Saturday, December 31, 2005

Daily Planet 12-31

Friday, December 23, 2005

Daily Planet 12-23

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Daily Planet 12-20

Monday, December 19, 2005

Daily Planet 12-19

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Daily Planet 12-18

Happy birthday

To my wife.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Daily Planet 12-17

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Daily Planet 12-15

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Personal Appearances

You're invited to join us at Stone Mountain Park this weekend for ARTC's production of "An Atlanta Christmas", featuring myself as the Host. That's Saturday and Sunday, December 10 and 11, from 2pm to 5pm both days, at Memorial Hall. There is no additional cost past the parking fee Stone Mountain Park charges at the park gate.

My daughter is appearing with the William Baker Festival Singers and the Youth Festival Singers for Christmas Atlanta 2005, this Friday (8pm) and Sunday (3pm and 7pm) at Sandy Springs United Methodist Church. Admission is $20 for adults, $10 for seniors and students.

My daughter can also be heard at the Grady High School Chorus Winter Concert, at 7 pm on Tuesday, December 13 at the Grady H.S. Theater.

And even more ARTC Christmas goodness can be had at Barnes & Noble Perimeter on Saturday, December 17, as we read some of our favorite holiday stories. You'll find us at the back of the store, in the children's storytelling area.

Evil Has Reigned For 100 Years...

Much is being made of a letter by C. S. Lewis in which he offered the opinion that no live-action film of "The Chronicles of Narnia" should ever be attempted. It should be remembered, however, that Lewis died in 1963. He probably expected Aslan to look like Bert Lahr. He had no way to anticipate the state of the digital moviemaker's art as of 2005. But then, who did?

Last night, thanks to the generosity of my friend Jerry Page, my family and I saw an advance screening of "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." I wouldn't presume to say whether Lewis would be satisfied, although I certainly hope so. The capacity crowd who saw this screening at Phipps Plaza certainly were.

Nor can I speak to the movie's fidelity to its source: I've read the book, but it's been decades, and I remember only the broad outlines of it. But it certainly felt right.

The transition from the wardrobe interior to the snowy forest and the lonely lamp-post was exactly as I've always envisioned it. The children were a little younger than I'd pictured them, but I can't fault their letter-perfect performances. The White Queen was as icy as a human actress can be. Aslan was... well, Aslan.

"Narnia" seems ready to step into the "epic fantasy series" niche recently vacated by "Lord of the Rings." The producers have optioned all seven books, which should take care of our Christmases through 2011.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

A real page-turner

The Shape of Days | Thoughts on the ‘National Strategy’
So I’m reading the “National Strategy for Victory in Iraq.” It’s a real page-turner. Apparently this little boy named Harry is secretly a wizard, and he gets sent to this wizard school where he has wonderful adventures with his new friends, Id and Superego.

...The subtext is pretty clear, and infinitely amusing to your humble narrator: ”We did tell you our strategy three years ago; 48 percent of y’all were just too stupid to wrap your ‘American Idol’-softened noodles around it. So we’re gonna tell you all again, and again, and if necessary again until you get what we’ve been saying all along.“

Monday, November 28, 2005

Holiday season officially starts

And the stores dust the displays that have been in place since Hallowe'en.
James Lileks | Monday, November 28
They're playing Christmas songs at the coffee shop now; the staff informs me that the selection consists of the same four songs played over and over again, but by different artists. I wouldn't doubt it.

...Now it's the Johnny Mathis version of "Sleigh Ride," which sounds less like a holiday tune than an elocution lesson; the man could certainly enunciate. Pass around the cof-fee and the pump-kin pie! He hits Pump! like someone launching off the lip of a ski jump.

This is nostalgia for some – it's nostalgia for me, for that matter; I remember these versions from my childhood, although I never liked it – but you have to remember that it was nostalgia then, inasmuch as it refers to the "Currier and Ives" versions of the seasons that people already lamented losing. But that's Christmas; a mass consensual illusion that the holiday existed in some perfect state, and that this state can be replicated again if we find the right combination of lights, ornaments, songs, nutmeg candles, Pottery Barn CD compilations, pine-scented infusers, kicky shoes and brie spreaders.
And, of course, that time-tested Christmas tradition, radio theatre.

Monday, November 21, 2005

A new magic trick

Click on this only if you have eight minutes to kill: The video is that long, plus however long it takes to stream it on a dialup. It's in Japanese, but magic tricks work even if you can't understand the patter.

I haven't a clue how he does this.

LATER: It's discussed in this MetaFilter thread. Several theories are put forth, some clever, some absurd. I think everyone agrees, though, that this guy (Cyril by name) is good.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Why bury the good quotes?

His basic interview technique was to pretend he didn't know things....

I really regretted the waste of my time, but even more the waste of TV space. Getting younger people to watch who are interested in the issues is important. What a waste to make them think it's all Silly Putty.
Rep. Barney Frank, D-MA, about being interviewed for Comedy Central's The Colbert Report, quoted in the Boston Globe.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Oddly, the planet continues to spin

Yahoo News (AP) | Tyra Banks Goes Undercover As Obese Woman
Tyra Banks has gone undercover as a 350-pound woman. Banks wore the fat suit to experience what it's like to be obese.

"It seemed like the last form of open discrimination that's OK, and I decided to put on a 350-pound suit myself and live that life for a day and see what happens," the 31-year-old former supermodel told AP Radio in a recent interview. "And it was one of the most heartbreaking days of my life."

Banks said she was shocked at the reaction.

"I started walking down the street and within 10 seconds, a trio of people looked at me, snickered, looked me right in my eye and started pointing and laughing in my face," the talk-show host said. "And I had no idea it was that blatant."
Perhaps something happens to you the first time you see yourself referred to as a "former supermodel".

Now, as I snark away at this, I admit it would be helpful to know what Tyra Banks actually does weigh. But we can still figure what an "obese" Tyra should weigh. She's 5'10", so calculating from a Body Mass Index* of 30 (the lowest level considered "obese") gives us 208.

So of course she chose a 350-lb fat suit. Anything less wouldn't have been Good Television.

I could speculate on other reasons people might point and laugh. Was appropriate makeup work done for her face and hands as well, or was a skinny little Tyra head sitting on a Michelin Woman body? Did a mischevious wardrobe mistress tuck her skirt into her pantyhose, knowing there's no way she's gonna feel a draft under all that fake flab? Was she followed around by a camera crew wearing "Tyra Banks Show" t-shirts?

Oh, please don't make me watch daytime TV to find out...

* BMI = weight (in pounds) times 705, divided by height squared (in inches)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Blatant Sales Pitch

For this week only (November 2-10), my son's school is selling coupon books to help pay for 8th grade field trips. The book is called "Atlanta: Enjoy the City", and it sells for $12. It includes discounts ranging from Dunkin Donuts to Yamato, Great Clips to Six Flags. (I can't speak for you, but many such coupon books contains negligible discounts to places I never go. These are deals I might actually use.)

