2003 April❮❮prevnext❯❯

april pools

So, I'm braced for a barage of bad April 1 hoaxes today...couldn't be bothered to come up with one for any of my sites though.


I think we all agree, the past is over.
This is still a dangerous world.
It's a world of madmen and uncertainty
and potential mental losses.

Rarely is the question asked
Is our children learning?
Will the highways of the Internet become more few?
How many hands have I shaked?

They misunderestimate me.
I am a pitbull on the pantleg of opportunity.
I know that the human being and the fish can coexist.
Families is where our nation finds hope, where
our wings take dream.

Put food on your family!
Knock down the tollbooth!
Vulcanize Society!
Make the pie higher! Make the pie higher!

by George W. Bush + Richard Thompson
Real GWB quotes compiled and arranged by Washington Post writer Richard Thompson. It seems like a frivolous thing to bring up during wartime, but I'm sick of looking at it at the top of my backlog, and April Fool's seems as good a day as any, better than most, for it.

"It's a world of madmen and uncertainty", indeed.

Web Statistics of the Moment
Bill pointed to a cool feature at Alexa--you can get the ranking for your website. Alienbill.com is a lowly 3,434,359, kisrael.com is a lot better at 565,431, and loveblender.com just rocks at 108,194. Now I know how authors tracking their Amazon ranking must feel...(which isn't too surprising, it is an Amazon company.) What worries me slightly is that the page for kisrael grabbed a random e-mail from my guestbook from 2000 as the owner info...maybe I should look into that.

Bad News of the Moment
All right! Don't have enough to worry about? Maybe it's not just Gulf War 2--maybe we have Recession: the sequel to go along with it. Maybe. Or maybe the last one never quite ended. Though "W-shaped recession" has such a nice ring to it.

It's still the economy, stupid. You didn't want to give the inspections teeth, you stood against a world united against war, and right now I don't believe it's making us safer in the short or long term. And now we all have to pay the price.

And the worst part is, I wouldn't be shocked if Bush gets re-elected. Come on, Dems. Put up someone we can get excited about. And Nader, stay the hell out of it. You can't tell me there's no difference among the "reublicrats".

Useless Link of the Moment
Dying to know the latest weird snack foods in and around London? Your fervent hopes have been answered, in spades. Interesting little writeups.

blue pill, red pill, whatever

Quote of the Moment
--You know what my first big problem with [the Matrix] was? Why use only humans as your energy source? Why didn't we see pods with elk, or some higher-metabolism life form that's easier to please, like puppy dogs? They wouldn't even need some fancy-pants simulated world; just give 'em a loop of chasing rabbits and having their bellies scratched and you've quelled all possible chance of rebellion!
Of course geeks love to point out that there's no way you would get more regular electricity from people than you'd need to feed and take care of them. On the other hand, this slashdot article about people who want to process turkey guts into high grade oil is something that's a lot more plausible...I could just see the evil robots squeezing humans for their juices, acne-ridden greasy geeks a specialty.

Link of the Moment
Mr. Wong's Soup'partments are an exercise in collaborative pixel design...very cool.


Image of the Moment

--American Soldiers through the years, a cellar.org Image of the Day, from a previous pro-war demonstration in Denver.

Spoken Word Lyrics of the Moment
If the Drum is a Woman
don't abuse your drum, don't abuse your drum,
don't abuse your drum
I know the night is full of displaced persons
I see skins striped with flames
I know the ugly dispositions of underpaid clerks
they constantly menstruate through the eyes
I know the bitterness embedded in flesh
the itching alone can drive you crazy
I know that this is America and the chickens are
coming home to roost on the
MX missile.

But if the Drum is a Woman
Why are you choking your drum
Why are you raping your drum
Why are you saying disrespectful things to
your mother drum, your sister drum, your wife
drum, your infant daughter drum
your Drum is a Woman
so don't reject your drum
don't try to dominate your drum
don't become weak and cold and desert your
don't be forced into the position
as an oppressor of drums
Jayne Cortez on Ubaka Hill's "ShapeShifters".
(Mo's mom wanted to know if we wanted this cool tall bongo, and I always love percussion, so we said yes. She also gave us some CDs, including this one, but most of the percussion on the CDs is just kind of loping rhythms that fills in all the spaces, not the cool reserved funk that I really like.) Anyway, I thought these lyrics were really-- uh-- something. It's even better when you hear it out loud.

Comments Board Feedback of the Moment
Today: I don't think a "pro-war" rally is as warmongering as you make out. Even if it's not just a "support our troops (and our president)" kind of event, I suspect that very very few people will say war is fun or good or their first option, but they might think it's the correct option in this case, given how we perceive our interests and Saddam's threat. I don't agree with that, but I don't mock people for showing up to support that tradition.
Wednesday: Eric, "pixel design" is just my term for that style (that Mr. Wong's Soup'partments are in)...in general, it's marked by use of a small amount of colors, and is often in a 3/4 perspective with a lot simple surfaces. Jason Mohr who did a lot of work on the old Word.com site used it there (click on Works, then Word.com or sissyfight under 2000.) Jason designed pixeltime, which inspired me to try doing more of that (scroll down past the 'photorealistic' stuff.) There are some other fun examples of the style at Flip Flop Flyin', especially the "minipops".
I'd say the style has some of its roots in video games, especially the NES and SNES era. I think MegaMan is a great example of it, and here are some previously posted MegaMan Kirk and MegaMan Mo images I made.
Sunday: Deevaa, drop me a line, maybe I can get you copies of those mixes.

the fix is on

Quote of the Moment
The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong, it usually turns out to be impossible to get at or repair.
Douglas Adams. That is actually a pretty profound statement about fault-tolerant engineering.

