kirk.is | archive | 2005 aug

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five six seven eight / who then do we blame for fate

(6 comments)
August 1, 2005
Quote of the Moment
"Fate is what you call it when you don't know the name of the person screwing you over."
Lois on Malcolm in the Middle

crrrrrackk BOOOOOM

(14 comments)
August 2, 2005
For people in the western Boston 'Burbs there was a fantastic thunderstorm last night.

Its been so long since I've seen something like that, maybe it's been relatively quiet thunderstorm-wise for the past few years.

I remember there was once a big one when I was in first or second grade, but somehow I slept through it. My teacher, a nun, told me that it must be because I was so good and innocent or something, but even then I had a neurotic enough theology that I didn't feel that innocent.

But thunderstorms are by their nature a humbling experience...so much power and noise and light, almost completely out of human control.

Article of the Moment
Slate on Hollywood's Death Spiral. The big problem for them seems to be the decreasing window between the "Only in Theaters!" time and when you can go pick it up from Best Buy. I'm always amazed by the factoid that theaters make most of their money at the concession stand...(Especially when tickets cost like $10 per person.) It's like I can "stick it to the man" just by avoiding their absurdly sized drinks and bags of greasy popcorn.

And after buying that video projector last year...not that I have the full "home cinema" feel, but it's really nice to have such a big picture to look at. Right now Ksenia and I are on a "Sex in the City" kick... a good blend of "chick-flick" with a dab of sex and skin now and then. But kicking back and watching 2 or 3 episodes at a pop is a great luxury.

six o'clock comes early, and so does death.

(2 comments)
August 3, 2005
Openings and Links of the Moment
"So you see" concluded Lance "there are certain things that every woman regardless of personal situation should do at least once in their lives and I am foremost amongst these things."
--Hywel Curtis, from the latest Bulwer-Lytton contest. I have to admit, reading the winners was more of a chore than anything else. Too many of them don't sound like any kind of opening, nearly all of them are too long, and multiple entries outside the "Vile Pun" category end with Vile Puns.

Luckily there is an anecdote...err,antidote...the Lyttle Lytton contest. Very well chosen, with interesting commentary for nearly all the entries. It produced today's entry title. ("Author unknown"...the submitter wrote "Credit belongs to the 'poet' cousin of an old college friend, who used to leave gems like this scribbled on sheets of scrap paper scattered around her apartment".)


free advice cheap at twice the price!

(2 comments)
August 4, 2005
Hints of the Moment
A mouse trap, placed on top on of your alarm clock will prevent you from rolling over and going back to sleep.

Old telephone books make ideal personal address books. Simply cross out the names and addresses of people you don't know.

Avoid parking tickets by leaving your windshield wipers turned to fast wipe whenever you leave your car parked illegally.

High blood pressure sufferers: Simply cut yourself and bleed for a while, thus reducing the pressure in your veins.

A sheet of sandpaper makes a cheap and effective substitute for costly maps when visiting the Sahara desert.

--Best Hints by Phil, via rec.humor.funny. That last one reminds me of a suggestion I thought of for a friend whose all-black cat went missing; she was searching for a recent photo, but I suggested that a picture of any black cat off of the Internet would probably serve 98% as well for purposes of "Missing Cat" signs.

arc de technologie

(7 comments)
August 5, 2005
Computer Art of the Moment

--"Arch" by Sandy Smith. This and more at ComputersForArt.org.

"puerile" ---the new yorker

(2 comments)
August 6, 2005
Blurbism of the Moment
Blender of Love
New Yorker: "It will make you feel young again."
Actual line: "The Heart-on-Sleeve corner posts love poems and missives from visitors (mainly women), most filled with longing and self-pity. It will make you feel young again."
Not quoted: "An editorial page ('Kirk Rambles Regarding Romance') is somewhat puerile, and much of the correspondence is downright sophomoric. ... Its creator, Kirk Israel, is not ashamed to post his own fiction (thought you may be ashamed to read it)."
Israel also wasn't ashamed of his blurbism, emailing it to Gelf and good-naturedly writing, "I'm always tempted to change 'It will make you feel young again'—The New Yorker to just 'Puerile'—The New Yorker."
--From Gelf Magazine's The Blurbs feature of misleading review blurbs. So by sending in my very selective quoting for the 'Blender, I now feel absolved of some vague sense of guilt...

