2006 July❮❮prevnext❯❯


Five years ago today I wrote the following about my Grandma Israel. It was a strange time; Mo and I were just married the day before and were about to head down to Mexico. We all knew my grandmother was on her deathbed, but my mom had made the "executive decision" that if she passed away during the honeymoon I wouldn't find out 'til after we got back. She asked, though, that I write something to be read at her funeral for that likelihood. (I think that blend of real concern and sentimentality blended with practicality might be a trait of my family.) I also threw together a collection of digital photos and a copy of the video ErinMaru had shot and edited to be FedEx'd to her, but overnight hadn't been fast enough I found out on our return.

It's 2am, the wee small hours of the day after the day of my wedding, a thousand things to be done before I can go to my honeymoon in Mexico. The wedding was roundabout the happiest day of my life, despite or because of its flurry of lost rings and thunderstorms, but it was tempered by Grandma not being there bodywise, although we knew her thoughts and prayers were with us.

And now...

Grandma was the cornerstone of our family, a center we could always return to. And would always return to, and not just for the meatloaf! (I think anyone who's had Grandma's meatloaf, preferably for lunch the day after it had been made for dinner, with white bread and ketchup will understand how the confusion can be made.)

I tried to be faithful in writing letters to Grandma. Like my dad before me, I realized typing gave me my best, or only, chance of legibility. And I was often able, through some tricks of the computer, to include a photo of myself, or maybe some part of the world around me. I think it helped make sure my letters were interesting to look at even when the writing may have been same-old, same-old. I was surprised when I found out that Grandma especially liked that I addressed those letters "Grandma Israel". I mean, what else could her name be? Of course I addressed them to "Grandma".

What else will I remember about Grandma? Her and grandpa sitting me down and making me learn to TIE THOSE SHOELACES after getting away with pennyloafers for far too long. The red and white peppermint before church. I remember her big tupperware jug of iced-tea, and how happy I was at college when I found out that Lipton's bottled iced-tea, sweetened, no lemon, could do a passable imitation of Grandma's...not quite the same but good enough for a guy living off of college food for 4 years. I remember the amazing selection of cereals Grandma would have, a cornucopia of sweet breakfast goodness in the shelf underneath the oven.

You know, a lot of these memories do seem to be revolving around food and drink. Grandma always fed "her boys" right, whether you were talking food, or socially, or spiritually. I remember her settling fights between my cousins and me, and if I concentrate I can just faintly recollect the rush to the emergency room when Brian and I tipped way back in Grandpa's chair and I got a plant-stand to the head for my troubles. I still have a little scar from that time. I think the scar made from Grandma's passing may be a little deeper than that.

pain in the glass

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You know, if there's one thing I hate, it's dropping a glass that then shatters. The moment of shock, the chance of injury, the difficulty in adequately cleaning up after.. The other day I had one of these funky margarita glasses take a dive off the top of fridge as I was closing it, I have no idea how things were arranged to allow that to happen. It hit the counter and shards flew everywhere, including on top of a dessert Ksenia had made a few days prior. It actually looked kind of artistic, a tasty if plain looking pastry cake with a single big curved swirled/colored glass hunk on it, and several smaller pieces around it, and then of course even smaller glass sprinkles. I'm not sure why I didn't take the picture, I think my usual photomojo had been given a loop by the shock of having glass fly all around me.

Literary Bit of the Moment
The narrator Ethan is helping his mom load the body of a dead biker into her car
"With one big huff, I lifted Tim into the back, but he fell out with an unnerving thump. "Ethan, get him in the car."
I did that, and we backed out of the carport and driveway.
"Okay," Mom said, "let's find a nice big hole."
"Just for the record, Mom, this whole thing is creeping me out."
"Men should never discuss their feelings, Ethan."
"I thought women are supposed to like guys discussing their feelings."
"Good God, no."
JPod, Douglas Coupland

quite content

Wow. Youtube and Google Video both have so much frickin' content! It reminds me a bit of the pre-Google Internet, that there's so much there, you just have to figure out how to find it.

Oh, by the way, what are some good Boston burb ideas for fireworks? I know there's always the Charles but I'd prefer something that wasn't an all-day event to get a good view...

Quote and Video of the Moment
Truth, medical resaearch, and fun: the holy trinity of the thinking person.
Penn Jilette, in an anti-abstinence-only-education episode of Bullshit. (Warning, some nudity etc.)
I watched the few other episodes that are there online. It's a cool show, but you can see them using some BS-y tactics themselves, with a lot of ad homenim attacks and some other tricks. (via Nick B)

let's make a deal

Boingboing linked to a new free eBook on probability... in their writeup, the mention the Monty Hall problem. 3 doors... goats are behind 2 of them, and a new car behind the third. The player picks a door. Monty then opens one of the doors, revealing a goat. Should the player switch doors? (Assume an equal chance for the 3 doors to hold a car, and that Monty will pick one of the 2 goat doors at random if the player has already picked the car.)

The article mentioned that Marilyn vos Savant "encouraged her readers to simulate the game and draw their own conclusions"... Well, here's a simulation! You can modify the speed to run lots of simulations, "Wargames"-finale style. You can select always switch, never switch, or some probability of switching.



1 in 3


2 in 3







2020 UPDATE: Jim Holt's "When Einstein Walked with Gödel" provides one of the best summaries of why you should switch, and I feel I "get" it now in a way I don't remember if I did when I wrote this simulation:
Counterintuitively enough, the answer is that you should switch, because a switch increases your chance of winning from one-third to two-thirds. Why? When you initially chose door A, there was a one-third chance that you would win the car. Monty's crafty revelation that there's a goat behind door B furnishes no new information about what's behind the door you already chose--you already know one of the other two doors has to conceal a goat--so the likelihood that the car is behind door A remains one-third. Which means that with door B eliminated, there is a two-thirds chance that the car is behind door C.
2024: let me try and reframe again. If there was no door-switching, the game would be easy to figure out: 1/3 chance you win, 2/3 chance you lose.