Sound Collection of the Moment
Had to get a new mail notification sound, because at work people's new computers make the same sound mine was. I found this Clay's Sound Emporium, which is cool (especially the oddities page) because it gives a bit of context to each of the sounds. (If you're wondering, I chose "Special Ed of Crank Yankers" going "I've got mail, yaaaaaaay!" from the "Mail Call" page, though I cut it down to just one exclamation.)

Article of the Moment
Retail Athroplogy...a guy who closely studies what we do when we enter a store, and works with retailers accordingly; we tend to take some yards before refocusing on a store we enter, we tend to turn to the right, woman stop browsing if they're touched or bumped from behind, etc. (Note that the article is from 1996, so when it talks about these difficult days for retail, it's not what you might be thinking economy-wise.) It's a little scary, not not too bad. I'd like to find out where Mo and I would fall in one of the "typing" systems mentioned in section 4.

Arts and Crafts of the Moment
3.5" floppy disc origami! Well, sort of. Make the Starship Enterprise! I guess if you made 6 of these, you could then use the plastic shells as the basis of your own Borg cube. And you could probably think of something geeky to do with the black shiny circle part, call it a small moon or new type of weapon or something.

Linguistic Sidenote of the Moment
A woman at work who moved here from Pittsburgh is amazed at how often New Englanders say "I'm all set." I think usually it's the response to "Do you need anything?" but I hadn't noticed how often I use it. Kind of a funny little phrase, actually.

ice ice baby

(1 comment)
An observation that's going to sound really stupid: I'm always surprised at how powerful ice cubes can be, at least when you use enough of them. Seriously, it's counterintuitive to me that I can pour hot coffee over ice and it's almost instantly made cool. I guess I've always thought of ice as something good for keeping an already cold drink cold, not for actualling making a qualitative change in the temperature of something.

Quote of the Moment
The mome rath isn't born that could outgrabe me!
I used to have that poem well-memorized, I should work to get it down pat again.

War Quote of the Moment
Everybody smile.
Colonel Chris Hughes
Colonel Hughes brilliantly managed to defuse a tense situation with Iraqi locals who were concerned we were going to invade a mosque. According to a guy on NPR, he ordered his men to go down on one knee, point their weapons down, and smile. It worked! If only more of a foreign policy took its cue from that kind of smart and humble tactic...

spring forward baby!

So all this week, I've done basically nothing in the evening but play through the new "Legend of Zelda" game, The Wind Waker, the one with the new cool cartoony style. Peterman, who got it for me for my birthday, asked if I was like that because it was such a compelling game or my borderline obsessive-compulsive disorder. Some of each.

It was fun to get through, but still, I think after the Grand Theft Auto series, this kind of game seems very linear, you're more or less guided from one puzzle to another, and once you've finished the story, there's not much to do, except for some of the sidequests you may have skipped...but GTA3, you go through a story overlayed on a rich world with a cool physics model, so there's always more to do. And the whole lawless morality free mayhem is kind of fun too.

Oh yeah--time to set your clocks forwards! Yay! Long evenings are here again!

Flash Toys of the Moment
Pull My Finger, Popping Clouds, Ikindemix, and some other Flash Toys from Rafael Rozendaal.

Ad of the Moment
Almost hypnotic real life Rube Goldberg contraption commercial from Honda of the UK; a slow download here, but worth it.

if at second you don't succeed, give up

(1 comment)
Quote of the Moment
It is better to have tried and failed than to have failed to try, but the result's the same.
Mike Dennison.
I think I disagree with this statement; the result is the same only in the context of yes/no, did the thing get completed. Much of the surrunding situation can be very different based on whether the thing was attempted and what form the failure took.
And whether it's better to try or not to try...I dunno, I think one of my bigger personality flaws is that I'd rather not give something a whirl and know I'm bad at it then give it a shot and know that it's beyond me.

Encyclopedia Brown of the Moment
A guys blog prevented him getting taken in by a relationship based on baldfaced lies and manipulation. What's interesting is the geekiness of the final "trick question" he pulls on her. Kind of scary that there are people out there like that woman. (busted link, try Wayback Machine Archive)

Link of the Moment
A pretty big page with a bunch of optical illusions.

Tribute of the Moment
Brief salon.com piece on Seasame Street as it begins its 34th season. Huh, kind of odd to think it's only 5 years older than I am, that it's not one of those eternal things.

Article of the Moment
Some background and information on that most lovely and rewarding habit of ours, Daylight Saving Time. I wish it was all year 'round! The interactive flash on the Rationale & Original Idea page is especially cool, and even informative. Benjamin Franklin really was a genius.

you can't see me! you can't see me!