higher and taller

(5 comments)
August 7, 2005
Quote of the Moment
"Most Greeks have never visited the Parthenon. Most French people rarely look at the Eiffel Tower. How many New Yorkers have actually visited the Statue of Liberty? Everyone wants to enter someone else's monument. That's why men will never stop cheating on their wives." --Kostas Farmakis, via Candi

what not to say

(4 comments)
August 8, 2005
Quote of the Moment
"I want to do things to you that will put you in counseling for years."
--New Idea for a Pickup Line Not To Use

Culture Report of the Moment
The Japanese Postal System is different than the US one. The Japanese system also serves as a bank. So, it handles letters and packages in addition to providing savings, loans, insurance, and billpaying. Bascially, if one chooses to, almost all of a person's household financial management needs can be accomplished at one locale.This is very convenient. ATMs handle a variety of transactions, or we can go to a teller window.

There are no fees for any of the services.

Furthermore, these savings accounts pay the highest savings interest rate in Japan. Thus, many people have such accounts.

But, this system drains money from the government. Actually, the government loses billions of dollars (yen) each year because it subsidizes so many services and pays an excellent interest rate.

So, so politicians, including the Prime Minister want to privatize the system. As can be imagined there is strong opposition to privatization. Equally, there are many proponents to privatize and the parliment is going to hold a vote soon. The Diet will decide and the people will have to go along with their decision.

A lot of political infighting is ongoing and even within the Liberal Democratic Party (the strongest group since the war ended 60 years ago). One politician was caught between factions and was being pressured to choose nationalization or privatization.

Unfortunately, this 40-something politician, was depressed and could not handle the pressure put onto him by his colleagues. Rather than choose between competing colleagues, he did what has historically been an acceptable solution to his dilemna, he commited suicide.

Over the Postal System.

Sometimes Japan seems really foreign to me.

--My friend Josh is living in Japan with his wife. He sent this last week, this morning the BBC was reporting that the Japanese PM dissolved the Parliament and called for new elections that would become a referendum on this issue.

The BBC talked with a Japanese fiancial expert. I guess they think that a total privitization would be good for the economy there. At first I thought it would be bad for a person who was using it for its savings, but then again, Japan seems to be "savings happy" relative to the USA. (Then again, a rockstar on a drunken, heroin-laden spending spree can seem "savings happy" relative to the USA.)

UPDATE: Slate on the Japanese Postal Savings System.


the light at the lynn shore

(3 comments)
August 9, 2005









stickybrains

(6 comments)
August 10, 2005
You know, these days my brain feels...stickier than I remember it feeling in the past. The "context switches" feel less clean, when I spend some time in an immersive activity it can taint what I do next. Last night I read some Usenet...haven't done that in a while. (Though I still giggle at it being "like Tetris for people who still know how to read.") I read soc.history.what-if last night, some neat "alternate history" stuff. And then I hop over to the Patriots newsgroup, and...I dunno. This anecdote doesn't have a clever point, it's just suddenly reading about Ty Law's motivations in signing with the Jets feels kind of the same as reading about all those old WW2 generals, and it takes me a moment to shake that off.

A new phenomenon, the sign of premature senility brought on by too many diet cokes? Or maybe I'm just more aware of it...or maybe it's a weird positive...it can lead to the surprising insights and newly revealed insights that tend to seperate human creativity from mere machine-like calculation.

Link of the Moment
Are you ready to get pumped?

Click Here to find out about ninjas, REAL NINJAS.

Facts:
1. Ninjas are mammals.
2. Ninjas fight ALL the time.
3. The purpose of the ninja is to flip out and kill people.

--via Bill. Pretty retarded and probably "being ironic" but good for a giggle.

...[grunt]...

(3 comments)
August 11, 2005
Dialog of the Moment
"Keep your rear foot firmly in contact with the ground, don't let it roll up on the arch."
"..."
"Create length along the front...and be sure to focus on Uddiyana Mudra and Uddiyana Mudra, they can really help."
"...[grunt]..."
"Try and keep your belly soft."
"No problem!"
--My yoga instructor and me last night. Got a laugh from the rest of the small class.

Link of the Moment
Star Trek business cards. I love the retro-60s design work.

