2004 January❮❮prevnext❯❯

new year filler day 1 (backlog flush #36)

I'll be in Ocean Grove, New Jersey with my family over New Year's, so just in case I've prepublished some of the old backlog. In general, these links try to make up for in quanity what they may lack in quality...otherwise I probably woulda use 'em by now! My backlog is way too big--it starts from mid-April.

Happy New Year!

Lyrics of the Moment
Drove up to the Hillside Manor sometime after two a.m.
And talked a little while about the year
I guess the winter makes you laugh a little slower,
Makes you talk a little lower about the things you could not show her

And it's been a long December and there's no reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better that the last
I can't remember all the times I tried to tell myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass
Counting Crows, "Long December".
I've always loved that bittersweet song.

Backlog Flush of the Moment

new year filler day 2 (backlog flush #37)

Backlog Flush of the Moment

new year filler day 3 (backlog flush #38)


Self-Absorbed Geekery of the Moment
Once again, I spent the past year recording the media I consumed: the movies I saw, the video games I (mostly) finished, the books I read. The results were surpisingly similar to the previous year: a few more books, a few more video games, fewer movies on tv.

Yes, I do realize that this is of very little interest to anyone except me (and not even much of that...I just hate the idea of utterly forgetting what I've experienced) and some hypothetical set of hardcore Kirk Israel groupies. And those theoretical groupies probably already know that you can also see the list for 2002, 2001, and 2000.

Just to make it more interesting, I've emphasized things I thought were really, really good, and you should think about seeing. (Well, stuff that's really good, and everyone hasn't neccesarily heard of.)

Sigh. I am geek. Hear me obsess.

Movies at the Cinema: (8)
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Drumline, Matrix Reloaded, Yellow Asphalt, Spellbound, American Splendor, Matrix: Revolutions, Kill Bill Vol. 1
Movies on Video/DVD: (51)
Mallrats, Spiderman, Y Tu Mama Tambien, Princess Mononoke, Citizen Kane, South Park, Lost and Delirous, Casablanca, Artificial Intelligence, Evil Toons, Reign: The Conqueror, Final Stab, Time Bandits, Can't Hardly Wait, Thumb Wars, True Romance, Spirited Away, Roger Dodger, The Black Ninja, The Princess Bride, Henry and June, The Matrix, How To Lose A Guy in Ten Days, Do You Wanna Know A Secret, Office Space, Slums of Beverly Hills, Kissing Jessica Stein, Bend It Like Becham, Punch Drunk Love, The Ring, Sex and Lucia, Jackass: The Movie, Dark City, Young Frankenstein, Ice Age, Dragonfly, Hero, Ladyhawke, Yellowbeard, Duets, Kentucky Fried Movie, They Live, Old School, One Hour Photo, Monster's Ball, Terminator 3, Christmas Vacation, Life & Adventures of Santa Claus, The New Legend of Shao Lin, X2, The Hours
Movies on TV (20)
Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Passing Glory, Cable Guy, Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever, Shallow Hal, Saving Silverman, Behind Enemy Lines, My Cousin Vinnie, White Men Can't Jump, Swingers, Waterworld, Crazy/Beautiful, Bourne Identity, Monsters, Inc., About A Boy, Jackie Chan: My Stunts, Robocop 3, Foul Play, The Last Starfighter, Scorpion King
Video Games (20)
Seek & Destroy, Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Grand Theft Auto 3, Rogue Squadron 2: Rogue Leader, Starcraft, Wario Ware, Metroid Fusion, Advance Wars 2, Timesplitters, Half Life, Diddy Kong Racing, Battletanx Global Assault, Luigi's Mansion, Rocket: Robot on Wheels, Rogue Squadron 3: Rebel Strike, Halo, Bangai-O, Jet Set Radio Future, Mario Kart: Double Dash, Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Books (45)
The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down To Size, The Sky Road, Skipping Towards Gomorrah, Lucky Wander Boy, The Floating World, Extreme Encounters, Masters of Doom, Pure Drivel, Norwegian Wood, The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect, Kavalier & Clay, Lords and Ladies, Carry on, Jeeves, If on a winter's night a traveller, The Salmon of Doubt, Into The Woods, Sourcery, The Diary of Adam and Eve, A Galaxy Not So Far Away, Creation: Life and How to Make It, Stupid Cupid, 101 Philosophy Problems, Insights, Vast, The Ultimate History of Video Games, Time Enough For Love, War Autobiography/Rememberance, Bodies In Motion And At Rest, The Electric Meme: A New Theory of How We Think, Things My Girlfriend And I Have Argued About, Love Me, Villa Incognito, Good Omens, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Night Watch, Men At Arms, The Introvert Advantage, Eric, The Tao of Pooh, The Te of Piglet, American Gods, Maskerade, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Deep Thoughts, Alpha Beta
Comics/Graphic Novels (9)
Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, Abe: Right for all the Wrong Reasons, Clumsy:A Novel, Star Wars Infinities: The Empire Strikes Back, Too Much Coffee Man's Parade of Tirade, Hellblazer: Haunted, Astro City "Pastoral" (Local Heroes #3), Planetary/Batman: Night on Earth, National Lampoon's Truly Tasteless Cartoons: The Best of the Worst

new year filler day 4 (backlog flush #39)


Spoonerism of the Moment
Her Bouldering Smeauty
Just a little meme that occured to me and got stuck in my head while reading poems for the blender of love yesterday.

Link of the Moment
This NY Times article about some compulsive hoarders might be a motivation for people who are trying to declutter. (Or maybe the opposite, maybe someone will think "I'm not as bad as THESE guys, so maybe I'm ok after all".)

