2005 January❮❮prevnext❯❯

twenty oh five

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Happy New Year all!

Still thinking over my Resolutions. I suppose actually pinning them down would make me more...well, resolute. I really need to be a more focused worker, to hit the gym, and to lose this 15-20 pounds I didn't have the December before last.

Edumacation of the Moment
The Economist on Einstein and his impact. I hadn't realized, or had forgotten, just how many fields he contributed to.

Auto Photography of the Moment
Boston has its own Cab 666:

And my own darlin' of a car was just at 9,999...the little guy is growing up so fast!

kirk has been listening to talk radio too much lately

Advertising Rant of the Moment
Very random gripe: there's this radio spot for GEICO car insurance that ends with some smug claim along the lines of "GEICO's Satisfaction Rating stands at 97%. How would you rate your insurance provider?" I think this is annoying and a bit misleading -- the suggestion is that most people would rate their own company at something less than "97% Satisfactory"...but I'm sure that's not what the original factoid was about: the 97% figure probably comes from one of those "Unsatisfied - Not Very Satisfied - Satisfied - Very Satisfied - Extremely Satisfied" questions and only 3% of the people checked "Unsatisfied". The ad manages to imply that people are "97% Satisfied" with the service, when really it's just only 3% are Unsatisifed...which is actually a pretty good rating, but still.

Of course, this is apart from their whole dorky GEICO/gecko "mixup" campaign, which the radio ad is mercifully free of.

Sigh. Like the Simpsons' Comic Book Guy says, "Rest assured I was on the internet within minutes registering my disgust throughout the world."

Article of the Moment
Dave Barry's 2004 in Review. (Thanks Bill the Splut)

Quote of the Moment
Love is like a friendship caught on fire. In the beginning a flame, very pretty, often hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering. As love grows older, our hearts mature and our love becomes as coals, deep-burning and unquenchable.

'snot funny

Quote of the Moment
There ain't nothin' in this world that's worth being a snot over.

Rude Awakening of the Moment
So I'm finally almost done with this book Gig: Americans Talk About Their Jobs At The Turn of the Millennium. Put out by the now sadly defunct site Word.com, it's a terrific read; all these people in different careers talking about what they do, and how. (And I have been working on this book for a long while; I think it was my "occasional" reading all the way back at my dotcom Event Zero...) Today I read the essay "Nurse", and it shattered some illusions I had about the work. Ever since my dad got his RN degree thinking he might have a job change I've had this thought "gee, if all else fails, maybe I can go to school and do that". But according to this essay, the "nursing shortage" is a bit of a myth...heh, it osunds like it's not a lack of qualified workers but a lack of HMOs and other groups wanting to shell out for enough staff. And I knew it was grueling work, but man, it sounds like in this day and age of managed costs it has gotten really, really bad. Sigh. Always a little disconcerting when your Plan...well, not Plan B, more like G or H, falls though, even if you hope you'd never need it.

Second Rude Awakening of the Moment
As far as I can tell, this isn't particularly worrisome for my current position, but the "75% of time" project I was on was canned in lieu of a different, more limited approach. Which in many ways I'm fine with; the project looked like it was biting off more than it could chew anyway, and there seems to be a lot of work here and I've acquired a lot of specific knowledge. But one thing I've learned is when other people on a project seem really lackadaisical about getting things done, watch out: either they're slackers, or they know something you don't.


Yeesh...I really gotta get more people in on the sidebar! I know its been the holiday season, but still...doesn't anyone have anything to kvetch about? Some enlightening nugget of wisdom or randomness?

Quote of the Moment
Everything you've learned in school as 'obvious' becomes less and less obvious as you begin to study the universe. For example, there are no solids in the universe. There's not even a suggestion of a solid. There are no absolute continuums. There are no surfaces. There are no straight lines.
Buckminster Fuller.
No straight lines? But that's the very basis of good comedy!

News of the Moment
Apocalyptic Christians are scary: "$350 for One Jew, $700 for a Couple". Rule of thumb: never trust ANYONE working to make prophecies come true.
And as much as I wanted Gore to win, I guess I'm just as happy Lieberman never became the VP, that frickin' puritan fundamentalist.
(link via Bill)

a year's worth of media

One annual tradition I follow on this site is to post a list of all the books, movies, and games I "finish" in a year. (2000, 2001, 2002, 2003) I keep an database every year which also includes if I saw it before, the date, the author, and a few notes to either remind me what it was or how I felt about it.

Compared to last year, I watched more movies at the cinema (I think this is a Evil B. influence, often our darts night would get changed into darts plus movie night), around the same amount of videos (fewer at Jim and Sam's movie night, more with Ksenia), far fewer movies on TV (I think those were a bit of a Mo thing), completed only half as many video games (who has the time...) read somewhat fewer books (which concerns me a bit, though I guess 32 isn't that bad) and a few more Graphic Novels (thanks to a reinvigorated friendship with FoSO and the FoSOSO and a bit from Evil B.)

