2008 April❮❮prevnext❯❯

poisson d'avril

Last night I followed what I think of as a European tradition (though not sure which country I heard of it coming from) of buying dinner for some friends and family. (Summer Shack, primarily a fish place, which helps provide some small piece of justification for today's title.)

A few people have said "dude, isn't that backwards?" but it's a nice thing to be able to do. I figure if I could cook I'd be trying to make dinner for everyone, but as it is right now I'm more deft at making money than I am at making food, so this is the bet I can do.

Kate is making a nifty comic blog with stuff she makes in the program "lineform", she made this about her scooter and my get-together:

click for fullsize

Funny, that's a relatively ancient picture of me she copied from, probably at least 10 years old. Guess I haven't changed all that much, except maybe the glasses.

Quote of the Moment
My wife was watching a re-run of Ellen,
and she had a cooler-scooter.
She kept her pudding in the cooler.
On a politically minded blog run by a friend, baldwintm wrote that, I broke it into bit of verse (very) libre, I just like the rhythm and the slant rhyme.

Link of the Moment
I've seen rather little in terms of April First foolery this year, Slashdot seems to be holding back (which is almost a joke itself, making everyone wait for the other shoe to drop after way over-doing it in previous years), Google has a few clever bits, but I liked World of Warcraft: The Molten Core, a very retro kind of variant of the beloved MMORPG...

paradox'll do ya

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You know what Google or somebody needs? Some basic date parsing for blogs, so that you can sort results from that kind of site by date. THAT'S what Google or somebody needs.

Link of the Moment
Oooh - creepy-ish CGI girl's head and shoulders, disturbingly lifelike as her eyes track the cursor. Boingboing had a discussion-heavy post on it explaining some of the "how it's done" and "where it doesn't work" - part of the trick in some simple rules about what grabs her attention.

Short Story of the Moment
Great sci-fi non-narrative story Wikihistory, where the established editors keep the n00bs at bay.

creep creep

Sigh, I hate when this becomes a what-I-had-for-lunch-blog but man, the Park Square building has like the sketchiestly managed Subway ever.

I used to get ticked when I'd order a cheese pizza there and they'd charge me 50 cents for adding tomato slices to it; it wasn't the money, but the principal of the meaning of a sign that says "Cheese Pizza $3.50 (Choice of Veggie)". Tomato isn't a veggie? What? Today I noticed they blanked out the "Choice of Veggie" which is fine, at least they have a policy, even if most places charge less for veggies than they do for meat.

But now the wacky thing is now they have big signs saying "All Footlong Subs, $5 or less!" and some "Some Limitations Apply" in small print. Then there's a small sign inside that says it doesn't include steak, pastrami, etc -- as far as I can tell, all the subs that cost more than $5. So I guess the meaning of the sign is "We have a lot of subs that cost around $5, give or take!"

Dream of the Moment
...last night I had a dream about food. I was the only person hired for the busy grand opening of a self-serve gas station/gourmet food shop named "Squobo!" While I ran register, the owner gave out free samples of Squobo! Soup. Everyone grimaced in disgust at the taste, but since they were told that it was gourmet, they all pretended that they liked it and bought it by the gallon.

After closing, I took the day's profits to the owner, and discovered that the soup was fishtank water, cloudy with live mosquito larvae. The owner explained what "Squobo" meant. "I bought the tank from a squalid hobo!" he laughed as he counted his cash.

I was glad that it had been too busy for me to try the soup.
Man I wish my dreams were so detailed and dream-logical!

Freakiness of the Moment

--Real life Homer and Mario, via Pixeloo. They also have an animated GIF of Homer showing the cartoon model sliding into this creation.


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So last night I bought a new laptop, cheapest new one I could find with a DVD, wifi, and fullsize keyboard.

It came with Vista... I'm already suspicious about this OS, and the screen after first logging in didn't really reassure me:

So many little fiddly bits and doodahs and messages and oversized icons and shiny crap over a tacky background (ok that last one was maybe a little my fault)... it's like a digital clown exploded.

At least the physical laptop (Acer "Aspire" - geez, what an irritating model name, with the implication that if you were really good you'd be getting a better model) refrains from sporting those damn super bright blue LEDs that will light up a room.

Really dumb note...

has the E line always been called "Arborway", I mean over the last decade, since they started making Heath Street the final stop? (That link from this interesting but possibly out of date page of articles on the historical MBTA)

Anyway, finally, a prettily colored if compositionally flawed shot from Back Bay, I M Pei's Hancock tower peeking out over an older building:

Video of the Moment
Walmart spreading like a virus, 1962-2007.

