles. Girly man afraid. OK - I admit it, I am still afraid. But it always is less of a pinch than I think it’s going to be. You can get over a fear of needles; it’s manageable. This is especially true if you experience the positive feeling associated with donation. You’re giving an actual part of yourself to others. It’s a unique feeling which you have about 10 minutes to sit and contemplate.

And, of course, there are the treats.

On one visit to the hospital, we had K with us. She was probably about 7 or 8. The technicians agreed that if I donated they’d put me in the chair closest to the kitchenette and K could sit in there and read while I kept an eye on her. She was pretty well-behaved and books hold her attention, so I went for it. I worried a bit that she’s be upset by the process of donation, but I figured we’d see how it went.

Once I was immobilized it became clear that she trusted I was in no danger, and she was quite relaxed. She was also excited to be around all the snacks in the kitchenette. The Oreos grabbed her attention.

“Can I have Oreos?” she asked me from a few yards away as I was squeezing the ball. I told her she could have a couple of Oreos, and that was it, else her mother would object.

In child-brain translation she interpreted that as “a couple of 4-packs of Oreos.”

A few minutes later she exclaimed “I ate eight Oreos!” The technicians nearby were amused by my chagrin and burst out laughing.

I said “Please don’t tell your mother you ate that many cookies. Let me break it to her.” (This prompted a discreet round of laughter.)

Maggie got there with M just as I was finishing up and K went around the corner to the waiting room to join her. They were out of my field of vision, but not out of earshot so I could hear K’s words of greeting to my wife.

“I had eight Oreos!”

Cue laughter.

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

June 5, 2007

Dictators of the World and their Stalkers

The title of this entry is in no way meant to refer to people (friends, even) who may have an unhealthy fixation on dictators of the world.

Instead, it refers to two films I recently watched. The Last King of Scotland (that’d be the dictator part) and Alone With Her (that’s be the stalker part.) We’ll have a couple of very brief reviews momentarily.

Of course, we are not above encouraging an oddball interest now and again if it makes for entertaining and enlightening blog material, as it did last time we had a Dictators of the World post. OK Patti, I was thinking of you. (See long comments section on previous Dictators of the World post.)

Alone With Her

(imdb)

I expected a horror movie and was pleasantly surprised. It’s more of a psychological thriller. It’s not that there is no “horror” aspect to the film, but the pacing is completely different from what you’d expect in horror.

The film follows the progress of a stalker as he tries to insinuate himself into the life of his target. The director has used an interesting gimmick of only showing you what the stalker has videotaped, so you only see what the hidden cameras see.

Any film has a voyeuristic quality to it. But by only showing what the stalker cameras see, the director reinforces the feeling of voyeurism. Colin Hanks (Tom Hanks’ son) is creepy as the stalker who knows better than to just pounce on his victim once he knows everything about her. In a horror movie, the victim would be horrified for at least half the film, if not more. But our stalker here is not interested in terror, but rather control.

The film shows that it’s not all that hard for a patient and calculating stalker to manipulate his victim, even when he hits a few roadblocks. Isn’t a director, in many ways, like a stalker? It’s his job to manipulate the feelings of his audience and he has to do it in a way that isn’t obvious, or he’ll lose you. Also, they both like to use cameras. It’s a wonder we don’t see more stalker movies.

The Last King of Scotland

(imdb)

Conversely, I didn’t expect this film to be a horror movie, but it was. Forrest Whittaker is frightening as the new dictator of Uganda: Idi Amin Dada. We watch as a young doctor from Scotland is overwhelmed by the dictator’s personality until it is too late for him to escape the man’s madness.

While the film isn’t historically accurate, it does give you a glimpse of what it might be like to experience a budding dictatorship. If I have any criticism of Whittaker’s performance at all, it’s that he seethes instability. But maybe I’m letting my knowledge of Amin’s regime color my interpretation of his actions in the film.

I recommend the film highly, but warn you that there are some brief scenes that are among the most disturbing I’ve seen in film.

A dictator and a stalker, both are manipulative and get their jollies from the power they wield. One gets his power through charisma and force, the other through clandestine information gathering and sneakily messing with your life.

Bonus Links:

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

June 4, 2007

Would You Rather - Extra Questions Edition

This is a “Would You Rather” that’s been super-sized by adding two “Who’s Hotter” questions and a trivia question.

