Strange Brouhaha

Sunday, October 31, 2004


I took Lani trick-or-treating tonight. I haven't been trick-or-treating in 20 years. It was fun, but I ran into a problem that wasn't a problem when I was growing up.

It's COLD outside.

Packers win!

The game ball for today's game gets split between three entities.

First, James Thrash gets the game ball for the illegal motion penalty which called back the touchdown. Without that penalty, the Packers would have lost the game. Brett Favre went downhill so much between the first and second halves that there was no way they could have eaten up enough field to set up Longwell for the field goal.

Second, Al Harris gets the game ball for the interception on the very next play after the penalty. Without that interception, the Redskins probably would have gotten the touchdown (again) and won the game. Those couple of minutes were very emotional in my house, let me assure you.

Third, the referees get the game ball and an honorary spot on the Packers' MVP list. Even I think the penalty against Thrash was bogus, but frankly, things had gone against the Packers so much that they were due. Even their first score, that field goal, came after they basically got a gift from the refs for a penalty.

Good game, though. Good game. (And no, I'm not going to mention "the prediction.")

This makes just as much sense

Where are the explosives?

If Bush is re-elected, gigantic terrorist monkeys from outer space are going to invade and take over the planet.

Hey, it's as persuasive and relevant an argument as "If John Kerry was President, Saddam Hussein would still be in power." Spread the word about the monkeys.

Don't worry about the missing explosives

There were a lot of munitions lying around that were found and taken care of. Many, many more tons were disposed of in the nation of Iraq than disappeared from Al Qaqaa. So it really doesn't matter that these few hundred tons are missing.

(This opinion brought to you courtesy of Fox "News," where I actually heard someone say this. Isn't it ridiculous? Does he, or do you, have any IDEA what you can do with three hundred tons of these high-powered explosives? Can you imagine someone actually thinking that it's not a big deal, just because we destroyed so many more than three hundred tons? TONS, by the way. Isn't that kind of like saying "Hey, we got almost all of the cancer, Mr. Smith. Quit bitching about the part that we missed that's gonna kill you.")

Saturday, October 30, 2004


You know, I don't usually get too worked up when I hear that a celebrity has died. And I usually don't get it when people do get worked up about it.

Jam Master Jay was murdered two years ago today, and his killer is still unknown. I actually felt bad when I heard that Jay was dead, bad enough that I remember where I was when I heard the news. Jay was one of the first real turntable artists to achieve international fame, and he almost singlehandedly inspired the entire generation of DJs who came after him. Now, in the grand scheme of things, that's not really so important,, I loved Run-DMC.

(I think it's kind of sad that now, two years later, Rev. Run and Darryl Mac are doing Dr. Pepper ads that sort of trade on Jay's memory.)


"Spellbound" is a documentary from last year about eight kids who go to the national spelling bee in Washington, D.C. (I want to know how the filmmaker managed to get lucky enough to end up profiling the winner.) I went in expecting to see the kind of thing that you always see in movies about prodigies, namely a movie exposing the sordid underbelly of naked parental ambition. I expected "No, damn it, Billy, you missed the O AGAIN!" and other such things.

That's not what I got.

I'm not saying that some of the parents aren't driven, but if they're psychotically obsessed the way some parents of athletes are, the filmmaker was careful to keep that sort of thing out of the movie. The parents all came off as proud of their kids, sometimes a bit bemused, always very supportive. These were just regular kids, maybe a little "off" in that way that we all are, who had the ability to both memorize lists of words and reason out the spellings of words they didn't know.

A couple of parts stood out for me.

First, as a 34-year-old man, I was able to spell most of the words that they stopped for. Some of them were tough for different reasons; "cephalalgia" because you really want a y in there ("cephylalgia," which is wrong), "ecclesiastical" because it's really easy to get lost in the middle of it, which the girl who had to spell it did. You know what got me, though? "Distractible," because I wanted to spell it exactly the same way as everyone else wants to: "distractable," which is wrong wrong wrong. Could I have spelled those words at 14? Well, heck yes, but I think I still would've gotten my butt kicked by "distractible."

Second, it was very humorous to see the mother of the kid who got out on "banns" say "I just feel sorry for the kid from Texas who got 'yenta,'" in a fairly thick Noo Yawk accent. "Banns" is one of those words that I picked up reading Katherine Kurtz novels when I was a kid. (Incidentally, the kid who couldn't spell "banns" was the one who spelled "cephalalgia" correctly in the first round. Poor guy.)

Third, I really felt bad for the parents of one of the Indian kids. Here's this kid whose parents drill him every day on thousands of words, and he gets handed what you think would be a slam dunk: "Darjeeling." And he's pretty obviously never heard the word before. His mother had an absolutely priceless expression on her face, his father buries his head in his hands, because they both KNOW that they've never given him this word. It's at once hilarious and a little painful (but what's comedy without pain).

Fourth...did Emily Stagg become famous for something else? She's one of the spellers featured in the movie, and I would be willing to swear that I know her name and face from somewhere. I may be getting confused because the "Where are they now?" picture of her made her look a lot like Alicia Silverstone, but that name just sounds familiar. Maybe, for some bizarre reason, I'm thinking of Ellen Feiss, although I can't imagine why. This will bug me for a few minutes, and then I will move on.

The movie is definitely worth seeing. There are a few uncomfortable moments as they're placing the kids in context; the rancher who employs the father of one of the kids says "He's a good Mexican," for example (and rolls on from there, I might add), and one of the teachers of one of the other kids says "I just love having those Indian kids in mah classroom, they all have such a great work ethic and they're so quiet!" But overall, it's really quite good.

It's the plumber. I've come to fix the sink.

Or, in our case, the bathtub. The cartridge gave out on our faucet while Lani was taking a bath, which meant that the water never quite turned off. Gotta fix it, right? Right.

I'm in the wrong field. Clearly, the thing to do is to own a plumbing business. I'm not gonna say how much we spent to get a plumber out here at 8:30 at night, but he wasn't cheap. At least he was nice. I hope he got a decent chunk of that money.

There were two frustrating things about the whole experience. First, maybe I was searching for the wrong terms, but the Internet gave me NOTHING about fixing this faucet. It's the first time in a while that I got nothing at all that was useful. Second, when I saw how relatively simple it was to fix this thing...I coulda done it myself and saved most of that money IF I had been able to find the information on the Internet. Internet, Internet, why hast thou forsaken me?

Friday, October 29, 2004

British Parliament

I wouldn't want to live in Britain. I mean, you think we've got it bad here--over there, they've perfected the intrusive nanny state. And the worst parts of the vestiges of Empire still cling to them.

One thing they do have that's neat, though, is this thing that I was watching on C-SPAN2 yesterday. The Prime Minister sits in the House of Commons and all the MPs stand up and the speaker calls out a name and that person gets to ask the Prime Minister a question.


Now, you can feel free to love or hate Tony Blair. To me, it's all the same either way. But he took all of these questions, ranging from the global ("How can you be sure that we'll have a say in what goes on in Iraq?") to the national ("Why are you going to sign this treaty with the EU?") to the incredibly trivially local ("Will you make sure to extend the ban on fireworks so people's pets don't get scared?"), and HE ANSWERED THEM. He answered them coherently, cogently, and (or so it seemed) eruditely, and all in the atmosphere of an Oxford-style debate, where people can yell at you and try to drown you out and boo you.

At one point, after several minutes of hearing people yammer back and forth about things I care nothing about and yet would watch over and over again, I looked at Savannah and said "Can you imagine Bush in this setting?"

(I can: "Buh buh buh buh buh buh buh buh buh buh buh buh buh buh buh buh.")

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Let me flog the horse one last time

There are problems with electronic voting machines.

There are problems with electronic voting machines.

There are problems with electronic voting machines.

There are problems with voting machines.

As we head into the final days before the election, I just want to reiterate, one last time, that the best solution is often the one that involves the least technology, and that throwing computers at a problem doesn't necessarily solve it. In something so vitally important to this country, on EVERY level from local to national, as an election, we should be willing to take the time to do things correctly. If that means having elections officials sit in a room and count marks on paper for days, so be it. Speed kills.

