Strange Brouhaha

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Try this while you're at it

I made that tomato sauce yesterday in service of the short rib recipe on the same page. (Look for it at

No, I did not use $100-per-bottle Barolo. Pinot Noir was just fine. Once again, though, I didn't go far enough, technique-wise. Follow *all* the instructions, and you'll do just fine.

It's goooooooooood.

Happy New Year

It's been a hell of a year for us.

It started off with a bang when 18 coworkers and I were laid off by Esker Software. Getting laid off sucks. That set off months of fruitless job searching, resume-sending and I was a writer for a while, and a freelance QA specialist. I improved my bread- and pie-baking skills.

I haven't changed my mind about being unemployed--I don't recommend it. While it's true that I got to spend more time with my family, it is also true that it was a highly stressful, uncertain time that I really don't want to repeat any time soon. I'm glad that I was finally able to land a job, for which I thank the several people who gave me a heads-up about the openings at my current employer.

My new job is great; I get to make music for work, about which it would be terribly difficult to complain. I leave work, generally, with the feeling that I've actually accomplished something. The year, I would say, is winding up well.

I hope the year has gone well for all of you.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Do you like tomato sauce?

If you need tomato sauce for anything, rather than getting it out of a can, I suggest you look at Mario Batali's Basic Tomato Sauce Recipe and make that. It takes some time, but man, it's good stuff.

But don't be dumb like me. "Crushed by hand," when it comes to tomatoes, means to really crush the hell out of those things. I was a little bit more tender with them, and I ended up needing to use my stick blender to get the consistency I needed. Still tastes good.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Big integers in C#

I'm trying to brush up on my C# coding for work, and part of the way I'm doing that is by porting some of my Java code to C#. I'm running into a problem that was trivial to solve in Java, but turns out to be not so trivial to solve (in a small amount of space, at least for me) in C#.

Perhaps someone smarter than me knows.

The problem is this: I need to be able to calculate 100! with a greater degree of precision than is available in the double type. The C# double is only good for 16 digits. I need the whole thing. In Java, a person just uses BigInteger. There's no built-in equivalent in C#.

Tan's BigInteger class works, but it's too big. I realize I should just study that. I suppose I've answered my own question...

Monday, December 26, 2005

Merry Christmas

(By which I mean all potential holiday greetings wrapped up in one. It's Christmas to me.)

We spent a computerless day yesterday--a rarity for me. Heck, it was practically TV-free as well. It was good. I hope yours was similarly good. Not much else to say, really.

Oh, wait, yes there is. My sister got me the greatest Christmas present: food from Mmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Friday, December 23, 2005

A Question That Really Answers Itself

Confidential to the guy on the cellphone in the store today: The fact that you can possibly feel justified in saying scornfully, "Why would I want to buy him a book?" illustrates exactly why you should buy as many books as possible. Read them yourself first.

Nicely put

Political satirist and Randi Rhodes writer Barry Crimmins published an opinion piece in the Boston Phoenix in which he wrote the following description of the Iraq war:

"George W. Bush picked a fight he was sure he could win--because the con artists who own and operate him told him he could. So in front of every other kid in the world, he called his victim out to the playground and had six or seven of his goons restrain the little guy while he hit him with everything he could find."

Pretty much.

I only want one thing for Christmas and the New Year: to see Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and all their media enablers IN JAIL. You know, where they say the rest of us should be thrown, and the key tossed away, for daring to defy Their Imperial Fascist Great White Father Of The Year Overlord Supreme Commander Of Total Manly Power asses.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Now *that's* a historian!

This is awesome.

I'm watching a program on the History Channel about the "Christmas Truce." Perhaps you've heard of it; it was an informal truce between front-line soldiers in World War I.

One of the people they're interviewing is a young-looking historian from Yale, I think. You can see his bookshelf behind him. Sitting on it? Among other things, the first two volumes of Larry Gonick's excellent Cartoon History of the Universe. That's a historian I can respect. I bet Shelby Foote would never have even acknowledged Gonick.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

People stand in awe when we scream "Matthew Perry"!

If you missed SNL this past Saturday, you missed a video that came very close to making me forgive them for employing the horrid, unfunny Will Ferrell. It's a simple story, simply told, of how Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell got some cupcakes and went to see "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe."