UPDATE: Some Star Wars ones as well, possibly actually made up in the actual era. Plus a famous card of 3CP0...

it's the finest of the flavors

(3 comments)
August 12, 2005
Quote of the Moment
And suddenly I had a vanilla epiphany. The rice, a truly bland food, forced the vanilla to take center stage. But vanilla is essentially a supporting actor. It is a sociable flavor, at its best when bringing out the best in other distinct ingredients, softening their acidity, drawing out their intensity, helping them to cohere.
--Slate.com's Amanda Fortini on How vanilla became shorthand for bland. It's always been my favorite, and I appreciate its willingness to get along with other flavors...in fact, sometimes I use chocolate vs. vanilla as a metaphor for things that will try to dominate and grab the spotlight vs. things that are happy to fit in.

geek of the week

(4 comments)
August 13, 2005
Even thoough I have tons of stuff I "should" be doing, from decluttering my apartment to attending to the loveblender, I've been spending my freetime "tecnoslacking"...no, not playing video games, though come to think of it, it is assembling tools and information about games.

I made one page that aggregates the results from 5 "Top 100 Video Games of All Time" lists...EGM 1997 and 2002, Game Informer 2001, and IGN.com 2003 and 2005. Here's the top ten from the "powerlist" I assembled.
  Name EGM
1997
EGM
2002
GI
2001
IGN
2003
IGN
2005
1. Tetris        \/ 1 \/ 1 \/ 1 /\ 1
2. Super Mario 64        \/ 1 12 \/ 7 /\ 7 =
3. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past        = 23 \/ 20 /\ 17 11 \/ 5
4. Super Metroid        /\ 5 29 \/ 28 /\ 26 10 \/ 7
5. Street Fighter II        13 \/ 8 22 \/ 9 10 /\ 12 /\ 2
6. Super Mario Bros. 37        22 /\ 15 /\ 20 /\ 1 =
7. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night 12        /\ 8 18 \/ 14 17 /\ 1 16 /\ 1
8. Chrono Trigger 29        26 /\ 3 15 /\ 11 12 /\ 3 13 \/ 1
9. Super Mario Kart 15        44 \/ 29 35 /\ 9 14 /\ 21 15 \/ 1
10. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time --          11 \/ 3 /\ 9 =
I made it so you can compare any subset of the 5 lists, like to see how EGM changed, or just to view a single rating by itself.

I'm also working on a basic tutorial for writing music on the Atari 2600 (called "do re bB", bB being the batari BASIC language it's focusing on.). I'm pretty proud of this little HTML keyboard I made for a web front end to a "calculate the note" command line program called "Tune2600"...
#
#
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#
#
#
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C
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D
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E
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F
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G
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A
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You can see the full keyboard at webTune2600.

backlog flush #59

(2 comments)
August 14, 2005
So today marks the first day of my vacation...a stay at home Clinton Calls for National Week Off To Get National S*** Together kind of week. As I said to Ksenia, "man I can't wait for the week to start and see how little I can get done".

And in that spirit, I've noticed that my backlog is all clogged. Not the good backlog with its own little database backend, the backlog which is like a big online Notepad .txt file. Some of this stuff might not even be things I meant to post, just things I wanted to look at later, so bear with me...there might be some interesting doodads.
  • seperated at birth?
    TF Archive has a LOT of information about the Transformers. The reason I was there is a little weird...I was looking for a certain comic cover. For some reason, I kept visually misparsing the upper image ("JB"'s Avatar on atariage.com) as my memory of the image below, a cropping of "Transformers Headmasters #1"...something to do with the former's sharp lines and Optimus Prime like colors I think, though it seems rather odd to me. Anyway, when I was there I found out about Transformers / G.I. Joe, a crossover set in an alternate WW2-era universe where Cobra is pre-emptively taking over Europe with the help of some Decepticons he unearthed...and all the Transformers have cool WW1/2 modes, Grimlock is a British Mark 1 tank, Starscream is a WW2 plane, Soundwave is one of those clunky receiver phones with the dial on and his "helpers" now transform into grenades not cassette tapes...
  • Jordan Matter's "Topfree" Women in NYC. Great for people who want to celebrate how "exhilarating [it is] to shatter the walls that society has placed around them" or just for folks who like looking at half-nekked women in public places.
  • I think I saw the URL honbatz.com at a Burger King. Really really appealing little monsters. And I like the notice at top... "Hey Kids! This is Advertising!"
  • Summary of different financial lifeplan books.
  • I really need to check out this game Graffiti Kingdom. It's kind of a followup to Magic Pengel...both let you sketch your own creature which is then automagicaly animated by the computer...it's quite impressive, but I think the new game should let you have more direct control over your creation. (Pengel was just kind of a Rock-Paper-Scissors Pokemon-style turn based combat game.)
  • HowItShouldHaveEnded.com's Star Wars Episode 4 was funnier than I expected, but the other movies weren't that great.