Grrr. Sick of dragging my PS2 around I get a Wireless Ethernet Bridge. Works for like 5 minutes and now my Wireless Router is dead. All Linksys stuff too, which previously seemed pretty good. (Comments Feedback: Bozo, yeah, we've had a good experience with our Linksys router up until this... I don't know how another Linksys product killed but it seems as if that's just what happened.)

Link of the Moment
Making the rounds is that picture of the guy in the "real time camouflage" rainjacket, with a projector that puts a view of the scene behind him in front of him. I hadn't previously seen this movie page, which is a quite a bit more impressive.

Vocabulary of the Moment
Maybe this class of vehicle should be called FUVs.
Gregg Easterbrook on the Hummer and its ilk
from this New Republic piece. (via this Slate.com article on commercials for the behemoths.)

Geek History of the Moment
The author of VisiCalc speaks. VisiCalc was the first spreadsheet program. Interesting for a certain type of history-minded geek. (Also see a more comprehensive history page. Note that they didn't go for a patent, because software patents were extremely rare those days. How times have changed.)

Quote of the Moment
"While the topography of the human face is the hardest to simulate digitally, it turns out to be one of the easiest to map photogrammetrically. It has fewer shadows and occlusions than, say, the city of Paris. The language of the face communicates maximum information through the subtlest inflections. The interfaces of our souls are designed to be read in a heartbeat."
Great article.

he'd walk a mile to smoke a camel

(1 comment)
War Images of the Moment
Boston Globe: "Staff Sergeant Chad Touchett enjoyed a cigarette [Monday] in a presidential palace in Baghdad." Man, I'm almost surprised they let such a blatant "pro-smoking" message through...

Silhouette of former SAS commando Andy McNab from this CNN interview on that restaurant strike. Good interview (even though now they're saying he Saddam got away) but the image is here because, at least on LCD monitors, I'm fascinated at how "3D" the right side of the background looks, like one of those strangely filtered/refracted books I had when I was a kid.

News Commentary of the Moment
Talk and News radio was kind of odd on my commute this morning...live coverage from Baghdad, and in some cases it seemed like it was the audio feed of tv reporting. "Stick a fork in it, it's done" was the general tone, emphasizing the celebratory nature of the Marines (who may have out maneuvered the Army forces on the PR front) in the center of town.

So things seem to be going a lot better than they did a week and a half ago, and the city fighting isn't as bad as some of the earlier guerilla attacks would have suggested. Still, NPR has a lot of coverage of the humanitarian disaster in the making; we really need to get our acts together in terms of medical supplies, food, and water. Also, there's a lot of fighting left to go.

And all this celebrating...I mean, there's good cause to be happy that our guys are going to be safe sooner rather than later, and that maybe we really can help Iraq become something better for its people and the world, but it almost feels like the radio's playing up the good news (and in really smarmy ways sometimes, waiting outside the apartment of the Iraqi ambassador to the UN) and obscuring some of the bad news of the moment: doubts about Osama's and Saddam's fates, an economy grinding its gears yet again.

And for me, some doubts still remain. We always thought the war was going to be somewhat easy, and the peace rather hard. And the jury is still out on if in the long run, this makes us more safe or less safe--hopefully the lack of major terrorist activity in the meanwhile, despite calls by clerics and others to have just that, is a positive sign.

Link of the Moment
Have you seen the dullest blog in the world?

the supremes and the soldiers

Links of the Moment
Sometimes it's interesting to be able to go back straight to the raw source, even if that's a lot of reading. Cases in point, this Supreme Court site has good search and browse facilities on all of the opinions of the court. You can read some of the famous cases or browse on subject matters that interest you. And the other night Gowen mentioned the official Pentagon site, where you can see direct transcripts from all the briefing, as well as other new releases.

Funny of the Moment
"The infidels are being crushed by our noble falling-statue forces! Soon our mighty desecrated posters of Saddam will expel the invaders!"
Speculation on what the Iraqi Information Minister will sayfrom the latest page of Get Your War On.

nobody's home, no-bo-dy's home...

Link of the Moment
Pretty amazing Flash work Nobody Here...it's like a huge bunch of HTML and Flash toys in one, and in thought provoking arrangements. I've only barely scratched the surface on the amount of content here.

Quote of the Moment
"Give a man a fish; he'll be surprised. Teach him how to fish; he'll be slightly afraid. Use him as bait; he'll cack his pants."
The League Against Tedium

Article of the Moment
Slate.com had an insightful article on how there are and always will be lingering questions about the final result of the war, that it isn't the simple pure and obvious victory that the celebratory Hawks want to pitch it as. They also had another good read basically asking how did our armed forces get so good?.

Geekery of the Moment
"Some kinds of waste really are disgusting. SUVs, for example, would arguably be gross even if they ran on a fuel which would never run out and generated no pollution. SUVs are gross because they're the solution to a gross problem. (How to make minivans look more masculine.)"
Paul Graham
That's a tangent from him speculating on computer languages 100 years from now, and thinking that Java might be a bit of a dead end, in terms of not leaving descendents. (Though what is Microsoft's C#, then?)

the return of alien bill

Some mostly server-related changes in the works for this site. I've secured the domain kirkjerk.com and eventually it will point to this site...and hopefully gradually become the canonical name. Though I'm doing some server migrations, so for now it's just a test site, since I need to see if my scripts will work for this site and the loveblender.

