kirk.is | archive | 2004 oct

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i thought you didn't smoke

(16 comments)
October 1, 2004
Passage of the Moment
"I thought you didn't smoke?" George said as I reached over and plucked one of the cigarettes from her packet. We were huddled together on the sofa, under a duvet that George had hurridly gone and pulled off the bed. (It wasn't really cold in the room, but it's just nice to huddle together under something. And anyway, there's something slightly awkward about staying completely nude after sex. Like you've finished doing everything now but, rather inelegantly, appear to have some nakedness left over. It's the kind of feeling you get looking at the food remaining on a table after a party's ended.)
--Mil Millington, "A Certain Chemistry"

Kirk's Law of Plugs and Sockets
Any plug that can't be inserted and removed with a single hand, ideally without looking too closely, is broken by design.

Coaxial cable and old-school press-to-release stereo wire plugs, I'm looking at you. Seriously, who came up with these things?

Politics of the Moment
"Well, actually, he forgot Poland."
--Bush in last night's Presidential Debate (transcription here) I only watched about half of it, but that's the line that seemed really funny, how he kept coming back to it. Not to denigrate Poland, but in terms of allies, you'd like to have some larger players on the world stage besides England...

full of things

(11 comments)
October 2, 2004
Quote and Game of the Moment
"My, Earth really is full of things."
--The King of All Cosmos, from the PS2 game Katamari Damacy that is the current big sleeper hit (Sold Out in many places, but I found it at EB for $20)

This Review is as good as I've seen...the basic idea is one night The King of the All Cosmos got drunk and wiped out all of the stars. So now he sends you, his princely son, on missions on Earth to roll around a sticky ball...anything you run into that's smaller than your clump gets added to your clump, and thus the Katamari ball grows and grows until the level is over. If you meet the level's size goal, the ball gets converted into a star and placed in the sky above.

The change of scale is amazing...on some levels (actually I haven't made it quite as far as this) "you start out picking up nigiri sushi and strawberries, and getting beaten up by mice, and end up uprooting trees and grabbing entire houses" (That's according to Nick B's journal...his praise of the game got me to check it out, in fact, and the insane man wants to try an Atari 2600 version of it.) The entire game is soaked in Japanese weirdness, from the music (supposedly singing about the game itself, though I haven't heard one of the tunes in English yet), to the regal but alien mindset and "Royal We" of the King of All Cosmos, to strange cutscenes straight out of a stylized early 60s cartoon about a Japanese family.

You can get some cool desktop backgrounds on the official site's download page, here's a good gameplay movie with some neat music, and then there's the brief Japanese Commercial.

It does seem like one of those games that could end up in your dreams...

Quote of the Moment
"I even take the position that sexual orgies eliminate social tensions and ought to be encouraged."
--Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, speaking at Harvard. I think he was speaking sarcastically/rhetorically, explaining that a judge can't mix up personal views on social issues with their courtroom decisions, but I'm not sure...

what is space and time and physics?

(4 comments)
October 3, 2004

So yesterday I was invited to Ksenia's mom's birthday dinner, a traditional Russian feast...so much terrific stuff to eat and nice people to eat it with. Here's the table before everyone sat down, but you can imagine it filled with people, there were almost 30 place settings. And then there were all these courses of tasty food...many of the appetizers were fish-based, from caviar on hard boiled egg halves to salmon to a salty herring spread. There were so many toasts... One of the things that surprised me was that people cleared out and mingled between the appetizers and the main course and then again between the main course and dessert...a few folks went to grab a smoke, but still, it surprised me since usually in the big meals I've attended if nearly everyone left the table it meant the meal was over.

Metaphysics of the Moment
"Basically yes, of course, but what is space? What is time? What is physics?"
--Hans Haubold, the senior program officer of the United Nations' Office for Outer Space Affairs, when asked if, in his opinion, SpaceShipOne did indeed reach space when it reached 100 kilometers. (via Slate)
I'd hate to hear this guy when some waitress asks if he wants a refill on his coffee. "Well yes, obviously, but what is coffee? What is this mug? What about eggs that are over-easy?"

it is a useful garment

(6 comments)
October 4, 2004
Commandment of the Moment
VI- Thou Shalt Eat EasyMac
Student asked unto God if there was any alternatives to the cafeteria, and God said to him, you shall eat a lot of EasyMac. It is easy to make and you donít need milk or a stove. And student said microwaves were forbidden by the RA. And God said to him, you shall hide the microwave under your bed with a towel on top. And Student asked, what if it is discovered. And God told him to stop being such a pussy, and it was good.
--from The Ten Commandments of College. I also really liked the one about the Hoodie. It's funny, I have two of this one GAP green zipped hoodie, and they really are like my security blanket this time of year. I've kept one around at work for like at least 5 years now, even though the sleeves are fraying now. Plus last week, after a minor fenderbender (hit from behind) and a bit of an anxiety attack I realized I was wearing one almost 24-7, which is a little pathetic but hey...like the link says "And God said unto student, you must wear a hoodie, for it is a useful garment." (link and choice of quote via Candi's LJ)

Science of the Moment
There's actually a pretty solid explanation for why that painting's eyes seem to follow you around the room...and no, it's not because you're living a Scooby Doo episode where there really is a guy behind there.

"proud to be a european, where at least i know i'm likely to get six weeks paid vacation"

(21 comments)
October 5, 2004
Political Philosophy Passage of the Moment
Though historians seldom allude to it, the American Dream is largely a European creation transported to American soil and frozen in time. [...] The American Dream emphasizes economic growth, personal wealth, and independence. The new European Dream focuses more on sustainable development, quality of life, and interdependence. The American Dream pays homage to the work ethic. The European Dream is more attuned to leisure and "deep play." The American Dream is inseparable from the country's religious heritage and deep spiritual faith. The European Dream is secular to the core. The American Dream depends on assimilation: We associate success with shedding our former ethnic ties and becoming free agents in the great American melting pot. The European Dream, by contrast, is based on preserving one's cultural identity and living in a multicultural world. The American Dream is wedded to love of country and patriotism. The European Dream is more cosmopolitan and less territorial.
--Jeremy Rifkin, The European Dream in the Utne Reader. (The printer-friendly version is probably easier to read even on-screen.)