Anyway, without further ado: the Media Kirk Consumed in 2004...as previously, the really good stuff I put in italics:

Movies at the Cinema: (18)
LOTR: Return of the King, Lost in Translation, 21 grams, The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, You Oughta Be In Pictures (5), Kill Bill Vol 2, Troy, Life of Brian, Spiderman 2, The Bourne Supremacy, The Corporation, Without a Paddle, Napolean Dynamite, Nicotina, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, The Incredibles, Meet the Fockers
Movies on Video/DVD: (42)
Donnie Darko, Frida, Better Than Sex, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Happy Gillmore, Super Troopers, Conan the Barbarian, Fletch, The Animatrix, Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter, Perfect Fit, Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama, Day of the Dead, Horror Hotel, Godspell, Jesus Christ Superstar, Voices of a Distant Star, Lilo and Stitch, Kill Bill Vol. 1, This Is Spinal Tap, Resevior Dogs, Blown Away, Spirited Away, Club Dread, Cybercity (Shepherd), Castle in the Sky, Porco Rosso, Kill Bill Vol. 2, The Back Lot Murders, The Ice Pirates, Star Wars, Henry and June, You Got Served, Drop Dead Gorgous, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Nausicaa, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, 9 1/2 Weeks, Clerks, Fish Called Wanda, Run, Lola, Run, Dirty Pretty Things
Movies on TV (5)
About Schmidt , Groundhog's Day, Revenge of the Nerds, Finding Nemo, She's All That
Video Games (9)
Crimson Skies, Grand Theft Auto:Vice City, GTA3, Mega Man, Mega Man 2, Gigawing, Katamari Damacy, Katamari Damacy, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas,
Books (32)
Moving Pictures, Beowulf, Farewell Campo 12, 101 Poems to Get You Through The Day And Night, Effective Java, How to Heal the Hurt by Hating, The Shifting Realities of Phillip K. Dick, How Can I Get Through To You?, After the Quake, Let's Pave The Stupid Rainforests & Give School Teachers Stun Guns, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, C.L.U.T.Z., Stardust, The World According to Mister Rogers, Einstein's Dreams, Notes from a Small Island, Mark Twain On the Damned Human Race, Complete Idiot's Guide To The Art Of Seduction, Starfish, Maelstrom, They Have A Word For It, Hey, Nostradamus (on CD), Tex and Molly in the Afterlife, The Dictionary of Failed Relationships, God Debris, A Certain Chemistry, Patriot Reign, The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge, The Bug, Isaac Newton, The Tenacity of the Cockroach, Why God Won't Go Away
Comics/Graphic Novels (16)
Sandman: Brief Lives, Kingdom Come, American Splendor, Fury, Too Much Coffee Man's Guide for the Perplexed, The Kingdom, Surpreme: the story of the year, Hellblazer: Freezes Over, Hellbalzer: Highwater, Ronin, Zot!, Red Son, Get Your War On II, McSweeney's Quarterly Concern #13, Peanuts: The Art of Charles M. Schulz, The Man Who Grew Young


Lots of snow today...I heard a bunch of people at work are working from home today so I guess I might as well follow their lead...

Quote of the Moment
Of course I can't see anything! I'm standing on the shoulders of idiots.
Bel, the mostly sane.

Javascript of the Moment
According to Patrick Mahoney of Nashua, NH, there are 292 ways to make change for $1.00.
My Nantucket Nectars Orange Juice's Bottle Cap.
this is
where the
Being a geek, I wrote a program to prove that to myself...and got 242. Turns out that's because I don't consider half dollars to be "real money". (But Patrick Mahoney doesn't consider dollar coins to be real money either, or else it would be 293.) Anyway, I had the big list of combinations, but I prefer the idea of a little computer program that does nothing but obsessively come up with different values of quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies that equal a dollar...kind of a dollar changing savant. And here it is. (It's a bit like the old SNL routine "First Citiwide Change Bank", Parts one and two: "At First Citiwide Change Bank, Our business is making change"...All the time, our customers ask us, 'How do you make money doing this?' The answer is simple: Volume. That's what we do.")

Random Kirk Factoid: 292 will always be near and dear to the hearts of people who attended Tufts University in the first half of the 1990s...that was the rank Tufts got (out of 300) for "fun" schools. Some people were bitter about Tufts' lack of fun, or something, and painted 292 on "Jumbo II", a then-new lifesize statue of Tufts beloved mascot.

cigarettes and whisky and wild wild women

Lyric of the Moment
Cigarettes and whisky and wild, wild women...
They'll drive you crazy, they'll drive you insane!

