April 30, 2008

Better Is Easy

If you're running the show, and you want to be a good leader, my understanding of leadership implies a vision, a plan, and then goals that are milestones toward that end. This is my only understanding of actual leadership vs. simply "being in charge" or "administrating." That is to say, there is a difference between administration and leadership.

To make a somewhat geeky reference, when I think of administration, I think of the Steward of Gondor. And when I think of leadership, I think of Aragorn. Sorry, but it seemed like a nice example, even if it does come with a lot of baggage.

To let you know what started me thinking along these lines, I was reading the excellent local blog A View From Battleship Cove and the post "School Surplus." Lefty is talking about the possibility of improvements in the city of Fall River, and he makes the sensible observation that changes should fit into the fabric of the city. (Nice play on words for the Spindle City, by the way, Lefty.) This post is not really a response to Lefty, or an effort to address the subject of his post, but it did get me thinking.

It made me think of the difference between improvements and a vision. It made me think of a comment that my old boss JJK used to say about certain situations: "Better is easy; good is hard." It made me think of lessons my father, an expert in large project management, tried to teach me about how showing progress (real progress) often does not tell you anything about whether you're any closer to achieving your goals.

And I think this relates to administration vs. leadership because successful administration simply administers, keeping a system alive with little measurable improvement or deterioration. Progress can be reported here or there, but it is not progress toward anything specific. Like a healthy-looking raise that is outpaced by inflation, or a tax cut that is consumed by rising costs of living, it is something that looks good enough to distract you from a deeper understanding of your situation.

My point is not to defame administrators or administration. It can be hard work keeping a system going. And sometimes the status quo is good and nobody sees a need for much change. But I do think that "progress" is a concept misused by many administrators to put off criticism in times when people want a leader. In my opinion, it's better not to tout treading water as progress.

Leaders can be distinguished by their vision. Of course, any nut with an imagination can have a vision. And that's most nuts. But a leader should also have a plan to achieve that vision. And such a plan should have milestones which are true measures of progress.

I am not an expert on city planning, but when people complain about their municipality, I wonder if they ought not to ask their elected officials whether they are administrators or leaders. One is appropriate for a content population and the other is appropriate for times when real improvement is being called for. Are elected officials fulfilling the needs of the people by leading when leadership is needed? And if they say they are leading, are they exhibiting the attributes of leadership, not only in the charisma that we associate with some leaders, but in the presence of a vision and a plan and milestones that add up to the achievement of a goal?

Good is hard. You can get away with a lot if you can just avoid being tied to goals and milestones. You can spend a lot of time and money.

Posted by James at 2:36 PM | Comments (1)

April 29, 2008

Free Comic Book Day!

Remember that this upcoming Saturday is Free Comic Book Day.

Free Comic Book Day is a single day when participating comic book shops across North America and around the world give away comic books absolutely free to anyone who comes into their stores.

I'll be stopping in with the kids at StillPoint comics at their new location in Fall River. Check them out if you're in the SouthCoast. Bring the kids! Or, use the participating store locator. Newbury Comics is also participating.

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Posted by James at 12:38 PM | Comments (1)

April 28, 2008

To Do Backfill

Here's an indication that I am not using my To Do list efficiently.

I find myself doing critical tasks that are not on my To Do list, and so I don't get to cross them off the list when I am done. So my crossed-off list looks paltry, even when I'm making progress on critical tasks.

I guess this means that I need to capture critical tasks to my To Do list better, and perhaps get more detailed with breaking them down. Perhaps as soon as I am about to do something that is not on my To Do list, I should take that as an indication that I need to spend a few moments fixing my To Do list. Because, not only should the list help me plan, it ought to give me some indication of progress as I cross stuff off, no? That's a form of motivation.

On the other hand, there are times when there are many small, unwritten but priority tasks so small that they take only a few short minutes to complete. In some organizational systems you're encouraged to handle microtasks and get them out of the way rather than track them.

That makes sense. But I still think you should backfill those tasks if you get some satisfaction out of crossing them off. Plus, your crossed-off list is more accurate if it includes those tasks.

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Posted by James at 12:21 PM | Comments (4)

April 27, 2008

Sunday Links

Like a Shotgun Post, only more Sunday-riffic.

  • Crazy Spider-Man Tattoo (tattoo,spider-man,crazy)
    • I like Spider-Man, too, but this is a bit much.
  • Soldier Sues Army, Saying His Atheism Led to Threats - New York Times (atheism,military,religion)
    • "People like you are not holding up the Constitution and are going against what the founding fathers, who were Christians, wanted for America!"
  • Pregnancy Tips (funny,humor,pictures)
    • Important pictorial guide to a healthy pregnancy.
  • Goth...Tart (pictures,photo,funny)
    • What birds think of each other
  • Instant Rimshot (audio,entertainment,humor)
    • You never know when you're going to need that little flair of accompaniment. It could be the difference between breaking or making your next joke.
Posted by James at 10:47 AM | Comments (3)

April 26, 2008

Extreme Price Cut!


