Friday, June 28, 2002

Sponsors?
I was as amused as anyone that Louis Rukeyser, having been fired from "Wall $treet Week" (a program he created), has now taken his act to CNBC and is kicking PBS' butt. But something about the MSNBC.com story caught my attention:

Mr. Rukeyser has also hit back at PBS where it hurts most: in the pocketbook. Three out of four of Mr. Rukeyser�s old sponsors have followed him to CNBC, draining away millions in underwriter dollars from PBS.

Sponsors? On PBS? That's a word they're so careful not to use.

It does weaken the argument put forth by KERA President and CEO Gary L. Ferrell, that

PBS is not about aggregating eyeballs or customers to sell them a product.
Its purpose is to serve the American public.
This, above all else, fundamentally differentiates PBS from others in the business, whether it's NBC or The Discovery Channel.

In light of this, why are 147 PBS stations also running the new CNBC program, �Louis Rukeyser�s Wall Street�? (CNBC allows this, so long as they run it at least a day later than CNBC does.)

PBS is rapidly losing its reason for existence. Even the Star-Telegraph story above, which attempts to assert that PBS is still relevant, is unable to refute the suggestion that PBS' original mission has been taken over by the cable television industry. The Big Three networks have watched their viewership dwindle, and they're fighting to survive in any form. PBS, on the other hand, seems to be taking the "divine right" argument, making few compromises and no concessions to the changing face of television.

LATER: At the risk of repeating myself (or someone else):

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".
Am I back?
Sorry to be gone for so long. Nothing specific kept me away, I just needed the sleep. And it certainly looks like I've missed a lot.

The pledge of allegiance: I mean, really, if San Francisco didn't exist, we'd have to invent it.

Worldcom: Look, if Enron jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?

Palestine: Sorry, no jokes. If anything, the President has understated the situation: There's no negotiating with this.

LATER: Sorry, "this" is gone. I suspect it has collapsed under the weight of the traffic it received from WSJ OpinionJournal and half the blogging world. Even Google doesn't have a cache. But I knew I could count on Little Green Footballs to archive a photo. The original page featured a graduation ceremony at a nursery school for Palestinian children. Middle East Realities has another photo from the same collection. Look closely: The little girl's "victim" is lying on the stage in front of her.
The personals
Okay, I found another one, the Monday Mission:

1. Do you wear glasses/contact lenses? If so would you consider going through Lasik surgery? (Or if you already have, please tell us about it)
I do wear glasses. I have never considered contact lenses: I'm far too lazy to perform the necessary maintenance. And I am far too cowardly to look into a laser.

2. Did you ever have to wear braces? How are your teeth? (any cavities, any pulled teeth, root canals, etc.)
Never had to wear braces. I've had numerous cavities, my wisdom teeth were pulled a couple of years ago, I've had three or four root canals... There, are you happy now?

3. What (if any) recent movies have moved you emotionally? Which one and how so?
Much to my surprise, I found myself stunned into speechlessness by Steven Spielberg's "A.I.", which I just saw on DVD.

4. Would you rather live the remainder of your golden years in a rest home, or pass away before it came to that?
Rest home beats final rest.

5. What natural creation or phenomenon just flat-out leaves you with a sense of wonder?
Rainbows. What a gloriously useless artifact of light.

6. Have you ever been in a fist fight or a situation where you had to get physically violent with someone else? How did that come about? Any consequences?
Not since elementary school.

7. Are there any recent happenings that you wish you would have handled differently? What happened and what do you wish you'd done?
Mmmmmm... No.

BONUS: How far away can you go, and still be dancing with me?
How close can you be, and still be a world away?

Thursday Threesome:
Sheryl who?

Onesome. Soak--Like a sponge, what class in school did you seem to absorb the easiest?
Well, my last school experience having been during the Ford administration, I'll have to think about that... Math seemed pretty easy, up to the level of calculus: That's where my mind shut down. English was never much of a challenge, either (although I never could keep straight the names of verb tenses).