I just went through all these old tapes I never listen to. Listened briefly to all the unlabeled ones. I discarded most, keeping mostly a few homemade tapes. I even got rid of "irreplacable" mixes that I'm never ever going to listen to. (Including, alas, one I think was from Veronika, but she didn't label it.) Other mixes I try to keep a text copy of the track list even if I get rid of the original again. I don't think I'll ever reconstruct them but its nice to know the information isn't truly lost, and a textfile in a folder especially for the purpose (with a index.html providing metadata for it, in fact) isn't a clutter burden.)

new year filler day 5 (backlog flush #40)


Random Observation of the Moment
My Aunt's cat likes to hang out in bed. Not on bed, in bed. Under the covers. Like, all day long. It's the oddest cute or maybe the cutest odd thing I've seen all week, maybe more, just this sometimes moving lump in the middle of the bed...

I once had a girlfriend who would go to sleep with the covers over her head. That struck me as odd as well.

jersey shore

Here are some pictures from Ocean Grove and Asbury Park New Jersey. I also put a larger photo gallery online.

The Asbury Park ruins are really amazing, the old casino now a total wasteland. For a while the carousel building had a small indoor skatepark, but I guess that's gone as well...

I found this page with more photos via Google, and this page of how it used to look along with some quotes and lyrics from Bruce Springsteen, who famously cut his teeth at Asbury Park's "Stone Pony".

Note of the Moment
The this ramble on the 1-year relationshipaversary for me and Mo. Criminy, I had forgotten that that had set a record for longest continuous romance in my life. I hope that doesn't bode too poorly for the future.

Site Feature of the Moment
For some reason when I made up my best of kisrael.com lists, I kept the entries that I strongly considered but then rejected embedded in the list I was making. I decided those entries deserved a "second best" set of links, and so the best of page is updated accordingly, and 2003 "best of" and "2nd best of" have both been finished off, with a sad poem and a reindeer's butt, respectively. Also, I added a note of explanation and apology to the front page, just because I'm not sure that "Kirk's Digital Arts and Crafts", which is what those pages are full of, are really the best of kisrael.com.

Hmm. I have probably just exceeded the "gives a damn" quotient for most of my audience. Excelsior!

"mcdonalds, i'm lovin' it" indeed

--One side of a hanging french fry-themed triptych in a Connecticut McDonalds. The other two sides were a bit less fraught with Freudian overtones.

Law Geekery of the Moment
Over the holiday I finally saw LotR: The Return of the King. In celebration, a slightly older link, a law geek looks at the deal Sauron offers Dáin (dwarven king) to get the One Ring back. An amusing interpretation via legalese.

Rant of the Moment
Googling I stumbled onto this brochureware webpage which has the worst navigation I've seen this year. A circular menu, fine, except it only appears when the mouse is over the narrow clickable band, otherwise it's invisible. So the user experience is mousing around looking for a hot spot, suddenly images randomly appear in the center circle, and you have to figure out cause and effect and how to get to the unusual interface shape without actually seeing it. Genius!

I only mention it because he responded to my relatively polite suggesting for improving it (just have the circular menu visible, even if dimmed out, when the stark "db" logo appears) with lines like "The awards that the design has won contradict your opinion." and "You have successfully proven yourself a nitwit that knows nothing about marketing"--apparently, flickering, unnavigable sites are the cornerstone of a solid marketing strategy.

Anyone agree/disagree with me on this?

Followup: there is some chance it's a browser-specific effect. Still, I wonder about people who don't at least try to glance at their site with the market-dominant browser.

$3 love

Quote of the Moment
The love story was hooey. There was no love there unless you paid $3 for it.
WW2 vet on the movie "Pearl Harbor" (via a Trivial Pursuit 20th Anniversary edition question.)

Link of the Moment
Not Fooling Anybody is a look at retail shops converted for use as...well, other retail shops. Oddly interesting viewing.

Passages and Online Tool of the Moment
An attempt by Byzantium to impose its will on Bulgaria had ended badly, when the emperor Nicephorus died in combat, his skull being encased in silver by his enemy and turned into a drinking goblet.

Bulgaria's new alphabet allowed it to develop its own literature, and buttressed a doomed bid for independence, which finally ended in a truly horrible fashion in 1014, when the Byzantine emperor, Basil, `the Bulgarian slayer', put out the eyes of 14,000 captive Bulgarians.
John Man, "Alpha Beta: How 26 Letters Shaped the Western World".
I refound these passages using Amazon.com's cool new "Search Inside This Book" feature. I found a typo or two inside the search results that weren't in the book, and for some reason the page references were like 10-20 pages off, but still, it's an awesome feature.

Wow, Byzantium and Bulgaria...that skull-to-goblet thing is pretty cool, though that mass blinding is one of the most horrible things I've ever read...some claim he blinded men in groups of 100, leaving one man with a single eye to lead his 99 fellows. (Some say that's where sayings like "blind leading the blind" or "in the kingdom of the blind the one eyed man is king" but I'm not so sure of that, or positive that the story is 100% true as printed there.)

catch-22 skidoo!

At the risk of stating what every blogger in this part of the country is going to say: IT IS SO DAMN COLD OUTSIDE. Jimminy crickets, I can almost feel the atoms in my exposed bits slowing to a standstill.

Catch-22 of the Moment
Can a spouse successfully prevent a court from granting a divorce?
One spouse cannot stop a no fault divorce. Objecting to the other spouse's request for divorce is itself an irreconcilable difference that would justify the divorce.
It's a battle you've already lost anyway, but never have I seen such a real life textbook case of a legal Catch-22. It is in its own way beautiful.

Quick Link of the Moment
This is your charcoal drawing. This is your charcoal drawing on drugs. Any questions?

Less Quick Link of the Moment
Wired has a piece on the click heard around the world, a 1968 demonstration of technologies that wouldn't appear on home computers for over 10 years: hyperlinks, the mouse, video conferencing, real-time document editing, etc.

I really think Wired is still one of the most consistently interesting magazines out there...plus they put most of their content online a few weeks after the print edition.

Toy of the Moment
Brunching Shuttlecock's old Cyborg Name Generator is now at its own URL. The algorithm for making up names is really clever, fun to play with and see how good it is at stringing the words together. Plus, Lore linked it up so you can get custom cafepress T-shirts and the like. I got one for Mo for Christmas...cafepress claims to have changed its printing method, so hopefully the shirt imprint will prove more durable than on the old ones.

brrr. brr brr Brr brr BRRRRR.

