backlog flush #19

(19 comments)
February 1, 2003

UPDATE:
Our nation morns the loss of the Columbia.

In my heart of hearts, though, this doesn't hit me the way the loss of the Challenger did. For one thing, something like this has happened before. Events lose some of their power when they're clearly not unique.

For another thing, post-WTC, the loss of 7 people--adventurers who knew they were taking a risk--doesn't carry the weight that the mass destruction we've seen does. And considering the mass destruction we're looking to wield ourselves in Iraq, and the dangers civillians of every nation face on an ongoing basis from violent radicals...I dunno. Maybe it's "disaster fatigue".

And of course, there's the Israeli issue, the Israeli astronaut on board. Last week NPR was reporting how excited Israel was about this, how it carried a great sense of "normal adventure". I guess that is, if you'll pardon the expression, blown to hell. (Personally, I think it's just structural failure of a very aging spacecraft, and that the way up would seem like a more likely target for terrorism than the way down. Hopefully they'll be able to investigate and reach a conclusion.)

It's like a huge field day to Islamic Propagandists, even if it is an "act of God", or Allah, or whatever. I can hear them say "See America? See what happens to your grand plans when you get in bed with Israel?"

Oy.

Heh. Good luck to China with its manned space mission plans. We're gonna be out of the race for a while.


Backlog Flush of the Moment
I figure I've been rambling enough this week, and need to get to doing the loveblender anyway, so here's a bunch of short subjects...

in other news

(2 comments)
February 2, 2003

I don't mean to discount the loss our nation feels, but man, the media is back in no-news-news-mode:
"This just in--Space Shuttle still destroyed!"
"Breaking news--a lot of people are greatly saddened, and saying so!"
"Newsflash! Those astronauts were brave and will be missed."
This is going to be a long, slow investigation. Definite answers aren't going to come quickly or easily. If we don't get back to our regularly scheduled programming, the unknown structural damage and hitting the atmosphere at 18 times the speed of sound will have won...

I guess it won't last though. Bush'll push this to the backburner as soon as he thinks he can get away with it to make way for his big (war) drum solo.

I guess the tragedy has kind of pushed Groundhog's Day to the backburner. No front page coverage of Punxsutawney Phil today. (More winter...not surprised, given the slush I was shovelling this morning.)

Oh, and Dylan of the Sidebar has decided to pick on my putting the punctuation outside the quotation marks yesterday. Yes, it's true I adhere to the UK standard rather than the US standard in this matter, mostly because it makes sense to my programmer side. What's inside the marks should be what's quoted. Letting the punctuation drift inside just because it looks better, even though it's not what's being quoted, rubs me the wrong way.

Inappropriate Funny of the Moment
"I have to admit I get a little angry when I read about the starving family consisting of a mother, father, and TWENTY-THREE children.
For Christ's sake, lady! It's a vagina, not a clown car!"
--Dennis Miller. A funny line, though it lacks the grace of Groucho's supposed response to a lady in a similar situation who said "Well, because I love my children and I think that's our purpose here on Earth, and I love my husband."
"I love my cigar, too, but I take it out of my mouth once in a while."
More information on that at snopes urban legends site. Also, an even less raunchy and more versatile response that was definitely on the air:
"Well, I like pancakes, but I haven't got closetsful of them..."


Adult Link of the Moment
As long as I'm already out of due-respect mode, I might as well go for broke. It's IMDb's raunchy cousin: the Celebrity Nudity Database. On the one hand, it has the rather depressing tendency to think of all movies on a single scale: "how much celebrity skin is there?" -- and the comments reflect this. On the other hand...well, I've always finding the occasional sex scene in normal movies as opposed to just watching porn. Somehow seeing sex as a facet of a fully realized character captures my interest more than "I've come to fix the sink" "Ooh I'll show you where you can lay your pipe" wawow-chikka-wow-wow...it's probably akin to me preferring women in tanktops and jeans than in fancy lingerie.

Come to think of it, the comments are pretty amusing "This was a horrible movie to sit through for nudity." "I've seen her breasts so many times on film I feel like I've slept with her." "It's obvious who her fans are, but jeezus folks, let's be real. Here we rate the quality of the NUDITY (of which there is none), so as to not lead people into thinking there is more than exists. This scene barely deserves one star, just because of the major hard nip action"

It's like that guy in "Throw Momma From The Train" who's writing a book "100 Women I'd Like To Pork".

god and nasa

(1 comment)
February 3, 2003

News Thoughts and Link of the Moment
First off, I gotta say I was probably a little harsh yesterday, re: the news coverage of the Shuttle disaster. After all, it was only the second day after such a horrific event, and there was at least some small news that emerged, the temperature readings that pointed to something involving the wheelwell.

Anyway, Slate.com has a good William Saletan article, God on our Side?, that reflects some of the discomfort I've felt about Bush being so free with all the God talk. (Heck, I guess we should just be grateful he stuck to the Old Testament this time, given that whole Israel association...) You can't have it both ways, assuming we have God's protection without then asking what's gone wrong in a divine sense in cases like these. (In a way, Falwell pointing the finger of blame at "pagans, abortionists, feminists, homosexuals, the ACLU" etc is at least a more consistent viewpoint than Bush's statement that God is on our side, even after events that would seem to indicate He isn't.)

It's parallel to the whole Christian athletes thing. "First off, I'd like to thank God for this victory..." but never say "dang heavenly beings tripped me up right before the goal line! The other side musta been praying harder." (I mean, I guess it's reasonable to thank God in general, but not for the specific victory.)