Twosome. Up--What things always bring you up when you are down?
It's gonna sound corny, but it's my kids. I love spending time with them.

Threesome. The Sun--Enjoy the sun? What's your favorite outdoor activity?
I'm not a big outdoor person, but I love to nap in the shade. Not that I get a chance to do that very often. If I had a fenced back yard, I'd have a hammock in it.

The Friday Five:
When was the last time you...

1. ...sent a handwritten letter?
Not since college, when my now-wife and I wrote to each other frequently. We still have those letters.

2. ...baked something from scratch or made something by hand?
I assume you don't mean things like assembling a bookshelf kit or making pancakes from a mix. Hm. I built a "crash box" (sound effect box for safely breaking glass) a couple of years ago. I miscalculated, and I have to cut glass to fit it. I need to rebuild it around a standard size glass pane.

3. ...camped in a tent?
1986, the Kingdom of Meridies 10th Anniversary event. I'm never a happy camper.

4. ...volunteered your time to church, school, or community?
All of my radio theater activity is volunteer.

5. ...helped a stranger?
I need to run into a better quality of stranger. Every time I attempt it, it turns out to be a scam. I'm sorry for the people who actually need help who won't be offered any due to rampant distrust.

Sunday, June 23, 2002

And there was much rejoicing
M&M has announced their new color. Modesty forbids me from disclosing it here. (Warning: This site talks.)
The district that ate Georgia
Apparently our state legislature is not proud of the new Congressional districting map they've just inflicted on us: It passed in September, but it's taken me this long to find it on the web. Thank the House Republican Caucus for the map: Thank the Democrats for the district lines.

This is obscene. (Here's a closeup of the Atlanta metro area, with highways and county lines for reference.) The rest of the map is borderline acceptable (barely), but the 11th and the 13th should never have gotten out of committee. As Stuart Rothenberg put it, "Even if Georgia's new lines pass constitutional muster, they don't pass the laugh test."

Counties still matter. Geographical continuity still matters.

If demographic representation is really so important that a travesty like this is justified, try this: Elect all Congressional representatives at-large. Everybody runs statewide, and the top thirteen vote-getters get in. Pick the constituency you want, and campaign there: If enough of 'em vote for you, you're in!

I'm sure you can pick a few problems with that plan: I can, myself. But it's better than the current map.

Saturday, June 22, 2002

McKinney (D - Riyadh)?
Through diligent research and tireless effort, Melanie Eversley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has uncovered a story that we bloggers have known about for weeks: A lot of Cynthia McKinney's campaign contributions are coming from the Muslim community.

I shouldn't denigrate the work: Ms Eversley has done some math that I didn't do, and identified some names I didn't recognize. The end result is an appropriate payback to the woman who suggested that Bush allowed the 9-11 attack to happen so that his family and friends would profit from it financially. (The same woman, you may recall, hit up Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia for that $10 million check that Mayor Giuliani turned down.)

It all looks very straightforward, perfectly legal. Certainly our Muslim citizens have every right to have their voices heard. But one third of McKinney's individual contributions are coming from the Muslim community, a much larger percentage than other congresspeople who have larger Muslim constituencies.

In an ideal world, Ms Eversley should have cited her sources for the financial information (almost certainly OpenSecrets.org, or the same sources they draw from). She did, to my glee, include a quote that represents McKinney's typical response to criticism of any kind:

As African-Americans, we understand what it's like to have our values, institutions and leadership berated or delegitimized.

It's all about being black, isn't it, Cynthia?

(Oh, wait, there's a primary this summer, isn't there?)

LATER: Why, yes there is. Dick Williams at the Atlanta Business Chronicle has a score card.

Friday, June 21, 2002

The personals

Thursday Threesome:
Onesome. Do a Little Dance...Everyone loves to watch a good dancer, so tell us your all time favorite movie dance scene...and why.
I am the last person to ask about dancing. My favorite dance moment isn't a "dance scene" as such: It's the moment on that episode of Buffy when Willow and Tara fall into each other's arms on the dance floor at the Bronze... and, ever so slightly, begin to levitate. Aw-w-w.