Inspiration of the Moment
This is The Junk Woman from the movie Labyrinth (which I watched last night with Ksenia) with her puppeteer peeking out...heh, it kind of makes the puppeteer look like part of the junk! The Junk Woman is a great inspiration for people trying to declutter. Junk Women roam a junkyard landscape with huge packs of stuff hanging on their backs, looking like semi-human snails. In the movie Agnes tries to make Sarah, the heroine, into another Junk Woman herself by bringing Sarah into a model of her bedroom and attaching all the stuff--teddy bears, pencil boxes--to her back, crooning all the while about how lovely each piece of stuff is, wouldn't want to forget that, oh my, no...

The movie is so full of cool stuff...after skimming the "making of" featurette on the DVD, I almost started to feel bad about how everything is all computer generated these days. The other hyper-cool thing was the pit of "Helping" Hands, where 4 or 5 hands would come together to make face that would talk to Sarah. Great flick!

phobe 'ya

Link of the Moment
LAN3 mentioned this chat about phobias, most notably, fear about embarassment in public... didn't realize it could come from watching other people getting embarrassed, but I can see how that kind of cringing feeling could turn into a full blown phobia.

Article of the Moment
Via boingboing, Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sleep (But Were Too Afraid To Ask.) I didn't know that possibly the "most natural" sleep pattern is asleep at dusk, then waking up once during the night. But I already sensed that this nation has just no commitment to making bedrooms adequately dark.

Hmm, I wonder if curtains might be the key to making my house better...both in terms of warmer (without the ghetto look of syran-wrap like sheets) and darker, for the bedroom and the TV room.

Quote of the Moment
Innumeracy can lead... to the sense that one doesn't really count.
BBC's "The Consultants", thanks LAN3


Link of the Moment
"Epic Trance is the gateway genre into the world of rave for most people, so if you have any form of music to blame for raves hitting the mainstream, this is it. Right here. And that, my friends, really, truly, terribly sucks. There must be a word to describe the pain one feels when witnessing (or hearing, rather) something once pure and brilliant completely sold down the river."
...snarky commentary on the many genres of electronica along with samples so you really get an idea of what he's talking about. (Thanks Sawers)

Computer Fix of the Moment
Boring Geek Stuff Follows, here for my future reference, and maybe some will find it useful.

Many thinks to LAN3 yesterday...not only did he give me 2 out of 3 of my kisrael entries, he also gave me some handholding as I tried to struggle through some problems with my PC.

The problem was my computer was logging me out as soon as I logged in. LAN3 pointed me to Reponse 20 on this message board (though Response 22 was amusing for its staggering semi-literacy.) I couldn't login on the Recovery Console like it suggested, I think because I never changed the Administrator password from blank. So I tried to use the Petter Nordahl-Hagen's linux set up mentioned here, but I think the blank password stymied it too. (LAN3 suggested I use DVDdecrypter to burn the .iso images to CD, and it worked very well.) After that, I tried system-down linux, the idea being get just enough going to grab the files I didn't have backed up on my laptop already and then reinstall Windows. System-down seemed promising, but it had no documentation and I had no idea what password to use or where the harddrive was setup. Finally, Usenet was my salvation..."Enkidu" suggested I skip the Linux route and use Bart's PE bootable Windows-- that worked great. I was able to boot into it then make the drives viewable to my laptop over the network, and copy what I need before I do a reinstall of Windows on that machine.

Lessons learned: don't leave Windows passwords blank, be grateful for friends like LAN3, and have a BartPE boot CD handy. Oh, and being able to have a backup laptop or PC is very, very useful.

fry guy

Quote of the Moment
"I never let hygiene get in the way of a good joke..."
Jan 9 2005.
In this case, it was eating a french fry (that my Uncle Bill had given me) off of the pub tabletop when my own meal had been forgotten by the server...I treated the fry with great reverence, cutting it with a knife and fork like it was steak or something. It got a laugh.

Advice of the Moment
Oh, one other lesson I'd like to share with you from yesterday's reinstall fun...one practice I've had for a while now is to always put almost ALL my personal data in a specific folder on any given machine, preferably out of the usual C:\windows path (so not in "My Documents" etc...that way if you reinstall the OS without reformatting, there's a lesser chance the files will be wiped out when they reinitialize all the users.) I usually pick C:\data . That means there's only one folder you have to backup, or one folder to transfer if you move to a new machine. (I cheat a little and use my Desktop as semi-temporary storage space as well.) I keep the install files for any program I can't easily get off the web or have the original disks for in C:\data as well. I'd recommend this practice for anyone.

Webcomic of the Moment

--The Perry Bible Fellowship is a very funny, rather macabre cartoon.

Reminds me of the (even more offensive) Space Moose on a good day.) Rated PG13 or R at some points, like in this one, Not Today Little One. The Tree of Irony is pretty safe though.