If you're interested, let me know, or click on the button below (it's PayPal). Either way, the books will be mailed out after the promotion is over. Thanks.

EDIT: It's over.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Living up to their name

WDUN | Chapter 11 files for Chapter 11
The bookstore company that once used the slogan "prices so low, you'd think we were going bankrupt" has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and will be closing its Gainesville store, among others.

Chapter 11 Bookstores says on its Web site that the filing is "an effort to better serve its customers and strengthen its overall business operations."
I bet they wish they'd called it "Insanely Profitable Bookstore" now.

Friday, October 07, 2005

That was the Jihad that was

BBC | David Frost joins al-Jazeera TV
Veteran UK broadcaster Sir David Frost is to join Arabic-language TV station al-Jazeera, the network has confirmed.

Sir David is to appear on al-Jazeera International, the pan-Arab news network's new English-language channel, due to be launched next spring.

The Qatar-based channel said Sir David, who broadcast his final Breakfast with Frost programme for the BBC in May, would be among the "key on-air talent".

Sir David was quoted as saying he felt "excitement" about his new role.

"Most of the television I have done over the years has been aimed at British and American audiences," he said.

"This time, while our target is still Britain and America, the excitement is that it is also the six billion other inhabitants of the globe."
Every now and then, a news story comes along that makes one say, "Did I hear that correctly?"

Of course, it's a brilliant move by al-Jazeera, and gives its new English-language channel a huge boost in credibility and prestige.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

A war just ended

Guardian | Breaking America's grip on the net
Old allies in world politics, representatives from the UK and US sat just feet away from each other, but all looked straight ahead as Hendon [David Herndon, director of business relations for the UK Department for Trade and Industry] explained the EU had decided to end the US government's unilateral control of the internet and put in place a new body that would now run this revolutionary communications medium.
That is to say, we lost.

End of an era

Stately Wayne Manor burned to the ground Wednesday night.

On the other hand, the dolphins will be singing his name long after humans are gone.

Later: False alarm, so to speak. The fire was down the street: Stately Wayne Manor is saved!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

"I only came to Dragon*Con as a favor to my boyfriend"

Nashville Scene | Geek Love
Last weekend, I went to Dragon*Con in Atlanta, the largest sci-fi and fantasy convention in the country.

I don’t like sci-fi and I really don’t like fantasy, but I went to the convention because I’m a nice person and my boyfriend is a dork. I’ve known this for a long time—my first suspicion came three years ago, when I discovered that he knew the lyrics to almost every Weird Al song, but not the originals—but I don’t think I fully realized the extent of his affliction until I went to this convention.

I can't remember the short story this reminds me of. It's about a valley girl who finds herself thrown into a sword-and-sorcery world, but never loses the I'd-rather-be-on-Rodeo-Drive attitude. Taken in that light, it's hilarious.

If you take Dragon*Con seriously, I suppose you might be offended by this (plenty of people appear to be), but you'd have to buy the central conceit that this woman attended Dragon*Con "as a favor to my boyfriend", then published this newspaper article savaging his hobbies for the sake of a good laugh.

And now, our feature presentation

The War of the Worlds (1953), in 30 seconds. Re-enacted by bunnies.

Monday, October 03, 2005

"You can't take the sky from me"

After dozens of advance screenings, all of which sold out before I ever heard about them, Serenity is finally in the theaters. This is the movie written and directed by Joss (Buffy, Angel) Whedon, based on his series Firefly.

There were actually 14 episodes filmed, but Fox only ran eleven of them, and those out of order. The two-hour pilot they ran last, for reasons that must have made sense at the time. The whole series can be seen, in order, in the DVD set.

Watching Serenity is like fast-forwarding through the eight episodes that would have completed the first full 22-episode season. That's asking a lot of a hundred and nineteen minutes. Fortunately, it is one hell of a hundred and nineteen minutes. You'll laugh. "At last, we can retire and give up this life of crime." You'll cry. "I am a leaf on the wind. Watch how I soar." And, yes, you'll kiss eight-to-ten bucks goodbye, but it'll be worth it.

(See also this comic strip and interview with Joss Whedon by M. E. Russell, and this review from Locus.)

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Birth of a Legend

Back when I taught Windows apps for a living, I began each class with some kind of mood-setting icebreaker. For instance, those of you with a tech background may be surprised to learn that it will never occur to the average PC user to clean their mouse. I showed 'em how: I popped the ball out of the mouse and gave it a quick puff to blow the dust out.

From the reaction, you might have thought I'd done it to a real mouse.

I'm thinking, now, that it must have occurred to many of my students that there's a crude yet logical name for this procedure, a name that it would have cost me my job to actually say.

But when it was a MS Office application, I had a ready-made icebreaker built into the software. A feature that the whole suite shares. A feature that everyone has used, since it pops onto the screen unbidden. A feature that users hate with a passion I'd previously seen reserved for the post office, the phone company or used car dealers.

Yes, I'm talking about Clippy, the paperclip, the Office Assistant.

I told his story in a roundabout way, because (as just now) I didn't tell the class the point of what appeared to be a digression. I talked briefly about the forgotten Microsoft product, in which Clippy (and several of the other Office Assistant characters) had made his debut. A product intended, as Clippy is now, to put a friendly, happy face on the user interface, to help users overcome their fear of the PC (yes, average users are afraid of their computers), to reassure them that the computer is there to do what they tell it to do, no less, no more.

The lesson learned from this product is, as frustrated as you may get with your computer and the software it runs, Microsoft is at least trying to help. Only a deeply-felt concern for the lost user could have persuaded them to let this thing out of the gate. Shed a tear for broken dreams.

I give you's Worst Computer Product of the Decade: Microsoft Bob.

(See also Wikipedia and ToastyTech.)

Monday, September 26, 2005

Unintended Consequences

Since I'm sure you're all concerned, let me fill you in on how the Governor's decision -- er, request -- to close schools statewide today and tomorrow has affected us.

Well, most immediately, since both of the wage-earners in this house are teachers, it means they're both off work today. This might not be the plus it sounds like, since (1) it's unpaid, and (2) being "officially" a snow day, it'll have to be made up later. In addition, at least as far as my wife is concerned, there are a number of tasks she must have completed by Friday. She was counting on being able to work on them today and tomorrow, and she can't do it from home. (Whether the buildings will be open for teachers to come in is each principal's decision: This one has opted to keep the building closed.)

My daughter is at school anyway (her principal decided to open the building), working on the upcoming Talent Night. My son is content to stay home and watch TV when his mother doesn't have him sorting laundry.