That "frozen in time" aspect has really started to bother me lately, especially when I hear arguments based on the "intentions of the founding fathers". The world has changed over 200 years, and while the durability of the union (along with the fact that the constitution does have an appropriately stodgy amendment mechanism) indicates that change shouldn't be taken lightly, it seems amazing that people putting forth that argument want us to use a time before the end of slavery and the start of woman's suffrage as an ultimate reference point. I also dig that "secular to the core" aspect, along with "live to work vs work to live" USA/Euro split.

The author doesn't claim that Europe is perfect, but its constitution and outlook, less unbridledly optimistic than the American and with a strong sense of interdependence, might be more attuned to the modern world where barriers to long distance communication and trade have dropped in so many ways. Also the author seems to be asserting a new bipolar USA vs. Europe outlook without consider how, say, China is doing, not to mention the rest of the world.

Link via MetaFilter, which had some conversation about it. I'd love to hear what some of the readers here think of it. (I suspect LAN3 might disagree with many of the claims and assumptions in the essay...)


Campaigning of the Moment
Now THIS might be chutzpah of jaw-dropping proportions. Bush wants to give an anti-Kerry speech....but it's not clear if it's going to be nationally televised or not. If so, this would be Bully-Pulpit-Bull of the most disgraceful kind. Admittedly, some liberals are getting very uptight about this but it might be a big bowl of nothing.

destroy him, my robots

(28 comments)
October 6, 2004
Dang, sorry to see my American/European dream thing didn't get any response...

Cover of the Moment
--A pulp-sci-fi cover by Frank R. Paul. That's an awesome gallery to browse through, and if that's just the first "room" of the gallery (links to other rooms below the thumbnails and the business card.) So many cool images!


Video of the Moment
In confirming the wording of my title quote, I found this little gem, a video of Sony's humanoid robots doing Geisha dances. (The quote is from an old C=64 Impossible Mission, with its even more famous speech opening "Another visitor...Stay a while...Stay FOREVER!" Of course, the Atari 7800 version of that game actually was impossible, so it just goes to show.)

Politics of the Moment
"Now are you sorry you didn't nominate this guy for president?"
--William Saletan, in this slate.com piece on Edwards during the Vice-Presidential debates. I caught a bit on the radio, more on TV. And since I know I'm biased and who I'm going to vote for, I judge the candidates the way I suspect the general populace: how do they look? What kind of aura do they project? Cheney looked old and tired and slouched through most of it, but Edwards blinked too much. I liked the gaffes that Saletan points out, though I do admit Edward's dodge on his attendance record was a bit much for a rationalist guy like me. But overall, I do think he would have made a stronger candidate than Kerry...again, mostly because he's better looking. That's what wins elections.

It's funny when Cheney brought up his being selected as VP candidate back before 2000 without mentioning that he was heading up the search committee...


Passing of the Moment
"I tell ya I get no respect from anyone. I bought a cemetery plot. The guy said, 'There goes the neighborhood!'"
--RIP Rodney Dangerfield...here are some of his one-liners.

oh you gotta have art

(6 comments)
October 7, 2004
Art of the Moment
Two neat computer art pieces...The Zoomquilt is this lovely recursive painting piece that you can zoom into and out of forever (it loops eventually)--I think each artist made their painting so it fits inside someone elses, and then they linked it with a red path/tongue motif...really cool.

Sillier are these Stop Action Animations by Lebonze...Planes is probably the coolest...it has a goofy, dreamlike quality to it...

Political Video of the Moment
Funny yet creepy video of Buzzword Bonanza from the Republican National Convention. Part of me knows you could do this with almost any set of political speeches, but still...

Quote of the Moment
"Remember when you were a kid and the boys didn't like the girls? Only sissies liked girls? What I'm trying to tell you is that nothing's changed. You think boys grow out of not liking girls, but we don't grow out if it. We just grow horny. That's the problem. We mix up liking pussy for liking girls. Believe me, one couldn't have less to do with the other."
--Jules Feiffer

Link of the Moment
Wired webified its article on the SmartCar coming to North America. I love those things. And omigosh, I thought the upcoming MINI convertible was cute, but how wacky is the Convertible SmartCar??? (Though I wonder how much less safe it might be then its safety cage'd cousin?

shaken, stirred, blended

(9 comments)
October 8, 2004
Slogan Idea of the Moment
Some prefer their love shaken. Others, stirred. Me, I head straight for the blender. loveblender.com
--Just a random idea I had. Don't know if it's any good. Got this month's Blender Digest out, finally. Includes a ramble I wrote On The Improbability of Casual Dating.

Quote of the Moment
"There are two ways to handle women. And I know neither."
--Anon.

Video Game History of the Moment
Slashdot linked to a visual history of 2D Mario. In related news, this movie puts Nintendo's upcoming handhold, the Nintendo DS, in a very good light, showing both how the double screen can be utilized, but especially how the touch sensitive screen can be used for some cool gameplay elements.

Conspiracy of the Moment
I'm watching the debates...now, there's a theory out there-- IsBushWired-- is he getting prompted ala Cyrano with a hidden earphone? I dunno, but listening to how he says words in spurts, often with his eyes shifting to one side during the pause...I wouldn't be at all surprised.

backlog flush #52

(10 comments)
October 9, 2004

borrrrrrring

(8 comments)
October 10, 2004
Quote of the Moment
"Every improvement in communication makes the bore more terrible." --Frank Moore Colby

Technology of the Moment
I am learn is a blog made by a computer script. It does a surprisingly good job of sounding like some kind of demented teenager who has English as a distant second (or maybe third) language. What I like about it is the guy set it up so it spontaneously posts every once in a while...there's something beautiful about a demented 'bot that starts itself up, even if it's just a random timer, relative to a script that the developer fires off every once in a while.