I thought Reset was an interesting take on Nietzsche's idea of Eternal Recurrence. That idea was presented to me in high school, and then I saw it again in Kundera's "Unbearable Lightness of Being", the rather outlandish idea that time is a circle, and we are doomed to repeat what we're now for eternity.

One assumption both Kundera and my high school history teacher made was to imply that neccesarily this is the first go round. That's a big assumption...it brings up the old bugaboos of "where does freewill come from in a materialist and likely more-or-less deterministic universe"? Would someone who was repeating what happened in the universe before, dancing to prescribed steps, feel as if they had free will? Can you not have free will but not realize it? Is that what we're all doing now? I think it really depends on what your notion of self is.

By the way, if you haven't seen it, Alan Lightman's Einstein's Dreams is a BEAUTIFUL, thoughtful series of essays playing with other alternate ideas of how time might have ended up working...really lovely stuff.

japanese prison

Strange dream last night. I was smuggling things into Japan for the Japanese Mafia and got caught...the weird part was the prison, it was like a giant wall with scaffolding, with the tiny room sized cages dangling from polls or other framework sticking out of the walls. Ok, not that strange, as far as dreams go, but still.

Overheard Conversation and Link of the Moment
Dude #1: I want a new printer but they're too expensive.
Dude #2: Yeah, I know what you mean. I want to find a good cheap one.
Homeless busybody: Cheap?! That's why you're a fucking Jew!
Dude #2: Actually I'm not Jewish, but I'm glad you're homeless!

good golly miss dolly

I remembered a bit of my previous night's dreams again this morning, my memory triggered by a radio spot for the Huntington Theater. I and a few others...I think Ksenia might've been one of the others, were watching this terrible local theater production of "Hello, Dolly!"

Rudolph, Headwaiter
of the Harmonia
Gardens Restaurant
(more photos)
(I was Rudolph the Head Waiter of the Harmonia Gardens in that musical in high school and got to slick my hair back and use my best fakey-German accent..."Undt therefore it iz my ordaire as headvaiter of ze Harmonia Gardens Rest-au-rant--undt your surprrrrreme commander!--that, tonight of all nights our usual lightning-qvick service vill be tvice as lightning as ever....OR ELSE!")

In the dream I didn't see the usual showstopper scenes, just the early scenes set in the general store interior (which looked suspiciously like a living room) and then some very strange interprative dancing, with, oddly, a lot of women in this pink frilly underwear. I vaguely remember moving around to different seats as more and more people left, though we got yelled at for sitting right in front of the piano and soundboard, which were kind of perched over the left side of the first few rows of seats.

Metagripe of the Moment
Now, the meaning of "unique" is my very biggest meta-gripe. Nothing in the world is "the only one of its kind", everything can be categorized in some way or the other. So nothing is unique in a technical sense. Or, everything is unique, in at least a trivial way, no two things can be quite the same. So it makes logical and intuitive sense to speak of "degrees of unqiueness"...only pedantically does it fail.

So, all things are "things",
but no two things quite the same;
unique: a spectrum.

--from an e-mail I wrote in response to this Tuesday Morning Quarterback article. Actually, I hate cutesy haikus as well, but I thought it gave me a better chance of getting noticed.

Thoughts about Programming of the Moment
Way, way back in the day, I read something in one of those 80s home computer magazines -- it might have been "Family Computing" (man I loved that magazine, though Compute! and Compute's Gazette for the C=64 had better type-in programs) about how odd it was that people were so scared of programming, that it wasn't really harder than, say, learning a new foreign language and unlike, say, conjugating french verbs, you would generally get feedback when you did something wrong that would point you in the right direction.

I quoted that a bit when I was a precocious little kid and the thought still lingers in my head. But I don't believe it as much as I've used to. I've heard enough horror stories and banged my head against enough unhelpful stupid code that I don't have the confidence I used to in working with computers. Systems and Programs fail, and sometimes they fail silently or give misleading explanations.

This confidence thing is a big detriment; I think the biggest part of my urge to slack isn't laziness, it's fear: fear that I'm up against one of the those problems that's going to totally kick my ass and I won't know what to do. (And be taught, once again, that I'm not as smart as I assume I am, I'm sure that enters into it.) And sometimes those avoidance techniques get me to ignore what potentially helpful feedback the system is providing. Google can be a great help, both in its web-crawling and Usenet-archive incarnations, sometimes just an error message can be the link to someone whose posted a solution or workaround. Or at the very worst, tell me that it's a problem someone has faced before.

i'm the very bestest

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Thinking about some of yesterday's themes... "Self-Confidence" is such a funny thing, too much of it and your a moron, too little and you're too afraid to do anything. And I think my state, where I have loads of it but try am generally loathe to try and test myself ain't such a good spot. UPDATE: related Scientific American article via R Pentomino

Tragedy of the Moment
Hold me, Bang, hold me
Indonesian woman to her husband ("Bang" is the term of reverance for a spouse) before being swept away by the Tsunami
From this Slate piece on the generosity shown by the survivors... that's one of the saddest things I've heard of; the sense of helplessness that husband and father must've felt just bowls me over. (There was another Slate piece that caught my eye: God: Has He Gone Too Far? I've heard jokes about how athletes are quick to thank God for victories but don't, say, blame Him for forcing them to fumble in the red zone. Though maybe that's just a practical strategy, maybe God is all-knowing and all-powerful but hasn't really gotten that "all-loving" thing down...at least not how we understand it. So why risk Old Testament style vengence...)