Quote of the Moment
Money is not important.
  Love is important.
  Fortunately, I love money.
Jackie Mason


Busy, busy, busy

Humor Observation of the Moment
The shift from the serious to the common (a shadow of the shift from Hebrew to Yiddish) is a frequent linguistic device of American Jewish comics. Consider Woody Allen's line: "Not only is there no God, but try getting a plumber on weekends."
Lawrence J. Epstein, "The Haunted Smile"
This got me thinking, would the reverse, going from the profane to the sacred, be funny as well? "It's so difficult getting a plumber on weekends... THIS MUST MEAN THERE IS NO GOD." Hmm, maybe. But then again anything written in all caps seems a little funny to me.


Whoosh. You know, this might be my first full day at home since I returned from Japan. Better get on those damn taxes! And that credit card bill...

Art Project of the Moment

--via designboom, all made of hulahoops and zipties... cool! I wonder about the math/geometry of it, if you just have to be sure to get the right number of connecting hoops per hoop or if it's tricker than that.

Quote of the Moment
"It's good to be alive. There are so many things you can't do when you're dead."
Mel Brooks, "Life Stinks"

Link of the Moment
Fictional but still entertaining, a mock court transcript of the man who stole 40,000 hangers

poplocking for freedom

So, one thing I noted about Josh and Tomomi's life with lil' Erin in a small Japanese apartment was the attention to daily (and nightly) routine. Stuff like wiping moisture off the windows (to prevent mold etc), folding up the tatami futons ("Thank You and OK!" had one character using the other character's failure to do so a a sign of moral failure and general depravity; Josh said at one point in his life he was failing to do so, 'til his friends asked "err, what's this discoloration on the bottom of your futon?"), general tidying of up, etc. It reminded me a bit of Zen ritual.

Maybe that's overstating the case, it's just a coping strategy for a small pace, and Josh might be a neat guy on his own, but still.

I guess what I lack is a sense of dissatisfaction when things aren't put right before bed. If I could get that I'd be a neater person. I wonder if I can somehow leverage moving into a smaller place (hopefully with significantly less clutter) to get myself to change in that regard.

In some ways this is yet another instantiation of "not enough time"; it would be better to always make sure all the daily laundry was carefully sorted in terms of wear again v. laundry, to make sure that all half completed projects were put away, to not let there be any mail I angst-fully set aside to get at later, but it's so tempting at night to drop into bed, in part because I'd prefer to stay up too late and extract the maximum value from a day.

Video of the Moment

--"Run DMZ"! North vs South Korea in a dancing duel! Though I wonder if South Koreans appreciate the implication that George Bush is to South Korea what Kim Jong-il is to the North.

Quote of the Moment
The other day I had an experience so startling and unexpected that it made me spill a soft drink down my shirt. (Though, having said that, I don't actually need an unexpected event to achieve this. All I need is a soft drink.)
Bill Bryson, "I'm a Stranger Here Myself"

bank shot

Any recommendations for a local bank?

I've been using AmEx online banking for a long while, something Mo set up years and years ago. It's ok, I kind of dig not having to look for a specific brand of ATM (though it took me a while to realize that the ATM reimbursement was capped at $6 monthly) but I just realized some of the checks I sent in for deposit via mail didn't get there. I didn't make enough records before I sent, so I think it's time to look for a bank with a physical presence.

I think there's a Bank of America ATM around the corner from where I'll be moving to, so that's one obvious candidate. I just want a bank with a minimum amount of nickel and diming, plentiful ATMs, and where I can set up my bill paying electronically... suggestions?

(For the meanwhile I have a Watertown Savings Bank account, but they're not going to be convenient for me once I move.)

Video of the Moment
360° Immersion Video videosift.com... amazing. I've seen the technique for still photos but never like this.

Quote of the Moment
The hippies had in mind something they wanted, and were calling it "freedom," but in the final analysis "freedom" is purely a negative goal. It just says something is bad. Hippies weren't really offering any alternatives other than colorful short-term ones, and some of those were looking more and more like pure degeneracy. Degeneracy can be fun but it's hard to keep up as a serious lifetime occupation.
Robert Pirsig, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenence"

eat dessert first

Random diet idea: I've noticed that dessert, something sweet, has become a bit of a "meal is done" signifier for me. I'm not sure if it's an unhealthy physiological relationship with sweetness, or just preferring that as the taste to linger. But I've observed that if I don't have something at the end of lunch, I'll end up seeking something out an hour or two later.

