Friday, February 28, 2003

Naked Quidditch Update
The ninth and final chapter is online.
The Friday Five

1. What is your favorite type of literature to read (magazine, newspaper, novels, nonfiction, poetry, etc.)?

Science fiction, humor, and comic books. I indulge my second childhood in reprint collections of the comics I loved as a child.

2. What is your favorite novel?

Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert A. Heinlein.

3. Do you have a favorite poem? (Share it!)

"To his mistris going to bed", by John Donne.

4. What is one thing you've always wanted to read, or wish you had more time to read?

Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand.

5. What are you currently reading?

In Our Defense: The Bill of Rights in Action, by Ellen Alderman and Caroline Kennedy.

Thursday, February 27, 2003

Thursday Threesome

Onesome: Big. Anything "big" happen to you lately? Come now, what's the biggest thing in your life these days?

Recovering from a stroke and wondering if I have a job to go back to -- and wondering if I can still do it. And what I could possibly do instead.

Twosome: Band. I didn't do the band, but I did choir when I was in school. Tell us: what kind of extracurricular activities did YOU do when you were in school?

Nothing willingly. I was in the band: My instrument was trombone. I am cursed with, well, I suppose it isn't perfect pitch, but it is close enough that I was able to play slide trombone.

Threesome: Music. Our topic of the week is music, so why don't YOU share little about your personal tastes in music. Favorite band? Favorite song? Have a song you love to sing along with but hate to admit it? Now's the time to fess up!

Any answer I could give would only betray my fogeyhood, I think. I'll pick Alison Krauss' cover of "I Will". I don't believe dobro, banjo and steel drums have ever been used together before. However, to counter any goodwill this selection may engender, I'll also admit I like Barry Manilow.
James Lileks concedes his Thursday Bleat is aimless, but then a broken clock is right twice a day, too. There's really no other explanation for the fact that it sounds awfully familiar.

He begins with a dream the essentials of which I've had many times. No, I don't think I've ever dreamed that I had to create a rhyme for Tristan and Isolde, but who hasn't, in those not-quite-awake pre-dawn moments, thought I haven't been to class in weeks, I'm going to fail the final for sure? Only after the panic has awakened you do you remember that you graduated over twenty-five years ago -- and you wish that all you had to worry about was getting to class on time.

Well, fine. So I am the only person that ever happens to.

Then he goes on to chat about his head cold, which I am sharing at the moment without even the excuse of Minnesota weather. My friend who's directing our upcoming radio theater performance found another way to make me sing in public last night (which triggers acute stage fright), impersonating Barney no less. The only thing worse than that is to do so with a sore throat.

At least I was only filling in, and not permanently cast in the part. But the missing couple was missing because the wife's brother has passed away, so I really don't have any problems.

Anyway, I was talking about Mr Lileks, not me.

He goes on to talk about his daughter, "Gnat" (I can't point fingers: I used to call mine "Peanut"), and how nimbly (at two and a half) she skips through dialog boxes in her computer games. Hey, the point of this kind of user interface was to be intuitive. I'm thinking that they only fail to be so with us older types, whose "intuitions" are already shaped by lifelong exposure to media now obsolete. I'll bet Gnat can't drop a stylus on a 78. (I'll bet half the people reading this have no idea what I'm talking about.)

No, I'm not lamenting the good old days. A ten-inch disc with a capacity of five-minutes of music? Who needs it?

He concludes by complaining about how much work it is to get to the "fun parts" in Sim City. He's right, of course, which is one reason I don't play it (or Age of Empires, my households current addiction; there are five working computers in this house, a realization that boggles me when I think of it, and at any given moment three of them are running some version or another of Age of Empires).

I crossed this threshhold years ago, with the popular (and now primitive) Lunar Lander simulations. The idea, as you may remember, was to manually tweak the level of thrust on the lander's rockets so that you survive the touchdown. Too much thrust and you use up your fuel too soon, then fall like a rock. Not enough and you impact at orbital velocity.

It occurred to me after two or three attempts that this is the kind of problem computers were invented to solve. Why am I playing a game in which the computer simulates the environment, and I play the part of the computer?

In this sense, Lunar Lander, Age of Empires, and Sim City are the same game. And people wonder why the only games I play are solitaire and backgammon.
I'm fine
Sorry for the failure to post. I have no good excuse.