Goal and Reward of the Moment
So lately I've been drooling over some LCD projectors friends of mine have...instead of a TV, they plug into the projector and get a HUGE, crisp picture on a movie screen. At the low-end these run ~$800, so it is a bit of an indulgence, so I've been thinking of ways to possibly justify it. Until yesterday, "Well, Christmas is coming" is all I could come up with. (It's not like my current TV has stopped working or anything.) Though today I had a brainstorm: I should use it to bribe myself to get these 2 rooms of mine cleared out...my closet of immense modular storage, and then the back room, which was kind of a dumping ground for my move this summer. If I could do those rooms, really pare down the clutter, clean my house, and (maybe) clean up my files as well, that really would be an accomplishment. Plus, there's something nice in not having a 200lb tv in my life.

Of course, there are some pros and cons. But maybe I can kick my butt into doing the needed decluttering, and just know I have the indulgence as an option rather than something I'm neccesarily going to do.

Actually, the whole thing reminds me of how weird money is. Like, I was thinking about a getaway weekend, and it really wouldn't be a big deal to spend $100-$200 on a hotel. But $50 video games seem really expensive. A nice dinner, maybe my part of the bill comes to $30. But I hesitate when a DVD is like $25. $800-$1000 seems like a HUGE deal, but I pay more than that for rent every month. Food and lodging are neccesities, sure, but people who are otherwise pretty financially strict with luxuries don't always sweat on economizing on those things...

do you guys want some shots? I'm buyin'!

(9 comments)
October 11, 2004
Dialog of the Moment
"What is wrong with you?"
"I don't know. I just didn't wanna win like this. "
"You stop right there. You are a good person. Good things happen to good people."
"Really?"
"No. It's pure bullshit, sweetie. You're lucky as hell, so you might as well enjoy it."
"Okay."
"Do you guys want some shots? I'm buyin'!"
--Loretta and Amber Atkins, Drop Dead Gorgeous, a great spoof on smalltown beauty pagents.

Giveaway of the Moment

--Zaks...an old building toy by Ohio Arts, I got this pile of 'em in high school. Kind of interesting, mostly just triangles and squares that connected with a kind of hinge on their edges, you could try your hand at building various -ahedrons. Also some funny bits like eyes and antennas. And they came in a "Zaks Sak". (This was before Lego's famous "Zack the Lego Maniac" campaign I think.) As part of my decluttering effort, they're going to the Salvation Army--or if you want them, drop me a line.

Sad News of the Moment
So, LAN3 IM'd me with "Superman died." last night. And, not to sound disrespectful, life isn't without its ironies; At the end of his life, Christopher Reeve, who in pop-culture terms was Superman, ended up looking more like the classic version of Lex Luthor.

I think he might be a posthoumous politcal pawn, though given his strong beliefs, I think he'd be ok with that if it advances the cause of more research.

Windows Gripe of the Moment
Why doesn't Add/Remove Programs dialog tell you the DATE IT WAS INSTALLED? That would be a LOT more useful than "Size", "Date last Used" or its guesstimate of "Frequency of Use"...and a much easier to pin down bit of data than the other date-related fields.

"who wants to be in touch with all of those people?"

(2 comments)
October 12, 2004
Quote of the Moment
If we listened to our intellect we'd never have a love affair. We'd never have a friendship. We'd never go in business because we'd be cynical: "It's gonna go wrong." Or "She's going to hurt me." Or,"I've had a couple of bad love affairs, so therefore . . ." Well, that's nonsense. You're going to miss life. You've got to jump off the cliff all the time and build your wings on the way down.
--Ray Bradbury. I also liked his 1995 quote "I don't understand this whole thing about computers and the superhighway. Who wants to be in touch with all of those people?"

Links of the Moment
Wired.com had two neat biology stories lately: humans as superorganism, that we should properly consider the bacteria that live in us as part of "us", and growing a jacket from living cells...what's funny with that is people are more squicked by the idea than by, say, killing a cow to make a nice leather jacket...we're so weirdly sentimental about living tissue! It reminds me of this idea for "Chicken Little" in the book "The Space Merchants", that we can grow meat from a big slab of ever-growing tissue, cutting and packaging slices and sending 'em off...

"Lisa, I've had it with you and your stories. 'Bart's a vampire.' 'Beer kills brain cells.' Now let's go back to that... building thingy... where our beds and TV... is."

(1 comment)
October 13, 2004
Thought of the Moment
Today on the way to work I thought I saw a headline that read "Beer Recall." It was actually "Beef Recall," and the story explained the discovery of mad cow disease in the United States. Mad cow disease is a condition that causes wasting away of the brain, leading to dementia, loss of coordination, and death.

Now, will somebody explain to me why they're -not- recalling beer?
--David Hinerman, rec.humor.funny

Congratulationss of the Moment
Over my mom's three year stay in London she did some plays with the Beckenham Theatre Centre...she was Miss Daisy in "Driving Miss Daisy", she played Katharine Hepburn's role in "On Golden Pond", and she played the mother character in "Butterflies Are Free". She found out she was nominated for a new annual Beckenham Theatre award, the Beatties, (and her name is Betty, oddly enough) so she flew back there for the ceremony this weekend, and she got the award for Best Leading Actress for what she did in "On Golden Pond". How cool is that? Unfortunately I didn't get to see her in any of her roles, but other members of our extended family did...

Site of the Moment
Flashenabled.com (nothing to do with the browser plugin as far as I can tell) is Phillip Torrone's site with tons of cool gadget hackery...once again I find myself longing to be better at that kind of thing. Alas, I seem to be an almost 100% software kind of guy.

yes deer

October 14, 2004
Dang it...with Curt Schilling hurt, the Red Sox offense picked a damn poor time to get themselves into a one hit funk. I remember one time after a Patriots' game when Brady said "sometimes the defense carries the offense, sometimes the offense carries the defense". (After he threw his way out of a jam that the the D had gotten them into in a high scoring game.) But it always takes some of both...last night the pitching held its own, but the bats just weren't there.

Stupid sport.

Personal Triumph of the Moment
Last night in yoga class I did an honest-to-goodness handstand...I'd only tried it once before during a previous 10-week session and it didn't go so well, but last night I got it done with relative ease. (I think part of the trick is when you're bent in half, ready to push off (hands on the ground,one leg bent for springiness, the other straight to haul up) is to keep your feet close to your hands, so there's less rotational inertia....that was my instructor's advice, and he said I managed to do it nice and lightly, rather than slamming full force into the wall I was against.) By chance I was directly across from the yoga room's small mirror, so I could totally see my moment of triumph. Fun!

