Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Friday, December 24, 2004

Okay, last year we had to deal with the Christmas kissing bears (the ones Hallmark had that have a magnet in their snout so they liplock with severe authority. Well, my father's attorney swung by last night with a gift basket for the family which included another one of these (all by himself unfortunately). We probably wouldn't have noticed the magnet in the solo bear, had the pair not been there the previous year. S'anyway... we got to thinking about it, and since we clearly had too much wine at the poker game, when we got back the parents' place, we had to test some theories out. I'd just like to note that I wasn't the one who brought the bears out to do this.

Apparently all of the male Hallmark kissing bears have the same alignment of magnets within them, so they won't kiss each other, and are quite able to demonstrate this issue by mutual repulsion, and displaying the general awkwardness of two beings being forced to kiss. They will, however, allow their magnets to align alongside each other, planting one on the cheek. Clearly, the Hallmark kissing bears are not gay, merely French. That's important to know.

Meanwhile, other observations of the season.
1. Best Buy was attempting cross promotional synergy by placing a Robosapien on top of the stack of I, Robot DVDs. Nothing like encouraging the thought that once the Robosapiens reach critical mass, they'll slaughter the humans. Buy one today for your kid.
2. While the one show I figured should be available on DVD (Police Squad!) wasn't there, (not even where I figured they'd plant it, in a Naked Gun box set,) were a lot of other shows which they were pushing on the public in the TV section. This of course results in the game of "What's the least likely series that someone's putting out on DVD?" I think our clear winner in this was finding that they were pushing the first season of 227 on DVD. Nothing to add here, just couldn't figure that one out.

And good night, and a happy holiday, belated or otherwise, to you all.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Random shopping thought, captured for your amusement.

1. "Why is there a KISS doll in the Toys for Tots? Wait, are they still making KISS dolls? Was this once a collectible? Is it in its original packaging? This is just posing more questions than it answers. I should walk away."
2. "How's the seal on this storage jar? Dear God, what is that smell? Is that the plastic sealer, or did somebody at the factory actually fart in the jar and seal it. Either way, it's a good seal to keep that in."
3. "$19.99?! Is that right? Well, normally I wouldn't consider feeding parakeets to Gracie, but at that price... Well, it is Christmas."
For those of you looking for a third part to the bonus where the answers are The Cardinal's Mistress and Zabibah and the King: Behold! The most baffling thing I've seen this week.**

**And that includes the ads for Racing Stripes, which screams January film dump.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Well, it looks like the Port Authority has realized how screwed it is. We can step down on the fraught possibilities. Not that this alternative is all that much better, but at least it's not fatal, and it's not the government playing chicken with itself.
When I saw yesterday that EA had bought exclusive NFL rights for their football games (consequently screwing my investment in TTWO) , I had to figure that something like this would be in the offing. While I don't think that anyone was asking for this product, it's probably the only plotline you can work from, unless someone really wants XFL 2005.
Clearly, I should have bought more at the gift shop.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

I find myself very annoyed by this. Well not the article, but the sidebar on the right. I annually get ticked off on the naming conventions of the bowls, but somehow the fact that they've tossed alphabetical order of bowl name, in favor of alphabetical by bowl sponsor, with BCS championship trumping all, somehow, they've reached another level of crassness. I could even forgive them for stuff like the Continental Tire Bowl, because it doesn't really have an original name, but for when you have to follow logic like "Where's the Sun Bowl?" "Look under Vitalis, pinhead." you can see where it would have been just as easy to do it alphabetically by their spelling in Greek.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

There's more to the kitchen at work than the vending machine. Occasionally people leave treats for us there, free to a good home. And in most cases I know of no better home than my digestive tract. Today I got burned on this. Someone left a half box of Caramel Apple Frangos, and I being my omnivorous self, went grazing. Okay, the key problem here is any two adjacent components worked together, but not as a three-part mix. (Caramel with liquid Jolly Rancher center, we can do that. Chocolate with Caramel center, we can do that.) Clearly, while caramel is a sufficient physical binding agent to combine the two, its an insufficient cognitive binding agent.

People had asked why I hadn't dropped the strikethru on Mr. Artest. Well, dumb me, I phrased it as Ron Artest, Rapper, which really isn't true, but then again, I wasn't going to be able to put Ron Artest, Record Executive in the block. (Joe had suggested the compromise I should have followed was striking out Ron Artest, and leaving Rapper there.) Also, I really wanted to give him the slight benefit of the doubt that the album thing might work out. Well, no. Bust out the strikethru.

Meanwhile, I'm debating another addition: The Pittsburgh Port Authority. Based on this article. The thing I'm having difficulty with is whether this is actually fraught, under previously established standards. Clearly this strategy is flawed, clearly it will lead only to trouble. However, there's only one particular trouble it'll lead to, the only question is not the form it will take, but WHEN the system will shut down. The key quote:

"I can't believe [Harrisburg] would abandon us now,"

Yeah. It's doomed, but is it fraught? You make the call.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

I gotta say, Atlanta metro may actually be designed by an insane person, and it's only getting worse. While driving to my motel Thursday night, I ended up driving to the wrong Sullivan Road in College Park, GA. There's actually two sections. One contains all the hotels, one is apparently empty, being developed. In fact, the only thing on that section of Sullivan Road is a 15-foot high column of fire. Now you'd think, if you had a 15-foot column of fire in your town, you'd at least have somebody watching it, or it would be fenced off, or something. But no. This was just a column of fire off on its own. Even worse, upon seeing it, I could only come up with two explanations: witches' sabbath, or smelting. When I finally got to the hotel, I asked about the column of fire, and they were more concerned about their not being a sign for the Super 8 at the exit, which caused me to find the column of fire. Personally, I think you'd have better luck with a nice blue sign "ATTRACTIONS: Column of Blue Hellfire -> 0.3"

I also discovered my main screwup for the weekend, I put all the things I needed for my laptop in my luggage, except the one thing I wanted to check at the Super8, my wireless card. Having chosen the motel because it was available there, I had to kick myself for not doing it. This kind of blew my plans for Friday, as I was trying to run into Richard, my old teammate. Lacking email, I couldn't get his response to my email, and without web access, I had no way to get driving directions. Oh, well.

