Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Quote of the Week for 31 Jan 2006

At least, that was the subject line on the email.

Check out the wit and wisdom of Rep. Charles Rangel.

Thanks, KK.

Monday, January 30, 2006

News Flash: AA Brings The Funny!

I know it's probably sacrilege to say so, but I don't spend much time listening to Air America Radio. I think the original idea was to combat the shrillness of conservative talk radio with humor, to show how we (the good guys) were smarter and morally superior. The implementation, however, has often been lacking. Maybe I'm just a snob, but I really can't stand most of what I hear there -- a bunch of mindless screeds and the usual phone-in yawners.

Maybe I should give them another chance. From a recent email:

This year, both Groundhog Day and the State of the Union Address fall on the same day. As Air America Radio pointed out, "It is an ironic juxtaposition: one involves a meaningless ritual in which we look to a creature of little intelligence for prognostication, and the other involves a groundhog."
Thanks to KK for the quote.


So, I go to the local recycling center today, to dump the past couple weeks' worth of junk mail and buggy printouts.

I get out of the car, smile nicely to the poor woman whose job it is to stand next to the bins and make sure that no one tries to mix plutonium with waste paper. She smiles back.

"Nice day to be standing outdoors, isn't it?" I go all jocular, considering it's about six degrees above freezing and the fog is just nasty.

Forlorn smile.

I dump my paper and turn to go. She says, "Is that your car?"

I'm thinking I'm about to get complimented on the mighty Passat. "Sure is!"

"You don't have a sticker."

"A sticker?"

"You need a sticker."

"But I live in this town."

"You need a sticker."

So much for making eye contact and exchanging greetings. Had I just glowered at her, she probably would have busted someone else's ass. "OK, where do I buy one? And how much are they?"

It turns out that they are $10, and she had them right in her little apron, and she even stuck it on the windshield for me.

I make this poor woman's day a little more miserable by ranting for a bit about how it's stupid to add disincentives to recycling. I mean, why pay ten bucks and have to go to a place to do the drop off, when I could just dump everything in the trash for free? And, by the way, help fill the landfill even more quickly?

She resists the urge to pull a gun and backs away, nodding.

Then I notice that the book exchange shack is open for like the first time that I've ever seen in all my visits to this recycling center. "Hey, wait!" I bellow. "Can I just take books for free, or is that just a drop-off?"

Seizing her opportunity, she says, "Take all you want!" and then really breaks into getaway mode.

I scored six books that I really wanted to read, so I guess it wasn't all bad.

Why I Drink Beer

So, a couple of weeks ago, I go to visit MK in her new digs. As part of the reward for visiting, she hands me down her old iMac, since she has the latest screaming desktop at work and a near-equal laptop for home.

This iMac is a thing of beauty. Remember the buzz about "wait for the Indigo!" just a few short years ago?

As it happened, in the intervening time, Apple came out with OS X.

Unix under the hood! I can stop calling them MacIntoys!

So I was delighted to get this present. As it came to me, it had OS 9 on it, and so I looked into upgrading to OS X. Go to apple.com . . . clickety-clickety-click . . . hmmm . . . just need some more RAM, it looks like . . . oh, and I have to buy the new OS, too . . . okay . . .

I call the local Mac store to find out about memory upgrade options, discover that it's not too expensive, and that they'll put the new chips in without charging me for labor.

Cool, I think. Putting memory chips in isn't at all hard, but why not let them take the one in a million chance of a static electricity gremlin coming in to bite? Let's do it.

It turned out to be a bit more of a hassle than I had hoped. (Crack beer for continuation.)

First, a week or so ago, they told me that they could upgrade me to 1 GB of RAM for about $250. Then, when I brought the computer in, they told me that 1 GB wasn't available any longer, for the iMac, and offered me half that, 512 MB, for a lower price of about $160. So I said OK.

Then I got a call today: "The salesperson quoted you the wrong price. Sorry. Do you want 512 MB for $250?"

"What the hell," I said. "Yes."

"OK. Then it's ready. Come down and get it!"


Jumped in the Passat and found a parking space near Yes. Went in, dealt with apologies, asked about the OS X distribution package.

"Right there on the shelf."


"Add it on to the invoice?"

"Yes, please."

The same guy who took like nine eternities to fill out my original invoice for the RAM upgrade then took another seventeen to modify it for the OS X purchase. I walked away from him when I felt a bubbling urge to grab him by the throat and say, "Buy some fucking glasses, would you please? I'm tired of looking at your lame ass squinting at your giant Mac."