Also you might notice a small change at the header of this page. I've decided that having a headshot at the top of one's website, even a very stylized b+w one, is kind of lame. I've always called Alien Bill my signature sketch, and now he's returning to his rightful place. (Also, I plan to roll alienbill.com into this site, so since he's losing his frontpage I thought he deserved this.)

Let me know what you think! My comments pages have been lonely lately.

Found Poem of the Moment
Ria and the loveblender software.
When she submitted this poem, she likely mistook a special "title" field for a "comments" field, which the 'blender munged into a filename like you see here, though I've added linebreaks. The filename broke winzip, but as a poem I think it has a certain breathless beauty.

Toys of the Moment
Dang, why didn't they have these tiny R/C fightin' tanks when I was growing up? Or in time for my latest birthday? (via slashdot)

Recipe Typo of the Moment
"Place first 5 ingredients in a large owl"
Mo is highly amused by her own typo in a copy of a recipe for lemonade cake.

rock on

Rock of the Moment

Back when I was around 6 or so, my dad brought me this rock he had found on a walk. We were living in Salamanca, NY, near the Seneca nation of Indians, and we thought the imprints on it might be American Indian related. The folks at the Seneca Museum said no, it was likely more a fossil of old life. I never quite believed it, but now that I think about it, It would be a kind of random thing for an Indian to inscribe, even a group that used bows to hunt.

Quote of the Moment
"Be not ashamed of yielding to televised golf's soporific power. Stay keen to the drama, but don't be shy about letting the commentary and pace waft you to lotus land during those slow, four-hour Saturdays and Sundays when the also-rans are stumbling by and the announcers are still trying to get excited. Some of my fondest golf-on-TV memories involve me waking up with a startled slurp thanks to a roar from the gallery."
Before this, I had zero urge to watch, but the way he puts it makes it seem almost Zen-like.

Article of the Moment
Another, more topical Slate piece, a warning: Christian Fundies stay the hell out of Iraq. Interestng use of bible refrences at the end.

Link of the Moment
The Institute of Official Cheer reviews Big Little Books, ungodly lame hybrid of novels and comics. (Via a letter on Gone and Forgotten, funny, funny reviews of terrible comics.)

tea...in the FUTURE!

Movies of the Moment
Making the rounds, High Tea, astronauts eating tea with chopsticks. Surface tension in action!
Snippet of the Moment
The earliest story I kept a copy of was, I had thought, sophisticated, for I'd had the inspiration to lay it in Paris. I wrote it on my new typewriter, and its opening sentence was, "Monsieur Boule inserted a delicate dagger into Mademoiselle's left side and departed with a poised immediacy."
One Writer's Beginnings, by Eudora Welty.

News Clipping of the Moment
"The doors of the town house opened to reveal a playboy's fantasy straight from the 1960s: mirrored bedroom, lamps shaped like women, airbrushed paintings of a topless blonde woman and a mustached hero battling a crocodile."
Gotta love it. Almost as much as a swinger as Kim Jong-il!

faint praise

Curse of the Moment
"God damn you with faint praise!"
My new favorite curse to begrudgingly concede to the guy I just lost to, like after a close videogame match. A lot more fun than "good game, I guess."

Nudity of the Moment
Naked is a non-prurient Flash art piece about people and their uncovered bodies. (Contains people naked, so don't go if that offends you. Or if you can only stand to look at gorgeous models nude.) The voiceovers with people talking about body issues, along with an odd little control scheme, remind me strongly of traditional art installations.

Geekery of the Moment
404 Research Labs, everything about the error you get when the webserver can't find the file you want. Includes the helpful tip of making sure your custom 404 page is bigger than 512 bytes, otherwise IE5 might decide to show its own custom page instead, the jerks.

Conspiracy of the Moment
Latest rumor in the Arab world? Baghdad didn't fall--it was handed over, in a secret deal to keep Baath party officials alive and prevent what was a likely bloodbath. Can't say I disapprove if that is what happened.


(1 comment)
Quote of the Moment
"The most horrible sound in the world is that of a hand smacking the bottom of a ketchup bottle..."
Alfred Hitchcock

Image and Link of the Moment
This image is from an article on MRI imaging of sex. They're making some interesting physiological discoveries, missionary and rear-entry positions have things arranged quite differently. I like this pic, and wish I could see more, and not just for the usual voyeuristic reasons... I take back everything I've sad bad about the French! (Like: "We can count on the French to be there when they need us.")
MetaFilter had a more technical article with more pictures, all of them rather clinical--plus, there's this interview with one of the participants.

you oughta be in pictures

Link for Erin of the Moment
Erin (who's in filmschool even as we speak) might like this link if she hasn't seen it already, FilmFour.com's "masterclass", brief but informative overviews of some the most important film directors. (It's where yesterday's Hitchcock quote came from.) I like the Q+A format, "Why should we care?" "What do they tell you at film school?" "Who did he sleep with?"

Quote of the Moment
Here's to Pure Mathematics! May it never be of any use to anybody.
"The Cambridge Toast", or "G.H.Hardy", or somebody. The actual attribution isn't quite clear.