Photo of the Moment

--This deer survived a 25 mile trip caught in the bumper of a Britsh driver's Rover with only a few cuts and bruises. (via autoblog)

Link of the Moment
Drug Smugglers Do The Craziest Things...some really clever bits of engineering to pack these things away.

libe the way i tyupe

(7 comments)
October 15, 2004
Photos of the Moment
Not much in terms of new material, but I finally got to relabeling the first section of my photoalbum scan based on some notes I asked my mom to send me. So people interested in what I looked like up to about third or fourth grade, you're all set. You could even see the rest of my photo album if you like, going to a little after the end of college.

Like I mentioned before, I'm still a little amused that I didn't realize that this part of my photo album is made up of rescued rejects from my mom's collection.

Quote of the Moment
"I want to live the way I type; fast, with a lot of mistakes."
--Attribution unknown...I've been quoting it for a long time though. Briefly, after some failed googling on newsgroups I thought I might've coined it, but no, I must've heard it somewhere.

Article of the Moment
Good little read on people who play sweepstakes as a hobby, or sometimes a compulsion...

I guess I can see the appeal...ties in with the lottery. In search of the ever-elusive "one big win"...

vamp revamp

(3 comments)
October 16, 2004
I'm thinking about a revamp to my website (along with moving to a new webhost, thanks FoSO and FoSOSO!) and I realize maybe it's time to think about some kind of content management system. More specifically, I'd like to make presentations of stuff I've done over the years, and tag it with some kind of metadata, so along with the usual arrangement by type (these are my photos, these are my Java toys) you could also arrange it by...well, arranging by year comes to mind. And search on keywords (I use one or two sentence writeups for a lot of my content, it turns out.)

I have a lot of different stuff. Ideally I could use the system with my current data presentations, like the way photobook is arranged, or how I display my gamebuttons is. Sometimes it's not clear what a "chunk" is...maybe gamebuttons is a single "thing". Or maybe each gamebutton is...aargh, I dunno.

And then I have to decide if I should stick with flatfiles or upgrade to a database...flatfiles are so reliable and portable though, I hate to give them up lightly..

I'd also like to add in a lot of stuff, and just make a more canonical Kirk site. Not that 98% of it will be of any interest to anyone else, but it would be neat if all the old school stuff I've scanned in was there, and links to all my Loveblender.com rambles...I guess there would have to be a private section for the stuff I'd like to have in the same format but don't want everyone else to see...I don't have a strong sense of privacy, but I know other people I've interacted with do.

Link of the Moment
The Math Behind Murphy's Law...LAN3 points out that the recent Genesis solarwind spaceprobe crash landing was due to a sensor installed backwards which is amazingly similar to the story that actually gave rise to Murphy's Law -- originally stated as:

Quote of the Moment
"If there are two or more ways to do something, and one of those can result in catastrophe, then someone will do it."
--Edward A. Murphy

why god why

(9 comments)
October 17, 2004
Theology of the Moment
No answers can be found, and no amount of questioning will bring out those answers. We may continue to ask, but as Brown notes, one thing Wiesel's writing suggests is "that arguments justifying God in the face of evil are not only inadequate, they are diabolical." Any answer cannot come from man, but from God himself. This is what Moshe the Beadle had tried to tell Wiesel when he was a young boy in Sighet, before the terrors of the Holocaust destroyed his life. Moshe said, "Man raises himself toward God by the questions he asks Him...That is the true dialogue. Man questions God and God answers. But we don't understand His answers. We can't understand them. Because they come from the depths of the soul, and they stay there until death. You will find the true answers, Eliezer, only within yourself!" There can be no end to the questioning, even if there are no answers. To expect answers is a mistake, as Wiesel learned from the Wandering Jew, who told him, "When will you understand that you are living and searching in error, because God means movement and not explanation." That is his final discovery. His relationship with God does not depend on answers. We pray to Him. He handles those prayers in His own way. We can agree or disagree with that way. It's all very simple. In one of his prayers in The Six Days of Destruction, Wiesel writes, "We do not demand answers, God. But if this is the last page of the human chronicles, assure us that we had the right to ask." If we ask and accept God's answer, even if He answers in silence, then we will have reached the level of Elie Wiesel's relationship to God.
--Robert E. Douglas, Jr., Elie Wiesel's Relationship with God. It was one of the few Google hits for the "God means movement and not explanation" quote which we saw in front of a UU church in Needham the other week, but I thought it was a thought-provoking paragraph.

Photo of the Moment
--One cool part about dating someone from another country is stumbling on some tiny bit of Americana that you didn't realize is unique, but is also quite wonderful...yesterday it was Caramel Apples for Ksenia, not really known in Russia.


--Turns out Ksenia wasn't crazy about that last photo to persuade her to let me keep it there I said I'd put up a better picture of her...I like this one from legal seafoods.

catchup!

(2 comments)
October 18, 2004
Quote of the Moment
"The fact that no one understands you doesn't mean you're an artist"
--Quoted in the addictive game Zuma...good thing I'm not particularly prone to this kind of game, it has my Mom and Aunt in its clutches...

Article of the Moment
A surprisingly readable article on Ketchup. Some people hope to do for Ketchup what Grey Poupon did for mustard, kind of make some brands an elite thing. I dunno though...to me, mustard has always had a better pedigree than ketchup...ketchup is such a weird thing, somewhere between sweet and tangy.

kinda feeble fables

(4 comments)
October 19, 2004
Kinda Feeble Fables of the Moment
In middle school and high school I entered some plays in the Marilyn Bianchi Kids' Playwriting Festival at Dobama Theatre in Cleveland Heights...the first one, "Star Pox", was a fairly blatant ripoff of Douglas Adams. This one, "Kinda Feeble Fables", was a bit better, though it's still dorky as all get out. I'll be presenting one Scene a day for the next 5 days...and then an extra special bonus treat!

SETS: All five scenes use variations on the same set - a lot of rocks and really kind of dark. It's supposed to look like the inside of a cave.