Random Observation of the Moment
Some of the Indian guys at work call me "Krik", swapping the i and the r. I don't know if it's just a little mixup, if it's easier to say when your first language is Hindi, or what. But I think I'm purposefully not too quick to correct them, since then I don't feel so bad at how badly I mispronounce some of their names...

life is like a vapor

Quote of the Moment
"Life is so short, it's like a vapor. Here today, gone tomorrow. And there's nothing you can do about it. Nothing at all. So I don't have any advice for anybody except appreciate your loved ones around you--your family, friends, or whatever, because death is quicker than you think."
Beverly Valentine, Funeral Home Director.
This quote is the last bit from the last interview in the wonderful book Gig, which I finally finished...I must've started it in 2000 or 2001 and set it aside until relatively recently.

News of the Moment
CNN had some coverage of cracks in the alliance among different groups of Jihadists. That's kind of heartening, but on the other hand, historically it has only taken a relatively small bunch of people hating us to do serious damage.

Physics of the Moment
So I heard about that girl who had just done a project on tsunamis, so she was able to warn her vacationing family when she saw that all the water had been sucked away from the shore. (I guess she saw the boats bobbing as well.) And I've read about the physics of tsuanamis...but nothing that mentions or explains why the water gets sucked away before hand. Can anyone offer a layman explanation of what's going on with that?

In finding that first link I found Luke Simmonds' first hand account of the Tsunami and its immediate aftermath.


Word of a Past Moment
A kind of pun on "Bullshit" based on the President going back on that "Read My Lips No New Taxes" promise.

An unfortunate winner, according to the author of this Slate article but for some reason the term has been rattling around in my head ever since I read it. This year it's "Red/Blue/Purple States". Unfortunately, "Santorum", this year's "Most Outrageous" winner, isn't getting picked up by the coverage in the mainstream press. The article also linked to this New Word Blog...it looks like they're careful to report more on words found in the wild, not cutesy neologisms that no one uses, which are the staple of Wired's Jargon Watch feature, for example.

Quote of the Moment
"A bad analogy is like a leaky screwdriver"
Richard Braakman


You know, a weekend without enough lazing about the house on my own just doesn't feel like much of a weekend.

A while back in trying to understand Mo a little better I read "The Introvert Advantage" and although I feel I'm kind of bipolar on the Introvert/Extrovert scale, I definately grokked what the book was saying about the introvert's need to "recharge my batteries" by being alone for a bit. For me that usually involves just unwinding and catching up on websites.

Also, I am so longing for big stretches of freetime to tackle some projects. Going through my CD colllection and making mp3 rips, moving my websites to new server space, revamping my online database program...

Video of the Moment
Funny, funny video of a man blowing up a raft.

i break for artists

Hey, how 'bout them Patriots? I had a feeling it wasn't going to be a close game but I wasn't sure it was going to be the Pats on top...they really shut down the Colts though, that was nice to watch over at FoSO's place.

I was explaining to Ksenia how Boston has a basketball team, but between national champion Baseball and Football there's sadly little interest in any team that's struggling as much as they are, despiting some occasional inspiring flashes. In fact, pretending to want to talk about the Celtics on sports radio is a bit of a joke...

Quote of the Moment
"I broke something today, and I realized I should break something once a week...to remind me how fragile life is."
Andy Warhol (1928 - 1987)

it's curtains for me!

So...wow, it's cold.

I finally got up some drapes for my bedroom and the tv/video room...tan suede, a little "western" feeling but I like it. It's not utterly "lights out" in the bedroom but it is significantly darker and I think it helps my sleep quite a bit...it's noticeably harder to get up in the morning if I went to bed too late (in the "I think I've been sleeping deeply recently" way, not the "I slept fitfully" way.)

But man is it cold. My thermostat was set to like 68 but the temperature was reading in the lowish 60s. I need to get some more drapes for the other rooms...I think. But I worry, unless I pin up the bottom of the curtains they're going to be covering the radiators, which looks ugly...would that undo the good I'm doing in blocking the chill from the window by also trapping the heat from the heating system? Maybe I should just buck and pin 'em up and see what happens. My place is going to be relatively dark though.

Actually, I got to googling the difference between "curtains" and "drapes" and got admonished by this for Dummies article: it's draperies never drapes. Err, whatever.

