2006 November❮❮prevnext❯❯

gimme some candy!

Miller got some Halloween candy for last night, but we live on a poor street for trick-or-treaters, so we get to keep all the candy for ourselves.

The thing is, Miller and I have a fundamental disagreement about candy: for me, there's a near absolute hierarchy: any Halloween candy with chocolate is more desirable than anything without. There might be an exception to this rule now and then, but in general it holds. Miller disagrees, claiming that chocolate can get squished and mushed and it really is more situation dependent than that.


But seriously, any one else want to weigh in?

Politics of the Moment
Jimminy Crickets, it's not bad enough Kerry lost the 2004 election, now he's trying to poison the democrat's mid-term chances, attracting attention in the most negative way possible, and away from the already fading interest in Republican scandals. The implication that American troops are undereducated ignoramus, that military life is the option once you haven't applied yourself in other fields, is the least politically correct thing I've heard any politician utter in recent memory. In the comments TSM points out the missing "us", but it was a dumb joke to begin with, and terribly delivered. More in the comments.

Image and Video of the Moment
A pelican eating a pigeon, via this cellar.org's Image of the Day. The youtube video was pretty amazing as well. And frankly, funny. It's a combination of that "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park" vibe along with the sheer comedy gold of a pelican's big wobbly underbeak. I wonder if the pelican is at risk for damage from a scratchy pecky pigeon. Or for coughing up feathers for the next week.

breasts flailing wildly in the air

think what I need is two closets. One for "just washed" and other for "wearagainable".

While I'm at it, a pair of robot arms that did nothing but accept shirts handed to it, hanging them neatly up in the closet, would be one of the niftier uses of robot technology I can think of. Worlds more useful than those stupid "can bring you a soda, if someone on the kitchen puts one on its little tray" robots that so captivated me in the 80s.

"Erotica" of the Moment
She romped on top of Simolzak's huge frame, straddling him with her hands on his chest, her back arched and her breasts flailing wildly in the air. Her back was to him and her long hair swung from side to side as if accentuating the abandonment of her screams.
Do you UNDERSTAND how much momentum you need to have breasts flailing wildly in the air? Man, that's EXUBERANCE!

Politics of the Moment
Republicans are absolutely raising the bar in being lying scumsucking pandering mudslinging misleading asshats this political advertising season.

backlog flush #61

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I'm out this weekend. Joining my mom at the Salvation Army Officer's Christmas Shindig... I might've mentioned, offical Christmas events for Officers have to generally be done with before the Red Kettles go out... for many officers it becomes the busiest time of the year.

I've been tweaking kisrael.com's editing UI a bit, using iframe tags to embed my backlog of "of the Moment" material directly into the page. So I thought I'd clean out my textareas... especially the one that's meant to just be a "test" area so I can see how HTML looks without putting it on the front page.

Anyway, it was a total mess, and I'm not sure if everything here was even meant to be kisrael'd, some of it may have been for my future reference. But in the interest of giving myself a clean start, here goes...

backlog flush #62

Via This Gone & Forgotten page -- you can get the T-Shirt!

backlog flush #63

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I'm composing this on my latest piece of gizmo heaven, a Pocket PC. I'm sure I will have more about to say about it later, but for now I just want to make two three observations:
  1. handheld wifi is hecka fun
  2. whoever thought blue LED keypads (where just the letter or symbol lights up on an unlit surface) are cool should be beat over the head with a blunt PDA... it's impossible to focus on and difficult to read the letters
  3. not putting the angle brackets on the little keyboard makes it kind of a pain to do HTML. I guess the designers of this device wouldn't see that as a huge issue...
Anyway, back to the linkflush:

i am the emperor, and I want dumplings

Back now. Will try and catch up on comments etc. later...

Heh, actually there's less to catch up than I thought... maybe at some point I'll post screenshots of my editing system but I'm not who besides TSM would find that interesting.

Anyway: the Pats-Colts game. Bleh. Some crazy-weird calls, like taunting on Troy Brown (Referee: "he taunted me by gently tossing me the ball when I wasn't ready and making me look bad!") My co-worker is convinced (and predicted it a few weeks ago) that Belichick would basically throw the game to keep his team angry. Given how it looked they could have just kept it on the ground for the whole game, I almost think he's on to something, but that's a heap of wishful thinking.

Quote of the Moment
I am the emperor, and I want dumplings.
Ferdinand I, emperor of Austria.
According to Bartlett's Anecdotes this is his "one recorded notable saying." It reminds me of Sarah and I riffing on a similar theme many years ago: Her was "I would that the minions bring me my biscuits" and mine was "Summon the waitstaff--I would have a scone." Hers has aged a bit better.

Image of the Moment
--A scenic pond my mom and I drove past in New Hampshire. It was chilly up there, I almost had to rethink my current idea of "wear sandals until I have to wear boots."

Politics of the Moment
Iraq as the Ultimate Welfare State, and pointing out how Bush is kind of an anti-Reagan in that regard.

Link of the Moment
The Wikipedia Knowledge Dump, "Knowldge's Last Chance", picks up the best of what Wikipedia discards. (via BoingBoing)

happy billday

Just a quick note,

Quote of the Moment
I know the answer! The answer lies within the heart of all mankind! The answer is twelve? I think I'm in the wrong building.
Charles M. Schulz
I guess that's an old Peppermint Patty routine?