I wonder if I could parlay that into a way of having smaller meals; a "half" portion followed by something sweet, and I might be disinclined to eat more because of that taste.

I have dim recollections of toothbrushing being recommended in the same way, but that's more difficult to do discretely at the table.

Videogame Kinkery of the Moment
So in a Gamer's Quarter thread I found a kind of intriguing link about the game Portal; for the final confrontation with GLaDOS, the famously psychopathic computer program (think "Hal" but really really drunk) who has been your unseen (but heard) ally/enemy through the entire game, her physical form is not an abstract bunch of tubes and spheres but that of a bound and trussed woman, hung upside down from the ceiling. (The "artists rendering" on the page is possibly mildly NSFW, though not nude or anything.)

It was one of those things that I didn't notice on my own but, now pointed out, seems unmistakable, and it kind of changes the relationship between the player and the computer, or at least the computer and the laboratory organization. I decided to go back and see if it was as obvious as all that. It's clear that it is an inverted feminine figure, though the position of the other arm doesn't scream bondage so much:

For the TGQ thread (amusing for some further "artist impressions") I also made some rough youtube movies, circling around GLaDOS from the beginning of the level, and then the very ending where it looks like her other arm is reaching to undo one of the "chains" before the final explosion/whirlwind occurs.


Just reread: The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis

My UU "Science and Spirituality" group, as part of to push the balance away from the former part of its name, took on this book. I had previously read it in high school, and just retackled it today (it's a quick read). I was a bit surprised by the later addition "Screwtape Proposes a Toast", an almost Ayn Rand-ian rant against over-egalitarianism in the name of "not being undemocratic".

It was interesting stumbling over some overlap with "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" (TANGENTIAL RANT: why are all of Firefox spellcheck's suggestions for "Maintanence" variations of "Acquaintance"? It's such a little a+e swap that I don't see how the program is lead so far astray. This must be the fourth time I've made the same typo and been irritated by the results) -- the limits of human cognizance and the "Western Logic" view of the world.

There were a few nice turns of phrase, or of concept. "Humans are amphibians -- half spirit and half animal" is richly evocative. I suppose the logical mapping would be of the physical world to the aquatic, and the spiritual to that of the air. Also: "the union of change and permanence which we call Rhythm" is a lovely thought.

The form of the books, letters from a senior devil to his nephew who is charged with the tempting of one man during WW2 is rhetorically powerful; in particular C.S. Lewis is able to cast his opponents (Christian and otherwise) as food for demons. And some of the devil names are great: Screwtape, Wormwood, Slubgob, Toadpipe, Slumtrimpet, Triptweeze, Glubose along with clever inversions like the diabolic authority being the depths of the "Lowerarchy". Overall the book makes some good and deep points about how to live a Christian life, even if the format gives broader authority to the author than might be otherwise warranted.

Video of the Moment
And now for something completely different:

spring sprang sprung

It felt like Spring was suddenly upon us yesterday!

Suddenly, the Boston Common was full of people!

Alright, not the best photo for showing the extent of it. Also, trees are still skeletal.

Plus sunrise seems so late now! I love it. Bummer that the weekend is going to be all wet.

Still, it seems like there's a good half of the year, and a bad half of the year. Is the contrast good for my soul? Or should I just go to where it's closer to being good all year round?

Monolog of the Moment
To quote a wise person, "Kindness is my true religion." But when I look back on my past I know my compulsion to help others is more than that... You know, it's fascinating how our experiences shape who we are in so many ways! Something happened in my past! Something I've never forgotten! I have a story to tell you! It's really not out of the ordinary to look back sometimes! We're all in the same boat, really! I'm not alone when I say that something happened in my childhood that shaped who I am today! I usually don't speak about my past, because I like to live in the present! But you asked where I get my compulsion to help others, so I'll tell you a story! You know, I wasn't always as you see me today! Remember, things are not always what they seem!
I'm not sure if it says more about Mary Worth the comic or about serialized comics in general, that have two or three panels to both advance the story and remind people where the story is at. The existence of the Mary Worth and Me blog points out that this strip is particularly odd.


Currently reading: "Who's Been Sleeping in Your Head? The Secret World of Sexual Fantasies"

This book is a lot less prurient than advertisement in The Atlantic might lead one to believe... half-prude/half-Freud if you'll pardon the slant rhyme and none of it all that interesting. I'm not sure if I'll bother to finish.

I'm thinking about adding a "currently reading / just watched" sidebar for any regular to write about stuff they're reading or a movie or video they've seen. Any thoughts?