Flowers of the Moment
--Flower arrangement (for a family friend's grandfather's memorial, alas) by Ksenia. I helped winding the ribbons around the base. I like how this photo came out.

News Quote of the Moment
Watch to see what I can still do!
At least she obeyed the Ancient Advice of when attempting a silly stunt, "Never say anything more predictive than 'Watch this!'"


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Quote of the Moment
There is a natural hootchy-kootchy to a goldfish.
Walt Disney. The weird thing is, I know what he means.

hunk in sex

After yoga I dropped by my mom's place for some Chinese food. She mentioned she was very mildly bummed that I never got around to adding more content to yesterday's entry. I knew my mom read my site here but I was surprised to find out sometimes she'll check it a few times a day...I feel like I've created an addict!

Random thought: the other day it was amazingly foggy. Whenever it gets that foggy I always think of old video games, that would make a foggy land just so the computer wouldn't have to draw nearly as much stuff in the distance. Anyway, since it was so foggy, I decided to try out my highbeams. That worked great...bright fog, just what I needed. Do real "foglights" work any better?

Link of the Moment
Hunkin's Experiments are some really nifty one-panel cartoon science novelties to try. Very cool stuff. (Slightly Amusing URL note: I tend to see hunkinsexperiments.com as HunkInSexperiments and not HunkinsExperiments...)

quite a feet

Dialog of the Moment
"Aaaaigh! I can't breathe!"
"Dear, that was your own smell."
"I know.... ...don't think I'm too happy about that."
Evil B. and wife during a heated round of "Tetris Attack".
This was after Evil B had boasted about his secret gameplay weapon, that his feet were really stinky that day.

Thank goodness I always have my Palm nearby to record such golden moments for posterity.

Image of the Moment
--BoingBong pointed out that this 1952 cover of "Time" beautifully predicted the recent Huygens probe.


Web Toy of the Moment
Amusing toy, Tall Or Not, lets you see how you measure up compared to many famous people.

Essay of the Moment
Another great Paul Graham essay, this time his version of a commencement address, What You'll Wish You'd Known. He gives the advice
In the graduation-speech approach, you decide where you want to be in twenty years, and then ask: what should I do now to get there? I propose instead that you don't commit to anything in the future, but just look at the options available now, and choose those that will give you the most promising range of options afterward.
which I kind of agree with, and I guess I'd have to say its worked out well for me so far, but I'm getting a little burned out on it, and also I think my lack of goals didn't jibe with Mo's sense of drive, and in the long run that proved to be a problem.

the smile is very important in America and is used in greeting both friends and strangers

Prepublishing this Saturday night, over at Ksenia's, waiting for news about the blizzard...20 to 30 inches they say. That's a lot.

I helped Ksenia a bit in the kitchen. It was nice to be useful, and it really is one of those things I should've joined with Mo in doing, especially when I saw her having a grand old time when her brother joined in for a special meal but I have to say, my opinion that at least on a regular basis it's more trouble than its worth still stands...the shopping, the chopping, the cooking, the cleanup...the end results can be nice, and there's a certain visceral pleasure to it, but still...

A Few Hints About Everyday American Life
David Harris, "Entering a New Culture", from the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.
It seemed like a pretty decent introduction to America, written for Soviet Jews, Russian on the right-hand page, English translation on the left. This is just a sampling from that section. I liked the thing about the smiles. The "Americans usually make appointments" thing struck me as a little antisocial. Maybe we SHOULD all be like on sitcoms, just dropping in. On the other hand, who wants people dropping in if you're doing something embarassing?

I was also struck by the left-handed issue. After I read about the "special stores", I further surprised Ksenia by pointing out that there could be special left-handed scissors...she had me try that thing where you clasp your fingers, and the thumb that ends up on top is supposedly the thumb of your dominant hand, but it doesn't work for me...it feels much more natural with my left thumb on top. (Like a lot of kids, I was ambidextrous for a while.) Try out that finger clasping thing and let me know on the comments section if it works for you or not....

today is like the day after "the day after tomorrow"

Man, that was some amazing snow. I was up with Ksenia for the whole weekend, her family who's she living with went on a ski trip, and she needed to hang around for her grandfather who's been having a bit of a respiratory thing lately.

The drifts were chest-high in places...and I have a pretty tall chest. It was one the first times I ended up thinking that the pre-storm "stock up on canned goods" staple was justified. I was still amused when we were in Stop and Shop doing more normal shopping and we found this monster, 28lb hunk of cheese sitting in the juice aisle:

I had to remove a lot of snow. My car was entombed in snow coming up to the bottom of its windows, here is the before-and-after of my semi-heroic shovelling efforts:
The photos don't always show what was going on too well, all that white-on-white action, but I had basically a whole car length of snow to remove that was blocking my car in, and then had to dig around it so I could actually, you know, get in and drive.

