October 31, 2007

Joel's Back

In a new “movie-riffing” endeavor with all the original folks from MST3K.

The new project is called Cinematic Titanic.

Sign up for the newsletter.

Posted by James at 4:36 PM | Comments (3)

The Fun So Far

I figured I’d report back on my post-per-day challenge, in the middle. Sort of a mid term examination.

On the weight loss front, I’ve already pretty much lost the 8 lbs I pledged I’d lose by the end of November. So I’m going to continue on and try to lose another 6. Yeah, we’ll see how that goes. My goal is 170 lbs. I can tell you I am hungry. This seems to be part of the whole “losing weight” thing. more on that in a future post.

I’ve been able to post at least once per day, so that hasn’t been a problem. And the promise to keep that pace has been stimulated creativity, even if the blog doesn’t reflect it. The more you post, the more ideas you get for blog posts. It’s a fact of blogging.

Official NaBloPoMo starts tomorrow, so you still have time to join in.

You don’t always control the flow of ideas you get for blog posts, so here’s my method for capturing them when they’re flowing.

1) Write down down ideas immediately. If I’m near the computer I use Google Notebook within my browser window. If I’m not near a computer, I use my Hipster PDA. If I’m really on the go, I use the Jott service via my cell phone and my ideas get emailed to me. My voice recorder is handy, too, when I can find it.

2) When I have some down time, I take the idea and paste it into a Google Documents text document. I flesh it out a little, and then usually my time is up. I tag it as a blog post in process.

3) Later, when I have more downtime, I try to finish it off, and then post it. For much longer posts, I sometimes subdivide them. For posts that are going to need a lot of formatting, I use Komposer to do the HTML.

And that’s it. You, too can be a blogger! Post every day! So easy that a slouch like me can do it!

Posted by James at 7:13 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Happy Halloween!

Jack O' Lantern
Happy Halloween!

Posted by James at 7:09 AM | Comments (0)

October 30, 2007

Junkmail Followup

A reader who calls himself “finnegan” saw my post about the junk mail boarding pass and noticed an address in his area. So he did some footwork, including getting a picture of the office. That’s kinda cool.


Have a feeling that designers and marketers don’t always get along? You will after you check out the ad for “Make My Logo Bigger Cream.” (Contains a video with sound)

Posted by James at 2:21 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Birthday Greeting From Afar

Today’s post is a video post. But it requires some explanation.

B.O.B. Bob and Patti heard a story on NPR about Tajtunes, a site which delivers singing greetings with a slight flavor of Bollywood.

So, Bob signed me up for a birthday greeting.

There was a slight problem, though. I think they got swamped after the NPR story. And because of that, they ended up calling at 10:30 PM. That’s not usually a problem, because I am almost never in bed before 11. But the Sox were in Game 2 on Thursday night, and Game 3 was on Saturday. Not to mention I was up writing for work until the wee hours of Friday morning. That means “bed early” on Friday night. I’d been asleep about an hour when the phone rang. So, I was groggy1. The second problem was that instead of calling me and saying they had a birthday song to deliver to James on behalf of Bob, they told me that they were trying to deliver a song to Bob.

So, I was groggy and confused. but we sorted it out. Hearing me stumble around to understand her is half of the fun of the recording, which they sent to Bob so that he could hear my reaction.

And I’ve made it into a video with annotations for you to enjoy.

On an amusing note, the usual suspects will know that Bob’s nickname is B-O-B Bob. He didn’t tell Tajtunes that, but at one point she describes the person she is trying to reach as “B-O-B Bob.” A funny coincidence, and I didn’t pick up on it until Bob pointed it out when he sent the MP3.

Bob and Patti’s gift becomes my birthday blog post. Enjoy the Indian vocal stylings of Tajtunes in “It’s Your Birthday, James.”

(BTW - I’ve obfuscated the phone number. That’s why you hear gibberish at a couple of points.)

And it actually is my Birthday. Funny how that works out.

1 No worries, Bob, about waking me. I watched an episode of the Sopranos on DVD and then went right back to sleep, still before my usual bedtime.

Posted by James at 4:00 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

October 29, 2007

Mercy Rule?

I'm not much of a football fan. I used to dislike football and was disinterested. Now I have graduated to uninterested. I'll watch part of a game with family now and again, basically just to be with family, but you'll never see me turn on a game unless, perhaps, it's to see the end of the Super Bowl when the Pats are playing.

I say that mainly to set things straight, so nobody thinks I'm a football fan poseur.

I do have an interest, though in people. And in New England. And I did see the beginning of the Pats vs. Redskins game on Sunday. And Ryan mentioned that, late in the game, the Pats were still throwing touchdowns until the score ended at genocidal 52-7.

Apparently, this scoring disparity has caused a ruckus. Specifically, with Washington Redskin Randall Godfrey who is quoted as saying

"I told [Pats coach Belichick], 'You need to show some respect for the game.' You just don't do that. I don't care how bad it is. You're up 35 points and you're still throwing deep? That's no respect."

Is this what football is all about? I can completely understand the argument that you might not keep trying to complete these long passes for the sake of going easy on your team. Injuries are commonplace in professional sports, and the course of a season can easily change when key players are hurt.

But going easy on the other team? I've never heard of that.

The point of a competition is not to get to a point where you have the luxury of resting, and then resting. The point is to defeat the other team. You do it fairly, and within the rules of the game.

Is it respectful to the other team to play in such a way as to try not to score any more goals? I can think of two ways I can think of that your play can show a lack of respect. Firstly, if you play dirty or unnecessarily roughly, that shows a lack of respect. It means not meeting the other team in a fair competition where you test skill against skill. That would be a lack of respect.

Secondly, if you were to intentionally go easy on the other team, that would show you had little opinion of their abilities. There's a lack of respect.

So, in my estimation, Godfrey is calling to be respected by being treated like a team that doesn't belong on the field with the Patriots. If the Redskins feel like they should be treated that way, then they have the option not to be on the field with the Patriots. Forfeit the game and save everyone some time.

This is even more mind-boggling, considering that I heard, at the beginning of the game, one of the announcers saying that the Redskins were trying to be extremely rough with the Patriots receivers. The strategy was, and I'm paraphrasing here, to make the receivers pay for it every time they touched the ball, so that they might eventually flinch or hesitate whenever they were about to catch a pass. I guess that's within the rules of the game, but that's sportsmanlike and trying to make touchdowns isn't?

What nutty things some losing teams say.

Posted by James at 8:24 PM | Comments (71) | TrackBack

From Selected Spam

Fill in the blank. Answer is the same for each item.

  1. Your new _____ is waiting for you.
  2. You’ll be surprised with your bigger _____.
  3. Your _____ will get a bigger size and you will love it.
  4. Become a s’e_xual champion with your new _____.
  5. Your new big _____ will win you a reputation of an unsurpassed lover.
  6. are you gonna get your supply of _____ pills soon?
  7. Win in bed with our medicine for your ____.
  8. Bigger _____ is not just an illusion!

Answer: Ego.

Posted by James at 12:15 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Would You Rather

It’s another lame-o super hero power edition of “Would You Rather.” I actually have the option of stealing questions from the game Julie got me, but I’m going to wing this one.

Would you rather

  • Have the ability to remotely control any television/DVR/radio WITH YOUR MIND (never need a remote control again) or
  • Have the ability to view/hear any broadcast television or radio signal WITH YOUR MIND?

Option 2 only applies to traditional over-the-air broadcasts, not cable, digital or satellite.

Author: Sir Frederick Choose-Wisely!

Posted by James at 12:22 AM | Comments (16)

World Series Game 4 - Sweep

We may have swept, but the Rockies never seemed to give up.

In any case, it was fun. Congratulations, Red Sox. And thanks for the fun!

Posted by James at 12:11 AM | Comments (5)

October 28, 2007

World Series Game 3: Thin Air

Thin air, thinner excuses?

Hopefully, a game 3 win for the Red Sox means we can stop hearing silly talk about the air being thin in Colorado, and this being a measurable advantage for the Rockies.

It’s not pon farr, people. It’s baseball. You win the World Series by playing baseball, not by living at high altitude.

Starting with Ortiz sending Ellsbury home on a double in the 3rd, the Sox never lost the lead. Rockies fans in Coors Field woke up in the 7th when Mat Holliday’s 3-run homer run bright them to 5 and the Rockies within one run of tying the game. But the tying run was stranded on base when Okajima struck out two and Torrealba grounded out.

No rest for the Rockies, because the Sox became a double-hitting machine in the 8th, regaining their previous lead.

Then it was Hawkins vs. Papelbon in a battle of the closers. Hawkins allowed Mike Lowell onto base where he advanced, stole 3rd (no additional taco), and came home for run 10 on Varitek’s sacrifice. Papelbon only gave up one nonproductive hit, and ended the game.

Rockies fans, don’t feel too bad. You’re still in this. I remember 2004; the team that went on to win the ALCS was down 0 to 3 games — and that was against the Yankees. Unfortunately for you, you’re up against the team that came back to win four straight games in that series, and who recently came back from a 1 to 3 hole against the Indians.

If you can do it, you’d be the first team to ever come back after losing the first 3 games in the World Series. That’d be exciting, right?

Me, I was just thrilled to get a chance to see a World Series games surrounded by my bestest friends. We gave Julie a hard time when she lamented the fact that the Rockies hadn’t scored, and then it briefly became a close game. But I have to admit, it’s been a while since I’ve seen the Sox really choke, and my inner Red Sox pessimist was battling with my recent optimism.

Red Sox fandom is excited to watch game four, and the voices of the bitter Yankees fans who are rooting for the Rockies are becoming ever softer…

Posted by James at 12:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 27, 2007

Brightman Street Bridge

A bit of local news: the Brightman Street Bridge appeared to be open to traffic when I went by on my way back from the market. That’s huge news from the area, because it means two weeks of hellish traffic are over.