Did I mention that it's a gangsta rap?

David linked to it today. Which is good, because now I don't have to.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Gotta catch...something

The POKEMOn cancer gene has been renamed, I guess because Nintendo doesn't have a sense of humor. Check out the end of the article for the Sonic the Hedgehog gene.

Answer This, Alberto!

How is FISA "not fast enough" if you can start a wiretap immediately, without waiting, as long as you get a court order within 72 hours? Let's keep asking this question until we get a straight answer. Again: FISA provides LEAs the authority to start wiretaps without a warrant, as long as they get a warrant within 72 hours. How is instantaneous not fast enough?

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Quick, before someone catches it!

Check out on Bush saying "Yeah, I told the NSA to go ahead and conduct no-warrant operations domestically, fuck you if you don't like it." Do it quick, before they realize that nobody ran the headline through a spellchecker.

I took a screenshot and I can upload it later.

Update: I uploaded my screenie to Imageshack, because they corrected the headline pretty quick. Check out the spelling error. (And no, the error is not that they misspelled "idiot.")

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

"Goblet" Redux

After sleeping on it, I want to take back some of what I said yesterday about "Goblet of Fire".

Upon further reflection, the directing in the action sequences just stank. They were all fairly dull and lifeless. It seems pretty clear that Mike Newell's interests did not lie in that direction.

Also upon further reflection, when I said that the beginning was a little rocky, that was an understatement. A severe understatement. This could be the first 157-minute movie in the history of the world that actually needs another half-hour to make it flow a little bit more smoothly.

I somehow can't find it in my heart to blame Steve Kloves for all of the problems in the film, just because of the way he solved quite a few of the problems with the pacing and scope of the book. I was going to say that I want Alfonso Cuaron back, but I'm not sure what exactly that would solve. The movie would still suffer from the deficiencies of its source.

It would have been interesting, for me, if they had been able to keep the same director and writer for all of the Potter movies. (I liked Chris Columbus' Potter movies.) I understand that they don't really want to devote a decade or more of their lives to these movies, but it would have been an interesting thing nonetheless.

Monday, December 12, 2005

"Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire"

I went (finally) to see the latest Harry Potter movie. I've been putting it off, to be honest, partly because it opened while I was deep in my NaNoWriMo project--but partly because "Goblet of Fire" is not my favorite Potter book. I've spoken at length about the book before, I think; suffice it to say that "Goblet" and "Order of the Phoenix" are fairly weak sauce. They needed editing badly, and while "Phoenix" is simply boring, "Goblet" has a fatal storytelling flaw.

Steve Kloves wrote the screenplay, as he did for the first three movies. As a story, it's just not as good as his script for "Azkaban" was, but my impression of "Azkaban" may be unfairly colored by the presence of Gary Oldman. As a screenplay, though, it's probably a really good example of how to do a literary (you'll excuse the expression) adaptation: jettison, jettison, jettison. I've complained before about how the books, up until the most recent one, read increasingly like pastiches, and how the movies therefore end up being pastiches of pastiches. Kloves mostly avoids that here, moving fairly smoothly from set piece to set piece, giving us enough of the story so that we know what's going on and leaving out huge chunks of the book that turn out to be (pay attention, J.K. Rowling) totally irrelevant. There are probably some really good lessons lurking in this particular adaptation.

It was a heroic effort, but the problem is that Rowling's original story just isn't that good to begin with. The house is built on a weak foundation, and as much as he tried, Kloves couldn't really rescue the bad idea. The beginning of the movie is *really* rocky, because in jettisoning an entire subplot, Kloves had to jigger around another one and so had to introduce another character into the mix. And, unfortunately, the fatal flaw is still there: the whole thing never needed to have happened. They probably could have fixed that with one line, but there it stands.

The direction was solid, if unspectacular. Mike Newell let his actors act rather than letting CGI do it (pay attention, Peter Jackson), and while they're not the greatest actors in the world, the performances by the leads were fine. Newell's movies are about how people relate to each other, or so it seems to me, and this particular film was at its best in the moments when people were in fact relating, or not, as the case may be. The action sequences themselves were just kind of...bleh, with the blocking (or whatever the relevant term in film is) in the graveyard scene standing out for me as particularly dull and static.