Finally, I came home today and had more shoveling to do, namely a big square a bit longer and a chunk wider than car itself, this time only from hip to stomach deep:

That's a lot of snow!

these are the bulletpoints of our lives

Feh. I'm feeling kind of down lately. Life is feeling chaotic, too many things I'm not getting a very good grip on... So that's that. Maybe it's partially something seasonal?

I shoveled a lot of snow, and that made be feel very productive. Also I got those curtains up...the trouble is my apartment still feels drafty, and so far the temperature is still 4 degrees below what the thermostat is trying to get it to, so I'm running the heat all the damn time.

Ah well.

How is it with all of you?

Quote of the Moment
The two most anticipated games of the post-season -- against arguably the second- and third- best teams in the NFL -- turned out to be as competitive as a PETA slaughterhouse video.
Gerry Callahan in today's Boston Herald.
The amount of hubris in that article alarms me, I'm convinced that as soon as the Pats realize how great they are, that's when they start to lose...

the new corduroy pillows -- they're making headlines!

Thanks for all the feedback in the comments section yesterday. It is nice to feel that I have people watching out for me a bit.

Random Thought of the Moment
It occured to me yesterday that it's a good thing the Patriots' Coach Belichick (is that, like, Italian for "pretty young woman"?) is so amazing and consistent, because if he made some obvious coaching blunders during a game then the Herald headline would write itself:
Just a thought.

Advice of the Moment
So I had even more snow to shovel today. 4-8 more inches to sit on top of the couple of feet we already have. I was thinking "Oh boy...Hot Snow on Snow action!" but then I realized there was a contradiction there.

So, I don't know if this applies in all cases, but the following three-step technique worked pretty well for me:
  1. Insert shovel into snow all horizontally-like. This will let you break up the snow pile. Get a big chunk of snow on that shovel...big enough to make your mama proud...you got a lot of snow to move here!
  2. Retract shovel, again keeping things horizontal. This lets like half the snow fall off...I mean, what are you, retarded, you big galoot? You shouldn't lift that much snow! You big dummy.
  3. Ok, now put the snow off to the side.

de-fence! dat-fence! dose-fences!

Self-Defence of the Moment
Self-defense-retro-cool, "Self-defence with a Walking-stick: The Different Methods of Defending Oneself with a Walking-Stick or Umbrella when Attacked under Unequal Conditions." Contains sections like "No. 4. -- How to Defend Yourself, without Running any Risk of being Hurt, if you are carrying only a Small Switch in your Hand, and are Threatened by a Man with a very Strong Stick." and "No. 9. -- How to Defend Yourself with a Stick against the most Dangerous Kick of an Expert Kicker." The illustrations are wonderful.

Jerk of the Moment
So they haven't decided whether or not to seek the death penalty for that guy who caused that horrible train derailment. Of course, it's kind of a weird issue given that he was suicidal in the first place. And as stupid as it sounds, I guess I'm not surprised a guy in that mental state wouldn't think about how an SUV could cause a train to derail...he probably had a simplified image of the train plowing through the vehicle (and its occupants) or pushing the SUV down the tracks for a while without the train being harmed itself.

perly white

Ugh. It's so cold in my apartment, like down to 60. The curtains don't seem to be helping all that much, and it doesn't seem to matter if they "block" the radiators or not.

I guess the next step is to try that damn plastic wrap on the windows...it shouldn't look so bad with the curtains in front. But the the thing is, I'm realizing that some of the walls are really cold, like special perverse radiators of cold. Could those be what are doing me in? What can I do about those? Wallhangings? A tarp? Should I try moving my books to those walls, could they provide some kind of insulation?

Yikes...I actually wrote that from the comfort of my cozy bedroom this morning, when I close the door it keeps the heat nicely, maybe because it only has one exposed wall...but outside in my front room it's in the mid-to-high 50s. I've got to do something.

Geekery of the Moment
A small, not-terribly-efficient Perl script to grep through the Table of Contents of all .jar and .war files in a directory tree. Shells out to the "jar" command so that has to be on your path...I guess it could be trivially modified to search .zip files instead.

use File::Find;

if($#ARGV < 1) {
 print"jargrep : search for string in ToC of all\n";
 print"          jars and wars in a directory tree\n";
 print"(requires 'jar' command to be in PATH!)\n";
 print"perl jargrep.pl rootdirectory searchstring\n";

$rootDirForSearch = $ARGV[0];
$searchfor = $ARGV[1];

find(\&procFile, ($rootDirForSearch));

sub procFile {
 $fullFilePath = $File::Find::name;

 if(($fullFilePath =~ /\.jar$/i || 
   $fullFilePath =~ /\.war$/i )&& 
     !(-d $fullFilePath)) {
  $matchinglines = "";
  $contents = `jar -tf $fullFilePath`;
  foreach $line (split (/\n/,$contents)){
     if($line =~ /$searchfor/i){
       $matchinglines .= "\t".$line."\n";
  if($matchinglines ne ""){
     print "$fullFilePath\n";
     print $matchinglines;
     print "---\n";

Faux Pas of the Moment
[Removing DVD from player] This movie basically should be called "Young Nubile Lesbians in Love". And look...the one on the left has hair just like yours!
Me, sadly, or hilariously.
Kirk displays his mastery of the social graces when FoSO and Evil B come over to help shrinkwrap the windows. We actually mostly just made sure all the windows were completely shut and latched, which were fairly new, and with the curtains up decided the plastic probably wouldn't help that much.