Twosome. Make a Little Love...Spill it! What do you do to make the night romantic for that certain someone?
I'm tempted to give the traditional pig's answer, "brush my teeth", but the truth is, with my current work schedule, just being in the same room with that certain someone while we're both awake is the best I can manage.

Threesome. Get Down Tonight! Party it up, Getting your Groove on, or whatever you call it, everyone has a different style that they consider a good time. Let us in on what yours is.
I'm not a party person. Popcorn, soft drinks and a good movie in the DVD player will do me nicely. With the right company we can do without the movie and the popcorn.

The Friday Five:
1. Do you live in a house, an apartment or a condo?
House.

2. Do you rent or own?
Own.

3. Does anyone else live with you?
Wife, two children, and the kids' godfather.

4. How many times have you moved in your life?
Uh... Do college dorms count? How about temporary residence in an apartment while the contractors rebuilt my burned house? If they don't count, the answer is four. Not bad for 47 years. And I currently live less than a mile from the hospital I was born in.

5. What are your plans for this weekend?
Working, as usual.
Holy cow!
It may be just as well that we didn't know that this asteroid was only 120,000 kilometers away until it was past us. (No, not that asteroid, or this one, but this one.)

Don't you think it's about time we stopped blowing each other up and got off this rock while we still can? I mean, I'm not particularly devout, and I'm not superstitious at all, but the phrase "warning shots from the Almighty" won't go away.

And if we're really serious about this Survival of the Species thing, we may have to cull the herd a little to eliminate the renegades who aren't interested in that. We can start by glazing over the West Bank before its current occupants kill another of these.

I didn't used to be so bloodthirsty.

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Last week's personals, late

Thursday Threesome:
Onesome. Miss Scarlett, what makes your face turn red?
Oh, lots of things. Anger, shame, public attention. I'm better than I used to be, but the color of my face is still a pretty good barometer of how I feel. But you probably want to know what embarrasses me. Being the center of attention both embarrasses and terrifies me. I have stage fright (pretty odd, considering).

Twosome. Twosome. The Library. What books are a must in your opinion for a personal library?
Seems like this is a repeat, or was that the Friday Five? Well, anyway. I don't have enough bandwidth to answer this. "Stranger in a Strange Land" by Robert A Heinlein. "The Rape of the A.P.E." by Allan Sherman. "Tarzan of the Apes" and "The Return of Tarzan" by Edgar Rice Burroughs. C'mon, I've got a couple of thousand books here, and I'd hate to leave any of 'em out.

Threesome. The Lead Pipe. Ever have a plumbing related woe? Tell us all about it...
Of course I have: I own my home. Crawling under my house in 25-degree temperatures patching a burst pipe was not among the more enjoyable events in my life.

The Friday Five:
...is back!

1. How often do you do laundry?
In this house (three adults, one teenager and one about-to-be teenager), laundry never stops. In a sense, you could say we've done laundry once: We started two years ago (an easy benchmark, when the house burned and we had to replace most of our clothes), and we're still washin'. If we ever catch up, I'll let you know. (The answer you probably wanted is, one or two loads a day. Often more on weekends.)

2. What's in a typical wash load?
Er, clothes?

3. Front or top loader? Powder or liquid detergent?
Front loader, powdered detergent. Since we had to replace all of our appliances after the fire anyway, we got a front loader. It has made a significant difference in our water bill, and the clothes get just as clean.

4. Do you use fabric softener in the rinse cycle?
Nope.

5. Dryer or clothesline?
Dryer, except for those items that shouldn't.
A new purple treat
I've just instituted a new feature here on the Dreaded Purple page. It will continue until I get tired of it. (Well, at least I'm honest.) It's in both of the previous posts, but not in this one. See if you can find it.
It am great crime to make anything perfect on Bizarro world
This withdrawn Starbucks promotion and this oddball political statement seem to inhabit the same world.

Is it the same world wherein a timer counts down the moments until the Olsen twins are of legal age? (Note: While this site is, technically, safe for work, it is conceptually unsettling.)