Record setting low temperatures in Boston, -3. The previous record of -1 was set in 1875. More gist for the mill of idiots who don't realize that what's somewhat-mislabeled as "global warming" is more like "climate instability"...some weather guy was saying this was an odd patern, cold air straight from the north pole, and not down over Siberia-Alaska-Canada. (Random techie note: IE, smart enough to allow line breaks by hyphens, isn't smart enough to disallow line breaks between negative signs and the following numbers without use of <nobr> tags)

Which doesn't mean it's all "our" fault, but it is our problem, and I'm disinclined to assume what seems to be a pretty solid consensus in the scientific community (at least the scientific community that isn't being directly paid by big companies to battle the other scientists) of humankind having a big influence on the problem is bunk.

Ramble of the Moment
I've been noticing a trend in media design, and I'm trying to find out if it has a name...roughly, it consists of using realistic computer-generated images in iconic ways. For example, some of the imagery certain weather reports use is really amazing, they extrapolate from satellite data and have effects of soaring and zooming into certain regions of the country. And I think the clouds they were showing this one time were real, but then they showed realistic looking snow falling from them, to indicate the affected areas...but when I thought about it, I realized those snow flakes would be the size of small cities. And in this one video game "Knights of the Old Republic", which is a fairly traditional "RPG" (Role Playing Game) with turn-based combat... (i.e. you do your attack while they just stand there, then vice versa) but it looks as if it's playing like a legitimate action game, there's no special battle mode, and overall it looks like a scene from a movie. You can still run around and stuff, though that temporarily drops it out of combat mode.

It's kind of an odd concept, photo-realistic animation being used symbolically. Can anyone think of any other examples of this? Especially old ones...

Manifesto of the Moment
From the geeks point of view, dating is just a problem waiting to be solved.

Quote of an Old Moment
John's going to be freeballin' it in a skirt in my house? Oh good.
During our trip to London, Mo learned that the party John was hosting at our place had a kilt theme. (I'm 'backlog flushing' my Palm Pilot, and I didn't want that little gem to be lost for the ages.)

Continuing the Palm process, I was surprised that "misunderstanding modern art" gets zero hits on Google...well, at least 'til this page gets searched. I'm not sure why I jotted down that phrase in my palmpilot. Maybe it had to do with Damien Hirst's work entitled "Beautiful, cheap, shitty, too easy, anyone can do one, big, motor-driven, roto-heaven, corrupt, trashy, bad art, shite, motivating, captivating, over the sofa, celebrating painting" which I thought should've added a few more lines along the lines of "kiss my ass you poor wankers who make like 1/100th of what I do for this".

velvet mullet

Quote of the Moment
Marc, the Mexican-Canadian foreman, gets out of the the truck. He shakes his velvet mullet in the golden morning sun.
Action from "The Deck", a script by Andy Robinson that Erin is pitching in film school for a 10-minute short.

Article of the Moment
In response to my referral to "consensus in the scientific community" LAN3 mentioned a recent Crichton article on agenda-driven non-science that evidently has been making the rounds. It does make me rethink my postion on a few things, though I don't the article is without flaws. I mean, it is just an untestable (and therefore not-strictly-scientific) hypothesis that evolution happened, but according to Chrichton, that's beyond what science should comment on...that position seems extreme to me. Also, I doubt that SETI was the cause of this playing fast and loose with the scientific method, but rather an effect.

I previously kisrael'd a good quote by Sagan on this...though it's interesting that Crichton points to him as one of the central offenders, with the nuclear winter thing. (Heh, between that and the whole Apple BHA incident, I definately have mixed feelings about the guy.)

Link of the Moment
The Worst Sex Scenes in Moviedom. Though uh...I kind of liked "Body of Evidence". The 20 Worst Movie Titles is worth a read as well.

boredom is a luxury unprecedented in the history of our species

Passage of the Moment
Our lives are geared mainly to deflect the darts thrown at us by the laws of probability. The moment we're able, we insulate ourselves from random acts of hate and destruction. It's always been there - in the neighborhoods we build, the walls between our houses, the wariness with which we treat the unknown. One person in six million will be struck by lightning. Fifteen people in a hundred will experience clinical depression. One woman in sixteen will experience breast cancer. One child in 30,000 will experience a serious limb deformity. One American in five will be victim of a violent crime. A day in which nothing bad happens is a miracle, a day in which all the things that could have gone wrong didn't. The dull day is a triumph of the human spirit, and boredom is a luxury unprecedented in the history of our species.
--Douglas Coupland, "All Families Are Psychotic"

Hates of the Moment
We Hates Software -- techie gripes of various kinds. (I wonder if the kind of bad navigation (every link is "a") is some kind of ironic metacommentary) Someone else really hates Weblogs. Hmmm, which type of weblogger am I?

Legalese of the Moment
Hee. Memepool linked to proper usage of the Photoshop trademark. I love how all the "correct" examples use like twice as many words as the incorrect versions, and how Adobe is fighting a losing war against "photoshop" becoming a verb. (I think they're a bit safer in their struggle to stop it from becoming a synonym for "digital image", though they have another tough road to hoe to get people to add in "Adobe" beforehand.)

Image and Slug Porn of the Moment
CLICK HERE for more





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Hey, why didn't someone tell me that salad spinners are so much fun? A centrifuge for wet vegetables! It's like a last wish amusement park ride for criminal leafy greens condemned to die.

Project of the Moment
the walking
--Sample animations from the instruction booklet for the "Etch-a-Sketch Animator". It was a cool toy of the 80s that let you create up to 12 frames of 40x30 animation and play them back in longer sequences. Last year I e-bay'd up this favorite childhood toy of mine and made some art with it. (Well, mostly I laboriously transferred some small gif cinema onto the device.) In my decluttering frenzy I was about to get rid of the booklet, but I realized the animations were all pretty cool... I think I might make a special wing of small gif cinema for these.