"Phantom" is off MY list now

I was pretty excited to see that there was going to be a movie version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Phantom of the Opera." I've been listening to the score for a long time, and it's just...I dunno, I was looking forward to seeing it.

Then I found out that Joel Schumacher directed it. Joel Schumacher, who ruined Batman. What, is the Phantom going to be some kind of erect-nippled leather slave now? (Yeah, I know, it's not fair. He's had good movies too. But he RUINED BATMAN, damn it. Nipples in the Batsuit. Jesus.)

Batman: The Animated Series had a funny scene that, despite the comments on this website, was pretty harsh towards Joel Schumacher. AS IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN.

Strange Ad

When I was idly browsing the NYT website this morning, I saw an ad that said "Sick of the spin? Click here to get the facts about Bush." That's fine. It had six pictures, presumably of people the ad's creators think are out there spinning things in Bush's favor. I'm not going to quibble with four of the selections: Bush himself, Tucker Carlson, Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly.

But...Jay Leno? I've not been watching the Tonight Show every night or anything, but it's always seemed pretty evenhanded to me.

And the one that really puzzles me is the inclusion of Chris Matthews from Hardball. Again, it's not something I watch all the time, but it seems to me that he goes after pretty much everyone. I've seen him try to pin down Republicans.

I just don't get it, I guess.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Really, not tonight

After that massive caustic braindump yesterday, I really haven't got anything.

Okay, two quick things.

First, I guess Babe Ruth was appeased, somehow. Either that or the Cardinals took a dive. If it was Miami, Wayne Huizenga would immediately break up the Red Sox. We'll see what happens in Boston.

Second, Tommy Smothers must be the calmest person on Earth. I read an article today that included this: "Smothers said he's frequently approached by people who ask him whether he wishes he were on television now because he could say anything he wanted." As Tommy quite correctly points out, that applies only if you're trying to push the boundaries of crudity. The Smothers Brothers would be, as he put it, "off in a second." You don't need to be a rocket scientist to know that.

Then again...we're not a nation of rocket scientists, are we?

Tuesday, October 26, 2004


(Yeah, I know, so much for "No updates today.")

Short review: Wow.

Long review: I hate dancers. Not "hate" hate, mind you, seeing as my daughter is one, but...gosh darn it, after an entire night's performance, not one of the dancers was even sweating, let alone breathing hard. As Savannah said, the guys looked like they were ready to hit the clubs.

This was just an amazing show. Let me get the complaint out of the way first. Yes, complaint, singular--amazing, isn't it? The snake number was too long. We get the point, the girls are hot, they've got gigantic penises wrapped around themselves, they're hot girls, okay. (That's even unfair; I don't actually think the snake number was about hot girls and penises...but it was too long by half.)

I don't go in for dance, which means I'm in for the long haul with Lani, but this was great. None of the numbers was really unsuccessful, althought the snake number was too long. These people can just do amazing things with their bodies, like when the two-person ostriches came out: the men were practically bent over backwards, carrying the women astride their stomachs. Imagine walking like that.

So I really liked it. The music was great, if a bit loud. The lighting was PHENOMENAL. The production design was very good. If only the snake number had been half as long...

(I was supposed to work in something about "Any profession which requires you to bury your face between another person's butt cheeks without any, uh, gratification is not for me," but I couldn't think of a good place for it. Suggestions are welcome. Seriously, I mean, the women were hot and all, but I wouldn't want to bury my head betwe...what the hell am I saying?)

If you get a chance to see Momix, please consider it. They're really great.

My Doctor And Me

No. No, I haven't gone to get my blood pressure checked even ONE time, let alone the requisite three. Why not? Because every time I think about it, it pisses me off so much that my blood pressure is through the roof. IT'S THE SAME AS IT'S BEEN MY WHOLE LIFE. There, how's that for a reading?

Yeah, I'm gonna get good and pissed off. Maybe after a day at work. Yeah, that's a great idea. Great time to get the old blood pressure checked.

"Mr. Jahrling," the nurse said with concern at one physical exam I had, "are you...feeling alright?"

"Sure, why?"

"According to the reading I just took, you're having a stroke."

Better check it again, I guess, because you're stupid.

Anyway, the nurse called today to find out if I had had my blood pressure checked, and of course Savannah said I hadn't, which was entirely correct. I guess the nurse said something like "Men's blood pressure is often a little high when they're here in the office, and we put them on medication for nothing."

KEEP YOUR SNAKE OIL AWAY FROM ME. You're goddamn right my blood pressure's gonna go through the roof when I hear that. Why wouldn't it? Jesus Christ, I could have just kept on going to the Urgent Care clinic when I needed a doctor. I don't NEED this bullshit.

So that's the background of the mood I was in tonight as we headed away from the office, to Lani's dance class...

The Overture Center: Splenetic Version

...and into the worst freaking nightmare you ever saw. I was NOT in a good mood, and NOT predisposed towards generosity (like I ever am). I ranted and raved about my doctor all the way from work to school, at one point promising myself that I would tell him to fuck off, right to his face.

I restrained myself when Lani put in her appearance. Yes I did. All through dance class, even. I even managed not to strangle the FUCKING stage mother who wouldn't close the FUCKING door to the studio and kept yelling in at her stupid daughter. Sit the hell down and shut the hell up! Let the teacher do her job, you nightmarish creature.

Then it was dinner time.

Time was tight for us, or at least that was my perception. Curtain for Momix was at 7:30, and so we planned to finish dance class, head out for dinner, and head straight downtown. When we got in the car, we had about two hours to curtain. With my diet, my options for dining out are kind of limited; we decided to go to Subway.

When you are in Madison, please do everything you can to avoid eating at the Subway at 1814 West Beltline Highway. Even if it means going hungry--and it won't, because there's a Culver's and a Perkin's right nearby, and Alt n' Bach's is still right next to Ward-Brodt (cursed be its name)--don't eat at that Subway. Never, ever, ever eat at that Subway. It is quite possibly the worst Subway in the known universe, and that's saying a lot because there is a Subway on EVERY FREAKING BLOCK. It's almost as bad as Starbuck's Coffee. The loud music was annoying, but I can deal with it--although I couldn't hear a single thing that the girl behind the counter was saying:


"I'm sorry, what?"

"Would you like cheese?"

"Oh. Yes, please."

"We hamblmblbmblbmbl."

"I'm sorry, what?"

"We have mblmbl cheddar mblmbl."

And so on. That was fine. What wasn't fine was the greasy-haired fucking REJECT behind the counter who--in an otherwise EMPTY FUCKING RESTAURANT, tried to rush us through the line. "Will that be all?" he said after Savannah's sandwich was done, never mind that the three of us were clearly all together. "Is that a Kid's Pack?" he said to the girl making Lani's sandwich. "Will that be all? He's having a sandwich? What kind?" Nobody is making my sandwich yet, and I'm quite frankly still trying to de..."A wrap? What kind?" Wait, wait, I'm not..."Your total is...." Wait, total? We need chips! I want a drink! Nobody's making my sandwich! I looked at him and said "What's the rush?" and I should have said "What's the FUCKING RUSH?" so that he got the point, but I decided at that point, with my daughter in my arms, that cursing was not the way to go. That's not even touching the fact that when the girl mumbled out something about vegetables and I asked for jalapenos, she put on like TWO TINY SLICES of jalapeno. Jesus, sorry for eating your profits, you skank. Dude, go back into the stockroom and keep jacking off. Sorry to disturb you. Don't forget to wipe up the spooge when you're done. Or not. You lazy fuck.

So now I'm really on fire, right? I'm pissed and I'm LOOKING for things to get even more pissed about. I already don't like Jerry's little boondoggle--look, asshole, you want to spend $200 million dollars, how about investing in the future and giving half of that to the Madison School District in trust, investing it at five or six percent and thus tacking a nice chunk of change onto the budget? Then take the other hundred million and shove it up your ass and put downtown back the way it was and kick out the fucking Gap. There was nothing wrong with the Civic Center.