Political Quote of the Moment
"There’s something profoundly immoral about financing tax breaks for today’s wealthiest Americans by borrowing money from the unborn."
--from this TomPaine.com editorial, via Tom Tomorrow's blog. Heh, no wonder the administration so concerned about "the rights of the unborn"...that's what they see as their future cash cow!

Anyway, the article (what's an "Op Ad" anyway?) talks how the administration is not conservative in the traditional sense of the word, though I think he's glossing over the whole "social conservatism" (which they have in spades) vs. "fiscal conservatism" (which is more troublesome) gap, and the uneasy alliance between the two that makes up the USA's modern Right.


Movie of the Moment
Someone wants to know: How much money would it take for you to kill a puppy with your bare hands? And would it matter if it was an oversized novelty check? Kind of lighthearted and disturbing at the same time. (It ends in a disclaimer, no puppies were harmed in the making of this sketch.) Man, I haven't heard the song "Dead Puppies (Aren't Much Fun)" for the longest time...

hopefully not quite the final frontier

February 4, 2003
Link of the Moment
This 1980 look at the Space Shuttle points to it as an expensive and dangerous boondoggle. It's foresightful in some ways and shortsighted in others.

If you haven't heard about it, there is some interesting work going on in the private sector on reusable space launch components...one of the coolest is the Roton Rotary Rocket, which actually has a helicopter like rotor at the top. It's an ingenous approach which helps the craft gain speed at liftoff while consuming much less fuel (and being more efficient has a nice virtuous circle effect: the less fuel you need for liftoff, the less fuel mass you have to carry. The less fuel mass you have to carry, the less fuel you need...) as well as helping to slow the craft as it re-enters the atmosphere.

You know, for someone who was complaining about all the Shuttle coverage, I sure am talking about it an awful lot.

Phrase of the Moment
"Come, shall I stroke your 'whatever', darling? I am so randy..."
"So am I, darling. Whatever your stroke, I shall come."
--from that book of euphemisms...it's a palindrome sentence (you can read it backwards, word by word, and get the same result) that's been stuck in my head for a bit. At first it didn't seem that impressive, but now the form seems cooler than regular palindromes...this one depends on how "stroke" and "whatever" can be completely different grammatical types depending on the context.

wham, bam, thank you gmlb

(1 comment)
February 5, 2003

I'm looking towards adding a per-day comment section to kisrael. Of course, those things can be depressing on moderate or low traffic sites with a bunch of "0 Comments" links, but hey, it might foster some interesting discussion.

Game of the Moment
Been a while since I've posted a fun link, but here's one now: Ranjit's company gamelab has come up with another super clever concept: Crash. (Not to me confused with the kinky Cronenberg movie of the same name and roughly similar concept, except, you know, with a lot of extra sex.) At first I thought it was another variation on the sliding "Rush Hour" (like Traffic for Palm (Thomas Jentzshe even managed to make a modern-day port to the Atari 2600 called Jammed)) but it's a lot more kinetic and dynamic than that. You're an "omnipotent god of traffic" who can click to make cars scoot along (and then again to slow them down) as you try to keep traffic flowing at a double highway intersection. Though I dunno, seems like a pretty limited form of omnipotence to me...still a cool little game.

Insight of the Moment
"[Oprah] is so fundamental to Ameri-think. She's all about self-esteem and perfectibility and viewing yourself as a work in progress. The whole psychology of that is that you must believe that A) improvement is possible and B) that it is actually possible to get it right. You are your own best project. And because we're Americans we somehow think that everyone else in the world thinks that way too, and of course, nothing can be further from the truth. They don't."
--from a Salon interview with the author of "Brit-think, Ameri-think". Interesting piece, I love this kind of analysis. (Worth the Salon rigamarole...and I think everyone should be a Salon member anyway.) I think my attitudes tend to fall sort of in the center; I have the America idea of "I can change myself" and the British wryness that "...but I probably won't".
And, as Dylan pointed out, there's the whole puncuation-outside-the-quotes thing.


Hint of the Moment
If you want a hand with Dylan's latest sidebar, checkout this cryptograms tool.

got the clap

(2 comments)
February 6, 2003

Ponder of the Moment
Isn't clapping kind of weird? Is it instinctive or learned or somewhere in bewtween? Does it still really mean something? The BBC traces the history of applause.

Quote of the Moment
"[Getting royally tanked] shuts down the higher level brain functions and allows the inner fish to express itself.
On the surface I may seem very profound, but deep down inside I'm actually a very shallow individual."
--from a slashdot discussion on an evolutionary explanation of why we hiccup--that it's a holdover from something closer to our tadpole-ish days on the evolutionary ladder. It's still mostly speculation, but interesting.

Article of the Moment
Salon pro-hawk piece, arguing that a war in Iraq won't make our Al-Qaeda issues any worse than they are. Has some solid points, though also some I disagree with. (When he asks "Iraq is a distraction from what?" that's simple; from keeping a closer eye on our border and ports, from the general smaller scale action of tracking down the individual terrorist cells.)

feedback

(8 comments)
February 7, 2003

As you can see, my new comment system is more or less in place. I still haven't made past comments viewable in the archives, but I'll get to that. I hope it fosters some interesting talk...I think "Bozo" on the guestbook helped to get me moving, with his topical comments. Anyway, it'll be depressing if it's always 0 comments 0 comments 0 comments, and lame if I seed it myself, so feel free to add some comments... (Actually it'll be interesting to see if this site has enough critical mass to make this worthwhile, I don't know if I'll keep the feature if not...on the other hand, even high-traffic sites line boingboing have articles with 0 comments, so I shouldn't be too judgmental.)