Posted by James at 3:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Broken Brain

I remember the last time I had the flu. Headachy, weak and feeling generally crappy, there are times when I had body hallucinations. I’m specifically talking about a skewed perception of what my body was during the hallucination. For example, feeling like you had tow two1 heads: one that hurt and one that didn’t hurt.

Our perception of what our body is relies on how we feel, and pain changes that. The brain sometimes comes up with weird explanations in the form of these hallucinations. Most of the time, when the feeling passes, I have a difficult time even remembering the hallucination because I never verbalize them. That is, I didn’t analyze the feelings to the point where I remember exactly how I felt. When you verbalize something, it’s a lot easier to remember because you can remember the words you use even when the feeling passes. When the hallucination happens in the night, you don’t wake up your family and tell them what you’re feeling, or call a friend up, or write in a journal (usually).

Hallucinations in general have always fascinated me. I remember being 9 or 10 and my sister being feverish. She was talking gibberish — saying things that didn’t make any sense. My mother said my sister was hallucinating. I really wanted to ask her some questions, but she needed to get rest.

Often, neurologists learn a lot about how the brain works by what happens when it’s not working as we expect, or when parts of the brain are damaged. This is why Oliver Sacks’ books are so fascinating. When the brain is not working, you can see it as more like a machine and less like a magical source of “you.” It’s odd that broken brains are, in one sense, easier to understand.

Since no brain is perfect, we all have our own brokenness. We all have our moments when our brain plays tricks on us. And that’s when we notice that our perception of the outside world isn’t as simple as we pretend it is all day long.

1 Nice to know I still have readers on the weekends.

Posted by James at 1:10 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 26, 2007

MathWorlds in the Economist

Our work appears on Economist.com in the debate hall.

In this online debate, our project is cited as evidence in the winner’s rebuttal.

Here’s the rebuttal, arguing

The research results are clear—in comparative studies using technology, increased student learning is both statistically significant and educationally meaningful.

Look for MathWorlds. I know friends have wondered what I do. This is it, for the past 13 years. I lead MathWorlds product development and build these tools as part of the mission that the cool researchers and developers of the Kaput Center labor at every day.

Posted by James at 2:51 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

No Shotgun Post, Commercial

There’s no shotgun post this week. I was up until 5 writing for a proposal, and now I have to add more to it, and then cut it back down by about 80%.

Instead, here’s a little game to play. If you’ve been watching the World Series on Fox, what’s the most annoying advertisement you’ve had to watch over and over again?

  • The “Numero Uno” guy from Verizon
  • The “I keep running into a car” woman from Chevrolet
  • The “Rules” guy from Taco Bell, who unbelievably has a girlfriend

Or maybe you find it annoying that they turned the Red Sox into a Taco Bell commercial. Or maybe you actually appreciate that Jacoby Ellsbury won the country a free taco for next Tuesday afternoon. Or maybe one of the other ads annoyed you over and over again.

You tell me.

Posted by James at 10:57 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

World Series Game 2 - Fingernails

the ROCKIES will pull through
in Game # 2 !!!
- Rockies Fan

The Rockies certainly gave us a better game in game 2, and even started in the lead. But Schilling was able to hold them to their initial run, shutting them down into the 6th inning to record the win. Okajima took over for a couple of innings for — was it 5? — strikeouts. Papelbon sent everyone home for the night, and sent the Rockies home to Colorado empty-handed.

Favorite moment of the night? Papelbon dodging a line drive while he gave up a hit to the formidable Matt Holliday, but then picking him off at first base completely unexpectedly as if to say “you weren’t supposed to be there.”

Now that’s why I stayed up late last night.

The Red Sox left a lot of guys on base. If Ortiz had made that grand slam, I think it would be harder to argue for taking him out in Colorado. But he didn’t. It seems like he really ought to be the one to sit down at Coors Field. How do you sit Youk down, batting .396 in the postseason? I guess Francona intends to sit Lowell down instead. Ortiz’s left-handedness is a factor.

At this point, I’ll put some faith in Francona and just enjoy the ride if we see Ortiz put some runs on the board. As long as the poor guy doesn’t have to move much.

Posted by James at 8:48 AM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

October 25, 2007

WTF Thursday

Police kill arson suspect in San Bernardino; another arrested

It just blows my mind that there are people actually starting these fires on purpose. The arson suspect who was shot by police was ramming a police vehicle with his pickup truck. He was from Arizona. Maybe he didn’t want to start a fire in his own backyard.

Yankees fan Giuliani rooting for Sox

Can you trust a guy who says he’s a Yankees fan, and then says he’s rooting for the Red Sox in the World Series? Maybe you can, but I can’t. Rudy: I think the people in New Hampshire are smarter than you think they are.

I’ll let him off the hook a little bit if he says he’s a Sox fan now, but he still loses points for flip-flopping.

(Any of you chimeras out there who claim to be both Red Sox fans and Yankees fans … My religion forbids that I believe you exist.)

Experts Tout Hygiene to Battle Staph in Schools

This crazy MRSA staph breakout is all over the news. And suddenly it takes experts to tell you to wash your hands.

People. It’s simple. Wash your frakking hands. If you walk into a restroom, don’t walk out without washing. I don’t care what you were doing in there. You can walk out of a bathroom with something you didn’t expect. Just ask Larry Craig.

The WTF in this story is more of a “WHY TF?” Why don’t people know enough to wash?

Bonus story:

The Coast Guard blocked the proposed HESS LNG terminal project on the Taunton river yesterday. This story appeared under my “more top stories” in Google News. Didn’t expect that!

This is great, great news for our area. Senator Jim Inhofe, you’ve been pwned.

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

World Series Game 1 - Shock and Awe

It's important to remember that Boston had every advantage on their side in this game 1 of the World Championship Series.

However, even with the excuses of home field advantage, a stalling 8 day cool-down for Colorado, Josh Beckett's relentless arm, and whatever else you can think of, it has to be dispiriting to see a 5th inning like last night. Over half an hour long and full of woe for Colorado.

To see Julio Lugo get on base 4 times (Beckett had nothing to do with that) when he was the least of your Red Sox worries would give me a hangover if I were a Rockies fan.

But getting cocky at this point would be a mistake. We broke the record for the winning lead in a Game 1 of the World Series. But the other two teams that held the previous record both went on to lose their respective series. It's just game 1. And, no matter what happens tonight, the Sox'll be in Colorado on Saturday.

The Indians can tell you. Don't drink your champagne early!

Posted by James at 11:47 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

October 24, 2007

Brian and Family Are OK

Our dear friends BriWei, Mrs. BriWei and the rest of the BriWei clan were on my mind when I first heard of the fires that are raging in the San Diego area.

I checked the Google map and thought that where they were was away from the danger. But I guess I was wrong, because I just got a message from them saying that they are safe in Denver because they evacuated the area. Mrs. BriWei reports bad air quality and being within 2 miles of one of the fire areas.

I wanted my blog readers to know that our dear friends are safe in another state while these crazy fires burn on. Their house is OK for the moment as well, but who knows what will happen?

Friends, you’re in our thoughts. So glad you’re out of there for the time being, and thank you for letting us know. Please keep in touch.

Here is a Google map of the fires. You can see they are close to where our friends live, contrary to what I believed earlier. I can’t believe how large an area is affected.

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

Phishing Mail?

You have likely seen them before. A letter in the mail that's printed with some sort of security pattern. It looks like a tax document or a check -- you have to rip open the sides to open the letter.

And, to get your attention, scammers use a similar format to get you to open their mail. It sometimes works on me, because if you can't tell from the outside who a letter is from, you really have to open the darn thing in case it is important.

So, I got one of these yesterday. When I opened it, I saw a message inside:


Congratulations Vict M. Name
Our Accounting Department shows that you have been
USA. To claim this special gift, simply call 1-800-296-0095
Flights Fill Quickly. First to Call, First to Fly.

Reservation Number DVAC-200

*Our records also indicate if you respond within 72 Hours you will
also receive a complimentary 7 Day Rent-A-CAR

For extra authenticity, it came with this authentically fake boarding pass. (I've changed the name so that nobody else can steal this incredible offer!)

not a boarding pass

Wow - I'd think that was a real boarding pass if I'd never seen a real one before! Even though I haven't chosen where I'm going, I already have a gate and a seat assignment. That's service!

Funny, considering it's fake, they couldn't put me in first class. But I guess that would seem too far-fetched.

On the back of the boarding pass was more  text:

Reservation Department
76 West Water Street
Harrisonburg, VA 22801

This advertising material is being
used for the purpose of soliciting
the sales of time shares inerests.
Please call for complete details of
participations, terms and

Ah, so at best this is a solicitation for a timeshare. And -- look -- time shares inerests no less! At worst (and likely) it's an attempt to build a "sucker list" of phone numbers and addresses. If I call the number, they'll know I'm a decent target, because I'm interested. Circle X

I wonder if Budget Rent-A-Car and Delta approve of their names and logos being used this way. Notice the little circle near the Delta logo. Looks rather like a trademark symbol, right? Well, it isn't. I blew it up.

It's just a circle with an "x" in it. I have no idea what they think that means.

Hey, Delta and Budget - you out there?

Other people have gotten this mail as well.Of course. I wonder how many bites they get. Anyone else seeing this solicitation?
Posted by James at 6:57 AM | Comments (4)

Happy Birthday, Chuck!

Would You Like Some... CAKE?!?!?
Originally uploaded by plastereddragon.

My good buddy Chuck celebrates his 40th birthday today, which means we've known each other for over 22 years, because I still remember his 18th.

See what a mathematics education can do for you? You, too can feel really old.