Monday, June 17, 2002

What were you thinking?
Were you just tired of your job?

Pimps and Gangs Subtracted From Math Test
A Canadian teacher has been suspended after shocking a small northern Manitoba school by distributing a math exam that included questions about pimps, prostitutes, machine guns, cocaine trafficking and getting "knocked up."
The math proficiency test included questions such as: "Rufus is a pimp for three girls. If the price is $65 per trick, how many tricks per day must each girl turn to support Rufus' $800 per day crack habit?"
...The exam, which asked students for their name, gang name and home room...

Sunday, June 16, 2002

Weird justice
I thought I had a handle on how law works, but I confess I'm confused now.

There's this guy who's been surreptitiously pointing his video camera up womens' skirts, and selling the video -- and they can't figure out if he's breaking any laws. Well, more precisely, they can't prosecute him if they can't identify a victim. Perhaps the guy who does the "Girls Gone Wild" videos could have saved himself some trouble. It's not like people are buying the videos to see the girls' faces.

Somewhat less trivially, Arthur Andersen is guilty. Nobody in particular, just the company. Can you do that? I thought you were supposed to, like, try a specific defendant in criminal court. You can sue a company, but can you find a company guilty of a crime? Well, I guess you can, they just did. I'm a little uneasy with it, though: It implies that penance extracted from a company doesn't affect any innocent people, and that's far from proven.
One and zeros have rights
Dan at Happy Fun Pundit explains, as clearly as anyone could wish for, just what a vile piece of work the proposed "Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act" is.

Then Steve speculates about how Janet Reno got a political endorsement from President Bartlet. It sounds a bit odd that both of them refer to the current occupant of the White House as the "real President", a concession that no Democrat will ever make. On the other hand, if you actually believe that President Bush is a pretender, then I guess one pretender is as good as another. Oh, never mind, this is a real giggle.

Maybe you should just read the whole blog...

Thursday, June 13, 2002

The worst statistic ever?
It must surely be in the running. The following sentence was written in 1995: Read it carefully.

Every year since 1950, the number of American children gunned down has doubled.

Now, take any number you like -- heck, take "one" -- and double it forty-five times. Does anyone seriously believe that over 17 trillion children were killed by guns in 1995?

It is bad enough to create an unrealistic projection of future trends with incomplete statistics: It is quite another to create such an absurdly wrong statement purporting to describe the current human condition.

LATER: I should add that the quote above is actually a garbled paraphrase of a statistic that is correct...

The number of American children killed each year by guns has doubled since 1950.

...and it's not the Children's Defense Fund's fault that it was misused. On the other hand, even the original number, while true, doesn't tell the whole story. Context is everything, as Joel Best explains.

(If you can't tell the difference between the two renderings, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you.)
Another reason to visit Hawaii
"Spam musubi ("moo-soo-BEE"), consisting of a strip of cooked Spam sitting on a block of rice and held in place by a sushi-style seaweed girdle, is a popular breakfast food and lunchtime or picnic snack." And, through the end of July, it's on the breakfast menu at all 78 Hawaii McDonald's.

Look, Spam is just as tasty as ham when it's cooked right. Personally, I like to dice it, fry it, and serve it with fried rice (with eggs, mushrooms and water chestnuts).

No, really, I do.

LATER: I am not alone.
Holy S---
Look at this. Could the "dirty bomber" also be John Doe #2?
"I still live"
Orrin Judd (who told Instapundit about it) found this article by Hank Parnell, "The Rehabilitation of Edgar Rice Burroughs." I had no idea he needed any. Having been exposed to "Tarzan of the Apes" at a relatively early age, and having unconsciously absorbed the consistency of Burroughs' world view, I find that Parnell's article rings true. If you've never read Burroughs, he might let you know what you've been missing.

Or, heck, just go read some! If the only Tarzan you know is Disney's (or Johnny Weismuller), you don't know Tarzan. A real treat awaits you. (Better get both "Tarzan of the Apes" and "The Return of Tarzan". You won't believe where the first book ends.)