So when you "stay", it's STILL that game. Monty Hall can open that curtain or not - nothing has changed. 1 in 3 chance you win, 2 in 3 chance you lose. It's a one round game, and showing you a losing curtain changes nothing, because you're not changing your vote.

But when you switch? It's a new round - but the win/lose result will be *EXACTLY* OPPOSITE of what it was if you stayed. If you picked the car at first as round 1, the new round switches you to being a loser. But if you picked the goat in Round 1 - and remember there was a 2 in 3 chance you picked a goat... in round 2 you are a winner!

It feels like Monty Hall's reveal should change the game to 50:50 or something (which it would be if you started from scratch at Round 2) but instead it is still based on the odds of Round 1, but what was one of 2 losing pick now always wins, and the single old winning now loses.


Yesterday, on a whim, Ksenia and I decided to celebrate the fourth by renting a kayak and paddling down to see the Boston fireworks.

I learned a few things. Anyway, a few images:
Nostalgia of the Moment
Speaking of Dylan and Sarah (as EB was in the sidebar) I dug up pictures from July 26, 1998 when I went kayaking on the Charles with them and their friend Mandy.
Two points: I think it is a even more fun to have a definite goal such as as "seeing fireworks" than just "paddling around for a bit", and man... in 1998 I had a craptacular digital camera. That last picture of Sarah was ok though.

Link of the Moment
Fun Facts about Springfield's Fireworks. It was my first clue about the names for the various types, which the wikipedia page now covers in greater detail, from Peonies to Cakes and including my favorites, Salutes... just a big sound and a big noise. (Heh, that first link was probably in my backlog since before I knew much about wikipedia.)


If memory serves, the Boston fireworks preshow had not just Aerosmith but Rockapella.

It is my considered opinion that "a cappella" is for singing, not for listening. I have no idea how it attracts any kind of fanbase.

Sidebar of the Moment
--I almost did a spittake when I saw that the sidebar from an MSNBC article on North Korea's missiles had its own "Launch" button...

Other News of the Moment
USA to hit 300 million. Clearly I'm going to have to update my mental rough estimate of the population, which has been at "275 million or so" for too long.

Interesting how experts think it puts the USA in a better position than Europe and Japan, especially in terms of having a chance of caring for an aging population. It's a detail that should be brought up more often in immigration debates.

heely thyself

I was surprised to realize that I was kisrael'ing Heelys, those sneakers each with a single wheel in the back, all the way back in 2001 (a few days before 9/11, come to notice it...) And now that they've achieved some popularity with the kids, I have to say, I am insanely jealous, and a bit bitter about how foolish I would look in a pair. (Though come to think of it I haven't worn sneakers when I wasn't actively trying to be athletic for a long, long time.) There is something magical when a kid strolls along and then starts gliding, if they were just a few inches above the ground they would exactly be acting out a recurring dream image I have.

Quote of the Moment
Look at nature. Nature is one big woodchipper. Sooner or later everything shoots out the other end in a spray of blood, bones, and hair.
Douglas Coupland, "JPod"

Patents of the Moment
At work they have those little mini stacks of Pringles. Scott at work pointed out how many damn patent numbers are printed on one... 5,464,643, 6,066,353, 6,177,116, 6,235,333, 6,287,622, 6,312,747, 6,461,663, 6,521,281, 6,544,580 and D452,152. Boy, when I'm craving a salty snack product, my first thought is to reach for one that could be spending years in expensive patent litigation.

It's a little interesting figuring out what problems Pringle engineers must face. Most of the patents are for "resulting flakes [that] can be used to prepare a more cohesive, non-adhesive, machineable dough."

the careers kirk missed out on

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You know what job I'd be good at, I think? Film Continuity Editor. Assuming the job title is what I think, namely the guy who looks at series of shots and makes sure nothing has moved between any of them. It drives me completely nuts when the body language of a character in a movie or TV show changes from shot to shot.

Quote of the Moment
It doesn't take all kinds to make a world, we just have all kinds.
"Willow Herself"'s Father-In-Law, via alt.support.diet

Gadgets of the Moment
--Matthew Irvine Brown has some interesting ways of helping begining brass musicians... Finger Finger Revoluion, in effect, with a variety of cute virutal instruments, like the trumpet shown here. It looks like there's some other cool stuff in his portfolio as well. (thanks xoxoBruce)

down the hatch

Ksenia's grandfather's senior residence has a feature that I am so jealous of: at the end of the hallway is a chute where household trash can be dropped and forgotten about. What a convenience! And just the visceral pleasure of giving your garbage a little bit of freefall before it's out of your life for good.

I've lived in a few houses with laundy chutes. Those were fun too.

Quote of the Moment
I was in a restaurant and I ordered a chicken sandwich, but I don't think the waitress heard me because she said, "OK, how would you like your eggs, sir?" I tried to answer anyhow: "Incubated. And then raised. And then beheaded. And then plucked. And then cut up. And then put on a grill. And then put on a bun. Shit, it's gonna take a while. I do not have time. Scrambled. You fuckin' confused me."
Mitch Hedberg. I'm going to be doing, like, a week of his stuff, because I couldn't just pick one thing.

Swap of the Moment
So, the one red paperclip guy finally traded for a house, reaching his goal. Personally, I think trading a cube van for a snowmobile trip was a suspiciously good upgrade, and trading a KISS snowglobe for an afternoon with Alice Cooper is suspiciously bad, and that being topped by a speaking part in a Hollywood movie suspiciously good. So there you are.

pluck your magic twanger, froggy (?)