I suppose it could be worse. If my children were younger, and the wage-earners working in some other line of work, we would have to spend a couple of hundred dollars we don't have on daycare. Many thousands of families statewide are doing exactly that. I wonder if the available daycare facilities are sufficient to the task. They didn't get much warning, since Governor Purdue chose to announce this decision after 4:00pm Friday afternoon.

But Georgia's school districts have saved, between them, an estimated half-million dollars in diesel fuel. I'm sure that's more important.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

I'll accept that, I think

You are a

Social Liberal
(63% permissive)

and an...

Economic Conservative
(65% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid

...although, I wonder why the Democratic area is so much larger than the Republican area.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Another one bites the dust

Yahoo News (AP) | Marshall Field's Name Change Upsets Some
CHICAGO - It has always been much more than a department store. It's the magical place where parents brought their children to see the windows at Christmastime, where those children grew and did the same with their kids — stopping, of course, to visit the one true Santa Claus.

It is Marshall Field's. Or simply "Field's" to everybody in Chicago.

...On Tuesday, Federated Department Stores Inc., said it is planning to change to Macy's the name of all 62 Marshall Field's, including the one on State Street that dates back to 1892.
I understand Chicago's disorientation. Having seen two department stores / local institutions become Macy's (Davison's and Rich's), my first reaction is "Why should Chicago get to keep theirs if we couldn't keep ours?"

Friday, September 16, 2005

Is it just me...

...or is The Phantom getting creepy?

And not creepy in a good, thrilling or exciting way, either, but creepy in a date-rape, Michael Jackson kind of way.

Currently, for instance, he is in the home of Mina, the young lady whose presence sparked his most recent storyline. Having safely doped her with Bengalla medicine so that she no longer remembers their adventure (which, in context, seems a lot more questionable than when Tommy Lee Jones did it to Linda Fiorentino in Men in Black), he's stalking around her house late at night, and today he's in her bedroom, watching her sleep.

(The link goes to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, where the most recent month of continuity can be seen. The strips syndicator, King Features, has gone to a bewildering policy of displaying only the first week of the preceding month on their web site.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Stealth opinion

Supreme Court Chief Justice nominee Judge John Roberts listens to a question from Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) during the second day of his confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington September 13, 2005. Roberts was pressed by senators for his views on the strength of established legal precedent with regard to the controversial issue of abortion rights and the landmark Roe vs. Wade abortion case. REUTERS/Kevin LamarqueThis photograph is an editorial.

It is not labeled as such. It is presented as a straight news photo by Reuters, part of their ongoing coverage of the John Roberts hearings. Looks like a man whose day is not going well, doesn't it?

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Personal Appearance

Much to my surprise, I'll be participating in the special "Talk Like a Pirate Day" program at the Barnes and Noble near Perimeter Mall. We'll be reading selections from Brad Strickland's and Thomas E. Fuller's The Guns of Tortuga, volume two in their "Pirate Hunter" series.

Some of us will be in costume. Your guess is as good as mine as to whether I will be among them.

That's a week from today (Sunday, September 18).

Horror stories

A gossip column in the New York Daily News isn't the best source I could hope for, so take this with a large grain of salt:
NY Daily News | Lavish tastes of card-carrying lowlifes
Profiteering ghouls have been using debit cards distributed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina - intended to buy essentials for evacuated families - in luxury-goods stores as far away as Atlanta.

"We've seen three of the cards," said a senior employee of the Louis Vuitton store at the Lenox Square Mall in affluent Buckhead, who asked not to be named. "Two I'm certain have purchased; one actually asked if she could use it in the store. This has been since Saturday."

The distinctive white cards were distributed by the Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency and carry a value of up to $2,000.

"It doesn't say anything on the card other than alcohol, tobacco and firearms cannot be purchased with it," the store employee told me. "There's nothing legally that prevents us from taking it, unfortunately. Other than morally, it's wrong."

The source told me that the two women who had made purchases with the card each bought a signature monogrammed Louis Vuitton handbag in the $800 range.

"They didn't look destitute by any stretch. You would never have said, 'They must be one of the evacuees.' … The one that I dealt with yesterday was 20. She'll be 21 next month." The source described the reaction of other store-keepers in the mall - which includes luxury brands Ferragamo, Burberry, Judith Leiber and Neiman Marcus - as "outrage."

"It doesn't say anywhere on there, but it would have to be a good amount to be shopping in here," the source said with a dark chuckle.
"Lowlifes". Hm. I'll file it with this one, which I also find myself doubting:
Yahoo News UK (Sky News) | Storm Survivors Told To 'Expose Themselves'
A group of female hurricane survivors were told to show their breasts if they wanted to be rescued, a British holidaymaker has revealed. Ged Scott watched as American rescuers turned their boat around and sped off when the the women refused.

The account was just another example of the horror stories emerging from the hurricane disaster zone.

Mr Scott, 36, of Liverpool, was with his wife and seven-year-old daughter in the Ramada Hotel when the flood waters started rising.

"At one point, there were a load of girls on the roof of the hotel saying 'Can you help us?' and the policemen said 'Show us what you've got' and made signs for them to lift their T-shirts," he told the Liverpool Evening Echo.

"When the girls refused, they said 'Fine' and motored off down the road in their boat."
That almost sounds like it could have happened: "Show us what you've got" is the unofficial motto of New Orleans ("Laissez les bon temps roulez" being, I think, the official one). I remain skeptical.

I need a palate cleanser.
Boston Globe | Katrina's real name
THE HURRICANE that struck Louisiana yesterday was nicknamed Katrina by the National Weather Service. Its real name is global warming.

...Unfortunately, very few people in America know the real name of Hurricane Katrina because the coal and oil industries have spent millions of dollars to keep the public in doubt about the issue.

The reason is simple: To allow the climate to stabilize requires humanity to cut its use of coal and oil by 70 percent. That, of course, threatens the survival of one of the largest commercial enterprises in history.

...In 2000, big oil and big coal scored their biggest electoral victory yet when President George W. Bush was elected president -- and subsequently took suggestions from the industry for his climate and energy policies.
Ah, there it is. The President really does control the weather.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Sean, Celine and the Big Easy

Sean Penn bails his leaky boat with a plastic cupCeline:
"Oh, they're stealing 20 pair of jeans or they're stealing television sets. Who cares? They're not going to go too far with it. Maybe those people are so poor, some of the people who do that they're so poor they've never touched anything in their lives. Let them touch those things for once."
"There are people that are dying right now and I mean babies and old people and everybody in between - they're dying. There are people dying and (the US government are) not putting the boats in the water, I think that's criminal negligence. I don't think anybody ever anticipated the criminal negligence of the Bush administration in this situation."
(The Evening Standard is one of the few that's taking Penn seriously. Most domestic sources are reporting Penn's involvement as comedy relief. See All Headline News and Blogcritics.)