Playing Cards of the Moment
CNN has a few of those Iraqi leadership playing cards. Kind of cool to see, but I wonder about the usefulness of it...is it going to make it that much easier to recognize these guys?

Technology of the Moment
Just what I've always said we needed: minefields that think! (A Flash presentation, no less.) With individual mines that can hop! What fun!
I guess there might, perversely, be a humanitarian benefit to this; the text claims this lets them "defend" a minefield with resorting to Anti-personnel mines, which I guess is nice of them. A little.

Small Irony of the Moment
After glancing at a Wired article on the Supreme Court's Tasini decision (that said publishers owed new royalties to freelancers when those works are made available online, thus causing tons of publishers to make those works unavailable rather than shell out) I decided to use that recently kisrael'd Surpreme Court website to look up the case...ironically enough, that page is missing and not available online. Mmm, self-referential court rulings presentations.

wishful thinking

(1 comment)
Quote of the Moment
"I don't want to be young again, I just don't want to get any older."
Though I dunno, having a bit less freedom but a lot less responsibility was kind of nice...

Link of the Moment
Slate on the mathematics of marriage, a guy who seems 85% able to figure out if a couple is going to make it or not...hmmm, I wonder how early in a relatinship his technique seems to be effective? (Heh, also on Slate: the news you might've missed a month ago today, what with the war starting and all.)

Fetish of the Moment
My name is Ulrich Haarbürste and I like to write stories about Roy Orbison being wrapped up in cling-film. Oddly innocent and straightforward short stories. Strange world, if it's not just an odd joke.


Joke of the Moment
I've started making my own ice coffee pretty much every morning. (I've already written about my new found admiration for the power of ice...) It saves me a buck or two, and the quality is more consistent. Anyway, lately every morning it makes me think of this joke:

"Waitress, this coffee is awful! It tastes like mud!"
"Well, it was just ground this morning..."


Link of the Moment
Block Death: A Museum of Horrors where Lego minifigs meet their untimely demises. Be sure to use the little arrows to view the scenes from different angles (and/or moments in time.) Those poor little yellow dudes hardly ever know what hits 'em.

Small Business of the Moment
Via Bill, Would you pay a buck to see one million toothpicks? I would! This is a really cool idea.
I remember a book my sixth grade math teacher had, with a thousand pages of a thousand dots each, with many important numeric milestones and world records on the way to a million labeled. But with the toothpicks, you can see every one at once, and that really is something.

i think worms need hands


--Mo found this little fella when were out removing foreign material from the garden bed.

Science of the Moment
Question/Title: How do worms dig without hands?
Purpose: To find out how worms dig.
Hypothesis: I think worms need hands.
Materials: I used dirt, worms, a container and dead leaves.

1. I got my materials.
2. I put the worms in the container.
3. I looked to see what had happened every other day.
Results/Observations: On day one worms were on the top of the dirt. On day three they were halfway through. On day five they were on the bottom of the container.
Conclusion: Worms don't need hands. My hypothesis was incorrect. They eat their way through the ground.
An experiment by benjamin. Actually, many of the other fourth grade Science Fair '99 entries are way too cute, like "airplanes", and others have a base of good science, like "solids and liquids" and "erosion".

Article of the Moment
Slashdot linked to this set of pages about the United State's prop-planes they would loft a nuclear weapon onto its target. Brave guys in those...actually, the parent site of that page has a lot of cool stuff about military aviators.

meaning of life, etc

Quote of the Moment
...In essence this fellow is looking for all there is of life. The great questions for a man are what to do about his time and his passion, and where to find friends and money to live them with. When he's found the right answers, he's got all four legs a man needs to walk on. Could anything be more interesting or important?
-O. Widsith Amergin Demodocus...Boyan Taliesin Golias

Link of the Moment
ForumFlames, images to add heat with no light to any online discussion. (Some swearing etc.)

Outrage of the Moment
Their most pressing problem was the breast-feeding picture, which the indictment characterized as sexual, "to wit; actual lewd exhibition of...a portion of the female breast below the top of the areola, and the said defendant did and then employ, authorize and induce Rodrigo Fernandez, a child younger than 18 years of age, to engage in said sexual conduct and sexual performance." In other words, says Chatham, the act of simulated breast-feeding, captured on film, was being portrayed as a sex act. "They're saying the guy who took the picture is a sicko and wanted a photo of this to satisfy his sexual desire."
Really disturbing news story about a family who are having to defend themselves from pedophilia charges.
The tactics the prosecutors are using sound really slimey, it seems like a real witch hunt. The kid in the picture shown had already been weaned, but still; clearly, if you're not using a digital camera (or Polaroids) already, be careful what you bring to the film stop...

Video of the Moment
Nina Paley's Fetch! is a great romp of messing with perspective and some classic optical illusions. Plus it has a puppy.

when t-rexes stomped the earth

Comic of the Moment
Qwantz.com - "daily dinosaur comics", the story of a T-Rex, and his Utahraptor buddy. The odd thing is, every comic has the same panel layout, with the cabin and woman stomping and the Utahraptor walking up--only the text and sometimes the backgrounds are different from day to day! Very strange but cool. If you're in a hurry, just check out my favorite.