I'm yelling as we walk up the street. I have no idea what I'm even SAYING, that's how bad it is. We get to the Overture. THE DOORS ARE LOCKED? "What is this," I yell, "Soviet Russia?" We have to walk all the way around to the front of the building, and by the time we get there I open the door and shout "IT'S A MIRACLE!" (I didn't really, just go with me here.) I make some sort of sarcastic comment and ignore the people who are standing in the lobby as greeters and FUCKING FASCIST DICTATORS WHO ARE GOING TO TELL US WHERE TO GO.

I need to go to the bathroom, so I find the bathroom. The men's bathroom was designed by someone who had never been to the bathroom, I guess. Maybe Cesar Pelli pees in a cup and has a servant take it away. The door opens into a huge--for a men's bathroom--carpeted atrium. In a women's bathroom, this would be where the couches and stuff are. Here, it was empty. Yes. A large, carpeted, empty space whose main feature was a tiny little "No Smoking" sign. It made me wish I smoked, just so I could light up. Open the door into the bathroom proper. Does Cesar Pelli have children? He must not, because what I assumed to be the baby-changing area was SWATHED IN DARKNESS. Not "Oh, the light burned out!" darkness, either. Deliberate darkness. Maybe so that dads don't have to look at poop. Who knows? I walked out of the bathroom and yelled at Savannah. If I wasn't attracting stares before, I certainly was by this time. "Look at this!" I yelled, opening the door into the gigantic empty room. "What is this?"

I'll say nice things about the boondoggle in the next post, I promise.

What a poorly-designed building. The bathroom doors open the wrong way. All of the signs are ILLEGIBLE unless you're standing right in front of them. Oh, they're NICE, but you can't read them, rendering them totally useless. They were designed by people who don't, you know, USE SIGNS FOR NAVIGATION. I wanted to find one of them and drag them by the fucking nose to where I was standing and yell "TELL ME WHAT THAT SIGN SAYS!" And then shoot them in the head when they couldn't tell me. There's a double-wide assload of unused space. Totally unused. It's poorly-lit. The steps are badly designed in the Overture theater itself; the rise is too short and the run too long, in general. Did I mention that the bathroom doors on the Mezzanine level open the wrong way? I'll explain: they're designed so that you reach out with your right hand to open them when you're coming out, which is GREAT except that the person coming IN can't see the door open and they crash into you. No, I'm not an architect or a designer, and I don't give a damn. I was looking for things to get pissed at.

So I wanted to take a look around the place and see what was what. Some bunch of rich jerks is there, eating food and hobnobbing, and I understand that it's their party and I'm not invited. I just want to go see what the top floor is like, so I drag Lani with me towards the stairs and this security guy says "This area is closed off."

"I just want to go up the stairs..."

"There's a private party, this area is closed off." (He was really nice about it, actually.)

The stairs are NOWHERE NEAR the rich people. I'm wearing shoes, I'm clean-shaven, my hair is tied back. I won't kill them much. I just want to go up the stairs. I mutter at him and sit back down, talking loudly to Savannah about the "fucking rich people" (yes, I momentarily forgot that I shouldn't curse when Lani is around). The security guy comes over--did I mention he was really nice?--and says "If you just want to go upstairs, you can use those stairs over there."

Okay, so now I'm ashamed and he's pretty much talked me out of my bad mood. (Except for the stupid bathroom doors; those came later.) So now I can enjoy stuff.

(Did I mention that the urinal's in the men's bathrooms have those automatic sensors...but they ALSO have a button to flush? What the hell is that?)

The Overture Center: Nice Version


You know, it really is a nice building. That "unused space" is the atrium, which is like four stories tall. It's EMPTY, though, and that still bugs me. Straight up, straight down. At least the rotunda at the entrance has a decorative purpose all its own; I just don't see the point to all that rectangular emptiness.

They had a nice origami exhibit by the bathrooms. I meant what I said about the bathrooms being designed by space aliens, but, come on, they're bathrooms, it's pretty minor.

I still stand by what I said about the signs. They are illegible, a thin, small, dark gray typeface on clear glass with a white background. The way they're lit, the words cast shadows behind them at every angle. The directional arrows get lost in a blur of shadow. You need to be standing directly in front of them, no more than a couple of feet away. That's not good, because people are supposed to be navigating by these signs: Mezzanine this way, Orchestra that way. I don't know about other people, but when I'm trying to find something, I don't really stop and stand two feet away from a sign--I take a quick head-check to make sure I'm going the right way. I think it's a huge usability issue.

And I stand by what I said about there being a better use for $200 million in this community. There are a lot of smaller arts companies that are still struggling in the face of the arts district, and what it comes down to is that the $200 million didn't go to fund the arts in Madison: it went to fund what Jerry Frautschi thinks the arts are. It's not doing a damn thing for anyone who can't afford to put on a production in that space. I have nothing against the large touring productions and established "serious" arts organizations like the Symphony and the Madison Ballet. But, and correct me if I'm wrong, Overture is causing (and will continue to cause) a huge financial burden on the smaller companies that used to use the Civic Center. I think an arts grant should benefit every artist, not just a favored few. "The arts" is more than just the symphony and the ballet and "Cats" every year.

(I know, I'm not being entirely fair. Some of that money did go to smaller groups, including some money to complete the renovation of the Bartell. I still the money could have been used in a way that benefited everyone, and I do mean everyone. You know how much it's going to cost to use the Center? Smaller organizations and groups are going to be frozen out on a cost basis alone, effectively dividing the city into an Arts District and an Arts Ghetto. And how confident are they in Overture's drawing power, when they were so concerned that a casino and theater would take away from Overture's audience? And have I mentioned that they're having trouble selling tickets at Overture?)

In case you're wondering what "nice" means, it means that I'm not cursing and I'm not ranting. But it is a very pretty building, very spare, with lots of straight lines (except, obviously, for the rotunda).

No updates today. Well, except for this one.

We're going to see Momix tonight at Jerry Frautschi's arts boondoggle which only benefits "major" arts organizations and has otherwise screwed downtown businesses and "minor" arts organizations. Full report tomorrow.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Keep an ear out for this

I said a while back that I wished that the Mars rovers had microphones so that we could hear the wind on Mars. Even though I'm pretty sure that it would sound like any other wind, it would be sounds coming from Mars!

Well, it turns out that when the Huygens probe lands on Titan, one of the pieces of equipment it will have deployed as it lands is a microphone. This is awesome! I can't wait to hear what another planet sounds like.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

What a relief

Well, I don't know what they're doing--the Fox broadcast team seemed to think that it was having Mike Sherman call the plays--but whatever it is, the Packers need to keep doing it. (Especially next week when they go to the nation's capitol to play the Washington Redskins.) The right Brett Favre showed up this week; if he threw an interception, I didn't see it. Granted, this victory came against a very weak Dallas team, but still, they won and they won well. The defense finally showed up. Ahman Green had a breakout game. Brett threw well.

The Packers may not be headed for the Super Bowl, but the season's looking better (knock reasonably-simulated wood product). They just need to get a win next week, then they've got a bye, time to breathe. Keep your fingers crossed.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Image Hosting

With the death of, I'm suddenly without a place to host images. Anyone know a free image hosting service? (Not can't link directly and they have too much porn.) I know, I could google for it, and I will. But it's almost one in the morning. I thought I'd ask around and see if anybody knew. The only other one I know is, and that's for, well, SWG screenshots.

I suppose I could get a geocities or tripod account. Do they even allow direct linking? You'd assume so, but who knows. Now I'm just rambling. Sorry.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Star Wars Galaxies: Jump To Lightspeed

I finally did get into the beta program for JTL, and now that the NDA has been lifted, I thought I'd share my experiences and opinions.

I came in on the later stages of the beta, after a lot of bugs had been ironed out. They were still working on ship physics, which was tough to get used to at first: every day, the ships handled a little bit differently. The dialog was also still very rough around the edges. As the beta progressed, though, everything cleaned up.