Image of the Moment
Graveyard at Wansford Church, England, June 2002, taken with IR film. The photographer, J.S. Drewnicki, AIM'd me about the mortality guide. I'm considering adding this image to it... very evocative of other visions of deathscapes I've seen.


Breaking News of the Moment
Word is (though the story isn't officially out yet) the threat level is being moved to a delightful soothing Orange. Just like the delicious sweet clementines my employer has recently provided for its loyal workforce. Yum, yum! (For a hollow laugh, check out Joseph Calzaretta's threat level reference I kisrael'd previously.)

Here are two bets I'd like to see: will the threat level ever be reduced to "Green" in my lifetime? (Duhrr, no.) And, as a betting pool question:
What's the next attack on US soil going to be: Feel free to use the new Comments page to weigh in...hey, wasn't our plans against Iraq supposed to make us safer?

where'd ya get yer information from, huh? you think that you can front when revelation comes?

(2 comments)
February 8, 2003

Passage of the Moment
As the German biologist Bernd-Olaf Küppers puts it"...in the framework of algorithmic information theory, there is a strict mathematical proof for the assertion that we can never know whether we are in possession of the minimum formula by means of which all the phenomena of the real world can be predicted. The completeness of a scientific theory can in principle never be proved."

We can take pleasure in such concise, elegant expressions as Maxwell's formulae for electromagnetism. But we can never know whether we could express them even more concisely. Not until the day we do so.

Life will forever be open to us. We will never know that it cannot be expressed more beautifully.

The beauty in the world is growing.

--Tor Nørretranders, "The User Illusion." He seems to be taking his time getting to his central points about the illusionary nature of consciousness, starting with Maxwell's Demon and moving into Complexity Theory.

Complexity Theory is great, and it's been too long since I've thought about it. See, total randomness is boring as is total order. Order is boring because it's too easy to describe, like molecules in a crystal. Since you can't describe truly random data in a more compact way, it contains a maximum amount of "information", but that still doesn't interest us. Complexity gets to the idea that what's interesting is how much work was done to get to the final result, and it's where all the interesting stuff in the world happens. It ties into evolution--an organism's genome is valuable because of all the stuff its ancestoral tree has experienced and how the DNA has been weeded out. (On the basis of DNA length, a Lilly would seem to be more complex than a human...)

To me, it also ties into the hacker's idea of "elegance", especially when he describes the work that complexity describes is spent in throwing the extra junk out...

Yeesh it feels good to be reading! I barely cracked a book in January.

In case anyone was wondering, today's title is a Beastie Boys' lyric.

sit and spin

(2 comments)
February 9, 2003

I've noticed that so far, "yesterday's" comment link seems to be about or more popular than today's link. That might indicate that my new layout isn't good, with the comment link at the top of the entry next to the title...perhaps people start looking for a link at the end of what they've just read, and the first thing that comes to eye is the comment link for the next day. Hrmmm.

I noticed one of the CNN channels has a big colored box with "Threat Level Orange" on it, 24/7. That can't be healthy.

I spent a big part of yesterday browsing the archives at therosser.com, the blog of the little brother of a girl I went with in high school. I have this delusion that I was a huge influence on him, though considering he was in third grade at the time, he mostly remembers that I was huge (a lot taller than him (of course) as well as the rest of his family for the most part) with giant shoes. He's an interesting guy though, finishing up his Senior year at my high school alma mater. Anyways, in the finest blog tradition he's borrowed some quotes and links from me, and I'm now sure to return the favor, like today's Image of the Moment...

Image of the Moment

Quote of the Moment
"The only truth in the universe is that there are absolutely no truths, not even the one about there being none."
--Ross Salupo, 2002-10-17

"cheese eating surrender monkeys"

(1 comment)
February 10, 2003

Onion Quote of the Moment
At a recent NATO meeting, France and Germany expressed reluctance to lend military support to the U.S. if it invades Iraq. What do you think?
"That's a shame. It would have been hilarious to see the French running around the desert in their froofy Stratego uniforms."
"Hey, Mr. President. When even the Germans don't want to fight, take the fucking hint."
--The Onion, What Do You Think? It's funny stuff, though admittedly not quite fair, post-war Germany (and Japan) has actually been more pacifist, not less, probably because of the awfulness they went through.

Historical Quote of the Moment
"You always write it's bombing, bombing, bombing. It's not bombing. It's air support."
--Col. David H.E. Opfer, air attaché at the US embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Toy of the Moment
Not the friendliest interface, but the Lego Brick Builder is a cute little online toy.

bristling

(5 comments)
February 11, 2003

Quote of the Moment
"Show me a man who does not, on occassion, allow his beard to grow and I'll show you a man who cares more about what society thinks of him than of what he thinks of himself."
-Mark Twain. Woohoo! More of an excuse when I decide to go a few weeks (rather than my usual one...) without shaving.

Image of the Moment

--Photo by Ranjit, in New York City. I think I understand what the defacer of this poster was getting at.