Manuscripts of the Moment
The British Library's Turning the Pages is pretty cool! Zoomable original manuscripts, Da Vinci's notebook, Mozart's music, the Original "Alice in Wonderland", plus a host of others.

It's a Shockwave app. The "page turning" interface is neat-looking but finicky to use, but you can always use the slider underneath. (Actually this link was in that "backlog flush", but I thought it was cool enough to merit a bit more attention than that.


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So on the trip to New Hampshire my mom grabbed a Happy Meal. It still seems kind of funny to me that their now often more like "Happy Sacks", though I think I've seen the "traditional" box recently.

So this Happy Meal sack was imprinted with Nintendo characters (and one frolicking Ronald,) one of the scarier cobrandings conceivable, even though the toy had nothing to do with either. But the text was more about the fun of and need for exercise and fitness than anything video-gameish. (Which, considering the sources, is either ironic or an exercise in avoiding lawsuits.)

Anyway, all this snarky buildup is just to support the observation that
Have a friend toss different sports balls in the air and catch them like Yoshi® would catch fruit.
is a rather odd suggestion, given how Yoshi's MO for catching fruit is to lash out with his giant tongue and, more often than not, gulp the fruit whole.

Quote of the Moment
I have arthritis in my fingers, and picking my nose helps stretch the finger joints and keep them flexible. Oftentimes I switch fingers -- even hands -- mid-pick.
Yankees manager Joe Torre, regarding his habit of picking his nose during games, February 29, 2001
I hate the Yankees but actually I don't mind Joe all that much.

Politics of the Moment
I was a bit surprised that all 3 state ballot questions failed. There was 1. should supermarkets (and convenience stores, as opponents were quick to point out) be able to sell wine, at the local community's discretion, issue 2 was an interesting idea to let people who were the candidate of multiple parties show up multiple times on the ballot, so that someone could vote for them as, say, "the Green party candidate" and send a message without splitting the vote (a solution that is a bit of a hack, bu apparently ballots are confusing enough for voters) and 3 was could independent in-home child care providers collectively bargain with the state.

I guess I tend to default to "Yes" on these kind of things, figuring if someone cares enough to muster up support, it might be worth considering (I still read and pondered the voter's guide) but I wonder if the default is "No" for many voters, if there's a fundamental conservative (in the original sense of the term) streak there.

This state, or at least the districts I've voted in, use optical vote readers (sort of like SAT-fill-in-the-bubble, but with Sharpie-like pens) which seem like a terrific blend of being easy to use, being easy to count electronically, and leaving a paper trail to make large scale fraud take much more work.

And now the Democrats get control of Congress, and maybe the Senate. I'm sure they don't have a brilliant plan for Iraq, but neither do the Republicans, and it was more their mess than the Dems. Between that and the corruption and utter smear tactics of the Republicans, I'm glad to see a bit of a shift.

a great, big, ROARING flame

I have to admit, I'm getting some schadenfreude listening to right wing talk radio these days.

Of course, moderate-lefties are thinking "what TOOK you so long? Were you really that sanguine about Iraq back then?" And of course... "how the hell are the Democrats going to get out of the mess that's there now?" That's the downside for the Dems, now the cleanup is their responsibility.

Sometimes I wonder if having Iraq become three semi-autonomous regions, with careful oil profit-sharing, would be more tenable. Turkey would get pissed at this "Kurdistan-lite"... and there wouldn't be single foil against Iran, but that was kind of lost when we deposed Saddam anyway.

Video of the Moment

--The Tom and Jerry episode "Solid Serenade"! I've been thinking about this episode for YEARS, it's the one where Tom sings "Is You Is"... the Wikipedia page doesn't make it 100% clear if it's Louis Jordan singing or not, but I think it is.

I'm not much of a "furry", but wow, "Toodles" is pretty hot. And Jerry's apartment gets totally wrecked by the sheer power of that Bass. And it has that great "window on neck" gag. Overall it's a true classic of an episode.

Quote of the Moment
Ah, I love you. Ah, you set my soul on fire. It is not just a little spark. It is a flame... a big roaring flame. Ah, I can feel it now...
This line actually originated in "Zoot Cat" (followed by an obvious hot foot gag) but gets repeated in "Solid Serenade"
It's my favorite bit of seduction-parody ever, a good bad French accent really makes it.

music and me

I've been thinking about my relationship to music.

I've taken pride in my music collection, (ironically, both for its selectiveness , and for its bulk) many many CDs currently residing in 4 massive black binders, even though it didn't really get started until college. I made some great mixtapes back in the day, if I do say so myself. And it all seemed to jive well with my band involvement, and singing a cappella w/ sQ, the whole idea of me being a "music person".

The first step was admitting to myself that I really don't like jazz and classical that much, even though I had been trying to force it since fifth grade or so. Like it says on my bio page, I've managed to distill my appreciation of music into 3 broad ideas: lyrics, rhythm, and clever hooks. Since jazz and classical generally miss out on the first of those, a work in either genre has to rely on 2 and 3 if it's going to capture my interest. I have little patience for slow classical or noodling jazz.