Eventually, the new invoice was printed out, and the box containing OS X was handed to me. Since it seems to take as long to operate a cash register as it does a computer in that store, I started reading the box, just to stifle the afore-mentioned bubbling urges.

"Wait a minute," I say. "This is a DVD. I don't have a DVD drive in the iMac. Can I get this on CDs?"

Deer-in-the-headlights looks from cashier and tech guy Dave. Third person jumps in.

"I think that's a special order from Apple. No, wait. Josh can burn this DVD to a CD. No, wait. Is Josh still here?"

More deer, more headlights.

Finally, tech guy Dave speaks up. "Uh, yeah, we can do that. It's only like another ten bucks or something."

In the words of Clarice Starling, that was just about e-goddamn-nuff.

"Hey, Dave," I say. "Here's a chance to do a little Customer Service thing. How about you just give me the CDs, since the memory turned out to be so much more?"

Tech guy Dave looks strangely relieved, maybe at the chance to finally do something right. "OK!"

More cash register interfacing.

"This receipt is almost done printing," says the cashier. For the fifth time.

Meanwhile, tech guy Dave is standing at the door, holding my computer, trying to look like a helpful sort, and I'm thinking he's gonna drop the thing on the floor any second.

Finally get the receipt. Turns out no one is sure whether I've actually paid yet, but I resist the temptation, and hand over my plastic.

Finally get out the door.

Currently afraid to turn computer on, let alone install new OS.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Un-underlined Links Considered Harmful

I've been thinking about this for a while, and trying to formulate a good rant, but it has become obvious even to me that it. just. ain't. gonna. happen.

So, what else to do?

Post my half-baked thoughts on the old blog, of course!


One of the most annoying things that has swum across my browser lately is the profusion of hyperlinks that aren't underlined.

Yeah, yeah. Underlining makes your otherwise deathless prose look clunky. Your CSS is so stokin'. Or mad cool. Or whatever.

And yeah, I get it. Mousing over your hyperlinks makes them (*gasp*) change color! And you have rollover pop-ups! And some are even sponsored!

Stop it.

Underlining was an entirely accepted standard back in the days before the suits and the script kiddies took over the Internet. One could look at a paragraph and instantly see the options to jump to another page. As hard as it might be to believe, sometimes the old ways really are the good ways.

The thing that really annoys me about the doing away with underlined links is that the current buzzword in web design is "accessibility."

Do you drooling twinkies really think that it's easy to distinguish between dark blue and sorta black text? Do you really think it aids in navigation to hide your links? Especially when I'm afraid to move my cursor anywhere, lest some stupid pop-up Javascript menu start chasing me across the screen?

Just stop it.

Bring back the underlined links.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Why Clare Should Have Her Own Blog (Another Example)

I just got an email from a frequent contributor to this site (browse the comments for most of the posts):
P.S. funny story: I was just in Sears buying a new toaster oven (welcome to my Saturday nights). As I set the box up on the counter one woman behind it said to me, "Oh, when are you due?" "I'm not pregnant," I answered.

Admittedly, I was wearing an XL sweatshirt, inside out, so perhaps the pocket was pooching out a bit -- I'd just been for a run and threw a big ol' sweatshirt on to take the kids to Andy's. The poor woman was mortified. I thought I was very gracious by saying, "I'm flattered that you think I'm young enough to be pregnant." (Aren't I nice?)

Bitch. I'm never going to Sears again and I'm investing in a skin-tight wardrobe.

I am so glad I wasn't that salesperson.

Has It Been 30 Days Yet?

Far be it from me to diss my new ISP, but I just launched Internet Explorer to compare its rendering of this site to Firefox's, and Verizon, having integrated a toolbar into IE for DSL support, popped up a window telling me some scary story about some scary new worm. At the bottom, of course, was a link: "Solve my problems."

How can you not blindly click on a link like that?

So, I did. After an interminable period of staring at a splash screen that said "Please wait while we check your settings," the screen finally repainted to say:

You are currently not connected to the Internet.

Let us help you get connected to the Internet.

Friday, January 27, 2006


As you likely know, I recently changed email addresses. As you might know, if you have lately tried to email me at the old address, I have set the old account to auto-reply with a message that asks you to use my new address. This message goes to the sender of every email sent to the old address, including spammers.

It will come as no surprise that this produces a lot of bounced messages. (Surprisingly, spammers don't like replies.) Here's part of a good bounce that I got today:

A message that you sent could not be delivered to one or more of its recipients. This is a permanent error. The following address(es) failed:


I gotta say, if christianemail.com doesn't know allaboutjesus, who does?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

A Fox in the Fox House

You'll be shocked, shocked to hear this.