I had a follow-up appointment with my neural ophthalmologist last Thursday, and the good news is that I have been pronounced safe to drive. At least, purely as far as vision goes. My reaction time seems to be acceptable, as well. I will have to drive with caution, but I can drive.

The less-good news is that I do still have some visual impairment, and it is likely that it is permanent. It is not as dramatic as that may sound. It's not a "blind spot", as I've been describing it, but there is a zone in which I don't see details. Fortunately, it's UP and to the right, an area from which traffic is unlikely to approach. (Hey, some people obviously go for weeks at a time without glancing at their rear-view mirrors.)

I have been trying to get back into the habit of driving, and so far it's going well.

Friday, February 21, 2003

And the crowd goes wild
Well, hit number 60,000 just came and went. I know InstaPundit gets more than that in a single day, but for me it's a big deal.

Of course, I have no idea who it was, and there are no prizes. But whoever you are at who visited me at 5:09pm (Eastern) this afternoon, thanks for dropping by.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

The personals
The Friday Five:
1. What is your most prized material possession?

That house fire in '99 cleaned out a lot of clutter and changed my perspective on just how much stuff I need to keep around. I prize my family: Everything else is Just Stuff.

2. What item, that you currently own, have you had the longest?

Justice League of America vol 1 #6, "The Wheel of Misfortune", by Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky.

3. Are you a packrat?

Yes. Not so much as I was. See above.

4. Do you prefer a spic-and-span clean house? Or is some clutter necessary to avoid the appearance of a museum?

I would like a spic-and-span house: I've never been able to manage it, and I've come to the conclusion that such a house wouldn't look lived-in. A certain amount of clutter creates the illusion of activity, even in an empty house.

5. Do the rooms in your house have a theme? Or is it a mixture of knick-knacks here and there?

Theme rooms? *BWAH HAH HAH* Tell me another one.
The personals
Thursday Threesome:
Onesome: New- Hey, it's close enough to spring (even though the East Coasters have been getting hammered) to ask what's on the "to do" list for March. Do you have plans for changing anything around in your home or apartment? ...or are you ready to just get out of the place once the weather clears?

Life has been so hectic that the last thing on our minds is redecorating.

Twosome: Paint- ...any refurbishing or refinishing projects just waiting for the warm weather? That trim that needs painting or that one room with that horrible carpet? ...or do you have something you just dream about doing?

See above. Isn't this the same question?

Threesome: Smell- ...and lest we forget the gardeners out there: what spring madness do you have planned in the plant world? New flowers for the windowsill? How about that garden where the snails took over last year? ...or does a quick dusting of the artificial ficus cover you for another year?

Three for three. They can't all be gems.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Yahoo! News - German Book to Set Record from Pen to Print
Forty German authors are hoping to set a new world record by conceiving, writing and printing a book in 12 hours, the event's organizers said Tuesday.
..."Generally, people associate writing a book with years of brain-racking and reflection. We wanted to make the point that print literature can still hold its own in the age of the Internet," spokesman Christoph Schaefer told Reuters.

You wanted to prove that a real book can be just as slapdash as, well, a blog?

If speed is all that matters, then "print literature" is indeed doomed. The internet shines, of course, at hastily-conceived poorly-edited trash, such as I confidently expect this project will be.

Which is to say, good and bad both transcend their media. A bad idea is still a bad idea, and good work will still attract attention whether it is found in ink or pixels.

Monday, February 17, 2003

Google bought Blogger? Cool.

So, which of the alternatives is going to get snapped up by the Evil Empire, its name changed to Microsoft Blog, and its code bundled into the next version of Windows? (XPanded?) I mean, God knows they won't write one...

LATER: I don't usually get Down On Microsoft, so I thought I should explain that I'm not down on them now, either. But let's face it, it's been years since anything really new originated in Redmond. They endlessly refine what they already have, and they acquire. I don't fault them for it, it's just what they do, and it has worked out well for them. And when there is such a product as MS Blog, I feel certain it will be an acquisition (cf Front Page, Visio, HotMail), not an internal creation. (Heck, even the Big One, MS-DOS, was an acquisition.)
But he doesn't know the territory
I made a mistake. I watched "The Music Man" on Saturday night. Yes, I meant Saturday night. Can you believe it? I forgot about the remake on Sunday.