Middle East Essays of the Moment
Foreign Affairs on Palestine, Iraq, and American Strategy. The core idea is that the Palestinean issue is a powerful symbol used in Middle East politics, and an important one, but the answer isn't "deal with Palestine first". Another interesting but scary article: Is The Currency Oil is Traded In the real reason for this whole Iraq thing? Iraq made out like bandits by switching to the Euro before it started its recent huge gains against the dollar. If OPEC followed suit en masse, the result could be a dollar devaluation mess on a third world scale.

Heh. It would be funny (ok, not ha ha funny) if that was one of the reasons why Euro-using France and Germany are against the war, and the UK is for it. (Don't know what the pound/dollar relationship is though.) Anyway, MetaFilter, where I got this link from, had some followup discussion where people who are better informed than I am (or at least better at pretending to be) have some comments.

Link of the Moment
Another webpage that reads your mind. Amazing! The Dept. of Homeland Security should get this technology and use it to weed out terrorists!

got a light, bud?

(2 comments)
February 12, 2003

Thought of the Moment
Consciousness is a smaller part of our mental life than we are conscious of, because we cannot be conscious of what we are not conscious of. How simple that is to say; how difficult to appreciate! It is like asking a flashlight in a dark room to search around for something that does not have any light shining upon it. The flashlight, since there is a light in any direction it turns, would have to conclude that there is light everywhere. And so consciousness can seem to pervade all mentality when actually it does not.
--Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. The book was quoted in "The User Illusion" which I just finished. I don't know if I buy into Jayne's theory, that consciousness/the sense of "I" as we know it didn't show up until a few thousand years ago...or at least not some extensions of that idea, how that would have changed people's view of themselves, and that maybe "consciousness" disappeared (at least in Europe) for most of the dark ages and came back around the time of the Renaissance...

Flash of the Movement
BoingBoing pointed to this Flash site that is a true triumph of style over substance.

Report to Home of the Moment
So, kind of like yesterday, a MetaFilter conversation trying to figure out the authenticity of this report, supposedly from Davos. It seems a stretch that the journalist it's supposedly from would take this kind of tone and make so many mistakes, but it is supposed to be a casual note. In any case, it's an exploration of the "just what level of deep economic doodoo are we in" dilemma. I wonder what the hell I should be doing from a preparation standpoint?

Slashdot Funny of the Moment
> I am repeatedly surprised by the amount of spam
> out there that does not contain any way
> to contact the spammer. How do they expect to
> make money if there is no way to contact them?

Volume!

--$$$$$exyGal and Nomadic on this slashdot conversation.

wheedle a weasel whistle

(2 comments)
February 13, 2003

Hrrm, bit of a spike in frontpage hits yesterday, wonder why.

UPDATE: According to the analysis of my Referer log, I've gotten over 150 hits by people searching for variations on "cheese eating surrender monkeys", which I used as a title Monday. Guess that explains it. (The phrase comes from a Simpsons quote, Groundskeeper Willie teaching a French class, that has been adopted by the right wing media lately.)

Quote of the Moment
"Weaseling out of things is what separates us from the animals. Except for weasels, I guess."
--Homer Simpson. (Quoted by Ranjit, I've found a few wordings of it online, but his is funniest.)

News of the Moment
Osama (might be) vowing to die a martyr in the next year or so. Idle speculation: he is dead, these tapes are coming from an impersonator, and they don't think they can keep it up. There was that big todo over that last tape, and while our officials declared the real deal, some scholars in other countries weren't as sure. Of course, this is just random speculation, take it with a grain of salt.

Image of the Moment
--Inspired by a Conan O'Brien monologue (explaining to Bush that the transition was from Bert to Ernie.) Very soothing, hey?


Headline of the Moment
North Korea Wants Arms and More Aid From U.S. At first I thought they were asking from arms from the USA, which would be kind of funny. Even still it's a weird headline. But mostly, I want to comment on Kim Jong Il. They says he's a bit of a playboy, and you know what? He looks it. Like an evil bon vivant, and I'll bet you his constant sunglasses and swept back hair are the epitome of North Korean cool. He's straight outta a James Bond flick. Err, Austin Powers. Well, how about some kooky villain in a Japanese fighting game?

It's interesting how nuclear proliferation might change the world situation, impinging on what the USA can do as "sole superpower". I don't think the danger is the missiles though, it's smuggled nukes, whether by nations or by independent groups.

valentine so fine

(3 comments)
February 14, 2003

Valentine's Day. Hopefully free of massacres.

I'm thinking about modifying where the comments links and stuff are... check out this page to see the design I'm playing with...prettty much the old design, but with the comment links as standalone boxes at the bottom of each entry. Sarah likes the current "tag" look (I think I do too) but Ranjit thinks comments-at-the-bottom looks good and makes more sense. What do you think? Maybe if I added some little black directional triangles to the left of the date/comment count? Also, I gotta decide if I should suppress or subvert the guestbook, I'd really prefer people use the comments system. Maybe I could have the guestbook be form as an amalgamation of all the seperate comments pages...

Funny of the Moment
"Howard...you look awfully somber..."
"Just trying to figure out why all of my relationships are always so torturous."
"There's an expression 'all humor is cruelty.' Basically, at it's heart... it's about inflicting pain and laughing at others."
"So?"
"Okay...now tell me...what quality do you look for most in a woman?"
"...um...A good sense of humor..."
"Howard...I rest my case..."
--Joe Forkan, this Staggering Heights cartoon.