According to Paul D. Thacker's piece, posted today on The New Republic's web site, Fox science columnist Steven Milloy has been outed as a shill for big business. Specifically:

As revealed in Mother Jones last spring, between 2000 and 2003, ExxonMobil donated $90,000 to two nonprofits Milloy operates out of his house in Potomac, Maryland. [emph. added]
This might explain why he listed a global warming study on his list "the top 10 junk science claims of 2005."

Thacker goes on to list another write-for-pay arrangement that Milloy has made (note that "Milloy has been affiliated with FoxNews.com since July 2000"):

According to Lisa Gonzalez, manager of external communications for Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris, Milloy was under contract there through the end of last year. . . . Although she couldn't comment on fees paid to Milloy, a January 2001 Philip Morris budget report lists Milloy as a consultant and shows that he was budgeted for $92,500 in fees and expenses in both 2000 and 2001.
During this time, Milloy did a couple of pieces, for Fox News, debunking research on the dangers of secondhand smoke.

Here's the kicker: Thacker mentions several other shills who have recently been outed, and the resulting relationship with said shills' employers. In summary:

The Shill: Armstrong Williams

  • The Shill's Actions: Took a government contract to write columns favorable to Bush's No Child Left Behind Act
  • The Shill's Employer and its Reaction: Tribune Media Services fired Williams

The Shill: Doug Bandow

  • The Shill's Actions: Took money from Jack Abramoff to write columns favorable to the Republican lobbyist's clients
  • The Shill's Employer and its Reaction: Copley News Service fired Bandow

The Shill: Michael Fumento

  • The Shill's Actions: Took $60,000 from Monsanto, one of the biotech companies he later covered in his columns
  • The Shill's Employer and its Reaction: Scripps Howard fired Fumento and apologized to its readers

The Shill: Steven Milloy

  • The Shill's Actions: Took money from ExxonMobil and dissed a global warming study, took money from Philip Morris and dissed secondhand smoke studies
  • The Shill's Employer and its Reaction: Fox News continues to deny any knowledge of Milloy's connections

The whole story is posted on TNR's site, but you may have to jump through some hoops to read it. Let me know if you want me to email you the text, instead.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Homework . . . Help!

My nephew, MPF, sent me the following by email:
The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution reads:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

For homework, I need to find out what you think is the most important part of the first amendment and why, and what is the least important part of the first amendment to you and why.

Talk about your hard questions. Let's get the lad some input, shall we? Thanks.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

An Even Cooler Keef

One of my favorite cartoonists, Keith Knight, has presented a sterling example of one of the few qualities that make me think the human race has a chance.

Q: And this quality would be?

A: Laughter in the face of horrible news.

Q: Are there other qualities like this?

A: Well, music and dance, for sure. Outside of those three . . . oh, wait. We're not afraid of vacuum cleaners.

Molly on Hill'y

TC and I have been going back and forth about the idea of Hillary Clinton running for president in 2008. We both agree that she seems to be so poll-driven as to be apparently lacking in any convictions of her own. We have other problems with her, as well.

As usual, Molly Ivins says it better than I can. (Thanks to the broads at Salon for the original link).

This is a fairly serious issue. Please weigh in with your sense, too.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Up Dobson's Creek

It's hard to believe that I could feel any interest in a TV reality show, let alone sympathy for one being canceled, but a story in the NYTimes's Arts section struck a nerve.

I know you'll be shocked, shocked to read that a major broadcast company has kow-towed once again to the radical Christian right. The story is worth a look, however.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Fat Chance

In an unusual turn of events, The New Republic has posted a piece not characterized by the stuffy tone that riddles so much of their writing.

This one is actually pretty funny: "Heavy Meddle," by Michelle Cottle.

The article's teaser: "What a poll about fat people tells us about '08."

IM hopeful

So, I just got done with my first Instant Messaging session.

Yeah, yeah.

As with everything else, I was a late adopter. Last one to get DSL, last one to start a blog, . . . hell, last one to buy an answering machine.

(In my own defense, I was an early adopter of email.
(Although, truth be told, I initially vocalized some doubt about it, whereupon my fellow sysop preached, "But you can send email to your friends at other colleges!" Whereupon I
(the 29 year old sophomore)
said, "Friends at other colleges?" Whereupon he said, "Where are you from, Cranston?"
(an inside the URI beltway joke)
At any rate, it was cool. MK is correct in characterizing IM as a place in which one carries on two different conversations, even when talking to just one person. But still, that's how some of my friends like to communicate these days, and I say, that's all good.

