Wednesday, January 31, 2007

(Holding Pattern)

I'm backdating this post to Wednesday, so it's not sitting there all by itself, but it's really being written on Saturday, at about 3:20 pm eastern time. Mainly, it's been a busy few days, which is why I haven't posted in a while.

Regular posting will resume tomorrow. Also, expect a little bit of template-tweaking on my part in the next few days. I feel the need to shake up the look a bit here. Thanks for reading, folks!

(And oh, by the way: THURMAN! THURMAN! THURMAN! OK, we're done. Back tomorrow.)


I don't have anything to link yet, but as of this writing (7:00 pm, ET), MSNBC news is flashing a Breaking News headline that Molly Ivins has died.

And with that, I'm going to go into a room from where the Daughter won't be able to hear me swearing a lot.

UPDATE: And two minutes after I clicked "publish", the link. Ivins died of the breast cancer she'd been fighting for some time.

Condolences to her family. This sucks.

One thing I don't like about Firefox 2.0

They put a "Close Tab" button -- the little red box with the white 'X' -- on each tab, whereas before there was only one "Close Tab" button, which was always positioned at the far right of the Open Tabs toolbar and which would only close the tab you happened to be viewing at the moment you click the button. You could close other tabs directly, but to do so you had to right-click the tab and then choose "close tab".

The new way of doing it, with the "Close Tab" button on each tab, has resulted in me inadvertently straying too close to the button on a tab I'm reading, and then equally inadvertently closing said tab, about once a day.

So I want my money back.


After missing Seasons Four and most of Five, I've started watching 24 again this year. I missed the "four hour premiere event", so I'm not entirely sure what's going on, but I know that one nuclear bomb has been detonated in LA and there are four more out there, somewhere. (Which has to make Jack crazy, since he spent half of the day in Season Two successful trying to prevent a nuke from being detonated in LA -- and now, a few years later, somebody else does it.)

I don't know what makes 24 so compelling, really, because the cold hard truth is that great whacks of the show are downright boring. Seriously. One quarter of each episode consists of people lurking about the periphery of the Presidency of the United States, at least several of whom are nefariously scheming for their own ends; another quarter of each episode consists of people at CTU walking up the staircase to the offices, or alternately glancing up at the offices to see if they're being watched by the BossMan or glowering at their computer screens while they hack into various systems or process incomplete data procured by Jack.

That just leaves about twenty-four (!) minutes or so each episode for Jack, who is usually driving from one place to another, while muttering in rapid-fire fashion directives to Chloe, usually with the helpful reminder that "We're running out of time!". He's always looking for someone to whom he refers by surname only: "We haven't found Fayed yet!" "We have to locate Saunders!" "Where is Graham!" I think it would be fun to have Jack going up against the IRA, so he can say into his eternally-charged, never-roaming cell phone, "We're running out of time to find McGillicuddy!"

And when he's not doing things like that, Jack is torturing the bejesus out of people, or exorting them to "Put down your weapon!", or just looking hopelessly grim in the face of it all.

Ach, who cares. It's still a fun show, even if it's pretty much a parody of itself by this point. They have the United States being led by its fourth President in four years, and the current President was present at the violent death of the former President's ex-wife while that President actually was President!

I wanted to be Doc Smith....

I don't normally do these, but this one's right up my alley:

I am:
Ursula K. LeGuin
Perhaps the most admired writing talent in the science fiction field.

Which science fiction writer are you?

Le Guin, eh? I can deal with that.


Keep thy religion to THYSELF.

I can't even begin to summarize the ways this news story pissed me off.

There's got to be a way to signify indignant sputtering on a blog.

Shortest campaign ever?

Let's hear it for Joe Biden, who declared his candidacy for President and then decided to show the world that he could stick his foot in his mouth even faster than the guy already in that office, which is really saying something. Here's what Biden said about Barack Obama:

"I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy," he said. "I mean, that's a storybook, man."

Obama's "clean"! Imagine that -- African Americans have finally come far enough that they can be trusted to field a Presidential candidate who can take a shower and knot a tie!

Honestly, folks, I can't think of a Democrat I'd less like to see in the Oval Office than Joe Biden. As Kevin Drum says, "He's just a gaffe machine waiting for someone to flip the power on."

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A National Treasure

I'm watching House, and I just have to take a moment to note that I never see actor Geoffrey Lewis in anything that he doesn't make me feel all kinds of joy. He's just all kinds of terrific -- one of the finest character actors ever. I mean that.

Moving on....


What the hell?!

THE US wants the world's scientists to develop technology to block sunlight as a last-ditch way to halt global warming.

It says research into techniques such as giant mirrors in space or reflective dust pumped into the atmosphere would be "important insurance" against rising emissions, and has lobbied for such a strategy to be recommended by a UN report on climate change, the first part of which is due out on Friday).


Scientists have previously estimated that reflecting less than 1 per cent of sunlight back into space could compensate for the warming generated by all greenhouse gases emitted since the industrial revolution. Possible techniques include putting a giant screen into orbit, thousands of tiny, shiny balloons, or microscopic sulfate droplets pumped into the high atmosphere to mimic the cooling effects of a volcanic eruption. The IPCC draft said such ideas were "speculative, uncosted and with potential unknown side-effects".

I swear that these guys vet their policy proposals by a rigorous process of just sitting around and watching old episodes of The Simpsons.


Monday, January 29, 2007

Sentential Links #86

Eighty-six of these posts (assuming I've numbered them correctly)! How cool is that!

Well, not all that cool, I suppose. But here are some links anyway:

:: Well, you know what they say about the size of a man's foot, don't you? (I staunchly refuse to post my shoe size here.)

:: I like Cheetos, dammit! And I am not a right wingnut! (That's the entirety of his post, but I like his point. When did Cheetos become the default stereotypical snack of lunatics and weirdos?)

:: Beltway Insiders prefer to see politics as high school, which is to say as a constant struggle for status and popularity among the cool kids.

:: This show came along at just the right time to give sci-fi a jolt it desperately needed. (Drew is reviewing the entirety of Firefly; this is the first in his series of posts doing so. I haven't watched the entire series yet myself, so is it true that there is no FTL drive on the ships in that show? If so, I just don't get how the whole cosmology can work, unless they're in a single solar system with an oddly large number of planets; but then, how can all the outer worlds still exist under Earthlike conditions? Sure, they say they're terraforming, but you can't turn Pluto into an Earthlike world; it's too far from the Sun. Is there something I'm missing?)

:: After the jump, therefore, I present to you: the many middle names of the Son of Man. (Some material here may offend.)

:: I haven't found much time to write here in recent months, but I'd like to start a new recurring feature: The Scary Fundie Series. (Hoo-boy, this looks like a fun series in the making.)

:: It amazes me how many people who lack even a good layman’s understanding of climate, are willing to dismiss modern climate science as foolishness motivated by greed for research grants. People who have never written a single line of computer code will ridicule computer models as "not worth the electricity to run them." Folks who spend hours perusing websites, often digesting denialist propaganda, will proclaim that they have somehow seen further than the thousands of climate scientists who have spent a lifetime studying it in detail. (I like that word: "denialist". That could be useful.)

:: Not only that, Jobs is playing with fire: the iPhone is surprisingly limited and uninspired in its feature set. Competitors will look to exploit its limitations.

:: That's the big debate, isn't it: whether or not we are in control of our own actions. will...biological machines...these are the terms which have shaped this debate. (Wow, am I ever out of practice when it comes to thinking about such things!)

All for this week. Tune in again....

Too bad they suck....

One of the towns adjacent to the one in which I live is called Hamburg, NY. A bit of the local lore of that particular burg is a claim that their town is the site where the quintessential American sandwich, the hamburger, was invented.

This guy says this is false, and that the hamburger as we know it today was invented by the guy who started the White Castle chain.

While I don't have much emotional investment in our local claim to have invented burgers, it does disappoint me that the thing was birthed by White Castle. That would be like learning that pizza was invented by Little Caesar's.

(If you can't tell from my tone, the mythic appeal of White Castle has always escaped me. Those little burgers of theirs are nasty.)

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Sunday Burst of Weirdness

It's been a good week for weirdness out there!

:: Not actually weird, but really pretty cool: Lynn linked a post on another blog about a minimalist composer named Rhys Chatham who recently contrived a work that is scored for electric guitars. Plural. And not just two or three, but four hundred electric guitars. It's nothing "heavy metal" like at all; all those guitars combine to form a fascinating soundscape. There's nothing about unusually-massive musical forces that require a resulting work to be trashy; Hector Berlioz was a master of huge orchestras, and he postulated that the effect should be "powerful" rather than tasteless. I'd like to hear this entire piece. An MP3 download of the first movement (quite a large file) can be found here.

:: As usual, good weirdness at MeFi, in particular this thread devoted to a possibly spoof "dating site" for "beautiful people". As usual, the key attraction to MeFi threads like this is the snarky commentary:

Fantastic website. All the most nightmarishly shallow, ignorant, irrelevant people you truly need to avoid, in one convenient location...with pictures, so that you know who they are without a doubt.