Monday, June 10, 2002

Lost in disc space
Certainly, in the scheme of things, it isn't that important. But because a casual decision on a programmer's part can cause countless hours of lost productive or leisure time, it does matter.

DVD menus suck. And they're getting worse.

What is the purpose of the menu on a DVD? Is it to help me find the features I want, or is it to show off the programmer's ability to animate menu transitions? On the Harry Potter DVD, for example, the second disk is almost all menu. It's a menu-based game of sorts, a puzzle that must be navigated in the right order in order to get the prize: Seven short deleted scenes, none of which will surprise anyone who's read the book. (Instructions to bypass the noise and go straight to the signal are widely available: I found them first at Ain't It Cool News, where Alexandra duPont calls the puzzle an "Easter egg" minefield.)

(As long as I'm on the subject of the Potter DVD, why didn't it contain these photos?)

I detest commercials / trailers / promotional materials that you have to watch before the menu comes up. I've already bought the disc, people. And I don't scan the paper on Friday nights thinking, "Gosh, it's been ages since I've gone to a Warner Brothers movie!" Instead of making me sit through a pep rally, just put your logo on the main menu page as a "bug" in the corner. Goodness knows you know how to do that.

There's no point to a "languages" submenu if you only have one language on the disc.

This article suggests some improvements the industry could make.
Profiling good
Finding trends and extrapolating from them is what people do. It's absurd to tell our law enforcement and security people that they mustn't pay attention to trends that show.

Oh, fiddle, Photodude says it much better, by extracting this list from this e-mail:

1. In 1972 at the Munich Olympics, athletes were kidnapped and massacred by...
2. In 1979, the U.S. embassy in Iran was taken over by...
3. During the 1980's a number of Americans were kidnapped in Lebanon by...
4. In 1983, the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut was blown up by...
5. In 1985 the cruise ship Achille Lauro was hijacked, and a 70 year old American passenger was murdered and thrown overboard by...
6. In 1985, TWA flight 847 was hijacked at Athens, and a U.S. Navy diver was murdered by...
7. In 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 was bombed by...
8. In 1993 the World Trade Center was bombed the first time by...
9. In 1998, the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed by...
10. On 9/11/01, four airliners were hijacked and destroyed and thousands of people were killed by...
11. In 2002 the United States fought a war in Afghanistan against...
12. In 2002 reporter Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and murdered by...


...and now a new one not on the list:
13. In 2002, a plot to explode a radiological "dirty bomb" in the US was made by...

The clear and undeniable answer to each and every item?
"Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40."

Our course is clear. There is such a thing as responsible profiling. It's time to start.

Saturday, June 08, 2002

What's a flag for?
Vietnam knows. The Northern Mariana Islands don't. And here, the world's flags are given letter grades for your amusement and edification. (Note: Josh Parsons evaluates flags purely on aesthetics, not on the political virtues of the countries that fly them. On the other hand, take a look at the color scheme of his home page...)
Who are these people?
I'm so out of touch that I thought these girls were bloggers.

Seems like the whole bloggin' community has just discovered sex. Instapundit and others are chatting about teen sex, Den Beste is talking about string bikinis, and there are "sexiest blogger" polls left and right.

So, of course, it happened while I was on vacation. Now that I'm back, blogopolis is back to Tom Ridge and John Ashcroft. Timing is everything.

Thursday, June 06, 2002

Homeland Security
So, after several months of "is he just another advisor" or "is he a cabinet-level position" (I could have sworn Bush called it that when he created the job and gave it to Tom Ridge), the proposal is now officially On The Table: To create a real, cabinet-level Secretary of Homeland Security, and consolidate every related government agency under that jurisdiction.

It's about damned time.

However, there is one more modification I might suggest: Instead of the unnecessarily-draconian "Homeland Security", call it the Department of Defense. The existing DoD is better described under its previous name, the Department of War.

Ah, well, it won't happen. It would be a difficult sell, public-relations-wise, and it would require an additional small fortune to be spent replacing letterheads and envelopes.