The kids and I noticed that Snapple was on sale at the local market.

Check it out; instead of 10 for $10, it's 99 cents each! That's one whole cent off! That's 1% of sweet savings. Time to
stock up, obviously.

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Posted by James at 6:36 PM | Comments (4)

April 25, 2008

Ugly Bag Of Mostly News

I didn't do much websurfing this week, so no link dump shotgun post. Instead, this random stuff.

  • Barry! Here's an item on the subject of "compose vs. comprise." I was called to edit some text from a proposal and found the "comprised of" usage popping up, giving me the opportunity to point out that a writer should stick to "the whole comprises the parts" lest he run afoul of offending the shrinking 35% of those survey respondents who object to that usage. I think my edit was well-received. So, score one for the traditional usage, and for showing off grammar knowledge. Hat tip to Barry.
  • Girl Receives Death Threat through Hearing-Assistance Service
    • Here's a bizarre story. Someone used a web service to send a death threat to a 13-year-old Dracut, MA girl. The service allows a user to type a message, and an operator must read the message to a recipient. Some operator was instructed to read this message to Miss Butler: "I'm watching you, I see your every move. Angela, I am going to kill you when you least expect it, I am going to kill you."
    • It's probably some loser crank calling her, but because the service protects anonymity, the authorities are not able to determine whether this is a serious threat. Advocates say this is a useful service, but since the current laws require the operators to recite the message verbatim, I'm thinking that we'll hear more abuse of this system as time goes on.
  • LOCAL-ISH and GLOBAL-ISH: Thomas Friedman "pied" at Brown University.
    • Video here.
    • Even if you disagree with Friedman's opinions, he always struck me as someone interested in more dialogue. I think you pie people who don't want to face the real world, not the ones who do.
  • LOCAL: Somerset decides to smarten up by having more dim bulbs
    • My town is replacing 70-watt bulbs with 50-watt bulbs in an effort to save cash. But you have to love that headline on Mr. Emery's story; someone trying to say something about our town government? I'm guessing that we'll lost the light near our house in a related effort to turn off "less-necessary" lights on certain straightaways in town. While I applaud the energy savings, we look forward to the increase in the crime rate!
  • LOCAL: Swansea resident suggests regional high school with Somerset
    • I'm guessing that on Thanksgiving Day, a new regional high school would play its traditional Thanksgiving Day game against itself instead of Somerset vs. Case? FAIL.
    • Somerset residents like the autonomy of having our own school system. You asked: "Has any Somerset Official considered the possibility of asking neighboring towns if they might be interested in joining them in this endeavor?" Perhaps if they are looking to get into a new line of work, this would be a good way to subtly serve their notice.

Have a good afternoon.

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Posted by James at 1:57 PM | Comments (4)

April 24, 2008

Wiki Thursday: Pledge Criticism

Following on last night's story, I looked up the Pledge on Wikipedia and thought I'd take a couple of moments to discuss my feelings about the Pledge itself. Lest I be misunderstood.

If you love your country (and your country is the united States of America) and you interpret the Pledge as simply an expression of those feelings, it will probably puzzle you why anyone should object to the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Pledge of Allegiance criticism

The criticism of the Pledge of Allegiance of the United States exists on several grounds. Its use in public schools has been the most controversial, as critics contend that a government-sanctioned endorsement of religion violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Critics feel that that the pledge is incompatible with democracy and freedom, and suggest that pledges of allegiance are features of totalitarian states like Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

You can visit the article for the different challenges to public school recitation of the pledge. I figured I'd give a brief summary of my objections, and then some positive comments.

  1. The pledge, to me, evokes totalitarianism. Its author was a Christian Socialist and to me a loyalty oath is the antithesis of the libertarian and liberal spirit I love about my country.
  2. The pledge is being used to promote theism. If the purpose of the pledge is simply to strengthen the connection among countrymen and promote interest in the common good and protection of your countrymen, why is it necessary to reinforce certain belief systems which are not universal? "Under God," in any case, dilutes the Pledge.
  3. I think expressions of dedication ought to be somewhat spontaneous, not prescribed by a government organization. I think it loses meaning when one is required to recite a pledge. The purpose is not an expression of allegiance, but an effort to encourage allegiance.
  4. I question how chanting actually encourages allegiance, especially when the meaning is lost on many people. And even if it were effective, its effectiveness without meaning is empty. Blind allegiance is not necessarily a virtue. I prefer meaningful allegiance.
  5. Following on #4, allegiance to a flag is symbolic. Why not a pledge regarding ideas? Such as the ideas in our groundbreaking Constitution. Are the ideas really that inaccessible?