I started with the cat animation (which is really great, but the Breakdancing Skeleton is no slouch--trés 80s) but then decided to do them all as animated gifs. Some were easier than others.
in hat
the nosy
the spaceship
the creeping
the train
the cat
the horse
the breakdancing

Boston Geek News of the Moment
Huh...I hadn't realized that SoftPro Books had moved--from Burlington to about 5 minutes away from my house in Waltham. (SoftPro is the Boston area's geek's favorite place for technical books...I like supporting a local, specialized merchant who has some neat speakers and other programs.)

should she be committed?

So, getting ready for divorce is an ongoing process. We had another "couples therapy" session last night--although it's already a bit of a fait accompli we find it useful to talk about things in that kind of setting.

On my over I was listening to some Christian (oh, err, "Family") Radio, which is kind of how I keep tabs on the American fundamentalist right. And to be fair, some of the shows on it talk more sense than others. But it made me realize that I do have some "old school" ideas about marriage. Two or three years ago I was definately in the "marriage isn't that different from being shacked up" camp, and I guess that's still pretty true on a day-to-day basis. But now I realize that it really taps into this unusually strong sense of commitment I have...I'm a guy with relatively few moral absolutes, but keeping to commitments is one of them. I accept that there are going to be some marriages that are so fundamentally messed up, abusive and what not, that they should be ended, but Mo and I both agree we didn't have that kind of problem...and I believe in the power to self-direct personal growth, and that one of the points of something like a marriage commitment is to provide a shelter for the tough times, to give people a chance to make changes that need to be changed. I really don't put much stock into that whole "well I've just grown apart" shtick. (Or for that matter Mo's "well I just didn't know enough about myself to make that kind of commitment back then" or whatever it is she was saying last night.)

But who knows. My views of couplehood might be skewed from the norm in other ways that make it easier to hold those opinions. Like, I see it as a partnership that ideally provides satisfaction an support on a few different fronts (emotional, physical, financial, karmic) but has this central role of being a support for the rest of what makes life interesting and fun and worthwhile. In that way, I see couplehood as almost as much of a means as an end. (Hmm, getting back to the Christian Right view, they probably would say the same thing, but as a support for kids and family rather than making life "interesting and fun".)

One random idea from last night: maybe I should look into joining Mensa and seeing if there are any cute brainy women there. I wonder if they're arrogant, or just fun and self-deprecating about the whole enterprise.

Funny of the Moment
Bill noticed that long-time favorite Gone And Forgotten has reviewed a few new comics. Funny stuff. If you're in a hurry just check out some excerpts and commentary from the Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe - Deluxe Edition.

Essays of the Moment
Two articles from a solidier in Iraq, Mr.M Returns Live And Redirect From Iraq and one really dark followup on the "cartoonish buffoonery" that goes on there. The first article expresses the opinion that the war is justified by how awful a regime it was, though I do have to wonder, there are awful regimes and terrible conditions all over the place, aren't we picking and choosing our battles anyway?

Quote of the Moment
"If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?"
Albert Einstein

english as she is spoken

Link of the Moment
The speech accent archive is strangely compelling...hundreds of speakers of English, native and not, reading the same passage, with a sound clip and phonetic "ipa" transcription.

It's so odd how difficult it is to discern your own accent. Hey, Erin, or anyone whose crossed big accent lines--if you move someplace with a very strongly different accent than what you grew up with, like down south, do you stop hearing them as "accented" after a while?

Quote of the Moment
'You're the chief of staff. You think you're up to getting us some cheeseburgers?' Card nodded. No one laughed. He all but raced out of the room.

Bumper Sticker of the Moment
Nietzsche apologized and we're having
a fine time hanging up here.
Get over it. --God
--Hypothetical sticker from TheDoorMagazine

mazda that meets the eye

Animation of the Moment
My cold, cold drive to work this morning would have been so much more tolerable if it was in this Mazda autobot. Admittedly, merely a computer animation (and in a car that doesn't seem to have much in the way of passenger seating) but still a bit hypnotic to watch.

The page it comes from has some random backstory about it: "The TRANSFORMERS® RX-8, is a TRANSFORMERS ALTERNATORS vehicle that combines the spark from an AUTOBOT solider with 100% pure MAZDA ZOOM-ZOOM." ("Transformers Alternators". Maybe they could throw in a few more electronic part names, like if there's a rebellion maybe they'll be the "Transformer Alternator Resistor" and if you're talking about a robot that can do, like, a LOT, it would be a "Transformer Alternator Resistor Capacitor"....) Good to know that the protection of the planet is in such good hands, but if this the team up with Mazda and the Autobots to avoid Cosmic Rust, I wonder what would happen if McDonald-Douglas starting building robot bodies for the Decepticons?

Watch the skies.

(Heh...what if, like, 747s were Transformers? For some reason I imagine them as being these really big, dumb lumbering guys...)

Pseudo-Intellectual Ramble of the Moment
I've been e-mailing with a friend (about Mensa) when I started namedropping the "theory of multiple intelligences"...she asked what it was and I wrote the following...maybe someone out there will find it interesting.

It's a kind of self-evident idea: most people know that you can be smart at one thing (like taking standardized tests ;-) and dumb at other things, but we still tend to measure smarts on one scale and call that "intelligence". The theory of multiple intelligences just says that there are different ways of being smart, emotional and what not...

Actually I just realized I've been using the term loosely... A google search came up with
which lists 8 specific ones:
Linguistic intelligence ("word smart"):
Logical-mathematical intelligence ("number/reasoning smart")
Spatial intelligence ("picture smart")
Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence ("body smart")
Musical intelligence ("music smart")
Interpersonal intelligence ("people smart")
Intrapersonal intelligence ("self smart")
Naturalist intelligence ("nature smart")

At one point back in school, when I was still using the term loosely, I thought there should be a similar concept for art and literature. It was in an early black literature class, and I was noticing the circles some of the academics were running in to justify studying some of these novels that really weren't "very good"; schlocky and corny, knockoffs of the white novels written at the same time. But they were worth reading, because of who wrote them and when they were written. I realized a "theory of multiple intelligences" would do well to analyze what makes a given work worthwhile.