Convo of the Moment
So I enlisted Sarah in my self-defeating introspection about how self-absorbed I can be:

sarah: Well... I don't know if I can offer you any helpful advice... my own interpersonal relationships are all in the crapper these days. I am inclined to think we are ALL self-centered.
kirk: I have noted that w/ almost every story I hear, I formulate a counter story, and I've started to make a better internal-censor for that, that is a little harsher in judging relevance/general interest
sarah: I think that's a very reasonable approach
sarah: Hell yeah!
sarah: You can't spell I without I!
kirk: heheh

And like I said right after this, digging your own story does not mean you don't dig other people's stories! It's a communication style mismatch as much as anything I think...

Link of the Moment
Tales from the Court - what happens when the stenographer puts aside the role of passive recorder and gets in on the Two-Fisted Action!

zen fail

I think I might be misunderestimating this whole getting ready to move thing a bit.

I try and think of it terms of Zen Detachment; I should not have a sense of connectedness with so many of these objects. I feel like taking a photo of my half completed efforts just to captain it "ZEN FAIL", but that's not particularly funny.

I've made some progress, and had a few times when I've been proud of my ability to let go, but there's a lot left over. I was going to say that it feels like "objects that have been a part of my history" should get more consideration than "objects I mean to get around to using some day", but who knows. Probably the proper Zen outlook would treat the past and the future about the same.

Such a Zen Dabbler. If I ain't sitting zazen, I don't think it has any choice of being Zen, but still I admire the outlook as filtered through California et al.

Old Chestnut of the Moment
"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers"
from Shakespeare's Henry V.
So, some people enjoy this as general anti-lawyer sentiment. But for a long time I had the idea that no, it's spoken by a character plotting revolution, and underscores the need for a good legal system in a fair society. Turns out that second interpretation is something of a lawyer's trick, it really is a bit of anti-lawyer jokery as the characters think about how to remake paradise on earth.

Dog of the Moment
--Remembering Laika, first earth creature in space, shown here along with a Russian doggy spacesuit of the time.

dewdrop world

So one concept I've seen floating around the memepool is that the Iraq war and tax cuts are being paid for by an increase in the money supply, hence, inflation. (And of course there's that weird way food and energy don't get counted in many types of inflation figures. Just 'cause the price of something fluctuates doesn't mean you shouldn't be able to see a general upward trend!)

I hope the Democrats spin this and hammer on "Bush's Dirty Stealth Inflation Tax" in much the same way the Republicans got a fairly standard tax on inheritance called "The Death Tax" and "Double Taxation".

Haiku of the Moment
The world of dew
Is a world of dew, and yet
And yet...
Kobayashi Issa, written after the death of his child.
This was my favorite translation, by Donald Keene. Other translations helped me understand it though: "Life is but the morning dew, bards say; / 'Tis true, indeed, but well-a-day!", "The world of dew is, yes, a world of dew, but even so" and "this world / is a dewdrop world / yes... but..."

That last translation is from Haikuguy.com's Issa website that has some cool features and commentary.

Still a bit worried about all the haiku-abuse in this country!

Quote of the Moment
"I didn't realize I owned so much Cold Play."
Jo is a new boardgaming friend who along with Scott and Rhys hosted a great fun gaming event with tasty chicken over rice. (She tried to defend herself by saying that she imported a large amount of music from a friend, so an iPodish sampling should not be considered canonical viz a viz her tastes in music. But most of it sounded pretty good at that.)

the six perfumes, the eighty-two smells, the 120,000 stinks

So I'm thinking more and more about adding a new "books + flicks" sidebar. I mean, should it include movies and videos, or would it be better to have a focus just on books? Call it something like "good reads" or what not. There are a lot of decision to be made, I'm hoping having a certain topic will let it succeed in a way the "sidebar of the people" hasn't.

Description of the Moment
But [in Tokyo] we are confronted with a world synthesis. Here there meet and mingle the twenty-six civilizations of Toynbee, the eighteen religions of Turchi, the five kalpas (Buddhist comic eras), von Eickstedt's thirty-eight races and sub-races of mankind, the fifty-six ways of making love of the Kama-sutra, the seventy styles of cooking, the six perfumes, the eighty-two smells, the 120,000 stinks, the twelve dozen kinds of dirt, the seven wonders, the thousand lights, the 2,600 tongues, the thirty-four vices (with the exception of opium smoking), all the fantasies, and the two great principles of yin and yang which according to Chinese magical ideas, generate the infinite variety of the world. Not for nothing has another American called it a 'wonderful, hybrid, dissolute, noisy, quiet, brooding, garish, simpering, silly, contemplative, cultured, absurd city'.
Fosco Maraini, "Meeting with Japan" (quoting O.D. Russel's "Here's Tokyo").
The book, a thoughtful find at the local swap shop from EvilB and Leslee, is a view of Japan from the very end of the 1950s, and its intriguing to compare its experience of Japan to my own, especially since the American lens has changed greatly in that half-century.