baclklog flush #60

(3 comments)
August 15, 2005
I don't think anyone was holding their breath for this but I added my 3 favorite angles of that Rockport seasnail to the desktop wallpaper page so you can download them in their full 1600*1200 glory...pretty decent background I think.
  • Senababy's writeup of E3's Scavanger Hunts are funny, funny, funny: last years and this years.
  • In other anecdotal news...a lot of American popsongs make it other countries untranslated. A friend of mine from Germany had a teacher who swore that "Under the Boardwalk" was about/"sung by" bugs that lived under the wooden floorboards of someone's house. Anyway, there was a bus with a billboard for Dennis Leary in "Rescue Me"...somehow because of the song Ksenia had the idea that "Rescue" was something like the F-word. (And the billboard, with Leary falling from a building as seen from the window he jumped from, didn't help matters.) Ah well, live and learn.
  • 10eastern.com's Found Photo gallery is terrific fun. If you feel inclined to browse the whole thing I definately suggest taking advantage of the "view as thumbnails" feature.
  • Note to self: check out Darwinia ...it looks like it might be that game I wish I had made...
  • Ten things I learned about the future at the Wired NextFest. Ksenia and I stopped by that when we were in Chicago...it was cooler than (though a bit similar to) the Museum of Science and Industry. We couldn't stay there long, had to run for the Architecture Cruise, and of course the bums wouldn't offer any kind of admittance or discount for the next day. Losers. Still like a lot of geeks I feel a kinship with the magazine, just given when it started coming out and when I started getting into computers.
  • Another thing I learned in Chicago, specifically the office building where I was taking InstallShield training from Macrovision...revolving doors with shaded glass can be very disconcerting, because they seem to start up and slow down on their own accord, you can't always anticapte their movement correctly, especially when approaching from the outside on a bright day.
  • Heh, didn't find out how a half-virtual, half-real baseball game went...
  • Coolest flash interface to an art site I've seen.

stop it with the shoes!

(19 comments)
August 16, 2005
Hmm, I guess a more lesiurely morning schedule is a boon to the remembering of dreams...the "Pirats vs Ninjas" I wrote about in the sidebar, yesterday I was going back in time and coping with a new timeline where Ksenia's mom had her youngest son much earlier, and this morning I was at a big dorm-based church thing and stopping people from throwing shoes at my grandmother. I think most of the people were black and I was worried it was going to become a "racial" thing.

Been pretty quiet on the comments here lately...Dog Days slump, or has kisrael.com been dreadfully boring? I thought some of the links were cool.

Dialog of the Moment
"The Russian doesn't want to have kids. Had one a long time ago. He's done."
"Well, then, doe-svee-don-yah or however you say it."
"What? No! For you maybe, but not for me."
"Don't you want to have the option?"
"Well, yes. But it is my experience that men like him don't come along that often."
"But we're 38! These are the years."
"Yes, I know, I've heard. I'm running out of time. I don't even have time to eat this cookie."
"How is it?"
"It's so good I forgot to have children."
--Carrie and Charlotte, "Sex And The City". Laughed out loud at the last line. Ksenia are winding up probably today with the final DVD of the series.

Prudes of the Moment
  • The Rating System
  • Wal-Mart
  • Broadcast Television
--Slate.com explaining why there's so little sex in the movies. Jeez, it feels like movies in the 2000s are getting the same treatment comics did in the 1950s...all for the sake of the damn kids.

I wonder if some of this is counter-acted with the trend for "unrated director's cut!" that a lot of lowbrow movies are going for these days.

Well, at the risk of revealing what a crude vulgarian I truly am, I will state that I am much likely to spend my DVD dollars and films I suspect will show a little skin.


deutschland!

(10 comments)
August 17, 2005
Political Observation of the Moment
It is interesting to note that in Germany only people critical of capitalism use the term "capitalism", while in the US only people critical of socialism use the term "socialism".
--from Axel Boldt's A subjective comparison of Germany and the United States. Not the America-slamming I thought it might be, pretty well balanced, and with some things I knew, some things that were new to me, and a few things I just hadn't thought of.