Instead, Friday morning saw me doing the World of Coca-Cola tour. I may have additional pictures on this later, but it's about what I figured. Yeah, it's propaganda, but the free all-you-can-drink is probably worth the price of admission. Oddities of the trip:
The opening video, with 19th century drawings, was crying out for someone to scream "Brilliant!" at every turn.
I entered the tour situated after a party of Buddhist monks, and before a school class. Just a very odd combination of viewpoints going through on a Friday morning, and that truly manifested itself during the free tasting room.
Comedy bronze: My noting the rack of flags above the world cola stations included Paraguay. And yes, they had placed two different decals on each side of the flag.
Comedy silver: Watching Buddhist monks go nuts for the taste of Japan's Vegeta-beta, think Apricot Hi-C.
Comedy gold: My facial reaction to Beverly, the Italian aperitif, which was basically indistinguishable from tonic water.
Comedy platinum: Lying in wait while a crazed gang of fourth graders, working their way down the line, finally hit Beverly. I'm not a vengeful man, but that was certainly satisfying to watch.
If memory serves me, during Mark's tour of the world of Coke, he got to taste some of the same one I had, and I think we are in agreement on the improvement that replacing America's Fanta lemon with the Israeli version.

Well, we did it again. Go figure. Only two losses all weekend, and I managed to get through all my standard food orders, though I'll probably be down to carrots and elm bark for the rest of the week. Even my attempts to be mildly healthy (Sonic Sunrise) backfired, the combination of orange juice, and cherry limeade was only interpreted as a desperate cry for vodka. The Waffle House sausage melt was probably not a good idea at all, and of course, the annual Sticky Fingers run is not going to contribute to good health. The only good thing to come from my diet this weekend was a quality neologism. "Accounts of one's consumption of meat: Carniporn."

The weekend in notes and quotes:
Suggested future team name: For Unlawful Cornell Knowledge
"Sonofabitch, that IS Boba Fett."
"Futility is not an officially recognized statistic."
"You see some packets are edited more than others."
"'pants-wetting horror' is not, nor will ever be, a giveaway."
"but I was so sure."
"I don't know how, but I somehow conflated Anne Tyler and Anne Perry, and neither is related to Steve."

Craig, after I basically 30'd something solo: "Was there anything else you could have answered if it was in that question?"
Me: "No."
Craig: "Then it's a good bonus."

"I can name...lesbians." (in response to a leadin mentioning lesbian reality show contestants. The pause was everything.)

"She's a triple threat." (Mike, upon hearing that someone was both a lesbian AND has an artificial limb.)

Our mascot for the weekend was a bear, suitable for baby use, but kept safe inside two levels of bags during the tournament to prevent any possible contamination. The Hermetically Sealed Bear, hereafter to be referred to as HSB, was delivered successfully after the tournament. Attached photos see bear, bear's target for future protection, and the happy parents. (1|2) Said baby has already grown to like the bear, or at least see it as a sleep aid. Within thirty minutes of grasping said bear, baby was out cold. I'm not sure what it is within the design of that bear that makes it a sleep aid, but it seems to work universally.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Fark directed me to this. I wish I could say I was shocked at what politicians from my state are capable of, but I seem to be impervious to shock on this one. Short of using a hand puppet**, this has to be the most embarrassing thing I've ever seen a congressman resort to. I'm now hoping for an absolute blitz winter, because woke Phil early, and now he's ticked off.

**Yes, I remember Kermit testifying before Congress. This is worse.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Apparently my reaction to the Arby's Oven Mitt may be universal. However, I'm really curious about something that nobody seems to be talking about something on their front page, namely the open recall. I even looked back through google news, but all I found was this restatement of the problem. Anybody know if this is actually because people tried to use Oven Mitt as an oven mitt? Because if that's what happened, that's like metaphysical perfection of a bad promotion.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Since I set these things up in advance, and then may not notice when it happens, I'd better announce this:

1. I've expanded out UPRK, adding some new puzzle types. Three have come up already, and two more will show up Thursday and Friday.

2. At least for December, I'm expanding production out to three a day. Ideally, I'd like to have production of one word puzzle, one number puzzle, and one spatial/geographic puzzle each day. We'll see how that goes.

So Ty Willingham got fired today, which wasn't enjoyable, and Butch Davis rode himself out of town, which was enjoyable (I am a Steeler fan, and I tend to think anything that ever comes out of Miami(FL) Football is the spawn of hell.) In both cases, I think there's a lot unreasonable expectations roaming the countryside. I'm seeing a bit of it here as well. In case you hadn't noticed, the Panthers managed to make themselves the least likely BCS team in history, by winning just the right tiebreakers. Please note that when they all but assured it last Thursday, they were unranked, prompting coaches to realize they'd better legitimize this, but quick. The irony is palpable, not only was this a rebuilding year (exit the Wreck, enter the new QB), but after narrowly avoiding a loss to Furman (?!, yeah, Byko-trawling), the prevailing wisdom was that Walt Harris was going to get canned, possibly Thanksgiving night. That's why this weekend's game should be bloody interesting. They're playing a hurricane-postponed game against South Florida. Were I Walt Harris, I would be hard pressed NOT to tank this game. Why? It's the unique opportunity to deliver a simultaneous 8x10 glossy of your middle finger to everybody.
To the "Fire Walt" lobby internally and externally: the team just did the thing that everybody agreed would save his job. What better way to put their feet to the fire?
To the BCS: They've already botched the operation this year beyond repair, but you can assure fame for the rest of the BCS' life by losing. Every two-bit sportswriting hack will have his perfect final clause to his sentence. "X team didn't get to play for the title, Y team didn't even get to BCS, AND PITT...PITT..." You see where this goes, you can practically hear the spittle being absorbed on the radio mike guard. It's the Herostratus principle at work here, but it's good.

The chance is remote, but man, is it appealing.

The other part of this is the beauty that's gripping Pitt's last AD, who promptly fired the coach he had at his new job. Said team has now tanked exquisitely. I have to think now that Steve Pederson's unreasonable expectations are far more reasonable, as long as said expectations mean the only way he's getting out of Lincoln is in the trunk of one.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Caution: clips may suddenly break into Spin Doctors without sufficient warning.**

For the record, Carey sent me this AFTER my comment about Pooh.
(long form wait for the middle|short form, thanks Mike)

Somehow it's good to know Tigger's got my back on this argument, but bad to know that if he's behind me, he may bounce.

** Admittedly, there may be no sufficient warning for that, but...

Saturday, November 27, 2004

During my great-aunt's 90th birthday party today, I'm pretty sure I saw something that I would have figured only was available in Hell's Gift Shop, which should be in Breezewood:

An animated snowman, angrily gesticulating with a lit Christmas tree in one hand, dancing around singing "Ice Ice Baby." Even worse, the kids had been playing with it so long they broke a wire in it preventing it from being turned off.