I had downloaded Trillian a while back, out of a vague sense of needing to . . . I don't know, be chat-enabled? And I gotta say, it just worked when I finally launched it tonight. Even on my ancient Win98 machine.

I'm such a newbie with regard to chat that I can't say much more than that. But, it just worked. I typed in my user name associated with a Yahoo! email account, and bing! There was one of my friends, twenty-five hundred miles away, saying, "Ha! I told you so!"

At any rate, if you want to watch me make typos in real time, my screen name on Yahoo! chat (is that the right terminology?) is the same as the first part of this blog's name.

IM me.

Man, just saying that makes me feel young.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Tidbits from the Morning Mail 2006-01-17

From the Harper's Magazine Weekly Review, this week by Paul Ford:
Tony Blair's government was planning to lift a 40-year prohibition against spying on members of Parliament. British officials, including the Secretary of State for Defense, were opposed to the plan. Blair also admitted to smacking his children.
Since we know that Mr. Blair hardly does anything without direct orders from our President, you gotta wonder about the twins -- is this why they keep getting busted for D&D?

Also from the HMWR, this:

Western Australian Premier Geoff Gallop resigned due to depression. "I now need the space required," he said, "to start the process of full recovery."
What do you know? A politician who resigned for reasons other than "to spend more time with my family"! Kudos for the honesty and best wishes for a speedy recovery, I say.

+ + + + +

Continuing the effort of debunking librarian stereotypes: my second cousin, Jinnet, allowed as how she has a blog and a web site. Don't visit either of them. They're better than mine and you'll never come back.

+ + + + +

Take a fun political quiz, at this site. You'll be shocked, shocked to find out that I'm a liberal (personal issues score: 80%, economic issues score: 20%). It's clear from the scores that to be what this site wants you to be, you had better be a libertarian. Take the quiz and post your results, here, as a comment. C'mon, it'll be fun if lots of us do it!

More on the Email Transition

Being a responsible netizen, I spent a couple of hours today going to the various web businesses that have me on their email lists, to update my info. Unsurprisingly, Microsoft's was about the hardest to do -- while they now admit that my new email address is now on file, I still have to use my old email address to log in to my account, and they wouldn't let me change that. Probably, I was being punished for visiting their site with a non-IE browser.

Duluth Trading and Osoft did not provide an automatic mechanism on their sites to update one's email address (boo!), but in both cases, an email to support got a fast, human response and resolution (mad props!).

Rixstep, who puts out a very snarky newsletter, provides a subscription management page on its site with just two buttons: subscribe and unsubscribe. The bad part of all of this gee-whiz automation is that, in order to unsubscribe, one must be clicking from the context of the address to be unsubscribed.* Clicking on "unsubscribe" from the context of my new email address provoked a long diatribe from Rixstep's "Otto Responder."

Hey, the guy's from Sweden. You make your own fun during the long, dark winter, I guess.

I decided that I didn't really need to go back and change all of my settings just to play nice with a bad-tempered and egotistical webmaster. Laziness led to a bright thought -- use Earthlink's Webmail service to unsubscribe. The unsubscribe button had shown me the correct "To" address, even as it took the wrong "From" address from me. And this led to yet another reason to be glad about changing my ISP.

To make sure that the Earthlink Webmail would show the correct "From" address, I sent myself a message, to my new address and various other webmail accounts. That was before 5:00 this afternoon. It is now past midnight. I just got the email.

To be fair about it, Earthlink Webmail prominently displays that this service is a beta version. But, come on. "Beta" is supposed to mean "all the usual stuff works fine, but there might be some obscure bugs buried in the little-used features." I think "Send" qualifies as a non-little-used feature for a webmail program.

But that's enough ranting. From me, anyway.

We now turn to our favorite master of the snark, one JoshuaE, who sent me some recent email about my new email address. I was sorely tempted to forward it to all the FriendsOfBrendan, but I decided that not all of them can play at JoshuaE's level. Here's what he had to say:

To: Brendan, FriendsOfBrendan
Subj: Re: My new email address

I am "replying to all" as a moderately adulterated act of science at the request of Brendan Himself.

Also, in the event this email actually reaches Brendan's "Friends" list, it might serve to flush a bunch of you out who were considering requesting that Brendan remove you from said list. That's right, he doesn't need friends who can't handle a little spam with their Dear Ones, so go right ahead and be haughty and snooty. You have your rights.

On one hand I don't expect the list to get this email because "FriendsOfBrendan@yahoo.com" is a single account to which Brendan has access, so I would think he would receive this email but not ALL YALL.