Mmmmm.. I'm feelin kinda Ayn Randy I am.

it's survival of the fittest ... if it was survival of the cutest, kittens would have ruled the earth long ago

The majority of the most thoroughly screwed-up, personally repugnant (aka batshitinsane) people I've ever met have been very visually attractive.

You know what makes me laugh? When two really pretty and vain people get together and create really goofy looking kids. That makes me laugh. And only a little bit because I have beautiful kids. Mostly because I like it when vain people get a little reality smackdown.

My parents are both more beautiful than me. Can I sue Darwin?

But then the thread gets all serious and stuff. Do we have to always derail good snark with serious discussions of sociology?

:: CNN ran this article the other day about the season debut of the long-running (second only to The Simpsons) FOX animated show King of the Hill. It's a pretty good article, actually; what's weird about it is the goofy list of "bullet points" at the top of the article, in a box labeled "Story Highlights". Have we become so poor readers that we need a helpful list of bullet-points, summarizing an article before we even read it???

:: And this week's winner, via Shamus. The brain nearly shuts down, trying to list all the ways that this is just plain wrong.

I await the fuzzy-kitten version of King Lear....


Jeff of Psychosomatic Wit reproduces this column by Reg Henry, a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. I've never heard of Henry before, but on the basis of this column, I may be keeping tabs on him in the future. Here's a sample:

To my mind, one of the oddest slurs hurled against anyone is that he or she is a "do-gooder." Apparently our society has decided that it is a terrible thing to do good, although this is not what we tell our children.

Public prejudice against the "do-gooder" is enshrined in an unflattering dictionary definition --"A person who seeks to correct social ills in an idealistic, but usually impractical or superficial, way." This meaning reflects the understanding of an old proverb: "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

That may be so. I have never actually been in hell -- I just remember high school algebra class.

But it occurs to me that the road to hell is more often paved with bad intentions or their close relations, which are indifference and/or arrogance. (If it's a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation project, potholes may also be built into the paving.)

I reckon "do-bad-ers" with their hard hearts also help pave the road to hell, but it is only "bleeding hearts" that are seen as the problem. "Bleeding heart'' is a popular alternative epithet to "do-gooder."

Yes, bleeding hearts and do-gooders are a risible lot, annoying interferers in the tough, no-nonsense, practical-minded business of life. But I have to think that good intentions and pulsing hearts have also paved the road to heaven.

Read the whole thing.

Nothing like it!

I really love it when I cook steak for lunch or dinner, and then get the whole place smelling of wonderful seared red meat, and then later on leaving the apartment for a while after having grown accustomed to the scent, and finally coming back home to get freshly hit in the face with the fine, fine aroma of steak.

Heck, I just plain like steak.

Moving on....

Oooooh! Pretty! (Take Two)

I continue to discover stuff about New Blogger. First of all, if you view any single post on this blog by itself (click the permalink to do this), there's a sidebar item called "Previously on Byzantium's Shores". This used to consist of a list of the eight or nine posts immediately preceding whatever particular post you'd be reading, but now it seems that this always lists the most recent eight or nine posts published. In other words, if you go to some post from two years ago in my archives, the "Previously on..." list would be the eight or nine posts prior to that one. Now, the post from two years ago will list the posts that have appeared today. This makes that feature a lot more useful, I think -- the idea is to encourage people arriving at the blog via very old posts to check out what's new.

I also like the way that when you make a single change to your template, BAM! It is applied automatically to every post, and you don't have to republish the entire blog. (Republishing the entire blog was always a big pain in the ass.) I suspect this works by having Google/Blogger generate each individual post-page on the fly, rather than actually creating separate pages for each post, storing them on some server somewhere, and then loading them appropriately. (I wonder what effect this has on search engine spidering of the archives, though.)

The idea of labels needs a bit of work still, it seems. Currently there's no automated way for me to stick a list of my labels in the sidebar somewhere, so you can load every single post labeled a certain way. This is possible for bloggers using one of the free templates Blogger provides, which already contains the necessary code, but they haven't got round yet to making this possible for dinosaurs like myself on older templates. (I can probably hand-code this utility into my template, and I probably will, but it's not going to be a huge priority.)

Also, if you do click on one of my Label tags to get every post in that series, currently with my template you only get the most recent 20 or so posts with that label, and none of the ones farther back than that. This makes labels less useful to me at this point, although I will still be using them in anticipation of the time when these issues are resolved.

I have not yet attempted to post directly to the blog via Google Documents.

And there's my progress report for New Blogger. So far I'm impressed. Looks like I'm staying on Blogger for the foreseeable future!

Youthie Fro

(being a Socratic dialogue between the Left Brain and Right Brain of a football fan)

LEFT BRAIN: OK, there are 52 weeks in a year, which therefore implies that there are 52 weekends in a year.


LEFT BRAIN: Now, do we pay attention to pre-season NFL games?

RIGHT BRAIN: Nope. We read about 'em in the paper, you know, to see who's playing well and who might make the team and that's about it. But we don't watch 'em or structure our weekends around them.

LEFT BRAIN: That's right. Especially since they play preseason games on any day of the week.


LEFT BRAIN: OK, so back to the 52 weekends per year. How many weeks long is the NFL regular season?

RIGHT BRAIN: It is 17 weeks long.

LEFT BRAIN: Just so.

RIGHT BRAIN: Because every team plays 16 games and has one buy week.

LEFT BRAIN: "Bye" week.

RIGHT BRAIN: Right, that's what I said.

LEFT BRAIN: OK. So there we have 17 weekends of NFL regular season action.


LEFT BRAIN: And what of the playoffs?

RIGHT BRAIN: Nah, my team sucks.

LEFT BRAIN: Yes, but do you still watch the other teams play football in the playoffs?

RIGHT BRAIN: Oh, sure.

LEFT BRAIN: And how many playoff weekends are there?

RIGHT BRAIN: Three, of course. Wildcard weekend, which consists of eight teams in four games, from which four teams emerge. Those four winners go on to play the two teams from each conference that earned bye weeks, in the Divisional Round. The winners thereof, four in number, then play the next weekend in the Conference Championship Games. The two winners of those games are given trophies named for Lamarr Hunt and George Halas, respectively, and they then move onto the Super Bowl two weeks hence.

LEFT BRAIN:'re the Right Brain, and yet you just used the words "thereof", "respectively", and "hence".

RIGHT BRAIN: Word of the Day Calendar.

LEFT BRAIN: Oh. So that's three weekends of playoff football, plus a single weekend for the Super Bowl, two weeks later, for a total of four postseason weekends, yes?

RIGHT BRAIN: Let me see...sounds right.

LEFT BRAIN: So, with the 17 weekends of the regular season, it follows that there are 21 weekends devoted per year to football.

RIGHT BRAIN: (consults slide rule) 17 + 3 + 1 = 21. Yes. Exactly.

LEFT BRAIN: Which in turn means that there are 31 weekends per year that are not devoted to football, yes?

RIGHT BRAIN: (slide rule time again) 52 - 21 = 31. Yes!

LEFT BRAIN: And since 31 is greater than 21, it therefore follows that we spend more weekends per year not watching football than we do watching football, yes?

RIGHT BRAIN: Why, yes!

LEFT BRAIN: So, the central problem is this, then: Why the hell are we always lost in the wilderness when that inevitable first football-free weekend comes?

RIGHT BRAIN: I dunno. So what are we gonna do today? There's no football on.

LEFT BRAIN: That's the point! Weren't you listening?

RIGHT BRAIN: Nah. You lost me at the whole "greater than/less than" thing.


RIGHT BRAIN: And besides, you forgot the Draft in April! That's a weekend! And that combine thing too!

LEFT BRAIN: Yes, but --

RIGHT BRAIN: Minicamps! Celebrity signings! Organized team activities! Watching games I taped from years ago, like the time our boys won the division by beating the Jets 9-6 in overtime! Playing Madden!

LEFT BRAIN: Or, we could watch a movie, or read a book, or watch the figure skating, or hockey.

RIGHT BRAIN: Watch what with the who now?

LEFT BRAIN: Sigh....

Saturday, January 27, 2007

In Tom we trust!

I thought about saving this for the Sunday Burst of Weirdness, but it's too weird to save for a prosaic series of blog posts. Via Sarah Jane, I see that apparently we're to believe that Tom Cruise is the Scientologist equivalent of Jesus Christ.

There are a number of jokes springing to mind, but none of them are below the level of tastelessness where I'm willing to post them here.

(Say, if some alien race were to base a religion on the blatherings contained within this blog, in the same way that the aliens in the Star Trek episode "A Piece of the Action" formed their society on the content of a book about Chicagoland gangsters of the 1920s, what would that religion/society look like? Discuss!)

Of strings and astromech droids....

What better way to celebrate my blog's "rebirth" onto New Blogger than by geeking out for a bit? So here's a timely descent into some serious Star Wars geekery! A reader e-mailed me a link to this essay a couple of weeks back, and I've been tossing it around in my head ever since. It's a bit of speculation into what goes on between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, as well as an exploration of possible character motivations in the Original Trilogy that we didn't realize at the time. The basic conclusion drawn is that the Rebellion's most important unsung heroes, and de facto special agents from the earliest possible point, are R2-D2 and Chewbacca. It's a really fun essay to read, and you have to love the creativity employed in developing its thesis. So, let's rip it apart in the best geek fashion!