I'm going to have that as nightmare fuel for a while.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

"Bother!" said Pooh, as he loaded another clip into his Uzi.
It's not quite SWAT Team Teddy, but frankly, what is? (via Boingboing)

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

1. I got to see all ten episodes of the Jeopardy! College Championship. My mother hustled up 8 tickets, and I was able, through judicious trades and linejumping, to get myself and my father in. Its kind of cool when you can get your father to get to do something mildly against the rules (jumping lines to stay on the ground level for the finals), even if they are clearly not enforcing it. And they weren't.
2. Understood lesson of watching four taping sessions: It's easy to look like a pro, a trooper, a showman when the same fifteen questions get asked of you every session. Trebek and Johnny Gilbert, both showmen. Sometimes I worry I'm approaching that with moderating.
3. After Saturday night, we compared notes, and I missed two key facts. I wasn't sure about exactly who had played quiz bowl before, I knew about Elliot (Kermin) and Casey, but I didn't have Columbia completely pegged. I suspected she had played quiz bowl, but didn't know. My second mistake in analysis was not realizing that they wouldn't set the semifinals. I figured they'd pull something to guarantee a local finalist, and the three choices were CMU, WVU, or Dickinson (she had played in an HS tournament we hosted). I figured they'd smack all three of them together in one match. Oh, well, everything else we discussed we had right, right down to guessing they'd have a Pittsburgh category, and a basketball category.
4. It used to be when I got nervous about things, the temperature of my extremities dropped. Well, this showed a new tic. For some reason, during the finals, I started rocking back and forth like Leo Mazzone. What cured this? In the College Hodgepodge category, I looked up to see on the jumbo screen, the smiling face of Keith Olbermann. Olbermann protects us and keeps us safe.
5. One moment you don't get to see on air, just before the final daily double, they had to break. I about doubled over in pain. I immediately realized that Ari could have pulled it. Hit the impending Daily Double, then risk more than Elliott could have in Final Jeopardy, and he would have had it. And then the waiting began. We had had several "breaks" from regular play during the two days, but none like this one. This one was agonizing and seemed to take forever. And then, just as suddenly... Boom..."No, sorry." Game. Set. Match.
6. Understood lession of watching four tapings: I think I have the rhythm down now. You don't really get to see the lights on the sides of the board on TV. If you can watch a game live, do so.
7. After the tournament, I left him a message. "Congratulations, now you get to play Ken." I got him gooood.
From the Grape...Grapes department,

this discussion of Butterfinger Crisp:

" They are SO great. Wafers layered with a creamy version of the butterfinger peanut butter. I would marry them if I could."

Correct me if I'm wrong but wouldn't a creamy version of the Butterfinger peanut butter be... peanut butter?

And how exactly does something with the creamy version of butterfinger peanut butter become Butterfinger CRISP?

I don't think I could eat this. It makes my brain hurt.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Two bits from Sunday.

1. My parents have finally adopted a cat for domestic purposes. Gracie, the cat in question has been eating at their place for at least six years, but it's only in the past couple months that she's been let in the house. This is typically how they end up becoming pets. She's only been allowed in because her persistent travelling companion, Nick, has moved over to my aunt's house. Nick was the son of an earlier local cat, Boots, and when he was a kitten, a small child of the neighborhood had called him "Little Boots", which of course made me lose it every time I saw the cat. Nick has also remarkably Caligulike in his treatment of the local wildlife, so he can't come in. Gracie is taking to the kitchen nicely, though she is a hugely fat kitty. My mother has actually put her on a diet regimen, and initiated an exercise program involving a meter stick and a shoelace, that I have dubbed "cat fishing." Contrary to the rules of the web, I probably won't initiate catblogging as a result, unless of course we can get her on the linoleum to do it. Kitty spinout is always quality video.

2. The wild turkeys which wander around outside are apparently getting smarter. My mother reports that they've developed a method of self-feeding. They congregate around a tree that has a milk jug bird feeder hanging from a branch. One of them then flies up (okay, as much as these guys can fly up), and knocks the underside of the feeder. Some seed then spills out, and they feed. Then another turkey does the same. Yes, turkeys have independently invented the pinata. This I will film if I get a chance.
Continuing along on the lard/Monster Thickburger/Krispy Kreme in a glass thread: I missed this which seems to be promising a cup.

If I ever decide to go into the fast food business, my slogan has to be "How good is our food? We're going to kill you, and you'll pay for the privilege."

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Please note this has nothing to do with Ron Artest:

Okay, I'm a little weirded out now.
Came home from the tournament and found this had happened. I'll be spending a little while not thinking of anything.

Update: Insult to injury, the Post-Gazette can't even get the poor guy's job right. They are currently listing him as the "visiting coach" in their section headline.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Don't even try to understand this.
A notion that just flew through my head:

"The only reason people can bet on jai-alai is tradition. If Hungry Hungry Hippos had been around at that time, we'd be able to lay $20 on a Henry-Homer-Happy trifecta."

For a similar analogue: substitute chemin de fer and Cootie into the argument.
Key quote of this article: "Yet, all it takes to own an ABA franchise is $10,000 and a business plan. Or, as Newman put it, 'about the same as it is to open a McDonald's franchise.'"

Some would say, having seen them in action, even the second part is optional.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Why does this merger feel remarkably like two men who can't swim lashing themselves together in the ocean?

I'll just remind you again. Get a bulk eraser now before it becomes illegal, and you become another piece of livestock. And it might not be a bad idea to stock up on pen and pencils, after all they could concievably infringe.

Meanwhile: I just have to note a couple of things here: WATCH released their 10 worst toys for kids.

1. While I'll grant them the possibility of a choking hazard, I've got to say that, were I a parent purchasing something called Pound-A-Ball with included mallet, my primary worry would be actual truth in product naming.

2. Please note where these little beauties are made. Irwin, PA. Not only near me, but a town named for Irwin Mainway!

3. Clearly, like fat chicks, bears do not like being made fun of for wearing party hats, especially if, as it looks like here, they are forced to do so. Thus in their own stuffed passive aggressive way, they bring along unsafe miniature packages...OF DEATH! Also note this toy, with a "teddy bear surprise inside!" Again, it's not good to get on the bad side of teddy bears.