You know, I've been looking for past warnings from the mayor of New Orleans or the governor of Louisiana that "we'd better reinforce these levees before hurricane season gets here", and I'm not finding any. The best I can find is Drudge's reference to a Times-Picayune report describing a series of public service announcements being recorded by the local Red Cross Executive Director, the City Council President, and, yes, Mayor Ray Nagin, warning the population of sub-sealevel New Orleans that...
In the event of a major hurricane, you're on your own....the city does not have the resources to move out of harm's way an estimated 134,000 people without transportation.
But apparently it is, or should be, within the president's power to change the course of mighty rivers. (What about the bending steel part? Does he have to use his bare hands, or can he have a pair of pliers?) Is the president supposed to take charge of every potential infrastructure failure in every city in the country? What are local governments for?

According to ABC, FEMA gave them what they asked for, but they didn't ask for evacuation assistance until well after Katrina hit.
One aide to the governor told ABC News today Blanco thought city officials were taking care of the evacuation.
Well, yeah, you'd think people who live in the shadow of a levee might be thinking about that. I can only assume that most of the city officials live on higher ground than Poydras Street. We've seen what city officials were doing: "You're on your own." As reported by the New York Daily News:
Nearly a third of New Orleans cops - some 500 of the 1,600 - are now unaccounted for. The department says some quit, but it doesn't know where most of them are. The top cop, Eddie Compass, has responded by offering all officers paid vacations to Las Vegas and Atlanta. Yes, that's right - he is pulling all cops off the street, even while bodies lie in the open.
And they used the buses that might have been useful evacuating residents dependent on public transportation to get them to, of all places, the SuperDome. Which is a lot like hiding in Titanic's engine room. Apparently Mayor Nagin had seen an old Superman comic featuring the domed undersea city of Atlantis and thought the SuperDome would do as well.

Maybe he figures Cuba Gooding Jr will play him in the movie.

It's not like the problem wasn't known. See National Geographic.

Even many of those who are making reasonably good cases for more and faster federal involvement (and I'll grant there are plenty of dropped balls to go around) are saying, in effect, that Washington should have known that those cajuns, yats, and n--that is to say, people of color--aren't capable of dealing with a real disaster. Which isn't quite the defense I would have hoped for, were I they.

LATER: Colorado representative Tom Tancredo actually said it:
Given the abysmal failure of state and local officials in Louisiana to plan adequately for or respond to the effects of Hurricane Katrina on the city of New Orleans, and given the long history of public corruption in Louisiana, I am not confident that Louisiana officials can be trusted to administer federal relief aid.
Well, I'll be darned.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

News stories I couldn't finish reading

Guardian | Lewinsky to study psychology at LSE
Monica Lewinsky, who shot to fame as a White House intern under the US president Bill Clinton in the 1990s, is...
(Thanks, Ron.)

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Personal Appearance

Yep, we're all at DragonCon this weekend. The Atlanta Radio Theatre Company has two performances, one of which you've already missed (oops), but there's still time to catch the Sunday evening show. That's the important one, of course, because it's the one I'm in.

And the organization variously referred to as the wicked stepsister, the evil twin, and the red-headed stepchild, the Mighty Rassilon Art Players, will be mounting a full-length stage musical, "Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter". That's Monday afternoon at 2, and those of you who haven't yet heard my daughter sing will have an opportunity to do so there. I'm told that some other people are in it, too.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Continental gas

Christian Science Monitor | Gas prices too high? Try Europe.
$7 a gallon? That's what drivers in Amsterdam pay. But Europeans have long adapted to high prices.
So the Monitor leads us into another examination of the superiority of European fuel policies. Real men pay more for gas. But buried down in paragraphs fourteen to sixteen is the real reason.
"The single most effective measure" that has brought down motorists' fuel use in Europe, however, is taxation, says Dings [Jos Dings, head of Transport and Energy, a coalition of European environmental NGOs].

On average, 60 percent of the price European drivers pay at the pump goes to their governments in taxes.

In Britain, the government takes 75 percent, and raises taxes by 5 percent above inflation every year (though it has forgone this year's rise in view of rocketing oil prices, and the French government has promised tax rebates this year to taxi drivers, truckers, fishermen, and others who depend heavily on gasoline.) On August 8, for example, the price of gas in the US, without taxes, would be $2.17, instead of $2.56; in Britain, it would be $1.97, instead of $6.06.
So. European gasoline prices would actually be lower than American prices, if not for confiscatory tax rates, which they have somehow convinced themselves are a good thing. The Monitor appears to agree, since they've backed into the numbers by saying that "60 percent of the price goes to their governments in taxes." Whereas, if one were approaching this from the perspective of the base price of the gas, one would have to say that the actual tax rate is 150%-200%.
"The biggest hole in our policy today is fuel taxation," [...says Lee Schipper, head of transportation research at the Washington-based World Resources Institute, an environmental think tank]. "Tax increases are something Americans should do but don't know how to do, and I wonder if they will ever be able to."

What planet are you from?

America has a history of resentment toward purely punitive tax, dating back at least to that unfortunate incident in Boston with all that tea.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Never mind the writer

I can only assume that Rupert Holmes, the author of Where the Truth Lies, is not involved in the film adaptation of his book, since he's not mentioned in this story about the film's troubles achieving an R rating.
Globe and Mail | Is the naked Truth too hot for censors?
Toronto — An explicit sex scene involving two men and a woman in Canadian director Atom Egoyan's latest movie is expected to earn the film a prohibitive rating in the U.S. that, if sustained, will "severely limit" its box office there, Mr. Egoyan predicted yesterday.

The Classification and Ratings Administration of the powerful Motion Picture Association of America plans to reveal its official rating of Mr. Egoyan's Where the Truth Lies no later than tomorrow. But given what Mr. Egoyan calls "the very conservative climate in America," he and the film's North American distributor, Toronto-based ThinkFilm Inc., "strongly suspect" it will be rated NC-17. This means no one 17 years of age or under in the U.S. will be allowed admission, even if accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

While Where the Truth Lies has some tough violence, nudity, lesbian encounters and drug-taking, it is a sex scene involving stars Colin Firth and Kevin Bacon and the film's female lead, 29-year-old Rachel Blanchard, that seems to be giving U.S. adjudicators trouble -- something U.S. observers told Mr. Egoyan he might expect after the movie's world premiere in May at the Cannes film festival.

"I guess I'm naive; I really had no idea it would be a problem," the director said at that time.
It only takes one verifiable factual error to throw an article into question. Or shall I assume that the error I caught is the only one? Perhaps the reporter was so caught up in artistic issues that he failed to fact-check something as relatively trivial as who the female lead actually is. Having read the book, I can assure you that if the movie resembles the book (can't take that for granted, I realize), Blanchard's character [as listed at IMDB] isn't the lead. (I suppose I'm not giving too much away to call her the "Laura Palmer" of the story.)