CHARACTERS:
Marcus: a regular type brave adventurer (male)
Valkyrie: Same, but female (a.k.a. Valk)
Bruno: Slow, almost stupid hack and slash 'em type
Narrator
Union Monster
Wimpy looking Monster, armed with Photon slinger

SCENE I
(Narrator walks out from behind rock)
NARRATOR: This play is a bunch of fables. Like most fables, they all have morals. However, the author of this play ain't Aesop, so don't expect miracles.
(Exit Narrator)
(The heroes are standing in the middle of the stage, looking lost.)
MARC: OK, here we are in the middle of a deep, dark, slimey cavern. There are ugly, icky creatures all over the floor, we are almost out of food, and Bruno the Wonder Nothing has lost our map.
BRUNO: Duh, no I didn't, Marc. I traded it for these three magical beans.
VALK: Real smart! And where are we gonna plant them in a cavern?
MARC: Forget that, Valk! How are we gonna get out of here?
BRUNO: I know, I know. I been leavin bread crumbs in our path.
VALK: You mean like the one that slimey scumsucking rock blob just ate?
BRUNO: (disappointed) Uh, yeah.
(Lights fade, curtain, etc. Narrator walks out.)
NARRATOR: Ok. Here's the moral of our first fable...Never let people who are likely to trade what you give them for magic beans carry the map. Simple, easy to remember, yet so practical. (Narrator exits.)

nothing but 'net

(7 comments)
October 20, 2004
Stupid Internet connection was down yesterday...man that bugs the heck out of me. Electricity, Water, 'Net...it's really a close third.

Kinda Feeble Fable of the Moment
SCENE II
BRUNO: Ahhhh, Marcus?
MARCUS: What?
BRUNO: Like, why did we come to this cave?
VALK: Yeah, why?
MARCUS: Listen, you wanted the gold, right?
BRUNO AND VALK: Yeah.
MARCUS: And you wanted fun and wild adventure?
BRUNO AND VALK: Yeah.
MARCUS: And you were both bored out of your minds vegging out in front of TV which neither of you have because it hasn't been invented yet, right?
BRUNO AND VALK: Huh?
MARCUS: Never mind. Anyway, understand?
VALK: No.
MARCUS: Good, cause neither do I.
(Blackout, enter Narrator)
NARRATOR: Ok, now time for another feeble moral: Slow and steady wins the race. (Exits, pauses, reenters)
NARRATOR: Ok, ok, it doesn't make much sense, but neither will a lot of this play.
--Those who can write, do. Those who can't, get self-referential.
I think that's a vague Hitchhiker's Guide "Excitement, adventure and really wild things" reference there


Coverup of the Moment
Looks like The Bush administration is suppressing a CIA report on 9/11 until after the election. Nice. Too bad Bush isn't a democrat, maybe they'd sick Ken Starr on him.

Sci-Fi Thought of the Moment
If any wants a recommendation for some good...nay, terrific short sci-fi, I heartily recommend "The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge", currently being lent to me by the EB. I'm only about halfway through but MAN is that good some stuff.

I don't have time to think about it now, and I'm sure cleverer minds than mine have thought about this, but one throwaway line in one of the stories, "That [image is] from a camera aboard the Vengeance. It's transmitting by gravitic means, so we'll be able to see everything up to the detonation" made me think about the idea of somehow using Gravity as a form of communication, and what the speed of that communication could be. I probably should read this paper, which seems to indicate the answer to "what's the speed of gravity?" is somewhere between "lightspeed" and "instanteous", inclusive, so the next question is, could we make a communications device from that? I suppose one problem is that gravity is blunt...I think that it tends to be a single vector at any point, the "sum" of all the gravitation forces at that point. But still, if you could move a mass around quickly enough, a sensitive and highly tuned meter might be able to detect it's movement from an arbitrary distance away? I dunno. There's got a be a reason why you can't do this, or why if you could do this it wouldn't violate the idea in relativity that information can't travel faster than the speed of light... (is that the case? Man, it's been why too long since I've read up on and thought about this stuff.)

People less muddle-headed about these high-falutin' ideas, feel free to chime in...

go you red sox

(13 comments)
October 21, 2004
Headline of the Moment
"Yankees chip away at Sox in seventh"
--Yankees.com last night, well after the Red Sox's lovely, lovely win. This morning the guys on the radio pointed out a cool detail - for YEARS, whenever a baseball team is up 3-0 in a 7-game series, the announcer is going to say either that no team has come back from that besides the 2004 Red Sox, or that no team has dropped a 3-0 lead except for the 2004 Yankees...

Kinda Feeble Fable of the Moment
SCENE III
(Pot of gold is on stage with a monster holding an "On Strike" sign, but the audience can't read the sign yet.)
VALK: Hey-look! An ugly slimey monster with a pot of gold!
BRUNO: Kill it!
MARCUS: Smash it!
VALK: Hack it into small bloody pieces!
MONSTER: You can't kill me.
VALK: And why not?
MONSTER: I'm on strike. (Holds up sign so audience can read it.)
MARCUS, VALK, AND BRUNO: Why?
MONSTER: Think about it. What do we monsters get out of this adventure type stuff? Parties of brave adventurers outnumber us, hack us into small bloody pieces and take our gold while we die and get diddly-squat.
BRUNO: So what. Kill it!
MONSTER: Do you really want to cross a picket line?
BRUNO: Ahhhhhhhh, no...but I, I, I...
MONSTER: Listen, if I take my gold and run away fast, will you leave me alone?
MARCUS: OK, it's about time to end this fable anyway.
(Monster picks up gold and runs away, screaming. Blackout)
NARRATOR: This time the author didn't even try to think of a suitable moral. He just kind of abandoned this scene.
--The group performing this play at the Dobama theater added one greatly clever detail: they turned the Monster's "Pot of Gold" into a great golden potbelly...
Also, I'm not sure what the adventurer's reluctance to cross a picketline says about my early views on labor vs. management.


he's out

(1 comment)
October 22, 2004
Joke of the Moment
Q. What's the difference between the Vietnam War and the Iraq War?
A. George W. Bush had a plan to get out of the Vietnam War.
--Mirek Kotisa, rec.humor.funny. Tell your friends!