4. Here we see the sawed-off shotgun principle in action: just because you make the switchblade 4 times normal size doesn't suddenly make it safe.
Helpful teaching lesson number 4: How to demonstrate the contrapositive:

If P then Q : They're happy because they eat lard.

Contrapositive: If not Q then not P: They cannot eat lard, therefore they are not happy.

Article also recommended for the phrase: "A block of lard makes an excellent skating rink for insects."

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Two bits on chain food.

1. For the record: Fat in this: 107 grams. Fat in a stick of butter: 88 grams. Sadly, I might eat one, if I was planning to eat nothing else for the week for the week but elm bark.

2. Am I losing my mind or does the Burger King chicken fight ads make it the first national pro-cockfighting ad campaign in quite a while?

Good Frickin' Lord!
I only know of one force on earth that can stop what this headline promises. We must raise the zombie corpse of Willie Stargell.

Alert the prothonotary.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Apparently it's now a rule. Everyone I know gets will get press coverage before me. Expect a bigger report on this later in the month. (Like a lot of people, I managed to get in to watch all the taping sessions.)

Look folks, I don't even follow the NBA much, but nothing says, "Go to FraughtWatch, Go Directly to FraughtWatch, do not pass go, do not collect $200" quite like saying "I want to be the next Shaq. Shaq as rapper I mean."

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

All right. If we do do this, there's got to be some ground rules:

1. I realize it isn't necessary to move, but having seen previous holders of the office violate this heavily (Having families in both Washington PA and DC, not telling each other about the other, etc.), I'm inclined to follow the spirit of the position.

2. Running on the Mascot Party banner mustn't preclude me from also taking a shot at the Republican nomination. (I'm certainly not the ideal candidate of the party, but since I seriously doubt anyone's going to challenge, it's "Hey, free party nomination.")

3. I'm not running in a bear suit. Why? Western Pennsylvania in the fall, a rural district with lots of hunters, and me walking up to people in their homes while in a bear suit. If this isn't a recipe for my obit to end up with a "DUMBASS" tag on Fark, I don't know what is.

4. If I do this, I have to play this to win, I have to play this honestly, and I have to be myself. That doesn't mean I can't apply my sense of the absurd to it. What does that mean? I can't run away from the record you see here, but fortunately most times when I sound crazy, I'm right. And believe me, when you see the slogans I cook up, you'll want a t-shirt.

I already know I'd be playing a long, long shot. I'd be running, as a moderate Republican, ever so slightly to the left of an established Democrat. He'd have the advantage of incumbency, and the party. The best I can logically hope for is to put a scare in an establishment more interested in scoring political points than representing the interest of all the people. Is that worth screwing my life up? I'm still running 30-70 against.
Clearly there's a market for these, however I'm at a loss. Turkey and gravy merely baffled me. Carbonated Green Bean Casserole soda, however, made me throw up a little in my mouth. I really would like to try the cranberry, but not at the cost of buying the rest as a set. Okay, not even at the cost of having to look at the others. That green bean thing is grossing me out.

In other news from Craig, clearly the Mascot Party missed out on an opportunity.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Some people call him Maurice because he speaks of the pompetus of fraught.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Clearly, I snooze, I lose.
Backman fired by D-Backs
Voice controlled blender, okay... Which wins in this case:

The fraughtness: Be careful cleaning this thing. If it goes off, you'll be screaming, and the feedback loop will handle the rest.

The weirdness: "The machine allows the person to access sensorial energies otherwise dormant." "The person speaks the language of the blender."

It's like a Ron Popeil infomercial, directed by David Cronenburg.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Five points:

1. Everyone at my polling station appeared to be alive, though I'm pretty sure if I had gone around checking pulses, I would have been accused of tampering. It was the first time I ever had to do a lap to get a parking space, so that's a good sign. However, I was also the youngest person there, by far, who was eligible to vote. The guy immediately behind me in line had complained that he was nearly disenfranchised, because he had knocked off the voter rolls by PennDOT. I have no idea how that's possible, while some potholes are in fact big enough to live in, the postal service won't deliver.

2. I spent the evening over at the parents for chili, beer, and pollwatching. Issue one was getting ticked off at the local candidates. I was ticked that the rep in my old district was scaremongering for the draft (being one of the two who actually voted for it in Congress, but blaming the Republicans) while my parents were appalled at the tactics of their state rep, who had flyers accusing his opponent of accepting money from gay contributors. The irony being that in both cases, this was the Democrat behaving badly. Welcome to Washington County, please note blue Kryptonite is a deadly weapon here. And yes, both won handily.

3. As I got progressively under-ripped, off the leftover light beer from Labor Day. I started yakking about how ticked I was at Murtha. I then noticed that the reason he was able to make such a cynical move was that he was running unopposed. And I mean that literally, no other party bothered even to nominate anyone. If I end up at some point moving back into my old district, I may just pull an Alan Keyes, possibly just to prevent Alan Keyes from doing it. My first slogan will be:
Kidder '06: 90% of anything is showing up.

4. The simple rules of switching channels during election night: Everytime Tim Russert goes to the tablet PC take a drink. If a bleary-eyed Tim Russert scrawls "Ashtabula", all mascots in the room drink. If somebody makes the note about all the states so far holding serve, drink. For the love of all that's holy, don't play with the "Every time Dan Rather says something curious" rule. I knew enough not to turn to CBS until after Dan was four hours to the wind, but that was outstanding entertainment. I swear I heard him say "It's not time to put the baby to bed or to pop a cap in an adult." I was linguistically gobsmacked.

5. For those of you in the midst of circular firing squad practice, I'll just note what I said in 2002. The situation hasn't changed.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

For the record. A complete ramble down my thought process. I apologize if it offends in its lack of rhetorical vigor.

Politically speaking, I'm very close to the center. (Any time I take one of those political position quizzes on line, I land almost dead center. On ones that are scored -10/+10, I usually hit around .1/.3) I've actually shocked a couple of people when they find out I'm not a Democrat. ("He seems so rational" was the one that amused me.) As explanation, I have to point out that Washington County, where I grew up, has always posed this scenario:

Democrats: Conservative in approach, and some combination of corrupt, ineffective, and/or incompetent. A winning combination to the point of a hammerlock.
Republicans: The chamber of commerce types, plus the anti-corruption people, no matter what their politics. Generally clueless about how to beat the machine, and almost always unable to. (As an example of cluelessness, please note the Washington County Republican Party's logo. It wasn't until this year that I finally noticed that it certainly looks like that elephant's happy because it finally passed the county.)