Chuck's blog Unbecoming Levity is not so active anymore, but he's having a blast taking pictures.

So, if you're so inclined, why not wish him a Happy Birthday here, or stop by any of the photos on his Flickr photostream.

And, as it's game 1 of the World Series tonight, it wouldn't hurt to throw a "Go Sox!" in there as well.
Posted by James at 6:49 AM | Comments (8)

October 23, 2007

Well There's Your Problem!

Well THERE'S Your Problem

I don’t remember hex wrenches being

part of tire maintenance.

Had a flat this morning (sad picture of flat tire here) and it turns out that a hex wrench is sticking out of the tread of this fairly new tire.

Isn’t that special? And, oaf that I am, I slammed my head into the Jeep’s hatch, giving myself a painful red bump. I’m wearing my season-appropriate Red Sox cap to hold an ice pack to my head.

Turned around and went back home to fix the flat off the road and then decided to get the car inspected. Of course it failed. For some reason, this car can’t seem to keep its emergency brake working for a whole year. I seem to get it fixed every year.

The day wasn’t a total loss. Maggie got me the ‘07 Newbury Comics Hallowe’en-themed glass. And a package from Julie arrived in the mail for Maggie and me. It was a fun game with a familiar-sounding theme! “Would You Rather!”

But seriously - when the heck did I drive over a hex wrench?

(Likely answer — right before I got the flat tire.)

Posted by James at 4:17 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Fall Beers and Woodchucks

Fall Beers

Crazygonuts for fall beer

No, it’s not National Too Many Beers Week.

I’m stocking up so when friends com ‘round this fall, they can help me decide which is the best fall beer.

This picture reminds me of the time Maggie and I went to the marketing research station they used to have at the Galleria Mall. They would ask you questions about your consumer preferences and pay you cash. We’ve always been suckers for nearly free cash.

While the lady was paging through the possible surveys, one of the for-pay surveys she mentioned was a beer survey. Margaret blurted out something like “Oh - James drinks a lot of beer!” Great - now I’m an alcoholic!

I agreed to do the survey, but 3 questions in, the woman ended the session. I didn’t drink nearly enough beer to even be considered a beer drinker for this survey. To them, a beer drinker was someone who consumed large quantities of one or two brands of beer. I was someone who drank very small quantities of many different types of beer.

In any case, as you can see here, I’m gearing up for some sort of comparison. In house we currently have the following beer.

  • Abita Turbodog
  • Abita Pecan Harvest
    • Sara picked this up for me from Trader Joes so I could try it. Notes later.
  • Otter Creek Oktoberfest
    • Untried
  • Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale
  • Harpoon Octoberfest
    • A local standard
  • Post Road Pumpkin Ale
    • Untried
  • Woodchuck Cider - Dark and Dry
    • I like variety, and nothing says “fall” like a decent hard cider. Strongbow is my favorite, but I have a soft spot for the Woodchuck Dark and Dry. More NewEnglandy. And I like the picture of the woodchuck, so sue me.
  • Dogfish Head Punkin Ale
    • It’s pretty much the best pumpkin ale I’ve tasted, which is why it probably won’t last to the weekend. I picked it up on a recommendation by Ryan. It was a very good recommendation. But it ain’t cheap — 4 of these cost what 6 of something else does.

I have a few other beers in the house

  • Sam Adams Boston Ale
  • George Washington Porter (From last year’s Sam Adams Brewer Patriot Collection)
  • 1790 Root Beer Brew (From last year’s Sam Adams Brewer Patriot Collection)
  • Bass Ale (I always seem to have at least a bottle of this)
  • Cans of Bud (Beer Can Chicken ingredient)
  • Some assorted Sam Adams from the winter assortment

A few notable beers are missing from my fall brews.

  • Paulaner Oktoberfest Marzen
    • One of my all-time favorite beers, this one is imported from he home of the actual Oktoberfest and bears the name “Marzen” — the actual name for what an Oktoberfest beer is. I have to find some of this.
  • Sam Adams Octoberfest
    • It’s a decent beer every year.
  • More Dogfish Head Punkin
    • It’s that good.
  • Buzzards Bay Octoberfest
  • Buzzards Bay Weizen Doppelbock
    • I know they aren’t making this right now, but I missed it last time around and still haven’t forgiven myself.

Any recommendations from the peanut gallery? What beer complements fall eating and festivities? What’re you going to drink to watch the Sox compete in another World Series victory? I will accept non-alcoholic answers, as well as more beer recommendations.

Posted by James at 8:19 AM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

October 22, 2007

Science, Education and Homework

A link is going around the ‘net this morning about homework. It’s an article in Education Week called The Truth About Homework and it asserts that

Homework continues to be assigned – in ever greater quantities – despite the absence of evidence that it’s necessary or even helpful in most cases.

The article goes on to cite the basis for the conclusion that homework is less than helpful, including data from the 1994 and 1999 Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) report. I just happen to be reviewing the TIMSS 2003 data for work, and that report had an interesting observation:

across countries, fourth-grade students in the medium category had the highest average mathematics achievement. This pattern suggests that, compared with their higher-achieving counterparts, the lower-performing students may be assigned more homework as a remedial strategy in an effort to keep up academically.

My read on that is that more homework did not translate into better achievement. I think that’s interesting, but the reason I find the original article interesting is that it does something I don’t see a lot of on the Internet. It makes an argument about education and uses scientific data as its basis.

Everyone seems to have an opinion about education, yet few people are actually reading existing research or recommending more research. Education is considered to be an enormous problem in this country.

The answer to “how can we help students” ought to be answered by reading existing research data, like the data referred to in the Education Week article, and coming to policy conclusions based on that data. But the largest gains could be made by continuing to fund education research and apply the results. In other words, apply science to the problem of education. Honestly, I don’t hear many people saying this and it surprises me.

But maybe it makes some sense. The people most worried are the folks with children in school right this very moment. As a result, people by and large are more interested in hearing about what can be done today to help students already in our school systems. Research proposes finding solutions after years of study. Your 5th grader will have graduated high school by the time 10 years of study have passed.

But if we are to solve the difficult problems of education, doesn’t it make sense that the only solution is to apply science, and do so for the long term? Education is important to the future of this country. Let’s commit to researching how to better teach our students and accept that research takes time. In the short term, let’s focus on what research tells us.

The Education Week article goes on to say

It wouldn’t make sense to say “Keep practicing until you understand” because practicing doesn’t create understanding – just as giving kids a deadline doesn’t teach time-management skills. What might make sense is to say “Keep practicing until what you’re doing becomes automatic.” But what kinds of proficiencies lend themselves to this sort of improvement? The answer is behavioral responses. Expertise in tennis requires lots of practice; it’s hard to improve your swing without spending a lot of time on the court. But to cite an example like that to justify homework is an example of what philosophers call begging the question. It assumes precisely what has to be proved, which is that intellectual pursuits are like tennis.

There it is. We treat learning like we’re training Pavolov’s dog. We expect children to pick up deep understanding by repeating shallow exercises. Learning mathematics is not like training your muscles to hit a tennis ball automatically. The harder we teach them like that, requiring repetition and teaching to the test, perhaps the more we’re only going to get graduates who are fit for tasks like tennis. They will not be prepared for the challenges facing a modern workforce and citizenry.

Posted by James at 9:33 AM | Comments (6)

October 21, 2007

The Flavor of Champagne

“The champagne tastes just as good on the road as it does at home,” - Cleveland Indians’ Ryan Garko

The Indians can drink as much champagne as they want right now, because they’re done for the year. They certainly made it an interesting series, didn’t they? I guess I can’t fault Clevelend for not seeing the pain that Becket, Schilling, Matsuzaka and Papelbon were going to rain down on them, or J.D. Drew coming alive. Oh, and Francona putting Ellsbury in for Crisp.

Congratulations 2007 Red Sox on winning the American League Championship Series!

The Sox are in the World Series again. A bleary-eyed workforce will plague Massachusetts.

Posted by James at 11:59 PM | Comments (4)

War on Morality: Abortion

Can you legislate your morality? Certainly you can work to make something illegal if you think it is immoral. If you have enough political power, or get enough people to agree, you can make anything illegal.

But does making something illegal stop people from doing it? if you believe that people base their beliefs largely on the law, or they fear being caught doing something, then you might think that you can change people’s behavior for the better just by outlawing something.

But fear of the law is not always the biggest motivator, and time and time again we’ve learned that changing the law only changes people’s behavior to the point where they are now jumping through hoops, or doing dangerous things to accomplish what they could have accomplished more safely otherwise. See prohibition, and the war on drugs.

Strict father model conservatives1 act as though the state can act as a force to change people’s minds. You can naively argue that you’re simply making something immoral illegal because it ought to be illegal — and that’s good enough. Unfortunately, it’s not good enough if the net effect is a less stable society when people do not tend to take their moral cues from the government2.

Even people who support choice in the abortion issue can often be heard to say that their goal is not more abortions, but rather safer abortions. This is an acknowledgement of the reality of what happens when abortions are illegal. Forced-birth3 supporters want to ignore that reality; in the case of “radio conservatives” they are even heard to mock the argument4.

Not that this will change anything about conservative radio, but now there is hard data to back up two important opinions.

  1. Outlawing abortions does not reduce the number of abortions, it merely makes them less safe.
  2. The only way to reduce abortions is to increase access to contraception.

These findings were published in the Lancet (referenced in New Scientist this week) and they lend force to arguments pro-choicers have made for a long time.

This study also appears in the article “With Facts on Our Side” in The Nation (November 2007 issue).

“The legal status of abortion doesn’t predict whether abortions occur,” study co-author Gilda Sedgh told me by phone. “It predicts whether they are safe. South Africa liberalized its abortion laws in l997, and maternal deaths from unsafe abortion have plummeted by 90 percent.”