And what I thought is it doesn't have to preclude pointing to some things as "great works", it doesn't have to be some egalitarian equality of all books; even a dimestore trashy romance is "good" at provoking a certain response in its audience, via titillation and/or something emotional; it just is more likely to be bad on the other fronts. A book by your eight-year-old is unlikely to be a breakthrough work of genius, but it will mean so much to you because of who wrote it. Things that are great, that inarguably deserve a prominent place in "the canon", on the other hand, are much more likely to be effective on a bunch of these hypothetical levels, and that's why we consider them great.

Link of the Moment
Mars Vs. Earth Probes ("As you are well aware, Earth is currently the underdog in the solar system division in the Expensive Hardware Lob. For every piece of hardware that returns useful information from the Lobbee's planet, the Lobber scores a point. For every piece of hardware sucessfully thwarted by the Lobbee, they score a point.") -- so far Mars is ahead, 20 to 16. (Though if you just count the good ol' USA, our record is 10 to 5. Dang Russkies!)

News of the Moment
if the northeast cold snap does cause blackouts...man, that will be very, very bad. What a nightmare....I keep thinking back to this old Barney Miller episode where there was this guy who was kind of a prototype for the Y2K folks who came later, except his deal was converting all his paper money to gold in preperation for the coming ice age...if changes in climate patterns are making this kind of North Pole blast more likely...ugh!

backlog flush #41

Get rid of some of the old backlog. Sadly, this takes me to just a few days after last summer's trip to Europe...some pretty good links here though.

backlog flush #42

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More backlog flush! Lots of computer science quotes this time. Don't hate me.

backlog flush #43

Go Pats! Superbowl-bound.

And today we pause to remember Martin Luth--aw, forget it. GO PATS!

But seriously. A Russian co-worker didn't know much about MLK jr. He said he actually thought less of him when we told him he was a fighter for the rights of black people, not some universal human rights guy. I tried to explain a bit about the particular issues of race relations in this country, but it was an uphill battle.

What's funny about MLK jr. is how you're "not allowed" to mention certain issues that make him seem less than perfect, like that he might've been an adulterer. Our country is so simple minded when it comes to our heroes; they can't be flawed humans.

Aw well...onto today's links...a pretty decent set, especially Joe's Brain and Worldbuilder.

the constipated mathematician

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Joke of the Moment
"What do you get when you cross a skunk and a squirrel?"
"Dirty looks from the squirrel"
I liked this joke a lot when I was a kid. I think my dad sometimes piped in with "a squirrel that believes in birth control for the rest of its life".

Actually, looking around, I can't believe I never put the favorite joke that he and I would do as a micro-routine: "Did you hear the one about the constipated mathematician?" "Yeah, he worked it out with a pencil!". Man, in fifth grade or so, that joke was DA BOMB.

Read of the Moment
A recent Cruel Site of the Day was Mystic Microsoft: Spiritual Transformation in the Halls of High Technology. As Cruel Site puts it, "Kraig Brockschmidt goes [...] explaining the 'profound spiritual significance' of Microsoft's COM/OLE object protocols." You get the feeling that the guys a little too eager to "drink the kool-aid", whether its his lutheranism, the Microsoft way, or later a brand of eastern mysticism. Still, it's interesting, even if only for the first half's insight into early Microsoft.

Online Art of the Moment
Click your way through all of the animations of Spin. I love the visual style.

requiem for a sammich

In the big-whoop site update news, I made a permanent home for Etch-A-Sketch Animator wing of Small Gif Cinema and put a link at the far end of the latter to the former.

Oddly, the glitch I thought I was responsible for on the bottom of the skeleton animation turns out to be an IE thing.

AIM Chat of the Moment
LAN3 (5:28:01 PM): Hmm, I've got half a club sammich left from lunch, but I'm hungry now. What to do?
kirk: (5:28:29 PM): I'm not seeing the dilemna here.
--LAN3 and me (times adjusted to Seattle time). Immediately after the exchange he said he that if he had a blog he would post that, and I thought--wait--I have a blog...

Link of the Moment
Heard this on the radio, but LAN3 gave me the link with the following headline: F*** THE NAZIS, SAYS CHURCHILL'S PARROT...turns out Churchill's parrot is still alive, and still does the Nazi-cursing that the former prime minister taught her. What I want to know is, how did he teach her to swear in asterisks?

You know, if I was part of some tribe that had parrots around, naturally, and they picked up my tribe's speech...man, that would really freak me out. You wonder what kind of model "primitive" tribes have of animal intelligence vs. us city dwellers.

News of the Moment
Slate has some decent and cutting analysis of the last night's State of the Union speech, as well as some thoughts about the official and unofficial responses to it.

Fetish of the Moment
Odd fetish, or just a parody? You decide...it's Girls Eating Sandwiches! Interesting to note that it's links all over the place, not a localized collection.


Usenet Funny of the Moment
Andrew wrote:
> "Early candidate for 2004: Paycheck. Would it kill
> John Woo to tone down the action part of his action flicks?"
If it did, I think it would be in a hail of blue pencils
as he leapt across the cutting room in slow motion,
launching script changes with both hands as production assistants
dive for cover.
Carl Burke, rec.arts.tv.mst3k.misc

Online Tool of the Moment
Thanks to Jane for sending me a link to one of the better Which Canidate Is Right For You? kind of tools I've seen. It's a lot better than NPR's "pick your favorite soundbite" approach, where you're lucky if you can read between the lines. On the other hand, it seems the scoring is a bit harsh, with only exact matches 'counting'.

Article of the Moment
Slate.com has more analysis of the State of the Union speech, Fred Kaplen studying specific phrases in a piece called Evasions, Half-Truths, and the State of the Union.

Ramble of the Moment
So, I have a BIG decision to make: should I try to keep the House Mo and I bought and continue paying for it on my own, or should I cut loose, cash out, and just get a smaller apartment? It's funny, earlier I said that buying a house together was in many ways a bigger deal than get married, and now that entire big deal is in my lap. (On the other hand, I said being married wasn't that different from being shacked up, and I've done a 180 on that.)