Link of the Moment
A site called {fray} has a set of small anecdotal essays, The Things We Do For Love. If you're in a hurry, I'd suggest Things to Undo, though I don't know why I find tales of love lost more compelling than those of love found.

Arts and Crafts of the Moment
Classic Videogame Needlepoint. Heh! My dad was a national competition level Counted-Cross-Stitcher... I've never been tempted to try, but I'm surprised I hadn't thought of something like this before, colorful pixels and stitches go well together.

why ask wherefore

(3 comments)
February 15, 2003

Quote of the Moment
"The universe is not required to be in perfect harmony with human ambition."
--Carl Sagan. Sent to be my Robert Sim (who has his own blog, and had some nice things to say about the mortality guide.) I think the quote makes a good point.

Link of the Moment
Keeping in a philisophical vein, Slate had a piece by John Horgan on why he gave up on Buddhism. I've noticed there seem to be two strains of buddhism in the West, one more traditional and mystic, usually practiced by people who grew up with it, and then one that's trendier and more in the "Zen" style.

I still have hopes for a kind of Buddhism Lite, or something, with a lot of the focus on just kind of being, and not getting too hung up on worldly desires. I guess there's a contradiction here, with a worldly desire of wanting some "authorized" approval of my munged together attitudes.

good news, bad news

(1 comment)
February 16, 2003

Bad News of the Moment
Another MetalFilter discussion, some interviews with author Robert Prechter, who thinks there's going to be a big ol' deflationary depression. On the one hand, he's been thinking this for a while, on the other hand, he claims he's trying to time something that's part of a 200 year pattern, so being off by even a decade might not be that big of a deal. Oy.

Medium News of the Moment
I think I previously posted this, but the previous link is defunct A Soldier's Viewpoint on Surviving Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Attacks. He argues they aren't quite the End of the World as We Know It to the extent that we assume they are. A bit reassuring in all.

Good News of the Moment
Ok, not really news, but after all that I think we need breakdancing guys in big animal suits.

the blizzard of '03?art

(26 comments)
February 17, 2003

They say there's gonna be some bigtime snow.

I remember the blizzard that helped to welcome 1996...I had just done Times Square New Years with Veronika who was visiting me from Germany. I remember the big problem snow plows had moving snow piles that turned out to have a car underneath...

What do you guys think of the directional areas, trying to get people to associate the comments link with the correct day's entry? And should I ditch the guestbook form, and have everything piped through the comments system? "Bozo", I'm surprised you haven't switched over...you post very topical guestbook entries, the kind of thing I had in mind when I put the system into place.

Blogs of the Moment
Bostonworks (part of the Boston Globe's website) is starting a jobfinding blog. Might be an interesting thing for people who are looking to keep up with.

Another funny idea for a themed blog: Cooking Loser, bachelor boy cuisine. Maybe I should send in my various recipes for Tuna ala Kirk (with grey poupon style mustard, with salsa verde, and the most high class, the one with ginger soy sauce.)

ASCII art of the Moment
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--A study I did in preparation for Pixeltime. I think I ended up using dithering to get in a few more shades of grey, though. You can see the final result or the source jpg (from my pixeltime tribute and photobook, respectively.)

Game of the Moment
The poor man's typing of the dead. (The real Typing of the Dead is an odd game, an older lightgun shoot-the-zombies converted so you have to type words quickly and accurately to blow off zombie bits instead of just shooting them.) Still, as far as typing drills go, this one has some nice aesthetic qualities.

Quick Article of the Moment
Slate has a good explanation of Modern Arabic, the old form that has remained constant, and the way telecommunication is causing some dialects to thin out a bit.

snow problem

(2 comments)
February 18, 2003

So it was a record breaking snow, 27 1/2 inches...but really, it wasn't as bad as it sounded. If you did some proactive shoveling a few times yesterday you were in pretty good shape this morning.

Watched Joe Millionaire...impressed myself with my ability to totally call the surprise ending where they gave 'em a million bucks.

AIM Snippet of the Moment
kirk: Ah, such a fun terrible weather game, watch the poor sap "on the spot" tv reporter out in the middle of it
ranjit: what's that word, shadenfreude? This is like freezenfreude

(The other great Freezenfreude: all the SUVs in snowbanks on the side of the highway. Represented way out of proportion to their percentage of the driving population.)

Current Events of the Moment
Via Bill the Splut, The 50 Most Ridiculous Things About the Upcoming War in Iraq.

Link of the Moment
Inner-Childish (in a good way) fun with science. Fun and sort of educational! Some of them even deal with my newer thoughts on what consciousness is and isn't, search for "Burst of flavor", "Un SELF -ishness", "Make your 'self' vanish", and "THE NULL ZONE".

Funny of the Moment
"You know, everyone seems to think being on hold is a bad thing. Let's re-examine this, shall we? Don't look at it as being on hold. Look at it as being held! Because we all like to be held -- don't we?"
--from a transcription of the JetBlue "On Hold" message, by Clive Thomson

swingers

(80 comments)
February 19, 2003

Blogrolling of the Moment
So the other week Ross wrote the following in his blog (look for the giant math cartoon):

So I was thinking today about my life as I carried my physics book, my calculus book, my saxophone, music for three ensembles, and of course my calculator... I am really a geek! All this time, I thought I was just a cool guy, and joked around about being dorky. But hell, I am like the epitome of a nerd! I play three instruments in seven ensembles, I direct the marching band, I take pride in learning calculus, I am taking several AP tests this year and am interested in Quantum Physics, I drive this car...