LATER: At last, the truth revealed about who had advance knowledge of the events of Sept. 11. (Thanks to HoyStory.)
The personals

Thursday Threesome:
Onesome. Parsley - does anyone really cook with this stuff?!? what is the weirdest/funniest thing you ever did with the garnish on your plate at a restaurant.
No, I never cook with it, and no, I've never done anything weird with it when I found it on my plate.

Twosome. Sage - to whom do you turn for advice? This isn't limited to just one person but could be several different people for different situations.
My wife, of course.

Threesome. Rosemary and Thyme - what does the name "Rosemary" mean to you and to what time frame does the memory belong?
What an odd question. (I guess they can't all be gems.) "Rosemary" holds absolutely no meaning for me. It's just a word in a Simon and Garfunkel song. I've no idea what it's used for.

The Friday Five:
...appears to be missing in action. I'll have to find some other cheery list of questions to answer.

Monday, June 03, 2002

Please, no film at eleven
It's not exactly a recent development that cows fart. Any farmer could have told you that. And this story is two years old (although Instapundit just mentioned it, in another context). I direct your attention to it mostly to show you that anything can be made to look Important.

Well, that and the cow.

The spiffy graphic is so surreal, so professional yet so absurd, that I had to check to be sure I was reading the real BBC page, not the Onion or something.
You. Must. Be. Kidding.
Pet Psychic?

Please tell me she's speaking metaphorically, that we're actually dealing with a flashy name for the real and learnable skill of understanding your pet's needs based on his behavior and attitude...

Alas, no.
Just asking
To the person who came here by Googling for the phrase "free nude of Batgirl": I hope you weren't too disappointed by what you found here, but I have to wonder -- If she's nude, how do you know she's Batgirl?

Cone to think of it, how do you know she isn't?

And to the person who Googled "nude black canary": Same question.

Now, as for the fellow (I assume) who googled "nude Ashleigh Banfield", if I had one, I sure wouldn't post it here. (I'll bet this never happens to Dan Rather.)

Sorry, guys. You won't find what you're looking for on this site. Go try the Unablogger. (Better wait 'till you get home.)
But do you have shoes to match?
Words fail me.

(Athena found it.)

Sunday, June 02, 2002

My cow ran off with my flag
Don't you hate when that happens? That means that the server I've placed my images on has failed, no doubt due to the staggering weight of page views that my readers (both of them) have given me.

If that were all I needed it for, I'd just go imageless -- but it also means that my other, non-blog pages are also inaccessible. Think of it as an early warning system. Some people have a canary in a coal mine: I have a cow in my sidebar.

Someday I'll upgrade to a real server, instead of Mattel...

Saturday, June 01, 2002

Do I own my TV or does it own me?
There are some advantages to being several generations behind the cutting edge of technology. I don't own a TiVo or anything like it, and this incident isn't moving me any closer to considering a purchase.

BBC attacked for TiVo ploy
...Users awoke on Friday morning to find the new Caroline Aherne-created show ["Dosser and Jo"] had been recorded on their TiVos without their permission.
Hundreds of people complained about the marketing device on an unofficial website, according to MediaGuardian.co.uk, with some likening it to "spam" e-mails or junk mail.
Users accessing the TiVo saw a new item "Must See from the BBC Dosser and Jo" as part of an "advanced content" feature.
...A spokesman for the BBC, which began collaborating with TiVo two years ago, said it believed users had not been adversely affected.
..."TiVo users are in no way forced to watch the programme."

Awfully darned sporting of you, Beeb, after recording a show on the user's hardware without the user's permission, to concede that the user doesn't have to watch it. That makes it all right, I reckon.

How long before the BBC talks to Jamie "skipping commercials is stealing" Kellner of Turner, I wonder. I would think it would be a minor technical modification to "protect" a program as undeletable until watched (in its entirety, including commercials?). That would be a handy thing from the network's perspective, and they've already proven how little the viewer's opinion matters.

Keep it up, fellas, and I'll have all my television delivered via DVD and I won't need broadcast media at all.