Feeble Fable of the Moment
SCENE IV
VALK: We are lost. Very lost. Before we were lost, but this is a lost of an entirely different scale. We are never going to find our way out of here. I am becoming depressed.
MARCUS: You know, this is a thought I like to think whenever I get depressed and ready to give up and just let death take over. It gives me encouragement to keep fighting.
VALK: Well, what is it?
MARCUS: You only can die once.
BRUNO: I don't get it.
VALK: Yeah. How is that supposed to give you encouragement?
MARCUS: Cause then I think I want to keep that moment as far away as possible.
BRUNO: Well, you know whud I say?
MARCUS AND VALK: No, what?
BRUNO: Rats, I forgot it, too.
VALK: Great.
MARCUS: Oh no.
VALK: What?
MARCUS: I really have to go to the bathroom.
(Blackout. Enter narrator)
NARRATOR: The simple moral to this, the second to the last fable, is this: always go to the bathroom before starting out on a long and perilous journey.
--For some reason I like the simple declarative nature of "I am becoming depressed".

Image of the Moment
--via Bill the Splut, this great image from a fark contest "Chihuahua recruits cat army to combat rat hordes. Create some propaganda for either side"


Article of the Moment
I don't usually checkout msn.com (though I do like Slate.com which has some kind of relation to it) but it's the default homepage on some of the server machines I'm working on at work, and I found this nifty little article, 10 Worthwhile Luxuries. I'm a big believer in that kind of thing. If you can afford, then not shelling out for the things that make your life distinctly better can be a false economy. Like everything else, you need to take this principle in moderation, but still...

photonslinger

(2 comments)
October 23, 2004
Final Feeble Fable of the Moment
SCENE V
MARCUS: Wow! Another monster!
VALK: Forget it...it's on strike.
MONSTER: Away with you, foul adventurers out to plunder me of my great riches!
BRUNO: Ain't you on strike or something?
MONSTER: Uh uh. I'm a replacement.
VALK: Oh, a scab monster, huh?
MONSTER: Uhhh, yeah. But they did give me a photonslinger. Heeheeheehee.
VALK: Got a lot of gold?
MONSTER: Oh, of course! Huge piles of it! But try to lift it...
BRUNO: Get 'im!
MONSTER: I'll shoot!
VALK: SO WHAT! We're the heroes of these fables. We always survive.
MARCUS: Yeah!
(All 3 charge with weapons raised. Monster calmly takes out huge gun and shoots them all down. He then lifts barrels to his mouth and blows, western style. They all die.)
VALK, MARK & BRUNO: Aaaaaaaahhhhhhh!
(BLACKOUT...ENTER NARRATOR)
NARRATOR: Ok. One more moral for our feeble fables: never mess with any monster armed with a photonslinger, or for that matter, any weapon capable of laying waste to a small building. That about wraps it up for the three heroes and, fortunately, for our play.

--A few comments on the "photonslinger", my attempt at a cool scifi sounding weapon...one is, it's a lame name. If I ever pull a Lucas and rewrite this, it's going to be way upgraded, to something like "Mazatronic Warptech Particle Vortex Blaster". Heck...I think technically, a frickin' flashlight might do what the name "photonslinger" implies. Secondly, though, the prop for the "photonslinger" was this way cool oversized Star Wars "Laser Rifle Carry Case" I had picked up somewhere and let them use:


(The only pictures I could find online were by collector nerds who keep it in the original packaging) Anyway, I neglected to retrieve the gun after the performance, which is too bad, it was really nifty.

Come back tomorrow for a Kinda Feeble Fables surprise bonus!


Movie of the Moment
NASA posted some spooky footage of a "Crash Impact Demonstration" they had done involving a passenger plane and the ground, including shots of the crashtest dummies inside the plane. There was a contest to assemble the footage to music, and the winner is pretty cool indeed.

Also in the flying-things-music-videos department, this flying lawnmower is kind of neat. Maybe one of these years I should get into remote control planes, they've always held an appeal for me...

science fiction and comedy make successful mix for young playwright

(10 comments)
October 24, 2004
By Pamela Zoslov
Assistant Editor


When he isn't dreaming up ideas for a new play or working out video game strategies, Kirk Logan Israel, 15, is "fooling around with his tuba." Israel, whose play, "Kinda Feeble Fables" was a winner in this year's Dobama Theatre, plays tuba in bands at Euclid High and in the Salvation Army Band.
"It's basically a comedy -- no message, no symbolism."

That's how Kirk Logan Israel, 15, described his play, "Kinda Feeble Fables," a winner in the 11th annual Marilyn Bianchi Kids' Playwriting Festival at Dobama Theatre in Cleveland Heights.

"It tries to find humor in three cave explorers who are lost in a 'Dungeons & Dragons'-type adventure and meet a series of monsters."

Although the play has no heavy message, he quipped, it has three morals -- "Never give a map to a guy who is likely to sell it for magic beans, always go to the bathroom before a long journey, and watch out for monsters armed with photon-slingers."

THE CLEVER YOUNG dramatist, who will be a sophomore at Euclid High School this fall, had the privilege of seeing "Fables" performed by a cast of professional actors during the festival, June 7-9.

The play has a narrator who wryly comments on the action, and characters named Marcus, Valkyrie, Bruno, Union Monster, and, funniest of all, Wimpy Monster.

"Fables," one of 20 plays chosen from 593 entries, is Israel's second play to win in the festival. Last year, Dobama produced his first effort, "Star Pox."

"It was about two guys who used a spaceship and don't know how to fly, and they meet three ghosts.

"After I won last year I thought would be neat to enter again," he said.

Israel, who gets his story ideas late at night while drifting off to sleep, admires science-fiction humor writers like Douglas Adams, author of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy."

BEFORE MOVING to Euclid last year with is parents -- his father died recently -- Israel got his start in playwriting when his English teacher at Monticello Junior High in Cleveland Heights required the class to enter a a school playwriting competition.

Israel wrote "Star Pox," which was performed at the school and later entered in the Dobama contest.

Seeing his works performed on stage, he said, is "great, an amazing feeling. Sometimes you get down on yourself, if the audience doesn't get the jokes."