And I could kind of feel his pain...I went to the same high school, actually, went through a lot of the same things, so I added the following reassuring note to his guestbook:

Don't be so hard on your self.

Why...I can think of another nerdy teenager...unlucky in love, socially awkward, clumsy, with glasses. Good at school, but involved in decidedly uncool school activities. Sometimes even picked on by jocks and other idiots.

But it turned out ok, for you see...that teenager became spiderman.

Article of the Moment
Business 2.0 argues maybe we aren't as bad off as all that, economically. The comparison of numbers to the Reagan years is interesting...though more of the general bad mood is justifiable if you think that a getting blown up my a terrorist is worse than getting nuked by the Soviet Union. (The former is more likely to have an event, the latter had a lot more potential for total global catastrophe.)

couch so comfortable

February 20, 2003
Why is the couch so much better to fall asleep on than a bed? Is it because a bed's generally just so flat?

Online Comic of the Moment
Something Positive is a pretty funny online comic. A bit raunchy (and sometimes rather evil, like the first cartoon) but good, it has some interesting character based stuff for being a gag-oriented comic. The thing is, it's really wordy...it took me hours and hours to read through the year's worth of archive. So, as a service to you, my loyal reader, I have braved the whole year to bring you a select list of really good ones: 12-21-2001 (cultural!) / 01-08-2002 (raunchy) / 01-10-2002 (heh) / 01-14-2002 (not all that funny, but explains the cat) / 01-28-2002 / 02-18-2002 (good catchline) / 04-03-2002 / 04-24-2002 / 04-26-2002 / 05-15-2002 (the start of a good week...I don't know why I'm interested in the romances of comic characters) / 05-25-2002 / 06-15-2002 / 08-14-2002 / 09-02-2002 (raunch but one of the funniest) / 12-10-2002 (mmm, goths) / 12-14-2002 / 12-17-2002 / 01-21-2003 (where the illustration is from.)

Article of the Moment
Yesterday's talk about geekdom inspired a larger than average amount of traffic on the daily comments board (not that that's saying all that much, but hey) so I thought I'd go ahead and link to Paul Graham's Why Nerds Are Unpopular, a serious consideration into the social hierarchies of schools, and the people at the bottom. I think I didn't have it as rough as some, probably a C on the scale introduced in the first paragraph. I'm not sure if Graham gives enough consideration to a "multiple intelligences" point of view for nerdom; it's not just that we let other activities attract our time and attention away from the things that would have given us a better place in the social structure...maybe we just weren't very smart about those things in the first place.

Web Toy of the Moment
Thanks to the power of Flash, it's very easy to make your own Zen-a-riffic Insights.

Link of the Moment
Hrrmmm...SNOWFLAKES is a project to get people to adopt frozen embryos, like those made for fertility treatments. I'm kind of amused by the term "Snowflakes". I guess if you view life begining at conception, it's a reasonable program, otherwise, well, I guess you think that they put the "flakes" back into "snowflakes".

cobraaaaa!

(9 comments)
February 21, 2003

News of the Moment
One (in my opinion under-reported) recent news item was a plane crash in Iran that killed 302 members of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards. Between that and the Pakistan Air Force chief dying in a plane crash, I bet the Arab rumor mill is bustling. Of course in the former case, they do blame the USA, the embargo we placed on them after they took over our embassy in 1979 preventing them from getting new planes and parts. (But you know...is it reasonable for them to reject the West and its values and still want our airplanes?)

But you know, that's not the reason I'm posting this. Mostly, I'm just greatly amused by the phrase "Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards"--which brings to mind one of my favorite GI Joes, COBRA's elite Crimson Guards! Man, they were so cool. The writeup is from Mike's G.I. Joe Page...that page's "Forgotten Figures" and "Guest Section" are good reads in a nostalgic way...even though Transformers were more my thing, I had my share of Joes. That site is pretty hard core though... "The 93 version, with yellow pants, was a horrible revision so avoid this one at all costs", that kind of thing. Plus, these guys sound like they still play with them, or maybe they just make those dioramas or something. (And of course, they're way too cool to like "Snakeyes"...remember him, the mute ninja dude?)

I guess Iraq's "Elite Republican Guard" is just about as bad.

Onion of the Moment
"The Euclid fire appears to be an isolated incident unrelated to terrorism," Bush said. "But next time, we might not be so lucky. That is why we, as a nation, must do everything we can to drive out Saddam Hussein and his ilk. By confronting terrorism head-on, we can once again live in a nation where we don't jump every time a dryer buzzer goes off."
--My old home town is in the news! Terrorism 'Not Likely' Cause Of Fire At Local Laundromat--local to Euclid, Ohio baby! Right outside of Cleveland. I'm practically famous. Also, the latest AV Club has an interview with Dave Attell (from Insomniac...) I was disillusioned to find out they film in once city over the course of several nights, not just one night into the wee hours. Still, I love that show, just wandering around and drinking and seeing what people do at night.

Quote of the Moment
"90% of everything is crap. [...] Except crap. 100% of crap is crap."
--Too Much Coffee Man

social conservative, fiscal abso-frickin-nuts

(6 comments)
February 22, 2003

So, CNN has designated the recent Rhode Island tragedy "Nightclub Inferno"...I wonder how many nightclubs out there are actually called "Inferno"?

Another random thought: the whole Arab world finds the Palestinean cause to be a rallying point. And I'm not saying the situations are identical, but they also don't want to see a seperate state for the Kurds...Hrmm.