So this mental image has held for me, with occasional forays into the Reform party (after all, what I'm looking for is somebody to reform wherever I live into something that isn't idiotically governed.) I mention this because I keep looking at this election and worrying about the corruption aspect. For all the arguments about Haliburton and Enron that I've seen, I tend to see far less about the UN's Oil-for-Food program, and the utter cravenness of the corruption that involved. If the trails of money in these cases lead, as they seem to now, directly to just the right people in the UN, France, Russia, and China, it becomes clear that the term "Coalition of the Bribed" was not applied to the correct side of the Iraq argument. The allies we lost weren't going to go for us. It wasn't in their own interest to shut down that cash stream. So that's been eating at me. I already knew they didn't have the military levels to support us meaningfully, so I could understand it, but this felt like betrayal.

I'm not all that sure I like Bush, he's probably only about 60% of what I want in a President. A bit too conservative, definitely; and yes, he really does tick people off, and I really don't know if it's him making all the moves. I liked Howard Dean a lot back in 2002-03, mostly for reasons completely alien to a lot of his supporters. I wasn't sure I would vote for him, but he at least would make the discussion about interesting issues. That and he wouldn't have been the Democratic Party's guy. But he lost me when he dropped the center and became a one-issue guy.

In early 1998, I was sitting in the driveway of my house in Connecticut listening to another NPR report on how Iraq was ignoring sanctions/inspections/etc. I followed it all the way to my office, and by the time I got there it was clear enough to me: this wasn't going to get fixed by the current arrangement of things, and no other country in the world had the power to fix it. It had to be done at some point. It would be regrettable, unfortunate, and ultimately necessary to prevent something worse. About a week later, on that same drive, I was introduced to the term "White House Intern", and the third thing I thought had was "well, we don't have the power to fix Iraq either."

I have to admit, George W. Bush is probably the weakest Republican candidate fielded in my lifetime, save maybe Ford. And yet...

Do I give him a pass on the economy? Personally, I can. I know the recession began under Clinton. I lost 80% of my nest egg in Clinton's last year. Now, I recognize I was probably in the minority there, and that was mostly paper winnings, but I have it back. Paid in full, plus interest.

Jobs, jobs, jobs, you cry... Fine, I understand that. But do you really think the jobs that were lost in manufacturing will come back? We used to do it in steel, now there's plastic, aluminum, ceramics, specialty alloy. I've seen the companies around here burn away to nothing in the past 30 years. Didn't they see it coming? Yes, and they couldn't do anything about it because they were trapped, the jobs were not exchangable. We're still clearing buggy whips out of the economy. And yes, it IS my fault, partially. My job's all about making computer aided design more efficient. Efficiency...Productivity... The story goes that the American worker is more productive now than ever before. My fault, too, I guess.

My fault. Edwards, see, he actually scares me. Kerry still had a shot at me. Then he picked this guy. First of all, he's still got that Damien: Omen 3 thing going for him, but then he's also a trial lawyer, and well, I'm an engineer. It's a predator-prey relationship we have with each other. Kitty heaven is mousie hell, and as an engineer whose work is used to determine safety, I feel like mousie number one. And then there's what he was proposing as an economic plan. Well...I've seen that before. I've lived through that here. It's the Pennsylvania plan. Every half-hearted, half-protectionist plan that's greased its way through Harrisburg to save our state, encapsulated in one neat little package. When were we a miracle? When were we a model worth following?

Let me encapsulate other domestic issues this way:
Government size: I'm not a drown-the-government in the bathtub type, but I would like us to be able to get it out of the bathroom without it getting stuck in the door. Neither side's going to give me that this year, but Bush is slightly, slightly better.
Medical coverage: The first joker who points out that giving everyone the healthcare senators get is impractical (and completely infeasible), would get my vote. Neither side's going to pull that.
The Supreme Court (aka abortion): I'll admit, I'm counting on the Senate to keep it legal. I think we've reached the point that something has to break here, over fifteen years we've hyperpoliticized every appointment to the point of gridlock.
Privacy/PATRIOT Act: I assume it will sunset in 2005 either way. I don't think that PATRIOT II can pass in any meaningful way. Which is a shame, because there are a few good policies in it. There's some nasty crap there too, but it's trimmable. I also would love to see most of the RIAA/MPAA funded legislation get nuked, but nobody's backing that horse here. Some of those laws stole your privacy long before you even got scared by the PATRIOT Act, they just sold it to companies, rather than the government.
Civil unions: Amazingly, both candidates have now reached the same position, and I'm slightly more liberal than both. And I still don't see how this was the issue it was.
Stem cells: On one side: ignorance of science. On the other side: willfully misleading and deceptive use of science to fit their aims. See why I don't like Edwards? It's a visceral reaction, I know, but it's far more personally painful to watch that.

As for foreign policy, beyond the notion of our allies, Kerry gets one major mark against him. That was his notion, thankfully abandoned in August, for Iran. The notion in August was to supply Iran with nuclear fuel for its power generation, and thus prevent them from ever developing the nuclear materials for weapons. Well, I hope you see the hitch. I did work in nuclear power for a while, but it should be obvious that this had fraught written all over it. Mostly in the chain of custody, and the ability to observe, but also in the notion of transporting materials. Amazingly, Iran rejected this. It's the first time I ever looked at a policy and went: "This is the stupidest, most gratuitously elaborate, ineffective thing I've ever seen, and it could concievably kill me."

The hard part of this for Kerry is that I can't see his political capital lasting more than a few days. I know this is a referendum on Bush, but without that anti-Bush glue holding it together, what's Kerry got? The choice between a near abject surrender to pacify one wing, and the political reality that his position is almost locked into place by other events. What happens when Kerry's position is just Bush's plan, the plan he promises to do better, after the allies he goes to refuse to help? The majority of what his debate strategy was "I will do exactly what he did, only better". Which is fine, and it isn't even a flip-flop. I don't think Kerry flip-flops. I just don't think he has any position he feels strongly about, 30 years in and still an unformed block. Without an opposition argument to lean against, I don't know what he's going to do to change anything. And that's what's grating on me, if the best I can hope for out of a Kerry administration is that it will be just like the Bush administration, what's the point?