Best footnote from the book so far:
Earthquakes are one of the four Japanese terrors; the others are fire, thunder, and father.

Animation of the Moment
--A series of images from a 5,200 year old Iranian goblet might be said to constitute the oldest animation!

muppets raw and uncensored!!!

I'm surprised stitches are still the primary way of keeping skin together so it can heal. It seems pretty barbaric, especially with that big curved needle. Kind of Frankensteinish.

Ad of the Moment
Muppet Family Christmas
This is the Uncut Version!
Buy this DVD now only $16.95
Given that I tend to think of "Uncut" (like "Directors Edition") as code for "maybe with a little more skin", this Google Ad took me a bit by surprise.

Quote of the Moment
Never mind that many of [my computer's 102] keys duplicate the functions of other keys, while others apparently do nothing at all (my favorite in this respect is one marked "Pause" which when pressed does absolutely nothing, raising the interesting metaphysical question of whether it is therefore doing its job)
Bill Bryson, I'm a Stranger Here Myself

Link of the Moment
The misadventures of driving naked in Texas. (via Bill)

not true, advantageous

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Busy busy busy.

Article of the Moment
As reported here on Slashdot and here on BoingBoing, according to an informal poll 20% of scientists use 'cognitive enhancing' drugs. Makes me worry I've been missing out!

Observation of the Moment
Then, having identified the nature of geometric axioms, [Poincaré] turned to the question, is Euclidean geometry true or is Riemann geometry true?

He answered, The question has no meaning.

As well ask whether the metric system is true and the avoirdupois system is false; whether Cartesian coordinates are true and polar coordinates are false. One geometry cannot be more true than another; it can only be more convenient. Geometry is not true, it is advantageous.
Robert Pirsig, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenence"

used to used books

Last night I was walking around Porter Square and had a kind of good news / bad news situation. The good news was that that one space that used to have a used bookstore in the basement (about halfway down between Porter Square and that one Church) again has a used bookstore in the basement! The bad news was that the bookstore was Mcintyre and Moore that used to have a much larger and more visible place at Davis Square.

I don't know how much the selection has suffered. I found 2 cool remaindered books and 2 interesting used titles, and they're not even fully unpacked yet. They have a lot of small rooms down there, but still, it is after all a basement.

Photos of a Past Moment
OK, I lied about not posting more Japan stuff. On flickr I posted a gallery with A Baker's Dozen of the visually strongest photos that I took, the ones that I also decided to printout. They arent' quite fullsize but 1024x768 is a lot better than what I posted here earlier. (I might add a few from another set of 10 I considered printing but decided against.)

The 400x300 size I post here doesn't do justice to some of the images, IMO. If anyone wants a semi-decent 8.5x11 printout of any of these, let me know and I'll get one made for you.

Side note: I did this month's Blender of Love and used this kind of cheesy photo from my Japan trip. The thing is, the folks there like this shot a lot more than I do even, and are encouraging me to use it as a bit of a signature every month. Not sure what to do about that, it's cute and all but with more than a touch of schmaltz...

Quote of the Moment
By almost universal agreement, the most vague and ineffectual of all our leaders was Millard Fillmore, who succeeded to the office in 1850 upon the death of Zachary Taylor and spent the next three years demonstrating how the country would have been run if they had just propped Taylor up in a chair with cushions.
Bill Bryson, "I'm a Stranger Here Myself"


One idea springing from a greekish outlook is that communication channels should be as permanent as possible... you never know who you might forget to tell about a new email address or phone number, or what old one someone researching how to contact you might find. (And there is a certain delight in finding an old email address on some forgotten website or Usenet posting that gets a response.)

So it's with a heavy heart that I'm dropping "catchall"s for my domains. For over a decade, I've been happy to be able to cavalierly say "anything @ kisrael.com gets to me, so use whatever you like". Dylan is the only one I know who tried playing with that, but in practice it was harder to explain than just giving a normal email address, so I gave it up.