This fact alone means that forced-birth supporters must attack this study. The forced-birth opinion, if enacted, is measurably deadly to women because of the truism that legislating morality doesn’t make it the people’s morality. No doubt conservatives will use the same argument they’ve used against undocumented immigrants — if they’re getting an illegal abortion, they’re lawbreakers and perhaps they’re getting what they deserve. But this toll would quickly be felt well into the middle class5, and I don’t think the majority would stand for it. Calling pregnant woman “illegals” probably won’t wash.

But I find the following even more important.

The countries with the lowest abortion rates, like the Netherlands, have few abortion restrictions and lots of birth control. Consider Eastern Europe. Under communism, abortion was virtually the only family planning method. As contraception has become more available, the abortion rate has plummeted—from 90 in 1995 to 44 in 2003.

I am anti-abortion. I’m not for making it illegal, I’m for making it not happen.

To be truly anti-abortion is about giving women the widest possible latitude in controlling their biological processes. We have evolved a certain method of reproduction as a species. And our morality has evolved to give each of us a sense of individual autonomy. Our rights have developed to respect that individuality. Do we usurp a woman’s individual biology for the purpose of imposing our view of society on her? If a woman’s reproductive function a tool of society, or part of her self?

This study shows that we have the tool to reduce the incidence of an objectionable procedure. But religious absolutists have adopted an all-or-nothing argument. In their view, contraception and abortion would be illegal. Contraception, to them, is often equal to abortion. In a world where that becomes the law, disastrous consequences from botched abortions would be commonplace as unwanted pregnancies skyrocket and desperate women seek dangerous alternatives.

Opponents of legal abortion ask women to be strong and make tough choices to prevent the pregnancy from happening in the first place. However, when reality does not agree with your opinion, now you are faced with what may be a tough, but practical, choice. If you want fewer abortions, you should compromise on the contraception. Society asks you to make this choice for yourself. Will men and women meet the challenge and make this compromise? Or will religion assert an unworkable solution, an ultimate authoritarian cop out?

1 People who believe the government should act like a strict parent. See brief Wikipedia entry or George Lakoff’s books.

2 I have always found it ironic that conservatives argue against making people dependent on the state for their survival, and then advocate authoritarian social measures which try to make people dependent on the state for their morality. It’s been tried many times in the past with a state religion, but in a country where you’re not allowed to force a religion down the throats of your population, people start working to turn government into a surrogate religion. Religion already has a lousy track record on morality, and government as church does an even worse job. Government ought to stay out of the morality business altogether, look to the people for what laws to enforce and retreat altogether on morally contentious issues.

3 The term “pro-life” is misleading and inaccurate. People who oppose abortion are not pro-life, they are against legal abortion. If I wanted to be equally inaccurate, I could say they are pro-dangerous-abortions, since that is the result of restrictive abortion policy. But keeping it simple and accurate, they are about forcing pregnant women to carry through the pregnancy and go through the birth process. They are pro-forced-birth. Some people refer the term “anti-choice.” That always struck me as too tit-for-tat, and sounds confusingly unspecific to me. It’s simpler than that. Forcing women to give birth is forced-birth. The term is focused on the immediate consequence, and the fact that it is not just removing choice, but forcing a woman into something. It highlights the victimization that is taking place.

4 I know not all conservatives agree with talk radio. However, I have not often heard conservative media criticised by conservatives for belittling the issue of the specter of an increase in dangerous abortions. I perceive a lot of silent agreement, and that’s my charitable assessment. The less charitable assumption would be that these people don’t disbelieve a spike in dangerous abortions, but rather don’t care about dangerous abortions. The “sinners deserve to die” thing that worked so well with AIDS during the Reagan administration.

5 Super-rich folks need not worry. With enough money there is always a way to get your safe abortion. And the self-righteous religious rich know that if you have an abortion quietly enough, even God doesn’t hear about it.

Posted by James at 8:52 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 20, 2007

Man vs. Domicile: Cable, Button, Charger

What Are They For?

What the heck are they for!!!?!!?

A messy desk is draining. A drain of that kind can be an unacceptable liability in the treacherous day to day grind of domestic life. It was with little enthusiasm but great urgency that I went about cleaning my desk recently. This was yet another battle in which man fights a valiant, but longer than expected, battle -- and wins.

But in the struggle of desk organization, you never get a clean win. Witness the loose ends that remain. We have cables. We have buttons. We have a AC to DC power adapter.

Desk cleaning is a ruthless process. Shopping bags are nearby, at the ready to be filled and taken to the curb. My method calls for grabbing an item and staring it down. It either gets thrown away or finds a permanent place in the office. My currently clean desk is a testament to the hardening of my heart which allows for split-second trashing decisions.

But I have to admit embarrassment. There are a few items that evade my best efforts. They remain behind to mock me.

The cable is a computer serial connector (female) on one end and a 1/8 inch phone plug on the other. What is it for? Not only can I not remember, I can barely imagine what I was connecting to my computer with this cable.

The battery charger reads "Sony" on it. It's clearly for a Sony product. It looks as though it's never been used. What is it for? What Sony-branded item do I own which is sitting idle somewhere because it doesn't have any power? I don't know.

And the button? Buttons are tiny items "designed" to be found when you are cleaning an area. Once enough junk accumulates in one location, buttons spontaneously come into existence. The process is not well understood, but experiments that prove this phenomenon are repeatable.

These items cannot be thrown away. The button is borderline, but its tiny size works in its favor. The cable and adapter present a mystery. It's a mystery that would be solved 5 minutes after they were carted off to the dump, and for that reason they cannot be thrown away. They were never useful sitting on my desk, but they would likely become necessary and difficult toreplace if I were to dispose of them.

So there is a place for chargers and cables in our house. It is an enormous bin. It is a zoo of captive cables and adapters, mingling together but separated from their natural environments. Out of sight, they are also out of mind. Under the plastic container cover, their mocking cries are easier to ignore.

But you will always know they are there, somewhere in the domicile. And when you are jolted awake in a cold sweat, you hope that the thought of them does not prevent a return to your slumber. If you have any gods, you pray to them.

Posted by James at 9:06 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

October 19, 2007

Abstinence Only Hanging Around

A few news stories for you, in case you’re bored. See if you can detect the stupidity here.

Some Abstinence Programs Mislead Teens, Report Says

Many American youngsters participating in federally funded abstinence-only programs have been taught over the past three years that abortion can lead to sterility and suicide, that half the gay male teenagers in the United States have tested positive for the AIDS virus, and that touching a person’s genitals “can result in pregnancy,” a congressional staff analysis has found.

Study Casts Doubt on Abstinence-Only Programs

A long-awaited national study has concluded that abstinence-only sex education, a cornerstone of the Bush administration’s social agenda, does not keep teenagers from having sex. Neither does it increase or decrease the likelihood that if they do have sex, they will use a condom.

Abstinence approach gets unlikely ally

Expectations that a Democratic-controlled Congress would gut abstinence-only education rose this spring after a major federally funded study concluded that such programs do not appear to have any effect on sexual abstinence among youth, nor on age of sexual initiation or number of sex partners.

But the oldest abstinence program won a reprieve last month. And a companion program may get a significant funding increase. The reason: Led by Obey, some Democrats are suddenly protecting the programs.

Obey is supporting abstinence-only education, saying he wants to steer his panel away from the highly charged terrain of moral issues.

… and into the I-guess-not-so-highly-charged terrain of wasting government funds on useless-at-best programs for the sake of trying to win votes.

Freaking Democrats.

Posted by James at 12:00 PM | Comments (4)

Beckett Shotgun

  • Gabe & Max’s Internet Thing (comedy,funny,parody)
    • OMG, Hilarious advertisement for learning about the Internet!
  • Why The Scale Lies (health,wheightloss,article)
    • Why daily weighing shows bizarre fluctuations in your weight.
  • YouTube - Redsox Dancefest (video,baseball,funny)
    • Papelbon and Youk danceoff with their… er, pantsoff? Or something.
  • United 300 Video (movies,video,parody,humor)
    • When Germans try hijack a flight full of Spartans, hilarity ensues.
  • Find The Differences (fun,flash,game)
    • This is a pretty darn cool version of find the differences. Can you spot how the two given animated images are different?
  • FreeRice (charity,fun,game,language,words)
    • Test your vocabulary and donate rice to the hungry at the same time. I was up at level 48 for a while, but slipped back down to 46 and stayed there. after 1180 grains of rice. Got this from Karen at verbatim!
  • Simply Recipes: Pumpkin Ginger Nut Muffins Recipe (baking,bread,food,autumn,recipes)
    • Mmmmmmm
  • Scientific American: Searching for God in the Brain (religion,science,technology)
    • Old and busted: Where is the soul located? New and Hot: Where did God come from?
Posted by James at 10:00 AM | Comments (4)

October 18, 2007

Back The Heck Up

Where I keep my backups

I recently made a really stupid mistake.

Data Loss Disaster

In a major reshuffling of machines in our house, including reformattings and reinstallations, I blew away a hard drive which contained all of my important data, including at least a year of irreplaceable digital photos.

(I won’t go into technical detail regarding why I was confused; suffice it to say that the Windows installer defaulted to the wrong disk and I was too much in a rush to identify the disk based on its size in bytes. I pulled the trigger and my data went “goodbye!”)

Denial, Anger, Bargaining

I tried to recover the quick formatted disk with free tools. They got back a lot of half chopped-up family pictures and megabytes upon megabytes of useless garbage from my browser’s image cache.