First of all, there is this claim made near the outset:

As we now know, the rebel Alliance was founded by Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Bail Organa. What can readily be deduced is that their first recruit, who soon became their top field agent, was R2-D2.

Well, not really. We don't really know that Yoda and Obi Wan were involved in the birth of the Rebel Alliance. They're involved in that, to a small degree, but the prime player here is Bail Organa (along with Mon Mothma and, before her death, Senator Amidala). The genesis of the Rebellion is never shown in the theatrical release of Sith, but there are a number of deleted scenes from that film, available on the DVD, that show the earliest hints of rebellion.

(A side discussion could be had here on whether scenes cut from the films constitute "canon". First of all, we're talking about George Lucas here, and you can never rule out old scenes showing back up in future cuts of the movies. Second of all, the scenes were written and filmed by George Lucas, and in just about every case that I can think of, were eliminated for reasons of story structure or pacing concerns, and not because any of the scenes established story precedent that Lucas later decided went against what he was trying to do. So I think we can assume that events depicted in cut scenes actually happened, and we just didn't get to see them because they made the movies slower.)

Yoda and Obi Wan's approach to what happens after the rise of the Empire is shaped by their experiences as Jedi, and their approach is Jedi-centric. The children are taken into hiding because they represent the Galaxy's last hope, not some rebel faction brewing in the Galactic Senate. Throughout Attack of the Clones and Sith, Obi Wan is always expressing mild disdain to outright distrust of the political body of the Republic, and given how the Senate specifically endorses the formation of the Clone Army, the outlawing and destruction of the Jedi, and the shift from democracy to Empire, I suspect that Obi Wan would just as soon not involve the Rebellion in his efforts against Palpatine and Darth Vader at all. By the time Obi Wan finally meets Luke Skywalker as a young man on Tatooine, he seems to have almost no idea at all of what's going on out there in the Empire. He's been waiting for a Jedi apprentice.

The same can roughly be said of Yoda. In fact, he's even more out of touch than Obi Wan, stuck in exile on the uncharted swamp world of Dagobah. In fact, it seems that he's become bitter and disillusioned in that time, since he initially refuses to train Luke when he arrives, and since when Luke abandons his training, Yoda basically says to Obi Wan, "I told you that kid was gonna screw this up." Yoda tells Luke to eschew his friends in the Rebellion, and that "only a fully-trained Jedi Knight" can hope to stop Vader and the Emperor. The impression is rather strongly conveyed that Yoda doesn't care one whit about the Rebellion; without a newly-minted Jedi to take care of the Sith, the Rebellion's just window dressing. The Rebellion is aimed at taking down the Empire. Yoda and Obi Wan are looking to take down the Sith. That's an important distinction.

Moving on, the article makes a number of other statements that seem to conflict with the films. In order:

Both droids know that Yoda and Obi-Wan are alive and are plotting sedition with the Senator from Alderaan. They know that Amidala survived long enough to have twins and could easily deduce where they went.

Well, is this really the case? At the end of Sith, do both droids know of the birth of the twins? I don't remember seeing them present during the birth scene, nor do I recall them present during the discussion between Bail Organa, Yoda, and Obi Wan about what to do with them. Here's a point where the film could have clarified things, perhaps with a simple line of dialogue such as having Yoda instruct Bail Organa to report to the Senate that Senator Amidala is dead and that her baby was lost as well. (Remember, Anakin never knew that Padme was going to have twins, and he doesn't realize Leia is his daughter until Return of the Jedi.) But anyway, I'm not sure we can assume that the droids know about the twins, or where they have been taken.

(As an aside, I never had a problem with Obi Wan hiding Luke on Tatooine with his aunt and uncle. If Vader believes that his child was never born, why would he ever go back to the Lars Homestead? This never struck me as the obvious plot hole that many other think it is. Here too, though, a simple dialogue exchange would have cleared it up:

OBI WAN: I will take the boy to his family on Tatooine.

YODA: Is that wise?

OBI WAN: Anakin is dead and only Vader remains. He will never go back there.

But even so, I was never bothered by this.)

As Star Wars opens, R2 is rushing the Death Star plans to the Rebellion. R2, not Leia. The plans are always in R2. What Leia puts into him in the early scene is only her own holographic message to Kenobi. Leia's own mission, as she says in the holographic message, is to pick up Obi-Wan and take him to Alderaan - or so she thinks.

This is somewhat belied by the text of Leia's message to Obi Wan: "I have placed information vital to the survival of the Rebellion into the memory systems of this R2 unit." She wouldn't say that if she hadn't put the plans there. The film's implied course of events makes much more sense: Leia is about to be captured before she can recruit Obi Wan, and she has to get him the plans, so she puts them in R2 and sends him to find Obi Wan on his own.

Later on, the writer turns to Chewbacca and his own status as a Rebel agent from the very rise of the Empire. This is all entertaining, although here's one item that clashes a bit in my eye:

When R2's urgent message came through only days before, the only way for Chewie to get back to Tattoine in time was to make the "mistake" that forced Han to dump his cargo to avoid capture. As a down side, this led to Solo's getting a death mark out on him from Jabba the Hutt. Chewie was a bit upset about the need for that but figured they weren't going to be dealing with Tattoine for much longer.

I honestly don't know about this. Something about it seems wrong. Maybe it's the idea that R2 is just beaming messages all over space, to Chewie and who knows who else.

(Oddly, in the fanfic "Star Wars remix" thing I wrote years ago, I literally made my analogue of the Han Solo and Chewbacca characters agents for the Good Guys [who weren't a Rebellion, actually, but were in a war against an evil Empire].)

Those are the only things in the article that ring highly false to me; everything else is rough speculation. Geeky retconning is always fun!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Oooooh! Pretty!

Blogger has just now allowed me to migrate Byzantium's Shores onto the "new and improved" version of Blogger. What does this mean for this venerable blog? I have no idea.

But I'll have to do some playing around this weekend. I like new, shiny stuff.

UPDATE: Well, this all looks well and good. I suppose, for the purposes of this venerable blog, that this doesn't mean much at all, except that I can now label my posts. Of course, I have over 5,400 posts at this point, so the likelihood of me labeling each one of those is, shall we say, lower than that of me suddenly rooting for the NFL team from the Greater Boston area. Still, I'll try to get some labeling done at some point.

UPDATE II: You'll also notice that making the switch to New Blogger has made the standard search/navigate bar appear at the top of the page. This doesn't bother me all that much (although I hope no one "flags" this blog!), so I'll just remove the search box from the sidebar.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Raise a glass for Charlie Mops

Not much time for blogging tonight, so just a couple of notes:

:: Reading the paper at work this morning, I saw that Labatts is moving its USA headquarters to Buffalo. Labatts is a Canadian beer that's really big in these parts, so having their HQ here makes some sense. For myself, I like Labatts, but I'm more of a Yuengling guy.

:: How come it's always the Japanese who are getting close contact with rare sea beasties? First that giant squid from a few weeks back, now the frilled shark.

:: I see that James Cromwell will be on 24, playing Jack Bauer's father. I think that there's some kind of cosmological law about TV series and James Cromwell; something like "As the number of seasons a series lasts on television increases, the probability of a guest turn by James Cromwell approaches 1". We can call this the "Cromwell Conjecture".

And...well, that's about it. Later.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Why I am not a political blogger

Kevin Drum reports as follows:

A reliable source tells me that within minutes of John Kerry's announcement that he won't run for president again in 2008, the Barack Obama campaign was already trying to recruit at least one member of Kerry's "Boston Mafia" to work for them. No surprise there, and I imagine Kerry's entire team is going to be in high demand pretty shortly.

I never understand stuff like this, which is probably why my political blogging consists solely of sporadic attempts to iterate in nice words why I think George Bush sucks. John Kerry's campaign was a disaster in so many ways, and yet, most of his campaign people, if not all of them, will eventually find employment with the people running for the 2008 nomination.

I'm reminded of this exchange from the West Wing episode "In the Shadow of Two Gunmen", when Toby is drinking in a bar before a speech by Candidate Jed Bartlet:

WOMAN: You've been a...what did you call it?

TOBY: Professional political operative.

WOMAN: You've been one your whole life.

TOBY: Well, there was a while back there when I was in elementary school....

WOMAN: You any good?

TOBY: [long pause] Yes, I'm very good.

WOMAN: What's your record?

TOBY: My record?

WOMAN: How many elections have you won?

TOBY: Altogether?

The woman nods.

TOBY: Including city council, two Congressional elections, a senate race, a Gubernatorial campaign, and a national campaign?


TOBY: ...None.

WOMAN: None of them?

TOBY: You gotta be impressed with my consistency.

I don't get why knowing how to lose a national campaign is better than never having run one, but that's just me.

Sentential Links #85

OK, here we are, a couple of days late. I got my story done and submitted last night; when it predictably loses the competition, I'll post it here.