On the other hand, how the hell did he get "FriendsOfBrendan@yahoo.com" to mean his email should be sent to ALL YALL I have no clue.

I'm obviously confused and I eagerly await the results of this scientific inquiry. Feel free to confirm receipt of this email, if only for the sake of Brendan Himself who has Nothing Better to Do than collect data on buggy Windows apps and rant about how he hasn't become a Republican yet.

If you don't respond I will assume you are either haughty and snooty or you didn't receive the e-mail, at alternating 20-minute intervals.

Thanks! JOsh

To: Brendan, FriendsOfBrendan Subj: Re: My new email address

OMG I just realized if *I* receive the email then ALL YALL will as well, from lofty rational symmetry considerations.

Isn't he great? Let's give him a big hand. Or flame him in the Comments section.

* Yes, web sites can read your email address through your browser. How else do you think all of those porn sites got you on their spam lists? Stop lying.

Monday, January 16, 2006

A Phishy Tale

I just got a piece of spam, in which the old "help me get this money out of this bank account" song was sung. This time, it was
". . . our client Gen. Aadel Akgaal Bastaan who was with the Iraqi forces and also businessman made a numbered fixed deposit for 18 calendar months, with a value of Twenty Four million Five Hundred Thousand United State Dollars only in my branch . . . We later find out that the General along with his wife and only daughter had been killed during the war in a bomb blast that hit their home."
In this case, however, the spammer's less than complete grasp of the English language reveals a curious truth. In his opening paragraph, he says (emph. added):
Let me start by introducing myself. I am MR.Cheung Pui director of operations of the Hang Seng Bank Ltd. I have an obscured business suggestion for you.

MLKing It

Did you see Google's home page today? Pretty cool.

Of course, if you're not reading this on 16 Jan 2006, then you'll have no idea what I'm talking about.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

See What You Get When You Send Out Spam?

In response to my mini mass mailing spam (referred to the post prior to this one), I also got this mighty fine baby picture. Thx, EK.

I Get Spanked

So, I sent out this mini mass mailing to let people know about my new email address. One of the kind souls who responded, while politely acknowledging the change, offered a paraphrase of my original message. Here it is:
Here's my new e-mail address, but if you want to reach me immediately, post something slightly opinionated on my blog.

Also, if you notice anything unusual, PLEASE give me a phone call. I am unemployed and temporarily desperate for attention. I don't know what they call this phenomenon but everyone goes through it from time to time and thankfully (although in retrospect it results in slightly regrettable behavior) it is a correlate of both youth and vitality, two traits we all long to retain.

If you're wondering who sent this, here's a hint: he has a frighteningly good web site, too.

Sweet Home

Number of Alabama state senators co-sponsoring a bill
last summer to "protect" public displays of the
Ten Commandments: 10

Number of them who could list the Commandments: 1

(source: Harper's Index, December 2005)

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Jobs Control

Now that the Web has flooded to at least neck deep in twinkies blogging about the MacWorld Expo, I think this picture puts things back into perspective.

Thanks to the Rixstep Xnews newsletter for the link.

Geek Note: Windows Scripting Host

While browsing the fine Annoyances.org site, trying to find out how to get the stupid Start > Programs menu to present in alphabetical order, I came across a page about Windows Script Host (WSH). This page indicated that one could obtain WSH from Microsoft's web site, and provided a link, which is broken.

After browsing Microsoft's site, I found what I was looking for. You can read the details here.

Of course this is of no interest to you! Who else is trying to do development on a Windows98 machine besides nobody and me?

Friday, January 13, 2006

Good Signs

You'd think that a web site with the slogan "putting the rarin' back in librarian" would be, um, kind of dorky, wouldn't you?

In this case, you'd be wrong. Go visit them. Now. And make sure that your printer is working.

Thanks to KK for the link.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

At the Lebec and Call

Oh, boy. Where to begin?

TC sent me a clipping this morning of the 11 Jan 2006 LA Times story by Henry Weinstein, headlined, "1st Suit in State to Attack 'Intelligent Design' Filed."

Evidently, a public school in Lebec, California ("that's Hicksville out in the valley near Fresno," according to TC) has started up a course to teach Intelligent Design as a philosophy course, in order to get around the legal barriers (and howls of laughter from anyone with 1/10 of a brain) of trying to teach it as science.

Kudos to the parents of Lebec for taking the school board right to court.