Would You Rather?

  • Have a DVR unit containing all the TV shows you watched before you were 13, and you could watch them any time. OR
  • Have a gift card entitling you to one free fruit salad from your local supermarket every day for three months over the summer of 2008.

Who’s Hotter?

Laura Petrie or Ann Marie (That Girl)?

Rob Petrie or Donald Hollinger?

(Feel free to answer both questions)

Name That Song

I heard a snippet of a song yesterday while my daughter was watching some online animations. I first heard this song in the mid-80s when I was a freshman in college.

Coincidentally, I came across the name of the band that performs the song while I was searching for pictures for the “Who’s Hotter.”

The song features a conversation between two people who discuss under-age drinking, a deadly disease, and driving from an island to the continental Unites States.

What’s important here is that you name the song, and the band that recorded it. Can you?

Posted by James at 9:10 AM | Comments (28) | TrackBack

June 3, 2007

Barrow-Tire Followup

I should know to always shop the local place first!

You may have read my disgruntled mumblings about my adventures with the word “guarantee” as I sought to replace my wheelbarrow tire. Well I should have known to check the local hardware store before hitting the big chain.

There is a local hardware store in a nearby plaza — a hole in the wall compared to those warehouse stores. It’s chock full of stuff and you can’t even walk through the door without getting offered some expert help. On Saturday I was in there all of 2 minutes before the proprietor offered me a solution for repairing my existing tire — and that includes waiting for him to finish helping the previous customer. Repairing, rather than replacing it, saved me almost 80% of the cost1.

The guy even helped me start to implement the repair, and then I went off and finished the job. I was so happy that I bought some other merchandise I needed while I was there.

I should have learned long ago to shop where the expertise is.

1 The original tire was a tubeless wheelbarrow tire. To repair it he suggested I tear off the valve stem and put a replacement tube into the tire. Since it was a tubeless tire, that solution hadn’t even occurred to me. He cut off the old valve stem for me and I did the rest. It was a bit of work; I spent about 30 minutes listening to the Sox game and trying to work the tube into the tire. But it worked like a charm.

Posted by James at 12:41 PM | Comments (0)

Goofy Purple Jesus Prayer Rug Redux

Don't get Jesus angry.

You wouldn't like him when he's angry.

I noticed the other day that a lot of people stumble onto my site looking for information on the Purple Jesus Prayer Rug, and they wander onto the goofy entry I wrote when we first encountered the madness that is the purple Jesus.

And since that time we've had friends tell us that they, too have received a purple Jesus prayer rug.

It occurs to me that atheists are missing out in the opportunity to scam people. These St. Matthews people have a good thing going, but they've already cornered the market on Purple Jesus, which is a built-in draw for Christians. Because what Christian doesn't respond favorably when you print a picture of his savior in garish purple ink and mass-mail it to the four corners of the Earth? That's evangelism to the max.

So, what are atheists left to do? No Jesus and no prayer. A Purple Richard Dawkins Lecture Rug from Heck? Doesn't quite have the same ring to it, and Dawkins doesn't really fill the crazy Purple Jesus shoes. Doesn't have the right look in his eye.

Hey -- I've got it. I present you with the Non-theistic Rug Money Scam from Heck:


Blank Prayer Rug

Notice the random pattern on the Non-theistic Money Scam Rug. When you first look, you will notice that there is nobody staring back at you. If you relax and continue looking you will get dizzy, wonder why you are staring, and just maybe you'll begin to see a face emerge from the randomness.

There is no face staring back at you, but you may see one anyway because your brain may have an ingrained need to see a face staring back. The human brain has the power to alter your perceptions to make you see what you want to see. So, keep staring. If you want to see a pony, you might see a pony. If you want to see an invisible pink unicorn, then stare really hard. Oh, and send money!


I'm going to have to work on the scam aspect, but you get the idea.

Posted by James at 10:48 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 1, 2007

Rabbit Rabbit Shotgun

“Rabbit rabbit” is a common superstition, held particularly among children. The most common modern version states that a person should say “rabbit, rabbit” upon waking on the first day of each new month, and on doing so will receive good luck for the remainder of that month.

Welcome to June and welcome to your Shotgun post. Enjoy!

And, if you're so inclined, join us in the twitterverse. Start at my profile. Join, add me, add my friends...

Posted by James at 6:59 AM | Comments (6)