Here are the "Factoids about German Life:" I recorded when visiting V in Germany in late 2000...
  • Apartment renters often have to furnish their own kitchens
  • Stores close at 4 on Saturdays and aren't open on Sundays. Weekdays they close earlyish, 6 or 8. This is federally mandated to protect the homelives of workers.
  • For water conservation, toilets in Germany have a dual mode switch- press one side to flush, but if you don't need the full amount of water you can press the other side to stop it early.
  • Germans do drive pretty fast & hard on the autobahns, (160+ km/hour in V's little renault, 200+ in a nice BMW wagon) but it's not quite as insane as all that. On the roads where there are limits, there are sometimes automatic cameras take a picture of your car and you get a ticket 6 weeks later.
  • Upon leaving, German restaurant patrons say 'bye' ("tschüß", roughly pronounced 'chuss' or more roughly 'cheers') to other patrons. Also the waitstaff brings over a moneybook to conduct cash transactions at the table rather than carrying money or change to and from a remote register.
  • Almost all Universities in Germany are public and once you graduate from the German gymnasium you can register at any University.
  • Fords are considered German cars here since they are manufactured in Germany.
The kitchens, stores, autobahn, and Uni situation are mentioned in the article, but the other stuff is new.

sensible shoes

(5 comments)
August 18, 2005
Quote of the Moment
"People think love is an emotion. Love is good sense."
--Ken Kesey, this month's loveblender quote. I was late this month...technically only a week and a day or two, but that added up to like the 15th or so...

Photo of the Moment
--In case you were wondering what Ksenia and I looked like on horseback, well here you go. Trailriding at "Bobby's Ranch".


krakBOOM!

(45 comments)
August 19, 2005
Safety Advice of the Moment
Understand that you don't have to be in the heart of the storm to be in danger. The fact is that a bolt of lightning, which is five times hotter than the sun's surface, can strike as far as 10 miles away from where a storm is situated.

Don't underestimate the strength of lightning. One bolt is strong enough to illuminate a 100-watt lightbulb for three months.

--eHow on How to Protect Yourself From Lightning...forget understimating the strength of lightning, now I'm worried I've been underestimating the strength of a 100-watt lightbulb!

umami!

(4 comments)
August 20, 2005
Science of the Moment
"There is a taste which is common to asparagus, tomatoes, cheese and meat but which is not one of the four well-known tastes of sweet, sour, bitter and salty."
--Professor Ikeda on the "discovery" of the taste "umami" or "savory", famously the key factor of MSG...Wikipedia describes the sensation as well. Funny how it took so long to recogize it. Kind of like how Japanese recognize brown as a seperate color more than they do green-blue. (It's not that their "blind" to the difference, it just doesn't feel as "strong" to them, and that might partially be a cultural construct.)

All that reminds me of a poem I read in like fourth grade where a blind girl asks the reader to describe the color blue.


"boba fette? boba fette?! where?! and what?! and WHY?!"

(5 comments)
August 21, 2005
Star Wars Wackiness of the Moment
Chefelf's Star Wars page is worth a read, especially his gripes with the prequels and the rereleases of the original films. It's hard to disagree with any of the points he makes about the dumbness of parts of the movies but I still like 'em... no one else makes movies of this kind, big space opera pseudo-epics with lots of droids and starfighters.

His message boards also had this squicky bit of sibling sultriness shown on the right here.

Sort of gives more support to the whole "Lucas was making it up as he went along" point of view.

In a similar vein, Cap'n Wacky's Gallery of Unfortunate Star Wars Costumes is worth it, especially for this one:

Finally, smashing through the notion that this kind of insane geekery is just the domain of geeky guys, it's...Star Wars Villians with Boobs:
     
The first two are courtesy Cap'n Wacky's List, the last one is a sexy vinyl Vader that was making the rounds a few weeks ago...check out the link for more poses.

Russian Factoid of the Moment
Russian doesn't bother with seperate words for "skin" and "leather". I like when a language does away with some of the euphemisms we have to put up with in English.

everything is more beautiful because we're doomed

(7 comments)
August 22, 2005
I know this is flamingly self-indulget and goofy of me but I've decided that I miscalculated when settling on the name of my car, a Scion xA. (To be really silly about it, maybe a car's true name is something that can eventually be revealed, something like that naming of cats poem.) Obviously last year I put way too much thought into it but I still got it wrong, settling on Puck, which wasn't terrible, and had some cleverness as well as personal significance, but it wasn't the right name.