For reasons of getting closure sooner rather than later, Mo would like for me to keep the house, and has made an offer to buy out her equity at kind of a bargain rate, especially if our estimates of the current worth of the property are as super-conservative as I think they might be. She says she just wants to move on and start the next phase of everything, rather than sticking around, get the house in saleable shape as I move out.

I think I should be able to swing a place like this but I really should consider trying to get a housemate. And also, there were some shakeups high up at my company today and it's not clear what the trickle down effect will be, so that makes me kind of nervous.

I made up a document with an explicit view of my finances, salary and savings and all that, and sent it to my mom, my Aunt, our financial advisor, Dylan, Peterman, and a few other folks. So far the suggestions have been a mixed bag. My Aunt says that having property has done very well for her, and it probably would for me as well. My mom hasn't taken a definite stand. Dylan thinks the answer is obvious, get out, the house is of my old life and I don't need that kind of space. Peterman thinks I should take Mo up on her offer to buy her out at a fairly reduced rate, and then turn around and sell. Our financial advisor thinks it's a no-brainer, the house is a good investment, but Mo's offer in particular is too good to pass up.

I can't believe how difficult a decision this is turning out to be. I guess right now, my heart is saying move, my head is saying keep. It just seems like...too much. Having this kind of property seems to add too much inertia--it's not the final word on where I live, how much I have to earn, what kind of starting point I might have if I get a future romantic interest that starts to look serious, but still, it's a big influence. Making it more complicated are ideas like buy the house, but sell it soon, trying to leverage Mo's deal while still planning to live a bit smaller.

I welcome anyone's feedback...obviously I'm not posting my financial numbers for just anyone to see, but still, I'd like to gain some benefit from anyone else's past experience...

we are who we eat

(1 comment)
Quote of the Moment
"Man is the only animal that can remain on friendly terms with the victims he intends to eat until he eats them." --Samuel Butler

Comic of the Moment

--Doctor Fun, 22 Oct 2003 ...his archive goes back over 10 years, he was one of the first big Internet cartoonists. I remember seeing his stuff thumbtacked on the walls where the "three musketeers" sysadmins in Tufts' Arena Computer Annex worked.

Game of the Moment
Hamlet: The Text Adventure.

Political Cheapshot of the Moment
I have all kinds of warts.
Howard Dean.
Who wants to elect a guy with that kind of personal problem?

Passing of the Moment
RIP, Captain Kangaroo. First Mr. Rogers, then him...who's next, Big Bird?


Online Toys of the Monet
Awesomely compelling Zip Code Explorer...it starts out with the entire continental USA lit, as you type in each digit of a 5-digit zipcode, the lights go out for everywhere except where the digits typed so far could apply to.

Actually, the website of Ben Fry, the designer, has something, interactive or just visually compelling, for everyone. :

Quote of the Moment
I must say I feel rather sad that today's children seem to get so much of the 'either-or' teaching. 'A girl is either smart or pretty.' 'A man can be either a top-flight technical person or a top-flight human relations person.' 'A woman can be a success at marriage, or at a career.' Such thinking seems to me basically wrong. Why not try to be both smart and pretty? Adequate both technically and in human relations? A success at both marriage and a career?
Ever since I was the father in that play in Middle School, I've had a soft spot for that amazing story. Mostly, I just wanted to say that "Adequate both technically and in human relations?" might just be the secret to my software development career thus far.

stoned again

Poem of the Moment
I dreamed I saw a basilisk
That basked upon a rocky shore
I looked upon the basilisk...
With eyes of stone I looked no more.

I dreamed I saw a cockatrice
A-chewing on a piece of bone
I gazed upon the cockatrice...
One cannot gaze with eyes of stone.

To look upon a basilisk
Is really never worth the risk
To gaze upon a cockatrice
Is permanent and never nice.

For it can never be denied
Life isn't pleasant, petrified.
"Basilisk and Cockatrice: A Moral Poem" by Destruction, one of The Endless in Neil Gaiman's graphc novel "Sandman: Brief Lives".
Not the most brilliant work (as Destruction's own dog says, "Ah. Well, at least it wasn't long") but it reminded me a bit of Don Marquis' "Archy and Mehitabel" stuff.

Quote of the Moment
"Love is the self-delusion we manufacture to justify the trouble we take to have sex."
Dan Greenburg
Game of the Moment
A one-trick pony, I still thought Super Mario Rampage, with the Italian plumber walking merrily along using a shotgun to clear his path, was worth a quick giggle.

the smell of hopes and dreams

Excerpt of the Moment
My sister is superior in everything. I am truly her inferior, and I worship the very ground she walks on. I like to smell her farts because they remind me of my hopes and dreams.
My cousin Kayla, from a prose poem written in her brother Ivan's voice.
Admittedly, it ends up saying more about Kayla than Ivan, but still, kind of amusing.

Thought of the Moment
Considering the odd legal fiction that deems a corporation a 'person' in the eyes of the law, the feature documentary employees a checklist, based on actual diagnostic criteria of the World Health Organization and DSM IV, the standard tool of psychiatrists and psychologists. What emerges is a disturbing diagnosis.

Self-interested, amoral, callous and deceitful, a corporation's operational principles make it anti-social. It breaches social and legal standards to get its way even while it mimics the human qualities of empathy, caring and altruism. It suffers no guilt. Diagnosis: the institutional embodiment of laissez-faire capitalism fully meets the diagnostic criteria of a psychopath.
I think there are big problems with treating corporations as Virtual Persons. Their potential lifespans, for starters, and the way their best interests don't quite match those of the us normal humans...

Link of the Moment
Huh, I'm running a little low on interesting links. One thing I put on last month's loveblender but not here is The Lost Love Project, a collaborative project where people tell their bitesize tales of lost love. Cool visual design and compelling small stories.

Headline and Photo of the Moment
This photo from the Drudge headline Pope hosts breakdance party...

psychic wonderspouse powers, activate!