But then over the last decade, I really cut back on how much I listen to music. Judging by the increasing density of my CD binders I'm still purchasing CDs, but I' not going back to old CDs all that much. These days I largely treat music as background. Most of the music I listen to is the high energy, non-distracting "party mix" stuff I find immensely useful in aiding in focus as I work. (Recently I bumped up from a 1.5 hour party mix to a much longer 8.2 hour mix.)

Theoretically I'm open to a wider variety of music as I drive, but that's stunted by my forgetting to refresh the pile of CDs I have in the car, and then often preferring some variety of news, sports, or talk radio when I'm driving on my own. (I had an iPod for a short while, but I've come to the conclusion that it'd only be useful for me on a public transportation commute, and even then I'd rather have a good book.)

Another admission, and judging by the success of iTunes, I'm not alone in this, is that I usually only like a few songs per CD. Most of the rest feels like filler, though one man's filler is another's best song ever. Sometimes friends offer to share their entire MP3 collection with me, and...wow. It's almost tough to admit but I have so little urge to bring new music into my life in a wholesale kind of way. In general, I'll randomly hear a song (or see a movie with a good soundtrack), buy the CD, listen to it, and find maybe one or two other songs I like besides what I bought it for. So being shoved into a realm of thousands of new tunes just seems... overwhelming. A vast amount of someone else's coal to find a few potential diamonds.

I'm feeling the urge to try to make the canoncial distillation of my CD collection, MP3s of just the stuff I like (and wouldn't skip if it came up in a random selection) and skipping the filler. On the one hand, if I was succesful with a project like that, I'd be worried because the songs that didn't make the cut that day would be almost totally ignored. On the other hand, it's worlds better than the status quo, where only the songs that had made it onto my "party mixes" or into the smaller CD wallet for my car get regular attention.

Once I had that "best of" collection, I'd further need to winnow it down to "party/work", "potentially sensual", and "other". And that would be it. I worry about the amount of effort it would take though... I'd have to trust in my ability to quickly judge a song by just hearing the begining and maybe a chunk in the middle. Which is actually pretty reliable, though I'm sure a few good songs would slip through the cracks. The BIG problem comes from the songs that are luke-warm, neither hot nor cold...

Toy of the Moment
Speaking of all things musical, or at least audio, the Whitney Music Box is a cool (if somewhat repetitive) series of toys exploring the relationship between sound and spiral space. Very Space Age!

Video of the Moment
OK, this is a video of someone doing very well at the "Home Run Contest" in Super Smash Brothers Melee, where a character has to beat up a "heavy bag" and then use a power move to send it flying for distance:

But it's probably the most concise video showing for showing something that drives me NUTS about the game... in the final "5, 4, 3, 2, 1" countdown, I swear that the announcer's pronunciation of "five" sounds more like "three" than it does "five". Can people weigh in? Is it just an aural quirk of mine, or is it spoken kind of oddly? (Another odd thing is I don't remember noticing it for the first few years I owned the game, but now it grabs my attention every time.)

*cough cough*

Ricola coughdrops has a current promotional campaign that I find despicably brilliant. "Find the Mystey Cougher"... somewhere in America someone will be coughing, and if a person offers them a ricola coughdrop, they'll get a million bucks.

It sounds like there's a website and clues being dropped by email, so it's not as random as all that.

Still, as the Daily Dump puts it:
The brilliance of this is manifold. First, it would be HILARIOUS to see someone rushing through a crowded subway station or a restaurant offering everyone who coughed a Ricola. What are the chances that someone gets beat up doing this? 10:1? 5:1? Hilarious. Second, I want TWO people in the same place rushing around offering everyone a Ricola, shoving each other out of the way to be the first one to offer the lozenge. Third, I want to see someone run up to a Spanish person who just coughed and offer them a Ricola, only to have the Spanish person make a gesture that they don't understand and have the person FLIP OUT screaming, "How do you say, 'Would you like a Ricola?' in Spanish. HOW DO YOU SAY IT!" My head is spinning over this.
Personally, I'm thinking of the pathetic loser who doesn't even realize hints are being dropped, but who could really use the money, pathetically and desperately reprogramming themselves to offer a Ricola coughdrop to anyone they encounter coughing for the rest of their life.

On that Daily Dump site, I liked The Bourbon Samurai's comment:
Other cough drop companies should create competing mysery coughers...you would never know which to offer..."Halls? Ricola? Sucrets? Glass of Robitussin? Dammit! WHICH ONE ARE YOU!!!"

Quote of the Moment
Television reporter: "This November will be your 104th birthday. What is your secret for longevity?"
Elderly man: "Huh?"


There's nothing more pathetic than a battery powered clock that doesn't have quite enough juice... the second hand just tries, tries, tries but can't make it, and so time itselfs can seem to be a little stuck.

Comic Analysis of the Moment
--The Silent Penultimate Panel Watch keeps track of use and abuse of that old comic standby, the silent frame before the punchline. Is it THAT wrong?

my weekend and welcome to it

So this weekend I plowed through my 2004 kisrael.com entries and got 104 new quotes for my Quote-O-Matic viewer. Not quite so many gems, as far as I can tell, but some worthy entries.