Political Rants of the Moment
The president has laid out his agenda. Call it bold, brilliant, audacious or outrageous. But don't call it "conservative." [...] Fiscal prudence? The keystone of today’s "conservative" agenda is a dedication to tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, even though doing so will increase the deficit. That’s short-term thinking at its worst. Because of those tax breaks, the faltering economy and the war on terrorism, some economists estimate we'll have deficits of $300 billion a year for the foreseeable future. The next generation of Americans will bear the burden of that debt.
--TomPaine.com, a few weeks ago.

"Suppose you had a friend who was grossly overweight for years but lately had been looking very trim. Suddenly, though, he puts on 30 or 40 pounds and is waddling around like his old porcine self. He explains that he's found a marvelous new diet: 'You eat like a pig and stop exercising until you get so fat that you just have to lose weight.' Would you say that your friend is kidding himself?"
--Slate.com's The George W. Diet: Lose unsightly pounds by eating like a pig.

I think the problem is that for so long we've assumed that conservatives were Machiavellian, that we get some real Machiavellians in there, we assume they're conservative.


News Link of the Moment
When greed, gullibility, and rage collide: Nigerian Diplomat Slain Over "419" Scam, in Prague.

Quote of the Moment
"I'm mad about being old and I'm mad about being American. Apart from that, OK."
--Kurt Vonnegut when asked how he's doing. Currently, I understand that "mad about being American" part.

where4 rt thou r0me0?

(1 comment)
February 23, 2003

Drama of the Moment
> I have yet to find a way to have a whole
> conversation in emoticons

Fah. I can rewrite "Romeo & Juliet" in emoticons.

Romeo: :(
Juliet: :(
Romeo: :)
Juliet :)
Romeo: :pppppppp
Juliet: :00000000
Romeo & Juliet: 0=o 0=o 0=o 0=o
Romeo: :)))))))))))))
Juliet: :)))))))))))
Romeo: :|
Juliet: :|
Juliet: :0 <----[]
Juliet: x(
Romeo: :((((((((((
Romeo: :( ---||-
Romeo x( ___
Juliet: :((((((((
Juliet :( ---||-
Juliet x( ___

THE END

--Dan on aus.culture.gothic.

Quote of the Moment
"It's really amazing how incredibly fast life goes. Boom! You're born. You go through life, meeting troubles along the way, but you overcome those troubles, and you have a blast. And before you know it, you're dead. If that ain't beauty, I don't know what is."
Arjay Flecher via therosser.com

Article of the Moment
War in Iraq and hands off Israel; welcome to the current administration and the age of self-fulfilling Biblical prophecy. (Wow, maybe God diddled with the Florida vote record Himself as an instrument of His will; or maybe He moved in mysterious ways to set up and preserve the ridiculous Electoral College all those years ago, just so we can get where we are today.)

but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines

(1 comment)
February 24, 2003

Fable of the Moment
Once upon a time, there was a very special lemming named Norm. Norm was a born leader. His colony would do anything he did. Those who did "deviate from the Norm" were banished.
Then, one day, a grave danger threatened the colony: The weasels were coming! The calm resolve in Norm's voice stilled the rising tumult: "To the cliffs!" The colony followed him without hesitation.
And all were lost in the cold, cold sea. All except those who had refused to follow Norm...they were devoured by weasels.
MORAL:
Go ahead and blindly trust your leaders. We're all doomed anyway.
--Paraphrased from a Time Egan 'Deep Cover' cartoon: ASAP's Fables: "A-Moral-a-Minute".

Game Theory of the Moment
Slashdot linked to a Slate piece about research on Game Theory at NASCAR...there are deeper strategies than you might think going on as they go around and around and around and around, but still, I think the main reason people watch is the hope that somebody crashes and not the deep brinkmanship going on.

Sidebar Commentary of the Moment
Hrrm, I wonder if Dylan might be pregnant.

Exchange of the Moment
"Are you suggesting even if we find Mr. Amrine is actually innocent, he should be executed?"
"That's correct, your honor."
--Judge Laura Denvir Stith and prosecutor assistant state attorney general Frank A. Jung, from this NY Times Article. Woohoo! The death penalty rocks!

boys named sue

(3 comments)
February 25, 2003

Chutzpah of the Moment
"Two men who have sat on juries in notoriously litigation-friendly Jefferson County, MS, filed a lawsuit against the TV program 60 Minutes, claiming that they were defamed in a segment about Mississippi juries' generosity. Anthony Berry was on a jury that gave out $150 million in an asbestos case, and Johnny Anderson was on one that awarded $150 million in a diet drug case, and both say the 60 Minutes segment made the juries seem so extravagent that they must be getting kickbacks. The two men's lawsuit (filed in Jefferson County, of course) asks for more than $6 billion."
--News of the Weird, collected by Chuck Shepherd. Now THAT is chutzpah.

Image of the Moment
--Erich and Elfriede Roihl, August 16 1941. Elfriede recently passed away after a long struggle with alzheimers. Erich's unwavering love for her over the decades is really clear. This photo was taken on their wedding day...it was wartime in Germany, it's interesting to try to read the emotional undertones of the photo.

