May 30, 2008

Response to Anti-Scarfers

You may be sick of hearing about this scarf business. I have to beg your pardon, because I think there's a lot more to be said about this. At first I was shocked and amused at this bit of nutfudgery. Then I was upset and boggled that Dunkin' Donuts felt they had to give in to intimidation. Now I'm settling into something a little more like depression about it.

That's because I feel this is just the beginning of a very bad trend. I felt like I had to post on one of the sites frequented by folks that supported the intimidation of Dunkin' Donuts. I thought maybe someone would read my opinion and understand the undercurrent which so bothers me. I don't expect anyone to post and say they agree. Likely I'll just get attacked. But I've said my piece as plainly as I can. I feel seriously about it.

People in the comments thread of this post on Jawa Report were imagining that Dunkin' Donuts doesn't have much of a liberal clientelle, so I started by setting that right. I also called this business "ridiculous criticism over a scarf." But then someone commented back to me:

"ridiculous criticism over a scarf."
Would it have been different if She had worn a white hood or a swaz armband?

I figured I would take the opportunity to explain why this bothers me. Well, a shot in the dark. I republish it below in case anyone is interested. I'm trying to keep it polite and to the point. Certainly there are a lot of people who will not want to hear anything. But I'm going for the chance reasonable passerby. And here's the link to the comments thread.

That's about as fair as asking "Would it have been different if she were McCain's daughter?" But I understand why you asked it. Let me first handle the subject at hand before changing it.

She's wearing a scarf that some people mistook for a kaffiyeh that's intended to support a specific cause. Instead of giving the benefit of the doubt (which I think would make sense in this case), they ran with it to gain attention. I know what you're thinking -- what possible benefit could Michelle Malkin get from all that attention? (OK, I apologize for the sarcasm.)

There is no evidence to show that Dunkin' Donuts intended to mainstream terrorism. There is no evidence to back up the idea that the scarf Rachael Ray was wearing benefits Hamas in any way. This is why I think they deserved the benefit of the doubt. But they didn't get it.

Of course manufactured outrage is not specific to the right wing. So you have some fun with it - no big deal. Everyone enjoys getting a little hot and bothered. But people came together to make a corporation afraid to let a woman wear a scarf in a commercial. That's no longer just fun. Dictating woman's fashion through intimidation; that sounds awfully familiar. That's why I think this one went a little too far.

I know many people who agree with Michelle Malkin and are reading this are probably just going to get mad at me and dismiss my point of view. But I hope a few people who read this really think about having that sort of accomplishment under your belt. I hope at least some of you feel something telling you it's not the proudest moment. It's political correctness run amok, worse, even than when ignorant busybodies objected to the use of the word "niggardly."

This used to be the country where we said "screw it, we're the ones who are going to say what things mean." Now we're afraid what the Palestinians and others will think when they see a scarf in a Dunkin' Donuts commercial? Are the folks with all this outrage too young to remember that spirit of freedom? It's making me feel like an old man. Winning means winning the freedoms, not winning the intimidation of a donut company.

To come back to your question, I'll consider this: How about if she'd have been wearing the full garb of a KKK grand wizard? Would that have been different? There are few, if any, other times when you see people wearing those things when they are not specifically representing the KKK (or parodying the KKK).

On the other hand, people wear scarves of all sorts all the time without referencing Palestine. People wear middle-eastern-style scarves all the time without being terrorists, or (gasp!) Muslims. There you have your difference.

Thanks for listening.
-JP Burke

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Posted by James at 8:55 PM | Comments (11)

Around The World In One Post

It's the mutha-flippin. It's the mutha-flippin. It's the mutha-flippin. News.

Gaza Students Lose Fulbright Scholarships

Palestinian students were told that because Israel won't let them leave the country, The U.S. State Department is withdrawing their Fulbright scholarships. Israel's stated goal is to support moderates (like students who seek higher education as a way to foster Palestinian success that is not tied to the violent Hamas organization).

Opinions differ regarding whose fault it is that these students are left high and dry. The prime minister's office says that higher education concerns are an exception that they would have allowed, if they'd received an appeal from the US government. The Americans don't want to comment on whether they tried to appeal. And some Israelis say "who cares?"

Way to go, State Department (and Israel's government) for a foreign relations failure that plays into the hands of Hamas.

Oddity Commodity - Used Fryer Oil So Valuable, It's Theft-er-riffic!

Fryer grease has become such a valuable substance, it's being stolen from drums used to store the dirty oil in the back of fast food joints everywhere. Thankfully, it's wanted as bio fuel and not to make fish and chips.

Ugh. Bullshit.

Saints preserve us from political astrology. The primaries aren't bad enough already?