What do I like about the Pledge? While the Pledge itself is flawed, I believe that the intentions of most of the people who support the Pledge are in the correct place. I am fond of an open and liberal society. I often find myself agreeing with libertarian opinions. But I don't believe that liberty alone gets you very far. I think we need to love our country because why else would we care to want to improve it or help it succeed? Selfish reasons alone are not enough.

Recognizing how other people have given of themselves to the common good of the country is a much better way to honor and promote values that hold our society together.

Posted by James at 9:43 AM | Comments (9)

April 23, 2008

All's Well That Ends Well

Did you hear the news story about the girl who would not recite the Pledge of Allegiance in high school classes? They booted her out of school for it.

Eighteen-year-old Tyner Academy senior Quinesha Garrett was removed this week from daytime classes and ordered to night school, where the pledge is not recited.

She refused to say the Pledge, so she's probably some kind of terrorist or other.

But there is a happy end to this story. Ms. Garrett simply told the administration that she had political reasons for not reciting the Pledge at this time, and that she felt it was part of her exercise of freedom of speech. And they let her back in!

I'm totally kidding. She told them it was against her religion.

Sometimes I wish non-theists could get notes from god, but he tends not to return our phone calls.

Posted by James at 8:19 PM | Comments (6)

April 22, 2008

Hard and Hidden Plastic

Hard, clear plastic is the new food-tainting villain.

Bisphenol-a (BPA) has been shown to cause mammary and prostate changes in mice, and to accelerate puberty in some tests of female mouse pups. So, if you're a mouse pup you should probably be very concerned. But even we folks who are not mouse pups might want to consider reducing our exposure to bisphenol-a. Especially if you are a human child, since you're closer in size to a mouse pup.

According to NYT, it's safe to assume that any hard, clear plastic container is made from polycarbonate which can leech BPA. You know that water filter pitcher you're using to filter out impurities in your water? it's probably leeching some BPA into your water. You're welcome!

Between you and me, I'd be more worried about the polycarbonates that are lining the inside of food cans. To prevent food from reacting with the metal, manufacturers line many cans with polycarbonate. And after the food is added to the can, the can is heated, which can increase the transfer of BPA from the plastic to the food. So, people trying to feed their kids canned veggies are exposing them to BPA.

This is one of those really fuzzy risks. BPA hasn't been proved to cause problems in humans, so no ban of clear plastic water bottles is looming. But Wal-Mart has already started taking all BPA-containing baby products off the shelves. But if you're an adult who gets a lot of his veggie intake from canned foods, are you really at a lower risk is you, say, give up canned foods and eat fewer vegetables? Ideally, experts have recommended switching to fresh veggies for people trying to limit their exposure to BPA. But when you tell people to stop doing what they're used to for food, you don't know what they'll replace it with.

When many people are confused about how to eat healthy diets just considering the foods that are available, additional news like this is going to throw an additional wrench into the equation.

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Posted by James at 8:39 AM | Comments (8)

Expelled and Holocaust Irony

If you're not familiar with Ben Stein's recent involvement with a film called "Expelled," I'll give you the short version and you can check out the rest on Wikipedia and/or through a Google search.

Essentially, Stein is the host of an anti-science screed of a movie which seeks to get people all worked up against science, biology, atheists and Planned Parenthood. I first heard of this film when he fooled some prominent biologists into being interviewed, and again later when one of the interviewees was barred from seeing the film in public. The new York Times reviewed the film and called it "a conspiracy-theory rant masquerading as investigative inquiry."

I hadn't discussed this story before because it was all over the atheist blogosphere. But the latest development in this saga has me really upset.

If you're a skeptic, you've likely heard the name "Michael Shermer." He's the founder of the Skeptics Society and of Skeptic magazine. In addition to debunking psychics and other bullshit artists, he has written books on the reasons that people believe strange things and on pseudohistory.

It was from Shermer that I first learned about the deeply delusional world of Holocaust Deniers. Before I read Shermer, I didn't realize the depth of denial some people harbor regarding the Holocaust. I found it eye opening; it was a moment in my life when I saw more clearly how the delusional thinking that is the antithesis of skepticism is not harmless. The danger of delusion, of believing things that make us happy, was something I had suspected. But it became more real and more visceral when I read about Holocaust denial.

Shermer has spent a great deal of time debunking Holocaust Deniers. Which is why I am upset at what Stein and his fellow filmmakers have done.