We can dismiss the director's blithe claim of naivete--or, rather, we could if there were a Major Motion Picture Studio involved. None of the majors would entrust that much money to a director who has so little understanding of the American market.

Assuming he does understand the market, he's probably using notoriety to get a little free publicity for a film that otherwise would run unnoticed in the local art house.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Didn't see that coming

Times of London | Psychic's crystal ball burns down his flat in unforeseen blaze
IF HERVE VANDROT, a French amateur psychic, took out a warranty on his crystal ball, he may soon be claiming on it. Instead of predicting that his flat would catch fire, the fortune-telling device was the cause of the blaze.

M Vandrot, 24, who is studying botanics at Edinburgh University, left the ball on his windowsill while he visited the city’s Royal Botanic Garden. By the time he returned, the ball had destroyed his own and two other flats, and had left several others uninhabitable.

... M Vandrot, released from hospital after a night having his hand treated, denied that his crystal ball had been the cause of the blaze. "I don’t think it is capable of doing that. I think it was an electrical fault; the plug of my computer was melted."

Edinburgh’s firefighters disagreed, and roundly blamed the ball. "Strong sunlight through glass, particularly if the glass is filled with liquid like a goldfish bowl, concentrates the sun’s rays and acts like a magnifying glass," a spokesman said. The fire had been started by the ball concentrating a ray of sunshine on a pile of washing, he said.

One of M Vandrot’s friends, who was helping him to sift through the debris yesterday, said: "I don’t think it was the crystal ball. I have had crystal balls on my windowsills for years and nothing happened."
Yeah, and if the window faces north, probably nothing will, as direct sunlight will never come from that direction in the northern hemisphere.

I feel like I have a good acquaintance with middle-to-high-school-level science. A crystal ball looks like a great big lens to me. Isn't it?

Monday, August 01, 2005

In a world...

The only thing really wrong with this video is that one giant of the voice-over industry, Gary Owens, isn't in it. But it does give you an opportunity to place names, and faces, to five voices you know well.

(I got it from Mark Evanier.)

Friday, July 29, 2005

Now all they have to do is convince those pesky Christians

AFP (Yahoo News) | Christmas comes but twice a year, Santas decree
COPENHAGEN (AFP) - Some 80 Santas from around the world, backed by their elves, have agreed to establish a second Christmas in July to ease their heavy workload each December, their spokeswoman said.

"At the special request of the Japanese Santa Claus, the congress decided to approve two Christmases, one on July 24-25 for the southern hemisphere and another one on December 24-25 for the northern hemisphere," spokeswoman Tina Baungaard told AFP Wednesday.

The decision was approved at their 42nd annual convention in Denmark by Santas from Canada, Europe, Japan and the United States who have been meeting since Monday at the world's oldest theme park, Bakken, north of Copenhagen.

"The Santa Clauses and other Father Christmases are too stressed with too much work to do at the end of the year," since they up until now have had to travel around the entire world in a race against the clock to deliver all their presents in time, Baungaard said.

"They're exhausted, so they agreed to a proposal from the Japanese Santa Claus which greatly improves their working conditions," she said.

On Wednesday, the Santas and their little helpers handed out gifts to delighted children at Bakken, after holding a parade in the streets of Copenhagen Tuesday.

The Santas have been meeting in Denmark every summer since 1963.

One noticeable absentee, however, is the Finnish Santa, who has boycotted the event for years over his refusal to acknowledge that the one true Santa is the one from Greenland, who lives in a secret location.
They originally wanted April, but they got into a turf war with the Easter Bunnies. Eggs and reindeer poop as far as the eye can see. Of course, the eggs were candy and reindeer poop is tinsel, so it wasn't as bad as you might think.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

"I am shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here"

MTV | Sony BMG Apologizes For Payola Involving J. Lo, Avril, Good Charlotte, Others
Label gave trips, cash and electronics to stations in exchange for airplay.

The payola has got to stop — that's the word from New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who on Monday announced a settlement with Sony BMG Music Entertainment, which has agreed to cease its "pay for play" policy.

The label group, home to such acts as Jessica Simpson and Franz Ferdinand, was the subject of a yearlong investigation that revealed it was paying and providing expensive gifts — otherwise known as "payola" — to radio stations and their employees in return for airplay, in a violation of state and federal law. The payola took the form of outright bribes as well as fictitious contest giveaways for listeners, which actually went to station employees.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Is she sorry she let Buffy go?

Contact Music | Gellar Desperate for Topless Role
Actress SARAH MICHELLE GELLAR wants to go topless in her next film role - to shock movie bosses into giving her sexy roles in future films.

THE GRUDGE star is approaching her 30th birthday and fears she will be deemed too old to play raunchy roles, unless she proves she is still attractive and daring by baring all in a film.

She explains, "I am approaching 30 and I need a change.

"The sort of roles I would like are not being offered, so this way might just shock people into choosing me."
Perhaps she should look into adapting Buffy/Willow fanfiction to the big screen.

Today's top story

Yahoo News | Athletes Spark White House Flip-Flop Flap

A photo of Northwestern University's national championship women's lacrosse team, taken during the athletes' visit to the White House last week, shows four of the nine women in the front row wearing flip-flop sandals along with their dresses and skirts.

The choice of footwear has prompted a mini-controversy — a flip-flop flap, if you will.

A front-page story in the Chicago Tribune included the headline "YOU WORE FLIP-FLOPS TO THE WHITE HOUSE?!" inspired by an e-mail sent to player Kate Darmody from her older brother after he saw the photo on the team's Web site.

Family members of other players expressed similar dismay, insisting the summer footwear staple was too casual for a visit with the president.

"Don't even ask me about the flip-flops," said the mother of player Aly Josephs. "It mortified me."

Boy, that Karl Rove is just insidious, isn't he?

Thursday, July 07, 2005

I ain't got an accent, y'all do | Sounds of the South
Southern American English (SAE) is the most widely recognized regional dialect of American English, but as most of its speakers know, widespread recognition is a mixed blessing. SAE is also the regional dialect that is most negatively evaluated. In a recent study of folk beliefs about American dialects, Dennis Preston (1996) found that 90% of his respondents from Michigan and Indiana and 96% of those from South Carolina recognized SAE as a distinct variety of American English. Both the Michigan and Indiana respondents, however, also evaluated SAE as the most “incorrect” variety of American English (New York City speech was the only serious competitor), and the South Carolina respondents were ambivalent about its correctness as well.

The widespread recognition and negative evaluation of SAE can have practical consequences for its users that in some cases include negative stereotyping and linguistic discrimination, just as with African American Vernacular English (AAVE), or Ebonics. While SAE almost never generates the extreme reactions and extensive prejudice that AAVE often does, its users can anticipate at least polite (and often not so polite) condescension to their speech by non-Southerners. In spite of its low status outside of the South and of standardizing forces such as interregional migration and universal education that threaten many minority languages and dialects, SAE continues to persist.
I shouldn't oughta say anything.