For a long time, I've weathered a storm of spam, since if they tried a "dictionary" style attack, sending to host of random usernames at my domain hoping to get a match, they all went to the same place. More troublesome are those moral-less, scuzzball, vile, scabrous, cowardly greedmonkeys who make their Spam look like it came from my domain, since then I would also get a host of bounces, and even the occasional plaintive handcrafted "please don't send spam here" message. (The scary part of this change is knowing that this will still go on, I just won't see it.)

The problem with this is the number of email aliases I've used. For a while I thought of trying to track spam by using a special address for every site, like if I posted to "msn.com" (not that I would) I would use the address "msn.com@alienbill.com". I never extracted much useful information from doing this (except that newyorkerforum seems to have been harvested by the spammers pretty badly) and now it means there might be some accounts I won't hear from again. (The other problem was talking to people on the phone, when I tried to tell someone from the company "Foobar" that my email address was "Foobar.com at alienbill.com", it would sound like I was confused about how email works.)

So, starting fairly soon, these are the only email usernames that will work for me:


Le Sigh. I hate Spammers so very much.

Game History of the Moment
Making the rounds is some insider information about the planned Sequels to the Hitchhiker's Guide text adventure. There are some objections to the publication of private, in-company email but it's still fascinating to read, and the site includes a semi-playable prototype of the game.


To view this content, you need to install Java from java.com
basho - source - built with processing

A software toy (as in I screwed up and couldn't get an actual game done) in honor of the famous Haiku poet Matsu Basho. As he wrote:
old pond
a frog jumps
the sound of water
Or as another translation (Allen Ginsberg's) put it:
Th'old pond
A frog jumps in,
The haiku for my toy is more like
the springy yoyo
bashes the three sticky frogs
flies fly overhead
alternate translation:
stupid programmer
skill rusty from lack of use
...make an API!


Yesterday EB observed that the local Thai place (Sweet Chile) had not just "Crazy Chicken" but "Excited Chicken".

This got the two of us and MrsEB wondering about a restaurant that featured dishes named after emotional states: Complacent Potatoes, Smug Steak, Serious Sprouts. MrsEB thought it should be Curious Cupcakes, though I thought it would be a better name for Curry, and of course the inevitable "Bi-Curry-Us" was thought of by both me and EB ("Curry Us" wouldn't be a bad name for a curry shop actually.)

So we came up with more, Angry Lobster, Angsty Noodles, etc etc.

Anyone else got some ideas?

Photos of the Moment

Quote of the Moment
There's only one way to have a happy marriage and as soon as I learn what it is I'll get married again.
Clint Eastwood

not sold on houses

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Sunday morning I joined my mom who was watching some of those "get your home ready for a sale!" shows... I suppose it's especially poignant for folks in this stage of the real estate cycle. Some of the advice seems a bit contradictory ("get your stuff out of there so people can visualize their own stuff there!" "your place is too sterile, get some more stuff in there!" - I guess it's a fine balance) and for some of the shows I'm happy I don't have to deal with the hosts in person, they seem kind of overbearing.

I wonder why there aren't as many "hey buyers! Look out for these stupid tricks!" shows. (Sometimes when the hosts tell a would-be seller "that's a real negative for the price of the house" I wonder if there is a "did you realize that when you moved in, you fool?" subtext. Also it seems kind of weird when they talk about the current value of the house, minus the original cost and the cost of improvements, they absolutely ignore inflation.) I guess there is another set of shows for people who just want to improve the space they plan on staying in. All these houses look a bit off too; I'm not sure if it's because they're in that weird seller's mode of decoration, or if they just lack books. At least they are realistic situations, not stuff that seems made up for TV.

It makes me think about my house ambitions, or lack thereof. In some ways my view of home ownership might be a little stunted, growing up moving through a series of pre-furnished places, with no one in my family having say in where we lived. So when I hear about Condo membership fees, or how much property tax can be (big issue here in MA, with a lot of argument on either side of the property tax limit override issue... it kind of gives you a feel for how it used to be only landowners who got a vote) on top of what I know about mortgages, it makes me wonder what the point of it all is. Rent is a "black hole" but so is that other stuff!

I guess my ideal for a home is a place where maybe you had to spend a lot of money to get it, but then you could just live there and not have to think about it any more, or make it a big part of your budget.

I suppose my views might be very different if I had a family to raise.

Bathrooms of the Moment
The corner of the bathroom in the Au-Pair apartment I'll be moving into:
That was written by Beth, a friend and former colleague of my Aunt Susans. (She sometimes would stay overnight in the apartment and would leave messages when she had to leave early the next morning.) I'm kind of loathe to remove it, I kind of dig the friendly flirtiness of it.