In their linking of evolutionary biology to all the evils of the world, they have painted creationism skeptics as contributors to the Holocaust on the oft-repeated but unsupported belief that Hitler's atrocities were driven by atheism and evolutionary biology. In their effort to smear Shermer in the film, as a person who has opposed the creationist delusion, they've convinced some Jews that this champion of the facts of the Holocaust is somehow responsible for the Holocaust.

This came to the attention of Richard Dawkins, and he's posted about it on his website in an entry called "Open Letter to a victim of Ben Stein's lying propaganda." The short version is that after seeing Expelled, a moviegoer contacted Shermer and criticized him as someone who thinks "that it was okay for [his] great-grandparents to die in the Holocaust!"

I find this to be a very sad and upsetting irony, and an example of the infectiousness of delusion. Ben Stein and the other makers of Expelled have taken up their own kind of Holocaust denial, denying the reasons why the Holocaust happened and hijacking it for their own creationist purposes. In the process they have smeared innocent people.

What they have done is absolutely despicable.

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Posted by James at 12:40 AM | Comments (9)

April 19, 2008

MySpace's Taunting Email Updates

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MySpace sends you an email alert when you’re subscribed to someone’s MySpace entries. Wonderful! However, they don’t check whether you have access to the entry before they annoy you with the email update. If you’re not on that user’s preferred list, and the user restricts the entry, you get the update anyhow.

If you can imagine a handy online service that sends you notifications of parties that it knows you’re not invited to, it’s kind of like that.

MySpace? Great Job!

Of course, you can unsubscribe from all MySpace subscriptions (which I just did) or delete your MySpace account (which I might do if I get bored later.)

Imagine a person who has zero social skills and then on top of that imagine that this person is drunk all the time. Now imagine that you can clone this person and fill a whole nightclub with those people. MySpace itself (not the people on MySpace — the website itself) is like that nightclub.

OK, some of the people on MySpace are like that, too. But it’s your own fault if your friends are like that; it doesn’t matter what website you’re on at that point.

Posted by James at 10:55 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 18, 2008

Zippity Shotgun

Posted by James at 2:02 PM | Comments (21)

April 16, 2008

Wiki Wednesday: Pine Nuts

Today's Wiki Wednesday Wikipedia reference is for "Pine nuts."

Pine nuts are the edible seeds of pines (family Pinaceae, genus Pinus). About 20 species of pine produce seeds large enough to be worth harvesting; in other pines the seeds are also edible, but are too small to be of value as a human food. [1] [2] [3]

Pine nuts are used in the Lebanese cooking I grew up with, most memorably for me in Kibbeh (a ground meat and bulghur wheat dish that bears some resemblance to meatloaf, except for its raw version Kibbeh Nayye, which is like raw meatloaf) and Djaj mah Ruz (Chicken and Rice). If you've never had those, you're most likely to have had pine nuts in Italian recipes, crushed into pesto, for example.

The Italians call them "pinoli" or "pignoli" and the Spanish have the word "piñón." To me they were always snawbar (pronounced snao-bahrd). But here in the U.S. of A. we call them "pine nuts."

I don't think most people are familiar with pine nuts, or the fact that pine trees have edible seeds. I found it interesting that I came across a reference to pine nuts in an article (Foods People Won't Eat Because of the Names by Robert T. Morris, M.D. January 1918) in the NYT archives:

During the last five years the peanut has been moved up to a point where it will soon become a rival of the pine nuts and Asiatic chestnuts for substantial food purposes.

Ninety years later, I think it's safe to say that Americans are more familiar with the flavor of peanuts than they are with pine nuts and Asiatic chestnuts. Westerners have been eating those tree nuts for much longer, but don't expect a Reese's Pine Nut Butter Cup any time soon. Maybe in another hundred years.

I love the flavor or lightly roasted pine nuts. It's (no surprise here) nutty and rich. The nuts aren't really crunchy, but they do have a slight crispness and a smoothness to them. Once toasted, you might use them in places you'd see sunflower seeds, in a salad for example.

I learned a couple of odd things from the Wiki page. First, that some pine nuts have been blamed with throwing people's taste buds out of whack (this applies to Chinese varieties, specifically). And also that some believe pine nut oil to have appetite suppressant qualities. Mmm, well, I know I'm always satisfied after a mozzarella, pesto and tomato sandwich. But I don't think that's what they meant.

Additional links:

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Posted by James at 2:04 PM | Comments (7)

Pope's Vast Conspiracy

I was considering letting this one go, but it’s bugging me too much.

Pope Benedict XVI chose to address bluntly the sex scandal that has torn at the church here even before he landed Tuesday on his first official visit to the United States, saying he was “deeply ashamed” by the actions of pedophile priests.

That’s an interesting way to put it; you’re ashamed of stuff that someone else did. Simultaneously distancing yourself from it and appearing to express regret.