Annoying: Hype over the new "Sex and the City" movie. More Annoying: People who keep calling it "Sex in the City." I've never seen the show and even I know what it's called.

City Takes Backhoe to Students' Gift

How do you encourage middle school students to be involved citizens in their community? How about get them to work hard on a professional-quality sign for the city's park, and then turn around and yank it out with a backhoe?

Mr. Coelho said he followed all of the required procedures to erect the sign, consulting with City Planner David Kennedy and even the National Park Service to ensure the color scheme would not clash with park service plans to erect a sign at the corner of Brownell Avenue. Dig Safe also inspected the site, he said.

The park board approved it and everything. But apparently the micromanaging mayor and city council president felt snubbed. Boo hoo. You've learned a valuable, cynical lesson, kids.


If you're going to have a drug deal, the gas station right between the police headquarters and the High School is the best place to do it!

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Posted by James at 9:28 AM | Comments (17)

May 29, 2008

Open Letter to Dunkin Donuts

Dear Dunkin' Donuts,

I'm writing to you about the recent Rachael Ray scarf controversy.

I feel a little bad for you, because I know you probably felt you would lose no matter what you did. You had right wing crazies screaming in your ear, and that can be very distracting. You know you weren't trying to promote any sort of terrorism. I know you weren't trying to promote terrorism. And I almost understand why you pulled the ad featuring Rachael Ray in an innocent black-and-white paisley scarf. It was fear.

You were afraid that the crazies wouldn't buy your coffee. And corporations aren't about courage, they're about selling.

We recently had Memorial Day here in the United States. Memorial Day is about people who have given the ultimate sacrifice in military service for our country. What you may not realize is that our freedoms are defended or eroded by the individual actions of Americans. A short way to describe this is "use it or lose it." If we don't use our freedoms, we will surely lose them. If we are afraid to use our freedoms, we have effectively already lost them.

As individual Americans (or American corporations) act on the fears of misguided fools, the loss of freedom is effectively in place. That freedom, which some have died for, is tossed away by your decision to cow-tow to a few misguided souls who see terrorism behind every donut.

Our daughter likes your poppy seed bagels. She takes one to school for lunch every single day.

The Taliban makes a ton of money from opium, which is produced from poppies. Perhaps my daughter will be mistaken for a terrorist if she's seen with one of your bagels. Do you see how ridiculous that is? With two seconds of twisted imagination, anything can be linked to terrorism. Would you stop selling poppy seed bagels if I made enough of a stink?

We must aggressively defend our freedoms by using them without fear. Dunkin' Donuts has even more responsibility in this area because you are high profile. By your actions, you've told millions of Americans you agree that they should be afraid to wear a black-and-white paisley scarf. And you've encouraged the people who can't tell Rachael Ray from a terrorist to continue their crusade. If that's your stand, then you clearly don't want my business. And that's sad, because I've been a fan more often than not (search my blog).

Perhaps my taste for your products will return when you can stand up against manufactured outrage that erodes our freedom of speech.

-James Patrick Burke

(Respond, if you wish, to )

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Posted by James at 10:36 AM | Comments (14)

May 28, 2008

Seeing Terrorism In Every Donut


This is, truly, the stupidest thing I've heard in a long time. And I occasionally read articles on the conservative "blog networks", so I hear A LOT of really stupid things.

But this is real evidence that conservative bloggerdom sees "terrorism" wherever they look.

I want you to take a good long look at the image in this post image and tell me what you see.

If you said "Rachael Ray hawking coffee" then you are clearly not a patriot, sir.

If you said "Dunkin Donuts promoting terrorism" then you may want to look for webhosting because you can leverage your slight mental disability and psychological imbalance into a spot in the glitterati of online modern conservative blabbermouths. You've got what it takes to be a leader of the Republican electronic Webbiganda 2.0 revolution.

You see, to these individuals, (namely Michelle Malkin and the always-worth-a-sad-chuckle Little Green Footballs) if you wear a scarf with a pattern, it must be a symbol of Palestinian solidarity! You're "mainstreaming terrorism." I respectfully suggest that Michelle Malkin and crew are attempting to mainstream stupidity. And I suggest they keep it within their own community where it has the best chance of thriving.

The failure of the ideas they've been screaming at us for so long has completely unhinged these shrill Alternative-History Media bozos.

These folks breathlessly huff that her scarf resembles the kaffiyeh worn by Arafat. The problem is, it really doesn't have the characteristic pattern that Arafat's scarf has. Not if you care to pay attention to that sort of thing. Not that you can really tell from the stupid ad in the first place. It appears to have a paisley pattern. And she's not wearing it on her head.