Also I made an issue of the Blender of Love and did a little statistical analysis on what were the most popular categories for works. The feature page goes into more detail about each one, but here's a sorted summary:
Something Else 13411
Love Lost 1349
Love Found 948
It's Never Simple 892
Other Factors Interfere 437
Just Plain Admiring 408
'I Will Survive!' 396
A Metaphor 354
Confused 337
Lonely 318
Really, Really happy 285
Live for Today 283
Between Friendship and Romance 280
Still Life 253
Admiring From Afar 244
Love On The Net 113
Love Taking Away Freedom 103
Lonely But Happy. 101
Life as Second Fiddle 51
Mostly though I was proud of this chart:
It looks kind of like a rug.

Oh and Happy Birthday Ksenia!

Diplomacy of the Moment
The other week BoingBoing linked to this list of International Faux Pas, a topic that I've always found interesting, though the list wasn't quite as juicy as I had hoped. A bit later then BoingBoing linked to stories of American Soldiers making similar kind of cultural mistakes, even when they mean well. That last link is part of a Oral History of Reporting Iraq by the Columbia Journalism Review... they're still doling out the various chapters but it's some good stuff.

Book Review of the Moment
"How I Became Stupid" is a bad book. And I'm not the only person to think so. Note to self, don't fall for burbs like "A harmonious & surprising mixture of optimism and nihilism" again. Especially if the author is French.

j'aime, je n'aime pas

I was thinking about that Amélie movie like/dislikes thing, a clever little way of painting characters it used. I remember seeing a blog entry playing off of it years ago...I decided to start by looking up what the original ones were:

Amélie's father, Raphaël Poulain doesn't like Raphaël Poulain likes Amélie's mother, Amandine Fouet, doesn't like She likes Suzanne, the landlady, likes sportsmen who cry from disappointment.
She doesn't like it when a man is humiliated in front of his kid.
The tobacconist is Georgette, the hypochondriac. She doesn't like to hear "le fruit de vos entrailles est béni."
Gina, Amélie's colleague, granddaughter of a healer likes to crack her fingers.
Hipolito, the not-successful writer, likes is to see a bullfighter getting gored.
The only thing Joseph, Gina's jealous ex-lover likes is to pop the bubbles of plastic wrappings.
She likes the sound of Philomène's cat's bowl with water on the floor.
As for the cat, he likes to listen to children's stories.

Amélie likes: Amélie dislikes: So, I got to thinking about some of my likes and dislikes. At the risk of being excessively corny or trite:

Kirk dislikes: Kirk likes: (UPDATE 2019: I also really like letting people know their brake-light is out...)

I suppose those weren't as "character-revealing" as the originals... more frank and useful ones would be something along the lines of "likes women wearing stretchy tanktops" "likes writing small perl scripts and macros to automate repetitive tasks" "dislikes PC laptops that won't wake up from suspend for like a solid minute so you press the damn power button and it ends up going right back into hibernate as soon as it wakes up" "dislikes traffic jams".

But still, it's a nice exercise, and tougher than it might seem. Anyone want to give it a try, at least two gripes, two small pleasures?

moana lisa

I need to rant for a moment, about something very geeky and ultimately not of great consequence. (I understand this is tremendously unusual for this site or the web in general.)

So last night Ksenia wanted help looking for some symbol/logo type stuff for an art project... specifically for a symbol for "art" in general. Poking around the "webdings" font, I found this neat thing, character code 173, which "normal" fonts display as a little dash character:
Perfect! But I also wanted to let her see all the funny little icons that came in Webdings and of course good old Wingdings (and Wingdings 2). So I made a little program to print every character in those odd fonts in a single HTML page. And it was cool. But then I noticed... the Iconic Mona Lisa wasn't there. Investigating further with Window's character map tool and my program, I could see that the character before Mona Lisa was there, and the one after was there, and there was another icon that used the same basic image but put it in a "document copy" frame, but not that one. Not in Firefox, not in IE.

After beating my head against the wall, and even doing some research online, I found out that Character Code 173 is a "soft hyphen" and is involved in a giant, retarded, overly-anal-standards moronic mess that means browsers elect not to show it, because maybe it's supposed to not be a character, but some kind of weird-ass hint about where to break a word (but, maybe not, so the browsers really should be showing it, even if the whole idea of providing a hint about where to break a word wasn't totally antithetical to HTML in general.) So, I had a 1-in-256 chance (more or less) of running into this issue on the character I wanted, and the universe being what it is, of course that is what happened.

UPDATE: somehow inspired by Lex's comments, I made up a 8.5 x 11 version of the graphic, suitable for printing and maybe even framing. I love how it's an 8 megapixel image that's only 58K.