Oopsie of the Moment
--Some people were upset yesterday at work. Guess you have to be careful how you load those things. Inset is a guy working to make things right.

Quote of the Moment
"Why not?"
--Last words of Timothy Leary.

Article of the Moment
Wired has a piece on Death and Blogs, the entries that are left behind when the blogger dies. Sometimes it hits me that there's probably at least a few people who will first be notified of my death by the fact that my blog stops being updated for a few days. (Don't panic if this blog isn't updated though...while I've been very faithful to it over the past 2 1/2 years, accidents will happen, and only some of them are fatal...) Every once in a while I think I should make a miniprogram that, if my blog isn't updated for like 2 weeks, will assume the worst and post last will and testement farewell kind of stuff. Or I should leave detailed instructions on how I'd like my site to be left, passwords and all that. (I'm hoping to come up with some way of running a perpetual version of my sites by the time I'd need to.)

memoriam: 5307 days

An odd milestone today: I'm exactly twice as old as I was when my dad died, I've now lived for as long without him as I did with him. (I figured that out with my javascript date toy last summer, and then noted it on my palmpilot.)

(For me the calculation is a little weirder than that, since I have this odd theory that I wasn't fundamentally who I am now until sometime during middle school. It's a self-serving rule of thumb, makes me feel less close to "middle aged" than I am.)

With Santa...
My dad was amazing in a lot of ways. Minister, Counted-Cross-Stitcher (at a national competition level), Baker (when we lived in a small town, he'd announce he was baking bread, people would place their order and leave the money on the kitchen table, and on a related note, he never did reveal his double chocolate cookie recipe, or its source, which was a book in the town public library), Furniture Refurbisher, Registered Nurse (when he realized the ministry wasn't for him forever, he started attending a local college to get his degree), Art Collector (prints mostly; a few pieces from his collection were added to the Cleveland Museum of Art's permanent collection), Gardener (in upstate NY he set up a plot for vegetables), Historian/Collector (especially Salvation Army memorabilia). He'd find a new interest, like circus memorabilia, or folk art rugs, or cigar store indians, get some books, and become a bit of an expert on all those topics. He gained an amazing amount of sophisticated culture for a guy from his background, salt of the earth folk in the farm country of Ohio. (It took him a while though, one time on a school trip to the Cleveland Art Museum, he told the teacher "Teacher, you can see her...her things.") He was the epitome of champagne on a beer budget (and knew some accounting tricks to pull that off from studying finance in college). I really think that my appreciation for the finer things suffers tremendously in comparison to his, especially when you compare our backgrounds, all the cultural advantages I've had.

He was sick for 14 months before his death (though, tellingly, I first estimated it at 2-3 years)...Spinal Meningitis that knocked his nervous system, made him half blind and left him with extremely poor coordination and difficult speech. (It also took out his sense of smell...and having been trained as a nurse, his first professional diagnosis was "huh, when you get spinal meningitis, your farts don't smell!") He had been on a road of slow recovery, regaining the ability to walk, relearning how to read, when treatment for a tumor on his left gave him a setback from which he couldn't recover. The saddest moment I know of, my own personal "what to think about if I need quick tears for a stage role", came a few weeks before his death. Word of my grandmother Eva's death had arrived that morning (and, historically, they had not always been on super friendly terms, ever since he managed to polish the anniversary numbers off of her silver--) and I had just gotten up and walked by his bedroom (he was bedridden again) and he was there weeping and weeping. Weeping for Eva, and with a likely foreknowledge of his own passing. Trying to put myself in his place there gives me a sense of horror and foreboding that's hard to comprehend.

He was generous too. He thought it was important for a guy to have a little "scratch" money on him, and would often slip a little something into letters to some of his nephews. Another sad and horrific yet somehow beautiful thing I remember is when he had first gotten ill, had suffered these grand mal seizures, was in the hospital bed, he urged my mom to give me a little money, a five or something. Because of his slurred speech it took a while to understand what he was saying, about how what's supposed to happen is a son goes up to his father, says he needs a little money, and the father takes it out of his wallet and gives it to him. And it took me even longer to get a deeper understanding of what he meant by it.

Favorite Photo Pose
People who knew him then, and me later, say I inherited his sense of humor, and his walk. One time Judy Hill, who knew him back from Coshocton, OH, walked up behind me as I was searching through some sheet music in my church's band room, and she said something in my stance really reminded her of Jim. That really touched me.

I guess some of my biggest regrets are not being able to interact with him after I grew out of my graceless adolescent phases. So much of what I'm proud of in life (getting my act together in school, going to a good college, pulling off neat technological tricks, things I've written and websites I've started, finding and wooing Mo, stumbling into a decent career, settling into my sense of humor, such as it is) have happened since early freshman year in high school... (this ties into that "life begins at 13" theory of mine.) And who knows, maybe if he had been around, I might've been a bit more culturally attuned, not quite the barbarian I am now.

Sigh. More than sigh.