The only regret that’s worth anything is regret that changes future behavior. He can’t promise that children won’t encounter pedophiles, so it seems odd to focus on shame for actions that he, ostensibly would never have condoned. And that’s my charitable assessment of that mixed message. I won’t go into the less charitable interpretation.

It would reassure me a lot more if he expressed shame for his role, and the role of the Church in exacerbating the problem through a “cover your ass” attitude, continued secrecy, and actions that exposed more children to abuse. The abusive priests bear the largest responsibility, but the Pope’s statements should worry anyone who wanted to believe that there has been real change.

This Pope has, in the past, expressed the opinion that the scandal itself is nothing more than a conspiracy of Catholic-bashing, That’s a troubling place to start when you’re seeking to renew people’s faith in your organization. The Pope’s deflection of the issue is worse than if he had not said anything at all, because you can still see the seeds of denial planted deep.

Bottom line: the Church had, in the past, placed self interest (exposure to the possibility of litigation) over the interest of children in the organization. Forget even apologies (which have not happened). What is necessary is a clear statement that the Church places the welfare of children above its own legal interests, and then actions that back up the statement.

Is he setting the stage for such a statement, and actions which back up words? I guess we’ll know soon, but I am not holding my breath.

Posted by James at 11:02 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

April 14, 2008

Cell Phone Vigilante

The New York Post published a story about the “LIRR Cell Phone Guy” — a fellow who gets angry at cell phone usage on the train.

By now, I guess all of us have been in this situation. You’re somewhere in public, trying to do something like shop, or perhaps just sit with your own thoughts. Suddenly, someone is shouting at you. But they’re not actually talking to you, they’re shouting into a cell phone.

It’s really annoying. But imagine if you were rustling your newspaper and the college student on the cell phone asked you to quiet down. That’s what happened to this fellow. He got angry, and it even crossed over slightly into the physical, when a lawyer tried to hand the student her card.

He has now survived eight railroad-related arrests without a single charge sticking. That includes a 1994 arrest for admittedly “clocking” a barely 5-foot-tall female passenger in the head with his fist.

I am as annoyed with cell phone users as anyone. I try to limit my usage when I’m out and about. But, really, physical violence? How is this guy able to escape punishment, when he’s hitting and slapping people? New York, are you giving him a pass because he’s a former police officer?

Putting the physical aspect of this aside for the moment (because I can’t imagine how it could be considered OK to hit somebody over their cell phone usage) what are the boundaries of politeness when you are in a situation where the other person is not being polite? It’s easy to be polite to someone who returns that respect. But if someone is being rude, do you feel you’re absolved of any obligation?

Personally, I suppose I feel no special obligation to be quiet for a cell phone user. I’ll whistle in their presence without a second thought — partly because I don’t want to hear your conversation! When someone is intruding on your ears to that extent (beyond the reasonable noise we’re used to) it’s defensive to erect a small bubble of sound around you, for sanity’s sake. But I certainly think you’ve crossed a line if you get in the person’s face and start snapping your fingers. It may make you feel better, but only because you’re attacking them, not because the snapping is soothing to your own ears, as humming, whistling, or talking to oneself might be. These are things people already do to focus their concentration.

I’d rejoice at a story that someone told off a cell phone user and the whole train applauded. When I hear a story like this, however, instead of making me feel that I’m glad there’s someone curtailing loud cell phone users I worry that there are these hyperagressive anti-cell phone loonies on the loose.

We’re in a transition period during which we are not in agreement about public cell phone etiquette. But when the consensus comes down, I’m pretty sure physical violence will be off the list.

Posted by James at 9:55 AM | Comments (10)

April 12, 2008

Don't allow the devil to interfere with your feelings

From an article about Carolyn Jessop, escapee from FLDS compound:

When I was 17, I worked for a year as a teacher’s assistant in the compound’s school, and by the time I was 18 I had a secret dream of becoming a paediatrician.

I didn’t know any other woman in the FLDS who was so ambitious, but I was determined to try, so I told my father of my desire to go to college.

[…] “I had a chance to talk to Uncle Roy,” he announced.

“He told me you could go to school to be a teacher. But he said that before you go you should marry Merril Jessop.”

I was stunned. My future had just vanished. Now, even if I continued with my education, I’d have to do so while being constantly pregnant - as was expected of married women. My husband would also be able to overrule any decision about what I did.

I looked at my father in horror. I hardly knew Merril. He was 50, and I’d gone to school with his daughters. Now I was going to be one of their mothers.

[…] My father went on to tell me that this came down from the prophet of God and I should see it as a blessing.

“You should not question it, or allow the devil to interfere in your feelings.”