Monday, July 04, 2005

But not too clean

Daily Mail | Regular showers may be health risk
Taking regular showers could pose a health risk and even result in permanent brain damage, it has been claimed.

Scientists believe that breathing in small amounts of manganese dissolved in the water may harm the nervous system.

The damage may occur even at levels of the naturally occurring metal normally considered safe, say the US researchers.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


Slate has a short article on what happens to cartoon characters when the actor who provides its voice dies. The recent passing of what some wags have called the "Pooh trifecta" -- John (Piglet) Fiedler, Paul (Tigger) Winchell, and Howard (Gopher) Morris -- made it a timely subject, if a bit morbid.

Its morbidity quotient is increased by the anecdote about Disney Studios being deluged by resumes whenever one of its voice actors passes away. Actors have to seize opportunities as they arise if they want to keep working, and it was probably their agents (who everyone knows are heartless) who licked the envelopes anyway, but it's a side of show business most people probably don't want to see.

The article did, correctly, point out that Winchell and Morris haven't done those voices in a while, having been replaced by soundalikes some years back. (Morris was a very busy man, and Winchell's voice, Disney management felt, had become too raspy to sound like himself.) Rather conspicuously, since they illustrated the article with a shot of the Pooh characters, the author didn't mention that Winnie the Pooh himself has been voice by a soundalike since the late Sterling Holloway's retirement in the 1970s. (I know, it's hard to think of someone who's been doing the work for twenty-five years as "the new guy", but he's still "doing" Sterling Holloway.)

A mention of Jim Henson wouldn't have gone amiss here, although puppets and cartoons aren't quite the same thing. The Muppeteers had retired Rowlf (the piano-playing dog) as a speaking part in Henson's memory, although his face still pops up from time to time. (Surely you didn't expect them to retire Kermit the Frog.) Unfortunately, they've reversed themselves on this, and Rowlf has started talking again.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

"Something like this is difficult to explain to superiors"

Yahoo (Reuters) | Somebody's sure to notice this...
A Taiwan stock trader mistakenly bought T$7.9 billion ($251 million) worth of shares with a mis-stroke of her computer, meaning her company is looking at a paper loss of more than $12 million and she is looking for a new job.

The trader with Fubon Securities mis-keyed in a small order from Merrill Lynch Monday, creating confusion when many small firms inexplicably surged the 7 percent trading limit.

"Something like this is difficult to explain to superiors," a Fubon executive said Tuesday.

Fubon said that the trader was unfamiliar with new computer systems and would be fired.

"There is a paper loss of more than T$400 million," said the executive.

"However, with a good outlook for stocks in the second half, there are no plans to sell the shares in the near term."
See also Bloomberg.

Monday, June 27, 2005

"A woman with three children under the age of 10 wouldn't think my schedule looked so busy."

1010WINS (AP) | Garrison Keillor Tackling Many Projects
Lake Wobegon's gotten a little more stressful these days. Shooting begins Wednesday on a film version of Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion," bringing him together with director Robert Altman and a star-studded cast including Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline and Lindsay Lohan.
Lindsay Lohan?

Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Sunday paper

Iowa State | The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race
By Jared Diamond (author of Guns, Germs and Steel)

To science we owe dramatic changes in our smug self-image. Astronomy taught us that our earth isn’t the center of the universe but merely one of billions of heavenly bodies. From biology we learned that we weren’t specially created by God but evolved along with millions of other species. Now archaeology is demolishing another sacred belief: that human history over the past million years has been a long tale of progress. In particular, recent discoveries suggest that the adoption of agriculture, supposedly our most decisive step toward a better life, was in many ways a catastrophe from which we have never recovered. With agriculture came the gross social and sexual inequality, the disease and despotism, that curse our existence.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette | Parent files complaint about 70 ‘sexually explicit’ books in school libraries
The Fayetteville School District has a procedure for parents to file formal complaints against school library books they find inappropriate.

But what if the number of books is 70?

That’s how many alleged sexually explicit books local resident Laurie Taylor claimed she found during a personal "audit" of the library system.

Taylor, who has filed previous complaints against school library books, claims the books in question contain segments on "threesomes, teenage sexual foreplay, detailed sexual escapades, explicit homosexual affairs, despicable language, dangerous instruction and promotion of sexual behavior."

Taylor listed seven of the alleged objectionable books in an e-mail Wednesday to school board members and Superintendent Bobby New.

They were "The Homo Handbook: Getting in Touch with Your Inner Homo" by Judy Carter, "The Other Woman" by Eric J. Dickey, "Rainbow Boys" by Alex Sanchez, "Doing It" by Melvin Burgess, "Choke" by Chuck Palahniuk, "GLBTQ: The Survival Guide for Queer and Questioning Teens" by Kelly Huegel and "Forever" by Judy Blume.

Wall Street Journal | 'You're Reading...What?'
Hilary Armstrong was happy to see her 12-year-old daughter Katherine reading at the kitchen table one afternoon -- until, that is, she glanced at the back of the book jacket. "I was mortified," says Mrs. Armstrong. The book, which her daughter got from a friend, had a blurb on the back that read, "After all, no one really wants to go to college a virgin."

The San Francisco mom allowed Katherine to finish the novel, one of the popular "Gossip Girl" series, but started keeping closer tabs on her daughter's reading material. She wishes the book business would help out. "It would be nice if they had a big rating on it, like at the movies," Mrs. Armstrong says.

It's the summer book season: Do you know what your child is reading? To appeal to teens brought up on suggestive music videos and cable-TV shows, publishers are releasing more books full of mature themes and unflinching portrayals of sexual activity, with young protagonists the same age as their target readers. One publisher is venturing beyond its titles on dragons and bunnies with "Claiming Georgia Tate," about a 12-year-old girl whose father pressures her into a sexual relationship and makes her dress like a prostitute. In "Looking for Alaska," prep-school students watch pornography and pass the time binge-drinking. Coming this fall is "Teach Me," in which a male high-school teacher has sex with a student.

...The subject matter is rarely clear from a book's title or graphics. "Rainbow Party" features tubes of lipstick on the cover -- though it isn't about girls discussing makeup, but a teen oral-sex party.
I'm such an old fogy.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

There goes the neighborhood | Government Power to Take Property Backed by Top Court
Local governments have broad power to take over private property to make way for shopping malls, office parks and sports stadiums, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled.

The court said government agencies can constitutionally take property in the name of economic development -- and even transfer it to another private party -- as long as the landowners receive compensation. The 5-4 ruling today came in a case involving land near a Pfizer Inc. plant in New London, Connecticut.

...New London is seeking to raze a residential neighborhood to make room for a five-star hotel, luxury condominiums and office buildings near the Pfizer research facility. The city says it is trying to reverse decades of economic decline.