Saturday evening, after hanging out at my family's annual reuinon, I hightailed it to Cape Code where Ksenia's family was nearing the end of their annual "rent a campsite in Nickerson State Park". Sunday we went to the nearby ocean beach, and then later to the even closer pond. But at the beach, I traced a big Alien Bill in the sand:

It makes me realize I don't do a lot of artwork at that scale. (Though I suppose with a laptop and a videoprojector...)

That's Ksenia's brother Nick in the corner. Actually the Alien Bill might have been inspired by him writing "Megaman" in the sand. Writing "Megaman" wasn't too surprising, the kid is a big fan. Writing "by Capcom" was a little bit more surprising, but that surprise was then trumped by him including "(TM)" after the name Megaman. What a deep respect for Intellectual Property law at a tender age!

Here's a small, lily-pad laden pond next to the larger swimming pond:

By the way, what pondish creature makes a "twang" noise at night, like a banjo being plucked? Was that the frogs?

Hedbergism of the Moment
I have an oscillating fan at home; it looks like it's saying 'Noo...' so I like to ask it questions that a fan would say 'no' to. "Do you keep my hair in place?" "Do you keep my documents in order?" "Do you have three settings?" Liar! My fan fuckin' lied to me! Now I will pull the pin up. Now you ain't sayin' shit!"

Video of the Moment
You can watch the headbutt that may have cost France the World Cup... it seems pretty random and aggressive.

your wish is granted

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So one thing I've learned is that for consulting companies, non-profits are a potential gold mine. But conversely, you make peanuts if you actually work for one. I guess the idea is that their desperate to keep recurring expenses down, but they have a fair chunk of grant-ish money that they can spend on fixed-price kind of things.

I guess they're kind of like grad students who live from grant to grant...

Hedbergism of the Moment
This jacket is dry clean only. Which means .... it's dirty.

Video of the Moment
Obesity in America, 1985-2005. Wow, that is scary. Even if it's "clinical obesity" (which is more stringent than what the term obese brings to mind.) You got to wonder, a public health issue like this, what is the cause? High Fructose Corn Syrup? The size of an appetizer platter at T.G.I.Fridays? Lack of moral fiber? Nutrasweet?

I'm surprised to see my part of New England as one of the last bastions of under 20% obsese. I thought sunnier places would tend to have people more concerned with this stuff, if only for looking good on the beach... guess that's just a stereotype (or the maps aren't detailed enough.)

News of the Moment
I don't know what your "cause" is and barely care, but I'm willing to work against it, you terrorist blowing civillians up motherfuckers. Burn in a dozen swine-infested hells, assholes, and go jam whatever book you call holy up your ass.

In fact, all fundamentalists, fascists and idealogues can all just go screw. When concepts, ideas and personal power matter more to you than human individuals you've lost a valuable part of your own humanity.

!umami victory!

I'm watching the Allstar Game as I write this... they just gave the Commissioner's Historic Achievement Award to late Latino legend Roberto Clemente. Not only was he an incredible humanitarian, but he was one hell of a ballplayer.

Looking at the previous recepients, I'd say he's head and shoulders above most of them, especially the ones whose memory will be tainted by their likely steroid use.

AIM Dialog of the Moment
atomicobie:*JUDO KICK*
atomicobie: HUNAN BEEF!
kirkjerk: M....S.........G!!!!!!
atomicobie: *dies*
atomicobie: you win
kirkjerk: !umami victory!
atomicobie: *still in throes of death twitching*
atomicobie: *going to be a minute*
kirkjerk: Man, I never expected my Loony Tunes plus bad chinese restaurant mojo to be so strong!
atomicobie: *still twitching*
atomicobie: *glares at watch*
kirkjerk: twitching...deliciously
atomicobie: *man, msg takes a while*
kirkjerk: Yeah, we should have tried instant msg-ing
atomicobie: *comes back to life to throttle you*
--Miller and myself. For the record, Hassan Chop is explained here, and umami was previously kisrael'd

Hedbergism of the Moment
I went to the Home Depot, which was unnecessary. I need to go to the Apartment Depot, which is just a big warehouse with a whole lot of people standing around saying, "We don't have to fix shit."
Mitch Hedberg. Man, ain't that the truth. There is so much that I don't miss about homeownership...

the new beetle

So, yesterday I noticed an attractive beetle crawling on the window ledge at work:

click for full 600x600

I checked, and lo and behond, my Canon SD400 has a nifty "Digital Macro" feature. Once I learned to stop messing it up with additional zoom, I managed to get some decent shots. The focus isn't perfect for all of the image, but with these 2 shots (Both are heavily cropped) I managed to get the important detail.

click for full 1600x1200

The second one is resized to make good wallpaper, and both of these images have been added to my desktop wallpaper page. I think it's worth clicking to see the full version of both.

Hedbergism of the Moment
I was in a casino, minding my own business, and this guy came up to me and said, "You're gonna have to move. You're blocking a fire exit." As though if there was a fire, I wasn't gonna run. If you're flammable and have legs, you are never blocking a fire exit. Unless you are a table.

Essay and Jokes of the Moment
A longish but worthwhile essay on the jokes people in communist countries told. I remember one that I think Lena told me in college:
Stalin was walking through the park eating caviar on a bulky roll. An old frail hungry woman comes up to him "Please, Mr. Chairman, " she begins, "may I have a bit of your sandwich?" "No, get away from me, you stupid woman!"