Let's, for the sake of argument, imagine that Rachael Ray were trying to promote terrorism and were really wearing a copy of Arafat's kaffiyeh. Do you think people seeing this image would get the message that people should fight for Palestinians? Inane. Even if it were true that is the stupidest plan hatched since "wide stance" was used as an excuse for trolling for airport bathroom sex. And it would take someone equally stupid to detect it.

It looks to me like Rachael Ray is wearing a kind of neat paisley black-and-white scarf. LGF and Malkinites. You really expect me to believe that Dunkin Donuts and Rachael Ray have a terrorist agenda? Really? You think that they're trying to sell us revolution with our Donuts? Really? The company that gives us free iced coffee the day after a Red Sox win -- you think they want to seed our minds with terrorist thoughts? Really. Really? (Apologies to Amy Poehler, Seth Meyers and Keith Olbermann)

That grumbling sound you just heard was the last bit of your credibility as Americans passing through Dick Cheney's colon.

Dunkin Donuts, under pressure from idiots, took down the ad. Because clearly, it's terroristeriffic!

Hat tip projo and Feministe.

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Posted by James at 8:17 PM | Comments (25)

May 24, 2008

Communists vs. Indy

Spielberg movie angers Russia's Communist Party

The Communist party declared the movie "an insult to the Soviet and Russian people, who remember the difficult 50s", when the country was "concluding its reconstruction after the Great War".

In the future, people who have an ideological argument with blockbuster movies will just flood link sites with spoilers, hitting them right in the fanboy base. It's taking them a while to catch up with current technology.

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Posted by James at 1:15 PM | Comments (0)

May 23, 2008

Twittish Shotgun

I noticed that I've got mostly Twitter-related links today and no games. So, if you're bored, here's a miniclip game where you fling an arctic creature as far as you can. Now that's Friday entertainment!

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Posted by James at 3:07 PM | Comments (2)

May 22, 2008

Wiki Thursday: Corn Smut

While using StumbleUpon, I ran into an old favorite. It was "Steve, Don't Eat It! Vol. 7" on the excellent website "The Sneeze"

If you're unfamiliar with "Steve, Don't Eat It!" the short description is that this guy eats stuff that look or sound gross, and that equals some great entertainment. In installment 7 he digs into Huitlacoche. It's a Mexican ingredient named for its resemblance to feces (literally, "raven's excrement"). Some people view it as an ingredient, others as a crop disease called "Corn Smut."

Help, Wikipedia! Explain! From the entry on Corn Smut:

Corn smut is a disease of maize caused by the pathogenic plant fungus Ustilago maydis . U. maydis causes smut disease on maize ( Zea mays ) and teosinte (Euchlena mexicana). Although it can infect any part of the plant it usually enters the ovaries and replaces the normal kernels of the cobs with large distorted tumors analogous to mushrooms. These tumors, or "galls", are made up of much-enlarged cells of the infected plant, fungal threads, and blue-black spores. The spores give the cob a burned, scorched appearance. In fact, the name Ustilago comes from the Latin word ustilare (to burn).

It's pretty gross to look at (the wiki page shows an image of the galls, which are a little bit gross, but the spores are still contained safely inside. In the canned version of the "food ingredient" the spores have leaked out in all their blackened spore-y glory. It looks pretty nasty.

"Fungus" is not a food-friendly term. But we have made peace with, and even celebrated, the lowly mushroom in American cuisine. Why is Huitlacoche any worse?

Well, it looks worse. And the word "infection" is also troubling. Even when we think of mushrooms as a fungus, we don't think of them as infecting something else we like to eat.

What interest me in this substance is that there is a conflict between whether it is a disease or a food. It becomes a matter for the USDA to decide when people want to actually cultivate a pathogen as a food, because pathogens such as this can harm a nation's food supply.

Why do people even bother trying to cultivate this stuff? People love to eat. It's a very personal choice what they choose to eat. And people become bored and crave variety. There are folks out there who were (and perhaps are) banking on the idea that the Mexican Truffle will one day catch on and we'll all be paying a premium for Raven's Poop.

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Posted by James at 12:41 PM | Comments (8)

May 21, 2008

Ted Kennedy

Some time around age 9, my mother took me by Senator Kennedy's office in Washington D.C. It was 1977. I had no idea who Ted Kennedy was at that age, but I knew my mother thought it would be good to meet him.

The senator was not in his office that day. For reasons I cannot remember, Rosie Grier was in the office. So the lesson I learned that day was not some political ideal, but that needlepoint was not a threat to your masculinity. That served me well enough, in any case.