I keep looking at this election, and it's still the question of whether 60% of what I want is enough. It's the question of whether we get four more years, or whether we get eight more years. The stakes are high. I could make this easy on myself. In the past four years I've gotten to see a lot of people who I consider friends, become caught up in a blind rage. And then they throw that snarky assumption out, and expect me to laugh alongside them. But I can't hate like that. I wish I could understand that hate, but I can't. I fear that I will lose friends this way, but better to know how bad the taint is, isn't it?

When Arlen Specter was voting on the impeachment of Clinton, he brought up the old Scottish law position of "Not Proven" which someone described as "We know ya did it, but the evidence lacks. Just don't do it again." Arlen's always been slightly crazy brilliant like that. That's why I'll vote for him without question. And that's why I'm still up at 3:30 putting this together. In this case, I'm going to have to judge Kerry as "Not Proven."

Sunday, October 31, 2004

How it's going to end.

Having studied the map, I've got it down to three possibilities:
1. Bush rollover (Winning 300+ electoral votes.)
2. Narrow Bush win (Under 300 electoral votes.)
3. Narrow Kerry win

The reason I discount the possibility of a Kerry rollover is that he hasn't nailed down a lot of the places he needs to do that. Minnesota's still in play, Hawaii's inexplicably in play a little, and New Jersey still hasn't moved into a solid blue state. Above all, the indicator for me of this was West Virginia. I've yet to see a chart in this cycle that has tipped WV even to a tie. That's truly mind boggling to me, that a historically Democrat state flipped in 2000 and hasn't even been touched. Those conditions lead to the possible Bush rollover scenario, which isn't so much a rollover, but a parlay bet. The key pieces to this are taking all the battlegrounds by a point or so, and tipping some place like NJ or HI the same way.
My gut keeps telling me that option 2 is the right one. It hinges on OH and FL to Bush, PA going to Kerry, and the rocky mountain swings going Bush. My basis for those are seeing Youngstown's power structure go hard for Bush (Democrat mayor, and paper both endorsed him, call it the ghost of Traficant), and seeing there's enough muddying of the water around here, on both sides, that neither side has looked good in the local media to force a hard swing to Bush. That doesn't stop the Republicans from coming here (Cheney came to Washington County last Wed. Bush comes tomorrow), but I think I figured out why: I-70. It wouldn't surprise me that a lot of the highly conservative Catholic Democrats in southern Ohio have been encouraged to come for rallies here. The support in these parts for Bush is remarkably strong, given voting record, but I don't know if the base is narrow and motivated or wide and shallow.

So I guess the best guess you'll have is if the following are true at 8pm EST.
Scenario 1: PA/NJ/NH all go Bush. I don't see this happening at all.
Scenario 2: NJ goes Kerry, NH Bush, PA doesn't get called immediately. Pennsylvania, I think, is the Democratic firebreak (I'm still trying to figure out the equivalent for Republicans, I suspect it's Florida, but I had suspected it's Ohio before.) If it's close here, it's going to be close all night nationally, and afterward. Pennsylvania is my bet for 2004's Florida. If it shines some sunshine on this state, it's going to be embarrassing, but ultimately good for us.
Scenario 3: PA/NJ/NH all go Kerry. I figure this is going to happen, I just don't think it will happen immediately. If if does happen immediately, start figuring that Kerry needs, and will get, one of OH, FL, or the MN/WI/IA triple.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Notes from the beginning of the end of days:

1. I still don't see a moon.
2. Nothing says apocalypse like "Here to sing God Bless America, Grammy-Winning Artist Scott Stapp."
3. Look it's Jimmy Fallon. Man, did that script get totally wrecked...
4. No, seriously, I still don't see a moon.
5. Congratulations, Red Sox fans. Now, please do not turn into the jerks we saw when the Patriots first won.
6. Okay, the moon thing is really starting to bother me. The dead are rising, the Red Sox have won, and there is no frickin' moon. And you don't see anything wrong with this?
CNN had an article up noting that 6 out of 10 people figure that the election won't be decided on election day. I can almost guarantee that'll be true, sorry to say. In the past two weeks three stories have broken in the state that make it look inevitable that whatever happens, the margin of victory in Pennsylvania won't be outside the margin of error. To wit:

1. Concern that moving polling locations in Philadelphia will constitute disenfranchisement of minority voters (Oh, those clever, evil Republicans.)
2. Concern that kicking Nader off the ballot meant a delay in sending out absentee ballots, constituting a disenfranchisement of overseas voters, including armed forces. (Oh, those clever, evil Democrats.)
3. Concern that because the voter rolls in Allegheny County aren't cleaned of the deceased, they'll be a massive outpouring of zombie voters, disenfranchising the living. (Oh, those clever, Evil Dead.)

The third one concerns me most directly, mostly because, I'm living in the county, and the most recent report (Channel 4's investigative report from 10/17) indicated of 400 names on the voter rolls of voters over 90, around 200 of them had died, and 7 of them had voted at least once since death. So if we figure 3% of the dead in the second most populous county, in "The Fixin' to Die State", are voting illegally, the state's margin of error goes up a lot. I'm also ticked off because this is the one of the three up above that was preventable in advance, because the evidence was there. The other two are opposed based on the proposition that wrongdoing will result, but we don't know. Here we have the proof, and nothing has been put in place to prevent a repeat. More to the point, I see no way that observers could help this one, if the dead or their minions are even moderately clever.

So, here in George Romero country, the dead have risen. Just frickin' great. Watch us find out protecting us from the dead was the job of the prothonotary. Wouldn't that be embarassing.

Monday, October 25, 2004

As someone who pursues a staunch anti-apocalypse agenda, somehow this story doesn't surprise me, as much as it means when the game is delayed for the ceremonial opening of the seals, I can go "Told you!"

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Okay, we're 14 days from TRASH regionals, and I lack that key component for TRASH success, the nifty team name. Having rattled my brain for two weeks, I've come up blank. So I open it up to the floor. Submit below.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Lesson to us all: Even if my side is armed with scientific proof, there will always be those who will doubt the existence of the Immaculate Reception.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

I knew I had heard of this trick performed before.

Matt's mention of the Guardian's Clark County project, got me thinking that I had seen this scenario played out before, though it was more of a political dirty trick that time, than merely the hubris meets nemesis that this time appears to be.

30pointsThis article (search down to "Murchison Letter") explains how it went down, though it draws a contrary conclusion to how I thought it played out at the time. I had thought it was a more primary cause of Cleveland's defeat than what they're claiming.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Okay, the oddities multiply:

1. For the 7th inning stretch, the Irish Tenor is singing God Bless America, and they cut to the flag, and the pennant for Toronto appears to be hung higher than the American flag.