First of all, let's get this out of the way: space is fun, but I think it's fun in a very limited way right now. Yes, you can fly all the classic ships (eventually), but after you master your piloting skills, there's kind of nothing to do if you don't want to fight other players. You can still use your ship for "free" interstellar travel, but it seems like the fighting just kind of stops.

But it's fun at the beginning. I played an Imperial pilot and a Rebel pilot, and I have to say that so far flying a TIE fighter was a lot better. On the Rebel side, I made myself a Y-Wing and it flew like a ton of bricks. The TIE was a lot more responsive--but it had no shields, which meant that I needed to repair it more often. So there's balance there, which is good. The game itself is a lot like Wing Commander or Descent: Freespace. You fly to waypoints and blow stuff up, or occasionally you need to protect a transport of some sort by blowing stuff up. There's a lot of blowing stuff up. BUT YOU'RE DOING IT IN A Y-WING!

The big question is: should you buy it? (Obviously, it's only a big question if you already play Star Wars Galaxies.) I'm waffling right now. I say yes, but I also say that the thirty bucks they want for it is kind of steep. Twenty would be better, and an unhesitating buy at that price point. At thirty, I'd want something that was a little more polished and had a little more depth to it.

This is a shame

It's not a shame that the Oscar Wilde musical tanked so badly. I mean, when the article says "a script written entirely in rhyming couplets," I shudder in horror. And a musical? I don't think Oscar Wilde's life really lends itself to a musical.

But it WOULD make a great play, and what's a shame is that, apparently, this guy couldn't come up with something good. Instead he's moving on to his project on The Village People.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Yes, I'm complaining about traffic again

Dear Bus Driver,

Perhaps this was not covered in Bus Driver training, but that red sign with eight sides, a white border, and four big white letters in the middle? That's called a stop sign. When you see one, it is meant as a signal that you should stop your vehicle. "Stop," in this case, means "halt all forward progress by putting your foot on the vehicle's brake."

This is expecially critical at what we call a "four-way stop" or "all-way stop." That's signified by the fact that all nodes of an intersection have stop signs (those eight-sided red jobbies) with addenda, namely a little plate at the bottom of the stop sign which reads "All way" or "4 way." This means that everybody has to stop, especially if someone who has stopped before you is beginning to turn. If someone has stopped before you, generally speaking, they have the right of way. "Right of way" just means that they get to go first.

It may be the case that at your particular stop sign, there was an additional sign that said "...unless you're driving a bus--if you are, go for it!" I don't think there is, though, because I've driven through that side of the intersection quite a few times and I don't recall seeing that.

Or it may be that there's a reason you're driving the short bus.


etc. etc.

Please explain this

Now that is dead, there's nothing tying this site to my office. So I'm gonna bitch about work for a second. Will this make some people unhappy? Undoubtedly. Do I care? No.

In many programming languages, tests for equality are done with a double equal, as in this little snippet, which could be C or C++ or Java or what have you:

if (x=="foo") {
. . . // do stuff here

In the Bourne shell scripting language, string comparisons are done with a single equal sign, as in

if [ "$x" = "foo" ]
. . . # do stuff here

If you use a single equal in the first example, you've made an assignment: the variable x now has the value "foo," regardless of whether it did before. The statement x = "foo" will therefore always evaluate to true, the code in that "if" block will always run, and you've created a bug. It won't stop your program from compiling and running, but it will stop it from working correctly.

If you use a double equal in that second example, your script will not run. It will not run on Linux. It will not run on Solaris. It will not run on AIX. It will not run at all. Your script will stop, dead. It will stop every time. I can't think of a circumstance under which it will not stop. I could be wrong, I'll admit it. But I don't think I am.

Now, I'm not a great programmer. In fact, I'm no more a programmer than I am a Biblical scholar. But I do know some stuff, and one thing I know is that before you release code to QA to be checked, you RUN THE CODE. Don't you? Shoot, I'm so paranoid about my own code that it takes me forever to write a few hundred lines because I have to build each unit and test it on its own. Am I nuts, here? Wouldn't you run that thousand-line script at least once before you release it? ONCE? After all, the =/== mistake is easy to make when you work with a dozen different languages all the time, each with its own syntactical pecularities, no two quite alike. I can totally understand WHY the mistake gets made.

What I can't understand is why it's in the release. Why it's in the release SEVEN TIMES. These guys aren't dumb, I know they're not, but why in God's name wouldn't they have RUN the script and SEEN that it didn't work? It is indeed my job to check for these things, but...aren't we supposed to get things that work just a little bit?

Wednesday, October 20, 2004


I was waiting for to come up so that I could archive the entire Strange Brouhaha history before the machine died forever.

The machine has died forever. I have no archives. Sigh.

Free Debate Tool

I'm not the world's greatest Biblical scholar. I'm probably not even in the top million. Ten million. But I do know a couple of things, and what with all the distressing revelations over the last few months about the "faith" of George W. Bush (and possibly the lack thereof; the article makes the very interesting point that Bush has been scrupulously careful not to define himself in terms of being Evangelical or born-again, and that he in fact doesn't regularly attend church), and the recent renewal of hostilities against the U.S. Episcopal Church's consecration of Gene Robinson, I thought it was time to trot out one of my favorite debate tactics.

This thing with the Episcopal church is especially distressing to me. I'm still nominally Episcopalian, although I haven't seen the inside of a church in a long-ass time. I've always thought of the Episcopal church as being open to intellectual curiosity, debate and dissent; as Father Davis put it, "We want you to use your mind." (My friends may feel free to disagree with me on this. I think I'm right, though. We had our rigid Father Kaneshiros and our bemused, distant Father Sasakis, and whatever Headmaster Coon was, but Father Yoshida was a good guy, exactly the kind of guy I think of when I make that statement. Like I said, feel free to disagree.) That impression has suffered a bit, though, with the news that several diocese (dioceses?) across the country have seceded from the church and joined with African and Brazilian churches because, apparently, these people want to be members of churches that hate homosexuals. I don't think this is the first time that the U.S. Episcopal church has split, although I'm too lazy to do any research to verify, but I'd be willing to bet (a small, insignificant sum) that it's the first split caused because people would rather hate other people than, you know, actually live by the scripture they purport to follow.


Here's the hammer: John 3:17.

You don't want to argue theology, trust me. At least, I don't. And you don't want to get into the whole "Jesus never mentions homosexuality in the Bible" thing either, because that's a logical fallacy. Silence doesn't imply approval or disapproval. It doesn't even imply that it's a non-issue. Just leave that alone. You don't want to get into "Leviticus this" and "Romans that." That's a minefield that bigots know very well. (You might counter the former with Matthew 5:17, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill," with, I think, the heavy implication being that Christ will fulfill, or complete, the Old Testament by being the vehicle of the New. And the latter...I don't hold much with Paul, so I find non-gospel evidence uncompelling. YMMV.)

Just ask someone who comes at you swinging the Bible if they know what John 3:17 says. "No," you say when they condescendingly ask you if you mean arguably the most famous Bible verse in the world, John 3:16, "I mean John 3:17." Chances are they won't. "I'll give you a clue," you say in the nicest possible way. "It doesn't say 'Unless they're gay.' It doesn't say 'Unless they're black.' It doesn't say 'Unless' anything, as a matter of fact. Do you not understand what 'whosoever' means?"

As I told Savannah, back when we were going to church and there was a problem over the ordination of gays, there aren't, as far as I know, any instructions in the Bible--from Jesus or anyone else--that says who is fit or unfit to spread the Word. In other words, it doesn't say who can or can't be a priest. In other words, if you believe that the authority for consecration comes down in a directly traceable line from Paul, as Episcopals do, then if the Bishop says somebody's a priest, then that's that. (Yes, I used cruder language. No, it doesn't need repeating.) I'm pretty sure that the ordination issue is fundamentally different, and that this is not a case of argument from silence. Anybody who believes should be able to spread that belief.