We all had late-Easter / pseudo-Passover dinner at my cousins' in Brookline; I'm hoping this is just a promotional item and not actually Zoloft in convenient pump form.

Poem of the Moment
Higgledy Piggledy, my white hen;
She lays eggs for gentlemen.
You cannot persuade her with gun or lariat
To come across for the proletariat.
Dorothy Parker

klingon...you've killed my son...

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Today I had a revelation. I was talking with Jeremy, the guy who works in the print shop in my office building, and I realized once upon a time I kind of gave a damn that Captain Kirk had a son. (And according to the novel only, he was doin' it with the vulcan Lt. Saavik) Guess that sort of gets overshadowed by the whole "Death of Spock" in those movies, the fun with the time travel and Whales in 4 (or maybe the heaps of junk that came later in the movie series...)

Photos of the Moment
Today's Topic: Fakery in the Marketplace!

Link of the Moment
So, returning to the Sci-Fi theme, the Sci-Fi Movie Bad Physics report card. Of course I'm still geek enough to know the counter-arguments, like Star Wars "lasers" aren't really lasers, but have some kind of physical element as well.


What is it about me and chocolate?

It ain't just like, the cocoa, 'cause I've been digging on Lindt's White Chocolate for a while now, and to the purist, that ain't even chocolate.

It's not just sweetness, 'cause hard candy doesn't come close to scratching that itch.

Texture? I dunno. For a while I thought it was, like, chewiness, but fruit gummies ain't it either.

My current favorite theory is that it's the creaminess, the texture and fatty-sweet mouth feel. Which would explain why I've been able to drop the sugar from my iced coffee as of late, but need the milk. Also, "creaminess" is what I really dig in a white wine -- some chardonnays have that. (It doesn't quite explain why creamy hard candies like Werthers don't hit it either, but maybe it's a combination of creamy but yielding.)

Reading of the Moment
So I finished Moraini's "Meeting with Japan" -- turns out I misspoke earlier, he was an Italian, not an American, visiting Japan 15 years after being held as a prisoner there along with his family during WW2. Very good read, though, a very thoughtful gift from EB.

Interesting quote from it, on Japan's response to Christianity:
If the Christian doctrine is so important, so runs the Asian argument, how did it come about that our ancestors were deprived of it? On the other hand, if our ancestors saw things rightly, can this new teaching really be so important?
(This came up in a discussion I'm involved in on a small political-ish website.) It's a good question, and one that needs to be answered by anyone who holds a specific Deist belief that claims it has the unique claim on truth. (People who will at least give lip service to a "many paths" interpretation are excused.)

Another thing I was tempted to quote here was his quoting the nine types of Chinese Dragon, and their use, but you can see it here in this Google Book excerpt

Random Photos of the Moment

since u been pontiff

I heard that Kelly Clarkson was performing before the Pope conducted that massive Mass at Yankee Stadium. In fact during public radio's coverage of it you could hear "Since U Been Gone" in the background. Weird.

She also helped kickoff the 2008 Salvation Army Christmas Kettle drive at the Dallas Cowboys' Thanksgiving halftime. So maybe she just digs that whole church and charity scene.

Still, "Warm-Up act for the Pope" -- it's hard to top that without being Pope yourself.

i'm stuck on band-aid brand adhesive bandages, because band-aid brand adhesive bandages are stuck on me

Had some stitches on my leg that are coming out Monday.

One lesson learned from that: do NOT bother with CVS store-brand band-aids, they just don't stick for crap.

For a while I bought into the idea that store brands were around as good, that whole "maybe it's actually manufactured by the same folks and just rebadged" but no... at least sometimes it's truly inferior.

In these times when people are thinking a bit more frugally, any other thoughts on store-brands?

Snark of the Moment
Crayons can teach us a good lesson... ...they're different colors, have strange names, but all learn to live together in the same box.
Grandmother on Family Circus
"Also, powerful forces beyond your control will use you for their own ends, constantly rubbing you down until you're a worn-out nub, and then will throw you in the trash. So, what I'm trying to say is, somebody go get grandma some more gin."

Design of the Moment
--Weird, I thought I posted this yesterday... making the rounds it's a big old logo design FAIL from the UK's Office of Government Commerce...

kirk's home for the chronically not-so-easily amused

I got bored waiting in EvilB's car while he went in various door stores to check out prices etc; but I guess it beat just milling around in those stores, 'cause I could goof off with my iPhone (...since of course, the one time you decide "nah, don't need a book") I started reading up my old Palm-based KHftCEA journal. From spring 1997 to the dawn of this site in early 2001, it was my ever-present notebook for ideas I had and quotes I encountered.