Depression, Acceptance

Later that night, Julie came over and we went to Chili’s. I must have been brooding, because Maggie mentioned that she couldn’t wait until we got home and I got a drink in me. (I wasn’t going to get a Margarita at Chilis when I could make a better IMHO one at home)

I had some backups of the older photos. The DVDs wouldn’t read in my new machine, but I would eventually get them off. My music was relatively safe on my iPod, so I could recover that. But I decided to forget about the data I lost. Dwelling on it wouldn’t bring it back, remembering exactly what was there wouldn’t help either. Time to move on.

Oh, the Irony

Ironically, I was the guy in college who reminded people to always have a backup. Backups in those days meant copying your 400 K disk onto another 400 K disk1. Not that big a deal.

I was also the guy who recovered your English paper off your disk when you left it in the bottom of your book bag in a hot car. Perseverance, patience and the right tools were all that was necessary, unless there was gunk on the magnetic floppy surface2.

I should have been more careful with my data. Sure, I had some of it backed up in different places, but nothing systematic and easy.

A Miracle Happens

I’m happy to report, I hit a lucky break. I installed Google Picasa on my hard drive to manage my remaining digital photos. While Picasa was scanning my hard drive, it found all my lost images in a buried subfolder of a backup on my iPod!

Why was it there? Without going into the details3 I had backed the data up by dragging a top level folder to an empty drive. Because I had a bunch of free space, it was easy to do this, I made the backup and completely forgot about it. And that drive hadn’t yet been erased.

My Point

So, what’s the point of my post? My point is that if you have a lot of free drive space, it makes doing backups easier. You drag a folder from here to there and walk away. It’s even easier than backing up onto DVD, if you have huge image and music archives.

The easier backups are to do, the more they will get done and the safer your data is. You can even automate your backups with free backup software. Or commercial backup software.

But no matter what software you use, you need some free space to store your files. The hard drive route is easy, and easy is better than hard. After my disaster I bought a Western Digital MyBook, 500 GB drive. On a cost per GB, it was pretty cheap. And at half a terabyte, it ought to take you a little while to fill up, unless you’re storing tons of music and very high resolution images and professional art files. Or doing lots of DVD authoring4.

If you don’t want a My Book, or don’t want that size, DealNews often lists some of the best deals on storage. Here is the link to their hot tips on computer storage.

If you do want a 500 GB MyBook, it looks as though eCost has the drive for $100. That’s cheaper than I paid. 20 cents/gigabyte. Less than 2 cents per megabyte.

Bottom Line

Just back up your data in at least one place. Make backing up easy so that you do it often. Check your backup. And keep a copy off site. Storage is cheaper than it would cost to replace your data. Decide what your data is worth and treat it accordingly. If your data isn’t even worth that much, why are you keeping it in the first place?

1 Eventually they became 800 K disks. And then 1.44 MB disks. What could you even store today on a 400 K disk? A 128 MB memory stick is considered tiny today, and it’s over 300 times the size of a 400 K disk. It would take more than a box of 10 400 K disks to store one MP3 — Jimmi Hendrix’s “Hey Joe” — from my iTunes library. 12 disks all together. Forget storing the whole album, you don’t want to carry hundreds of disks. If you upgraded to 800 K disks you could get away with carrying Are You Experienced on over 100 disks, but I only know one person who carried that many disks around, and his birthday is next Wednesday. (It wasn’t me; I’m almost a week younger than this guy.)

2 I learned to check the disk’s surface the hard way after trying to recover a disk that had unidentified gunk on it. It gunked up my drive’s read/write heads so that they required cleaning. Practice safe disk-swapping!

3 The Details: I intended to erase Drive C. Drive F was huge and had all my pictures on it. On a whim, I backed up much of my F content onto the smaller C drive, just via folder dragging. I forgot I did this, because I knew I was planning to blow away C, and it was deep in a subfolder. Because of the way the drives had been installed in the machine, Windows installer assumed I wanted to quick format F and I missed that it was the wrong drive because the order of the drives was reverse to the alphabetical letter assignments I had gotten used to (C, F). And the drives had no names, just sizes. And I screwed up. I blew away F. When I realized my tragic error, backup-mania kicked in and I made sure C was completely backed up onto my iPod before I blew it away. Thus, most of my original data, apart from some huge but useless DVD disk images, was secretly on my iPod.

4 If your backup needs are greater than 500 GB can handle, then you’re probably in a professional realm where you need to think even more seriously about your backup needs. If you haven’t already, I would advise you to immediately look into professional backup solutions. There are RAID drives which mirror your data on two backup drives transparently, so that if one drive fails the device still works, avoiding data loss. Look into it, and consider storing your backups offsite. Perhaps consider remote backups. “Professional” means you pay your bills with it. You want to keep being able to pay your bills if you have a disaster.

Posted by James at 12:49 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

WTF Thursday - Clown Edition

Spiritual adviser sees Sox going all the way

Oh great. So, now if the Sox win, I'm going to be all pissed off that it confirms this "spiritual advisor's" prediction.

But wait! This article is after Saturday's game but before the losses on Monday and Tuesday in Cleveland.
Ms. Hicks feels the Red Sox will get into "a zone" during the games in Cleveland and will take the next three games from the Indians. "I saw five games, and we'll end with (Josh) Beckett," she said.
They certainly have been in a zone. It's called "the loss column."

Whew! Well, now I'll be able to enjoy it if the Sox make it to the World Series, because there is a big difference between winning when you're 1 and 1, vs. when you're 1 and 3. When you're wrong, you're wrong. And that's a not-unusual situation for a spiritual advisor.

Sony to launch cheaper PlayStation 3

It's also smaller, white, connects to your wifi router, uses motion-sensing remotes, is a lot more fun to play and is called a Nintendo Wii.

Sorry, I couldn't resist the joke.

Manny Ramirez: 'There's Always Next Year'

WTF, Manny - Giving up already? This is not good.

"We're confident everyday. It doesn't matter how things go for you, you know, we're not going to give up. We're just going to go and play the game like I said and move on. And if it doesn't happen, so, who cares?..."

Yeah, you sound really confident. Brimming with it. That's what fans like to see in players. A real fire in the belly. How about win the game and then move on. Can we try that tonight?

Middle School To Give Out Birth Control Pills

"I think that's promoting more promiscuity, so I don't think it should be available to them," one parent said.
I think you've got your head up your nether regions. And now that we've gotten that out of the way ...

WTF - middle school kids are needing contraception? Apparently so. Part of the problem? People like the above parent who figure that if you ignore a problem, it'll go away.

"One parent" is wrong. The availability of contraception does not make kids crazy for sex. Their biology and hormones take care of that. Or, if you're of a religious bent, you can blame it on God and the way we were "designed." But nobody blames anything on God, so I'm peeing in the wind right there.

And, when we hand our children over to the abstinence only nuts, they still have sex.

Moving on.

Christian Clown Busted For Kiddie Porn

Er. What else is there to say about a headline like that?

An Illinois "Christian clown" has been charged with possession of child pornography and sex tourism stemming from a trip to a Filipino orphanage. [... A routine inspection of the] 57-year-old former law enforcement officer and juvenile councilor [...] uncovered a variety of images of naked pre-teen boys, according to his arrest report. When questioned about the images, Carlock reportedly told officers, "That's how they live."

An additional sad sidenote here, another man in Illinois who performed under the name "Klutzo the Clown" has retired as a result of all the unwanted attention and confusion with the former-law-enforcement-officer-and-Christian-juvenile-counselor-pedophile.

Here's to any of the self-righteous non-Catholic Christians who thought that people taking advantage of religious leadership positions was a Catholic thing. Apparently, it ain't.

Excuse me while I go wash out my eyes. WTF!

Posted by James at 9:21 AM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

October 17, 2007

Happy National Pasta Day

Today is National Pasta Day.

Of course, the kids are excited. They wrote it in their calendars. K's favorite food is pasta. This being National Pasta Month, I suppose today is the culmination of pasta celebration. I have never quite understood why National Pasta Day was not chosen to fall on October 25th: World Pasta Day. Some sort of anti-global bias there.

According to this very long list, it is also "Four Prunes Day." I told the girls this.

M: "I'm not writing that one down."

K: "Is it for F-O-R prunes or four F-O-U-R prunes?"

M: "Do I have to write that one down?"

K: "Maybe it's something in the Bible."

M: "I'm not writing that one down."

How will you choose to celebrate? With prunes or pasta?

I'm leaning towards pasta. Although I do like prunes. Difficult decision. I'd do both, but for the calories.

If National Pasta Day were worth celebrating, you'd think that the website for the National Pasta Association would at least mention it.

Posted by James at 8:22 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

October 16, 2007

Canada Fries and Capitals

I’m craving fried potatoes, but the combination of fat and starch make fries a high-calorie diet buster. Better to steal a couple off someone else’s plate than to order them yourself when you’re trying to watch your diet.

In any case, I was reading the Wikipedia entry on french fries and Canada. I could barely read over the noise of my stomach grumbling when the entry talked about the popularity of white vinegar and fries on Canadian dinner tables. Was there ever a better complement to fried potatoes than some sort vinegar?

In New England we prefer malt vinegar, but I don’t like to split hairs on this one. Vinegar on fries is great. Ketchup gets most of its flavor from vinegar, so don’t fault me for sometimes preferring to put that tomatoey, sour, sugary substance on my fries in lieu of vinegar. On really hot fries, ketchup has the cooling power that vinegar lacks. But for raw flavor per ounce, vinegar is the winner.

I kept reading the entry on Canadian fried tuber cuisine and got down to poutine. Cheese curd and gravy on your fries? Suddenly, my cravings disappeared. Thank the internets!

I noticed that “french fries” is sometimes capitalized as “French fries.” Answers.com dictionary capitalizes it in their definition, but “Food Lover’s Companion” in the entry immediately below does not.