New London's development plan, enacted in 2000, calls for the takeover of 115 homes and small businesses in the 90-acre Fort Trumbull neighborhood adjacent to the Pfizer facility.
If it wasn't clear before, it is now: Collective rights are more important than individual rights. The framers of the Constitution really meant that offices are more important than homes, and that big offices are more important than small ones, because local government defines "more important" as "pay more taxes".

Saturday, May 14, 2005

I'd rather not know

Rotten Tomatoes | More Serenity Screenings Announced, Sell Out Immediately
"Following the sell-out success of the May 5th pre-screenings, creator Joss Whedon recently announced that advance previews of his movie "Serenity" would appear at twenty theaters in twenty cities, this time on May 26th.

By the next morning, well before the official list of cities was posted, networking fans on the Serenity movie site and elsewhere had diligently located half the listings through trial and error and several of the locations were already sold out. "Serenity" hits theaters wide (which means "normal" people can buy tickets) on September 30th."
I have a feeling that "diligently located half the listings through trial and error" can be translated as "checked Fandango for May 26 listings for the theaters that had hosted the first one", but that doesn't sound quite so investigative. Can I be forgiven for being amused by the idea that some of these "diligent" fans might have mistakenly bought themselves tickets to an advance screening of "Jarhead"?

Perhaps it's just sour grapes that the preview was announced and sold out all while I was sitting in my doctor's office waiting for a blood test.

I realize the film is almost certainly completed by now, since it was originally scheduled for a spring release. These undoubtedly aren't rough cuts being previewed, but essentially the final release version. (I guess it was pushed later to avoid direct competition with, I don't know, isn't there some higher-profile, bigger-budget science-fiction film due to be released this summer? I seem to recall rumors. "Jar Jar Binks II" or something?)

But I have to wonder what audience Universal thinks they're aiming for, with a September 30 release date.

Monday, May 09, 2005

No power in the 'verse

Boston | Starship troup-ers: `Serenity' could replace popular sci-fi franchises
When both the ``Star Wars'' and ``Star Trek'' universes reach their final frontiers this month, where will sci-fi addicts next get their fix of the future?
Perhaps in the dark, gritty `` 'verse'' of ``Serenity'' - director Joss Whedon's big-budget movie production of his failed 2002-2003 TV series ``Firefly.''
That's the prediction of some of the 600 enthusiastic fans who packed a special advance screening of ``Serenity'' in Boston Thursday [May 5]. The movie opens Sept. 30.
...When tickets for advance screenings in 10 cities went on sale in April, they sold out within hours. Fans from as far away as Ohio and California came to the Boston screening...
Meanwhile, in Toledo:
Toledo Blade | Galactic debate takes flight
While all eyes in the coming weeks will be on Episode III: Return of the Sith, the final installment in the series of Star Wars films, some already are looking ahead. What they see is an end of an era for two of the biggest names in science fiction history.

This month will mark the passing of not only the final Star Wars movie, but also the latest Star Trek TV series, Enterprise. It's finale is slated for Friday, with no plans for another series to replace it.

The first Star Wars movie debuted in 1977; Star Trek preceded it as a television series in 1966. Since then, we've all learned about all kinds of things - The Force, Vulcans, Ewoks, warp drives.

But one question has yet to be answered: Which is better, Star Trek or Star Wars?

The Blade assembled a panel of local experts to settle the argument once and for all...
Oh, Lord. Shoot me. Shoot me now.

Friday, May 06, 2005

I was right the first time

When J Michael Straczynski gave Gwen Stacy a hitherto-unrevealed sexual liason with Norman (the original Green Goblin) Osborn, I was disgusted. However, because it was JMS, and because he'd earned the benefit of the doubt with his run on Amazing Spider-Man so far, not to mention the television achievement that is Babylon 5, I gave him to the end of the story arc to justify this outrageous plot turn.

It may have been unfair, given his B5 habit of leaving threads dangling for years before paying them off, to expect that he would resolve this story in a mere hundred or so comic-book pages.

Well, the end of "Sins Past" came and went, and nothing was resolved. The kids disappeared, after a blood transfusion from Peter saved Sarah's life, and a dose of Goblin serum drove Gabriel mad. No twist, no cop-out: We are expected to accept that these really are Gwen's kids by Norman Osborn.

And I resolved that this would be the last new Marvel comic I bought. I meant it when I said it.

Cut to several months later. The storyline was continued in another title, Spectacular Spider-Man, written by hell-no-I'm-not-JMS'-protégé Sara "Samm" Barnes. The four-issue arc, "Sins Remembered", has been collected in trade paperback. So far as I am concerned, it represents Marvel's last chance to get me back. After almost forty years of reading Spider-Man, it's hard to say goodbye.

Hm. Gwen's daughter's name is Sarah. The writer's name is Sara. Hmmmm.

When an unknown (to this genre) writer writes a story about a character who has the same name as herself, a character newly introduced into an existing mythos who gets all the good lines while the nominal star of the series gazes at her admiringly, she runs the risk of said character being thought of as a "Mary-Sue".
She's amazingly intelligent, outrageously beautiful, adored by all around her -- and absolutely detested by most reading her adventures. She's Mary Sue, the most reviled character type in media fan fiction. Basically, she's a character representing the author of the story, an avatar, the writer's projection into an interesting world full of interesting people whom she watches weekly and thinks about daily. Sometimes the projections get processed into interesting characters, themselves. Usually, though, they don't.
This one doesn't, either.

"Sins Remembered" is not a Spider-Man story. It is a year-one tale of the Gallopin' She-Goblin, Agent of Interpol. If you are not raptly fascinated by the character of Sarah Stacy, there is nothing here for you. Although brother Gabe appears, he's little more than a cardboard cutout. His function is purely MacGuffinite: Someone for Sarah to protect, someone to threaten Mary Jane, someone who does what he does because the story requires it, not because he has any discernable motivation.

Spider-Man himself appears in costume barely enough to justify the "Spider-Man" logo at the top of the cover. His function is to be supportive--and to be an utterly inept surrogate parent to the physically-mature, legally ten-year-old Sarah.

And, briefly, to be comic relief in his own book. Boy, this scene torques me. In an attempt to web-swing around Paris, Spidey knocks a gargoyle off a cornice. Because, you know, Paris is just so much older than New York City. Didn't his spider-sense get amped up just last issue? Wouldn't you think that if it isn't good for anything else, it'd warn him if he's about to land on something that isn't strong enough to hold him up?

(There's another issue abandoned: The twins, their appearance and medical condition notwithstanding, are minors. Who's their guardian? Does French law care? Shouldn't Peter care? Should I?)


Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Real world vs school

Denver Post | Charters dent public schools
Lobbing incentives and recruiting aggressively, charter schools have lured thousands of students from traditional metro-area schools, sapping tax dollars from district budgets and forcing some principals and board members to consider something new:

How to compete for students.