I watched my DVD of the Robert Preston version on Saturday, so it was fresh in my mind when I tuned in to Matthew Broderick (late, unfortunately: I missed "Trouble"). Now, I am not one of those who automatically rejects remakes, especially not of shows as popular as "Music Man". I don't think a week goes by that someone isn't mounting a production of it somewhere, because it's a difficult show to kill.

As someone said in another context, every generation has a right to grow up feeling that these characters are theirs, not their parents'.

It should have worked out okay, because I should have discovered that the Preston version has not aged well, which would have primed me for a new, young cast at their creative peaks to take over the show and make it theirs.

Unfortunately, the Robert Preston "Music Man" has aged quite well, because it doesn't try to be "natural": It may just be a perfect musical, perfectly cast. And the Broderick version is only adequate. Everybody hits their marks, sings pretty much on key, and generally allows the script and music to work -- but nobody is inspired. Oddly, the Preston version, which doesn't bother trying to look like anything other than a filmed stage show (it even fades to black between scenes) rings truer than the more realistic television setting.

Preston is larger than life: Broderick is exactly life size.

Perhaps Broderick felt that, having taken over Gene Wilder's part in "The Producers" and made it his, he could do the same here. Perhaps he can. He didn't.

MUCH LATER: I really wanted the new Music Man to work. Here are things they did right:

(1) So far as I was able to determine, except for minor changes in staging that minimized the appearance of physical harm to little Winthrop for comedy's sake (he doesn't actually fall out of the tree, and he's never considered having run away), they actually performed the play as written. They didn't update, they didn't "improve", they didn't tweak.

(2) Kristin Chenoweth. The interviews implied she would play Marian as a modern liberated woman. I was quite please to learn that wasn't true, but disappointed that it came as a revelation that Marian has an "edge". Even a casual viewing of Shirley Jones' portrayal will show that she understood it. In road show and high school productions, Marian is largely a cypher, though, and Kristin actually comes close to Jones' depth. After seeing Matthew Broderick's watery performance, it was a pleasure to find stronger spirits in Chenoweth.

(3) Couldn't have asked for more from the kid playing Winthrop. The resolution of the play hinges on his delivery of the question, "What band?" He didn't disappoint.

Saturday, February 15, 2003

A "Rest of the Story" we'll never see
Yahoo! News - New York Convict's Sperm Saga Ends
A saga over the frozen sperm of a reputed New York mobster who smuggled it out of prison to impregnate his wife has come to an end with its destruction, a prosecutor said this week.

Perhaps I lead a sheltered life. Perhaps this is one of those questions to which I would rather not know the answer. But how, exactly, does one smuggle sperm out of a prison? There has to be a story in that.

Friday, February 14, 2003

The personals
The Friday Five:
1. Explain why you started to journal/blog.

Because I could. I've been writing regularly for various audiences for well over twenty years; this was a way to stay in the habit between deadlines and keep my web page fresh.

2. Do people you interact with day to day or family members know about your journal/blog? Why or why not?

Yes, they do. Why shouldn't they?
Well, given my content there's no reason they shouldn't know. Heck, I even put my real name on it. My current boss doesn't know, not because it's a secret (my previous supervisor knew), but because I just haven't bothered to tell him. He's not a bloggin' kind'a guy. If I find myself with something to say that I don't want my loved ones to know, I'll just start a pseudonymous blog. Hey, maybe I already have. (No, I'm not the Unablogger. But how would you know if I weren't?)

3. Do you have a theme for your journal/blog?

Not really, except for "that which amuses me". I don't want to be tied down to a theme. Sometimes I feel like talking about the War on Terror: Sometimes I feel like talking about Buffy.

4. What direction would you like to have your journal/blog go in over the next year?

More of the same. It's serving my purposes now, why change? I'd prefer to write fewer, longer entries, and maybe I will, eventually.

5. Pimp five of your favorite journals/blogs.

Look to the left: There's far more than five in my list of favorites. The five I read when I only have time for five are James Lileks, The Last Page, USS Clueless, PhotoDude, and the Obscure Store.
What's mine is mine, what's yours is mine
Let's see, let me document this chain correctly: Photodude sent me to writetheweb where I found this ancient (2/2002) link to a Guardian story about Tom Sharp, an author of 100% True, a popular feature in :here magazine collected in a book available from stone soup.