It’s a good thing that some of us allow “the devil” to interfere in our feelings!

Posted by James at 8:31 AM | Comments (7)

April 11, 2008

Muthaflippin Shotgun

Rhymocerous and Hiphopopotamus

Posted by James at 9:21 AM | Comments (19)

April 10, 2008

Games Bad, Concussions Good

Tom Menino and a moralistic brigade want more laws in the state of Massachusetts to restrict the sale of videogames to young adults. Whether you believe that videogames are bad for kids or not, House Bill 1423 offers a very foggy set of criteria for determining what is harmful to children.

5 "Harmful to minors", matter is harmful to minors if it is obscene

6 or, if taken as a whole, it (1) describes or represents nudity, sexual

7 conduct or sexual excitement, so as to appeal predominantly to the

8 prurient interest of minors; (2) depicts violence in a manner patently

9 offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community, so as to

10 appeal predominantly to the morbid interest in violence of minors;

11 (3) is patently contrary to prevailing standards of adults in the

12 county where the offense was committed as to suitable material for

13 such minors; and (4) lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scien

14 tific value for minors."

I bet that, at some time or other, you have engaged in activities that "lacked serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value." Do we need the state to be a parent? I think this expands on a bad precedent. Stephen King weighed in on the videogame issue in Entertainment Weekly.

What really makes me insane is how eager politicians are to use the pop culture - not just videogames but TV, movies, even Harry Potter - as a whipping boy. It's easy for them, even sort of fun, because the pop-cult always hollers nice and loud. Also, it allows legislators to ignore the elephants in the living room. Elephant One is the ever-deepening divide between the haves and have-nots in this country, a situation guys like Fiddy and Snoop have been indirectly rapping about for years. Elephant Two is America's almost pathological love of guns.

Right on, Mr. King. The legislature should be trying to solve real problems, not scapegoating videogames. And we already have a pretty strict labeling system in place. So, it's not as though people have no idea what a game contains before they buy it.


Speaking of elephants being ignored, we have young kids in Fall River engaging in unregulated "mixed martial arts" -- basically ultimate fighting -- without state oversight and with apparently great risk of injury. Check out the video on Boston.com. Kids hitting the mat hard without head protection. We have helmet laws that say an adult can't get on a motorcycle without a helmet. Heck, we have helmet laws which say a kid can't get on a bike or roller skates without a helmet.

But we have kids in unregulated "ultimate fighting"-style matches who hit the mat hard without head protection.

Local promoters say they are doing right by their fighters, keeping doctors at ringside and ambulances at the ready, and requiring pre-fight physicals and blood tests, just as they would, for example, if regulated in another state. But Dana White, president of the Las Vegas-based Ultimate Fighting Championship, said he wouldn't bring his organization to a state without oversight. The fact is, White said, no single authority in Massachusetts has any idea what promoters are doing, or not doing, or if they'll be ready when a fighter gets injured or worse.

"It's incredibly dangerous," said White. "It's insane is what it is. It's absolutely insane that fighting can happen without being regulated. I actually can't believe it's still happening in this country." [Emphasis mine]

Clearly, these kids need to be protected from videogames!

I submit that our legislators have their priorities misplaced, and that they should focus on real-world problems rather than scapegoating forms of entertainment.

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Posted by James at 10:11 AM | Comments (13)

April 9, 2008

Outing Huckabee

Is a purple "OUT" sticker on Mike Huckabee some sort of not-too-subtle message from CNN? Enquiring minds want to know!

On a related note, the presidential race is a lot more boring without you, Mr. Huckabee.

Posted by James at 7:06 PM | Comments (0)

Flickr Wife Videos

You may (or may not) have heard, but Flickr added the ability for Pro users to post 90 second videos, or what they're calling "long photographs."

I wonder why they didn't go for the really-modern sounding "moving pictures."

I found the ground rules a little puzzling:

Some ground rules to get started:

  1. Only "safe" and "moderate" video content is permitted. Your "beautiful wife" should not be moving. (Read more about content filters.)
  2. Only upload videos you have created yourself.

Your "beautiful wife" should not be moving? Are we talking about nectrotography, or do they only want me to take pictures of my wife when she's unconscious? Because, when she's awake, my beautiful wife is fairly animated.

And what's with the irony quotes, Flickr? My "beautiful wife?" In quotes? I know what you're implying, and you can't talk about my wife like that. Care to step outside and settle this like men?

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Posted by James at 11:36 AM | Comments (14)

Wiki Wednesday: Orange Pekoe

Wiki Wednesday (the DrMomentum version) is all about my ignorance. It's a feature in which I admit ignorance on a subject, but enough curiosity that I lifted a finger to search it on Wikipedia. There's extraordinary motivation for you!