My car's right name is Hoss.

Like the character on Bonanza...I think I heard somewhere that his nickname was a derivative of "Horse" and that's kind of how I've started thinking of my car, especially when I see it dutifully waiting for me, parked alone and ready to take me whereever I need to go. There's an element of companionship as well as a utilitarian bent.

So there we go.

Move Quote of the Moment
"I'll tell you a secret. Something they don't teach you in your temple. The Gods envy us. They envy us because we're mortal, because any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we're doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again."
--Achilles, Troy

space race war

(5 comments)
August 23, 2005
Yesterday I redid my car stereo's welcome message to "Howdy" from "The Puck". I'm not sure if they said "Howdy" on Bonanza or not, but figured it was an acceptable artistic license. And right friendly to boot.

I know I'm such a poser when it comes to anything cowboy-ish. But I've been listening to "Ghost Riders in the Sky" a lot, ever since I heard Spike Jones' parody version of it.

Also, best name of a poem on the Blender ever: Cowsome Loneboy.

Video of the Moment
Funny but mildly offensive to the humor impaired, The Old Negro Space Program made me laugh out. (via Bill the Splut)

Cultural Science of the Moment
Asians and North Americans literally see the world differently...when shown a scene, North Americans tend to focus on the thing in the foreground, while the Asians give more attention to the background and the scene as a whole. That's really interesting...I wonder what all the implications of that are.

go tufts 913017652975623321901282055s!

(5 comments)
August 24, 2005
I'm not the first person to make this kind of joke, but after reading about Peta's campaign drawing strong parallels between human slavery and our treatment of animals, and then hearing about the NCAA's recent decisions about "Native American" mascots, and then seeing a bumpersticker for some local school's "Lions" team, I got to thinking if the next step for Peta is to discourage the use of that kind of mascot.

An Onion-esque site ScrappleFace got to the idea first. Or as they put it:
An NCAA spokesman said the organization will also consider a resolution at its next meeting to eliminate team names and mascots altogether, and to identify each collegiate sports team by a randomly-generated 27-digit number.
I'm all for it! I even decided to give my alma mater a head start with the following graphic...

I'm still working on an appropriate cheer.

honestly

(14 comments)
August 25, 2005
Quote of the Moment
"Confusion is always the most honest response."
--Marty Indik

Random Question of the Moment
I've been enjoying eHow.com's advice links on my Google homepage, though there's something I don't understand about this one on "Water for Health"...why is hint #3 "Make it a habit not to drink water while you're eating."?

Article of the Moment
Slate.com on the hype about Meth vs. the 80s hype about crack. I know I bought the "crack is instant addiction" idea hook line and sinker...Even the plague of "crack babies" was a a myth, but it was a fun taunt to say that someone was acting insane.

only suckers pay retail?

(8 comments)
August 26, 2005
At the risk of thinking in stereotypes, if there's one thing that confirms my uptight WASPness, it's my absolute discomfort with wheeling and dealing at retail outlets.

Last night I did some quick price comparison before getting a camera for my mom. Staples, Target, and Best Buy all had it at the same price, but Staples was offering a free 128 meg memory card. I mentioned that I found that deal elsewhere to the salesperson at Best Buy (mostly to explain why I would be buying some accesories there but not the camera itself) and she said she thought they could match it, if I'd tell them who it was so they could verify the deal. And that's exactly what happened, she played dumb "Uh, yeah, does it come with the 128 disk whatever?" over the phone, and then knocked the price of the card off of my purchase.

For some reason that seems so strange to me, a little seedy somehow. Especially at a big retailer; I would have guessed that the price is handed down from on high from a corporate office. I've never worked retail (except for a bit of counter work at a pharmacy during middle school) so maybe I'm not aware that there's (a fixed amount of?) wiggle room in the price. Maybe I'm afraid of being thought of as "poor"? Maybe I'm afraid I won't be able to haggle well, that I'll have no response if they say "no sorry that's the final price" other than a sheepish "can't blame a guy for trying"? Maybe it's just my sense of order of the universe, that in a retail place, the price is the price is the price? I don't know.