Funny of the Moment
Straight from the "Why Didn't I Think of That???" Department: Wikipedia Brown and the Case of the Captured Koala. Brilliant! I remember these books and the story captures the detail perfectly. (via felisdemens)


So yesterday I went to yoga class, checking my regular physician who is also my yoga instructor that it was ok if I had a cold... (I figured I was after the really contagious bit anyway.) He said it was fine, and even something like "we need to have colds to keep us healthy." He went on to say that there are a limited number of viruses, 130 or so of this one type, 30 of another that mostly cause colds, and that you can't get the same virus twice. Now, I think it's not quite as simple as that, since I know it's the mutation factor that makes it so hard to make a vaccine for this stuff, but still. Because if there are 160-odd types, and that's all you could catch in a lifetime... I could almost see someone taking that on as a Pokémon type challenge, gotta catch 'em all!

Video of the Moment

--Winsor McCay of Little Nemo fame in a 1911 movie... the live action stuff is pretty forgettable, but seeing the guy at work, and then the resulting animation, is fantastic.

Quote of the Moment
My life has no purpose, no direction, no aim, no meaning, and yet I'm happy. I can't figure it out. What am I doing right?
Charles M. Schulz.
Funny to compare that with
I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive.
Henry Miller

sincerity with a motive

That's some amazingly mild weather we've been having as of late. Boston folks enjoy it while it lasts!

Quotes of the Moment
And I'm not saying that television is vulgar and dumb because the people who compose Audience are vulgar and dumb. Television is the way it is simply because people trend to be extremely similar in their vulgar and prurient and dumb interests and wildly different in their refined and aesthetic and noble interests.
David Foster Wallace, "E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction"
Self-mocking irony is always 'Sincerity, with a motive'
Lewis Hyde, quoted by David Foster Wallace
A second Celebrity crowd-control lady has a megaphone and repeats over and over not to worry about our luggage, that it will follow us later, which I am apparently alone in finding chilling in its unwitting echo of Auschwitz-embarkation scene in Schindler's List
David Foster Wallace, "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again"
...all about his time on a luxury cruise. Man, that WOULD be pretty spooky.

As you can gather, I'd highly recommend David Foster Wallace. So frickin' smart! Not the lightest reads, but worth it.

Link of the Moment
Fantasy League Congress is a bit amusing how it quantifies the "political achievements" of our congresscritters. Right now, Republicans lead the heavy hitters, I wonder if that will change with the next session, given all the committee switcheroo that will be happening.

the yokes on you

Getting ready for a Ksenia birthday thing, no time for a proper update!

Quick observations: Russians are a lot more likely to use, say, Nescafé for coffee, and I gotta say, I don't see why "Instant" has such a bad reputation in this country. You can make a really rich coffee, and I think it tastes great, it takes much less time, and it sees much more difficult to do badly than making it in a regular coffee machine. Admittedly I'm not good at playing coffee snob, but still.

Quote of the Moment
Q: Doesn't God look down on missionary dating and tells us to not be "yoked with unbelievers"?
A: I looked up yoked, and the dictionary says it's a "A crossbar with two U-shaped pieces that encircle the necks of a pair of oxen or other draft animals working together." I would never encourage anybody to do this on a date...
From Date To Save, a (hopefully) parody site encouraging young hot Christian teenage girls to convert heathens by dating and dumping them.


I had an oddish, but amusing dream last night. It starts where I'm watching some kind of porno film... (stay with me, here, it doesn't get too bad)... I catch the ending where a very light gal-on-gal tie-up scene morphs into a really cool Cirque-de-Soleil like bungee trapeze chase. The movie then ends but starts again, and the beginning is very odd. The introduction has a bit on how these eccentric rich people are looking for a "leaf identification program" for their son... in that, if he's kidnapped they want a tree leaf that looks like him so they can show it to people to help find him. And they have their staff working on this. The funny thing was how it was presented: first you see a groundskeeper in the background pick a leaf out of a pool, look at it, and then put it back. You don't think anything about it, assuming it was just a mistake in making the film, then you hear the announcement of the "identification program", and a bit later you hear an off-camera "overheard" comment along the lines of "so they're sending a team of us to Norway, where there's that lighter type of foliage that might be a better match."

I thought it was amusing. And in my heart of hearts, I think cirque-de-soleil-style bungee trapeze porno drama sounds pretty cool, actually.

Music of the Moment
I got to thinking about bugles yesterday... specifically what what the relationship between its notes were (the same as a trumpet when you don't press any valves.) The most common notes (on the C scale) are C,F,A, and the C above that. Research indicates they're all integer multiples of a base frequency of the horn, which makes sense to me now.

I'm not sure the Boy Scouts would appreciate being placed on the same page with a reference to "cirque-de-soleil-style bungee trapeze porno drama", but I found their page of bugle calls with sheet music and sound clips. I remember about half of the calls from my days at Salvation Army music camp. (You haven't lived 'til you've heard "To The Colors" played on tuba. Well, actually, maybe you have.)

Chance of the Moment
Wow. Ohio State Buckeyes beat their rival Michigan 42-39, and guess what the "Pick 4" comes up with that night? Reminds me of Euclid High School billing ourselves "God's Favorite Marching Band" (as exemplified by a performance of "Carmina Burana's O Fortuna" on a rainy night where the heavens opened up with the opening cymbal crash and the downpour stopped before the song's end)... come to think of it our fight song was Ohio State's as well.

the sweet taste of delicious bulldozers

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So Friday Ksenia got a late birthday gift of a Cuisinart, which was a tremendous help in the making of Borscht. I helped her set it up... I admired its determination in making it very difficult to chop off your own fingers (though I suppose you could give yourself a nasty cut removing the blade.) I also helped her use it a bit, and dropping a bit of cabbage into the feedtube and see it chopped into bits is viscerally satisfying.