So, here's something I looked up on Wikipedia recently:

Orange Pekoe

Orange pekoe (also spelled pecco) is a term mainly used to describe a grade of tea found in the grading system used for sorting black teas (Orange pekoe grading).[1][2] The system is based solely upon the size of the processed and dried black tea leaves.

I didn't realize it was pronounced "peck-oh." Seeing it on tea boxes for all those years, I had assumed it was "peek-oh." Luckily, it never came up in conversation. Imagine my possible embarassment. Like the time I mispronounced "bergamot." But that is a story for another time.

I had also assumed that it was a variety of tea, not part of a bizarre grading system. The grades, as the quote above states, are based on the size of the tea leaves. So, you'd think that "small," "medium," and "large" might serve purposes. Nope.

From the Wiki article, there are different grades for whole leaf tea, broken leaf tea, "fannings" (which are smaller broken tea leaves) and dust. Altogether, this system comprises about 27 different grades. Whole leaf grades span from OP (Orange Pekoe) to FTGF OP (Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe). All 27 grades have some variation on those bizarre names. There are three different grades of dust alone, which tells me this system is really for tea geeks.

By the way, if you're not buying loose leaf tea, you've probably been drinking tea mostly made from fannings and dust. Enjoy!

Speaking of tea geeks, check out tea geek jokes.

A joke among tea aficionados is that "FTGFOP" stands for "Far Too Good For Ordinary People".

Oh lord, that's a knee-slapper. If there's anything that makes me leery of enjoying tea more, it's this glimpse of what the tea-drinking community accepts as humor.

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Posted by James at 9:16 AM | Comments (7)

Sounds Dirty But Isn't

Are you enjoying CSS Naked Day?

OK, so you've likely never heard of it.

CSS Naked Day, according to its website, is

[...] to promote Web Standards. Plain and simple. This includes proper use of (x)html, semantic markup, a good hierarchy structure, and of course, a good 'ol play on words. It's time to show off your <body>.

You strip out the design of your website to show what it would look like without certain parts of its formatting. I guess I get the idea - making your website look crappy for a day is supposed to make people appreciate web designers more. Wait -- it says it's about web standards. I'm not sure how the average reader is going to care abotu standards because suddenly your blog looks wonky. And first time readers of your blog are just going to think you don't know how to use a blog template.

Remember "Typesetting Naked Day" when the Wall Street Journal printed the entire paper in 10 point monospace font, including the headlines? That's when I really started to appreciate... you know... fonts. And standards.

To answer your other question, Yeah, I'm feeling grumpy.

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Posted by James at 8:47 AM | Comments (1)

April 5, 2008

Rolling The News

Film crew to use New Bedford’s ‘Ernie’s’ ‘On a Roll’ as movie setting

Filmmakers who have ties to SouthCoast plan to use the On a Roll cafe at 149 Union St. beginning Saturday as the setting for a short film.

The film involves a conversation with a suicide bomber. No word on whether the main character gets the guy to change his mind by offering him a panini.

In other local movie news, Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorcese were hanging around Taunton in March filming “Ashecliffe” — a film based on Dennis Lehane’s “Shutter Island.” It was a strange book, and I’m looking forward to Scorcese’s interpretation.

Posted by James at 1:42 PM | Comments (0)

April 4, 2008

iPod Rating Mode

I want some new features for the OS on my iPod.

I want the ability to have a "ratings mode" in which, whenever an unrated song is finished playing, an audio cue followed by a few seconds of silence is played to remind me to rate the song. Because when I listen to my unrated songs now, I'm usually doing something else at the same time. And I forget I'm supposed to rate the songs.

Also, the ability to rate albums would be nice.

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Posted by James at 12:09 PM | Comments (4)

Rickroll Shotgun

If this year's April Fools taught us anything online, it's that Rickrolling is the new way to say "gotcha!" So I had to include one rickroll in the list. but it is clearly marked. my Twitter followers have likely already seen it.