So I think one of the things that is most frustrating with the situation with Mo is how sudden it seems to me. In particular, at our anniversary last summer, I proposed a "State of our Union" dinner as an annual thing where we could talk openly and frankly about where we saw things, what problems we saw, etc...but no hint of the trouble to come in the Autumn was there.

Now Mo claims that the signs were there to see, that in the occasional spat we'd have (apparently a lot more to her recollection than mine, and I'd say a lot less than most couples) I should gotten an indication that things needed to change. But from my perspective, that way lies a paranoia that can ultimately be very destructive for a relationship...one person always looking for problems that may or may not be there ultimately can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's not that I'm blameless in this, that I couldn't have been more responsive, but if a woman can't talk about using words when directly asked, what's a guy supposed to? (I'm reminded of the old Deee-lite line: "I can't read your mind / So you got to let me (know all the time) / How it feels for it to be so real")

Of course, this kind of assumes that the problems in the marriage were fixable by conscious effort, which is a mighty big assumption. It could just be that Mo screwed up when she decided I'd make a good husband for her. But the problems we did have...I mean, compared to the awful fighting and neglect I know many marriages go through, our issues were pretty small potatoes. I think that there's a large number of marriages, my own included, that get killed for over vague and nondescript problems.

(Someone leave me some comments, I'm feeling all neglected, 3 days with none!)

Quote and Links of the Moment
Buyers are liars.
Car Salesman saying
from this fascinating Edmunds.com article Confessions of a Car Salesman, where they sent a guy "undercover" at a few dealerships for a while. Has an interesting glossary of the lingo at the end. So while car sales is indeed a sleazy profession, potential buyers lie as well, like that whole "I have to go check with my wife" kind of dodge.

The article talks a few time about how using the Internet can really give an edge to a smart buyer, but then again, it IS on an car internet site. Still, I think the 'Net provides a source of information that would be hard for the general population to get otherwise.

Another cool car-related link: Forbes' The Worst Cars Of All Time. The trouble is it's by default a slideshow...which is kind of dumb, considering the descriptions are part of the draw. And while it looks like you can turn off the auto-next feature, it reactivates when the next page loads....DUH! While I know some people think I've gotten arrogant about this, I really do think that some sites know much more about pretty design than they do about basic usability.

Online Observation of the Moment
Hey, is it just me, or is the Internet kind of sluggish today? I think it might be that e-mail worm that's going around.

It's funny how I can see the distinctive footprint it's making in my crappy homebrew webmail spambox...usually that's full to the brim w/ the usual stupid ads, which all tend to have fairly long subjects. Now it's mostly these short like "Hi" and "test" subject lines, with the traditional SPAM subjects placed farther apart.

They mention that this might be used as part of an "Denial of Service" attack against SCO, who has annoyed many Linux users. It's certainly possible that it's being done by a pro-Linux activist, though you'd kind of hope not. I wouldn't be surprised if the SCO/Linux factor is just a red herring. Not that you'd think that was even a possibility from this CNN.com article, who are willing to take everything at face value. Duhhr. Ignore the fact that they are gathering all kinds of data and might be setting up some kind of second wave, and just play up the SCO angle, dirty Linux users. (Well, I certainly don't, but some of my best friends are Linux users...)

Dang. Verbose updates lately! But thanks to those who answered by pathetic plea for feedback...

mac daddy / daddy mac

In this time of personal issues for me, it's nice to know I can bring forth so many comments of support and...err, commentary, just by whining about it a little. At the risk of sounding like some teeny-bopper-livejournaler...I love youse guys!

Quote of the Moment
Relationship = hamster. If you dissect it to see if there are any anomalies... you'll know for sure, but you won't have a hamster anymore.
Cordelia, on yesterday's comments.
It's a great quote, but I dunno...to strain the metaphor, I think that you have to find some middle course between dissection and not taking its temperature with a little hamster thermometer, just assuming it's ok in its little hamster wheel and all of that...

Computer History of the Moment
For some reason, I've always been fascinated by the early Macintosh...it was so cool, so early...the site folklore.org is all about the early Mac development effort. Lots of amazing reading, if you're interested in the subject I'd recommend reading it straight through (the default chronological order works pretty well for that.) If you're in a hurry, just check out the Monkey Lives story, a good mix of human interest and techie geekery. Busy Being Born had lots of polaroids of some Mac graphical primordial ooze...unfortunately some of the larger versions are 404. And the sad story of MacBasic is a sterling example of Bill Gates at his jerkiest. (Incidentally, apple-history.com is a nice companion site for that, with images of all the Apple computer models made.)

Law of the Moment
The Law of Conservation of Misery: no matter what course of action is taken, the total human misery in any given situation is maintained
Bob Belleville
Quoted in folklore.org's And Then He Discovered Loops, which anyone who programs computers might get a kick out of, in a Reader's Digest anecdote kind of way.

Sports of the Moment
Slate.com's "Uni Watch" talks about the Pats' uniform history. I hadn't seen the first year's tricorner hat logo, though I do like it a lot more than the hulking linebacker logo that followed. It's probably not cool to admit it, but I really do like the newish "flying Pats logo" a lot, design-wise it's cool, especially with the features of the face. (I previously rambled on the old vs new logo after the Pats' first superbowl win.)

"i'm afraid. i'm afraid, dave. dave, my mind is going. i can feel it. i can feel it."

You know, here's something that's started to concern me a little lately: I find my brain doesn't make context switches quite as cleanly as I use to assume it did. Like if I'm reading a book in the same room Mo is watching a movie in...I'll be immersed in the book, I'll glance up for a second, get into the movie, but I'll expect to see traits, moods or other factors, from the book in the movie, just for a split second. Then I think "no, duh, that's the book I'm thinking of." Or I was watching the dvd "Sirens", and a woman is having an affair with a blind man, and in one of the next scenes where she's talking to her husband, I realize I'm expecting her to act as if her husband was the one who was blind, because the earlier scene had got me thinking about what it would like to be blind.