My conservative-leaning parents did not raise me to judge people by their party affiliation. And, in fact, they encouraged me not to rush to join any political party. My education in political personal destruction came from the folks who had only scorn for all that Senator Kennedy has accomplished for our country. Scorn for the help he's offered to people no matter who they were.

Some of those sad people were a sort of young Republicans club on the campus of my alma mater. They installed themselves in a corner of the campus center during a Kennedy for Senate re-election rally. Kennedy's opponent was Mitt Romney. Romney's supporters felt victory was within their grasp, and the later vote showed they were closer than many people thought. Energized by their belief that they were going to knock out this lion of the Senate who had done so much for Massachusetts, these young angry dudes waved their signs and hissed.

Kennedy was introduced. Just as he began to speak, an organized round of boos rose to challenge him. As Kennedy's supporters turned in anger to face the Romney supporters, Kennedy raised his voice to silence any retaliatory action.

"Let them have their say." He told the crowd. "They don't have another rally to go to." It was true enough. Romney was focused on the centers of power; I never saw him in our corner of the state. His response was both generous and withering. After a moment of silence, it was clear that the angry Republicans had no response. The wind had failed them, and they had no skill or principle to back up the catcalls.

The rally continued uninterrupted.

When he was done speaking, my horrible vantage point of behind the podium turned out to be his exit strategy. As he passed by, he grabbed my hand to thank me for coming to the rally. Not one who seeks out that sort of contact, it surprised me.

A number of people have said to me, in one way or another, "what are we going to do if we lose Ted Kennedy?" A number of people have described a sinking feeling, or a gut punch. And as I said to Patti, my first thoughts were admittedly selfish. He's done so much for us; what will we do if we have to do without him? It's a mark of how much he's already done for us.

Senator Kennedy, I ought to have been thanking you at that rally. I want you to hang around for a good long time, in good health. The reason it's impossible to wish you well unselfishly is that Massachusetts (and the country) has depended on you so much for so long.

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Posted by James at 9:50 AM | Comments (8)

May 20, 2008




I have been having a lot of fun with Greensleeves, so I decided to share the screeching with you. If my family gets to wince at my practicing, why shouldn't you?

powered by ODEO

I've hosted the MP3 on Odeo, so you can check it out with the above flash player, or listen to this MP3. I recorded the thing on my voice recorder, so it is unlikely to impress you with studio-level quality. On the other hand, it is in stereo! I don't see a volume control on the Odeo player, so you might want to fire this puppy up with headphones or turn down the volume if you're around other hearing-capable humans.

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Posted by James at 9:30 AM | Comments (15)

Automated Vacation Message - A Variation

If you ever use email, you've probably gotten one of those vacation away messages. You know, the automated ones that tell you someone is going to be out of the office until a specified date. They're useful for letting you know that someone is out of the office and will likely not respond to your email until they get back from whatever non-office-related endeavor they are involved with.

But what happens when a coworker, manager, boss or employee is supposed to be away from the office but cannot or will not stop sending email? Not automated email, actual email. Perhaps this person is sending you email to gloat about being on a beach in the south Pacific. Perhaps this person cannot help but micromanage from afar. For whatever reason, you may have received unsolicited email from someone who was supposed to be away. A vacation doesn't "take" if you're still sending email during it. Your email addicted coworkers may need help.

I have the solution.

When someone goes on vacation, you add their email address to a special list in your email client, with the date of their expected return. If you get an email from this person, your software responds automatically with the following message to the vacationer:

Please note that you are out of the office until [DATE OF RETURN]. Practice "be here, now" and focus on whatever it is you're doing. For matters needing immediate response, contact the people in your physical location for face-to-face communications, or pour yourself a good, stiff drink.

We look forward to your return; absence makes the heart grow fonder. Don't spoil it!

This is an automated reply intended to indicate that you have sent an email to the office when you should have been having fun, or making progress on some non-office-related project. Repeat attempts to contact the office will be considered a cry for help; a referral to a psychiatric specialist will be submitted on your behalf.

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Posted by James at 8:59 AM | Comments (6)

May 16, 2008

Play Us Off Shotgun

If you haven't seen the original Bill O'Reilly flipout video (the source of the above remixes) you can find it here on YouTube. Warning, language.

If you're still bored, there's a funny video of Chris Matthews grilling the "conservative' blowhard on his show at the end of this Regime Turnover post. I'm no history expert, but I can smell the BS a mile away.

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Posted by James at 9:25 AM | Comments (2)

Pica Marketing Madness

In the last couple of hours I've seen three ads with people eating non-food items.

Two were from Dunkin' Donuts. In one a guy eats a letter. In the other, a guy eats a pencil. The theme is that people get hungry in the afternoon, and now they should turn to Dunkin' Donuts for their new afternoon savory snack foods.