Anyway, this week's links. My randomly applied rule for this week is that none of these blogs are on my blogroll, and most of them are blogs I've never read before. I've picked blogs that are on my blogroll and looked at their blogrolls. (I think that makes sense.) Not one of these blogs has ever been linked here before! So here we go:

:: And this is why I think Brooklyn is such an extraordinary place right now. Take a walk from the North Slope across Grand Army, then down Eastern Parkway. Where else in the country can you go from the houses of world-famous authors and movie stars to Hasidic Jews and working-class African-Americans all in the space of about twenty blocks? And all with the lowest crime rate of any big city in the country.

:: I don't think the world outside academia knows what offprints are any more, if they ever did. (I sure didn't. Interesting!)

:: That said, here are some things I think you should know if you want to get a small college job: (Ah, academia! Once I thought I was headed there. And then I headed instead for the world of retail and power tools.)

:: For reasons I don't fully understand, Damage's new costume - that of a Mexican wrestler themed after a combination of Hourman and Atom Smasher, apparently - rocks the internationally recognized warning sign for biological hazards instead of his old go-to costume design element, the symbol for radiation.

:: If you can find a local radio station that plays new music (or, even rarer, one that fits the original mold of radio, cycling old stuff with new hits), you're not going to find a lot of "pretty" music. It's either rap, repetitively mind-numbing (and usually crude) hip-hop, or cookie monster vocals over banks of droning steroidal guitars.

:: As I thought over the email from my friend, it occurred to me (as I suspect she intended) that I wasn't really a "blogger" as much as I was a "storyteller". Blogging just provides me a vehicle to reach a bigger audience.

:: I understand as the game MVP God will get a 2007 Honda Element and an Hawaiian vacation.

:: Quick, mark your calendar! January 25 is Rabbie Burns’s birthday—-St. Andrew's Societies all over the world will be celebrating. (Heavens, that's tomorrow! One of the gapingest of holes in my personal library is my lack of a collection of Robert Burns poetry and song. Maybe I'll make that one of my first purchases at the new Borders when it opens...or maybe I'll just grab one at the old Borders, seeing as how I'm not picky about such stuff.)

:: Friends of Jane Yolen (another wildly prolific writer) used to speculate that Jane had a magic watch capable of stopping time, putting everyone else in suspended animation while she obtained a few extra hours for herself each day.

:: Kev tagged me with the "5 things you don't know about me" meme last week. I considered doing an "Amazing...But False!" selection (as the set of things that people don't know about me encompasses more than just true facts), but I eventually decided on a David Cronenberg body horror version. (GAHHH!)

All for now. Man, is there an embarrassment of riches out there in Blogistan. I need to travel more!

Crushing disappointment

John Kerry will not run for President in 2008.

Well, that is a load off the brain. I voted for him in 2004, of course, since there are few people I can think of who would not be a better President than George W. Bush (but hey, don't count the Republicans out; they'll probably find one of those people and nominate them in '08), but even as Kerry won the nomination and went out on the campaign trail, I continually found myself thinking, "This was the best we could come up with?!"

(And since I'm on politics for a moment, I did not watch the State of the Union, except for the very beginning when they introduced the President. I've always loved that moment with the Sergeant at Arms, and last night was particularly moving for hearing the words Madam Speaker. Maybe soon we'll be talking about Madam President! But as for Bush's speech, no go for me. I just have no stomach whatsoever for the man any longer.)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A quiz!

Progress is going nicely on the short story I'm writing for the News -- it'll be done well in time for the deadline of 11:59 pm tonight -- so I figured I had time to take a break and do a blog quiz. John usually gets these from me, but today I got this from him:

1) Do you have a crush on somebody?

No. Absolutely not. Uh-uh. Except for Sela Ward. And Jewel Staite on Firefly. And Gillian Anderson. Ummm...oh, and The Wife. Yup. (God, I hope she doesn't read this.)

2) Do you hate more than 3 people?

I don't like hate. So no. (When I say that I hate Tom Brady, that's a figure of speech. The only ill I wish on the guy is for him to go 0-16 every season for the rest of his NFL career.)

3) How many houses have you lived in?

Hmmmm. The Wife and I have only lived in apartments (four thus far). With the Parents, there were -- I think -- nine. (We moved a lot.)

4) Favorite candy bar?

The Boyer's Peanut Butter Smoothie. Great stuff. (John's answer, Baby Ruth, is another favorite. I love those.)

(There's no question 5! Anybody want to suggest a Question 5?)

6) Have you ever tripped someone?

Yeah, in grade school. Kids are jerks, and I was no exception.

7) Least favorite school subject?

In general, I couldn't work up any interest in economics.

8) How many pairs of shoes do you own?

Four: boots I wear at The Store, hiking boots for everyday stuff, two pairs of sport sandals. I need to get some sneakers, and I want some new Birkenstocks.

9)Do you own a Britney Spears CD?

GAHHH! It burns! It burns!

10) Have you ever thrown up in public?

Yes, but not due to drinking. No idea what it was, but when I was ten I threw up in the WaldenBooks at the Eastern Hills Mall. It just came out with utterly no warning, which really sucked because that store is just a couple of stores away from a Sears and its bathroom where I certainly would have gone. I've never wanted to die more than I did at that moment.

11) Name one thing that is always on your mind:

Little Quinn.

12) Favorite genre of music?

Classical. (I could also name film music and Celtic music.)

13) What's your sign?


14) What time were you born?

I used to know, but I no longer remember precisely. It was sometime between 10:00 and midnight, though.

15) Do you like beer?

Yes. Haven't had one in a long time. Now I want one.

16) Have you ever made a prank phone call?

Yes, in college. Nothing dirty; just waking people up in the middle of the night.

18) Are you sarcastic?

In person, yes. Online, probably.

19) What are your favorite colors?

Purple, red, green, and blue. (Truthfully, it's easier to note that my least favorite colors are orange and brown, and I don't even hate those.)

20) How many watches do you own?

Three, but only one is a daily-use watch. The other two need batteries.

21) Summer or winter?


22) Is anyone in love with you?

Goodness, I hope so!

23) Favorite color to wear?

See #19 above. I like to wear lots of colors. (At work it's all black, all the time, except in summer when, well, it's not.)

24) Pepsi or Sprite?

Pepsi. With rum in it.

25) What color is your cell phone?

I don't own one.

26) Where is your second home?

I have a summer penthouse atop one of the tallest buildings on Coruscant, and a winter place in The Shire.

27) Have you ever slapped someone?


28) Have you ever had a cavity?


29) How many lamps are in your bedroom?

Two: one small lamp on each bedstand.

30) How many video games do you own?

Currently, none. The Daughter has a few kid games for the computer. Were I to introduce video games to the home, well, let's just say things would get ugly, very quickly.

31) What was your first pet?

We always had multiple cats, from the day I was born. The first cat that was nominally "mine" was a longhair named Barfy. She died of feline diabetes in 1986 or 1987.

32) Ever had braces?

No. Occasionally the dentist would suggest them, but my mother always said that nobody ever died from a slight overbite.

33) Do looks matter?

Regrettably, yes. They shouldn't, but they do. Because we're stupid.

34) Do you use chapstick?

Never got the hang of them, but I got a set as part of a larger sushi set for Christmas, so I plan to practice!


Oh, chapstick! I thought it said chopsticks. Oops. Not Chapstick, but a lip balm made my Burt's Bees. Great stuff.

35) Name 3 teachers from high school:

Mrs. Fonner (tenth grade geometry; pure evil and an outstanding teacher); Mrs. Finn (the less said about her the better -- save that she was the Blofeld to my James Bond); Mr. Engel (eleventh grade American history -- good guy, interesting lecturer).

36) American Eagle or Abercrombie?

Neither. I used to like AE years ago before it went all pseudo-Gap (and stopped carrying stuff my size), and I've never once set foot in an Abercrombie.

37) Are you too forgiving?

I have no idea. I'll hold grudges for long periods of time, but then give them up with amazing ease.

38) How many children do you want?

I'm not answering this, as this is not a topic that has treated me or my family well.

39) Do you own something from Hot Topic?

I don't even know what Hot Topic is.

40) Favorite breakfast meal:

Just one? I adore waffles and pancakes, drenched with syrup, and sausage or bacon on the side. In fact, we often have that for dinner. I love egg dishes -- omelets and quiches and frittatas and all that. And I love a plain bagel with cream cheese.

No, I can't name just one. Sorry.

41) Do you own a gun?

No. Guns scare the crap out of me. I have no problem with their legal sale and ownership and all that jazz, but I have absolutely no desire to own one.

42) Ever thought you were in love?

Remember my answer from my yearly wrap-ups: I fall in love on a daily basis. Love is by far the most useful emotion we have; it's a shame people don't indulge it more.

43) When was the last time you cried?

I blubber at movies with amazing ease, so it was probably during The Sound of Music on New Year's Night.

44) What did you do 3 nights ago?

Obligatory Casablanca quote: That's so long ago I don't remember.

But seriously, I was at home with The Daughter. We made dinner, listened to Thistle and Shamrock on the radio, did bedtime, stuff like that.

45) Olive Garden?

What about it? I like it, although we haven't eaten there in a number of years.

46) Have you ever called your teacher mommy?

What? I probably did, I guess. That literally is so long ago I don't remember!

47) Have you ever been in a castle?