Slashdot of the Moment
Heh, my alma mater Tufts got mentioned on Slashdot, some students were acting as spam relays for $20/month.

waitin' for the end of time

(4 comments)
February 26, 2003

Alleged Quote of the Moment
"We will export death and violence to the four corners of the earth in defense of this great country and rid the world of evil."
--George W Bush, allegedly. I've also seen it attributed to a "random CIA person", which makes me wonder. More on the administration, and whether they might be aiming for bringing on the end of the world.

Comic Strip Quote of the Moment
"So our government says we're running a huge deficit of 199 billion dollars. But our president says being in the red will lead to economic prosperity, pushing more tax cuts and a bigger deficit."
"Apparently, red is the new black this season."
--Hillary Price, Rhymes with Orange (Tuesday)

Eyebending Link of the Moment
ASCII art stereograms. I'm really glad they chose green on black on the webpage, when you refocus your eyes and the 3Dness comes out, it's like you're entering the Matrix. Not recommended if you don't have a good monitor...

Boring Quote and Link of the Moment
"If people felt bored before the late 18th century, they didn't know it."
--Patricia M. Spacks, author of "Boredom: The Literary History of a State of Mind", on how the word boredom didn't even exist until about 1850.
The quote is from an excellent article from latimes.com's calendarlive, Is boredom bad?. It's worth reading through to the end, where it starts talking about how seeking novelty might not be the best solution to boredom.
I know I'm very frequently driven by novelty seeking behavior, but on the other hand sometimes at work I find a lot of satisfaction in the coding tasks that others might find dull and repetitive.

jobbed

(3 comments)
February 27, 2003

"Unemployment", as in the checks you receive when you're out of work, is actually unemployment insurance, right? You get premiums deducted out of your paycheck, and all that? I wonder if anyone's every thought about trying to privatize that, if it could ever possibly work. I suppose some people would have to pay higher rates based on their layoff history, or the economy in general. It seems like that might suck. I guess "unemployment" is like the main bit of the social safety net I depend on.

Mo mentioned her company is planning on doing some of that outsourcing to India for an upcoming feature system on the site, looking to her to plan out the thing in excruciating detail. Man, are code monkeys that expensive? All the difficult work is that detailed planning...in fact, you should try not to overplan so you can apply a more interative approach. Anyway, this passage has been on my mind lately:
When I was a teenager, there were some explicit directions on life-saving for swimmers. The first rule was surprising to us young idealists: *never* swim out to save a person your own size or larger without a life-preserver, because a large percentage of panicked, drowning people will use the rescuer as a flotation device, and they will hold the rescuer's whole body under water to raise themselves. It stops working after the rescuer drowns, of course.
So we have U.S/Canada business managers sending away the jobs that would keep their neighbors employed and their own nation solvent - because after all, there's a profit to be made, briefly, until the whole economy begins to drown, and these oh-so-clever guys try to use each other as economic flotation devices.
The truly rich, of course, are already using the whole mass of us as a flotation device.
That was from this Usenet post. The metaphor is striking, though it kind of breaks down if you try to think about the mapping two much.

I guess that's not the kind of work I really want be doing anyway, that big system, well specified stuff, that I'd like to gear myself more at the "boutiquey" kind of thing, but its a disturbing trend. The danger is if we farm out too much to the third world, wages for both will slowly trend towards the mean, and we'll end up looking a lot more third world ourselves. (Yeesh, I never would have thought I was gonna be espousing such a "So Buy American" viewpoint.)

Image of the Moment
The past's vision of the Executive of the future...this is a piece by Boris Artzybasheff, more cool stuff by him at that link.


Farewell of the Moment
"I think everybody longs to be loved and longs to know that he or she is lovable. And, consequently, the greatest thing that we can do is to help somebody know that they are loved and capable of loving."
--Mr. Rogers, who just passed away. My respect for this guy has only grown over the past few years, as I've heard him speak about the philosophy behind his style and his life in general. Voice of America offers a nice profile. Also, check out the small song of his I quote on this old journal page, about the fourth from the bottom, which he thought summarized some of the most important stuff to express to children.

Tufts News of the Moment
The Elder Bush spoke at my alma mater Tufts yesterday. There were some protests, which I think is only appropriate. I'm not sure if it's because he's a decade older or because he didn't have his old cosmetic staff, but he looked old in the television footage. Also, he kind of looks like Will Rogers.

i am not a bot...i am a hu-man

(18 comments)
February 28, 2003

Quote of the Moment
"I don't think bots are the problem... I've had several online conversations which I'd assumed were chat-bots but turned out to be real people. I guess when Turing designed his test, he probably didn't anticipate the massive advances in human stupidity that we've witnessed in the last few decades"
--Sheriff Fatman, from this Slashdot board about the Salon.com article Artificial Stupidity (which has a second part as well.) The Turing tests say, basically, if someone who tries can't tell a typing computer from a typing human, than it's not reasonable to argue that we haven't achieved Artificial Intelligence. Putting that simple test into practice has proved problematic, as the Salon article goes on about.

Link of the Moment
High concept: songlines of NYC, merging concepts of aboriginal landmark songs with linking and footnoting. I guess it's likely to work a bit better for NYC thanks to the grid like layout of Manhattan...

Arcade of a Past Moment
A moment of respectful silence, if you would, for the recent demise of "Midway Games West"--the last incarnation of the arcade division of Atari games. This Gamespy article counts down the top ten, and ends by mentioning another ten classics the company brought to life to eat the quarters right out of your pocket. I think Atari will always be more known for the at home fun of the 2600, but I had forgotten how much arcade goodness they brought to the world.