“Frenching” is a culinary term for a type of cutting. French fries are frenched, then fried1. They’re not French, like French bread is. They’re Belgian.

The confusion over frenching made the whole “freedom fries” business even more disturbing, because you’d figure that someone in the restaurant business would know something about culinary terms.

OK, I lied before. I’m still hungry for fries.

1 Some folks reference Thomas Jefferson’s comment about these potatoes being “fried in the French manner” but I don’t find that very compelling, considering that the French themselves don’t claim to originate the french fry.

Posted by James at 12:02 PM | Comments (18)

Craig's Toughest Fight

“I don’t just walk away from a fight,” Mr. Craig told Mr. Lauer. “This is the toughest fight of my political life.”

Senator Craig is still in the news, this time for trashing Mitt Romney. At first I thought he was, perhaps, trying to give Romney a boost in the polls. What better publicity is there for your campaign than to find out Senator Craig doesn’t like you?

However, it appears that Romney and Craig have two different views of Craig’s exit from a prominent place in the Romney campaign.

A spokesman for Mr. Romney, Kevin Madden, said in an e-mail message that Mr. Craig had left the campaign “because he did not want to be a distraction.”

That certainly sounds like it was Craig’s decision to leave. Craig’s memory is different.

“I was very proud of my association with Mitt Romney. I’d worked hard for him here in the state. I was a co-chair of his campaign on Capitol Hill. And he not only threw me under his campaign bus, he backed up and ran over me again.”

It’s OK, Mitt — we still believe your side of the story!

Back to Craig, he calls his current predicament “the toughest fight of his political life.” I want to hear about the toughest fight of his life, if this fight is only the toughest of his political life.

But I think he’s chosen a flattering way to portray his shenanigans and subsequent mistakes as a “fight” and expect to wring some sympathy out of us.

Senator Craig, if you came out as gay and appealed to the public about the difficulty of your double life, then you’d be in a difficult political fight which would challenge Americans and your Republican supporters to search their souls. You would also have to justify your stance (no humor intended) on gay rights issues.

What you have now is not so much a fight as a struggle resulting from your screwups.

Posted by James at 9:55 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 15, 2007

Would You Rather?

… winning the Nobel Prize does not automatically qualify you to be commander in chief. I think George Bush has proved definitively that to be president, you don’t need to care about science, literature or peace.

That’s a quotation from Stephen Colbert, filling in at Maureen Dowd’s New York Times Op Ed column.

So, which will it be? Would you rather …

  • Be president of the United States of America
  • Win the Nobel Peace prize
Posted by James at 8:52 AM | Comments (29) | TrackBack

October 14, 2007

Remembering A Cereal Patriot

A dramatization

How quickly four years pass!

Oddly, I’m not seeing this day commemorated much around the internets, so I guess it falls to me to post the reminder.

On October 14, 2003, Arthur Mooge, patriot and McClownburger closing manager, snuck into the White House disguised as a bag of presidential fan mail.

He worried that our famously incurious president was doing irreparable harm to this country, it laws and traditions. That worry turned into despair when he thought that there was no way to get Bush to read a newspaper, never mind an editorial that criticised his approach to the presidency. But his despair blossomed into inspiration when he learned an important fact about the president’s reading habits.

Bush takes a seldom-reported reading break during breakfast as a mind-expanding exercise. He scrutinizes the puzzles and facts on the back of his breakfast cereal box, sometimes concentrating for minutes at a time on a particularly challenging definition or “find the differences” puzzle.

Mooge waited for the right moment and then pasted a copy of the United States Constitution to one of the president’s cereal boxes. His escape plan was thwarted, however, when he turned a corner and tripped over Dick Cheney napping in a hallway. In an unlucky turn, his patriotic prank had covered up a word search that the president had already spent two weeks on. Inside sources said that the president threw a considerable tantrum, but Scott McClellan told the nation “White House security is no laughing matter, but the president is a good sport.”

The White House security problem was solved by Bush’s dramatic loss of popularity, which resulted in presidential fan mail being carried in by the folder1 rather than by a man-sized canvas sack. The Secret Service is now dealing with an entirely separate security issue dealing with presidential complaint mail.

Here’s to you, Mooge! You were a true patriot. And, as Americans, our hearts go out to your family who are still mourning your shocking death on the job at McClownburger in what police are calling “a friendly fryer incident.” A promised investigation is still pending.

1 The majority of the president’s fan mail now comes from the nation’s fine psychiatric institutions. However, it is delivered through a slightly different screening process.

Posted by James at 12:34 PM | Comments (0)

October 13, 2007

Fox the Buffy Fan Slayer

I think that content owners just plain hate their fans. Because some of what they do in the name of "protecting their interests" doesn't even seem to be driven by greed, since it doesn't make them any money.

A group of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans were organizing sing-alongs, similar to what Rocky Horror Picture Show fans have done for many years, around public showings of the "Once More With Feeling" musical episode of Buffy. Clinton McClung, uberfan, even got a licensing agreement from Criterion Pictures for showing the episode in public.

But Fox, the ultimate owner of Buffy, said Criterion could not give permission. So, for now, it appears the events are scrapped.

It seems to me that when you're in the business of creating this sort of content, it behooves you to understand your audience and the sort of passion they have about their interests. At the very least you want to encourage fans to get their business. At most, I think you have a bit of an ethical obligation to do more than suck money from people when it's convenient to benefit from their enthusiasm.

I guess Fox is one vampire that Buffy will not be defeating any time soon.

Posted by James at 5:57 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Presidential Election

pres·i·den·tial e·lec·tion


1. The process of weeding out all the applicants who are qualified to be president of the United States of America so that you may locate the one applicant you'd "most like to have a beer with." See: election of George W. Bush. See also: Albert Arnold Gore Jr.

Posted by James at 5:13 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 12, 2007

Geekery Shotgun

Your post o'links awaits.

It leans a little to the geeky side this week. Have a good weekend!

Posted by James at 2:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Get OpenOffice... FREE!

Ryan noted the other day that Digg was running a story about some guy selling OpenOffice on eBay for $58.

Of course, OpenOffice.org is free (gratis) software, and anyone can download and install it for no money whatsoever1. It’s completely legal for him to sell these disks online. Buyer beware. You’re paying $60 for someone to send you a CD you can download. A high price for such service.

But what made me laugh this morning was the little popup that appeared over my application bar this morning, urging me to install the latest version of Java. It read (and I paraphrase) as follows.

Upgrade Java and get a copy of OpenOffice… FREE!

Wow! I can’t pass up that deal. I’m going to upgrade my Java right now!

1 I encourage you to download it. Microsoft Office is overpriced and overcomplicated. OOo is more standards-compliant and it completely compatible with MSOffice. We have a site license for MSOffice at work, but I use OpenOffice.org. Why? Because MS refuses to support standard documents like ODF (Open Document Format). It pisses me off.

Posted by James at 8:34 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

October 11, 2007

WTF Thursday

Those Kooky Exiled Somersettians

You may or may not have heard that my town recently exiled one of its residents. No, seriously -- a guy was actually banned from Somerset. His crime was that he acted increasingly antisocial and terrorized his entire neighborhood. It is a violation of his probation to be caught in town.

Now it is alleged that he attacked the son of a state representative (happens to be his adult daughter's boyfriend) within the town borders. He appeared in Fall River court, apparently unaware that there were warrants for his arrest. He fled the courtroom, of course. Successfully. Fall River court security, WTF? How do you expect to arrest someone when you can't get them after they actually show up in a courtroom?

Anyway, you can read the whole story here, including how he claims he was just trying to shake his daughter's boyfriend's hand when he slapped the guy.

2 People Attend Public Hearing On Mass Pike Tolls

The outrage was palpable at a meeting in East Boston regarding a proposed Mass Pike toll hike of 25 cents. A mob of 2 whole people showed up. Who says the world is overpopulated? Apparently, one of three things is true:
  1. Lethargy trumps overpopulation
  2. Commuters can easily afford a modest toll hike
  3. People are so poor they couldn't afford the current toll to attend the meeting

Beatles On Drugs

Oops, I mean "beetles."
Dutch customs officers found 100 dead beetles stuffed with cocaine while examining a parcel from Peru, Dutch authorities said Thursday. [...]

Officers decided to open the parcel after scanning it and seeing what appeared to be insects inside.
So, maybe a less conspicuous storage medium wouldn't have garnered suspicion.

When they sold the cocaine, I wonder if they were planning to hand out the beetles as well.

Travolting Behavior

Need another reason to love Scientology and John Travolta? How about this. Jett, the autistic son of Travolta and Kelly Preston receives no services whatsoever. Scientology doesn't acknowledge autism.

WTF? There are many children with parents who can't afford services. Call me crazy, (or just atheist) but I think those Scientologists need to get their heads examined. But you have to admit that it is fitting that people as deluded as Scientologists don't believe in psychiatric help.


And, finally, a political WTF. I just wanted to note that after misplacing his veto pen for many years while the Republicans controlled congress, Bush vetoes four bills for things that are popular with the American people.

That doesn't automatically make him a dictator, but it does make him... wait a moment while I take a sip of this Kool Aid...


There, I said it. Health care for children, who wants that?

Posted by James at 11:24 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 10, 2007

Moron the Blackout

Well, we were bitten by the WFXT blackout again. This our DVR didn't record the Sunday Night shows.

A commenter suggested we write letters to the FCC, Comcast and the networks.

Hmmm. I didn't think before to write the networks. I wonder how they'd react to this sort of letter.

Dear Fox Marketing Department,

I want to thank you and your affiliate stations for helping me out of a dilemma.

You see, I was having a tough time getting all my reading done at night because of some of the excellent programming you offer. I'm talking, of course, about House, M.D., Family Guy, American Dad, and Prison Break. I have these set up on my DVR to record, and then I watch them later.