Follow that? So what's the point? Well, parties unknown sent large portions of the book to a friend in an e-mail, and, well, you know how it goes.
"It was really annoying. We spent three years thinking up these things. Now people are sending them back to us suggesting that we put them in the magazine and they have no idea that we wrote them in the first place."

Other magazines and several radio personalities are picking them up and re-using them, too, all without attribution. So while you're griping about how Information Wants To Be Free, and what a terrible blow upcoming legislation will be to the public domain, spare a thought for property rights.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

The personals
Thursday Threesome:
Onesome: Three- Hmmm... There's a three day weekend coming up for some people. Do you have Monday off and have some special plans? ...or is this just another weekend (or maybe one with two Sundays)?

Well, I'm still on disability, so I have every day off. (I expect I'll be back at work soon.) School is closed, so the kids will be home. I do not expect to do anything special for President's Day.

Twosome: Blind- It's holiday time once again (tomorrow silly!). Do you have to turn a blind eye to anything when these days come around? ...or are you surprised at what shows up?

I have no idea what you're trying to ask here. Perhaps this question will make more sense after I've seen some of the other responses. Are you asking if I have to willfully ignore things in order to be surprised by Valentine's Day plans? C'mon, it's only Valentine's Day. Diamonds and island retreats are making a bit too much of a deal over a contrived holiday. I might get her some chocolates, because she likes chocolate -- but I also might wait until after Friday so I can buy them on sale, and I don't think she'll mind. Heck, she writes the checks around here. They'll taste just as good. (I guess. I don't eat chocolates, generally. I had an Oreo -- one -- a couple of weeks ago.)

Threesome: Mice- Enough mousing around! Are you ready for tomorrow? ...or are you stopping by the pushcart people on the way home (I'm betting the guys and gals have really different answers on this one).

You know, this is the kind of sexist assumption that tempts me to stop answering these questions. As may be obvious now, we don't generally trade gifts for Valentine's Day, and I neither expect nor want one. However, I've had a present for her for two weeks. Heck, it's been wrapped for two weeks. The opportunity arose to get a little something (I'm not being coy, it really isn't a big thing) she's been wanting, that I know she'll appreciate. It's... nope, can't tell you. She reads this. I've already said too much.
(LATER: Now that I've given it to her, I can tell you it's a Bel Cream Maker. Generically, it's a hand emulsifier, useful for making cream or mayonnaise. She saw it in Cook's Illustrated, where unfortunately I can't link to the specific article. You can usually find one at eBay or Wheel of Time; Paul Marsden's Online Cookbook has an entertaining description of food-based emulsions. I love the web.)
Dost thine eyes deceive thee?
I have made a couple of changes to the template lately, one you almost certainly won't notice and one you might. Most likely you'll just think something is different but you can't put your finger on what it is. Should I tell you what, or make you guess?

Ahh, I should tell you. But I'll hide it, just in case you like to play games with yourself. The title has a drop shadow now; The boxes down the left side are gone; I've lightened the text font of the sidebar to keep it visible against the darker background.
(Need I say that hidden text can be revealed by selecting it? Hold down the left mouse button and sweep over it... or hit control-A.)

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

At least Roger Ebert is on my side
Not about any particular movie, but about commercials in the theater. In his "Answer Man" columns of Jan 12 and Feb 9, he explains his reasoning.

Yes, I know. I've worked the management staff of five different movie theaters. I know how little of the ticket price the theater gets to keep. I know they're struggling to survive, to redefine themselves in a VCR/DVD-capable market. I still think that alienating people who love movies by making them watch commercials is not the way to go.
You have got to be kidding : Trial Set in Southwest Racist Rhyme Suit
"The court agrees with plaintiffs that because of its history, the phrase `eenie, meenie, minie, moe' could reasonably be viewed as objectively racist and offensive."

C'm'on, ladies, there are people out there with real problems. Don't insult them by taking Southwest Airlines to court over this.

Monday, February 10, 2003

Boobs for peace
Little Green Footballs has contrasting photos of nude war protests in New York and Australia. (Warning: Teeny-tiny can't-see-nothin' nudity.) Hm. Stripping nude to protect a country in which you would be beaten with a stick for either protesting your government or taking off your clothes in public -- Oh, the irony is hip deep.
Say it ain't so
Poynter Online - Doc's Swimsuit Issue
In short, Doc wonders if American culture isn't hootered out.