Despite his literary ability, his favorite subject in school is not English, but biology -- "although I think dissecting frogs is the grossest thing in the world. I like math - ... I'm terrible with grammar."

Israel revealed a fondness for video games, especially Nintendo's "Blaster Master." He also is a talented musician, playing tuba in school bands and in the Salvation Army band. His mother, Betty Israel, is a Salvation Army officer.

HIS MOTHER is understandably proud of Kirk's achievement. "I credit the teachers at Monticello," she said, "And in Glens Falls (N.Y.), his sixth-grade teacher had them make a story book.

"We're readers. and there's always been theater in the family."

Betty speculated that her son's writing talent grew out of a need to create his own reality as her Salvation Army duties took the family from city to city.

"He has to create his world wherever he goes -- to fall back on himself. By the time he was 4, he was in his fifth city," she said.

"He was born in Philadelphia, and we lived in New York, the Virgin Islands and Cleveland Heights. I'm hoping we'll stay here until he finishes school."

Kirk already has some ideas for his next play.

"It's called 'Normality's Revenge,'" he said. "I haven't quite decided what it's about, but I have an idea for it. It opens in a darkened theater, and suddenly a guy jumps out and starts lying on the floor. It turns out he's the narrator."

Asked about his penchant for using narrators in his plays, Israel laughed, "I'm too lazy to tell the audience what's going on."

As for his future plans he said he's undecided, "I'm pretty much keeping it open. I want something that allows me to be creative and a little unusual."

"I like my life different from everyone else. I just don't like to try to fit in. I like to be different and off the wall."

--A few notes: I'm not sure what local paper this appeared in. It's interesting in that I have no memory of biology being my favorite class, I'm not sure if that's true or not. And also, English did start to win out during high school, largely thanks to my Junior year teacher Judith McLaughlin, with whom I'm still in touch. (And if I wasn't thinking about grammar, I wouldn't have taken such care with that last sentence.) My mom's quote "there's always been theater in the family" kind of sounds like a euphemism for "my son is gay", though she's mostly talking about her own experience doing community theater, and "He has to create his world wherever he goes" makes me sound a bit like a psycho in the making. And "fooling around with his tuba"? Ah well. Hometown journalism at its finest!

I never did write "Normality's Revenge".


Quote and Bad News of the Moment
"I'll tell you, before we get out of Iraq, it's going to make Viet Nam look like a good idea. [...] I can't think of a single case where a popular local guerrilla movement failed to defeat a conventional foreign occupying force. From the American Revolution through Viet Nam, the guerrillas always win. Usually, it takes them a long time and they suffer most of the casualties, but they win."
--Anonymous CEO of one of our "corporate security" firms in Iraq, from via John Perry Barlow's blog. I grabbed the article a few days ago, but was reminded of it when I saw a CNN piece: Bodies of 49 Iraqi soldiers found. Combining that with reports about how international reporters are housebound in the green zone...the bad guys are running that country. The bad guys are running that country. Hell, sometimes I think we're making the USSR in Afghanistan look like champions...and they had us giving the guerillas stinger missiles. This rule of thumb about guerillas explains why Osama thinks he's such hot stuff...when it comes to this kind of struggle, he's right. The USA might not be a "paper tiger" military wise, but we are not going to achieve anything like our stated goals in Iraq, save for getting rid of Saddam.

Anyone disagree? LAN3, do you have a different interpretation?

cats...in....spaaaaaaaaace

(4 comments)
October 25, 2004
Video of the Moment
This video suggests that cats don't like Zero-G. Maybe borderline cruel, but I don't think it does any lasting damage...(via BoingBoing.net)

Article of the Moment
I know its been making the rounds already, but Wired had good coverage of the Mouse Neurons flying a virtual plane. I wonder what kind of feedback the the neurons are getting? It looks like right now the pseudobrain doesn't even know where the horizon is...and how do you motivate a bunch of neurons to "want" to fly straight and level, to select for that behavior over just random chaotic flying?

Ramble of the Moment
So I've been taking a yoga class for about a year and a half now, one run by my regular physician, which is actually pretty cool, and worth the hike into Wellesley on a weekly basis. I don't followup the class with practice during the week, except for some sun salutations, but still, it's been pretty good.

Last week I started going to an additional class run by some folks at my UU Church. It's not quite as intense, but in a positive way it talks more than my other class, and gets more into the spiritual implications of yoga.

So for the first lesson, they went over some of the history of yoga...probably the most important text was written by a guy named Patanjali around 2000 years ago, the Yoga Sutra. It describes the "eightfold path of yoga"...one of those parts (actually, one of the part of those parts) is "Santosha", which means contentment. The handout from the class described it as "To practice contentment with your life as it is." and said its practice is "Gratitude and joyfulness, develop equanimity around success or failure".

Now, I think of myself as a content guy in general--sometimes too content, in fact, a little too quick to adapt myself to my surroundings than to work to improve the situation of myself and others. But Equanimity Around Success or Failure...man, I am lousy at that. I wrote about that this summer, actually. I get so uptight when I lose at a game, so concerned and whiny when I'm losing, so ready to redefine the game so it doesn't matter. Even when the stakes are so low as to be wellnigh non-existent...well, sometimes. If I'm playing, say, a newbie at a game I know well, I often won't play as hard as I can. At least for a while. At least until I start to regularly lose! And while I like to win and get irritated when I don't, I also dislike when, say, EvilB comes up with some relentless strategy that's within the rules but seems like so much less fun for everyone...

So where does it come from? Well, some of it is this weird ego thing I have, where I don't want to be reminded that I'm not always the smartest guy in the room. Another part is the culture...as is pretty obvious with this town's joy at the Pats and Sox, our social darwinian cultural puts a big stake into winning. It's a very bipolar view of the world, there's winning, there's losing, if you enjoy the game hardly enters into it. Ashleigh Brilliant said "If you can't learn to do it well, learn to enjoy doing it badly" but, as a culture, we're not very good at that...

Anyway, just some thoughts. I don't think I'm going to become a full practioner of yoga, but I think there's a lot in the eightfold path that makes a ton of sense. It might be worth printing out and trying to adapt into day to day life...

the radio shack is a little old place where...we can get together....