It's kind of weird that "buckle down" means something very different from "buckle under". (In fact you could think of a slogan "buckle down so you don't buckle under".) I guess it's similar to how an "above par" performance in Pro Golf generally isn't "up to par".

Anyone got any more of those?

Snark of the Moment
"Ooh, look who cleans up nice...
...do you OWN an iron?"
FoSO gives with one hand, takes with the other last night before I headed out to a birthday dinner for a friend of Ksenia's family. And yes, I do own an iron. I think the problem is I don't really believe in clothing wrinkles, they don't seem like any kind of exact science.

DIY web psychotherapy

The members of my UU Church's Science and Spirituality group were encouraged by its leader to attend this morning's Sunday service, where two members of the IRAS Council were speaking (IRAS is the Instiute on Religion in an Age of Science, and my UU Church's pastor has been a member for a long time.) Both Karl Peters and Ursula Goodenough (what a name!) spoke on losing their mother. Karl Peters mentioned the psychotherapy idea of giving someone who's clearly on the way out "permission to die"...that idea really hit me, how it was probably something I emotionally couldn't have done when I lost my own dad when I was 15 or so.

I think ever since some of the couple's therapy I went through with Mo I've been thinking more about how I might have been molded by father's death. I don't want it to become an excuse for ungood things that I do, or to dwell on too much in a woe is me kind of way. I still think mulling it over might be useful though, to have a better idea of where I'm coming from and where I might be at now.

My dad was debilitated for a year or so before he died and that gave me what for a long time I termed "issues about helplessness". For a long time I assumed it was just a fear of being helpless like he was...fair enough, that was pretty scary. But lately I've been noticing that there's something more insidious. That "something more insidious" likely has its roots in my own inabilty to help my dad...being "helpless to help", so to speak. I must have hated that, even if I didn't put it in those terms at the time. And so even now, I have this strong dislike of dependency, of deeply depending on others, and of others really depending on me. Which, oddly, doesn't mean I'm not dependable; quite the opposite (and like I kisrael'd before, reliability is something I really cherish in my friends.) I guess I become afraid of being on either side of situations where all the other person can do is just frown and be unhappy and sympathetic about what's going on.

So this leads to some tremendous intimacy issues, made worse by a "Men Are From Mars"-esque urge to go to my cave to heal and what not rather than reaching out during times of trouble...a bit of "manly" pride there I think, made worse by that "helpless to help" theme. (I've just started going down this path of thought lately, and just now as I write this, it makes me think about how I became "the hermit" when my dad was sick, almost literally going off to my cave and wanting to be my by own. I always would've assumed it was just not wanting to cope with seeing my dad in that condition, but now it seems likely it was...jeez, maybe even some kind of guilt, or at least frustration, about not being able to do anything.)

News of the Moment
I'm not sure if I quite believe it but according to Ananova, a Man peed way out of avalanche...trapped in his Audi with 60 half-liters of beer, he decided urination was the key to his dilemna.

now with 20% more freedom and justice!

(1 comment)
So it sounds like the elections in Iraq went not-too-badly, better than I expected.

Gary at work was talking about this one Atlantic article, and one point was that our Administration can't spin its message for the Islamic mindset worth a damn. "Freedom freedom freedom" we say, and to the western audience it's an important message. But I've been told, and it makes a certain intuitive sense to me, that in the Islamic marketplace of ideas, it's "Justice". I think in a world carefully architected by Allah, freedom--especially freedom to practice Islam--is important, but it's Justice that should be our stated goal. They probably see the West as having too much freedom, leading too lose, ungodly lifestyles...

Quote of the Moment
Life's too long not to waste time
Title or subtitle of this book at that paper store near Porter Square.
An interesting thought on a refreshing turnaround of all that usual 'life's too short to..' crap.

Combat of the Moment
More Self-Defense from the Turn of the Century. This image is from "How to Use a Walking-Stick as a Weapon in a Crowd" and it reminds me a bit of the "burly brawl" from the second Matrix movie...that guy in the hat is kick butt. Don't miss "One of the Best Ways to Meet a Direct Attack upon the Head with a very Heavy Stick when Armed with an Ordinary Stick."

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