The larger point is, I think, that you can counter religious bigotry with religion itself, rather than with screeching diatribes against the very idea that people might believe in something. I realize that people who are going to use the Bible to preach hate against anyone will not have their mind changed by rhetorical brilliance, but I think we need to try to hammer home to these people that they're basing their venom on the word of man, not the word of God.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Advice for people with long hair

If you have hair that reaches down past your ass...

...and you wear it in a braided ponytail...

...please do not wear it under your jacket. You will look like you have a waggy little tail.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Meet The Press

I hate politicians.

Just answer the damn questions.

I happened upon "Meet The Press" on Sunday, and Tim Russert was interviewing the candidates for the Senate seat in South Carolina. Russert asked the Republican candidate, quite directly, who he would prosecutre if abortions were illegal. His answer? "We've got to make laws first that protect life. How those laws are shaped are going to be a long debate."

Russert kept after him, and he never answered the question, which was a really good question. Read the transcript, although this DeMint is a pretty scary bastard. This was the last segment, so you'll want to scroll down to almost the end if you do read it.

Quick Hits

Awww: The AP wire this morning notes that Jeb Bush has ruled out running for President in 2008. You may fill in your own cynical reasons why.

Now THERE'S an endorsement: Whenever the Russians think something is a good idea, you can generally assume that they're wrong. The samovar and pirozhki are about the only good ideas to come out of Russia, and I think borscht cancels those out. I host that picture of me on, and has been down for quite a while. You'll just have to do without gazing upon me, at least until it comes back up.

Orwell was only off by 20 years: The whole point of The Party's slogans (War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength) and, indeed, the whole point of The Party in general, was to manipulate people's perceptions to create a shifting reality. With that in mind, or even with that not in mind because, frankly, there's a lot more scary stuff than just that, read Ron Suskind's NYT Magazine cover article. If you have to register, register. Yes, this deserves a whole rant rather than just a line or two in Potpourri.

Mary Cheney is a lesbian: The Rude Pundit, of course, puts it much better than I do. You know what I think is demeaning? I think it's demeaning that the elder Cheneys feel that they need to "defend" themselves because their daughter is a lesbian. Makes you wonder why she's campaigning for him.

Sunday, October 17, 2004


I had a whole long post written, and the trackpad on my computer went bonkers and I lost everything.


It was just a post on some ideas I had for a wargame. Nothing major. Well, other than an hour down the drain.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Happy Birthday!

D&D is thirty years old. It's hard to believe. I'm thirty-four, and I've been playing off and on for probably twenty-two of those years, from the "Basic" rules (B-1: Keep on the Borderlands!) through the "Expert" rules through two editions of AD&D an, a few years ago, TSR/Wizards/Hasbro's Third Edition Dungeons And Dragons.

Over the years I've flirted with other systems, sure. Traveller. GURPS. FUDGE. Deadlands. James Bond. DC Heroes. Several Star Trek RPGs. Forge. (Remember Forge? Sage and I were the only two people ever to play it, I swear.) But I always went back to D&D because...well, because what could be better than D&D?

Nothing, that's what. All of the best gaming memories come out of D&D. One of my favorites was when I was playing a psionicist who absolutely hated the undead. Naturally, we were attacked by undead, and when the party mage (1st-level!) had cast his spell for the day, he decided to kick back, leaving my character to kill all of the undead. After the battle, I said, "I'm attacking him, now." Did I knock him out? I forget.

D&D is the One True Source of gaming. Even though I'm bitter about TSR selling out to WoTC, and WoTC in turn selling out to Hasbro, and GenCon moving to Indianapolis (never!), I can set aside that bitterness and say happy birthday to D&D. We love you! Here's hoping for thirty more years.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Traffic and bizarre fish

Traffic around Lani's school is horrible--obviously, because getting hundreds of kids to the same place at approximately the same time is a logistical nightmare. It's not made any better by the fact that the vast majority of people are idiots. We almost got into another accident this morning because of someone who was DOUBLE-PARKING the No Parking zone; she decided that it was just fine to pull out into traffic without signaling, even though I was RIGHT NEXT TO HER and there were cars plainly visible behind me and in front of me.

People not stopping at stop signs? Seen it.

People WITH THEIR KIDS rushing into the middle of the street without looking EITHER way, never mind both? Seen it.

Double-parking the No Parking zone? More than once.

Parking in the spot clearly marked for buses? Yup. (Note to bozos: no, it doesn't matter that the buses had already been and gone as far as you know.)

People pulling away from the curb without checking their mirrors? Uh-huh. How do I know they're not checking their mirrors? Because I check mine and when I see a car coming, I don't go...but the burb-mobile in front of me does. It's a reasonable assumption.

I'm amazed that there hasn't been an accident yet. Knock wood.

And yes, I am better than all of these people. Thanks for asking.

What, you wanna know about the fish, too?

That's "fish," plural, by the way. The Northern Snakehead put in an appearance in Lake Michigan. This thing walks on land and eats, among other things, mammals. It's like a mini-shark which, let me remind you, WALKS ON LAND. It is to laugh that the Illinois DNR hopes that there was only one. There's never only one. Don't you people watch horror movies?

That same article talks about some flood victims--namely Asian Carp, flooded out of their ponds, migrating north.

The Lakes were making such a nice comeback, too.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Open Letters

To the guy in the tiny little Ford Focus, zooming down the street, gangsta rap blaring: no, you're not cool. You're not badass. It doesn't make your dick bigger. How do I know this? When it was me zooming down the street in my Escort, it didn't make me cool or badass either.

To the guy in the minivan who busted a U in front of me while we were driving Lani to school: See that thing on the steering column of your stupid-ass burb-box? Yeah, on the left-hand side, close enough to reach out and touch while you're driving? It's called the TURN SIGNAL, you moron. If you're gonna make a U-turn like an idiot in the middle of the street in front of a school, with traffic stacked up behind you and cars coming in the opposite direction and kids all over the place, so that you can park in the bus loading zone where you're clearly NOT supposed to park, at least use the turn signal. You know, to signal that you're turning. The other thing that I wanted to tell you is that you should know that the turning radius on those minvans is horrible, so it was really funny to see you totally not clear the curb and have to back out and try again.

To the different guy in the different minivan who turned in front of me while we were driving Lani to school: When you're making a right turn out of a parking lot, convential wisdom suggests that you look to the LEFT, the direction whence traffic issues. I noticed that you were looking to the right when you turned, which makes very little sense to me, because I would think that you'd want to see that my car is about to hit your van.

To people who are not handicapped who park in handicapped spots: Putting your hazard lights on when you park in a handicapped spot is neither the moral nor the legal equivalent of actually having the little sticker or hanger that allows you to park in these spots. "I'm just running in for a second," is also not a valid excuse. (Full disclosure: I parked my car in a handicapped spot last week when Savannah dropped me off at work.)

To people who park in clearly-marked NO PARKING zones: Putting your hazard lights on and leaving the engine running does not mean that you are not parking.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Debate, round 3

Once again, Kerry failed to slam-dunk anything. (Caveat: I missed a bit near the middle when Savannah had to use the phone and I failed to remember that we could have quite easily plugged in a pair of headphones to the computer speakers. Maybe he slam-dunked something in there.)

I listened to the NPR stream again, so I've got no clue how things looked. Bush sounded tired, bored, and lost. I think part of that sound in his voice was that somebody finally pounded it into his thick skull that he's been shrill and whiny, and he was trying to modulate his tone, but it's more that domestic policy is not his strong suit. Notice how he kept trying to pull everything back to education, which is the one area of domestic policy where he's actually done something, whether you think it's positive or not.

What was that bizarre moment where he started to try and make some kind of joke about listening to the opinions of network news organizations, then said "Well, nevermind?"

I think that Kerry again came off the better of the two, successfully deflecting the President's attacks and delineating plans clearly. The President was again reduced to largely ad hominem attacks.