This isn't the first time I've mused on some of the nuance I lost when I decided the KHftCEA was largely redundant, a kind of casual spontaneity, and even though I started letting people (EB first, come to think of it) read it, and finally posted it, it was less censored and audience-aware than this site. I also seemed to produce more microfiction and goofy verse.

Of course, if I were to start it up again, that would be THREE daily or semi-daily journal activities, which is a bit much even by my high standards of self-absorption. I think I'll start keeping it on my iPhone and than emailing content to myself for inclusion in either my public or private journal.

Photos of the Moment
Saturated photo from my iPhone of a great big rock by the Home Depot parking lot:

Blossoming tree near the church next door. The way it is kind of spotlit made me have higher hopes for the photo:

Quote of the Moment
"Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance."
Kurt Vonnegut, "Hocus Pocus".
He just described the software development industry to a T.

le mario c'est moi!

I've decided I'm back to digging large laptops.

For a while my attitude was that I use a desktop all the time, so a laptop's job was to be as portable as possible. (And I've started toting that one tiny fujitsu tablet in my courier bag.) But now that I bought a cheap big laptop, I'm digging the fullsize keyboard with room on the sides, generous screen, general lack of intense heat, etc.

Maybe I'll switch to laptops once my current desktop gives out...

(Random followup, with Retrospect I noticed four years ago today I was bemoaning the lack of a good small laptop...)

Video Games of an Imaginary Moment
--Mightygodking.com's fun from yesterday reinvented some Atari 2600 games based on the cover art. Funny stuff, the font really makes it.

Quote of the Moment
Children are very smart, in their own stupid way. A child's brain is like a sponge, you know, and you know how smart sponges are.
Steve Carell in the latest Wired.
They also had this chart on cognition-enhancing drugs that gives me that feeling of missing out, as well as this piece on the wonder of SuperMemo, a time-based system to help memorization by precisely timed prompts.

grand theft blotto

Woo, the release of Grand Theft Auto IV kind of snuck up on me! But I asked for it as a delayed birthday present from EB and he claims my copy is already secured and waiting for me...

Word is this version lives up to the hype, continuing the tradition of a rich story (actually, richer in this version, with its story of a Russian immigrant trying to make it in the big city) on a world big and complex enough to just enjoy running around in and causing havoc with weapons and cars.

Insanity of the Moment
Same with those mindless teenyboppers who go to the Hickory Farms store, and then take double samples of fruitcake and cheeselog, you warn them that they will be charged with a felony(grand theft), and that if they attempt to fight and run, they will be, unfortunately, first tazered, and if they continue to resist violently with intent to maim, then wounded.
A very odd tale of a loon who claims to be heavily armed and working to protect a mall near you.

Captcha of the Moment
Now un-slashdotted, a new style of Captcha, those little interaction bits (like type in the squiggly word you see here) that try and help people prove that they aren't dumb spambots. The visual cognitive approach is kind of neat, though I'm surprised the "geometric center" would be such a challenge for an AI.

on the cuss bus

Last night I mentioned that there was a time I didn't cuss, and EBSO went REALLY? and I thought that that was a little sad. (I'm sure it bums out my mom as well. The one time I heard her drop the S-bomb (I think we had somehow locked ourselves out) it was a major jaw-dropper.)

With my Sunday School upbringing I really didn't swear until seventh or eight grade. And I remember going back to upstate NY from Cleveland, and Dylan saying that my new found swearing didn't sound right or was a bit forced, as if I hadn't quite developed the knack.

In theory I like the idea of holding off on swearing 'til I really need it, but then I would want to make exceptions for a bunch of humor that relies on it. (It's kind of like how every once in a while I get the idea it would be cool if I became something more like a "Silent Bob" type, where when I finally do say something it has great import, but that's so not my real style .)

There's an idea that swearing is a different "kind" of language, that it involves a different part of the brain than regular speech. It kind of amazes how, if that's true, there's something about swearing that transcends particularities of culture and language. Does a Ned Flanders saying "dang it!" instead of something worse mean his brain is structured differently? Like is it the same phenomenon with a different vocabulary, or is the raw energy of the need to exclaim more tempered in the more civilized person?

Video of the Moment
--Legends of the Superheros, (new video, posted one from I Against Comics) -- wow. Just -- so bad. So campy it goes so far down into bad it swings around to good. And then right back to bad. (The last minute with Adam West reprising his Bat Man role is not too bad.) PLUS -- now we know where that Six Flags guy came from!

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