A lot of people are complaining that "Four Weddings and a Funeral" Newell was a bad choice, that he ruined the movie, but I think that's unfair. If, ultimately, this movie is not very good (and it's really not), the blame lies squarely with J.K. Rowling for writing a book that was not very good. I grant this: it is definitely the case that if you have not read the book, or if you have not seen the previous films, you will be utterly and completely at a loss for most of this movie. The screenwriter and director can be held responsible for that.

Ultimately the movie isn't really that good. It serves its purpose, as the first half of a dull bridge to "Half-Blood Prince". But that's about all it does.

(Oh--one good thing: the casting was excellent! More than once, I found myself thinking that Harry and his friends looked so much smaller than the older students, and of course they're *supposed* to be. Do they have an award for best casting?)

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Kamehameha V's time capsule

I saw an article on about the (extremely quick) discovery of a time capsule under the cornerstone of Aliiolani Hale in Honolulu. It's too bad that they can't dig it up. It would be neat to see what was in there--possibly even books that have been lost in the century since the capsule was buried.

It still annoys me sometimes that the Ancient Hawaiians never developed writing.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Attention advertisers!

The phrase "coming up next, guest commentator Mo Rocca" translates into English as "I am changing the damn channel right now."

That is all. Thank you.

What's real anymore?

Here's a neat quiz: Fake or Foto. The challenge is to determine which of the images is real and which was created in a modeling program. I got nine out of ten, and while I'd like to say it's because I'm a brilliant genius with an eye for detail, I have to admit that I just went with my gut on a few of them. There's a couple that are obviously fakes--but the rest are hard.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


I hate to give any play to the bullshit "War on Christmas" meme, but I just have to mention that I find it hilarious that while jackoffs like Bill O'Reilly are yelling about whatever it is they're yelling about, the White House's official Christmas card says "Best Wishes for the Holiday Season".

This oughta be rich

Mel Gibson is doing a Holocaust miniseries.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Now THAT'S a snowblower

I'm glad that I don't have to shovel snow off of our walkways and sidewalks. If I did have to, I really think that the only snowblower I'd want to use would be one that's powered by a 454 Chevy V8. The only real problem with the website is that the video isn't terribly impressive. I want to see the damn thing chewing through a double-wide crapload of snow, not blowing a little bit off of some guy's driveway. Otherwise, what's the point of using a V8?

Saturday, December 03, 2005

NaNoWriMo wrapup

Here's the final paragraph from my end-of-November email from National Novel Writing Month Guy Chris Baty. It's good stuff:

I suggest we spend the next eleven months exploring a few other appealing, impractical items on our to-do lists. Because the secret of November's success is both simple and transferable: You were able to write a book because you allowed yourself to write a book. And in the coming weeks, after you've caught up on sleep and re-acclimated yourself to normal life, I hope you'll sit down and make a list. It's the most powerful list on the planet, and it's the one entitled: "What I'm going to allow myself to do next."

Here's my list...1) read comics; 2) play videogames. But it's still good stuff.

Is this serious?

In 1994, you may recall, figure skater Tonya Harding and her ex-husband conspired to commit assault against Nancy Kerrigan. (Nancy Kerrigan, you may also recall, went on to win the silver medal in the Olympics, based largely on sympathy and the fact that [I swear] she flashed her pubes on international television.)

Anyway, apparently the actual perpetrator of the knee-whacking, Shane Stant, is asking for his criminal record to be expunged because--with apologies to Dave Barry, I swear I am not making this up--he wants to be a Navy SEAL.

I realize that his lawyer is required to make every effort possible on his behalf. But does anybody at all even take this seriously? According the Wikipedia article on Shane Stant, you need to be 28 to be in the SEALs anyway, but...he works in "marketing." Never been in the military. As I recall, he was built kind of like me. I mean, come on, I think it would be neat to be a SEAL, too, but as Neal Stephenson wrote it Snow Crash, there comes a time in every man's life when he realizes that he's not going to become a Shaolin monk.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Yes, the situation just screams for Congress

You know, I don't know anybody who really understands college football's Bowl Championship System. (If I do know somebody who understand it, let me know.) I've also yet to meet anyone who actually likes it. Almost everyone I've ever heard talk about it says that it needs to change.

Naturally, Congress has to get involved. Because they have nothing else to do, apparently.