I listened to a little bit of post-debate analysis, and something funny came up. Remember Kerry's assertion that Bush had never met with the NAACP, never met with the Congressional Black Caucus? And Bush's assertion that he had in fact met with the CBC, "at the White House?" Turns out that he did...because the CBC got on a bus and basically stormed the White House uninvited and demanded that he meet with them. You've got to go with Kerry's interpretation as the one that's correct in spirit, there.

The moderator did a pretty good job asking questions and being tough, although once again Bush steamrollered over a question about the backdoor draft. All in all, not a solid win for Kerry, but I think that he did better than Bush, again.

In "The Cuckoo's Egg," Cliff Stoll describes his examination for his Ph.D. (I think). The committee asks him one question: "Why is the sky blue?" Then they drill him down to specifcs on the things he says. This is the kind of thing I want to see from the two candidates. I don't want dry debates. I want to see someone start out with "Why should I vote for you?" and then go from there. Don't let any assertions go by without ferreting out meanings, don't allow platitudes, don't allow any B.S. Pin them down, both of them. Keep asking "Why?"

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Which Country Are You?

In an attempt to offer you a break from the usual splenetic ranting, I give you the chance to find out which country you are. I confess that I don't understand the reasoning, since the result I got:

You're Zimbabwe!

Everything was going really well for you for a long time, but lately you
haven't quite been acting yourself. One day things were looking up and now you've
got all this anger, and you're taking it out on people you've decided must be at fault.
Taking their property seems to be the best way of getting back at them, but this is
making all your former friends dislike you and talk about ending your friendships.
Things could really go either way right now, but you're making enemies

...doesn't seem to have anything to do with the answers I provided to the questions. There are a couple of other quizzes on the site, like the Book Quiz (I'm the dictionary) and the State Quiz (I'm the State of Greed).

Take a couple minutes' break from the serious.

Un. Be. Lievable.

I just read an article where some shill for Bush-Cheney '04, when confronted with some mockery by John Edwards about Bush's non-answer to the final question from last week's debate, said "The President answered that question in the debate."


The President was asked, you'll recall, to give three instances in which he came to realize he had made a wrong decision. It's a very simple question. (And by the way, wouldn't it be neat if the moderator for tomorrow night's debate says, "And for our last question of the evening, for President Bush. During the last four years, you have made thousands of decisions that have affected millions of lives. Please give three instances in which you came to realize you had made a wrong decision, and what you did to correct it.") Here's what he said:

I have made a lot of decisions, and some of them little,
like appointments to boards you never heard of, and some
of them big.

And in a war, there's a lot of - there's a lot of
tactical decisions that historians will look back and
say: He shouldn't have done that. He shouldn't
have made that decision. And I'll take responsibility for
them. I'm human.

But on the big questions, about whether or not we should
have gone into Afghanistan, the big question about
whether we should have removed somebody in Iraq, I'll
stand by those decisions, because I think they're right.

That's really what you're - when they ask about the
mistakes, that's what they're talking about. They're
trying to say, "Did you make a mistake going into Iraq?"
And the answer is, "Absolutely not." It was the right decision.

The Duelfer report confirmed that decision today, because
what Saddam Hussein was doing was trying to get rid of
sanctions so he could reconstitute a weapons program. And
the biggest threat facing America is terrorists with weapons of
mass destruction.

We knew he hated us. We knew he'd been - invaded other
countries. We knew he tortured his own people.

On the tax cut, it's a big decision. I did the right decision.
Our recession was one of the shallowest in modern history.

Now, you asked what mistakes. I made some mistakes in
appointing people, but I'm not going to name them. I don't
want to hurt their feelings on national TV.

But history will look back, and I'm fully prepared to accept
any mistakes that history judges to my administration, because
the president makes the decisions, the president has to
take the responsibility.

I interpret that to mean, more or less, "I've made a lot of decisions. Some people think I'm wrong. You're really asking about Iraq, and I don't think I was wrong there. I don't think I was wrong to cut taxes. I may have made a mistake or two but I'm not going to own up to them right now."

How does that answer the question? It was a concrete question with an easily measurable test for a successful answer: three mistakes. We didn't get that. It's like being asked "Name three books you've read" and answering "I enjoy reading quite a bit. There are many good books out there. You're really asking me if I've read the Harry Potter books, and I haven't. But I do enjoy reading, although I'm not going to tell you what books I've been reading recently."

Monday, October 11, 2004

Great Books...Free!

These are not light reading, but if you write code of any kind, I think you owe it to yourself to go to Bruce Eckel's website and check out "Thinking in C++" and "Thinking in Java". They're absolutely top-notch books, and I have to say that the early versions of TIC++ volume 2 were invaluable in a big project I did here at work a while back.

Bruce makes them freely available, so you don't have to shell out a dime for the books, but if you're like me and you get as much use out of them as I do, you'll buy the printed copies either online or from your favorite bookstore. After reading TIC++ volume 1 online I went straight to the bookstore and bought it. It's that good. I didn't even blink at the price (which I always do when I look at computer books; fifty bucks is a lot to pay for a book). Same for TIJ.

These are great books. I only hope that TIJ gets updated for the recent release of Java 1.5 (or Java 5 or whatever they're calling it...Sun's habit of naming its releases for the minor version is annoying). Thanks, Bruce!

So it's root, root, root for the Packers

On 31 October, the Green Bay Packers roll into Washington, D.C. to play the Redskins at Cooke Stad...I mean, (with a grand roll of the eyes) FedEx Field. If there was ever a time to root for the Packers, this is it.


Because the outcome of this game will predict the winner of the Presidential election, as it has for nearly 70 years.

(Yes, yes, it's chance, and chance has no memory. But root for the Packers anyway, because they need the help.)

I'm no W.R. Pitt

I prefer "whiny little bitch," but you could go to and read a slightly more cogent analysis of the debate.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Feast Or Famine

When I was sick, I had to BEG to see a doctor.

Now that I'm not sick, I can't get rid of him!

I wish I could sit down with my doctor and say, "Look. I appreciate it, okay. You're doing your job, and I'm totally down with that. But GET THE HELL AWAY FROM ME. When I need you, I'll call you. Until then, get OUT."

Now it's not just the exercise (yes, I'm getting it, shut up--I have better things to do with the hour it takes me to walk home, but whatever). It's the "go get your blood pressure taken three times before you come in for your follow-up" and the "go get your cholesterol checked again." And the "go to the dentist."

Dude. Buzz off. Seriously. My cholesterol was 203, and I had just eaten a plate of friggin' bacon and eggs. My blood pressure is fine. It's at the same level it's been for the last decade, okay?

I'm not saying that I know more than a medical professional about medicine. Shit, he probably knows more than I do about MY job, since he's a Medical Informatics professor or something like that. All's I'm saying is, I don't WANT the friggin' attention. All I want is to have someone to go to who will give me penicillin when I get strep throat. Is that too much to ask?

Something Neat About Windows XP

You're not going to see me singing the praises of Windows too often around here. I use it all the time, but I don't particularly like it. (I don't particularly dislike it, either; I'm apparently the only person in the Western Hemisphere for whom Windows ME never crashed.) I like Linux better. I like OS X better than that. In fact, I think that OS X is the perfect system for me.

But that's not what I'm here to talk about.

Isn't it sad that the clock in an expensive computer can't keep time as well as a watch that you get for 50 cents from a candy machine? I think it is. You spend all this money on a computer and you don't know what time it REALLY is because the computer clock doesn't work well enough. A person needs to resort to an NTP (Network Time Protocol) client to keep their computer clocks correct. At work, we used to use a program called Dimension4, and I use the time synchronizer from AnalogX here at home--AtomicSync, I think it's called, because it gets its time across the Internet from one of the government's atomic clocks at NIST.

I have a machine that I never got around to installing the AnalogX program on, and I'm using it now. I wondered what time it really was, and as I was contemplating hitting the website to get the download, I grumbled to myself "NTP is built in to my Linux and Solaris boxes at work. I think it's built in to my MacOS system. Why can't friggin' Bill Gates put time synchronization into Windows?"