(4 comments)
October 26, 2004
Observation of the Moment
I just got a flyer from Radio "You've got questions, we've got cellphone plans" Shack. The back copy seemed to be a bit of rebranding gone amuck... "RadioShack presents the Apple iPod from HP!"

On a related note...anyone know how to stop the barage of those stupid supermarket flyers? I've decided my time is worth more than the stupid coupons' savings, and the things are so bulky...

History of the moment
I started googling about retired numbers for sports teams when I found The Baseball Hall of Fame's History of the Baseball Uniform...the timeline was pretty decent reading. But mostly, I love reading the names of defunct teams:
  • The Knickerbocker Base Ball Club of New York
  • The Cincinnati Red Stockings
  • The Brooklyn Bridegrooms (aka Trolley-Dodgers)
  • The Reading Red Roses
  • The Boston Doves
  • The Cuban Stars
  • The Buffalo Blues
  • The Seattle Pilots
    But my absolute favorite:
  • The Boston Beaneaters
I love random teamnames, I already posted some fictional team logo design I messed around with when I was a kid. I almost want to rig up a big web compendium of all the teamns and logos I can get my hands on...

politics...for me to poop on!

(2 comments)
October 27, 2004
Videos of the Moment
"How painful was it when the doctor removed your sense of shame?"
--Triumph the Insult Comic Dog takes on the spin room after the third presidential debate. Great stuff...offensive to the easily offended, but really really funny. More Triumph Videos!

Image and Link of the Moment
Cluster Ballooning... magical-looking, but it sounds like it's a bit dangerous, especially the part about not hitting any powerlines on your way down.


Quote of the Moment
"It is up to us to hallow creation, to respond to life with the fullness of our lives. It is up to us to meet the world, to embrace the whole even as we wrestle with its parts. It is up to us to repair the world and to bind our lives to truth. Therefore we bend the knee and shake off the stiffness that keeps us from the subtle graces of life and the supple gestures of love. With reverence and thanksgiving, we accept our destiny and set for ourselves the task of redemption."
--Rabbi Rami Shapiro. They used this reading to close out last night's meeting of my UU church "Science and Spirituality" group.

1918

(11 comments)
October 28, 2004
HOORAY
FOR THE
RED SOX

i've got another riddle for you

(17 comments)
October 29, 2004
Scientific Discovery of the Moment
Oh my goodness! It looks as if they've found the real life Ancestoral Island Home of the Oompa-Loompas!

The BoingBoing writeup had this tidbit:
But the really cool part [...] is that these tiny people were recent enough that they likely coexisted with humans who could tell stories; there are, to this day, myths among people in that part of Indonesia of distant human ancestors who had tiny, somewhat stupid tiny friends who lived in caves.

Video of the Moment
--I apologize in advance for this but it's just too snarky to pass up. They say Kerry flipflops, but Bush flips you the bird, in so many ways...classy man.


Lesson Learned of the Moment
I had a viewpoint shifting experience the other evening. I was in my yoga class, and I made a little joke riffing on "Schrodinger's Cat" -- that famous thought experiment to point out some of the seeming absurdity of the implications quantum mechanics. (You have a cat in a sealed box with a vile of poison with a 50/50 chance of breaking and killing the poor kitty...supposedly the cat is both alive AND dead until you open the box and observe its condition. (It's a little more subtle than that, but still.)) Anyway, the yoga instructor talked about his main yoga instuctor, this famous-ish guy back in NYC, who would always follow the same routine (including just saying "do this....now do this") whether there were 2 students or 100. I joked that the question was if he did that when NO one was there to observe it, making him like Shrodinger's Yoga Instructor....not my best joke, but NO ONE in the class had any idea what I was talking about. There were 6 or 7 other people in there, most of whom seemed pretty smart, including the instructor (my regular doctor) who I think is borderline brilliant, and they all looked at me like I was nuts. Until that evening, I assumed a knowledge of Shrodinger's Cat was just something any educated person would have. It's not something I studied in a class at school, I just picked it up in some books, or maybe via osmosis from geek culture. So...is geek culture that cut off from "normal society"? Or is normal society that disconnected from scientific thought, almost to the point of scientific illiteracy? For people coming to this site, especially my regular readers, how many had heard of Schrodinger's Cat, and for how many is it a new idea?

eight-bit. eight very violent bits.

(6 comments)
October 30, 2004
Geekness of the Moment
Making the geek rounds, This guy is making Grand Theftendo, a fairly accurate port of Grand Theft Auto 3 for the 1980s Nintendo NES Console...what's most amazing is how much of his own toolset he's made to help him out. The NES homebrew community I think is generally less mature than the one for the Atari 2600, so there was more work to be done. (Heh, though come to think of it, I did sort of chip in with some programming resources, some Javascript-based graphics editors and a Tutorial.) On the other other hand, he's making his own hardware to test things out on a real system...

His main site points to some other interesting projects, like his obsession with the Game King, this one more-primitive-than-an-original-Gameboy system...he reversed engineered it, plus there are reviews of the available games. Also, fans of the old Sierra Adventures should see his GBA work in that area.

Quote of the Moment
"Everything you know is wrong. But some of it is a useful first approximation."
--Eric S. Raymond

halloweened

October 31, 2004
Halloween AND darkness coming an hour earlier...what a day.

Prose Passage of the Moment
"So," he said, "Janet tells me you're an emotional wreck, too. How long have you been broken up?"

"About a month," I stammered. This was not at all what I'd imagined would happen--the two of us bitching about our failed relationships. And yet, now that we'd started, I realized that I would much rather commiserate with Seamus than date him. "We split up suddenly," I heard myself say. "Just a few weeks ago, we were in Sears, shopping for a DVD player. And then another week later, he's emptied all his stuff out of my apartment. It makes you see how flimsy everything is, not just relationships, but everything."

Seamus made a low purr in his throat--an oddly sympathetic sound. "You're not just losing a person, you're losing all your old habits. Suddenly, you don't know who you are." His voice went husky. "The nights are the worst."
--Queer, Pagan Kennedy, from The Dictionary of Failed Relationships
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