Well, imagine my surprise when, for a whole week, my DVR tried to record these shows on WFXT, the Boston affiliate. I live in Massachusetts. You may have heard that Boston is our capital. Someone in the Fox organization had the amazing idea to block your popular shows coming from WFXT because our cable company also gets programming from WNAC in Providence. Providence is the capital of nearby Rhode Island.

The result? I missed a bunch of your shows. And you know what happened? I lost interest in continuing to watch them. I hate missing one out of a series. That's why i got a DVR in the first place. I was even starting to get into KVille. But to heck with that now.

Now I have lots of free time for more productive pursuits. If that's not a service to the public, I don't know what is. Thank you, Fox, for releasing me from the spell of your addictive programming. And good luck to you. Since you don't seem to be in the business of producing content you want people to actually watch, I wish you success in whatever your future projects are. I do have to say that the message on the blocked affiliate was rather boring.


At least that's a bit more fun than an angry letter to the FCC.

Posted by James at 8:30 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 9, 2007

Where's the Fire? Not Here, Luckily

Fire! (not)

Firefighters Arrive

For the second time in less than a year, we were evacuated from the building for a fire alarm. This time it was only 15 minutes or so, but it was still a mad rush to grab my backup drive and shove it in my satchel in case we weren't getting back in any time soon.

I'm getting the idea that they're really fire-safety-conscious in this new building. That, or there's a really sensitive smoke alarm somewhere. Or a person who likes to smoke under a detector.

Funny coincidence, I was in the middle of researching Multi Casualty Incidence Response Training for Firefighters when the alarm went off. MCI Responder is a game developed by the Federation of American Scientists for the purpose of training incident responders, and educational games are part of our research here.

Posted by James at 5:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Name That Thing 1

This is the first edition of “Name That Thing.” A familiar game. I post a close-up picture and you try to guess what it is. Later I will post more clues, so keep coming back and keep guessing.

Here is the first image:

Image 1

Here’s a link to the second hint:

Image 2

And, finally, the “reveal” image:

Image 3

(I switched to posting the later images as links, so that people arriving late can still play the game.)

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

October 8, 2007

Keri's Blog

Many regular readers of this blog are familiar with Keri Rodrigues. Well, she’s got a new blog. I had to find out about it in the intertubes! (Hat tip to Lefty)

There’s always something interesting going on in the SouthCoast, and the current buzz is about Fall River’s mayor Ed Lambert leaving his job early to go work with our old officemates the Center for Policy Analysis. I wonder if he’ll get Ryan and My old office.

And life in the SouthCoast marches on…

Posted by James at 5:08 PM | Comments (6)

Would You Rather

Fall Edition

Would you rather

  • Have a gourmet chef prepare your food every day for free, but you have to eat whatever he prepares
  • Have the responsibility to cook for really picky eaters, but be able to prepare whatever you wanted to eat

[Update: Maggie wanted me to clarify what “have to eat” means. It means that the chef prepares a dish and you have no other food to eat. If you skip the meal, he’ll prepare the same dish for the next meal. If you eat at least 250 calories of the meal, he will consider that meal eaten and will prepare a different dish for the next meal.]

Posted by James at 12:38 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

October 7, 2007

Miscommunication on the Roads

I really don’t like it when people just don’t follow the right of way rules. Even when I think they’re trying to be nice, I disapprove. This is especially true when there is no good reason to deviate from accepted and codified driving practices.

I was at an intersection on Friday, stopped at a red light. A truck and a compact car rolled up on the other side of the intersection, waiting for the light to become green.

When it did, I was prepared to wait for the two cars to cross the intersection. I needed to take a left and I had my directional indicator on. But the fellow facing me in the pickup truck waved me across and didn’t move.

So, I had to decide whether to make the turn or just sit there until he realized he was the one who was supposed to go. You have to make these decisions quickly because the light is going to change back soon and other people (the compact) are waiting to get through the intersection. I decided to go, so I waved and mouthed “thank you” to him and started into the intersection.

As I crossed into his lane, he suddenly started lurched forward into the intersection, which really surprised me. I cut the turn, which was not a problem because nobody was coming down the other road.

But then I got angry, because both the truck and the compact leaned on their horns.

I wondered if I misinterpreted the pickup-driver’s wave (and the fact that he didn’t try to cross the intersection when the light turned until I made the turn). Perhaps he misinterpreted my “thank you,” which I thought was standard when someone is “letting you go.”

This whole, stupid incident has solidified my dislike for breaking right of way. Next time someone tries to let me go, I’m going to wave at them frantically that they should go.

Unless there’s a long line of cars behind them. Sometimes you’ll never make it through traffic if you don’t take advantage of an opportunity.

Yesterday we were stuck in the Providence Place Mall parking lot. That’s happened to us before, when the lines to get to the toll booths were too long. But we were actually stuck because people leaving the toll booths couldn’t get out onto the road. They’d formed a hard knot of cars in the exit area. It was chaos.

The rules failed in this situation. People on the road had the right of way, but they weren’t able to move. A problem on the highway had caused a mess of traffic to divert into the city (my assumption based on what we saw later). Nobody could exit the garage unless kind people made a gap for them to cross the road. You were in worse trouble if you wanted to take a right, because then you had to hope for a kind person who was willing to let you dump out into the traffic in front of them. There was an interesting dynamic there, with people not really wanting to allow right-turners out of the garage, but wanting to allow left turners out. A delicate and nearly impossible balance.

When we finally got to the front of that mess, I had to do some creative driving to get through the traffic that was blocking the exit. Boston driving experience is paying off big time.

When the rules fail, you need to get home, and you don’t relish sitting in traffic, especially when you can get across to a clear road, you need to get creative. As part of traffic, you have two main responsibilities: safety and keeping things moving. Rules help us maintain safety, but sometimes they get in the way. There are unwritten rules that can help in those cases.

  • Don’t hesitate. It freaks out other drivers if you do not move with confidence and follow through. Jerky movements coupled with hesitation results in confusion and more risk of an accident.
  • Telegraph your intentions, if possible. It sometimes helps to make eye contact with people. Wave or mouth words. And then you’d better not wimp out once they give you an opening. That’s like throwing a gift back in someone’s face.
  • Be seen. When you move, try not to surprise anyone. If you have to cut someone off, make sure they can see that you’re going to cut them off. Give them the time to slow down and beep their horn at you. It’s safer if they can see you. Sometimes your only choice is to stay where you are and block traffic or make someone angry by getting in their way. Be like the person backing up in a slow and obvious manner rather than the squirrel which darts out from between parked cars at the last second as a truck is coming down the road.

And, when there is no reason to break right of way, like when there is practically no traffic on the road, don’t think you’re being generous when you wave someone on.

On a barely related note, not everything on the road makes me angry. I can even be happy when I see the last stragglers of Cape traffic on 195. I saw a car with a Red Sox sticker and a Darwin fish, and that just warmed my heart. Better still, it had a New York license plate. Probably a transplant, but still. It improved my morning.

Posted by James at 5:14 PM | Comments (6)

October 6, 2007

Serial Time Killer

I bought a new hard drive for my computer, and I neglected to order the cable that would allow me to install it. I knew I could order the cable online, but it’ll take a while to get here if I do that. Last night I was searching for a store that would sell me the cable.

After a couple of failed visits to stores in Fairhaven, I realized I was probably not going to find a Serial ATA cable for installing my hard drive. I pulled into a parking lot to make some phone calls rather than drive fruitlessly to every store in the SouthCoast.

One conversation stands out in my mind.

“Hello, Staples!”

“Hi, I’m looking for a cable for installing a hard drive in my computer. Can you connect me with someone who can tell me if you carry the right cable?”

“Sure, one minute.”

Time passed. A second person came to the phone.

“Hi, you need a hard drive cable?”

“Yes, it’s a Serial ATA cable, for internally connecting a hard drive to the motherboard. It’s a seven-pin cable.”

“Okay, hang on.” There was a pause as he conferred with another person. “Do you need male to male, or male to female?”

“Um. I think I need female to female. I wasn’t aware they made another kind of Serial ATA cable. I’m not an expert, though; this is the first time I’m installing this sort of hard drive.”

“Oh, the guy said they were male to male or male to female, I think. Let me get him.”

There was a much longer pause, presumably while the person who generally answers computer questions finished helping another customer. I thought to myself that if “the guy ” thinks they have any sort of Serial ATA cable, it’s probably the kind I need. I should drive to Staples and look at it. A third person came to the phone.

“Hi, you need a serial cable?”

“I need a Serial ATA cable.”

“Seven pins?”

“Yes. It’s for internally installing the hard drive.”

“OK, do you need it male to male, male to female, or female to —”

I interrupted him. “What kind of cables to you have there?”

There was a pause. “Well, we don’t have any of those cables. None of our cables are 7-pin. We have 9 pin male to —”

“Thanks for your help.” I hung up. I felt like I was in a particular cheese shop.

Once I got home, I realized that he probably had no idea what a Serial ATA cable is. All the SATA cables I’m finding online are female to female. There is a common type of 9-pin serial cable. It’s not for installing hard drives internally, and it’s ancient. And it’s not even close to a Serial ATA cable.

Earlier, at a different store, I was asking about some prices on internal hard drives. Drives were “up to 40% off.” When I asked how much the $100 drive was after discount (because the discount for each individual drive was not displayed) I was told “Don’t ask me to do percentages.” A beat passed while I considered saying “What — really?” Instead I said “Why don’t you just tell me the percentage and I’ll do the math?”

It was not my night for shopping.

Posted by James at 8:16 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

October 5, 2007

Tornado Potato Shotgun

Hey there. It’s time for some diverting links.