Hey, I'm using Windows XP. Maybe ther IS built-in time synchronization. Let's check. Yes, there it is, in the "Internet Time" tab of the Date and Time control panel. This is the first time in a long time I've actually grinned while using Windows.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

A Veritable Cornucopia of Hawaiiana

Josh Edelstein sent this link to his brother, his brother sent it to me, and I hereby present it to you: Baibala Hemolele. It's a searchable online Bible in Hawaiian.

As a bonus, that site links to the Hawaii digital library, which has among other things the text of all of those great Kawena Pukui collections of Hawaiian legends.

Aaaaaaand the HDL is part of Ulukau: The Hawaiian Electronic Library, which has even more stuff.

And yes, some of these works do happen to be in The Largest Collection Of Hawaiiana In Wisconsin. The shelf is pretty full!

Debate Thoughts

Didn't Bush sound like a whiny little bitch, you should pardon the expression? One thing I noticed listening to the debate (and I did listen, to a feed off the Internet--I didn't watch it) is that Bush spent an awful lot of time talking about Kerry, and how what Kerry wants is wrong. It seemed to me like Kerry made at least a few concrete statements about what exactly he would do as President, while all Bush could do was say "That's wrong, that's wrong."

How did it come across on TV? On the radio stream, it sounded like Bush was doing a lot of strident yelling and trying simultaneously to mush-mouth his way through some kind of faux-folksy thing, while Kerry's voice was modulated and reasonable.

I really, really, really wish that they had answered the questions. Both of them. I'm tired of politicians getting questions--and I will grant you, some of these were not that great, not that I would have done any better--and then talking about whatever they want, whether it has anything at all to do with the question. I really liked the final question, which was put to the President, and which was something like "Name three decisions you've made which you think were incorrect." What a great question. What a great opportunity it would have been for either candidate to show some humility. Instead, Bush told the lady that she was really asking him if he thought Iraq was a mistake. Come on. Just answer the question. (I forget what Kerry said in his response.)

People who watched it on TV--did anyone laugh at any of Bush's lame attempts at humor?

Favorite funny moment of the whole debate: Bush saying "I'm a steward of the environment." I half-expected the entire audience to burst out laughing, even the Republicans. Did he say it with a straight face? Granted, I don't really give a damn about it either way, but even I know that that statement was a bald-faced lie.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Breaking news!


That is all. Thank you for your time.

(I'm Robert Jahrling, and I approved this message.)

Hey! AP! Christy Lemire deserves a bonus

Okay, so I was reading Lemire's review of Hilary Duff's new movie (hey, look, the title of the review is Duff's "Voice" weak and dumb, how could I pass it up?) and five paragraphs from the end, you get this little gem: "squeaky-clean tween queen."

Christy Lemire deserves, like, a hundred bucks extra in her pay envelope this month. That's a great tongue twister. Go ahead, AP, cough it up!

If he is, it's even worse than I thought

Salon today had an article about a "mysterious bulge" on the President's back, captured by (of all things) Fox News cameras at last week's debates. There's apparently been some discussion of late over whether the President is wired for sound. He's been caught at least once using an audio prompter, which, as one of these articles points out, is no sin; it's like a teleprompter for people who can't read. (Subtle jab.)

But if his mushmouthed debate performance was scripted, then man, they need to hire new writers.

Hey, here's an idea: naked debate! No wires, no handlers.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

"Help Has Arrived"

You remember when George W. Bush was elected, one of the things he said to the U.S. military was "Help has arrived!" Yeah, I guess it has, if by "help has arrived" you mean our soldiers are forced to buy their own gear.

This is SHAMEFUL. This is not something to cluck your tongue over and say "Wow, that's something." It's a disgrace! As Mrs. Austin so eloquently puts it, "What in the hell is $137 BILLION paying for?"

But hey, doesn't he look great with his Johnson poking out of a flight suit? Or holding a platter of plastic turkey? How Presidential! Mission accomplished, my ass. The mission won't be frigging accomplished until the moron is out of the White House and someone with actual military experience is in.

Keep Being Stupid

As I read more and more articles about George Bush and Dick Cheney insisting, even in the face of the findings, that Iraq had chemical weapons stockpiled and was prepared to sell them to al-Qaeda, I get a strange sense of hope. Why?

Here's the President's party line on Iraq and, specifically, Saddam Hussein: "He was a threat we had to confront, and America and the world are safer for our actions." Wwwwwwhat threat was that again? Oh yeah, that's right: the nuclear program, which was some scribbled drawings on two sheets of paper, and the CBW program, which was apparently large stockpiles of jack shit. The sanctions were working, the man was beaten. No amount of sly attempts to put the blame primarily on Clinton-era intelligence is really going to change the fact that it was Bush who pushed the war on the country by lying to us.

I know, it's naive to expect people to not be stupid in the face of overwhelming evidence, but I couldn't help thinking, as I read the SAME words from the SAME people for the thousandth time, that at some point the repetition is going to wear thin and people are going to wake up. So I say, to George Bush, keep being stupid. Keep having your handlers try to spin your lack of foresight and lack of insight as being part of your "mystique."

"Mystique?" Yeah, you heard me. I read a great article, sent to me by Savannah, that said that even Bush's handlers had to concede that he lost the debate last week and were desperately trying to create the impression that the president wasn't really being dumb, and that his stage mannerisms showed dignity and focus. Yeah.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Two things

First. The headline here speaks for itself. "Report: No WMD stockpiles in Iraq." That's actually another good candidate for an October surprise: a big chemical dump. Yeah, except there actually aren't any.

Second. I hope you all caught that story about Rumsfeld acknowledging that there was no evidence linking Iraq and al-Qaeda. He had to issue a retraction, claiming that he was "misunderstood," but if you speak any English at all, it's kind of hard to misunderstand a statement that is as clear, direct, and unequivocating as "To my knowledge, I have not seen any strong, hard evidence that links the two."

Wait a minute, let's make it three! Three things for the price of two, since we're surfing the tidal wave of fraudulence and stupidity anyway. I have here in my hot little hands a link to the website of an organization that idolizes Arnold Schwarzenegger so much that they want to amend the United States Constitution to allow foreign-born naturalized citizens to run for President. I'm not going to actually GIVE you the link, because I don't want to encourage this sort of thing, but I thought I'd let you all know.

New Slogan

I forget where I saw this, but:

"Bush/Cheney '04: Because you don't switch horsemen mid-apocalypse!"

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Well-known Mexican musical artist

We went out to lunch today at Chipotle, since Mitch's business card got picked out of their giant burrito, or whatever it was. I'd link to their website, at, but I'm not going to subject you to it--it's a candidate for Web Sites That Suck. Go there if you want to torture yourself. See if you can find their menu.

Anyway, we went there. It's one of these faux-Mexican places with the loud, blasting music to get you out of there quickly--it's like Qdoba, if you've ever been there. I'm sure they've got a whole Pepsi-Coke rivalry going on, but whatever.

ANYWAY, we went to Chipotle, and the music is blasting away. It's a lot of South-of-the-Border type stuff, all in Spanish, all blasting away. It's pretty much just background, but very, very loud background, loud enough so that I couldn't really hear what anybody was saying--for example, the people behind the counter who were taking orders. I guessed right, fortunately.

So we're sitting there eating, when I hear a very familiar-sounding riff. "That sounds," I thought to myself between bites of not-nearly-spicy-enough food, "like a uke." With all the people yelling to be heard over the music, and the more-contemplative volume of this particular song, it was hard to hear. "Couldn't be," I said to myself. The tune itself melted in and out of the background noise, very delicately picked.

"No, it is!" I thought. "That's well-known Mexican musical artist Israel Kamakawiwo'ole!"

I don't mind hearing the updated Hawaii '78. But in a Mexican restaurant? I didn't know whether to laugh or to despair. Was it just, as I cynically thought, that the people who pick the music for this joint were thinking "Pffft, who'll know? It's not English, that's all that matters!" Or is it that they were going for a more multiculti vibe?