So I dunno. Overall, I'm much more aware of my mental process than I used to be, so it might be this phenomenon has always happened but now I'm more aware of it. Which would be a positive thing. Or maybe it's just me getting older. Or maybe it's premature dementia. Or somewhere in between! Still, any time you notice your mind ain't what it used to be, it's potentially very scary.

(Huh. I was thinking that, along with all of this, I'm more aware of becoming immersed in books and video games and what not, and worried that it was a new phenomenon, but now I can remember in sixth grade or so...I'd really get into books, to the point where I wouldn't notice people calling my name. So I guess brains change, not always for the better, not always for the worse. Also, I am more likely to notice this kind of thing lately. Rather un-Zen of me, I'm afraid.)

Anybody else get this kind of feeling?

UPDATE: speaking of random brain functioning: in the morning on the drive to work I was feeling really up: energized, ready to take on the world. (Now there's a word that never looks like it's spelled correctly.) Shortly thereafter, the opposite. But it doesn't feel like it's associated with any particular thing, even though it would seem like I have a lot to be depressed about these days. Mmmm, borderline manic-depressive. (Well, not even borderline, some kind of "shadow syndrome" if anything.) Guess I'll try self-med'ing with a 20 oz bottle of Coca-Cola...I find myself craving that, even though I always drink Diet...

Link of the Moment
Not quite as funny as last year's installment, Business 2.0's The 101 Dumbest Moments in Business is worth a quick skim. Best headline: (which is where most of the funny bits are) "61. Soon to be replaced by 'You can't take it to the grave, so you might as well buy a damn watch.'", for Timex replacing "It takes a licking and keeps on ticking" with the utterly depressing "Life is ticking." Not as funny as the headline series I quoted when I linked to last year's edition, but still.

Dialog of the Moment
"Believe me, friendship lasts much longer than love."
"Yeah, but it ain't as much fun."

Game Links of the Moment
Do 3 non-stellar, related links put together equal one really good link? Well, here goes... Sports Blooper Reel, 8-bit Nintendo style. I think more than anything it shows the comic power of "Yakety Sax". Paule Neave has put together (yet-another) set of Flash version of arcade greats. I liked Hexxagon, a hexaganol port of Attaxx, but mostly I loved the mouse-wobbly border of the site itself. (For some reason, you have to download the games rather than play them online.) Finally, an interview with Wes Cherry, the creator of Windows Solitaire. I like how he sounds a little bitter about "FreeCell".

escape! where you dodge the blue dots with your fantastic flying red square!

Online Game of the Moment
On my Atari 2600 programming mailing list, someone sent out this fiendish little javascript game Escape!... click and drag the red square, not letting it touch the borders or any of the wandering blue squares. My longest run is around 15 seconds. (And it takes you a few tries to learn how to survive the first few seconds...)

I'd love to proper credit for this game, but I couldn't figure out who wrote it originally.

Ramble of the Moment
Odd random thought: in some ways it's easier to be "very neat" rather than just "not messy". Like my desk at both work and home...recently I cleaned both, and am trying to be very diligent about returning them to a completely uncluttered state every day, and at least for now it seemes easier to be very strict or very sloppy than to chart some middle course. It's kind of like Broken windows syndrome where llarger transgressions can sometimes be averted by taking care of the small ones. (Though I admit I am usually distrustful of "slippery slope" arguments in general.)

Quote and Links of the Moment
"And the reason I feel that is that we're not omniscient," he said. "And we've demonstrated that in Iraq, I think." He pointed to Washington's failure to appreciate the complexities of Iraqi culture, and therefore to anticipate the extended guerrilla war it is now engaged in -- a chief mistake of Vietnam. Without the full involvement of other major nations, he said, such mistakes will always be made.

"And if we can't persuade other nations with comparable values and comparable interests of the merit of our course, we should reconsider the course, and very likely change it. And if we'd followed that rule, we wouldn't have been in Vietnam, because there wasn't one single major ally, not France or Britain or Germany or Japan, that agreed with our course or stood beside us there. And we wouldn't be in Iraq."
On the other hand, LAN3 sent me this interesting counterpoint A Friendly Drink in a Time of War which represents an argument that Iraq is a liberal, anti-fascist war. It makes some points, but what it comes down to for me is: I'm a moderate, and both the right wing reasons (fear of WMD, President Jr's revenge, "that's where the terrorists are coming from") and the left wing reasons (lets make the world better for these fine oppressed folk) are too extreme for me, that this article kind of suffers from the fallacy of the excluded middle. (And the namedropping at the begining was pretty disingenuous.) I guess one thing I don't know enough to argue about is this: how many other "grotesque dictatorships" do we ignore in the name of political expediency, or just because they don't interest us that much? How unique was Saddam? I suspect less unique than this article would imply, and by that arguments, we should "liberally" charge into all corners of the globe.

go patriots

Sports of the MomentYear
So tomorrow the Pats are in the Sup'Bowl! A group called Meat Depressed made a little ditty, Here We Go Patriots!, a tour de force that gives oddly-insightful, thumbnail-sketch analyses of most of the other teams in the NFL.

Ah, hometown team novelty music. I think the best example of this ever was for the Cleveland Browns: Bernie, Bernie the Bleacher Bum's tribute to quarterback Bernie Kosar. (To the tune of "Louie, Louie": "Bernie, Bernie, Oh Yeah, How you can throw, Yah yah yah yah yah yah, Bernie, Bernie, Oh baby, the Superbowl")

Finally, Bill Simmons explains why the Patriots should have the game well in hand. He also tries to explain away the Pats' loss in the videogame "NFL Gameday" bowl that has succesfully predicted the winner for the last 8 years.

Link of the Moment
PG13 link: Uncle Patrick's Advice to Children, sounds like some hard-won rules-to-live-by knowledge. Funny. Actually, the rest of that "Diary of Indignities" looks pretty funny as well (archive link on the bottom of the right sidebar.)

Proverb of the Moment
The clock on the wall does not keep time to your heartbeat.

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