The other ad was from Quiznos. A woman eats a 5 dollar bill from off the wall of a laundromat. Quiznos wants you to know that there's a better way to eat 5 dollars (their sandwiches).

Is pica the in thing now?

[Update: now I've seen a second Quiznos ad along the same lines.]

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Posted by James at 2:28 AM | Comments (1)

May 15, 2008

Specter of Government Frivolity

The specter of government frivolity and waste has reared its ugly and expensive head. The former and sometimes mourned party of fiscal responsibility has conceded the field to whomever wishes to declare themselves an adult and take leadership of this country. Yet another horseman of the apocalypse has trotted through town, alerting us that the end is here. Here is the headline on

[Senator] Specter calls for outside probe

What's that a probe of, you might wonder (as if most of you don't already know). Is it:

  • a probe of risky lending practices?
  • a probe of compromises of our defense intelligence?
  • a probe of civil liberties violations?
  • a probe of Executive Branch corruption?
  • a probe of election mishandling?
  • a probe of disaster preparedness?
  • a probe of terrorism vulnerabilities in our nation's ports?
  • a probe of the effectiveness of the war on drugs and/or our drug laws?
  • a probe of the social problems plaguing city schools?
  • a probe of energy policy, which has failed to bring us viable alternatives to oil?
  • a probe of speculation in the price of oil?
  • a probe of science policy being twisted by Executive Branch politics?
  • a probe of Iraq policies?

I could go on, but you get the idea. It's none of those things. It's a probe of football because Arlen Specter is unhappy that his favorite team lost. And after the NFL decided not to continue to pursue the Patriots taping "scandal," he wants to force more scrutiny by wasting government funds paying independent investigators. As far as I can tell, no laws were broken; nobody has even speculated any laws were broken.

Perhaps he hasn't been out of his office lately, but we're in a motor-truckin' recession out here. We don't need the Republicans running the NFL, we need them to be adults and lead the country in solving actual problems. I'm sorry if the real world is too boring.

What's next? A government probe into why the last Start Trek movie sucked so badly and why "Enterprise" turned off its fanbase? GIVE ME A MOTOR-TRUCKIN' BREAK. It's entertainment.

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Posted by James at 8:54 AM | Comments (6)

May 14, 2008

Money + Wind = Less Money

Yesterday was a pretty windy day.

Ryan and I were on our way to No Problemo restaurant at the corner of Williams St. and Purchase St. in New Bedford. (If you haven't been in a while, they've opened up a new full-service sit-down dining area.)

I needed to use the ATM across the street, so we approached the bank's vestibule. As I opened the door, which was still closing from someone who had just entered, I noticed a woman who was snatching at the air. She began to yell at me.

"Close the door! close the door!"

I realized she was trying to catch her money, which was flying around the vestibule as a result of the string wind currents. I tried to reverse and close the door, fighting both the wind and the door's anti-slamming mechanism, but I was too late. The $20 bill flew out of the door when it was about 4 inches ajar and flew toward the street.

Then, caught in an eddy, it circled back around. Ryan and I tried to grab for it before it buried itself in the corner of the alcove. Ryan cornered it and ended its escape-attempt.

We entered the vestibule and gave the woman her 20, which seemed small comfort to her since she had lost $40 more behind a heavy, bolted, locked box next to the wall. Ryan made an attempt at helping her while I used the ATM, but the box wouldn't budge. Some sort of security guard showed up, but never said a word. At this point there were 5 of us in the closet-sixed space: the woman, Ryan, another woman who was waiting for the ATM, the stoic guard and myself.

In retrospect, I think the guard was there because he was worried that we were trying to rob the bank. Maybe Ryan trying to move the lockbox made him nervous. But, the whole time we were there the woman was freaking out about the money she couldn't reach. The security guard decided to get some fresh air, and we recommended to the woman that she talk to the management, and perhaps get something she could use to fish out the money.

I don't know what they eventally did for her, but in my view if the money is still in the bank, you can see it but cannot reach it, it hasn't been officially withdrawn from your account.


Posted by James at 9:01 PM | Comments (0)

Fire + Wind = More Fire

This story appeared in teh New Bedford Standard times:

An early morning fire at 31 Princeton Street is being blamed on a lit fire-safe cigarette. This is the second New Bedford fire in two months believed to have been caused by this type of cigarette, which is designed to prevent accidental fires. [...]

He noted that the fire was likely caused by a Marlboro Medium fire-safe cigarette left in an ashtray that was placed on a windowsill. Fire-safe cigarettes are constructed with bands of slow-burning paper that are supposed to cause the cigarette to go out if left unattended for an extended amount of time. The ashtray with the lit cigarette fell onto an unused bed, igniting it.