It was weird. Not that anybody was listening, anyway.

I will now brag

I know, you're not really supposed to brag. But MY KID CAN KICK YOUR KID'S ASS.

(Warning: I'm going to make this a lot more dramatic than it actually was.)

My kid made all the other little girls in her ballet class cry because the teacher was working them too hard because MY KID can handle it and those OTHER KIDS ARE WEAK! I'm so proud!

Monday, October 04, 2004

The Shawshank Redemption: Special Edition DVD

<RANT MODE=ON REASON="Because I want to rant, damn you!">

So I see from the big media blitz that one of the worst movies of all time is getting the Special Edition DVD treatment. No, not "Barb Wire," which is a horrorshow all its own, but "The Shawshank Redemption."

Yeah, you heard me.

"Surely you jest!" you're saying. "That's one of the finest examples of moviemaking in the 20th Century right there! It was gorgeous-looking! What about that shot where the camera pulls back and the prisoners sort of just apparate out of the darkness of their cells?"

Shut up. You're right, it's actually a pretty good movie RIGHT UP UNTIL THE END. It's just a few minutes too long, you see, because somebody on that production wanted a free trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands, so they betrayed every single idea they had been working on throughout the entire script to shoot a scene with Andy and Red meeting up again on that beach.

When I saw the movie, that scene nearly made me pop a vein. I had been feeling pretty good up until that point, too, because I had been thinking that it was in fact a good movie and not at all a waste of however many minutes long it is. Now, whenever I see that movie mentioned, I see red.

"But we need that closure!" you protest. "We need to know if Red meets Andy...."

Shut the hell up. What you're not getting is that the movie (and the novella on which it's based, for that matter) ISN'T ABOUT ANDY. It's about Red, sitting in that prison, not giving a damn. It's not Andy's redemption the movie concerns itself with, it's Red's. At the end, once Red makes the decision that that old guy who hanged himself couldn't make--the decision to set HIMSELF free--and he breaks parole and hops the bus out of town, the movie is OVER. His story is OVER. It literally doesn't MATTER if he meets Andy in Mexico, or if the bus has a bomb on it that will arm itself once the bus hits 55mph and explode if the speed drops below 55, or if the bus sprouts fucking wings and flies off to goddamn DISNEYLAND. The bus is the literal vehicle, Andy Dufresne is the metaphorical vehicle, and RED is the traveler. The outcome of the journey doesn't matter, just that he's taking it.

I seriously thought the movie was over when we saw the bus pull away. I was getting ready to leave. That's how over it was. GAH!


This rant prompted by today's Daypass advertisement for the DVD. Feel free to register your displeasure and disagreement. Also feel free to complain that this is not the first time I have complained about this particular issue. But I felt cheated horribly by that movie, and I think those extra few minutes were the difference between an Oscar nomination and a win. (Actually, that's not technically true, since it was up against "Pulp Fiction" and "Forrest Gump" for Best Picture that year. Still, I think the Oscar argument in favor of the movie is strengthened with the removal of the coda, and I'd be tempted to choose it over those other two, especially since I didn't like "Forrest Gump" all that much.)

Who responds to these?

This isn't the first "Nigerian scam" spam I've ever received, nor is it likely to be the last. I have to wonder, how do people actually get sucked into these scams? Am I supposed to be so moved by his Saul-on-the-road-to-Damascus conversion that I ignore the egregious grammar and spelling errors? Are people so eager for salvation, are their consciences so guilty, that they'll take this at face value and send in their phone number and fax number to the pasty-faced guy in Ohio saying "Come on, little fishies, come on...let me rreeeeeeeeellllll you in...." without even thinking?

If I were slightly less ethical, I'd take this message and reply to it from a dummy mail account with a phone number not my own attached to it. A fax number, too. Say, 202-456-1414 for the phone number and 202-456-2461 for the fax number, although I'd imagine that spammers would have those particular numbers up on a bulletin board with DO NOT CALL written in huge red letters. (Those are the phone and fax numbers for the White House.)

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear
evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff
they comfort me. Psalm 23:4


The New Era of Spaceflight

I saw on CNN today that SpaceShip One has won the X Prize for the first successful private spacecraft. They've completed the two required flights and landings.

Who else but mad aviation genius Burt Rutan would you have put your money on to succeed? Nobody, that's who.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Sorry...October Surprise!

Here's CNN on October Surprises. I disagree with the use of "far-fetched," but I've been flogging that particular horse for so long that I probably lack perspective.


I've been trying to learn a little bit of Macintosh development recently. I've got my eye on moving some of my test databases to the iMac on my desk at work, and I'd like to create some programs to interface with those databases a little bit better than the MySQL command line. After all, filling out a form and clicking a button is a little bit more friendly than typing "INSERT INTO autotest (ID, Result, Date, Time, Comment) VALUES ('001', 'FAIL', '2004-10-03', '13:22:00', 'Test failed with return code 0');" on a command line.

I like working with Xcode, the Mac development environment, and I've been using Java because I understand it a lot better than I understand the other available language: Objective-C. Objective-C goes back at least to NeXT, which would explain why Apple is using it as its primary development language and why all of the object names begin with "NS" (for NextStep). What I don't get is why you'd want to use it.

The hell of it is, I DO understand why you'd want to use it. You're forced to separate objects into implementation files and interface files, which I like in languages like Ada. It organizes your thinking in a way that C++ doesn't (unless you have the discipline to do it yourself), while at the same time keeping you from being able to get as incredibly anal as you can with Java. (I let my Java programs get disastrously Byzantine.) You're forced to do a lot of things that make your program better.

It just seems unnecessarily verbose. "Hello World," which is not a good test of programming languages, takes three files and fifty lines of code to implement--albeit in a way that doesn't allow a buffer overrun--where straight C with the same functionality takes about a dozen lines and Java takes five (and in Java you can let the system free the memory without worrying about it AND exactly one of those five lines actually does any work; of course, the Java version takes five times as long to run).

Anybody out there have any experience with Objective-C that they'd like to share? Since Mac development is pretty much keyed towards it, I'm going to have to learn it if I want to move ahead with this project.


Would you like to know a major reason why I'm not a programmer by trade? Sure, it's partly because I don't know how to use Microsoft Visual Studio, which drives so much development in this country, but it's mostly because I don't understand pointers in C.

That's an oversimplification, of course, and a cop-out. After all, I know Java pretty well, and Java doesn't use pointers. But pointers were the thing that always caught me out in programming classes. I don't understand them, and although I could probably describe how to use them, actually implementing code with pointers has always been a thorn in my side.

Maybe that will change, now that I've found this great tutorial on pointers. It's really good. Maybe if I read it two or three times, I'll be smarter.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

More Debate

First, go to and watch "Faces of Frustration." (Thanks, Damon.)

Second, register for the NYT and go read about the candidates' speeches the next day. Remember "Faces of Frustration" and marvel at Karl Rove claiming that that was the President looking "focused and pensive." Uh-huh. "That wasn't irritated. I know irritated," quotes the article.

Yeah, I'll bet he knows irritated, because every day he has to watch George Bush try to remember how to tie his own shoes and eat with a fork and speak two coherent words together without prompting.

And of course Bush took "a more aggressive approach than he had during the debate." He had his friggin' script in his hand, he was among a carefully pre-screened Soviet-style crowd of people who would be sure to support everything he said, no matter how unintelligible, he didn't have to take any questions to which he didn't have a pre-generated answer, and he was reading statements prepared by a professional speechwriter rather than trying to half-remember the talking points his people had distributed. Heck, even I would come across as competent and prepared if I had a good speechwriter.

The pessimist in me is urging me to remind you, though, that there's really nothing we can do, because this election's October Surprise is going to be the capture of Osama bin Laden and Bush will win the White House by a landslide.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Debate Links

First of all, thanks to Damon for pointing me to The Rude Pundit. Please be sure to read the Rude One's evaluation of last night's debate.

Second, thanks to Savannah for sending a link to a transcript of the debate.