The woman returns to her friends and tells them what happened. "Oh, I'm so happy!" she says. "Why?" they ask, "he was totally rude to you!" "But... he could have had me killed!"
For some reason it's the detail of caviar on a bulky roll that makes me remember that one. Ksenia told me another joke:
A woman sees a starving woman and her son near a zoo. She takes pity on them and gives the boy the apple that she had with her. The mother prompts her son, "well, what do you say?" The boy looks down at the apple, looks up, looks down and says "Hello, Apple!"
I posted a version of that joke in the comments to help explain my Hello, Money! greeting of newborn cash from the ATM, but I left out the poverty aspect, which, after reading the article, I realize is what made it a political joke rather than just a bit of absurd humor.

News Event of a Past Moment
Color me parochial but I don't think it sunk in that Mumbai is what used to be called Bombay.

hey bud

I don't think I have an instant messenging client that's really good at letting me know what buddy icon I'm currently displaying to the world. That's a bit annoying.

Hedbergism of the Moment
In my house I have a sliding glass door, and on it is a sticker that says "Warning: Alarm System". And it's a pretty simple alarm system, consisting of... a sticker.

Puzzle Solution of the Moment
A formal-ish paper-based method for solving Soodoku... it reminds me of why I dislike the game. Crosswords at least involve playing with the meaning of words, and with "Paint By Number"/picross/Nonoagrams you have the payoff of a new image.

Odd Memory of the Moment
"Will we ever see each other again?"
"I don't know. Probably no."
Rob K. et al. Summer 1995.
Rob and I were working at Tufts' Curricular Software Studio, and he got involved in a sweet summer romance with a gal who was just there for the summer from... Germany maybe? And he related this sad bit of final evening conversation... you have to hear the second line with a light accent for it to work.

For some reason that second line bounced in my head this morning as I was walking to a sales demo in the heat of a Cambridgeport morning. It took me a minute to remember the basic scene (foreign gal heading back home) and then longer for the context, I couldn't remember if it was from my own past (I didn't think so, because in general I've stayed in touch with my international ex-romances,) or a movie, until finally I realized what it was. Funny how I had to piece the memory together through the feelings it provoked, which is how my head sometimes works.

what not to name a car

For what it's worth, the Impala SS gets my vote for "worst named car ever". What, "Punctura Nazi Trooper" was already taken?

Journal Entry of the Moment
Setting: sitting on Loverboy's lap
Loverboy: *pensive* I've never had such a big girlfriend.
Me: I beg your pardon?
L: *Slightly louder* I said, I've never had such a big girlfriend.
M: Yes, that's what I thought I'd heard. What the hell...?
L: I mean, they never quite reached my nose.
M: And that's big then? Not tall?
L: Why yes, you're chunky.
M: CHUNKY?! You think I'm bloody chunky??
L: Well of course you are!
M: Chunky?! I am NOT chunky!
L: But you are! You know you are not thin.
M: Well cheers.
L: Oh please, you know what I mean, you don't look famished.
M: I'll say. Oh wait. Is this universal-chunky or Loverboy-chunky?
[He often uses adjectives in a way that the rest of the world doesn't share, and it's led to some beautiful linguistics-based situations in the past.]
L: Er, mine? But they're the same this time.
M: Really. Please look up chunky and then tell me if it still is what you mean.
L: Don't be ridiculous, I don't need to look it up, I know what it means.
M: If you don't look it up I'll smoke in the living-room.
L: *laughs*
M: *has fag in living-room*
M: Do you think this conversation is going well, would you say? What with the defunct girlfriends and my being a robust farm animal?
L: Honestly, I'll never understand why women are so weird, what's wrong w what I said? See, I've looked it up!
M: Yes?
L: *vindicated-like* "Short, heavy, stocky".
M: Did you hear what you've just said? This is absolutely demented, that's what I am, you say?
L: I've told you bfr, your body is muscled.
M: What, a new one? Muscled! Where the hell do you see muscles and what do muscles have to do w stocky?
L: Maybe you're not quite so muscled now but it's easy to see you once were. That's chunky.
L: All right then. Be that way.
M: *Sticks hand all the way down to his stomach, pushes into small intestine and writes THAT IS NOT WHAT CHUNKY MEANS in the lining. In blood.*
He has just walked into the office looking for something and en passant idly remarked But you are chunky.

She has a pretty amazing writing style, sometimes reading it is like taking a sip from a firehose. (She was the girlfriend of our former foreign exchange student's brother and they stayed briefly at my mom's NYC apartment when I was visiting as well.)

Hedbergism of the Moment
I get a cold sore. I hate to say it, Minnesota, but in a cold sore I put Carmex on it 'cause Carmex is supposed to alleviate cold sores. I dunno if it does help, but it will make them shiny and more noticeable. It's like cold sore highlighter! Maybe they could come up with an arrow that heals cold sores.

button it

So yesterday I went to a small reunion-ish bbq for people from Event Zero. It was hosted by Patrick, who lives near Davis Square where they were having their ArtBeart festival, music, food, and lots of booths of local artists and craftsfolk. Ksenia and I explored there a bit. I learned that the Someday Cafe is in danger, which bummed me out. But they had a bubble gum machine thing that dispensed cool buttons for 50 cents a pop. That was put there by shuddemup.com (Some of the buttons shown here.) I love small art dispensed from vending machines. I got a cropped comic panel with a viking going "Flee! Flee!"

Hedbergism of the Moment
I rent a lot of cars, 'cause I go on the road, and when I drive a rental car, I don't know what's going on with them, right. So a lot of times I'll drive for like ten miles with the emergency brake on. That doesn't say a lot for me, but it really doesn't say a lot for the emergency brake. It's really not an emergency brake, it's an emergency 'make the car smell funny' lever.
Been there done that...actually had a Cheech and Chong-seeming-moment coming back over the border from Canada with smoke pouring from the rental minivan.