My hypothesis is that "fire-safe cigarette" is a misnomer. Things that are fire safe do not cause fires, and thus these cigarettes are not fire safe. But I applaud the efforts of the Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes just the same.

The website of the Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes states:

Fire-safe cigarettes are a proven, practical, and effective way to eliminate the risk of cigarette-ignited fires.

but also:

Is it possible for a "fire-safe" cigarette to ignite furniture or bedding?
All cigarettes have the potential to ignite fires, but the use of "fire-safe" technology provides a tremendous reduction in those risks. A fire-safe cigarette cuts off the burning time before most cigarettes are able to ignite things like furniture or bedding material.

My understanding is that these are safer. But not safe. These cigarettes are mandated in MA, and the Coalition has statistics showing that cigarette-related fires have dropped. So that's good.

But it never makes sense to leave a cigarette unattended. I imagine it was placed on the sill so that the smoke wouldn't enter the house. Possibly someone in the building objects to the smoke. Maybe the wind blew the ashtray over and nobody was around to notice it. In any case, it's clear that "fore-safe" or not, you're taking a big risk if you leave your cigarette lying around.


Posted by James at 8:43 PM | Comments (13)

News Dump

More of what's going on here and elsewhere.

First, a positive note on Maggie's blog. A surprisingly amicable exchange between neighbors. Perhaps that's what happens when you offer to pay for something for your neighbor. Still and all, good to see we can agree on something, even if it is the destruction of a mulberry tree. It's a male mulburry, so I wonder if the female next to it won't be so full of berries once this one is gone. I hear they wind-pollinate, so I guess it depends on whether there are any other male trees in the area. Since males are more common, we'll probably still see lots of berries.

Two Big Strikes

I was struck by this story. A local woman drives into a telephone pole. She complains "something's wrong" with her steering, but it turns out she can't pass the impairment test -- counting backwards from 86. Oops, looks like her car is full of bags of heroin. Eighty-three, to be precise. I wonder if that's one of the numbers she missed in the impairment test.

Fewer than 48 hours later, the police had to pry her fingers from around her husband's throat and arrest her again.

I can't say for sure my town is going downhill. You make your own conclusions. Credit for the assist in the arrest goes to the woman herself, for alerting police by driving into a telephone pole. That's good citizen self-policing, right there.


Somerset ousted a selectwoman. She says now she's free to speak her mind, so I'll be looking forward to some exciting issues of the Spectator. OK, not really. But possible future blogfodder anyhow.

Knife-Point Robberies

A Domino's Delivery guy was robbed at knife-point in New Bedford. It's the ninth reported food-delivery robbery this year for New Bedford. There was a mugging at knifepoint in the morning at the university recently. Crime in Fall River is up, as well. Massachusetts hasn't been hit as hard as many other states in this recession, but if crime is any indicator, it's hit this region of Massachusetts pretty badly.

Rail, Bus, what's the diff?

The governor made SouthCoast rail one of his top transportation goals. At the end of April we saw that one of the "rail" proposals has turned into a bus. That's right, instead of a rail, they'd get a bus driver to shuttle people up to South Station. It's one of five scenarios, but, really.

Posted by James at 9:56 AM | Comments (8)

May 12, 2008

Dur Stupid News!

Like American Gladiators, only without the tights.*

Proposed ballot question would abolish state income tax

Did you know that the income tax is largely a formality now, since Massachusetts has learned how to create money from thin air? That's how government programs are really funded. The money they collect from your income tax is actually spent on tea, which is then dumped into Boston Harbor amid cries of "No representation without taxation!" So, why have an income tax at all?

In 2002, we voted this same measure, and 45% of the public bit. This is our second attempt at pulling the rug out from our government and throwing the Commonwealth into chaos.

Lakeville woman charged with assault in cinema

A woman is charged with assault after allegedly attacking another woman during a showing of "Baby Mama" in Taunton. It's Taunton. Is anyone surprised?

It's thought that the attacker was provoked by the sound of laughter. Since it couldn't possibly have been related to the film, she assumed she was the target of derision and the ensuing melee involved her 16 year-old daughter as well. For the win, Mrs. Crocker. If you were worried you were being laughed at then, you are now officially "The Dangerous-Crazy Lakeville Woman Who Attacks Mirthful People."


JENNA BUSH WEDDING PHOTOS RELEASED! causing a massive earthquake in China.

The next one is for Chuck:

Life Immitates Art.

Dennis Farina arrested. In an airport. It almost doesn't matter why. Serrano's got the disks! He's got the disks!