And now, let us aid in this good fight by bringing the snark. From the article:

At a special meeting of the El Tejon Unified School District on Jan. 1, at which the board approved the new course, "Philosophy of Design," school Supt. John W. Wight said that he had consulted the school district's attorneys and that they "had told him that as long as the course was called 'philosophy,' " it could pass legal muster, according to the lawsuit. . . .

. . . A woman who identified herself as a secretary at the school district said Tuesday that Wight was out of town and unavailable for comment and that no one else was authorized to comment on the suit.

So, Supt. Wight thinks it's all good, but is afraid to say so to the press, and is afraid to let anyone else talk about the matter at all. Sounds like he's got a pretty strong case, no? Get a clue, Mr. Wight. You're all wong.

Also from the article:

The course, which began Jan. 3 and is scheduled to run for one month, is being taught by Sharon Lemburg, a special education teacher with a bachelor of arts in physical education and social science, according to the lawsuit.
The geeks among us will say, sheesh, another way that gym teachers will screw you up for life.

The article provides some background on the theory of ID:

Advocates of the theory generally do not identify who they think the designer was. Judge Jones, an appointee of President Bush, said the extensive testimony in the Pennsylvania case made it clear that "no serious alternative to God as the designer has been proposed" by members of the intelligent design movement.
Hey, wait a minute. Has the judge not heard of the FSM? Or is he dissing the Pastafarians?

Here's a link to the original article. If it doesn't work, just go to the LA Times's home page and search for "Lebec."

Vanity Plates

The two best vanity plates that I read on a recent roadtrip to Rochester (beat that for alliteration!):
which I took to be a political statement, and
which made me happily think that the geneticists are starting to augment the fount of nerd humor.

Who Cares If They're True?

They're great stories!

From KK's email, forwarded from a friend in the U.K., we learn of the recent outing of a politician, for being a drunk and lying about it. KK's friend goes on to describe some other sots in recent British memory. For example, one George Brown, foreign minister and deputy prime minister in the Labour government of the 1960s:

In 1966 or 67 he was hosting a dinner in London in honour of the visiting Turkish President. Halfway through dinner as the diplomatic niceties in the form of speeches were droning on George lurched to his feet and declared "Mr President, you don't want to listen to this bullshit - let's go and have a drink!"

Later that year he immeasurably improved our diplomatic relations with Peru.

At a grand reception in that country the Foreign Secretary tottered up to a figure resplendent in a fetching purple frock and slurringly asked her for a dance. She turned him down with the response: "First you are drunk. Second this is not a waltz, it is the Peruvian national anthem. And third, I am not a woman, I am the Cardinal Archbishop."

. . . . .
CKC also wrote this morning, to tell us that Howard Stern, who has recently moved to satellite radio, has a new sidekick. His name is George Takei.

Yes, you read that right. Mr. Sulu is now broadcasting from outer space.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Fray, as in "Above The"

So, I was thinking about an old favorite teacher of mine, and I was going to put those thoughts down here, but then they got a little long (kinda like this sentence is getting to be), and so I decided to park them elsewhere.

I'd be delighted if you'd read them anyway, and then come back here and comment.

Sound good? Good! Read about John Fraleigh here.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The Case of The Unfortunate Acronym

While out doing that Saturday shopping thing, I happened past one of the mega-"drugstores" that seem to infest every otherwise nice little town.

Being a branch of some monolithic corporation (that's probably registered in the Cayman Islands and doesn't fire its pharmacists despite their twisted religious views -- ok, those are rants for another day), it naturally had massive signage out front.

This one said (oh, for a camera when I needed it):

Diet Coke 2 Liter BOGO free
Now, after a minute of thought, I was able to conjecture that we were talking Buy One Get One free.

But it sure pinned my BOGOmeter.

If I were an assistant manager in charge of signage at a branch of a store like this (kill me now just for imagining that possibility), I might have gone with B1G1 free. This has the following advantages:

  • It doesn't look bogus
  • If a reader sub-vocalizes the acronym, it sounds like "Be One Jee One free", which is more suggestive than sounding like "BOGO free"
  • If the 1's are misinterpreted as I's, than it looks like it sounds like "big one free"
You know when you start typing in bulleted lists that PowerPoint can't be far behind. I'd better stop typing.

Another Thing (for me) to Fret About

So, I'm getting ready to go on a little road trip. It seems to take me longer to leave the house every time I go on a trip these days; I am evidently one of those OCD types who has to check the stove twenty times before I leave, before I'm convinced that it's not going to burn the house down in my absence.

I also check my ashtray after each stove check, and then, when I finally do get out the door, I check that the latch has engaged another fourteen times. (No, I don't really count these things. Really.)