News Headline of the Moment
The United States shut its consulate in [Nuevo Laredo] for a week early this month after drug gangs fired bazookas and raked each other with machine gun fire in a street battle.
--From this Reuters Oddly Enough on Nuevo Laredo offering tourists armed police escorts.

Bazookas! In street battles! Life imitates "Grand Theft Auto"...who knew?

It reminds me of my 1988 trip to Mexico City, with a church band group...I was kind of nervous when the cops wanted to play tourguide, but they were just in it for the store kickbacks. I forget if they wanted tips or not.


at the risk of opening up a big ol' can of worms...

(24 comments)
August 27, 2005
So yesterday I made an innapropriate remark (since largely edited out), and FoSO (living up to her moniker which stands for "Female of Strong Opinion") called me on it, and rightly so. (For the record, and I do apologize for it, I claimed I knew I was goyim (gentile, non-Jewish) because of my unwillingness to haggle, the inference perpetuating a stereotype about Jews; in googling up references I came across this blog entry that pointed out what seemed like a harmless if tasteless bit of joking can be the root of truly despicable stuff, such as providing ideological support for a German boycott of Jewish businesses in the 1930s.)

Of course, I have an unfortunate history of offending Jewish friends with my blog, mostly by stating my discontent with people assuming that my name indicates that I'm Jewish. I swear up and down it has nearly nothing to do with the risk of experiencing prejudice or the relative merits of the culture, and more of a geekly dislike of incorrect categorization. (Being categoryless is fine, but mislabling is Not Right, and I'll argue against it just like I argued on behalf of other high school students who incorrectly answered a misleading question that I got right because I had thought about it on a meta-level. Yes, I was a tremendous pain in the ass in high school, why do you ask?)

And at the risk of not heeding the ancient wisdom of "if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging"...I feel that my immediate family feels some level of connection with its Yiddish/Jewish past, even though it's several generations back and we have Protestant clergy in between...this might lead me to feel an innapropriate familarity with humor that might be ok intra-group but isn't acceptable from an outsider. Which I am, so the joke ain't funny.

It makes me wonder about humor based on stereotypes in general. On the one hand, there are a lot of downsides. People's feelings can be hurt, and if a stereotype is pervasive it might well influence people's decisions, from job hiring to how they generally treat others. It also causes people to make assumptions about others in a prejudging kind of way, which is wrong.

Conversely...well, I dunno. The old slogan is "Celebrate Diversity!", and it seems a little pollyanna to only be able to recognize the positive. "Diversity" is usually recognized as working on a cultural grouping level, not just appreciating everyone as individuals, and if people are allowed to take pride in their cultural heritage, as well as appreciate the collective accomplishments of other cultures...shouldn't we be able to admit to struggles different cultures face, problems they have, ways that their outlook always isn't helpful? (Of course its possible to make the positive view a bit ugly, like with Reggie White's infamous comments about Hispanics and the Japanese.) And if that's the case, is humor always going to be inappropriate to deal with it? I find humor to be a central, almost defining part of the human condition. Losing a sense of humor is a terrible thing.

Of course, I'm talking as a priveleged, educated, middle-class white male. There are some jokes made about "us", but not that many, and culturally speaking it seems to be an easier life than most. So it's pretty easy to say people should be less uptight about stereotypes and jokes and being PC, because I haven't had to bear the brunt of it.

have a green coke and a smile.

(8 comments)
August 28, 2005
Sorry for the near lack of posting today...my 'net connection was out this morning, then I had a fun BBQ at Lex's...

Link of the Moment
1. Coca-cola was originally green.
2. Every day more money is printed for Monopoly than for the US Treasury.
-- Strange But Basicly Useless Information. Via Mr. Ibis, who was interested in how 38% of North America is wilderness, vs 28% of Africa...that surprised me too, til I started thinking about all the Arctic wasteland in Candada.

stormy weather

(8 comments)
August 29, 2005
News of the Moment
On August 28, 1101 AM CDT, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a bulletin predicting catastrophic damage to the city. Effects include at least partial destruction of one out of every two well-constructed houses in the city, damage to most industrial buildings rendering them inoperable, the total destruction of all wood-framed low-rise apartment buildings, all windows blowing out in high-rise office buildings, and the creation of a huge debris field of trees, telephone poles, cars, and collapsed buildings.