Thus endeth the week of Mitch Hedberg quotes!

Link of the Moment
Boingboing had a link to some galleries of Ghost Rooms, where sometimes you see the remnants of a floor and ceiling hanging off what is now the side of a building.

I remember seeing something like that, in Salamanca, NY (funny name, given how the links are Spanish...) When they were tearing down the old parsonage, or whatever you call the house where the priests live. There was a bathroom cracked open to the sky, with the tub and toilet still there, and I remember thinking (must have been around 7 at the time) that it was kind of intimate thing thrust open to the world.

told me where to go, and no mistake!

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Spurred on by a soon-to-expire 12% off "Reward Zone" certificate from Best Buy, I got my mom her big ticket Christmas and/or Birthday gift half a year early: a "TomTom GO 300" GPS/roadmap gadget.

It's pretty cool, and I see a lot of improvements in terms of UI from my old reliable "Babe in a Box" Garmin 2610. Most notable, all these units have that "3D" view for the map. It reminds me a lot of that old Super Nintendo "Mode 7" effect, where 3D was done by rotating and zooming over a single giant plane... despite my initial uncertainty I can see it's a UI win, I think because of the way it emphasizes the streets closer to you, since in perspective they're larger.

The one thing is, at first we couldn't use it to find my mom's own street! Though browsing, we could see it on the map. I finally found it by entering her zip code, which explained that she doesn't live in "Needham" like we thought, but "Needham Heights". (One thing I can do on m Garmin but I don't know how to on the TomTom is search for a street without knowing the city.)

Of course, one of the niftier features is all the voices they build in, male and female, and with various accents. The female UK English one is rather euphonious. And Ksenia was impressed that it also spoke Russian.

Games of the Moment
I found this page of Chess Variants, where you can play against a weak computer opponent online (Java applet-- actually following one of the game links seemed to shutdown Firefox once, so beware.) I got the chance to try Kriegspiel, where you can't see your opponents pieces. The UI could be a bit sharper, but overall it's cool to mess around with.

Achievment of the Weekend
Another late loveblender. The From the Ball-Room to Hell was kind of fun.

News of the Moment
CNN had a transcript of a conversation between Bush and Blair. The headline is "Bush frustration sparks expletive" (Who cares, really, though it would be nice if he was a bit less shoot-from-the-hip) but it was kind of interesting to see a relatively casual conversation like that. Bush almost sounds like he knows what he's talking about!

assaulted battery

I have to admit that I'm falling off the rechargable battery bandwagon, especially for AA batteries. Maybe it's a technology problem, because it seems tough to have a ready supply of fully charged batteries ready to go when you need it, as opposed to just buying $5 for a pack from CVS and taking from that. I feel a little un-ecologicially responsible (especially because I know you're supposed to dispose of batteries a certain way...) but there it is.

Video of the Moment
Boingboing linked to this Iran Air 747 ad from just before the Iranian revolution. The whole thing seems maybe a bit clumsy, though that might just be how much less slick production values were then... but what kind of slogain is "Iran Air. We take you there. We take you back."?

Article of the Moment
And need to is just the thing for the currently very popular tense I call the kindergarten imperative, as in, 'I need you to put away your crayons now.'
Ben Yagoda, writing in Slate on the use of the word need, especially in politics, and the overall decline in use of the imperative mood.

beware the roving hands of bush

Watched this great comedy/drama show from the UK called Green Wing over at FoSO and FoSOSO's last night. Unfortunately, BBC America is butchering it, losing the widescreen format, bleeping profanity, and chopping the amusing stuff that goes on over the credits. Thank heavens for teh Internets, it's amazing what those tubes can bring forth. The show is funny and fearless! Great music, sometimes playing games with speeding up and slowing down movement (hmm, kind of a Benny Hill reference, but not nearly so corny), and just a twisted sensibility to it all.

Game of the Moment
Max pointed me to four second fury, a WarioWare knock-off with a bunch of 4-second minigames, and then a boss-fight.

Politics of the Moment

--George Bush's impromptu and, by the looks of it, utterly unwelcome and inappropriate shoulder rub of German prime minister Angela Merkel. (BoingBoing reports that the Germans are calling it a "Liebes-Attacke")

Damn it, Bush, you can't Good-Ol'-Boy your way through everything. That might have been fine for Texas (well, not really that either) but just is not what a representative of our nation on the world stage should be doing.

And nice use of your veto on the Stem Cells. With 72% of Americans in favor of it, I hope it greatly helps to make a huge wedge between your party's unholy alliance of Fundamentalists and traditional Conservatives.

why babies are bald

Not to still EB's thunder, but...

Catherine was born with a surprisingly rich amount of hair. It makes for a very attractive baby but there are some disadvantages; her model of the world and her place in it is still very much a work in progress, but she still has that kind of grabbing things instinct (or maybe it's learned?)... and one of the things within reach is her own hair. Which can hurt, and she hasn't pieced things together enough to know to let go!

It's a bit funny, but also profound, just how close to a tabula rasa babies are when they come into the world.

News of the Moment
There's an escaped kangaroo roaming Ireland -- you have to love it when life imitates loony tunes, all we need now is a cat with speech impediment mistaking it for a giant mouse.

Commentary of the Moment
Wow, Lore's commentary on Youtube homebrew music videos is more scathing than usual. A bit funny as well.


As I lose weight I'm going through a bit of a pants crisis. Everything I own seems to be either still small enough that I can't engage in my favorite hobby of "simultaneous pants wearing and taking a deep breath" or purchased around my peak weight so that are now at risk for falling right off my ass.

Of course I don't want to buy a lot of clothing now, at what I think is an intermediate weight, 2/5 of the way to my final goal.