Compounding this problem, the BFC has discovered a new trick. She likes to go into the bathroom and rub her face on the door until it closes, and then bask in the heat of the small room with the big radiator.

I am of Irish heritage, which makes me prone to assume the worst (I once had a long argument with a Jewish woman about who suffered more guilt). Therefore, the idea that the BFC would lock herself in the bathroom while I was away, piteously mewing for the overloaded food bowl just the other side of the door, reduced to gnawing her paws for sustenance, and attracting attention from the neighbors only with her dying wail . . . kind of crosses my mind. Every now and then.

Well, the BFC is now attempting to help with the typing, and the NSC is lurking, just out of reach, demanding some attention for his own bad self, so I guess I'd better close here.

And go take the bathroom door off its hinges, of course.

[Update 2006-03-23: Fixed links --bjk]

Cheap DSL

I got word earlier today from KK that his installation of Verizon's DSL package went smoothly. Mine did not, as I alluded to in an earlier post, although it works now.

However, it took him a couple of weeks to convince Verizon's sales department that he really, truly, did want to take them up on their offer, whereas my order was processed even faster than they said it would be. During the holiday (sorry, BillO) Christmas season, no less. So he got slow service up front, and I got tech-support-hell on the back end.

Of course, I'm running Win98 on a machine of comparable age, and he's running WinXPSP2 on a virtual newborn of a machine. So that might explain the installation issues. (Although, both the Web-based diagnostic tool and a Verizon sales rep assured me that my PC was good to go.)

I have been using my DSL connection for a few days now, and I can't find anything major to complain about. The speediness is nice. Of course, all of the Verizon web pages, like help files, configuration forms, etc., seem to break unless you use Internet Explorer to visit them, but that's to be expected from a corporate giant. Because only like 100 million people have downloaded Firefox in the last year.

At any rate, if you want to switch from dial-up to DSL, for probably less money than you're paying for dial-up, then check out this site. For $15/month, you get 768Kbps download connectivity. If you want to spend $30/month, you can get 3Mbps. As with all home-based plans, the upload speed is considerably less. You have to commit for a year to get these prices, but they will toss in a wireless modem/router/gateway for free, if you do.

I can't whole-heartedly recommend this deal. Like all cheap things, it seems that you're going to spend some time in return for saving some money. And if you need tech support, count on talking to people who would be equally challenged by asking "Would you like fries with that?" But I'd give it a "worth a look" recommendation.

Man, I just wrote all that, when it occurs to me that I'm probably the last guy on the planet to go broadband.

Borderline Issues

So, I ordered two things from two different web sites on 3 January. One was from a business based in Utah, USA, and one was from a business based in Ontario, Canada. Both sent me confirmation emails that my order had been shipped that day, both by first-class mail.

The order from Utah arrived yesterday. I am told to expect the shipment from Ontario in 2-3 weeks, "as snail-mail has been getting snailier of late."

I mean, how long does some dog need to sniff my software CD in order to satisfy his handler that it will not, in fact, explode, infect the populace, or cure a medical condition for very small dollars?

Global economy, my ass. Bet it doesn't take WalMart that long to get crap from China.

Ding Dong, The Witch Is Dead!

Tom Delay Mug Shots
Which old witch? This old witch!

The Dean of Unreasonableness himself has finally bowed to the inevitable, and has announced that he would not seek to regain his post as Chief Bullying Bug Boy Speaker of the House.

"I cannot allow our adversaries to divide and distract our attention," the Texas Republican wrote in a letter to his fascist cronies fellow Republicans.

By "adversaries," we presume, he means "the law."

Let's Get Scared (Redux)

Being the geek that I am, I have been keeping some stats on how well my spam filter is "learning." It is a so-called Bayesian filter, which means, superficially, that its efficacy depends on being presented with more and more data, and being told when it made the right decision and when it didn't.

At any rate, after inputting the results from yesterday into the spread sheet, the new detect versus miss totals are 694 and 348.

That is, through 1/6/06, 66.6% of spam has been correctly filtered.

I'm just saying . . . how's my canned goods supply looking?

Friday, January 06, 2006

Let's Get Scared

This morning's email from KK detailed problems about losing his bookmarks. He had been rebuilding them by typing in URLs of sites that he knew he wanted to re-bookmark. Being the tasteful sort that he is, one of the first places he visited (or tried to) was this fine establishment.