2. Driving home from practice, I catch an ad for Eat 'n Park, the local defrocked Big Boy chain, advertising their new coffee bar, where you can also get Tea, Chai, or the NEW CHAI TEA MILKSHAKE. I can't believe how bad that sounds to me, despite liking Chai, Tea, and Milkshakes.

3. On the container of olives I bought at the supermarket is a label which marks it as "Anti-Pasta". I've seen the joke before based on this same misspelling, but the hyphen absolutely makes it this time.

4. You folks know I don't drop the Logan's Run references for just anything, but I saw this today, and I defy you to look at this and not react with "It's Carousel, Charlie Brown!" The rest of it is at least that bad.
Joe, you can send your mash notes here.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

I swear, I did not know this story was coming in posing my Bond as PM premise. Great, I can now summon diplomatic incidents at will. I am turning into Ed Glosser, trivial psychic.

Monday, October 18, 2004

In Craig's commentary on the Greatest Canadian competition and poutine cookoff, he noted:

Pierre Trudeau
He's gonna win. It's like having James Bond as your Prime Minister.

This, of course, got me thinking...

Outside of the obvious, that this is only one step removed from the Vladimir Putin scenario, this has to be one of the most demented alternate history possibilities I can imagine. Think 1979, and instead of Thatcher, the Tories coalesce around Bond. (Look, at heart Bond does defend old-school traditional British values, and would continue the high drinking tradition established by Churchill. And as for why 1979, it means Moonraker never gets made.)

Your assignment: Bond is elected in 1979, how does British and/or world politics change in the years following?
(Craig, you have permission to use this to scare the living crap out of your students by using it as a sample essay question.)

My immediate answer: Falklands crisis ends when Argentina's secret underground lair explodes.

Joe nailed down the existential joy of having Vinny as an opponent yesterday. I sent this to Gregg Easterbrook, but what are the odds of it hitting:

I'd previously said to people: "It's not merely that the Steelers own Vinny, I think I was there for the halftime where we burned his mortgage." No, yesterday's game almost makes me wonder if Vinny's a deep cover sleeper. I almost want to go up to him, ask him to sign a card, show him that it's the queen of diamonds and see if his face goes blank and he lobs his pen to the nearest black and gold jersey.
13 ways of looking at an endive purchase.

1. These are smaller than I thought they'd be. Also lighter. I guess that's good. You need two for the soup, we'll take two. Quarter pound. Okay. One dollar for unethical vegetable experimentation. I'm sure PETV will get me for that.

2. "Do you know what these are?" the cashier asks me. "Endive" I say. I begin to think "Well, if I didn't know what they were, wouldn't that be a far more exciting checkout? 'I don't know what the hell this is, it just looked cool. Is it edible, ma'am?' 'Sir, that's Endust.'"

3. Alternate take: "Not really, I just buy what the websites tell me to buy."

4. Alternate take, with added truth: "Well, actually I don't really know, kinda looks like lettuce, I wouldn't have thought it might be a cabbage, then I saw bok choy, so I know I can be fooled that way. I know it has a name, and that name is endive, but no, I don't actually know WHAT it is. That's kind of the point of the exercise of buying it."

5. "Oh wait", I say looking at where she's pointing. "That's not endive. That's mustard greens." I point two items over. "THAT'S endive."

6. "Do you know how much it costs?" she says. License to steal time. I suggest $3.50 a pound. Amazingly she doesn't believe me, instead marking it at $1.39 a pound.

7. "Too many lettuces" she says. My brain replays the whole bok choy incident again.

8. I realize that I've been saying it [EHN-dyv] throughout this, ignoring the marketing mandated [AWN-deev] method. I find myself taking great comfort in this non-conformity.

9. Crap, I didn't have enough cash to cover. Use the card. Do I have a frequent shopper card? No. Do you think I want people to know that I'm buying endive? (Thinks about what he's typing.) Let me rephrase that, do you think people who would read my permanent shopping record really should let my clearly deranged opinion influence their decisions? I thought not. Glad we're clear on this.

10. Raw, not bad, kind of indistinguishable from every other leafy white thing I've eaten. A little more bitter, but not terribly so. I guess that's the genuity. Cooked, we'll see.

11. Okay, cooked potatoes, onion, garlic, and endive in the blender. All right, now how do I get endive residue off the ceiling? Thankfully white on white won't stain.

12. All right, so this is Cream of Genuine Belgian Endive Soup. Potatoes, Onions, Garlic, Chicken Broth, Milk, Dill, Salt, Pepper, and Endive. It's not bad, but I'm still dubious that I'm tasting anything but the genuity. One of my favorite things in the world is Cream of Potato Soup, and this isn't all that far from it.

13. Monday lunchtime. They claim it can be served hot or cold. A bad microwave in the kitchen and it's served hot and cold. They didn't say anything about that, but it seems okay. Will I make it again? We'll see.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Okay, the endive people, excuse me, Genuine Belgian Endive People are not grounded in reality. Following up with yesterday's bit, I went over to and found something that I can't tell whether it's pure marketing drivel or a bad translation of impure marketing drivel, with fetching MIDI. For example, these quotes from the main page:
"Sponsor it for salads" sounds vaguely like its a child in Belgium that Sally Struthers wants you to adopt, then eat.

"Genuine Belgian Endive...
It isn't any one thing.
It's everything."
Wow. If Marshall Applewhite brainwashed Joe Carcione-Thegreengrocer (as I thought his name was as a child), this might be the ad copy he'd generate.

"Cooked, its distinctly muted Genuine Belgian Endive flavor adds subtle touches."
Wow, that's a lot of nothing to say. And yes, "distinctly muted" is the best oxymoron I heard this week.

The rest of the page looks reasonable, and I might even be tempted into making the Cream of Endive, excuse me Cream of Genuine Belgium Endive Soup. However, I can't get behind this recipe. I don't see that using your crop as a serving tray counts as a real recipe.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Grady Tripp rides again.