Casa Loma in Toronto.

48) Nicknames?

None that I know of.

49) Do you know anyone named Bertha?


50) Ever been to Kentucky?

No. (This probably explains my life's lack of Berthas.)

51) Do you own something from Banana Republic?

Nope. I'm more of a Target kind of guy now, sometimes JCPenney if I get a good deal.

52) Are you thinking about somebody right now?

I'm always thinking of somebody. Jerk owes me money, and....

53) Ever called somebody Boo?

Huh?! This is one weird quiz.

54) Do you smoke?

No. Nasty habit, completely gross, and I feel no sympathy for the aggrieved smokers in today's society, either. Sorry, any smokers in my readership I've offended, but if you want to do it in your own cars, your own homes, or outside, that's fine.

55) Do you own a diamond ring?

No. The diamond cartels can bite me.

56) Are you happy with your life right now?

I don't know. Part of it, yes, absolutely. Parts of it, though, make me want to go back to Albuquerque and take that left turn that Bugs always missed.

57) Do you dye your hair?


58) Does anyone have a crush on you?

Wow, I hope so!

59) Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts?

This is Buffalo. Tim Hortons. (Truth be told, though, I'm not a big fan of their coffee.)

60) What were you doing in May of 1994?

Starting work at Pizza Hut.

62) McDonald's or Wendy's?


63) Do you like yourself?

Yup! I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.

64) Are you closer to your mother or father?

Neither. Equally close to each, I think. They've been married 45 years.

65) Favorite physical feature of the preferred sex?

Breasts, really. And eyes. And hair. Long, luxuriant hair that I can lose myself in for days, and...oh, sorry about that. I'm back now.

66) Are you afraid of the dark?


67) Have you ever eaten paste?

Well, I probably tasted glue at some point or other. I never sat around eating the stuff, though.

68) Do you own a webcam?


69) Have you ever stripped?

Were I to do so, it would be immediately followed by a terrible rash of self-inflicted eye injuries by those unfortunate enough to behold it. So no.

70) Ever broke a bone?

Kid pushed me off my bike in seventh grade; I broke my collarbone. No idea whatever became of that kid. I heard once that he was in jail.

71) Are you religious?

I could spend days trying to answer that question, and get absolutely nowhere. I don't know if I am, or if I want to be, or if I'm trying to be, or what. I guess I'm like the poster on Agent Mulder's wall: "I want to believe." (Problem is, I don't know what.)

72) Do you chat on AIM often?

No. I used to chat with Mr. Jones a lot, when I was unemployed and thus home during the day, but not so much anymore. Don't know why.

73) Pringles or Lays?

Zapp's. (Trust me, folks. I prefer Lays to Pringles, but Zapp's makes both taste like rice cakes.)

74) Have you ever broken someone's heart?

I don't know. I only broke up with one girl in my life before I started dating The Eventual Wife, and I don't know if we were going out long enough at the time for it to be a heartbreak for her. It was the right thing to do -- I was damaged goods at the time -- but I felt horrible doing it, like I'd led her on. I suppose I had.

75) Rugrats or Doug?

Never watched either, so no answer.

76) Full House or The Brady Bunch?

Brady Bunch. I loved the sheer goofiness of it, while I loathed Full House. I hated those twins, and I've never liked Bob Saget, either. (I don't like Saget on 1 vs 100, and I'm not even wild about his voice-overs on How I Met Your Mother, a show which is otherwise highly entertaining.)

77) Do you like your high school guidance counselor?

Don't remember him all that well, but he seemed OK at the time.

78) Has anyone ever called you fat?

Now, this is funny: I got called fat all the time as a kid, until ninth grade or so when that suddenly all stopped. Then I was never called fat again until just this past year, when two people did it online, one on a blog and one in an anonymous comment here. Weird.

You know what? When I see all the beautiful women who are now married to fat guys -- myself included -- I think that my mission in life should be to go around to every fat kid on the planet and say, "Don't worry, kid. Just wait ten years, because eventually the women won't care about that."

79) Do you have a birth mark?

No. But I do have something on my back that looks like a map to the mines of King Solomon. Wonder what that's all about....

80) Do you own a car?

A 1994 Plymouth Acclaim. White. Burgundy interior. In layman's terms, a "Grannymobile".

81) Can you cook?

Heh! Oh yes, I can cook. It's the main weapon in my arsenal for the wooing of women. That, and fear. My two chief weapons are cooking and fear. And surprise. My three main weapons....(Monty Python joke there, obviously.)

84) Money or love?

Duh! With money, I'll buy love! Haaa!

OK, love.

85) Do you have any scars?

One on my chin, from when I had stitches in second grade (fell off my bike, onto my chin). It's currently not visible, due to the beard.

86) What do you want more than anything right now?

I genuinely don't know! World peace? A large pizza with Italian sausage and onions? A tricked-out laptop? A house of our own, on two acres of land? A pint of Coffee Haagen-Dasz? A set of high-quality power tools, along with a one-year course in carpentry? A coconut cream pie? Guy Gavriel Kay's new book (already available to Our Evil Canadian Cousins)? One of my stories to be published? A bigger TV? A great offseason for the Bills, leading to a Super Bowl title? Kevin McClatchy to sell the Pittsburgh Pirates to Mark Cuban?

I don't know.

87) Do you enjoy scary movies?

Depends. I hate splattery-gore type movies, but I love creepy atmosphere.

88) Relationships or one night stands?

Relationships. I never had a one-night stand even when I was single.

90) Do you enjoy greasy food?

I live in Buffalo. Take a wild guess!

91) Have you seen all the Rocky movies?

No. I never saw the fifth one, or the current one.

92) Do you own a box of crayons?

My home is ruled by a seven year old. We swim in Crayons. I brush my teeth with Crayons.

93) Who was the last person that said they loved you?

The Wife.

94) Who was the last person that made you cry?

A guy at work. (It was crying laughing.)

95) Who was the last person that made you laugh?

The Daughter, who comes up with some of the whackiest stuff.

97) Who was the last person that called you?

The Wife. She calls from work every night.

And that's the quiz -- except for the mysterious missing Questions Numbers 5, 17, 61, 82, 83, and 96! Anybody want to suggest some substitute questions for those ones?

UPDATE 1-24-07: In comments, Bella proposes a few substitute questions for the missing ones. Her questions are too good to lose in the shuffle of this quiz, so I'm going to sit on those for a while. I hope you don't mind, Bella!

Also, John says that the missing questions are his fault! Well, that seems like a prosaic answer to a potentially interesting riddle -- but anyway, I followed the backward progression of links to where he got it, Lefty Brown's Corner. Here I find the missing Questions 82 and 83, but not 5, 17, or 61! The mystery deepens: who would eviscerate a blog-quiz, and why? This is a case for Inspector Google!

Before we go searching, let's get 82 and 83 out of the way:

82) 5 things that annoy you:

People who use the completely wrong tool for a task (i.e., using Tapcon masonry screws to hang things on drywall, or who use a chisel to open a paint can); the fact that my work boots and my everyday hiking boots look alike in the dark, so every so often I wear the hiking boots to work (and they're just not suited to eight hours on my feet); "pies" made of shaving cream (right, Bella?); going to restaurants in other locales, ordering "Buffalo Wings", and getting served breaded wings with the tips still attached; the freezer in my apartment which is too small.

83) Do you text message often?

I don't own a phone, and even if I did, I can't see myself text-messaging. I can't see myself taking the time to learn the keystrokes.

OK. So now I'm googling about, looking for 5, 17, and 61. Well, here's an apparent version of the same quiz, and I see that 61 is, well, kind of a dumb question:

61) Have you ever caught a guy/girl checking out your butt?

Answer: No.

I'm not feeling good about the prospects for 5 and 17, folks.

Ahhh, here's a question 17, from here. Not too bad:

17) What is the most embarassing CD you own?

I can't say as I'm terribly embarrassed by any of my CDs. Boy George's Greatest Hits, maybe? But not even that. He may be a colossally strange guy, but I always liked his singing voice, and "Karma Khameleon" is just a fun pop song.

So what about Question 5, then? It looks like various people have changed things around as this quiz has moved through Blogistan -- here, question 78 asks if I've ever been called a "tease", not "fat". Also, going back a ways, it seems that this started in LiveJournalopia, that weird corner of Blogistan where the men all marry their cousins or something. So I suspect that the search for Question 5 may be fruitless -- it could be any such question, really.

However, this version of the quiz has a different Question 17 (and no Question 16!), which seems to follow nicely off Question 4 of the version I did ("Favorite candy bar"), so I'm just going to designate that as Question 5 for my version of the quiz and call it good:

5) Favorite non-chocolate candy?

Skittles. Those things are like crack to me.

And there we have it.

(I gotta get out more....)

They award the Pulitizers for what, again?

In the last two weeks, the Buffalo News has discontinued its biweekly series of columns about blogs and blogging, and launched a weekly series of columns about American Idol.

There's a statement here, somewhere. Dunno what it is. I'm just an American Idol-watching blogger.

Monday, January 22, 2007

No links for you!