Charters are promising laptop computers, trips to the East Coast, experiential learning and a fast track to a college degree. Their principals are donning suits and ties and going door-to-door to talk to parents. They are forming partnerships with private developers to build gleaming facilities in new developments where a regular school might have gone, had the charter not gotten there first.

"We know we won't have any kids if we don't do it," said Kay Frunzi, who runs Denver's Wyatt-Edison Charter School.
In any other line of work, that would tell us that there is a demand for Edison's services. Somehow, here, it's being represented as little better than buying students with expensive perks.
...School officials say charters pose a challenge. For example, in Denver each student is worth about $6,500 a year.

Though Denver Public Schools officials do not track where individual students go, traditional school enrollment has declined by about 4,000 students in four years, while charter and contract-school enrollment has gone up by roughly 4,000 students over the same period.

That said, if the 3,800 new students who have enrolled in Denver charter schools since 2001 were sitting in traditional classroom seats, the district could have an additional $24.7 million a year to work with.
Aha. I had a feeling it wasn't about the students themselves.

But does money just vanish? Doesn't it follow the students? If it doesn't--or even if it does--how do the charter schools manage to do all these things that public schools say they can't afford?

[LATER: Wait a minute. Doesn't this imply that those 3,800 additional students don't actually cost the school system any money? Doesn't it admit that the $6,500 each student is "worth" doesn't actually get spent on that student? Isn't there an implied assumption that there's no particular reason that it should be?]
Theresa Peña, a Denver school-board member and a former US West executive, said she understands that charters have found niches in the marketplace and have responded to what parents want.

"We (DPS) haven't caught up with that," she said. "We will need to give our principals more training and capacity to handle this. Some of them have never been in the business environment where they have to compete."
You mean some of them have? How ...unusual.
But in the end, Peña said, a school will survive if it does well academically.

"We've lost customers because our academic achievement isn't there," she said.
What an interesting thing for a school board member to admit to a newspaper.

Here's a parent's comment:
"During the interview process to get in, I kept thinking, 'My God, they want my kid here,"' she said. "They took time in the summer to conduct testing sessions to gauge academically and socially where he is. They took a good look at him."
There's a wild idea. Wonder if it will catch on.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Happy Urf Day

A recursive reminder from Tempus Fugit and Inštitút pre Slobodnú Spoločnosť.


You Are Incredibly Logical

(You got 100% of the questions right)

Move over Spock - you're the new master of logic
You think rationally, clearly, and quickly.
A seasoned problem solver, your mind is like a computer!

English Genius
You scored 100% Beginner, 100% Intermediate, 93% Advanced, and 86% Expert!
You did so extremely well, even I can't find a word to describe your excellence! You have the uncommon intelligence necessary to understand things that most people don't. You have an extensive vocabulary, and you're not afraid to use it properly! Way to go!

Thank you so much for taking my test. I hope you enjoyed it!

For the complete Answer Key, visit my blog:

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Link: The Commonly Confused Words Test written by shortredhead78 on Ok Cupid

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Monkey with a badge

Yahoo (Reuters) | SWAT Monkey! a Natural for a Television Show
PHOENIX (Reuters) - Send in the SWAT monkey.

It's not an order police commanders are accustomed to giving, but that could change if an Arizona police department follows through on a proposal to train a capuchin monkey for high-risk police operations.

A Special Weapons and Tactics veteran from Mesa, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix, has researched the possibility of landing a $100,000 federal grant to fund a pilot program to train one monkey.

"Everybody laughs about it until they really start thinking about it," Sean Truelove told the East Valley Tribune, a local newspaper. "It could change the way we do business."
Sure, PETA needs something new to worry about.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Of course I just bought one

The Register | Our phones don't work - Verizon boss
If you're infuriated by your cellphone's lousy reception indoors, stop fretting. It's a feature, not a bug.

So says Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg, who was interviewed by the San Francisco Chronicle's Todd Wallack on Saturday.

"Why in the world would you think your (cell) phone would work in your house?" he said. "The customer has come to expect so much. They want it to work in the elevator; they want it to work in the basement."
They want it to work in movie theaters, they want it to work at funerals...

Monday, April 18, 2005

No surprises

Your Linguistic Profile:

50% Dixie
40% General American English
10% Yankee
0% Midwestern
0% Upper Midwestern

LATER: So, I gather California (not otherwise accounted for) is "General American English"? And where in this breakdown does the distinctive New Orleans accent belong? And which is "real" Yankee, Noo Yawk or Bahstan?

I know, I know, it's just an Internet quiz.

That's "the WORLD FAMOUS Elongated Man"

Perhaps there's a reason the Elongated Man never made it into the top tier. Too hard to spell. Difficult to pronounce. Doesn't clearly say what his power is. Difficult to work the word into a dynamic logo.

Well, perhaps there are several reasons.

It is difficult to come up with a name that hasn't been used. The Elongated Man dates from 1960, but editor Julius Schwartz has said that if he'd known that DC owned the rights to Plastic Man at the time, he would have used that name instead. He could have gone with Elastic Man, but Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen was having intermittent adventures as "Elastic Lad". Worse, Jimmy and EM both wore relatively featureless purple tights--although Jimmy had the worse taste to actually have "Elastic Lad" on his chest.

Even the Incredibles' "ElastiGirl" was already taken. (
Uncharacteristically, she was the "muscle" of the Doom Patrol. She didn't stretch, she grew to gigantic size.*) (I remember reading at IMDB that DC allowed Pixar to use the name in the film so long as it wasn't used in merchandising. There are precious few toys of Pixar's ElastiGirl, and the only one I can find, the cloissone pin, is labelled "Mrs Incredible".)

So, actually, the Elongated Man is the only major stretching superhero whose name doesn't rhyme with "plastic".

Most of them are played for laughs, anyway, with the conspicuous exception of Reed Richards, the Fantastic Four's "Mr. Fantastic". (Usually. Remind me to tell you about the time Dr Doom was bragging about having his own European country and Reed shot back, "I have a hundred pairs of stretch socks!"** But it still rhymes with "plastic".) I suppose when you think about the kind of distortion these characters are theoretically capable of, you could go either grotesque, or goofy.

I'm taking this too seriously, I guess.

* By the way, that green kid on the "Doom Patrol" cover? That's Beast Boy. Yeah, the same one who's currently appearing in "Teen Titans."

Okay, I cheated. The "stretch socks" scene wasn't in any "real" adventure of the Fantastic Four. It was a parody in the pages of Marvel's short-lived but fondly-remembered "Not Brand Ecch." The funniest part of this uneven humor title was just how short the distance was from Stan Lee's melodrama to out-and-out comedy.

More information: Great Comic Book Database (from whence the covers come): Dibny Dirt, the Elongated Man Website.