Use Twitter much? That’s where I posted my snarky comments while my blog was down. And pointed readers to my daily post on Google documents. Join me, won’t you?

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

Crustless, The Wrong Problem

pain á l'ancienne


I was checking out Jeremy Zawodny's linkblog today and saw he had a comment to make about the Crustless Bread article on Wikipedia. He finds this to be evidence of Wikipedia's completeness. Some may feel it is too complete, in some ways.

In any case, I was more interested in the effort that had been put into manufacturing and even inventing crustless bread.

Apparently, people have worked hard to develop a crustless bread technology that bakes without a crust. Other folks have simply and mechanically sliced the crust off at the bakery before it is bagged and delivered it to consumers that way.

I think this might miss the actual root of the problem of bread crust. As an amateur French bread baker, i feel crust is inseparable from crumb. It's not physically inseparable, of course, but in my mind it is inseparable as a bread experience. That's my approach to bread.

In my (admittedly somewhat limited) experience, picky kids don't hate crust. They hate a bad crust, like the crust on certain sandwich breads. On the contrary, I've seen the same picky kids devour a delicious, crusty, crunchy crust.

Perhaps it's true that some kids just don't like the concept of crust. But it's also conceivable that some kids have never had decent artisan bread. Technological progress brings us the pullman-type loaf with its objectionable crust, then struggles to find a way to eliminate said crust. That's progress.
Posted by James at 7:56 AM | Comments (5)

October 4, 2007



It’s Buy-A-Friend-A-Book Week! Last time ‘round, Karen and a certain Hamster involved me in Buy A Friend A Book week.

So, I picked a friend (semi-randomly) and bought her a book. If you want to participate, that’s how it works. Buy a friend a book for no good reason. It’s that simple.

If you do participate after reading this, consider telling the world in the comments section.

Also, people can help BAFAB week by setting up their Amazon wishlists, to make it easier for people to buy friends a book!

Posted by James at 7:42 AM | Comments (0)

October 3, 2007

House Blackout

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image by Steve Garfield

Last night a really annoying thing happened to us. Around 9:30PM Maggie decided she could watch House with me, so I switched over to it on the DVR.

I was met with a screen similar to the one you're seeing in this post; it informed me that WFXT was being blacked out and that I should switch the channel to my local WNACon 11 to see programming.

Hey, that's wonderful, WFXT Boston. Thanks for the tip. Now, how do I do that for the first half hour of my recording, which has already gone by?

I expect that nobody really cares that I missed the first half of House.

The reason this happened, I think, is that Bristol county (where I live) is considered part of the Providence Designated Market Area. There is some rule or agreement (though I can't find the details) which prevents the Boston station from broadcasting certain content at the same time the "local" station is.

I set up this recording last year, and it worked great all year. And it worked for the season premiere last week. So, someone decided to implement the blackout this week. Meanwhile, the on-screen programming guide happily tells me that House is still running at that time, on that channel.

I don't know who is responsible for the actual blackout. It's possible that it happens when WFXT sends the signal to Comcast. WFXT, WNAC and the FCC don't care about whether you use a DVR, and probably would rather you didn't. So I'll get no sympathy from any of them. Comcast rents me the DVR, but they're not in charge of the blackout. They do, however, provide me with an incorrect channel guide.

Of course, they get the channel guide info from a third party. And that info is merely telling you what each station is broadcasting. WFNX is still broadcasting House, it's just not being sent to my TV. People in Boston are happily watching their recorded episode of House on their DVRs. The channel guide people can't tell me about the blackout. This is a classic situation of how systems can break down when multiple responsible parties are involved and there is no responsibility for the end result.

Long story short, I'm in a whiny mood today because we missed the first half of House. We watched the second half instead of waiting for a rebroadcast. I'll catch the first half during a rebroadcast, but Maggie will likely skip it. Me, I'll still complain to Comcast.

My advice to you is to know which broadcasting market you're in, and make sure you record your shows on the station that resides in that market. Because even if your recording is working today, you never know when someone in the pipeline is going to decide to black out a station based on some rule or agreement you never heard about.

[UPDATE: I previously incorrectly identified the other FOX station as WLVI. I've updated the article to WNAC.]

Posted by James at 10:55 AM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

October 2, 2007

The Mall Pad (and the ecole)

My blog's server is dead at the moment, but I said I would post every day, so I'm posting this here. It counts, because I wrote it on the appointed day.

It's a tale as old as time itself. A man finds an unoccupied area inside the Providence Place Mall and sets up a living space with electricity and other amenities, and lives there on and off for four years before the space is found. Eyewitness News has the story here, with some video footage.

It's an odd story. We frequent that mall and it certainly does seem big enough that you could hide for a long time there. The fellow is calling himself a performance artist. I suppose it is art in the sense that it was done for the sake of just doing it, not out of any reason or necessity. It's arguable.

He states, in an interview, that he is fascinated by large buildings, and this is where I feel an affinity for the fellow. I, too, am fascinated by buildings. It never occurred to me to become anything like an architect because I was so focused on science, and then computer technology. But it would probably have been a field I'd managed in.

When I was young, I was very involved with my parents' church. After I "graduated" from Sunday school, I continued to help my relatives and friends who were involved with Sunday school as a sort of assistant and gopher.

Our church didn't have its own classrooms, so we had some sort of deal with a nearby Catholic school. We used their school's ancient building on Sundays. It was large and was run by French-speaking nuns. I believe it was called Ecole Notre Dame.

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Ecole Notre Dame (aka. St. Joseph's College in Fall River, MA)

Often, I would be sent on errands to deliver papers or other materials to various classrooms spread all over the building. Since we were never that busy, I could always take my time getting back. I would use these opportunities to explore stairwells, hallways, closets and other hidden corners of this building. I rarely ever opened a closed door; most of the doors in the place seemed to be ajar, and the most interesting places were not behind doors. They were around corners.

The large emptiness fascinated me. Filled with the evidence of human presence but devoid of the actual presence, there were hundreds of mysteries to ponder. Where does this stairway go? Why did someone stack these things here? What is this rope for? And, of course, every building has its own personality. This building was quite creepy inside, but not scary. I imagined it filled with ghosts; but in my mind the ghosts were simply echoes of the missing occupants.

I can understand the fascination with trying to put a living space in an unusual place like a mall. Not that I think it's wise, but people have a connection to the places where they live and work. Exploring that connection in a strange way is a form of creativity. Illegal creativity, in the case of those Mall folks.

The reason that buildings have ghosts is because you can't just remove people from a building. There is an emotional connection, because buildings are built for people. There's also a physical connection because of all the evidence people leave behind.

Buildings are large, strange extensions of our intentions and hopes. We make them part of the environment, and then they become part of us.

(Note: This was originally posted on Google Documents while my blog was down.)

Posted by James at 6:41 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 1, 2007


Irina suggested that people LOLCAT this image.

Here was my attempt:
This photo has lots of sci-fi obscure reference potential. Why not go over and add your own LOLCAT note?
Posted by James at 10:57 PM | Comments (4)

Would You Rather?

Would you rather

  • Have free computer support for a year (i.e. you pay for hardware and someone else does all your setup, install, backups and other maintenance of your electronic life, even when you buy new hardware.)
  • Have free minor plumbing for a year (i.e. someone will fix your faucets, toilets, minor installations like shower heads and garbage disposals, but nothing like major renovations.)

Which will it be?

Posted by James at 2:00 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack


It’s not a new language. It’s gibberish.

No matter how busy I get, I know I can manage a blog post every day. Doesn’t mean they’re all going to be good, but there it is.

In the spirit of polluting the blogosphere, I have agreed to mild urgings1 to join in NaBloPoMo (national blog posting month). There is a page describing this exercise here on Ning. And I have a NaBloPoMo member page here.

The idea is to post something every day for the month of November. No cheating by backdating posts, must post on weekends, too. I often skip weekends so that will be my “challenge.” But screw it, I’m not waiting ‘till November. My plan is to post every day from NOW until the end of November, and lose at least 8 lbs by then2. I’m going to kick my blog’s ass. And my ass’s ass. Or “asses ass”? “Ass’ ass”?

In any case, you’re going to have to take my word for it whether I’m successful or not, because I’m not posting before/after photos of myself in Spandex. That was a disaster the last time. I still get letters3.

If you have a blog and want to participate, let me know when you’ve signed up @Ning. I’ll friend you. If none of you people with blogs sign up on your own, I’m going to start sending out invites. So somebody had better take one for the team and sign up. Don’t mess with me when I’m caffeinated3.

NaBloPoMo, I’m coming for you!

(Note: NaBloPoMo is not to be confused with NoProBleMo, which tastes a lot better and conflicts with my goal to lose weight. But it sounds a lot like it. Kind of.)

1 Blame Leslie.

2 I know bloggers who post everyday as a matter of course on their blog. They probably scoff at the idea of a NaBloPoMo. Or at least make fun of the name. They should. But let them pledge to lose 8 lbs by the end of November — just let ‘em! My current weight is 184. We’ll be counting down from there.

3 Yes, I am completely hyper on caffeine right now. Why do you ask? Don’t ask for pictures; they were all hunted down and destroyed.

Posted by James at 11:54 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Where's the Squealing?

Remember the giddy squealing over taxpayers receiving a $300 check from the Bush administration way back when we were still riding Clinton’s surplus?

Where’s the excited squealing over the fact that the occupation of Iraq has cost every taxpayer $3,400?

I can feel the excitement building as we look to expand the scope of this adventure into Iran. With all the tax cuts for the rich Bush has enacted, who is it that’s going to be paying for this party? You and your kids. Where is the letter in the mail telling you to enjoy your new tax debt?

I hope you saved that rebate check from 2001. You’re going to need it.

Posted by James at 9:11 AM | Comments (0)