Unfortunately, a minor case of PEBKAC cropped up, and he found himself at

instead of at
Now, we'll not harsh (for too long) on you parasites who endeavor to capitalize on those poor souls suffering finger dyslexia, but we will say that it seems awfully un-Christian of you to use pop up windows and jiggly banner ads, when you've likely lured people to your site under false pretenses in the first place.

Although, when you think about it, it's not like there aren't plenty of leadership examples for this sort of behavior.

(A tip of the Le Show chapeau for the title of this post)

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Good Geek Humor

Here's a page worth checking out. Don't miss the picture of W down at the bottom.

Thanks to KK for the link.

Here's an IDea

So, I was talking to MK last night. She had just spent the better part of a second day trying to change her driver's license from her previous state of residence to her current one. It's still not done yet.

It's clear that the new, higher, hurdles of bureaucracy are yet another consequence of 9/11, and more to the point, the federal government's inept response to said event.

There's long been a knee-jerk resistance by many to the idea of a national ID card, as it represents an infringement on the right to privacy. It seems like one of the few fights that we, the collective little guy, can win against an executive branch and federal court system that evidently no longer believes in such a right. I myself used to be one of those jerking knees. Here's why I changed my mind.

  • Your driver's license has long been your de facto national ID card
  • Your Social Security number has long been your de facto national ID number
  • Any twinkie with Internet access and a few bucks can find out everything that you've ever done

Now, I'm not saying that we should give up the fight for our rights, especially to privacy. What I am saying is that, in order to get along in today's society, you need (1) a piece of hard-to-forge identification and (2) a unique identifier, probably a number. As Marcellus Wallace would say, "Now that's a hard motherfuckin' fact of life, but that's a fact of life your ass is gonna have to get realistic about."

Picture of Marcellus Wallace

So, I say, why not do it right?

The SS number should be reimplemented as a two-part number, along the lines of public key cryptography. That's a rant for another day.

But as far as photo IDs go: Stop letting Congress punt their responsibility to the respective state DMVs. They don't want the job of issuing IDs and they do it badly.

Notes: Marcellus Wallace is a character in Pulp Fiction. The image on this page was swiped from some other blog.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Dim Your Hopeful Horizons

So you think you know phone tree hell?

Well, you haven't died lived until you've tried to take advantage of Verizon's $14.95/month DSL offer.

I will have more to say about this anon. Let's just say that, for now, I'm glad that my computer works at all.

But it does, and it seems a little speedier.

Let's see if I am still singing the same tune when I try to reboot tomorrow.

The Cat Page To End All Cat Pages

Courtesy of this morning's email from KK:
Just go and look at it. I know you think you've seen enough cat pages. Just go and look at it.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


The writer who has done more than anyone else to make me re-think history, Howard Zinn, has published a fine piece in the January 2006 edition of The Progressive. In it, he discusses the prospect of building on the growing distaste for the war on Iraq to create momentum to end war itself.

Crazy, huh? He is, after all, usually referred to as "Howard Zinn, the radical historian." Here's a part of his answer:

There is a persistent argument against such a possibility, which I have heard from people on all parts of the political spectrum: We will never do away with war because it comes out of human nature. The most compelling counter to that claim is in history: We don't find people spontaneously rushing to make war on others. What we find, rather, is that governments must make the most strenuous efforts to mobilize populations for war. They must entice soldiers with promises of money, education, must hold out to young people whose chances in life look very poor that here is an opportunity to attain respect and status. And if those enticements don't work, governments must use coercion: They must conscript young people, force them into military service, threaten them with prison if they do not comply.

Furthermore, the government must persuade young people and their families that though the soldier may die, though he or she may lose arms or legs, or become blind, that it is all for a noble cause, for God, for country.

You can read the whole piece here.

And if you got gift certificates for Christmas, and you don't already own A People's History of the United States, you now know what to buy.

Thanks to TruthOut.org for calling my attention to Zinn's piece.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Light-headed reflection

I'm just back from the Christmas travels, part II.

While on the visit to KK's house, MK, CKC, and I happened upon a blood drive in progress, and MK proposed that we all give a pint. I said, "OK." Somewhat surprisingly, so did CKC.

And not just surprising to me, either. Daughter E was along on the trip, and the look of disbelief on her face about her mom's acquiescence was what one might expect had we suggested disemboweling the family pets.

At any rate, E was dragged into Dracula's den, and while we grups were draining into plastic bags, I asked the blood tech in an unnecessarily loud voice, "How old do you have to be to give blood?"

He looked over at E, trying to hide behind her book in the waiting area, and said, "Sixteen, with parental approval."

E, who is 15.95 years old, melted in relief.

Never was a teenager so happy to claim a reduced age.