Folks, "Sentential Links" will be delayed until either tomorrow (less likely) or Wednesday (more likely). I have got to get this story I'm writing for the Buffalo News contest done, and the submission deadline is tomorrow night! (Wow, I feel like I'm in college again -- "Hmmmm, paper's due tomorrow. Guess I oughta start researching it!")

The Ultimate Triumph of GOOD over PURE EVIL!!!

OK, time to react in sagely fashion to the AFC and NFC Championship Games:

:: I was rooting for the Saints, like everybody else, but the Bears' advance to the Super Bowl doesn't bother me one bit. Since 1985, that franchise has had intermittent flashes in which they'd get pretty good, but mostly they've been mediocre. Living in Buffalo and watching nearly every play JP Losman makes (or doesn't make) scrutinized as evidence of his growth or retardation as an NFL quarterback, I have some sympathy for the constant tone of Bears coverage: "Will Grossman kill their chances? Tune in for kickoff at 3:30 Eastern!" Fact is, this is a team built around a defense that, when clicking on all cylinders, is fast and very physical. The Saints may have been the sentimental favorite, but the Bears pretty emphatically proved that right now, they're the better team.

The Saints' year this year looked like the Buffalo Bills in 1988. That team emerged from years of being not very good to go 12-4 and got to the conference championship game before exiting with a decisive defeat; that team was also quite young and had to endure another year of growing pains (9-7 in 1989) before becoming the AFC's dominant franchise for the beginning of the 90s. The Saints have a lot of young talent; all they need is to get better on defense and they might be knocking on the door of a run of excellence.

:: To think I very nearly watched Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip last night (via CTV in Toronto) instead of the conclusion of the AFC Championship Game! Wow, that was a game. Utterly amazing.

The question before me now is: did the StuPats choke yesterday?

Now, I've never been fond of the "choke" label. Somebody has to win, and somebody has to lose, and it usually seems to me a bit over-the-top to say that one team or the other "choked". But sometimes it's a useful label. The Chargers choked last week. They put themselves in position to win that game, and then they committed a series of errors that resulted in them losing. That's choking. Did the StuPats do the same thing? Not exactly. They didn't make all manner of mental errors as did the Chargers.

"Choking", in sports, is more a matter of the after-the-fact narrative perpetuated by sportswriters and whatnot than anything else. Considering the exact sequence of events in yesterday's game, it feels odd to say that the StuPats "choked"; but if the game had unfolded in exactly the same way, but with everything reversed, so that it was the Colts who had gone up 21-3 and it was Peyton Manning who threw the interception at the end to seal the loss, you can absolutely bet that the media coverage today would feature the word "choke" all over the place, in reference to the Colts.

The StuPats are the mighty dynasty that came up just a bit short. But had the Colts done the exact same thing, they'd be the "chokers". So what does that mean? I don't know, really. What it comes down to, for me, is that in the recent years when these two teams met in the playoffs, the StuPats were simply the better team, while yesterday the Colts were. That's all.

:: Of course, having said all that, I have to note that I'm not surprised at all that Tom Brady didn't pull it out at the end. There's a vast difference between those last-minute drives he led in those Super Bowls and the task that confronted him yesterday. Coming into a drive knowing that a field goal wins it, but as long as you don't turn it over, you'll at least get another shot in overtime is different from coming into a drive knowing that you must score a touchdown or you will lose. Sure, "FG or OT" is a clutch situation. But you don't get more clutch than "TD or lose". And that's when "Captain Clutch" threw an interception.

And while I'm on the subject, I'm a little fuzzy on what we call "comeback wins" in football. We all know that John Elway was the "Comeback King", but a while back, I actually found online somewhere a list of every one of his "comeback" wins, and quite a few of them were simply games in which he came in with the score tied and drove for a winning field goal. That doesn't seem like a "comeback" to me. "Game winning drive", sure, but "comeback"? Not so much. (And this complaint of mine refers to everybody, not just Tom Brady.)

In the schaedenfreude department, I have to say that I enjoyed the stunned expression on Brady's and Bill Belichick's faces after the game -- especially when Belichick gave a two-sentence "interview" to a CBS sports reporter afterwards. They looked like the possibility that they might actually lose had never once crossed the transom of their minds. And in the "saying something nice for once" department, I will admit that Brady's absolutely one of those guys who elevates the players around him, and that Belichick gets more out of guys who would suck on any other team than anybody else. (But I still hate them so much!)

:: So it's Colts versus Bears. I'm happy that Ruben Brown, drafted by the Bills in 1995 to shore up their sagging line and let go a few years back, will finally get a chance to see what the Super Bowl is all about. But I'm really hoping that Bill Polian, who built the Bills of the 90s and was unfairly let go, finally discovers that he's built a Super Bowl Champion.

UPDATE: In comments, Sean says that Belichick's definitely a sore loser, but Brady isn't. Well, it now appears that Brady didn't shake Manning's hand after the game, and you can see right here how when Manning came up to Belichick on the field after the game, Belichick wanted nothing to do with him and only gave him the briefest of handshakes. (His body language is all "Fine, fine, you won, get the f*** out of my way.")

Not a huge deal, but I think it gives the lie to the narrative that's been woven about the Patriots for the last five years or so, the deification of Brady and Belichick. Here they came up short, and they couldn't even be gracious to the team that had beaten them. And this comes on the heels of their behavior in last year's playoffs, when they were pouting about not getting enough "respect" before getting beaten by Denver.

Were they and awfully good team for a few years? Sure. Are they still going to be near the top of the NFL? Probably for another couple of years at least. But they've been unmasked as an ordinary team now.

All tingly

Hmmmm. It's early Monday morning, I'm getting dressed for work, it's dark and cold outside, and yet...I have this warm happy glow about me. I wonder what that's all about?

Oh yeah!

I haven't seen a game end so perfectly since the Bills' comeback game against Houston in 1993. Way to go, Peyton and company!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Sunday Burst of Weirdness

A two-fer, from MeFi this morning:

:: This guy is going to swim the entire length of the Amazon River, dedicating this effort to "the preservation of the Rainforest as well as to finding the cure for Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative disorders that affect the brain of millions of people".

He's raising over $1,000,000 to do this. Of course, he could just give that million to an Alzheimer's research facility or do something similar, but where's the sport in that?

Plus, it's hard not to imagine the possibilities of what will happen: "Daredevil attempts to swim the length of the Amazon. Snuff film at eleven!"

(MeFi thread)

:: Atlas Shrugged 2: One Hour Later, since making fun of Atlas Shrugged is always good family fun. I don't recall ever seeing Bob the Angry Flower before.

(MeFi thread)

Best Pictures!

Tom the Dog has some commentary on every film to win the Best Picture Oscar, so I'll do the same, putting the ones I've seen in bold:

1928 - Wings
1928 - Sunrise

Tom writes, clarifying: According to Wikipedia: Wings won for "Best Production," Sunrise won for "Best Picture, Unique and Artistic Production." The latter Oscar was only awarded this first year, and since "Best Production" is the award that evolved into "Best Picture," most lists mention Wings as the first ever Best Picture winner, and neglect to mention Sunrise at all. I haven't seen either one of them, so this is a big waste of space right here, isn't it?

1929 - The Broadway Melody (I've seen parts of it, never the whole thing.)

1930 - All Quiet on the Western Front

1931 - Cimarron

1932 - Grand Hotel

1933 - Cavalcade

1934 - It Happened One Night

1935 - Mutiny on the Bounty

1936 - The Great Ziegfeld

1937 - The Life of Emile Zola

1938 - You Can't Take It With You

1939 - Gone With the Wind (I don't like it. I just don't. This movie commits the sin of making me cry out, "I don't care what happens to these people!" That it takes three hours of screentime and however many months/years of story time before someone finally tells Scarlett O'Hara what to go do with herself drives me crazy.)

1940 - Rebecca (I have the feeling both that I've seen this, and that I haven't. Weird.)

1941 - How Green Was My Valley

1942 - Mrs. Miniver

1943 - Casablanca (Second best movie ever. Anyone who's been reading this blog for more than a few weeks will know what my personal first best movie ever is....)

1944 - Going My Way

1945 - The Lost Weekend

1946 - The Best Years of Our Lives

1947 - Gentleman's Agreement

1948 - Hamlet

1949 - All the King's Men

1950 - All About Eve

1951 - An American in Paris (Ugh. Great Gene Kelly dancing, obviously, but no chemistry between Kelly and Leslie Caron, and frankly, Kelly aside, the wonderful Gershwin songs aren't sung particularly well.)

1952 - The Greatest Show on Earth

1953 - From Here to Eternity (This movie left me stunned the first time I watched it, senior year of high school, on a TBS "Best Picture" winners marathon. It left me so stunned that I couldn't sit and watch Casablanca, which aired right after it. So I had to wait a few more months before finally watching Casablanca for the first time.)

1954 - On the Waterfront

1955 - Marty (Never seen it. The film's almost more famous for being the answer to the fateful trivia question in the quiz-show scandal of the 50s, immortalized in Quiz Show.)

1956 - Around the World in 80 Days

1957 - The Bridge on the River Kwai (Parts, not the whole thing. I really need to watch the whole thing.)

1958 - Gigi (Awfully good, but I can't help but think it would have been better with a different female lead. I just don't care for Leslie Caron.)