But, I wondered, if I don't want to buy clothing on my way down, didn't I buy anything when I was around the same weight on the way up? The answer turned out to be "yes, but only cargo pants" which I guess I don't think of as being very summery. They were part of my "Queer Gal for the Straight Pal" makeover a few years ago, the main remnants of which are more interesting glasses and an aversion to jeans for day-to-day use.

Video of the Moment
One of the nice things about break.com, relative to other sites that carry a lot of the same content, is that you can link to it without having to warn about gloms and gloms of porn ads, they have their acts together. Anyway, here is a brilliant brilliant bit from a home shopping cable show where the announcer is extremely slow to acknowledge that the large digital photo he is holding is not in fact a horse, but a detailed view of a butterfly. You have to see it to believe it.

Speaking of insect closeups, for what it's worth, I indeed took those pictures of that beetle the other week. Ksenia didn't realize that I was the actual photographer, and even EB expressed surprise that it was me when he saw the fully zoomed-in version as my desktop wallpaper.


So yesterday morning I'm in my company's kitchen/pantry where they have lots of free junkfood. Actually I was there with the guy who had just restocked it from a run to BJ's Wholesale Club. And the amazing thing was, I had already accidentally memorized the calorie count of pretty much every snack in there, from the Poptarts (400 for a pack) to Pretzels (110 for 3) to Pringles (140 for the snacksize) to Swedish Fish (200) to the supermarket bakery cookies (amazingly, 250, like around a Snickers bar!) to the "breakfast bars" (130). And about 4 or 5 other snack types besides.

Yeah, I might be a little obsessed. That's why calorie monitoring is so important to me these days, so I can balance my pathological interest in these foods with my weight loss goals. The other day I got sick of thinking about Poptarts so I had a pack. They were..eh, ok, but I get more enjoyment out of my Lean Cuisines.

Hero of the Moment
This is Samus Aran of the Metroid series, cribbed from this Wikipedia graphic, which includes the various powered up modes, including when she loses her armor. The armorless version is slated to be a character in the new Smash Bros. game, a bit to the dismay of gamers who would like to have her as evidence that you can have a tough video game heroine without it being about her looks. Of course, even the first game had a (rather non-titillating) "Samus in a bathing suit" reward for completing the game... but back then, part of it was the turnabout of realizing that the character you'd been controlling the entire time was a woman.

Manners of the Moment
Slate presents the Marine Corps' Quick Reference to Iraqi Etiquette. Eight pages are listed, but you can see all 16 in the large PDF download. (Including interesting bits like how the color of the male headcovering encodes if the man has made the hajj, and then if his country is ruled by a president or king.) I always dig this kind of high level analysis, I've always had an interest in the small (and sometimes large) differences among various cultures.

we're gonna make fettucini outta you, alfredo!

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So last night Miller, Ksenia and I decided to go dancing. The problem is, Miller hasn't really been around to clubs for a few years, Ksenia of course is unfamiliar with the lay of the land, and my experience only extends to the now (temporarily?) defunct "Man Ray". So Miller did some research, and it sounded like "Tequila Rain", downstairs of Jillian's (in what would be the shadow of Fenway Park were it not, like, 11PM) might be a decent bet.

In the end it was... just alright. The music selection was a bit uneven, and the DJ bothered with smooth transitions for maybe 1 in 3 songs. I was trying to gauge the age of the crowd... I thought it was pretty young, but Miller pointed some 80s and 90s standards like "Hey Micky" and "Pour Some Sugar On Me" were getting a lot of people yelling along. I was kind of amused by the Coyote Ugly-esque counter they had, and the gals trying to work it, though it was in front of a VIPish area, not a bar.

So, we didn't try to close the place out, and beat a retreat to IHOP (incidentally, the parking gods had previously smiled upon me, and we got a free metered spot right there by the BU dorms) I was pretty dang good at resisting the breakfasty temptations of IHOP, limiting myself to coffee, a link sausage, and a small onion ring.

A good night in all, though we didn't climb into bed 'til a bit after 3.

Geek Nostalgia of the Moment
The "Adventurers of Alfredo" where these odd little stick figure animations that came with Big Blue Disk in the 1980s... (Big Blue Disk was one of those "magazines on disk" where every month or so you would get some games, applications, etc... it's also where the programmers who went on to make Castle Wolfenstein 3D and DOOM got their start.)

I've been musing on Alfredo for a long time. In the 90s, I thought it would be cool to port or at least pay homage to the adventurers on the black and white Palm Pilot, but I of course never got around to it, partially because I only had a vague memory of what the adventures were.

But no more! Devi Ever has retrieved 10 of the 13 episodes and ripped them to a convenient (well, for many) Windows format, so now you can enjoy The Adventures of Alfredo on your own desktop.

I admit in some ways they haven't aged all that well, and not just from a graphics standpoint. It's pretty juvenile in parts, but still fun in a minimalist sort of way. If you're just going to check out one, I'd say Episode 9, "Alfredo's Nuclear Nuisance" is as good as any. The later ones added some welcome complexity.

Alfredo is kind of hapless video game character minus the video game, getting blown up or demolished in about every episode. Actually it seems like he might have been the inspiration to the later trend of Stick Figure Death Theater (which unfortunately has gone beyond its roots as charmingly simple animated GIFs into full multimedia Flash productions.)

In a fit of wanting to support random bits of geek nostalgia, as well as "more Indy Geek than thou", I bought one of the cafepress shirts. I even bought one for my Uncle Bill, because at my request he dumped a whole bunch of his collection of Big Blue Disk onto CD-ROM, but I never made enough time to do much with the episodes that were contained in there.