The other thing I appreciated was that it has two settings: on and off, with a "pulse" function. High-end blenders are the same thing, on, off, with a pulse function. I find it appealing that high-endish equipment is so elegant and to the point while the middle-brow stuff throws in like 7 or 8 in between buttons.

Machine of the Moment
2 years ago I posted about this giant excavator...turns out this gigundous machine has developed a taste for bulldozers. Mmm-mmm good! (via trunkbutt)

if this is tuesday, this must be the grand canyon

Bleh. Crushed at work, not much time to ramble... in a regular blog-read of mine:

Link of a Moment
A while back LAN3 emailed me with this:
The blogger writes for the Economist and appears to be visiting the home office in London instead of her home in NYC. The conversation drifts slightly, but it's not merely about how foreigners misperceive America (as we do them, of course) but how so many of them are so confident of their knowledge of the US that they will reject any contradiction by a native. E.g. Canadians insisting that there are 52 US states now that we have Alaska and Hawaii....Plus the usual stuff about Europeans thinking they'll take an afternoon drive out of New York to visit the Grand Canyon.

nuclear war fun club

Feh. Still not a lot of time to ramble. Not helped by bringing home a Nintendo Wii last night... I'm sure there will be more on that later.

Scary, Scary Video of the Moment
Google Video has The War Game, a BBC production from the 60s that wasn't broadcast until the 80s about how awful a nuclear war would be... it's in a scary pseudo-documentary style, and takes you through a lot of what would occur. WARNING: that is some scary, scary stuff. Nightmarish, in both the strongest literal and figurative senses of the term. What a truly horrific threat we lived under for so long.

It reminded me of that The Day After miniseries (or maybe it was a one-off.) My folks wouldn't let me watch it. For years I assumed that not watching it made it loom larger in my mind than watching it would hav, but after reading the Wikipedia article on it I'm not so sure.

better living through careful ui arrangement

Last recommendation for making Windows better: forget that taskbar rearrangement program I talked about earlier: right click, uncheck "lock the taskbar", and then drag it to the right hand side of the screen:

I started doing this with my work laptop. Like a lot of new laptops, its screen is in "widescreen" format. It turns out this screen is nearly as wide as my desktop's, but about 3/4 the height. Since my documents are longer than they are wide, and I usually don't do much side-by-side windowing, this makes things feel a bit cramped... making the taskbar a sidebar is a big improvement. Other benefits: I decided I like the bar on the right rather than the left, because I don't like the way it shoves around the desktop icons when on the left.

The biggest downside, then, is the Start button... the annoying thing is that the little arrows indicating a lurking submenu are always pointing to the right, even when its obvious the submenu is going to have to pop up on the left...


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Ugh, I'm terrible...now that I finally have some time, I don't feel like writing all that much...

Ok, so, I'll get too things out of my backlog. Today's theme is things that are NSFW, Not Safe For Work... I figure a day when most of my audience is on vacation should be good for that.

"MOM"-Filter Warning... all of today's entry can possibly be given a miss by the conservative-minded...

Overall, the tenor of today's entry might be billed as "Adolescent".

Passage of the Moment
"My name's Prag Titmouse," I say, "and my poem is called 'what the hell is wrong with lesbians, because cock is awesome.' I hope you like it." I pause, and clear my throat. Michelle is there at the edge of the stage, the only face that's laughing. I smile at her. "What the hell is wrong with lesbians?" I say. "Because cock is awesome. The end."

I jump off the stage and grab Richard's hand. Michelle is right there, and says something that I can't hear. I grab her hand too. Richard's eyes are wide, but he's smiling as he runs beside me. We all take a path that lands us some kicks and punches from the girls we pass, but which takes us to the door and avoids the bouncers.

It's been a while since I've read it... I remember it being a bit nihilistic, my note on it is "indy generbenderiffic mayhem and fun"

Link of the Moment
Annie Sprinkle's Bosom Ballet... I think I first saw a reference to this in A History of the Breast. Reading that description, her Ballet has really gotten around...

Small Gif Cinema of the Moment

Watched "Boys on the Side" with Ksenia the other day. Drew Barrymore flashing her breasts to her abusive (but now, clubbed and tied up) boyfriend, along with a cameo by the Indigo Girls, were about the only redeeming features of this hamfisted chickflick of a tearjerker. (Ksenia hated it even more than I did.) But Barrymore's little neener-neener dance seemed like it would make a good looping Small Gif Cinema... or fans of Ms. Barrymore and her breasts can consult a less diminutive version.

the art of camo

Ksenia and I watched King Kong last night. I had heard it was a bit too long, but I wasn't expecting it would be so bad that we'd start rooting for the current wave of monstrous beasts to finish off the good guys. ("Oh, giant wasps? Maybe they'll finally be able to finish the job!")

Ad of the Moment
I know this Gamespot army ad is "not for my demographic", but I still think it's odd that the slogan could be used for antiperspirant merely by substituting the product name for "Army".