1959 - Ben-Hur (Far and away my favorite Bible epic! I recently bought the 4-disc DVD of this. Vastly superior to the annually-shown Ten Commandments.)

1960 - The Apartment

1961 - West Side Story (Great movie, obviously. I love the opening aerial pan over New York City. It always feels slow in spots, though.)

1962 - Lawrence of Arabia (Oh, holy shit. I've just realized that I have still only seen half of this movie. And the first half is so good. What am I doing?)

1963 - Tom Jones

1964 - My Fair Lady (Depending on my mood, I'll either list this or Singin' in the Rain as my favorite film musical. I just adore this film. Love it.)

1965 - The Sound of Music (I love this movie too. I love how it's the only musical I can think of -- although I'm sure there are others -- that has its title number out of the way before the opening credits even roll; I love how it just plows ahead, without getting bogged down in subplots that would dominate the film were it made today. Nowadays we'd get a long psychological character study of Captain Von Trapp's state of mind as a grieving widower, or we'd delve into the vagaries of why Rolf so badly wants to be a Nazi. I could, though, do without the Mother Superior whose dubbing job has this big, almost operatic voice issuing from lips that are barely opened.)

1966 - A Man For All Seasons

1967 - In the Heat of the Night (Once, years ago. Very good.)

1968 - Oliver!

1969 - Midnight Cowboy

1970 - Patton (Once, years ago. Also very good.)

1971 - The French Connection (Yup, once, years ago. Gritty, gritty stuff. Popeye Doyle is a great character, and the car chase is riveting.)

1972 - The Godfather (Just parts. I really don't have much interest in it. Mob stories just don't, as a rule, interest me all that much.)

1973 - The Sting

1974 - The Godfather Part II

1975 - One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

1976 - Rocky (This movie would, I suspect, have a much higher standing today if it hadn't been followed by a series of ever-crappier sequels. Rocky IV was an embarrassment.)

1977 - Annie Hall (The film that beat out Star Wars. Damn you, Woody Allen!)

1978 - The Deer Hunter (OK, it's an amazing film. It also made me want to kill myself afterward, it was so depressing.)

1979 - Kramer vs. Kramer

1980 - Ordinary People (Ahhh, here's the first one that I genuinely hate. Two hours of watching people wallow in misery -- ugh. This was forced viewing for me when I was in tenth grade; we also had to read the equally miserable book. I've never forgiven that teacher for this.)

1981 - Chariots of Fire (I liked it a lot. But I haven't seen it in over twenty years.)

1982 - Gandhi (This movie affected me deeply when it came out; I watched it again a few years ago, and found it still very powerful.)

1983 - Terms of Endearment

1984 - Amadeus (Absolutely brilliant, and still fresh today, owing to its stunning production values. I reviewed it a few years ago for GMR.)

1985 - Out of Africa

1986 - Platoon (I admired this film when I watched it. It's not really a film to enjoy.)

1987 - The Last Emperor

1988 - Rain Man (Very good and entertaining, but Best Picture???)

1989 - Driving Miss Daisy (Ditto what I said for Rain Man.)

1990 - Dances With Wolves (I still think this film is brilliant, and I'm pretty much alone in not being incensed that it beat out Goodfellas.)

1991 - The Silence of the Lambs (One of my favorite films, actually. I haven't watched it in years, though, since with a young child around it's hard to get chances to watch stuff like this. Anthony Hopkins's portrayal of Lecter is the stuff of legend, though.)

1992 - Unforgiven (I think that, like Casablanca, you don't realize how good this film is until you watch it a second time. That way, having already seen Bill Munny at the end of the picture when he takes revenge for Ned's murder, you have some idea of what he's fighting against. There's a lot of great dialogue in this film as well: "It's a hell of a thing, killin' a man. Take away all he's got, and all he's ever gonna have."

1993 - Schindler's List (On my shortlist of the greatest movies I've ever seen.)

1994 - Forrest Gump (Someday I ought to do a list of movies I feel like I should hate, but don't. I like this movie a lot. It's a fable, and I like fables. Sure, it got so popular that it didn't have anywhere to go but down, but this movie's fall from grace still surprises me.)

1995 - Braveheart (The first half of this film is as good as anything I've ever seen. The second half bogs down a bit. And even as Mel Gibson's turned out to be something of a loon, I was never bothered by the scene where the King pitches the homosexual character out of the window. The King was pretty clearly portrayed as a complete evil bastard, so pitching people he doesn't like out of windows didn't seem to me an endorsement by Gibson, per se, of pitching gay people out of windows. I don't know if that makes any sense, but there it is.)

1996 - The English Patient (Next time I'll just make an offering to Our Lady of Perpetual Suffering. Talk about wallowing in woe...but maybe I'm being unfair. Maybe someday I'll rent it again; wouldn't be the first time I changed my mind about a movie.)

1997 - Titanic (Here's another film whose fall from grace baffles me. I just think it's a cracking good movie.)

1998 - Shakespeare in Love (I'm alone in not having a problem with Dances with Wolves beating out Goodfellas, and I suspect I'm also alone in not being terribly upset that this film beat out Saving Private Ryan, a movie which I've always felt was awfully overrated, consisting of an astonishing sequence followed by two hours of ever-increasing banality.)

1999 - American Beauty

2000 - Gladiator (On the basis of the roughly one-half of it that I've seen, I like Kingdom of Heaven more.)

2001 - A Beautiful Mind (Again, parts. Not enough to make a priority out of seeing the whole thing.)

2002 - Chicago (OK, I liked this film a lot, even if apparently the only way we can do musicals anymore is to directly posit the numbers as being fantasy sequences, and even if fancy camera work takes the place of actual dancing.)

2003 - The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Need I go on about this film and its two preceding installments? Sheer magnificence. I think these will still be watched a hundred years from now.)

2004 - Million Dollar Baby

2005 - Crash

So there you have it. With waiting-for-DVD being my prime means of film viewing nowadays, I'd expect that I will rarely see a Best Picture in its original theatrical run in the future. And really, I'm fine with that.

O for some dice, that I might roll for damage

Linking Shamus's DM of the Rings is getting passe at this point, since it's getting linked by lots of folks who are more able to drive traffic his way than I.* I just want to point out the meta-commentaries Shamus provides following each installment; the most recent reads thusly:

Don’t get too hung up on horses. While the rulebooks have all sorts of rules for movement speeds while on foot, encumbered, or riding, the truth is that all travel takes exactly as long as the DM wants it to. This brings to mind the wise old saying:

"A player is never late, Dave. Nor is he early. He arrives precisly when the plot dictates he should."

Or something like that.

Perhaps games like AD&D are best explained as games of solitaire, where the DM is the player and the players are his cards.

* Note that I'm saying that linking Shamus's work is passe for me. Actually reading it is not passe at all!

Pay Tree Ott Miss Teek

Scott Lemieux says this of the New England Stupid Patriots:

The Pats are become a little like the last Yankee dynasty. The Yankees won in 1998 with a historically great team, got complacent, but continued to win with teams that eked out increasingly threadbare wins against better teams, which were evidence not of catching some breaks but of their incredible Character and Knowing How To Wintiude and Jeterology. And then the breaks started going against them and the Character mysteriously vanished although the teams got better again. The analogy isn't perfect--the Pats' dynasty started with a Super Bowl win against a much better team, but became great--but because of their success their win last week is being discussed more as evidence of some incredible force of their team's karma rather than more accurately as a stone fluke.

And then he picks them to win anyway. That's some mystique those StuPats have got there!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Kevin's Kats

Kevin Drum, the fine lefty political blogger whose more famous blogging institution is his introduction of cat-blogging, recently got a new cat after his old one, Jasmine, passed away. His is a two-cat household, and anyone who's ever introduced a new cat into a household that already had a cat will recognize the way Kevin has been guaging Inkblot's (the established cat) reception to Domino (the new cat).

When we brought Lester and Julio in, it was four or five days before Comet even came out from under our bed. Now she plays with Lester, while still despising Julio. (Which is probably because Julio, being really dumb and all, keeps trying to do the dirty with her.)

Championship Weekend

For obvious reasons relating to the heartbreak that has been the recent history of New Orleans, I will be rooting for the Saints tomorrow. For equally obvious reasons relating to the nexus of complete evil that is the NFL franchise from Foxboro, I will be rooting for the Colts.

So naturally, the Super Bowl will feature the Bears and the Stupid Patriots. Because the football gods hate me.

Stossel: Idiot

Mike seems to think that this statement by John Stossel constitutes "common sense":

"Melting Arctic ice won’t raise sea levels any more than the melting ice in your drink would make your glass overflow."

This pleasant little canard has been floating around the anti-environmentalist crowd for years; I first heard it from Rush Limbaugh well over a decade ago. It was stupid from his mouth, and it's stupid from Stossel's.

First of all, note that Stossel seems to think that the only ice anyone's concerned with is the Arctic ice. He doesn't mention the Antartic ice caps, which a simple look at a damn globe will establish as being located on land. Also note that much of the ice in the Arctic region, defined as that area north of the Arctic circle, is also on land: the greater part of Greenland, giant swaths of Canadian and Alaskan and Russian real estate, and so on. And it's not just the rising sea levels that are a problem with melting ice caps; the release of enormous amounts of fresh water into the North Atlantic could well disrupt the Gulf Stream.

Upon actually clicking through to Stossel's article, I find a typical hodgepodge in which Stossel has clearly cherry-picked whatever contrarian scientists he can find in hopes of bolstering his anti-warming stance, glomming onto anything that sounds good ("Greenland's ice sheet is thickening!" is a common one, although it's far from clear as to what this means and its implications for overall global warming), and displaying a surprising lack of knowledge about what he's talking about ("Kyoto would only affect temperatures by a tenth of a degree!", Stossel breathlessly writes, apparently not realizing that when talking about global temperatures, variations as small as tenths of degrees actually are significant; it's not like one's living room going from 72 degree to 72.1 degrees).

Of course, what's really bugging Stossel isn't warming at all; it's all part of his libertarian ethos, as encapsulated in his last sentence: "And the politicians would have one less excuse to take control of our lives." There's what it all boils down to. Stossel doesn't have a genuine clue about whether global warming or climate change constitute serious science or not; his problem is that if global warming is happening (and yes, the majority of climate scientists say that it is), then he also knows that it's simply not a problem that the function of The Free Market will solve on its own. Let's not be coy about this, OK? There is nothing in human history that suggests that in the absence of environmental regulation, the market response to pollution won't be, as it has time and time again in the past, "Go ahead and piss in the pool; someone else will clean it up later."

As always, when faced with a genuine example of a problem that free markets are exceedingly and undeniably unlikely to solve, the libertarian gambit is to simply argue that the problem doesn't exist.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Fun with numbers!

I just followed a link to this anti-global warming "argument" by some guy named James Lewis:

So in the best case, the smartest climatologist in the world will know 100 variables, each one to an accuracy of 99 percent. Want to know what the probability of our spiffiest math model would be, if that perfect world existed? Have you ever multiplied (99/100) by itself 100 times? According to the Google calculator, it equals a little more than 36.6 percent.

That sounds convincing...except, well, it's not:

Actually, James, I have multiplied (99/100) by itself 100 times and, oddly enough, it's 36.6% on any calculator, not just Google's. Well, OK, but what if the accuracy was known to, say, 99.3% instead of 99%? Then you get 49.5%. Bump that up to 99.7% and you get 74%! Wow! Numbers are like magic! See how easy it is to just plug in arbitrary numbers into an arbitrary equation and come out with an answer that satisfies your argument?

It's always interesting to see someone use a short column to throw around a bunch of numbers, usually in the form of "Multiply this times that, and then multiply that times this, and watch the numbers shrink! Ergo, [scientific theory here] is false!" You see this kind of thing a lot in Creationist/Intelligent Design literature.

So anyway, who is "James Lewis"? According to the blurb at the end of the article, he's an "academic scientist", and apparently "James Lewis" is a pseudonym. But there's a link to a personal blog of his, Dangerous Times, a sparsely-posted blog whose links all lead right back to American Thinker. What kind of "academic scientist" is "James Lewis", then? That's slightly important, since as PZ Myers pointed out the other day, the kind of scientist you are has some bearing on this stuff. You wouldn't go to a computer science Ph.D. for a precis of the most recent developments in particle physics, after all. This is why places like the Discovery Institute are always listing their rosters of "scientist" supporters but rarely actually indicating their areas of expertise.

And besides, I'm not terribly sure I'd overly rely on a guy willing to go on record as saying of George W. Bush:

By the measure of moral clarity and courage, George W. Bush is right up there with the best in American history.

Yup, there's a voice worth taking seriously on history and global warming.

Sentential Links #84: The Special Edition!

OK, folks, here are the Sentential Links that have been nominated by various readers of this blog. Enjoy. Most of these I've never seen before!

:: And I think "that's great you're a dumbass and a mother."

The breeze blew in from the ocean, the flags around the courtyard flowed and dipped, and a silver wind gauge spun...counter-clockwise.

:: And last, I must say that the Salvation Army bell ringer is not a real human being in anyone's mind. There's the pot and the sound of the bell and you, standing there like a cartoon character. The feeling of being a part of the scenery was so profound that when my shift was over and I walked into the Wal-Mart to buy a coke, it felt strange being allowed to walk among the people.

:: You're not allowed to kill civilians.

:: (A follow-up to the preceding one)

:: That sentence, deliberately, lacks specificity. The "you" is universal -- it refers to everyone. No one is allowed to kill civilians.

:: This sad, angry woman has somehow been convinced that it is impossible to believe in God without also believing in an illiterately literal reading of Genesis 1:16. She's painted herself into a corner in which she must reject not only evolution, but the existence of the dark side of the moon. She is forced to regard Neil Armstrong as the pawn of Satan.

:: "No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die."

:: That brings me down to earth, to every kindness, to every privilege I have ever known my whole life long. I light the candles, first one, than the other, hoping that the man will find the love he needs. That his friend will see his path unfolding before him, and that I will have the eyes to see it for myself, the next time sadness finds me, the next time I fear all hope is lost.

:: A dingy pink dump of a bar. SNOW WHITE polishes glassware behind the bar counter. CINDERELLA enters on crutches and sits down at the bar. A WOMAN WITH A CREWCUT, wearing an ugly burlap shirt and pants, sits at the other end of the bar, swigging a beer. SLEEPING BEAUTY is slumped over the bar. Asleep.

:: Today is my father’s birthday. He was born in 1926 and died in August of 1986, just shy of 60.

:: My wife can now claim to have fulfilled her lifelong fantasy of being manhandled on her bed by a large, strapping man in uniform.

Unfortunately, it was not her husband, there were actually six of them, and not a one had taken the time to wipe the snow off their boots on the way in.

:: Do you remember the other day, the day when I dropped you off at the SeaTac airport?

:: This is one of the weirdest damn songs ever to chart.

Thanks to Aaron, Mary, Scotty, Tal, and Roger for their submissions.

It better have Hugh Laurie in it!

Here's an interesting item that came into my inbox this morning, via the GMR staff mailing list: it seems that a filmed version of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series is in the offing. But not for the cinema. They'll be doing it on HBO, a la things like Deadwood, with one season per book.

Here's the test of the press release:

HBO turns 'Fire' into fantasy series
Cabler acquires rights to Martin's 'Ice'

HBO has acquired the rights to turn George R.R. Martin's bestselling fantasy series "A Song of Fire & Ice" into a dramatic series to be written and exec produced by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.

"Fire" is the first TV project for Benioff ("Troy") and Weiss ("Halo") and will shoot in Europe or New Zealand. Benioff and Weiss will write every episode of each season together save one, which the author (a former TV writer) will script.

The series will begin with the 1996 first book, "A Game of Thrones," and the intention is for each novel (they average 1,000 pages each) to fuel a season's worth of episodes. Martin has nearly finished the fifth installment, but won't complete the seven-book cycle until 2011.

The author will co-exec produce the series along with Management 360's Guymon Casady and Created By's Vince Gerardis.

Martin's series has drawn comparisons to J.R.R. Tolkien, because both are period epics set in imagined lands. But Martin has eschewed Tolkien's good-vs.-evil theme in favor of flawed characters from seven noble families.

The book has a decidedly adult bent, with sex and violence comparable to series like "Rome" and "Deadwood."

"They tried for 50 years to make 'Lord of the Rings' as one movie before Peter Jackson found success making three," Martin said. "My books are bigger and more complicated, and would require 18 movies. Otherwise, you'd have to choose one or two characters."

Aside from writing the most recent draft of "Halo," Weiss recently adapted the William Gibson novel "Pattern Recognition" for WB and director Peter Weir.

Benioff and Weiss were repped by CAA and Management 360.

Aside from Martin's claim that he'll be done with the series by 2011 (surely one of the larger "Yeah, right"-types of claims in recent years!), this is a pretty ambitious project. I'm not sure how many episodes constitutes a "season", but even distilling A Storm of Swords down to twenty-two or so hour-long episodes is going to involve quite a bit of condensing.

And I'm sure the inevitable "They'd better get _____ to play Jon Stark!" debates will get heated, as well as the response to whatever actual casting decisions are eventually made. And they'd better get a good composer, too.

Hmmmm...who should they get to play Hodor?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


At the end of yesterday's grab-bag post about Buffalo, I noted that I had no idea what kind of story I was going to do for the current Buffalo News short story contest.

Well, I figured it out about an hour ago.

I'm back, bitches.

(UPDATE: Well, apparently the link to the News's contest is now broken, since the original dated story has fallen into the archive for which you have to pay for access. This, despite the fact that the contest entry deadline isn't until next Tuesday.

If there's a more embarrassing website for a major newspaper in this country, I'd like to know about it. The Buffalo News website is total, complete crap. It's totally useless as a resource. It's 20067, and these guys are still working the Web as if it's still 1998.)

Her future in metaphor is secure....

Last night, whilst watching one of the very bad singers on the first episode of American Idol 6.0, The Daughter uncorked this bit of metaphoric wisdom:

"She sounds like a violin being played by a rock."

Suddenly I fear that she will end up being the famous writer in the family.