It's a sad day for American journalism when we're contemplating the question of whether there are too many girls in swimsuits on the newsstand.

Friday, February 07, 2003

In honor of Valentine's Day
More than you wanted to know about NECCO, the home of Sweetheart Conversation Hearts.

BONUS: My other favorite candy, Hot Tamales, has an Official Web Site. Well, of course. Doesn't everything? (Fair warning: It's...Flashy. There's actually more product information here.)
The personals
The Friday Five:
1. What did you have for breakfast this morning? If you didn't have breakfast, why not?

Frankly, I forgot to eat any. I usually have a small bowl of cereal (Corn Chex at the moment), two Jimmy Dean microwave link sausages, a glass of milk, and (when we have 'em) a serving of cantaloupe.

2. What's your favorite cereal?

When I could have sugar, it was Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Now, it's a toss-up between Crispix and Cheerios.

3. How often do you eat out? Do you want that to change?

About once a week, on Wednesday nights on the way to my radio theater meeting. Sure, I'd love to eat out more, but until I'm back at work, it's not going to happen.

4. What do you plan on having for dinner tonight? Got a recipe for that?

Fettucine. I'm making it. Of course I have a recipe. Oh, you're asking for it. I don't have it with me, tell Jabba...

5. What's your favorite restaurant? Why?

Shells. Fortunately, the closest one is a six-hour drive away in Ocala, FL (but I prefer the look of Clearwater), so I don't have to feel tempted to go very often. It's Red Lobster done right. Not that there's anything really wrong with Red Lobster, but it can't compare to Shells.

Thursday, February 06, 2003

Is there anybody left with their clothes on?
I keep updating that darned nude calendar page. They're (pardon me) popping out all over the place.
Is it April 1st already?
No, what are the real designs for the new World Trade Center?

This is it?

Look, I'm a born Southerner, the rest of the country knows we're all rednecks and don't have any taste, culture or sophistication. But if I had to look at either of these monstrosities every day, I'd leave town. The point of a memorial is to heal the wound, not hold it open.
The personals
Thursday Threesome:
Onesome: Shower- Shower or a bath? Which one works best for you? ...or do you have uses for both?

Tub. Absolutely, tub bath. We have an antique claw-footed tub that is actually big enough to lay down in, which makes all the difference. These modern tubs...

Twosome: Shave- How often do you shave? Ladies, what do you consider shave-worthy? Come on, you know what I mean ;) ! ...and guys: how about you? Any facial hair?

Beard and moustache. Somehow this answer seems inadequate. You ask the ladies to quantify what characteristics in a date prompt them to, er, go the extra mile to get ready for it... and you ask the gentlemen if they have facial hair. Well, you can easily see that I do. Maybe I should talk about what kind of evening would prompt me to shave... and whether you ladies have facial hair.

Threesome: Style- How much time do you spend in front of the mirror in the morning, fixing your hairstyle (and face, for the ladies).

None. (The first person who says "And it shows...")

Monday, February 03, 2003

They tried...
...but they couldn't do it.

After two days of fearful "Should we be in space?" graphics and Time magazine reports answering "No", AOL's welcome page today (inbetween glances at the housing market and Taryn Manning) featured the "America's Pulse" question: "Should the space shuttle program continue?" Leaving aside the question of whether a space program could continue without the shuttle, not considering whether the shuttle is relatively old technology that should have been superseded years ago...

I'm proud of us. As of now, it's 83% YES.

Sunday, February 02, 2003

The Angry Clam quotes Robert A. Heinlein's The Green Hills of Earth.
The arching sky is calling
Spacemen back to their trade.
And the lights below us fade.

Out ride the sons of Terra,
Far drives the thundering jet,
Up leaps a race of Earthmen,
Out, far, and onward yet ---

We pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave us birth;
Let us rest our eyes on the friendly skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth.

Saturday, February 01, 2003

The Skipper brave and sure
Ship of Fools Then comes the Big One, a k a World War II, during which the man we remember as the skipper of the ill-fated S.S. Minnow serves with distinction in the South Pacific on a PT boat squadron with fellow commanders Jack Kennedy and Quentin McHale.

I may have to find a copy of Tom Carson's Gilligan's Wake...