Also, the whole pixilated trend in camouflage still looks odd to me, as if the armd forces where deliberately trying to echo the "War as Videogame" theme you hear about every now and then.

Music of the Moment
So I am plowing through my entire CD collection, ripping stuff to MP3.

You make some weird discoveries-- stuff that entered your life in long-forgotten ways, like maybe the bargain bin at Disc Diggers back in the day, or picked up from old housemates, and has never received much listening...

I don't know if I like the music of "The Best Kissers in the World", but they have one of the best bandnames ever, and with track names like "She won't get under me till I get over you", "Bitch can't Sing", "Letter From You", and "You love sleepin'"... maybe there's something to them.

you write as well as ever you did

Sigh, the very last day of a 4 1/2 day vacation.

I've made fairly decent use of it, catching up on some correspondence, having various get-togethers with friends, ripping CDs, watching movies, improving kisrael's "backend" systems, spending time with Ksenia, playing with the Nintendo Wii, but still... it's never quite enough time..

Anecdote of the Moment
An author was boring Howells with his efforts to extract a compliment from him. "I don't seem to write as well as I used to," said the man fretfully. "Oh, yes, you do," said Howells reassuringly. "You write as well as ever you did. But your taste is improving."
from Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes' entry on William Dean Howells.
Sometimes I think I'm pretty much in that author's place.

Technology Gripe of the Moment
This is an ATM we have at my office building. You insert your card magnetic stripe down, as the picture indicates, but every time I use the machine I have to stop and think about it. I finally realized why: it's a matter of perspective. From where I'm standing, I can't see the damn stripe on the actual card as it is being properly inserted, but the drawing is from a toddler's-eye perspective in order to show the stripe directly.

I have a similar problem with the parking receipt reader at Porter Exchange. There they have a bit of homebrew workaround, some helpful person taped a spare ticket up and drew some arrows.

It's not easy to design hardware that implicitly suggests where the stripe goes, though on some swipe machines the side with the embedded reader is much lumpier than the other. (Not that I think people are likely to construct that kind of physical model in their head.) So the onus is on the people making the diagrams, and I think they should always try to match the perspective of the person using the machine (Err, ok, of people in the middle 90% of the height bellcurve,) even if it means having to fake a picture of the front of the card (heh... too bad XXXX-XXXX-XXXX-XXXX and ####-####-####-### both have total symmetry!) rather than the conceptually more important and visually stronger magnetic stripe.

(Tangent: does my difficulty realizing I need to change perspective mean I'm less of a 3D/Visual thinker? And does my atrocious spelling mean I'm more or less of a "audio" thinker? It's odd to me that I'm not sure what the implications of certain cognitive difficulties are.)

the back to work, tanked on turkey blues

Oh, my goodness. 4 1/2 days off of work just ain't enough, I think I need 4 1/2 weeks. Not to be confused with 9 1/2 weeks.

Quote of the Moment
It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one's life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than 'Try to be a little kinder.'
Aldous Huxley
Random admission: for years I thought Aldous Huxley was black, and embarrassed to admit I don't know if I was influenced more by his name following the pattern (in my own idiosyncratic vocabulary of pseudo-homonyms) of "Langston Hughes", or of Bill Cosby's character "Heathcliff Huxtable".

From my years of quote gathering, besides the kindness idea, I think the other bit of universal advice might be "try not to worry so much".

Link Roundup of the Moment
Time on how we're bad at choosing what to worry about, and a Slate piece that manages to quantify immediate gratification... it claims that we multiply the benefit or cost of something by about one and a half times if it's today, a figure that seems to jive with my introspection.

Also, Slate on the end of a conservative era. The 4 possibilities outlined, "A New Progressivism", "Clintonism Continued", "The Muddled Middle", "Bushism Without Bush" all seem like true possible paths, along with the article's conclusion that some big unforeseen event could make all the speculation worthless.

so i says to myself, says i

Hmm. I'm a little worried about the guy who lives in the apartment behind ours. He likes to collect and returns bottles and cans to make a little pocket money, so we tend to leave our empties outside his door, and they haven't moved for like a week. Don't know if I should call the landlord and asks if he knows anything, or what...

(UPDATE: I called the landlord, the fellow in question moved out, and back in with his wife, so that sounds like good news. Thanks for the encouragement to stick my nose in other people's business!)

Quote of the Moment
When he come up I looked him in the eye, and I saw shoot, and there wasn't any shoot in nary other eye in the crowd; and so I says to myself, says I, hoss, it's about time to sing small, and so I did.
"Notorius Badman" Russell Bean, explaining why he meekly gave himself up (future president) Andrew Jackson, after holding off the sheriff while heavily armed.
I love the language in that quote, I wonder how accurate the original transcription was.

Link of the Moment
Wii-owners, be warned: WiiHaveAProblem. Specifically, if you're hurling hard enough to let the controller fly out of your hand, there's a chance that the thing bit holding on the wriststrap might not save your big expensive television...

Products of the Moment
A friend pointed out girliepants.com with amusing tanks and undies for gals. I hadn't realized the "Tune In Tokyo" meme extended beyond Tufts, but it seems that it has. Live and learn!

on sirlin

The other day in a GamersQuart thread about Smash Brothers and "being sporting" and shunning weird and obscure tactics vs just playing as hard as possible, someone referenced Sirlin.