James Edward Israel, 9/9/1949 - 10/10/1988.

physics and biology


Family Anecdote of the Moment
One winter day my mom was driving by then invalid and half blind dad, when they hit a slippery patch and the car wheeled around, eventually almost ramming a wall into the passenger seat...as they where outof control, my mom heard by dad go "oshitoshitoshitoshit" and afterward she was curious:
"Did you just feel the car going out of control, or where you able to see it?"
"Betty, I'm blind, not stupid..."
Just wanted to get that written down, but didn't feel like retroactively editing yesterday's entry. Thanks for all the warm feedback on that.

Funny of the Moment
Hey, it's your old friend Darkness. Dude, give me a call

Article of the Moment
I linked to a higher level Salon piece a week ago, but The Chronicle of Higher Education had a much more detailed and interesting piece about The Mathematics of Marriage. (Enjoyably titled "Every Unhappy Family Has Its Own Bilinear Influence Function") You have to throw in a constant for how happy or unhappy a person is on his or her own (the "uninfluenced steady state"), and then study how they interact with each other in a conversation. Amazing stuff!


In yesterday's comments, "reunion victim" asked if Classmates (.com I assume) was the only way I found out about my class reunion...I don't think so. I made a kind of proactive effort to stay in touch with the official Alumni page, but I think the organizers worked to contact people by e-mail, I don't know if they used classmates.com or something like this page (which I like a little more).

Quote and Link of the Moment
Hey, underpants are a type of pants.
Kind of a choose-your-own-adventure, I haven't played it through very much...

News of the Moment
Huh...they're gonna come out with a new nickel design. I guess we used to have redesigned coins more often than we do now (not counting the 50 state quarters, of course, which I still think are a very cool idea).

Concept of the Moment
Quiet Parties, where there's no talking at all. Interesting idea!

Strangeness of the Moment
So I bought a bag of minisized pretzels, mostly 'cause I like putting mustard on them. And I ate the pretzels. And I was still hungry. Like, not hungry hungry...mouth hungry. Truth be told, I wanted more mustard. You see where this is going?

I now have a new way of eating mustard. You can put a dab on the back of your hand and just lick it off. Preferably when no one is watching. Just be careful the mustard container doesn't spray when you apply it, and get it all off so you don't get yellow patches.

I know, I'm a total freak. But I really like mustard.

that's how *i* want to go


Man, did I watch a stinker of a movie last night at Jim and Sam's Bad Movie Night..."The Black Ninja". A black...err, ninja who drives...you guessed it, a Black Ninja motorcycle. He's a top notch defense attorney who gets suspects free and then kills them. It's either so new or so bad it doesn't show up on IMDB.com! Which is especially odd because it was written/ directed/ starred in by Clayton Prince, who has been in some mainstream stuff incuding the Cosby Show and Third Watch. (And according to a more offical website, the other actors have pretty big credentials as well.) I'm no Bill the Splut when it comes to talking about this kind of stuff, so I'll let kungfucinema.com do the work for those who want to know how bad indy chop-socky can be. Had a good theme song though, kind of a retro-blaxploitation number.

Quote of the Moment
"Gee honey, I don't regret going to college. Why then I might not have married you. What would have become of me then? I would have probably just lived an empty, meaningless existence, ordering hookers and pizza till I dropped dead... ...with a slice in my mouth and a greasy hooter in my hand."
Al Bundy, Married with Children

Cultural Lesson of the Moment
How To Bow is a great and informative flash presentation, going into great detail about Japanese manners at work, home, and while going out. Really informative and thought out, though even the "fast" silent version is rather slowly paced. (Which might be part of the point, I don't know.) I love this kind of cultural stuff. The metafilter conversation where I found the link has some discussion about Western quirks, which I also find interesting. Seems like it would be tough to keep track of everyone's seniority ranking to the extent that they do in Japan, but it might be kind of nice to have a formal system of respect.

old school

Music of the Moment
So, back in the day, someone taught me the blues scale (you can hear it on this page) and that was my basis for a ton of basslines and piano improvisations all during high school. One time, I recorded one of the lines (can't remember its name) for Marcus, a friend from school, who took it to a buddy who had some kind of homestudio and added a (stock?) drumtrack and lower bass part. I've been meaning to get it in digital form for a long time, so here it is, an MP3 taken off an old audio tape:
Jam w/ Marcus, 1286kb, 82 seconds
This is the whole bassline about two times through. (The part I made is the xylophone-sounding part on top, like what the recording starts with) The original recording goes on for like 5 or 6 minutes, and has some interesting cutouts where it's just the drums or just my line, but this is enough to give the idea.

2023 Update (20 years later!) pretty sure the beat was from "Express Yourself" by NWA
Link of the Moment
Not as cool as those guys assembling a million actual toothpicks, the MegaPenny Project helps you think about what different amount of pennies look like, from one to one quintillion.

electricity, e-lec-tricity

So yesterday I went to a workshop run by the Jackal art group. They're into scavanging technology and subverting and repurposing it. The workshop took a while to hit its stride but was good once more participants showed up. I helped make some "stomp pads", electric switches made of cadboard, foil, tape, and foam, that they were wiring up to a PC to do sound effects. (They also had a kids toy electronic guitar wired to video clips of Guitar Gods, so you could play random clips as well as speed the clips up or down.) I also made an LED "light sculpture" for Mo that you see here; 9V battery, battery socket, wire, LEDs. Supposedly if it was just one LED it would be at risk of the LED blowing up, hopefully five should be ok. Man, I hadn't soldered since the gifted and talented special class in fourth grade! (Thanks Ranjit, who passed me word of their Boston Cyberarts workshop; he was thinking about going but decided not to, but dropping his name worked pretty well too.)