Apology of the Moment
Sorry for all the long-windedness about topics of such special interest! Or is that part of the charm of my site?

twenty pounds later

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So, I've lost 20 pounds! That's a cool milestone. Half of the first ten is that easy to lose water-y weight stuff, but the second ten is pretty much all the result of your new patterns.

I have a kooky theory, that the best time for me to exercise is right before bed, that maybe cranking up your meatabolism before being so inactive is useful. The computerpoint is, maybe it's just that I'm more dehydrated or whatever when I go to weigh myself the next morning. A corowker mentions the idea that right before you eat is a great time for exercise as well.

I found the video for groove is in the heart online, and like exercising to that, even if I have to kind of doubletime it if I want to keep in rhythm. It's just as weird and campy a video as I would have hoped for. And Lady Miss Kier...mmmmmmmm...

Analysis of the Moment
Slate's Middle East Buddy List... a grid showing who are friends, who are enemies, and why.

bad jokes

This morning I had very vivid, yet now irritatingly vague dreamlets involving the snooze alarm... something drawing parallels between Peanuts cartoons with their dealing with imaginary friends and the difficulty in sorting out the real world from the dreamworld when you're first waking up. Pressing snooze was represented by some sort of bureaucratic form you had to fill out that helped explain what you were dreaming about. And then after all that I realized it might all be because I'm expecting a sucktastic next few days at work.

Joke of the Moment
Married 25 years, I took a look at my wife one day and said, "Honey, 25 years ago, we had a cheap apartment, a cheap car, slept on a sofa bed and watched a 10-inch black-and-white TV, but I got to sleep every night with a hot 25-year-old blonde. Now, we have a nice house, a nice car, a big bed and a big-screen plasma TV, but I'm sleeping with a 50-year-old woman. It seems to me that you're not holding up your side of things."

But my wife is a very reasonable woman.

She told me to go out and find a hot 25-year-old blonde, and she'd make sure that I would once again be living in a cheap apartment, driving a cheap car and sleeping on a sofa bed.
Herby H, rec.humor.funny. A tad on the misogynistic side, but I enjoyed the way it played with parallels.
The same guy sent in a joke earlier about a man who asks his wife to bring him a beer quickly, "before it starts", as he plunks down in front of the TV. His wife brings him a beer. He repeats the request then, and the wife is angry but complies...the third time though, she explodes, angry that he just came in, didn't say hello, demanded beer, after she'd been cooking and cleaning and ironing all day... "aw crap," he says, "it's started."

Again, both of these jokes aren't very woman-friendly, but they have interesting conceptual constructions, one with parallels, the other with self-referential systems.

the magazine seen

I need to rethink how I deal with magazines.

For starters I feel guilty for not reading them cover to cover, which is a bit silly. On the other hand if I just skim them as bathroom reading, I might miss something cool. Last night I skimmed Wired cover to cover... it's still a great magazine, and I found out about 2 or 3 things I had to go research online.

I had to give up the New Yorker; its once a week schedule lets it pile it up too fast. And I need to get back on reading Make and The Atlantic. Those, Wired, and the odd videogame magazine are about it I guess. Oh, and "The Funny Times".

Most of all I need to be diligent about discarding the old ones.

Random typo of the moment: I spellchecked and found "magazing"... almost, but not quite, good enough for today's title.

Wired-Ripped Links of the Moment
I already kisrael'd "You're The Man Now Dog" when the hilarious Batman thing came out. Wired had this article on it which mentioned the following picks of site founder Max Goldberg: (the magazine didn't have URLs, so this is the result of some light googling...) there's Vader Coaster, Lohan Facial--it's not as gross as it sounds, just some fun with the way celebrities strike the same damn expression, and it begot the even better Paris Hilton Facial. (It's the celebrity version of this poor scared looking gal.) Then there's the simple grace of LOL Internet and the Rube Golberg wonder of Blue Ball Machine, which reminds me of the Stick Figure Tiling Animations I kisrael'd a while back. (Click on the "giant ongoing universe" link... I think the Stick Figures were cooler, but the balls have better music...)

summertime, summertime, sum sum summertime

This site's been a little light lately. Kind of a summer lull I guess.

Not to get overly Meta and navel-gazing, but do people think my recent policy of having fairly non-linky commentary at the top of every day's entry is a net plus, neutral, or kind of a minus? I know some people like my "rambles" more than I give the rambles credit for.

I guess I'm digging doing it, and, as self-important as it sounds, that's the important thing.

Link of the Moment
Via Bill the Splut, it's the Internet Circa 1996, right when I was graduating from college. Funny. I had forgotten how big the 101 Dalmations remake was. I also remember a Wired piece from a few years before, where a guy grabbed the McDonalds.com domain after repeatedly confirming the company's disinterest in their own webspace.

Advice of the Moment
Avoid surprising bears.

Article of the Moment
How Bush and the rest of us are totally getting outplayed by Iran.

Yay Neocons.

15 lbs less, 5 years more, time enough, and love

If you took someone from a few decades ago, I'm not sure how many, and put them in a modern office workplace, besides all the technical achievements, wouldn't they be surprised by the "first name culture" that so permeates the place? The other day at work I was composing an e-mail to our contact at one of our clients, she's a project lead there, we've never ment, but I get to call her by her first name. I'm not very mystical about the power of names, but still, there's a certan enforced casualness that has kind of taken over the business world.

Video of the Moment
Oh, the things we can find Google Video... crave muscular thighs? Maybe you won't after seeing this video of an obscenely muscled bodybuilder. (Warning, also contains a fair amount of bathing-suited crotch.)