He argues that playing to win every time is the best path, and that people who don't are "scrubs" who don't know what they're missing and who will be forever limited by their own choices. He presents some compelling arguments, and is worth the read, but I had a few objections I'd like to bounce off of people here:

First off, Play to Win exhibits great faith in game designers, that in "99.9%" of the situations, there isn't a simple strategy that wins over all others, or that the community will serve to eliminate those games that do fall to a simple pattern. So therefore, any arbitrary restrictions by "scrubs" are largely pointless and out of the true spirit of gaming. But Sirlin himself points out some exceptions to this, cases where the "Pros" agree it is justified. Essay 1 talks about Akuma:
But the first version of Street Fighter to ever have a secret character was Super Turbo Street Fighter with its untouchably good Akuma. Most characters in that game cannot beat Akuma. I don't mean it's a tough match--I mean they cannot ever, ever, ever, ever win.[...] the community as a whole has unanimously decided to make the rule: "don't play Akuma in serious matches."
Also from the mailbag
Roll canceling is a bug requiring difficult timing that allows a player to have many invulnerable moves that the game designers never intended. [...]Should roll canceling be banned? I'm pretty sure it meets the standard of "warranted" since I'm satisfied that under serious tournament conditions, the game completely fell apart into a joke
So, there at least some cases where restrictions are acceptable... therefore, the question is just one of degree.

Then, in describing his own feats he talks about his moves of doing a defensive move until his opponent finally does something stupid:
For example, an opponent faced with my "jumping straight up and down Zangief" could simply decide to back off and wait. What he might not realize is that I have unlimited patience. Since my brick wall in this case is keeping me even (I'm not falling behind) I'm happy to do it forever, which is probably much longer than he's willing to avoid the battle. Most opponents lack the will to avoid battle forever, and will eventually enter into it at a disadvantage out of impatience.
I assume the game would time out if both players took this kind of tactic, and it would end in a tie (correct me if I'm wrong) So Sirlin is relying on the other player having slightly more devotion to the game not being utterly pointless, while all he will ever care about is winning.

He makes a bigger philosophical defense of the pursuit of the truly optimal strategies
Imagine a majestic mountain nirvana of gaming. At its peak are fulfillment, "fun", and even transcendence. Most people could care less about this mountain peak, because they have other life issues that are more important to them, and other peaks to pursue. There are few, though, who are not at this peak, but who would be very happy there.
I think his assumption of it being the "happiest" peak is unfounded (in fact, elsewhere he argues that amateur chess players have more fun than the pros) but at least he also points out the possibilities of other peaks. (Also, there's an interesting dependency, then, on being surrounded by similar caliber players, and possibly even doing research out of the game, like online...)

He puts forward some thought-provoking ideas, and I've even put his book on my Amazon wishlist but if taken too seriously, he can be almost Nietchian or Ayn-Randian in outlook. It's a short hop from him applying this kind of gamesmanship to the show "Survivor" to thinking about how the ideas might be applied to real life. And that leads to some profound questions, what's really worth pursuing in life? and how do you tell if you succeed?

There are some "obvious" possible metrics, like money. So maybe everyone should work to maximize their money. And some people do. But that leads to smack into a fundamental issue with the outlook, the "Tragedy of the Commons". Case in point: Spam. Spam, to some large degree, is effective, and people following this kind of "screw everything else I'm gettin' mine" outlook make life a bit more miserable for everyone, filling inboxes to overflowing and turning innocent folk's PCs into spam-spewing Zombies. Clearly, this isn't the path to the best balance in life.

(In practice of course, some of this all comes down to me being total crap at the type of fighter games he's so good at. In fact, a lot of what he describes requires an ability to emulate and even visually observe that I'm not sure that I have. The first mountain for the newbie player to climb is recognizing what the opponent is doing and how, and that's actually pretty tough in and of itself.)

contra: not just u u d d l r l r b a start anymore!

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So stunningly Spring like out there today, I just can't get enough of weather like this. And yet, I should stow my damn snow shovel in the back of my car, so as to not tempt Murphy and His Law.

Anecdote of the Moment
Tu Mu relates a strategem of Chu-ko Liang, who in 149 B.C., when occupying Yang-ping and about to be attacked by Ssu-ma, suddenly struck his colors, stopped the beating of the drums, and flung open the city gates, showing only a few men engaged in sweeping and sprinkling the ground. This unexpected proceeding had the intended effect; for Ssu-ma I, suspecting an ambush, actually drew off his army and retreated.
Editorial note by Lionel Giles for The Art of War, via Sirlin.
Such a fantastic image! You can practically here the crickets chirp.

Politics of the Moment

Contra as seen on Nintendo in 1988
Contra as seen by the Media in 2006
Happy Late Birthday Iran-Contra! I remember my dad saying at the time that was the kind of thing that brought down presidencies. Guess not! And I remember after that, having NO idea what to make of Ollie North... being in like, seventh grade, I was a little more prone to that weird "puppy dog eyed American hero" propaganda they were spinning for him.

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