Jimmy Serrano aka. Dennis Farina

Warning, NSFW language and Midnight Run spoilers:

Bonus video: Midnight Run the "WARNING NSFW LANGUAGE, I'M REALLY SERIOUS" version

Oddest Choice of Photo Award

... goes to this story in the Sunday Times Online. Lebanon tense after Hezbollah power grab. In a stunning leopard print and jazzy golden minidress.

Really Loco Local

In Somerset, we're voting in one of the least-talked-about races of this political season. I'd tell you all about it, but then I might be held responsible for tragic asleep-at-the-keyboard mishaps. Don't surf tired!

[* Not in the way you thought I meant that. Actually, this is nothing like American Gladiators.]

Posted by James at 9:45 AM | Comments (5)

May 9, 2008

Ennui Shotgun

  • 6 Excellent Firefox Extensions Made To Save Your Time (addons,firefox,web,tools)
    • I like saving time! You like too! Install, install!
  • DrawerGeeks: Batman (art,cartoon,drawing,comics,kaiju,batman)
    • Different takes on Batman. If you go back up to the index, the "Design a Sith" is kinda cool, too. And the Godzilla variations gave me a chuckle.
  • PMOG - Passively Multiplayer Online Game (game,online)
    • It's a game where your websurfing gets you points. I will send you an invite if you want to try it. It's a game, but also a place to find interesting links as you follow "missions" other people have organized.
  • Compulse (game,flash)
    • One of those get-the-ball-to-hit-the-exit games.
  • Free Star Wars book (audio,book,download,free,starwars)
    • Del Rey is giving away a free Star Wars novel, either in PDF or audio format, to encourage people to buy the next novel. It's set right after SW:RotJ and contains familiar characters. Hat tip, Leslie.
  • The ABCs of securing your wireless network (howto,article,networking,wifi,wireless)
    • Do you have wireless at home? Then you really should read this article which summarizes the basics in clear language and will steer you in the direction of acceptably home networking.
  • - Follow Twitter Conversations (mashup,twitter)
    • Ever want to see your Twitter feed as conversations instead of just a list of tweets? This tool tries to organize tweets that way. Does a pretty good job. See who your friends are talking to, too.
  • TwitterSnooze! v0.1 (mashup,tool,twitter)
    • Overly-chatty folks on your twitter feed? Give yourself a break by snoozing them with TwitterSnooze. Hat tip @geechee_girl
  • Free sheet music on (violin,free,music,sheet,download,reference,resources)
    • Sheet music and more for musicians.

I think I surf too much. And I surf weird stuff too much. I dreamt the other night that I was surfing the internet and looking at an EVP website (i.e. a website with supposed recordings of supernatural voices recorded electronically). I listened to a couple of the recordings, and they were creepy but not unusual. I listened to one of them about three times, trying to hear a voice. My dreaming brain did a pretty good job generating an appropriately garbled sound that kind of sounded like a voice.

But how sad is it that I'm spending time dreaming about websites with that sort of BS? Other people are out there dreaming that they can do amazing or exciting things, dangerous things, forbidden things, daring things. I'm dreaming that I came across a weird website.

Posted by James at 11:16 AM | Comments (4)

May 7, 2008

Teaching Wizardry

Educating our youth population efficiently and effectively is a difficult proposition. I know many people who work hard to find ways to improve methods of education.

But not all the problems teachers face are with the approach, curriculum or methods. Some problems are societal. You don't have to look far to find students who cannot focus on their studies because their school is plagued with poverty, hunger, the drug trade, and prostitution. Middle school is difficult enough without these factors.

It's all the worse, then, that we have to deal with superstition as well.

Pat Sinclair, who oversees substitute teachers in the Pasco County School District, was on the phone. She told Piculas there had been a complaint about his performance at Rushe Middle School in Land O' Lakes.

He asked what she meant.

"She said, 'You've been accused of wizardry,' " Piculas said.

What was his crime? He made a toothpick disappear with some slight of hand and transparent tape. And then showed the kids how to do it.

Whatever other reasons that the school district said they fired him, this appears to have been a precipitating event. It shouldn't have even merited mention.

Think about all that mankind has learned and how it helps us make a little bit of sense out of the world around us. Think of our hopes for the future, which rest upon our friends and neighbors having some understanding of the world with all of its complexities. I am amazed we make any progress at all.

(Hat tip to Bob on EAForums.)

(P.S. If anyone doubts that teen prostitution is aproblem in schools:

The number of girls being sexually exploited through prostitution is rising rapidly in Boston, with 12 times as many cases of teen prostitution in the first nine months of 2005 as in all of 2003.


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Posted by James at 1:58 PM | Comments (7)

May 6, 2008

Museum Nostalgia

Summer is coming, and that usually means a lot of museum visits for us. But I fear we might be cutting back on some of our summertime adventures because of increases in gas prices.