  • PhotoshopDisasters (blog,advertising,funny,photography)
    • A blog devoted to bad photo manipulation. Some people shouldn't wield a virtual airbrush. Hat tip to Verbatim.
  • YouTube - Hilarious Muppets Bloopers! (funny,humor,prank,video,rickroll)
    • Except, it's not really bloopers. Fooled me, but then I couldn't complain. 'Cause I loves me some Muppets, even if they do Rickroll you once in a while.
  • Can you name Elements of the Periodic Table? - sporcle (fun,games,quiz,science,chemistry)
    • I'm sure you can name some. I was embarrassed that I only got 52 after 10 minutes and couldn't spell a number of the ones I thought I could remember. There are 118 on the table, so I didn't even get half.
  • Cthulhu's Family Restaurant (blogs,friends)
    • Bull's online journal. Straight outta Miskatonic.
  • Drawspace.com - Drawing lessons (art,drawing,comics,learning,lessons,howto)
    • I recommend &quot;Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain&quot; for folks who want to draw, but the lessons on this site are not bad if you're looking for some practice and want to just pick up a pencil and dive in.
  • Apple Shooter Archery (flash,funny,game)
    • Don't shoot your friend! Unless you're in that sort of mood.
  • Intelligence Poster (poster,humor,motivation)
    • A warning of sorts.
  • senses.swf (application/x-shockwave-flash Object) (senses,science,health,body,test,quiz,flash)
    • Take this BBC challenge and see how your senses and knowledge stack up.
  • How to Make Butterscotch (candy,cooking,howto)
    • Mmmm. Real butterscotch? Sounds amazing. Do you just add rum to make it butter rum?
Posted by James at 9:07 AM | Comments (16)

April 3, 2008

Speaking Truth To Google

I love Google as much as the next person who is hopelessly dependent on its functionality. But Fake Steve Jobs nailed it.

It’s not a company, it’s a cult, and frankly I can appreciate that because we’re a cult too and the fact is that cults are easier to run than companies. But you’re running a cult of children. And not just any children. You’ve got children of the corn type children. […]
And you know what? There is something really evil about taking thousands of the world’s smartest young people and using them to sell online text ads more efficiently. Really. Think of all the really interesting and important things that this pool of brainpower could be addressing.

Possibly the funniest Fake Steve Jobs post I’ve read. if the gifted are working at Google, at least that will ease some of the burden on the country’s prisons.

Posted by James at 8:23 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

April 2, 2008

Low-Hanging Fruit

The reason I don’t vow to post to this blog every day is not because I cannot live up to that sort of posting frequency. I could. Easily.

No, it’s because I fear that I would only seek out and post stories like the following one, which I consider to be low-hanging blogger fruit:

A judge who resigned after being caught driving drunk in New Hampshire while in drag says he’s reconsidering his decision to quit. […] Somma rear-ended a pickup truck at a red light in Manchester, N.H. He was wearing a cocktail dress and high heels.

I agree that the cocktail dress and heels are probably not enough to warrant his resignation. Certainly, it is unwise to get behind the wheel after you’ve been drinking. Sad to say, drunk driving is not all that unusual, but there are other elements of the story that make it more likely to be blogged.

You can explain the cocktail dress. Clearly, he was coming from a cocktail party.

But the shoes are a more difficult matter. My guess is that you just can’t wear low heeled slingbacks with a cocktail dress. But I’m no expert. High heels seems a little racy for a judge.

Damn you, low-hanging blog fruit. You’re a boon to the blogger looking for a quick fix, but you’re distracting us from important news stories, like the continuing discussion of Princess Diana’s accident. Which is, amazingly, still in the news. Which decade was that? I can’t remember.

Posted by James at 2:55 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Pii You

Think Geek is known for its fake products created for April Fools. The following product was just such a joke, and appeared on the website yesterday. It’s a Wii game (and accessory) to give one the experience of virtual standing urination called “Super Pii Pii Brothers.”

Warning: This video night not be safe for your workplace

As it depicts simulated urination

Viewer discretion is advised.

Amazing Virtual Pee Experience from Japan

According to the Japanese text on the box “Super Pii Pii Brothers promotes good bathroom skills and allows women to experience for the first time the pleasure of urinating while standing.” What we say is that virtual peeing is damn fun!

If you try to add it to your cart, you’ll be informed that you have been duped, you credulous sonofagun!

In any case, we already have a way for women to experience standing urination, via the Lady J apparatus, which is not a hoax. They don’t call it an apparatus, but I do because it sounds better than “little urine-covered plastic thing.”

There are other devices. And even methods for peeing-while-standing (I like to abbreviate it as PWS) with no artificial assistance.

The question is this: are women interested in PWS, or do men keep creating these devices and web pages because they only imagine that women are missing out.

Further, if it was just the squick-factor that prevented you from using a urination device, does the possibility of a virtual urination experience overcome the physical unpleasantness of a jury-rigged penis1?

Because, seriously, someone in Japan will create a virtual peeing game if they think there’s enough of a market. WarioWare: Smooth Moves practically has this functionality nailed down in a couple of its mini-games. It could be done. If only people would admit they wanted to play it.

1 No, I did not write this post solely so that I could use the phrase “jury-rigged penis.”

Posted by James at 8:59 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

April 1, 2008



It’s Buy-A-Friend-A-Book Week. I’ve bought a friend a book. For no good reason. If you do, too, then you’re participating in BAFAB week!

It’s that simple.

Posted by James at 11:57 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack