Thursday, May 30, 2002

The personals

Thursday Threesome:
Onesome. Healthy. Tell us about one thing you did for yourself that's healthy - and not just physical, mental and emotional health matter, too!
It's a short list. The vacation I'm taking from work right now qualifies, I guess. But probably the single most significant thing was when I gave up caffeine fifteen years ago.

Twosome. Wealthy. What in life makes you feel wealthy in your heart?
My family.

Threesome. Wise. Share your favorite proverb or motto... or just make one up yourself.
"The truth will make you free." (Jn 8:32) I am not a devout person, but this is true in so many contexts that it transcends its source.

Wednesday, May 29, 2002

Not your father's Batgirl
Yes, I was late to the Buffy party, but I made it. For the last couple of years it's been the only series I watch. (Yes, that means I don't watch whatsisname.)

But I may have to add a second hour to my weekly television quota this fall. Everything I've heard about Birds of Prey has been encouraging. Often, when adapting comic book characters to movies or television, Hollywood treats its source material with thinly-disguised contempt, borrowing little more than a name or two. The sheer depth of background that is reportedly making its way into "Birds of Prey" is staggering. From the May 25 Comics Continuum:

Both the Huntress and Black Canary will be metahumans in The WB's Birds of Prey television series.
Ashley Scott plays Helena Kyle, the Huntress, who is the daughter of Batman and Catwoman. She is extremely athletic and can adjust her vision. Sent by the courts to deal with anger management, Helena is counciled by Dr. Harleen Quenzel, aka Harley Quinn.
Rachel Skarsten plays Dinah Lance, the Black Canary, whose powers are psychic. As a child she "sees" Barbara Gordon being shot by the Joker and seven years later travels to New Gotham to see "a couple of people I knew, or knew about, anyway."
Dina Meyer plays Barbara Gordon, aka Oracle, the former Batgirl left in a wheelchair by the Joker's shooting. She runs the Birds of Prey from a clocktower, with high-tech computer gadgetry.

And more, from May 27:

Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, is killed early in the episode, with her daughter Helena watching over her. Helena becomes the Huntress and discovers that Batman is her father.
Batman himself actually appears, very briefly, as he tackles the Joker in what appears to be their final confrontation. Batman does not talk and is seen from behind from Batgirl's point of view.
Later, the Joker shoots Barbara Gordon in her apartment, causing the injury that paralyzes her and restricts her to a wheelchair. The Joker is voiced by Mark Hamill.
Alfred is seen helping Barbara in the Clocktower. He mentions he is taking care of Wayne Manor.
Sherilyn Fenn plays Dr. Harleen Quinzel, aka Harley Quinn. She is a psychiatrist counseling Helena but she has more ominous agendas.

And here is a grainy screen capture of Dina Meyer, in costume as Batgirl, in flashback. (She's no Yvonne Craig, but who is?)

There's still plenty of opportunity to get it wrong -- but by looking for ways to include the characters' existing history rather than starting over with similarly-named ciphers, and for casting Mark Hamill and Sherilyn Fenn, they've earned a trial viewing or two.

(As long as I'm being a comic book geek, here's a screenshot of Kirsten Dunst from Spider-Man that I haven't seen available anywhere else -- and the accompanying story.)
I'm OK...
It's just a weird week. I'd arranged months ago to take a week's vacation this week to attend the National Audio Theater Festivals' Audio Theater Workshop in West Plains, MO. However, having too much overall fatigue and not enough ready cash, I decided at the last minute not to go.

Instead, I'm spending time with my children, something my work schedule doesn't normally allow me to do. Monday was Episode Two day (capsule review: Well, it's better than One); Tuesday we went to the Carter Library to see the traveling Declaration of Independence, and spent the evening watching Harry Potter on DVD (I'd never seen it); Today we went bowling.

So blogging time is down, but quality family time is up. Thanks for asking, Kevin.

Saturday, May 25, 2002

The lighter side of snappy answers
Those of you who, like me, have wasted large portions of your lives reading Mad magazine may remember Dave Berg ("The Lighter Side of..."). Mr Berg died May 16. I'm linking to the obituary at Mark Evanier's POV Online because, well, there aren't too many sites that took notice of the event. One blog that did is Hooray for Captain Spaulding, who has included just the kind of comment that Mad magazine itself would have made.

LATER: CNN covered it.

Thursday, May 23, 2002

Letterman, 5-17-02

"Star Wars Episode Two: Attack of The Clones opened this week. If you're keeping score, this is the fifth episode in the trilogy � if that makes any sense."
The personals

Thursday Threesome:
Onesome. Readin. Tell me about your favorite book you read as a kid.
Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Little underscores the wonder of reading like encountering the original novel for the first time after a lifetime of Johnny Weissmuller. And when you've finished this book, there are twenty-three more Tarzan books to discover.

Twosome. 'Ritin. Everyone does a Senior Research paper. What was YOUR Senior Research Paper about?
I graduated from high school in 1971. I don't remember. Could've been Politics in Doonesbury.

Threesome. 'Rithmatic. Using those 'rithmatic skills to balance the, what store seems to have the most entries in your register, and what the heck have you been buying there?
I rarely write checks, but never mind that. It's a bookstore, often Borders. Lately I've been reading two different collected comic book series, The Essential Spider-Man and Video Girl Ai. I actually have most of the original Spider-Man comics, but the Essential collections are inexpensive reprints I don't have to worry about spilling stuff on -- and it's far easier to manage a single big paperback collection than twenty individual issues. "Video Girl Ai" is Japanese, an outrageous romantic soap opera similar in appeal to "Ranma 1/2" and "Maison Ikkoku."

The Friday Five:
1. What's the last vivid dream that you remember having?
I very rarely remember my dreams. On the infrequent occasions that I do dream, I can remember that I did, but I can't remember what it was about. I recall enough of them to know that I don't dream dialogue: I dream relationships, feelings, movement. I don't think they are silent, but they are usually wordless.

2. Do you have any recurring dreams?
No. I'd like to. I've had dreams that I woke up in the middle of, wanting to know how they ended, but I can never seem to pick up where I left off.

3. What's the scariest nightmare you've ever had?
I don't know. I don't remember them. I wake up with a start, heart pumping and short of breath, and I have no idea why. By the time I'm awake enough to realize I'm awake, I've forgotten what I was dreaming about. Fortunately this is extremely rare.

4. Have you ever written your dreams down or considered it? Why or why not?
I typically can't recall them more than thirty seconds after I wake up. That's not long enough to find a pencil and paper, turn on a light, and write anything coherent.

I once inhaled a pretty full dose of ether, with the determination to put on record, at the earliest moment of regaining consciousness, the thought I should find uppermost in my mind. The mighty music of the triumphal march into nothingness reverberated through my brain, and filled me with a sense of infinite possibilities, which made me an archangel for a moment. The veil of eternity was lifted. The one great truth which underlies all human experience and is the key to all the mysteries that philosophy has sought in vain to solve, flashed upon me in a sudden revelation. Henceforth all was clear: a few words had lifted my intelligence to the level of the knowledge of a cherubim. As my natural condition returned, I remembered my resolution; and, staggering to my desk, I wrote, in ill-shaped, straggling characters, the all-embracing truth still glimmering in my consciousness. The words were these (children may smile; the wise ponder): "A strong smell of turpentine prevails throughout"

(Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes after ether experiments while a student at Harvard Medical School 1870).

(Widely quoted: I found it here. I suspect any notes I might take in an attempt to capture fleeting fancies would be no more sensical than Dr Holmes' turpentine.)

5. Have you ever had a lucid dream? What did you do in it?
I can't recall having any other kind of dream. However caught up I am in events, I always know when I'm dreaming.
Piercings + Magnets = ...
No, this story isn't as gruesome as you're thinking. Well, maybe it is, but not for the reason you're thinking.

In a craze that spread through the northern city of Sheffield, children held the magnets onto their faces and genitals by placing another magnet inside their mouths, noses or on the other side of their organs, so as to look as if they had body piercings, the report said.

Industrial magnets?

The magnets attracted each other with such force that they cut off the blood supply to the regions concerned and allowed the flesh to decay.

Yeesh. This has been a great day for imagery.

In one case sections of a nine year-old girl's gut were clamped together by a pair of magnets she had swallowed, causing...

No, really, that's enough.

The report ...was published in the May edition of the Emergency Medical Journal...

No, thank you.
Hoss Borg

If �Bonanza� had put Hoss in Spandex and slapped cybernetic implants on his jowls, �Bonanza� would have been canceled after one season.

*Shudder* Thanks for that mental picture, Lileks.
Surrendered your rights today?
This is cool. This is why. (This is where I heard it.)
I fixed the cow
I finally went back to the source and got another copy of my cow image, recolored it purple (the original is in shades of brown; if you have MS Office you've probably seen it), and resized it correctly, so it now looks sharp, not distorted, mushy and pixellated. I even crawled forward into the nineties and saved it with a transparent background. While I was at it, I created two variant cows with slightly different color schemes, so if I should go back to a dark background for the sidebar (I'm considering it), one or the other will still be visible against it.

Yeah, I know, big whoop. Some people spend less time on a site redesign than I spent on that cow.

I'm just waiting for someone to say, "Don't have a cow, man," so I can reply, "Too late, already got one."


Does this mean I come with course credit?

Yes, I do check my page referrals. I find the most fascinating things that way. Jason Hsu has, among his many pages, one called The Truths of Education that mentions me in the context of Shauna Gale. You may remember my response to the Yale graduate who wrote a long letter to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution complaining that her degree wasn't helping her get a job. Jason points you at several other responses, then says:
Most of the people who responded had valid points but should have directed their anger towards the sales propaganda of the Educational Establishment.
I agree wholeheartedly. Ms Gale was badly misled by Yale's recruiters and her faculty advisors, who are in part responsible for her current predicament. Her high school (and earlier) advisors share some of the blame, as well, for not teaching her how to "shop" for a college. She wasn't stupid: It simply never occurred to her that Yale's interests weren't necessarily in her best interests. Schools do not (intentionally) teach students to be skeptical of the educational system itself. Ms Gale could have brought some healthy skepticism to the table herself: That she did not is probably her biggest mistake.

At the time, I said:
It is in Yale's -- any college's -- financial interest to keep you in school and continue paying tuition. Whether you're qualified for a job when you leave doesn't affect them at all. Perhaps you've seen those late-night commercials for training institutes promising you a lucrative future in dental hygiene. Compare and contrast with Yale's recruitment brochures.
Anyway, this The Truths of Education page (I'm flattered to be included) is a collection of articles and reports describing the many ways in which schools fail (some the school's fault, some the kids'), comprising a decent "buyer beware" for the college-bound student. Would that there were many more pages like it.

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

No Buffy spoilers
So many people I know tape this show and watch it delayed, that even though the season finale has aired, I still dare not discuss it.

But as bad as "Doublemeat Palace" was, that's how good this one is. All is forgiven. I can't remember the last time I cried at the end of a TV show. My eyes got hot when Xander started talking about a broken crayon. That's all you're getting from me.

LATER: Here's another fine spoiler, Stephanie Zacharek's review for Salon. When Buffy's bad, it's very very silly, but when it's good...

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Basketball players don't have leather balls
Just when I think that PETA has finally embarrassed itself into irrelevancy (note to PETA: the unexpected public nudity thing works for me, please keep it up), the NCAA treats 'em as if they had sense. They've now agreed to switch to synthetic materials for their tournament basketballs.

Next up: Major League Baseball goes Nerf!

LATER: Actually, I had no idea that any basketballs were still made of leather.
I'm back
Blogspot apparently hiccupped, or something. Thanks for coming back. (If you, too, have a Blogspot site that's gone missing, the answer is to republish. The lovely Sekimori explains.)

Monday, May 20, 2002

Good luck, Cyprus
I'm having trouble thinking of a polite verb for what the EU is doing to Cyprus right now.

Palestinian Exiles to Fly Out Soon
...The 13th Palestinian will remain in Cyprus until an EU nation agrees to accept him, said EU Mideast envoy Miguel Moratinos and Palestinian Ambassador to Cyprus Samir Abu Ghazala. The two spoke in Larnaca, Cyprus, after meeting with the exiles.

Don't hold your breath, Cyprus.

Does it have to be an EU nation? I hear Israel will take him back...

"Now everything is OK and hopefully there will be no problems," [Josep Pique, Spain's foreign minister,] said, adding that the Palestinians' legal status in the EU "is very well defined." He did not elaborate.

Of course it's well defined. They're free citizens. They've gamed international law, with the willing complicity of the EU.
A magic marker?
Yes, it turns out that all you need to defeat Sony's Key2Audio copy protection (as deployed on the new Celine Dion copy-protected CD -- er, I mean, music disc) is a magic marker. Wired reports:

After an initial attempt to play the disc on a PC resulted in failure, the edge of the shiny side of the disc was blackened out with a felt tip marker. The second attempt with the marked-up CD played and copied to the hard drive without a hitch.

At least, on Windows-based PCs. No word on whether this works on a Mac, yet.

Look, I'm no pirate. I produce intellectual content myself, I've been pirated, and I didn't care for it. But all copying is not piracy. I ask myself which world I'd rather live in: A world where multi-national corporations sell products that cannot be used, or a world where children are taught that stealing is wrong. I'll go with option B.

(Heard it from InstaPundit.)

Sunday, May 19, 2002

Food coloring
Green ketchup, pink margarine, blue french fries, now this. I'm not sure I'm ready for purple carrots.

Did you know, by the way, that you can get M&Ms custom-packed in any of 21 different colors? (At $3.99 per 8 oz bag, it's not something you'll want to do often, but it's an intriguing option for a special event.) Sorta takes the edge off the "Vote for a new color", doesn't it?
Speaking of television...
I sure wish TV Guide would. Seems like every other issue has a movie-promotional cover and feature story. Spider-Man? Episode II? What are these things doing in TV Guide? They aren't on TV!

This seems like as clear a statement as one could wish for that, with a half-dozen broadcast channels (or more) in the largest markets, dozens of channels on basic cable, and hundreds of channels available on satellite, there's still nothing much on television.

Of course, there is plenty worthwhile on television. With so many channels, one needs a dedicated magazine to sort through it all. When there was just CBS, NBC, and ABC, TV Guide was that magazine. Now, when it's needed more than ever, it wants to be Entertainment Weekly instead.

LATER: Well, assuming television is "needed" at all.
Where's Waldo?
In the industry that is television, the missing person -- we know he's there, somewhere, probably right out in plain sight -- is the viewer. Rick Kishman of the SacBee said it, although the article resides at KnoxNews:

Sunday night is a barrage of counter-scheduling with every network trying to hurt every other network because that's what networks do these days. And back in their offices, the programmers giggle like grade schoolers, the way NBC folks did after scheduling a Playboy Playmates "Fear Factor" during halftime of the Super Bowl. But the people who really get hurt are the viewers (and not just because some were unfortunate enough to actually watch that "Fear Factor").

For myself, it's not a problem. The marketers and schedulers have missed me: Since I only watch that one show each week, I never feel conflicted. But I realize that for millions of Americans who (falsely) believe that their opinions matter to television executives, tonight is going to be painful. Survivor or X-Files? Cosby or the Practice? Any one of them would dominate the evening's ratings, if it weren't being broadcast opposite the other three.

Whose interests are being served by this? Certainly not the viewers'. Sorry, Waldo. Buy another TiVo.

Saturday, May 18, 2002

Journalists on Themselves

"So one side might say (adopts gruff, Colonel Blowhard voice), 'drilling here won't hurt the wildlife.' The other side, however, might point out (adopts calm voice of reason), 'we aren't so sure their science is accurate.' My job is to represent these sides fairly and accurately."

I see. But sometimes one side might say (adopts shrill, treehugger voice), "drilling anywhere is futile, there's less than ten years' reserve left anyway," and the other might point out (adopts calm voice of reason), 'we aren't so sure their science is accurate.' Is it your job to represent those sides fairly and accurately?

"Believe it or not," she revealed, sounding for all the world like an anthropologist lecturing on a primitive tribe, "some people actually want arsenic in their drinking water."

"Madam, if I were your husband, I would drink it." Fortunately, Tony Woodlief puts her in her place. Put yourself at his place, Sand in the Gears, and read the rest.
'99 Report Warned Of Suicide Hijacking
Really? That's shocking, shocking. We should launch an investigation, immediately.

Say, who was President in 1999?

LATER: InstaPundit pointed out that the earlier version of CBS' page, in their haste to blame Bush for the 9/11 attack, mentioned "a top-secret briefing memo presented to President Bush in 1998". Everybody say it with me now: W was Governor of Texas in 1998. That other guy was President.

A comment to PejmanPundit pointed me at Baxterant, who actually mirrored CBS' original page, if you'd like to see what it looked like.

I'm not sure CBS' revision is an improvement, since it still doesn't suggest that the presidency has changed hands since the memo was filed -- and, thus, if there is blame to be assigned, it is at least shared.

LATER STILL: The good news is, somebody said it. The astonishing news is, someone on the other side of the Atlantic reported it. From Gerald Warner of Scotland on Sunday:

"The president of the United States can�t be expected to be an intelligence analyst and a case officer," said Senator Bob Graham, the Democrat from Florida who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee. That is code for "Jeez! I saw that report too and nixed it."

All right! Now we're getting somewhere!
This one time, at band camp...
What is it with California educators?

Teacher accused of throwing booze and porn party for students
MODESTO, Calif. (AP) --
A high school band teacher accused of giving students booze and showing them pornographic videos has been suspended from work and is facing misdemeanor charges.
Deidra Brauns, 29, was cited Tuesday with misdemeanor charges of providing alcohol to a minor and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Police are seeking felony charges against Brauns for taking two boys and a girl to watch X-rated videos in a hotel room. She is also accused of showing porn movies to students at her home and letting them drink beer, said police department spokeswoman Gina McWilliam.

It's okay, though, they were all wearing underwear.

Maybe it's not just educators who are, how shall I say it, obsessed:

Urban Legend Is Disrobed, But Not Before Another Advice Columnist Bites
Relax, parents. Nude slumber parties full of 15-year-old girls are not "all the rage these days," as seen in the Ann Landers column of May 16.
Nor were they when the letter first appeared in print in 1995.
Landers is the latest of several prominent advisers to receive -- and answer -- the letter from a "Baffled Mom in Burlingame," troubled that her daughter wanted to attend one of the parties.
...A nearly identical letter, signed "P.M., Burlingame, Calif.," appeared in the Ebony Advisor column of Ebony magazine in September 1995. (``Oh, I don't think we'd want to make any comment on that," a spokeswoman for Ebony said with a laugh.)

Are you sure that's a hoax letter?

Mom arrested after sexually oriented party
HERNANDO -- A 27-year-old Hernando mother is facing criminal charges after authorities said she hosted a sexually oriented birthday party for her daughter and six other young girls from a local dance school.
Melissa Balkcom was arrested Friday evening on two charges of lewd and lascivious exhibition after she was accused of performing nude jumping jacks in front of the girls and daring a 13-year-old to demonstrate oral sex on a soda bottle, said Citrus County Sheriff's Detective Portia Guinn.
...Guinn said Balkcom admitted to initiating the questionable party game.

I live such a quiet, sheltered life.

(See also Confidence Man)

LATER: Leno, 5-22: "A 27-year-old mother is in trouble in Florida for doing jumping jacks naked during her 13-year-old daughter's birthday party. Not only are the parents upset � but also the people at Chuck E. Cheese's."
Say anything: You might get lucky
I lost my head when I reacted to the antics of Representative McKinney (D-Ga). James Bowman kept his, and wrote this:

Can anyone say anything? Not if there is honor at the stake.
There is, alas, nothing very remarkable about the fact that Representative Cynthia McKinney (D.-Ga.) should have given public voice to her suspicions.... It was rather more remarkable that such paranoid lunacy was reported in the Washington Post.
...Most remarkable of all, however, is the fact there now appears to be so little disposition among our political and journalistic �lites to regard such a charge, acknowledged by Rep. McKinney herself to be merely conjectural, as being in any way extraordinary.

There's more: It's well worth your time. (Saw it at the Right Track.)

Friday, May 17, 2002

Seeking an intellectual level
ABC is firing Bill Maher in order to hire Jimmy Kimmel. You know, that almost doesn't need a punchline. Kimmel is perhaps the only person they could have found who is a worse companion for Ted Koppel than Bill Maher.
Broken clocks and typing monkeys
Cynthia McKinney is still an idiot. Just in case you had any doubts. (South DeKalb County, you have an alternative.)

The only thing more embarrassing than watching the Washington press corps wet themselves over this story is watching McKinney claim vindication. I see two unpalatable possibilities: Either Washington reporters have no idea how government works, or they are pretending not to in order to manipulate public opinion. ("I'm shocked, shocked to discover that the President keeps secrets!")

I don't doubt that there were some documents suggesting Al Queda might hijack a few airplanes. Given how many Government documents there are, it's inevitable that some of them might actually contain some facts. But, without the benefit of hindsight, how do you know which are which? To suggest (as McKinney did) that the President had sure, specific knowledge of 9/11 plans and let it happen anyway is treasonous.

The appointment of Tom Ridge to the Office of Homeland Security was a response to the truth that Washington reporters are only now stumbling upon: The problem isn't that there isn't any information, it's that there's too much. Someone has to coordinate this mass of data, someone has to know what the FBI, CIA, and INS know.

But in a field where inept reporting is the order of the day, the New York Post must claim a special prize. The O'Leary Prize for Yelling Fire in a Crowded Theater, perhaps. From the Washington Post:

Fleischer yesterday called New York Post Editor Col Allen to complain about the tabloid's headline: "9/11 bombshell: BUSH KNEW." Smaller type below says: "Prez was warned of possible hijackings before terror attacks." Fleischer called the headline "irresponsible" and "a poster child for bad journalism."

Allen defended his front page, saying: "I reject the notion that the headline suggests that Bush knew about 9/11. . . . '9/11 bombshell' was there to tell people this was a story about terror."

Mr Allen: What kind of idiot do you take me for? It was there to imply that Bush knew the specifics of the 9/11 attack and let it happen anyway -- yet phrased just vaguely enough that you could wriggle away if it turned out to be untrue, as it appears to be.

Thursday, May 16, 2002

The personals

Thursday Threesome:
Onesome. Livin. Livin La Vida Loca. Oh, for goodness sake. What pop song do you love to sing along with but don't want to admit it? What is "pop"? Oh, all right. "It Might Be You", by Stephen Bishop.

Twosome. a Charmed. Charmed, did you say? Come now, are you superstitions? Do you buy into lucky charms and signs and such? No, I'm not and I don't. I do believe that the benefit such things convey can be very real. However, it originates in the additional confidence we feel as we go about our business. There's nothing mystical or supernatural about it, only the fact that we understand our minds so little that we can psych ourselves up -- or out -- if we want to.

Threesome. Life. Let's play the game of Life. Or is it Monopoly? What is your all time favorite board game? Come on, tell us what you like about it... Gosh, it's been years since I've played a board game at all. At the moment it's backgammon. Does that count?

The Friday Five:
1. What shampoo do you use? Suave plain ol' shampoo.

2. Do you use conditioner? What kind? No.

3. When was the last time you got your hair cut? About three months ago. I'm overdue.

4. What styling products do you use? Do you get many men playing this game? None.

5. What's your worst hair-related experience? Looking at old photographs of myself. It's the first thing I notice. My hair has always sucked.
Just added a few links to the list, moved one, and created a new category. I'm trying to ensure that they remain blogs that I myself actually read regularly (if not necessarily daily): My primary criteria remains "if you like mine, you'll probably like these": The categories actually do mean something, though exactly what varies from day to day.

Anyway, take a peek at No Watermelons Allowed; Raising Hell; Leaning to the Right; American Digest; Flyover Country Today; and Bag and Baggage.

LATER: ...and James Randi.

LATER YET: ...and the Illuminated Donkey, and Hooray for Captain Spaulding. Too many blogs, not enough bandwidth...

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

Sorry, I've been sick
You know, the kind of springtime cold that slaps you down and says "Stay down if you know what's good for you." On Sunday I was scratchy and groggy. By Monday my voice was an octave low and, after awakening just long enough to call in sick, I fell asleep again and slumbered restlessly until well after sunset.

I'm beginning to feel a little more like a human being now. But now I have a print-medium deadline staring me in the face, so this may be a short week here at today's purple pill.

I'd rag on Jimmy Carter in Cuba, but I don't know what I could say that hasn't been said. Hey, I've got an idea. Let's *all* go to Cuba. All 300 million of us, shoulder to shoulder. Call it the 21st century version of frat boys in a phone booth, or clowns in a VW.

If I were Uncle Fidel, I'd watch out. We've seen this behavior before. Jimmy's running for President. Of Cuba.

Maybe I got out of bed too soon.

Sunday, May 12, 2002

Batten down the hatches! Blogalanche warning!
InstaPundit has just been mentioned prominently in an excellent article by Steven Levy for Newsweek, now appearing at MSNBC. "Weblogs are so easy to use that even a journalist can run a site." Hee hee.

If past experience with the "overflow effect" is any indication, those of us to whom Glenn links can expect additional traffic as well. Welcome!
Ah, here it comes

Experts says 'Spider-Man' inappropriate for young children
To the dismay of child-psychology experts, parents in droves took young children to see "Spider-Man" over the weekend, even though the PG-13 movie contains intense fight scenes, explosions, a house fire and a scary-looking villain named Green Goblin.
...Experts said that in this post-Sept. 11 era, allowing children under 13 to watch a live-action movie about villains on the loose in New York City is not advisable.

Isn't that what PG-13 means?

Where were you when X-Men opened? Oh, yeah...

To be sure, plenty of violent PG-13 movies have been marketed to young children, from "Jurassic Park" to "X-Men." But experts said "Spider-Man" is different because the main character is a well-known superhero and therefore is more appealing to young children.

Look, just because you never heard of "X-Men" before they made a movie out of it...

The comic book industry is becoming aware that they don't publish much specifically for very young children. We can debate whether this is a self-fulfilling decision, but the age of the average comic book reader has been rising ever since "Smilin'" Stan Lee first wrote "Spider-Man" in the early sixties. Marvel Comics (publisher of "Spider-Man" and "X-Men"), in particular, deliberately targeted older children and college-age readers while Superman was still dealing with a child-pleasing array of rainbow kryptonite and a Legion of Super-Pets. Yes, you read that correctly.

Spider-Man, on the big screen, is what he has always been. He's not a babysitter. He's nobody's "super-friend".

Which is to say, I suppose, that the headline is right: "Spider-Man" is inappropriate for young children. My son is about to turn eleven, and he admitted that parts of it are "scary" (true enough).

"How could I tell him no? Spider-Man has been on billboards for months," said Patricia Gillen of Quincy, Mass., who took her 4-year-old son to see the film Saturday. "Daniel has seen the show on TV, and my boyfriend has the computer game. Daniel's been talking about this movie nonstop for two days."

(Your "boyfriend"? No, I'm not going to go there. I'm drawing no conclusions about where daddy is. It doesn't matter.)

Why do you suppose they rated it PG-13 ("Parents strongly cautioned: Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13")? What good is a rating system if you don't pay attention to it? You're the mommy: You can say "no" and make it stick. When did it become "appropriate" to let a child see anything he wants to?

PG-13 places larger responsibilities on parents for their children's moviegoing. The voluntary rating system is not a surrogate parent, nor should it be. It cannot, and should not, insert itself in family decisions that only parents can, and should, make. Its purpose is to give prescreening advance informational warnings, so that parents can form their own judgments. PG-13 is designed to make these parental decisions easier for films between PG and R.

(From the MPAA guidelines.)

LATER: Anybody who has seen "Spider-Man" could have told you not to bring a four-year-old. And, if reports are accurate, a few people have seen it.
One man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist
So, the Europeans who brokered the deportation deal for those 13 Palestinian terrorists recently removed from the Church of the Nativity are now having second thoughts.

Let me see if I follow this. The deal's "lack of detailed instructions on the treatment of the Palestinians" is code for "we didn't want to tell the Israelis we were just going to turn them loose." Now that Shimon Peres understands this, he is insisting that they be locked up or sent back to Israel for trial.

But if Peres extradites the Palestinians back from their homes-in-exile, their new host countries run the risk of becoming targets of Hamas vengeance. But if they accept the deportees as "guests and free citizens", they represent a threat to public safety. So now, the various countries who said they would accept the deportees are now changing their minds, leaving the 13 to suffer the deprivations of being guests at a "three-star hotel on the Larnaca seafront" in Cyprus.

"It is a very tricky and sensitive situation," said a senior official at the European Commission. "In principle, if these men do not face charges outside the Middle East they should be free from all constraints. But the politics of the situation will make this very difficult to accept in practice."

Some of the volunteer host governments have even figured out -- too late -- that some of these terrorists are, well, terrorists.

"If even half of what I read is true, we would be taking in some very dangerous people indeed," [Gianfranco Fini, the Italian deputy prime minister] said.

No kidding? What was your first clue? (The Telegraph story eventually explains who these men actually are.)

This is what happens when you get into the appeasement business. Everybody expects you to appease them, since you've demonstrated you have no principles you're prepared to stand on. (Perhaps you've heard the joke about an honest politician being "one who stays bought.") Even now, the EU shows no concern for crimes committed in Israel: It's just pesky Peres creating a "political complication."

So. Lock 'em up and risk reprisals from Hamas. Turn 'em loose and risk extradition to Israel -- and then reprisals from Hamas -- plus whatever damage the "deportees" might do in the meantime.

I'm getting the idea that when the EU brokered this deal, they never really expected that these men would leave the Church of the Nativity alive. The thugs would have been dead, and Israel would have taken the heat for it -- all around, a win-win for the EU. But now the EU is in trouble: They actually got the deal they offered to take. And all the fum-fuhing and yes-buting in the world isn't going to save them.

Sometimes you just have to stand up and say plainly whose side you're on. For the EU, this is one of those times. The world is waiting.

(See also Steven Den Beste.)
LATER: Little Green Footballs has more details about the durance vile in which the noble freedom fighters now find themselves. Not for the squeamish.

Saturday, May 11, 2002

Not only will it not work...
I've mentioned reports of computers failing to read or play so-called "copy-protected CDs". I say "so-called" because they don't conform to the "Red Book" standard... well, here's Apple's knowledge base:

Some audio discs use a copy protection technology that can prevent the disc from being read by a computer. This may also prevent the disc from being ejected. The audio discs are technically and legally not Compact Discs (CD format), and the CD logo has been removed from the disc.

...CD audio discs that incorporate copyright protection technologies do not adhere to published Compact Disc standards. Apple designs its CD drives to support media that conforms to such standards. Apple computers are not designed to support copyright protected media that do not conform to such standards. Therefore, any attempt to use non standard discs with Apple CD drives will be considered a misapplication of the product. Under the terms of Apple's One-Year Limited Warranty, AppleCare Protection Plan, or other AppleCare agreement any misapplication of the product is excluded from Apple's repair coverage. Because the Apple product is functioning correctly according to its design specifications, any fee assessed by an Apple Authorized Service Provider or Apple for repair service will not be Apple's responsibility.

(Emphasis mine.) I didn't mean to bury you in little blue text: I just wanted to be sure I gave you enough context to make clear that this isn't some odd reading of phrases that weren't meant to be taken together.

The record companies found a way to crash the system and invalidate the warranty at the same time. And this was meant to encourage me to buy CDs rather than download MP3s?

In other contexts, content producers have made it clear that they do not feel any obligation to disclose that a given product is copy-protected. From c-net:

Universal was the first major label to openly distribute a copy-protected CD in the United States, with the release of a soundtrack to the "Fast and the Furious" film in December. Companies that produce copy-protection technology say other albums have been quietly released into the market, but verified sightings have been rare.

(Emphasis mine.) What can we do? Well, support Philips:

Gerry Wirtz, general manager of the Philips copyright office that administers the CD logo, told Reuters that not only would Philips yank the logo from copy-protected discs, it would force the major labels to add warning stickers for consumers. Most controversially, he claimed future models of Philips players would both read and burn the copy-protected discs.

(Emphasis mine.) Does Philips make CD-ROM drives? Why, yes, they do. Are they included in Mr Wirtz' policy? Who knows?

(See also Boing Boing.)
You'll never know the answer if you don't ask

Robber wants shorter jail term due to dollar exchange rate
A Canadian bank robber in a US prison wants his sentence reduced because his country's dollar is worth less than the US currency.
�Moisescu wrote to the judge: "Taking into account my Canadian criminal record - at current exchange rates - is only worth 62% of an American criminal, I thought I had a good chance at a reduced sentence."

No, you have the exchange rate backwards. You're a Canadian trying to steal American money. Instead of reducing your sentence from seven years to four, we should be extending it to 11.3.

Friday, May 10, 2002

Landmarks in Technological History
May 3, 2002: The First Segway Accident.

Say, I thought it was supposed to be impossible to fall off those things... (Thanks, Phil.)

LATER: See also Blogatelle.
Lost? Make your own sign
Why, how... libertarian.

LATER: The LA Times has pictures.
Art is art
The Last Page draws our attention to this man, an "artist" whose medium of expression is his own flesh and blood. Now eviscerating for your viewing pleasure.

Hey, I've got an idea. Let's kill him and bury him. What an artistic statement that would be.

(I hope it's obvious that I'm kidding, but in a world where loons draw smiley-faces across the midwestern U.S. with pipe bombs, and other loons fly airplanes full of people into occupied buildings, one can't be too sure.)
"I would not sell a man a hamburger if I thought my buns were stale."
Look, I know everybody in the bloggin' world has already seen this account of the unprecedented closing of the Langtrees brothel in Perth, Australia. The Americans on their way home from the Middle East apparently... well, there's no good way to say it, is there? They wore out their welcome.

It's gotten a lot of press. A few people have even seen the follow-up, a warning to the brothels of Tasmania that the USS Stennis is on the way.

In Australia, it's pretty funny. (Heck, I think it's pretty funny.) But the families of the sailors on another American ship involved, the USS Bridge, were less amused when they saw the story (courtesy of the AP) in their hometown paper, the Bremerton (WA) Sun. In their apology, the Sun doesn't even try to explain what they were thinking, which is probably for the best.
The personals

Thursday Threesome:
Onesome. Hold Me. What's your first remembrance of holding an infant (or if you aren't into kids - a baby animal) ? Feel free to talk about other stand-out holding memories.... The first infant I have any memories of holding was my own first-born. I don't have enough bandwidth to tell you what was going through my mind at the time.

Twosome. Thrill Me. Up for a thrilling ride? Tell us, do you seek the thrill rides at the amusement park or is the carousel more your speed? Carousels are highly underrated.

Threesome. Kiss Me. Come on - kiss and tell - at least, tell us about your first *real* kiss. I had the good fortune to attend a small two-year college in a wooded area of north-central Georgia. It made it possible to take a stroll in the woods between classes. On one such stroll, a young lady (whose name I wouldn't think of using) taught me what a kiss really is. "Kisses sweeter than wine..." In deepest gratitude, I've tried to pass that lesson along ever since.

Wouldn't you know, the next girl I tried it with married me.

The Friday Five:
(NOTE: The Friday Five is still down. More old questions I never answered.)

1. Laying on your back and facing the ceiling, which side of the bed do you sleep on? Right.

2. Do you have to have covers (blankets and/or sheets) at all costs, no matter the weather? No. I'm usually coverless. My wife, on the other hand, is happy to have the extra covers I'm not using. It's kind of a Jack Sprat situation.

3. Sleep nekkid or no? Why? Used to, but haven't since we had kids. What do you mean, "Why?" You're supposed to sleep in loose, unrestrictive covering. What's less restrictive than nothing?

4. What's under your bed? Drawers.

5. If you have pets, do you let them sleep with you? Why or why not? We don't have pets. When we did, they did not sleep with us. Wife has asthma and animal-hair allergies.

Thursday, May 09, 2002

Ain't technology wonderful

Hidden cameras to monitor aircraft passengers
One plan Airbus is considering, says the firm's cabin security expert Rolf G�decke, involves hiding a tiny camera inside the light fittings above each passenger seat, surrounded by a ring of infrared LEDs. The cameras will normally work with ambient light, but switch to infrared when the cabin is dark.
...A less ambitious system, which Airbus is now fitting to all its new planes, will monitor the area behind the cockpit door.
..."Two cameras leave a blind spot," says Stein. "If carefully sited, three give a hijacker no hiding place."

"Hiding place." Right.

This is clever as all get-out, and given the ridiculously small expense of security cameras these days it's certainly a good idea to let the pilots monitor access to the flight deck. But remind me: How many planes have been hijacked by someone who left his seat unnoticed, hid near the flight deck door unobserved, and leapt through the door unexpectedly as a pilot opened it to get a sandwich? Were any of the planes taken that way on 9/11? Has there been any threat of such since?

Also: From a security standpoint, how would you justify not putting one in the bathroom?

Wednesday, May 08, 2002

Putting the P in NPR
Speaking of InstaPundit, his readers seem to be intent on demonstrating to him that National Public Radio is not, in fact, listener-supported. (This in reponse to a series of posts about their "unacknowledged but obvious" leftward skew.)

From NPR's page:

NPR's annual revenues come primarily from member station dues and programming fees, contributions from private foundations, and corporate underwriting. A long-standing board policy prohibits NPR from soliciting listeners directly: on-air fund raising, direct mail, and telephone solicitations remain a prerogative of member stations.

This doesn't easily reconcile with the hissy-fit you and your supporters threw when you were in danger of losing that teensy, microscopic, unimportant government grant money, at the hands of that Demon in Human Form, Newt Gingrich -- but, OK, if you say so.

But if one-third of your income comes from member station dues and programming fees (and, according to your pie chart, it does), and member stations get their money directly from listeners (as we listeners know darned well they do) and from local and state government grants (which also comes from us in the form of taxes), then NPR's money comes from...?

"Oh, we have no idea where the money comes from, we certainly don't solicit it. See, we prohibit ourselves from soliciting it, it's right there in our non-binding press releases. Guido, take this gentleman out back and explain to him where our money comes from, will you?"
Georgia concedes defeat
Several months ago I told you about the new Georgia state flag, and that the NAVA (North American Vexillological Association) had voted it the worst flag on the continent. At the time, I said "Let's go for the world title!"

I hadn't counted on the ingenuity of Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, who created this monstrosity (Caution: Do not look directly at the monitor) as a new logo for the European Union. "We did not commission a design for a new flag and there is no intention of replacing the current one," said a spokesperson, perhaps the wisest thing the EU has ever said. Flying this thing in direct sunlight might be construed as an act of war.

(Here's the current EU flag.)

(Thanks to InstaPundit for the initial report.)
See who in the funny papers?
Maybe I'm coming at this from the wrong perspective.

Newspapers have been losing readers to television for years, and struggling to compensate for it. The logical response, and one that many papers have been exploring, is to identify what newspapers can do that television news cannot -- then do it more and better.

Depth. Television barely has time to do more than strike the news a glancing blow: Newspapers, done right, can take possession of a story and explain it in depth and context. In addition, television is compelled by its nature to homogenize its news, so that every story appeals to everybody. If the viewer is bored, he might change channels, and This Can't Be Allowed. Newspapers have no such pressure: No one imagines that every reader will read every story from beginning to end, nor should they. But if they want basic information, it's there: if they want more, see page 17a.

Local interest. Again, in a medium where every story must appeal to every viewer, you dare not invest too much of your time in a story only the northeast suburbs will care about: Everything is, or must appear to be, world-shattering. Newspapers can and do have regional news, sometimes regional editions, to better serve a fragmented demographic.

But there is one thing, a simple feature that newspapers have contained for over a century, a feature that readers have proven repeatedly is a subscription maker -- or breaker. A feature that becomes a tradition, a welcome part of the reader's day in a way that nothing on television can do.

I refer, of course, to the comics.

Yes, this is another one of those gripes about how small the comics are these days. The editors say they can't afford the space to print them larger: I say they can't afford not to.

Some of the artists and writers of these beloved features get it. Frank Cho took Liberty Meadows to comic book format rather than continue sparring with Creators Syndicate over size and content. Bill Holbrook's Kevin and Kell is an unexpected epic of a strip, an all-at-once funny-animal / soap-opera / adventure / social commentary readable only on the web (and in a handful of "dead tree" collections).

Some creators don't get it, as this story from Fox News proves.

Some pop culture experts and cartoonists warn that the comic strip is a dying art form because the antiquated ones � like Blondie, Beetle Bailey, Peanuts, Dick Tracy and Hagar the Horrible � are given most of the space on newspaper pages.

I can't believe they're seriously suggesting that comics that people read should be cancelled anyway because they're old. (Dick Tracy and Hagar no longer run in the Atlanta daily. A lot of people I know aren't even aware that the Phantom, Prince Valiant, and Tarzan are still in production.)

..."There's a finite amount of space to run comic strips � less now than 50 years ago," [editor-in-chief at King Features Jay] Kennedy said. "There are fewer two-paper cities and a lot of papers have shrunk their page size."
...Experts cite the increased cost of paper, the downsizing of newspapers and the economic recession as factors that led to the funnies cutbacks.

The comic strip is a dying art form not because popular long-running strips are allowed to continue running, but because they're cramming three pages worth of comics onto a single page at postage-stamp size and near-fax-quality resolution.

I realize that young comic strip creators have to suck up to the editors, since that's who's buying the product (or not). The syndicates could be representing the artists' interests to the papers, but do not. The syndicates (who have no financial incentive to change) are allowing the editors to define the problem, to the artists' detriment. The future of the medium has become a battle between old strips and new ones for the scraps of column inches the editors deem to be "the most we can afford". But that's not what it's about, and we readers know it.

It is counterproductive -- and appalling -- to turn the creators against one another, as if it is Mort (Beetle Bailey) Walker's fault that Zits isn't seen in 500 newspapers daily. (FoxNews mentions "some pop culture experts", but all the quotes come from Coury Turczyn, editor of PopCult. I'm unable to find any such remarks at the magazine's website. Perhaps I'm not hip enough. I'm cynical enough to think this may be an intentional ploy to drive up page views there, since PopCult has no "search" button.)

Subtlety of expression is still possible in a daily comic strip, as a glance at "For Better Or For Worse", "9 Chickweed Lane", "Stone Soup" and "Rose is Rose" will show, if you can find a newspaper in which they are printed large enough to tell.

But if editorial and feature content is only there to fill the space between the advertisements, then it doesn't matter.

If newspapers finally do die as a medium, it will not be because television, radio, or the internet have taken the lead in delivering spot news. It will be because they've deliberately abandoned the niche in the household that only they can fill.

Monday, May 06, 2002

blogger : journalist :: parasite : host
Not precisely true, or so Dr. Weevil says at some length.

What exactly is a 'fact', and where do newspapers get theirs? ...What exactly is it that newspapers can do that bloggers can't?

Here's one big thing that newspapers could do but don't: Compare multiple versions of the same story from different sources. Point out the differences. Find patterns.

Blogging was inevitable once the technology to do so became inexpensive enough.
The real world discovers blogopolis -- again
I won't presume to say John Leo is 100% correct, but after Beam and Dvorak it's a breath of fresh air.
"Onion or not?" Story of the Week
A staff writer asked the the zoo for an animal's medical records after the death of a beloved giraffe. The zoo said no. Why?

...The Smithsonian Institution's National Zoo has taken the position that viewing animal medical records would violate the animal's right to privacy and be an intrusion into the zookeeper-animal relationship.
..."One reason [for denying the records request] is privacy," [Zoo director Lucy] Spelman wrote. "Certainly, the privacy rules that apply to human medical records, and the physician-patient relationship, do not apply in precisely the same way to animal medicine at a public institution like the National Zoo. But we believe they do in principle."

Now: Did I find this story in (a) the Onion or (b) the Washington Post? Click the link for the surprising answer, as the story takes an unexpected turn.

(Let's hear some more about this special zookeeper-animal relationship they don't want to intrude into.)
How it's done
For many years now, the local free weekly, Creative Loafing, has run The Blotter, a list of items and activities taken from "actual police reports". I've never understood the point.

Here, from the Arcata (CA) Eye, is how it's done.

Saturday, May 04, 2002

Peace-loving people
How much more clearly can they say it?

(Regurgablog asked them about it, just to be sure. Saw it at the new Inappropriate Response.)

LATER: Manufacturing Dissent found a site that explains why Democracy and Islam cannot co-exist.
Are students people?
I know they aren't adults, and they don't have all of the responsibilities and rights of adults. I understand that. But how can we expect them to respect the rights of others if they have none themselves?

Several months ago, I objected to the principal who wanted to institute strip searches. I objected to the principal who ripped the rivets out of a girl's corduroy pants because they were "too jeans-like". I objected to the principal who wanted to require all of his students to learn the school song.

And I'm objecting now to the assistant principal who took it upon herself to do an underwear check at the Rancho Bernardo High "Morp" dance -- without announcing the policy, without separating girls from boys, without regard to any semblance of privacy. Last year, apparently, a girl flashed the crowd, and administrators were eager to prevent a repeat. So they inspected underwear on the way in, just to be sure everyone was wearing some. (Just in case that link fails, there are plenty more. This story leapt over blogopolis and made the "real" media in record time.)

In what way was this better than the behavior it was intended to prohibit?

"What was she thinking?", Den Beste asks, and I think I can answer that:

Students are not people. They are a mob, a herd, and inspecting their underwear on the way into a dance is just one of those things you have to do. You can't count on their parents to make sure they left the house with underwear on, and you can't count on the kids to keep it on after they've left the house. ...Besides, what are they gonna do, take their business elsewhere? Go to another school? We're stuck with them, and they're stuck with us. We've got to maintain order however we can.

The minute a student violates school policy, yank 'em out of the dance and send 'em home. If you don't think you can do that, don't have dances. A panty patrol at the front door is so far beyond "inappropriate" that we shouldn't even be discussing this.

LATER: I see Michelle Malkin is in the "the schools have to do it because the parents won't" camp.

LATER STILL: She says her "career is over", but she's still on paid leave.

Wilson said that her actions that night had been mischaracterized in the press and wanted the parents who were calling for her to be fired to know that she was a "good person" who was trying to protect their children.

I wonder if Cardinal Edward Egan and Cardinal Bernard Law say the same thing.
Just because a thing can be done
does not mean it should be done

When I wrote "Now it all makes sense", I thought I was just being snarky. It appears I'm coming late to a revolution, and they really mean it.

SonicBlue ordered to track ReplayTV users' viewing choices
A federal magistrate in Los Angeles has ordered SonicBlue to spy on thousands of digital video recorder users -- monitoring every show they record, every commercial they skip and every program they send electronically to a friend.
...The plaintiffs asked SonicBlue to turn over information on how individuals use the recording devices. SonicBlue said it does not track that information. The magistrate, who is supervising discovery, ordered the company to write software in the next 60 days that would record every "click'' from every customer's remote control.
..."We've been ordered to invade the privacy of our customers,'' said Ken Potashner, SonicBlue's chairman and chief executive. "This is something that we find personally very troubling.''

[Emphasis above is mine.] "Troubling" does not begin to say it.

Four separate lawsuits focus on a pair of features on the ReplayTV 4000: an "AutoSkip'' function that allows the device to bypass commercials while recording a program and a high-speed Internet port that allows users to download programs from the Internet or send them to other ReplayTV 4000 users.

[Again, emphasis mine.] Actually, according to Den Beste, it records the whole program and removes commercials on playback, not while recording, and since he has one, I tend to believe him. But it's the removal of commercials, no matter how it happens, that has got the networks in such a panic, and they're trying to make it not merely illegal, but impossible, to do it. "In other words," he continues, "they're trying to ban scissors because they might be used to clip articles out of magazines."

Unfortunately for us "consumers", Den Beste's analogy fails at a crucial point: Broadcast media have never been governed by the same rules. They don't even have the fundamental first amendment protection that newspapers so proudly wrap themselves in. Broadcasters, for example, have to satisfy the FCC periodically that they are "acting in the public interest" or lose their license. Print media face no comparable threat.

We lost the VCR copy-protection battle. We lost the DVD copy-protection battle. We lost the DVD region-scheme battle. We're about to lose our right to hit fast-forward during the commercials.

Where is it, where is it... Ah, one of Den Beste's readers found the quote.

There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or a corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute nor common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back, for their private benefit.

It's from Robert A Heinlein's first published story, "Life-Line".

(See also Den Beste, Boing Boing, PhotoDude, and I'm sure dozens of other pages.)

Friday, May 03, 2002

It's always the people you never suspect

Charlotte Church Wins 'Rear of the Year' Award
Teen-age singing sensation Charlotte Church has performed for princes, presidents and popes. On Wednesday, she won Britain's Rear of the Year award.
..."I think it is quite sad that image is so absolutely fundamental," she told Reuters as she strode into a sun-kissed London park, admitting she felt faintly foolish wearing her "Rear of the Year" winner's sash for the obligatory photo-shoot.

But she showed up anyway.

She's a lovely girl, there's no denying that, but hang on, she's only sixteen! Who votes for this thing? I mean, I heard some grousing during the Olympics about men ogling gold medalist Sarah Hughes in those provocative figure skating costumes. She's sixteen, too.

When did I become such an old fogy? Next thing you know I'll be carrying on about that little tart Britney or something.
Flight deck security
In the nation's attention this week is the issue of whether airline pilots should "carry". Now, the very mention of "guns" in the media draws an instinctive negative reaction, usually including the pejorative description "wild west". Clearly most reporters and editors believe there is no good reason for any private citizen to own or carry a gun. (Most reporters and editors should get out more.)

So, given their utter aversion to real firearms, United Airlines is training their pilots to use stun guns. The National Institute of Justice seems to think they would be effective. Congress is debating the issue.

Other lawmakers, however, said arming pilots would detract from their main job.
"Their primary duty is to see that the plane is flown and landed safely," said Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, Democrat of Texas.

You're telling me hijacking isn't a safety concern? Even stagecoaches had someone "riding shotgun."

To their credit, CNN has answered the question with an enlightening on-air report. (Which is to say, I can't find a link to it from their website.) They set up several rounds of tests, where volunteer "attackers" would be subjected to various kinds of stun-gun defenses. "Attackers" moved toward "victims" at a leisurely lumbering pace with arms outstretched -- apparently they think the typical attacker is the Frankenstein monster -- and "victims" fired their "non-violent" personal defense devices (which they already had in their hands, so they wouldn't have to fumble around for them).

They demonstrated, on camera, what policemen already know: Stun-guns sting like hell, but won't stop a determined attacker.

Personally, I want hijackers to wonder whether the pilot has a gun. At present, they can be fairly confident he doesn't.

(See also Susanna Cornett and Steven Den Beste.)
The personals

Thursday Threesome:
Onesome. Lions! Can a lion tame its mane? What about you? Tell us your worst hair memory... I'm male. Hair doesn't matter to me as much as it does to you. (I perceive the originator, and most of the contributors, to the Thursday Threesome are women.) I've been watching my forehead trying to join my crown for quite some time now: Any day now it'll make it. I kinda wish it would stay with me, but photos of me ever since high school show me that I'm probably better off without it.

Twosome. Tigers! Can a tiger change its stripes? Can people really change? Sure they can. Everyone I know has changed, except me. Perhaps I have changed too, but I don't perceive it.

Threesome. Bears! Who's a grumpy bear? 'Fess up - what makes you grumpy? Hunger.

The Friday Five:
(NOTE: The real Friday Five is taking the week off. I'm taking her suggestion and going back to get older questions I never answered.)

1. What is the weirdest thing you've ever eaten? Well, let's see. The first time I ate a crab that I'd caught myself was weird. But I guess the weirdest thing would be shark. (I figure I should at least sample anything that would eat me if the situation were reversed.) Shark is pretty good, actually.

2. Name one (material) thing you can't live without. Hm. Considering I lost everything in the housefire two years ago, that's a pretty short list.

3. Name something you've always wanted to do but didn't have time for. Travel. Where does that road go?

4. What outrageous thing do you wish you had the nerve to do? You think I'm gonna tell you? (This radio theater I'm in makes me do things I don't have the nerve to do. You think it's easy to stand up in front of a couple of thousand people and act a scene with Anthony Daniels? With no rehearsal? You try it.)

5. How do you plan to spend your weekend? Working, as usual.

Thursday, May 02, 2002

War was inevitable
Thanks, Jerry, for pointing out Steven den Beste's excellent essay:

The great strength of Western (especially American) culture is that it is particularly good at adopting the best it sees from competing systems and improving itself in that way. Because of that it has gotten progressively stronger and more widespread.

The great weakness of extremist Arab Muslim culture is that it does not do so. It is the nature of its meme that it rejects any change. But because of that, it is becoming progressively less competitive. It's now backed into a corner: it can fight or die.

There is, of course, a third alternative: They could grow and adapt. They could take their rightful place as a valued contributor to world culture. (I am reminded of what could have been every time I see the word "algebra".) Nothing would please me more than to see them choose this option.

But they must choose it. And I don't think there's much chance of it.
Now it all makes sense
Several of my fellow bloggers have mentioned this article from CableWorld, but in my opinion it can't get enough exposure. This is Jamie Kellner, CEO of Turner Broadcasting, talking about using "personal video recorders" (TiVo) specifically to avoid commercials:

It's theft. Your contract with the network when you get the show is you're going to watch the spots. Otherwise you couldn't get the show on an ad-supported basis. Any time you skip a commercial or watch the button you're actually stealing the programming.

Normal people do not call it "ad-supported": We call it free.

I realize that in a medium where all but the most remote areas have a hundred channels to choose from, you must feel rather possessive of your viewers. I also realize that, from your point of view, programming is just the stuff you run between commercials to bring people into the tent. I also realize that this interview was not intended for the general public, but for the industry insiders who read CableWorld. That Darn Internet.

However, we don't tune in for the commercials, Jamie. And my decision to tune to a Turner network (which I will think twice about, now) does not constitute a "contract" by any definition. Get over yourself.

LATER: See also Den Beste.
A fine line between dedication and obsession
I don't blame Last Page for cutting back on activity -- CPS is not fun (how well I know) and life often beckons. Nobody expects you to take a laptop to the wedding...

Hey, wait a minute. You know, you *could* install ViaVoice on the laptop and mutter snarky comments into it during the ceremony...

Naah, that would be going too far. Wait until the reception. That's when people are bound to say something really embarrassing. Hey, it's not like it's your wedding.

You know, if you could run voice recognition on a Palm, and upgrade to Blogger Pro so you can e-mail to your blog, you could literally blog all the time... Look out, InstantMan, I sing the Blogger Bionic!

Maybe I need a nap.