Mascot of the Moment
Popsicles are my favorite diet indulgence, and my diet is lenient enough that I can have one daily, sometimes even two, if I choose a nice low-calorie brand. "No Pudge" has a pretty good line of stuff, at least I like the Strawberry Shortcake. (Funny how they all their products start with the word "Giant"... guess that's something their market research tapped into.)

Anyway, the only real downside is enduring the humilation of their mascot, this damn pig with a tape measure around its waist. The popsicle wrapper is covered with copies of it, and it's on every single side of the box in the freezer.

90 Calories, 1 Gram of Fat, Zero Dignity!


So Ksenia's been watching the hell out of the complete set of Ally McBeal we got.

One thing about that show: lots of great shots of Boston.

Quote of the Moment
I guess that's the story of life: what you most fear never happens, but what you most yearn for never happens either. This is the difference between life and fiction. I suppose it's a good trade-off. But I'm not sure.
Philip K. Dick, in some author's notes on "The Days of Perky Pat".

Image of the Moment
From CNN, "A man cleans a poster of Hezbollah chief Nasrallah." At the risk of being completely culturally insensitive, I'd say one thing I like about the West currently is that we DON'T have giant-head posters of political and group leaders up and about for the most part. Even the most numbskulled George W. supporter limits it to a "W" bumpersticker, or in the most extreme cases a small portrait on top of the TV.

Which reminds me of this other quote from the author's commentary of the Philip K. Dick anthology I just finished:
Hitler had once said that the true victory of the Nazis would be to force its enemies, the United States in particular, to become like the Third Reich--i.e. a totalitarian society--in order to win. Hitler, then, expected to win even in losing.
I wonder how that quote fits into the often asymmetric "war against terror." "We" can't quite ever look like "them", because we're a society, and they're a small group. But their power to guess our responses and then work horrific misdeeds to shape those responses gives one pause.

synthaesia is not an 80s band

Recently I had this AIM chat with one of my coworkers:
kirkjerk: did you ever find out what to bill this under?
htmlaudit: Nope. No clue....
kirkjerk: Jim says it's the last one, the 2006 one
htmlaudit: Ok, you might want to ask LateAdopter. :-)
kirkjerk: sweet jimminy damn it
"htmlaudit" realized that I was once again mixing his online handle with "lateadopter". Now, to normal people, these nicks are nothing alike, but to my shadow-dyslexia, or shadow-synthaesia , or whatever it is, they're extremely similar, compound phrase-words, both with the first word having strong "l" and "t" sounds and the second word starting with "a" "d" and "t" in rapid succession.

Am I crazy? I think the AIM client I use can alias people's nicknames to more recongnizable ones, I should look into that.

Science of the Moment
This whole business of putting color to noise comes from scientists who want to show that the frequency spectrum is not flat. They developed a color-coded scheme based on the exponent of the inverse of the frquency. Brown is represented by 1/f2. It's common in nature. Temperature flucuations in a city can look like brown noise over time. It sounds softer than white or pink noise. Pink has an octave quality, and the ear hears it as white.
I had actually grabbed this to kisrael from the print version of the magazine before boingboing picked up on it, but wanted to wait 'til the online version was up. Virtual Synthaesia! Who'da thunkit... I like "Pink has an octave quality, and the ear hears it as white."

wars, rumors of war, etc

I don't have a lot to say about the accidental death of all those civilians in Lebanon. It's an awful tragedy. Our administration putting all its eggs in the basket of Iraq, and now using platitudes about needing "sustainable peace" as an excuse not to get in there and do something, as if there's some magic fix waiting to be applied, and any stopping of hostilities in the meanwhile would just get in the way of that.

I had to scoff at the latest cover of Time magazine that had a picture of Bush in an Air Force One top and the caption "The Weight of the World". Given how famously he's ducked losing a night's sleep during his watch, it's hard to take the idea of him being restless and troubled seriously. Some props to him for using the term "Terrible" in regards to Iraq.

Christian Fundies who are eager to look to the current Israel/Lebanon conflict as a harbinger of the events of Revelation are an odd lot. One theory I've heard is that the antichrist might come as a peace bringer, maybe the man who manages to bring peace to Middle East and solve the Gordian Knot of all the conflict there. The whole Fundie view of Israel, then, is kind of weird, because these are people who root for things that hasten the coming of the end of the word, not against, like most non-insane people. The dangerous bit of thinking is "pre-Tribulation", that all the faithful will be sucked up into heaven before the crap really hits the fan. I think if more Christians assumed that they'd be around for the 7 years of tribulation, they'd be less excited about end-of-days events.

Of course, that's all part of the fun of prophecy, it's abilities to be self-fufilling, self-negating, or happen anyway even when you try to prevent it.

Shirt of the Moment
The other day I did a literal double take at this incredibly crass T-shirt, claiming, in more graphic terms, that the wearer's ability to assemble a computer indicates an ability to grant the reader sexual satisfaction. Assuming that the shirt was intended to be about the female orgasm... yeah, that's exactly what women are in on the hunt for, physical human sexuality brought to the leve a geekish hobby. While I think there is something to that "Revenge of the Nerds" idea that "Jocks only think about sports, nerds only think about sex" and that that intense interest can help create thoughtful and skillful lovers, that shirt is still just r,o,n,g RONG.

Tangent: they're remaking Revenge of the Nerds? Yeesh. Though it is hard to believe that its been 22 years.

Secondary Tangent: I love quotes, and I used to regularly visit IMDb's frontpage to get their "Movie/TV Quote of the Day". But then thet stopped attributing it in the page, and instead have a teaser "From which TV show/Movie?" link. That subconciously really bugs me, turning it from a quote appreciation thing to a dumb movie trivia game, and I dropped the daily visits to the site. Of course it's still the canonical movie information source, Trivia, Goofs and Quotes especialy.

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