Quote of the Moment
"I'm Jewish and I was watching (Tomb Raider) and thinking there are no Jewish video games. Well there's one, Quicken, but that's it."
Kevin Pollack, Late Night with Conan O'Brien

Articles of the Moment
We're at the 25th anniversary of the first e-mail spam, and Brand Templeton has a lot to say on the stuff, including a good quick history of the use of the term. I'm glad I finally got my "whitelist" system working.

bling bling

Paranoia of the Moment
This morning I started thinking about how little intuitive understanding I have of, say, what it costs to run a business. More specifically, even understanding that I'm blessed with an above average salary, if a company has a decent number of people, that's a lot of money. (Conversely, I think there are some costs of living higher on a per-day or per-week basis than I realize, like mortgages, car payments, and even food.) Compared to other things I buy on a day to day basis, it seems like a lot of a lot.

I guess that explains why so many companies fail; you really have to know what you're doing to get a cash flow up to paying the people that you need to do it. Maybe that's why the executives get paid so much; I could see where a really good head honcho could be worth the salaries of, 20 or 30 mere mortals. (Of course, pay is not always commiserate commenserate ("thanks" Gowen and John) with performance, but heck, that's true at all levels of employment.) It still might be a little obscene, but much in life is. (Heh, of course, if all those young bright more-business-oriented-than-me dot-commers didn't really grasp these simple ideas, no wonder we had a dot bomb implosion.)

Ugh! Now I'm paranoid. Obviously the system is somewhat stable; despite the ongoing economic turbulance, I'd say a majority of people I'm friends with are hanging in there, and I could probably make this same argument 10,20, maybe 30 years ago (though 30 brings us into some of the problems the 70s had) but still, it feels a little precarious.

Link of the Moment
Extremely cool site, Starship Dimensons shows the relative sizes of hundreds of scifi vessels, from X-Wings to various flavors of the Enterprise to the ID4 Mothership. Each page is a different scale, from 10 pixels to a meter to 1 pixel to 2000 meters. Plus, on IE, you can drag the ships to do specific side by side comparisons. (They sometimes bring up the ships from a smaller scale to the higher scale for reference...that's where these tiny Star Wars craft are from.) For me, this is tons cooler than that skyscraper page it drew some of its inspiration (and a few borrowed images) from.

Contest of the Moment
Wired.com had some decent coverage of the very cool looking Kinetic Sculpture Race, where artist work to make the bestest art works that can travel over land, water, and mud. "Art Collides With Engineering". The judging criteria (the most coveted award is the "Mediocre Award", for the vehicle that ends up right in the middle) and the other rules are worth a quick read through.


(1 comment)
Game of the Moment
Talk about deconstructing a text! Trigger Happy lets you wrestle with philisophical implications of literature, space invaders style.

News of the Moment
Funny, I can't find much on news.google.com about the "10,000 Iraqi Soldiers Killed" figure NPR was mentioning...a lot more than were killed in the last Gulf War, even though the over all forces on both sides were about half. That's...a lot. And who knows how many of them were forced to fight, and how many of them were fighting to defend their homeland, not the regime itself. Worth it over all? I dunno. (Though Peterman seems to be right when he mentioned the idea floating around that Iraq was partially happening to let us 'gracefully' depart Saudi Arabia without seeming to lose too much face to the extremists who have demanded that.) One thing I do think I know, it sounds like it's too bad our "we're soldiers, not policemen" troops don't have more "less lethal" weapons for dealing with crowds in Iraq. This can't be look good even to Iraqis who support us, even if the crowd was hiding some people with guns. Update: Gowen points out that all of these numbers are suspect. It's really going to be hard to know what the numbers actually were with the two wars.

Quote of the Moment
"Destiny. My destiny! Droll thing life is--that mysterious arrangement of merciless logic for a futile purpose. The most you can hope from it is some knowledge of yourself--that comes too late--a crop of unextinguishable regrets. I have wrestled with death. It is the most unexciting contest you can imagine. It takes place in an impalpable greyness, with nothing underfoot, with nothing around, without spectators, without clamour, without glory, without defeat, in a sickly atmosphere of a tepid scepticism, without much belief in your own right, and still less in that of your adversary. If such is the form of ultimate wisdom, then life is a greater riddle than some of us think it to be."
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (via Ross)

Found Poetry of the Moment
"I would rather be SLAUGHTERED for BEEF than forbidden to bid on your ITEMS!"
I always thought E-bay feedback was kind of odd, with people gushing praise and loading up on "+" signs after the letter "A" like there was no tomorrow, even for rather mundane and unremarkable transactions. But this guy seems to have turned it into a bit of a Dada- (or Kibo-)esque artistic form. Frankly, I think it would be funnier with few more "A+!"s. (Via BoingBoing.net)

2003 April❮❮prevnext❯❯