When I was my daughters' ages, this is what kids in Massachusetts thought of when someone mentioned the science museum and the aquarium:


Posted by James at 5:42 PM | Comments (9)

McCain/Bush Not Troops Best Friends

I just read the Op-Ed Doing the Troops Wrong by Bob Herbert. It discusses Jim Webb's no-brainer proposal for a new GI Bill.

He points out that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nomination hopefuls, both support Webb's proposal. Then he says this:

Well, you might be surprised at who is not supporting this effort. The Bush administration opposes it, and so does Senator John McCain.

Surprised? Only if you've bought into Republican and right-wing radio rhetoric.

I'm not surprised, and neither should you be. How many stories do we need to read about veterans getting short shrift before we get the message that the Republican party talks a good game about supporting the troops, but if you scratch the surface it turns out that Republicans and warbloggers are most enthusiastic about the troops when we're talking about sending them places to fight. And they love the opinions of the troops when that opinion is "LET US FIGHT!"

The support for the troops begins to evaporate when the troops return; it becomes largely symbolic. When the troops return, they sometimes return with a different opinion about war. An opinion less enthusiastic about war doesn't quite mesh with warblogger chickenhawk thinking. To them, our returning troops are more useful as quiet symbols, like the flag.

These people can have a lot of trouble returning from their tours. We owe it to them to help, and funding their education is a winning proposition. Don't forget this when someone wants you to equate flag-waving with patriotism. Don't let McCain get away with the political cover of his watered-down counter-proposal.

Actions speak louder than lapel pins.

Posted by James at 8:18 AM | Comments (2)

May 5, 2008

Happy "Drink Like A"

Happy Drink Like a Mexican Day!

Having survived "Drink Like an Irishman Day!" (the exclamation point is part of the name) you are now in the midst of "Drink Like a Mexican Day!"

In the interest of being a more fair and balanced society, the government is renaming all holidays to more accurately reflect their observance, and offer guidance to the would-be reveler. I offer you a table with the provisional new names of various holidays.

St. Patrick's Day

Old Name New Name
St. Patrick's Day Drink Like an Irishman Day!
Cinco de Mayo Drink Like a Mexican Day!
Passover Drink Like a Jew Day!
Eid ul-Fitr Drink Like a Muslim Day!
Easter Drink Like a Christian Day!
Columbus Day Drink Like and Italian Day!
Bastille Day Drink Like a Frenchman Day!
Thanksgiving Day Drink Like a Puritan Day!
Patriot's Day Drink Like a Continental Soldier Day!
Memorial Day Drink Like a Union/Confederate Soldier Day!
Labor Day Drink Like You're Unemployed Day!
Valentine's Day Drink Like the Brokenhearted Day!
President's Day Drink Like George W. Bush Is Going To Drink As Soon As He Gets Out of Office Day!
Martin Luther King Day Drink Like It's Your Civil Right Day!
Independence Day Drink Like an American Day
Halloween Drink Like You Just Saw a Ghost Day!
Mardi Gras Drink Like There's No Tomorrow Day!

Suggestions for additional days welcome in the comments.

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Posted by James at 9:13 AM | Comments (11)

May 1, 2008

Goat Diapering Update

I would be shirking my duty to you, dear reader, if I did not pass the knowledge on to you as soon as new information about goat diapering reaches my ears*.

I was first introduced to goat diapering when we had a petting zoo birthday party on a rainy day, and the nice lady diapered the goat so that we wouldn't have as big a cleanup job in our exercise room.

I have learened that not only is goat diapering popular in Iraq, but Islamist extremists are murdering Iraqis for failing to diaper their goats. They're not worried about cleanup; these are outdoor goats, after all. They're worried about modesty. They believe that un-diapered goats are too much of a sexual enticement to good muslim men. In other words, when a man has sex with a goat, it's the goat's fault.

But faulting the goat makes no sense, right? Goats can't diaper themselves. Clearly it's the fault of the guy who failed to put a diaper on the goat. And retribution is swift and absolute: death comes to those who fail to diaper their goats.

My source is this NPR story. Iraq Still Manages to Shock by John Hendren.

Hat tip to Heretical Ideas blog for bringing this to my attention.

[* New to this blog? We were, at one time, Number One in Goat Diapering because of a post "I believe in Goats" about a petting zoo we had in our house.

If that's not enough of a blast-from-the-past, I bring you the unrelated Great Buntloaf Incident of 2005. Maggie and I are overdue to host a dinner party. We have pictures, but the bundtloaf recipe has been lost to the ages.]

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Posted by James at 9:27 AM | Comments (14)