Further predictions are that the standing water caused by huge storm surges will render most of the city uninhabitable for weeks, while the destruction of oil and petrochemical refineries in the surrounding area will spill waste into the flooding, converting the city into a toxic marsh until water can be drained. Shortages of clean water "will make human suffering incredible by modern standards," according to an NOAA bulletin. Some experts say that it could take six months or longer to pump all the water out of the city. Even after the area has been drained, all buildings will need to undergo inspection to determine structural soundness, as all buildings in the city are likely to be at least partly submerged. Damage and subsequent recovery efforts are predicted to cost the city of New Orleans in excess of US$100 billion.
--From the Hurricane Katrina Wikipedia Article. Ummm...yikes.

Quote of the Moment
"Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear."
--Mark Twain. (Yes, via that Quotations page off of Google homepages.) Good quote for today...I find "fearlessness" equals either "intense ignorance" or "nothing to lose" for the most part.

News Quote of the Moment
"I'm not doing too good right now. The water's rising pretty fast. I got a hammer and an ax and a crowbar, but I'm holding off on breaking through the roof until the last minute. Tell someone to come get me please. I want to live."
--Chris Robinson, talking to the AP via cell phone from his home east of the New Orleans' downtown

all wet

(9 comments)
August 30, 2005
I just gave a couple hundred to the Salvation Army, earmarked for Katrina relief, and invite folks to do the same or similar. Even if the worst of the predictions I posted yesterday didn't come to pass, it's very bad on the Gulf Coast.

If there's a Katrina-related blood-drive around here, I'm tempted to give despite not quite waiting for the "minimum number of weeks between donations" thing. I'm a big guy, I can probably handle it, though my bloodtype isn't especially useful.

Sigh.

In other news, I was thinking about getting some home exercise gear. I have to admit Dance Dance Reolution wasn't quite working out, to get decent exercise from it you have to be pretty good at the game itself, plus it can sometimes be harsh on the knees. Historically I'd gotten ok use out of an ordinary treadmill, and then Mo had us buy a fullsize Stairmaster. Brookstone has that ministepper for $200...I was certain if it would suffice, but then on craigslist I found essentially the same model for $25. Seemed ok this morning. So we'll see how that goes.

Not-So-Ominous Warning of the Moment
--This "teaser" was put in the window of a storefront being rennovated on my street. Judging by the name "Beijing Kitchen" (the proper signage showed up a month or so later) it looks to be a small chinese restaurant.


Quote of the Moment
Middle age is when you've met so many people that every new person you meet reminds you of someone else.
--Ogden Nash...man, this has so happened to me at work. Every other coworker reminds me of a previous coworker.

wmd. and muffins.

(8 comments)
August 31, 2005
Hrrm.

Past few days I've been checking out the New Orleans coverage, comparing it to 9/11. I guess since it is regional there isn't the general sense of dread and "could it happen here, now?" Still it makes me think at some point there might be a major terror incident, something WMDish, and it's going to be some mix of the two...a major city becoming a ghost town, a general sense of fear or even panic.

Anyway, on to happier subjects for today I think.

Videos of the Moment
Twelve movies about one thing: muffins. (Thanks FoSO).

Minor News of the Moment
World's oldest person dies, aged 115. "Dutch woman swore by a daily helping of herring for a healthy life". Amazing to think of it...she was, what, in her late 20s during the first world war? Though the herring...reminds me of that joke of the uncle who swore by raw garlic and cigars, you know what his last words were? No one does, we couldn't get near him!

Slating and Ranting of the Moment
Slate.com says dell is hitting a bit of rough patch, including some very bed press from some blogs (the reverse chronolgical order makes it a less compelling read, though...not to mention all the "fear the power of blogs!" crap in it). I just want to say that, based on the website, I don't see why they've done so well. That is a really unfriendly place, too many options, too much information at every turn-- look at their home and home office page, maybe 1/3 of it is what I'm interested in, the rest is just...stuff.

First off, it feels strange to me that I have to select my category, Home-Home Office, Gaming, Small Business, Medium-Large Business...it smells like a scam, that these groups might be getting better prices and I'm not in on it. My friend points out that if you go to dell.com/tv, you're looking at deals that are difficult or impossible to get at through the main interface.

And I know I'm a throwback, but I still want to see and maybe even tough the type of system I'll be getting before buying. There's still enough variation in laptops and desktop systems that I don't like buying them just as some kind of commodity item.

Ah well. At least prices are relatively low, and I suppose some of thats because of folks like Dell.

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