Random notes from the weekend:
1. Quote I'm going to need to remember in future: "You can't combine a bunch of minor prophets together and make a major one. They're not like Voltron!"
2. What did people do before Voltron to make that allusion?
3. I don't know how I got to this page, but I really can't tell where tradition ends and stereotypes begin in this sentence: "This recipe combines the two favorite ingredients of Belgian food: beer and endive."
4. Again, I can't remember how I got here, it appears to be the next World's Fair site, but I just want to know why they beheaded their mascot before the event. I mean I totally understand why you'd do it after... (No I don't, but I figure I need to engage them on the issue somehow.)
I admit I haven't been following the development of Pittsburgh's new ABA team, though with a story like this, I kinda get the feeling I'm not missing anything, except possibly a free fraught call.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Wittingly or un, it appears I have been following the Tao of Shatner: Do what you find enjoyable, create something new, and don't be afraid to mock yourself.

So how does this apply to my latest crazy notion:

It is enjoyable to remove from my brain those half-baked notions that come up in my mind, and keep me up some nights. It is enjoyable to construct a puzzle, or even just a rule set, and watch how the pieces interact, or how people interact with the pieces.

Create something new: I'm making something new, I don't know how these are going to work out. Some of these are easy for me, some are hard, but I know I'm a single case.

Don't be afraid to mock yourself: I've seen other puzzle pages appear and disappear. I don't presume that this will be any different, but we have to see how long before I screw up, or something like that. And if it fails, if it doesn't attract enough people, or if it becomes not worth people's time, well then I'll the first to call it folly.

So with that, go break some stuff people. UPRK (better name possibly to be discovered later) is open for business.

I just want to know why this article sounds so much like something Joe and I would come up with in the early fourth quarter of a blowout:
"Okay, let's do it Mad Libs Style. Football Team?"
"Oakland Raiders."
"Plural?...Siegfried and Roy."
"Obscure Steeler."
"Uhhh, Jahine Arnold?"
"That's cliche."
"All right...Cole Ford."
"Who was he?"
"I think we drafted him to replace Gary Anderson, but Norm Johnson took the job. Or maybe he was drafted to replace Norm Johnson. Anyway, mid-90's or so. Never got out of camp."
"So if I guess if I said position, you'd say kicker?"
"All right. Let's see this. Former Oakland Raiders kicker Cole Ford is being sought for questioning after a drive-by shooting on the mansion of celebrities Siegfried and Roy."
"That's awesome!"

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

I got to listen to the entire album Has Been this afternoon. It's actually quite a good album, just taken as an album, not even as a celebrity project, which surprises me. And it may have been my head exploding, but there's something to be said for a guy who realizes his position in the universe, is comfortable within it, and really doesn't give a damn. You can tell he enjoyed making, and I enjoyed it. It's not for every one, but an album that out of nowhere traverses from a gunfight between Shatner and metaphorical critics, to the cadence of Ken Nordine, is probably for me.

I shudder to think that I'm saying this but: We can learn a lot from William Shatner.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Well, now the story can be told. For the record, that was just cool. (A small tweak to my ego, that I didn't get any mention, but I figured that was going to hinge on them not using the picture they did, shot from across the back of my shoulder. But that's ego talking, I'll live.) A1 on the Post, nothing requiring correction, that's a big win for all of us.
It's amazing how much things can turn on a dime. I'm a big believer in instant karma, and boy does it deliver on me. Every good thing will result in a sudden bad thing, just to balance it out. This week's example: I had finished up a tournament at CMU, no problems, very efficient, all fine and good. I was planning to cut loose with a project I had been working on for a couple weeks, I was feeling good with the world. So as I turned off into Greentree, as I approached the light... BANG! Suddenly, there's a half dollar sized crater in my windshield. Now the weird thing is there's nothing near me. No car that could have kicked a pebble, nothing like that. Either I've just been hit by a meteorite, or I've just been sniped on the mean streets of Greentree, which unless Hindu engineers have decided to form their own gang, seems equally unlikely. I'm more concerned at this point with the fact that I physically felt the windshield impact, which seems like a Pascal's Law problem gong awry. I get out of the line of fire without incident, but my head is starting to pound, and I really had no idea what just happened to me. Still in a bit of shock, I go to the video store, and then just simultaneously decompress and try and figure this out. It's a bad thing that I started playing the game of "Okay, who would want to kill me?" After failing to come up with a method that someone from Saskatoon could know I'd be taking that route home, I moved to the theory of "No, this is just dumb luck." Between this and the foul ball in California, I'm guessing my new karmic schtick is having random objects hit relatvistic velocities while aiming for my head at impossible angles. I think Gary Busey had a case of this a couple years back, and he seems to have come out of it okay. Okay, he came out of it no worse than I am normally.

S'anyway, if you were wondering why something you were expecting me to do on Saturday, and didn't; now you know. We'll try for tomorrow.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Da Vinci Project licensed to launch.

In a related story, a strange, engineer-looking man was seen just outside the city limits of Saskatoon, making the "bring it" gesture with his hands.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Well, it's done. MLB's slow strangulation of the Expos is complete.

At this point I have to hope that they go with either the Nationals or Senators. Its not a slight to the name the Grays, I just know that the moment they name the team that, Darth Selig's goons will apply the history eraser button, and the actual facts of the Homestead Grays will be purged as inconvenient to the marketing narrative. I like to think the Pirates have done an excellent job honoring both their local teams, the Grays and the Pittsburgh Crawfords. But I have to figure that come next year, the left field entrance at PNC will have significant changes to it, and not for the better.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

I'm apparently not the only one in the family with powers. My mother seems to have the ability to bring destruction wherever she leaves. I phrase that specifically that way, because nothing bad happens until after she leaves. It used to be a one-year to 18-month delay, the key data points on this being our family trip to Alaska, one year before the Exxon Valdez, visiting Yellowstone about 16 months before the nearly the entire park got burnt off, and her trip to Myrtle Beach being one year before the condo she was staying in getting flattened by a hurricane. Why do I mention this? I think the time delay is shrinking. In the past 72 hours:

-- They announced that Mount Saint Helens has been having tremors. She bought me a T-shirt from their trip there after the wedding.
-- An earthquake struck the middle of California, where she drove past before the wedding.
-- Hurricane Jeanne rolled up the coast, just after she left my aunt's in the Carolinas.

And what happened while she was out of town? Ivan rolled through here.

We'll try and keep her immobilized, but no promises.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Why I really am a bad role model, Part XXXIX

After the team made the motel Friday night, they mentioned that they were going to have an impromptu Russ Meyer film festival in tribute to the man. I responded that the proper honor to such a fallen homie was to drop on the ground some of the contents of a 40D.

Friday, September 24, 2004

There's apparently a word for it:
Marmotomancy - Divination by groundhog

While reading Honest Wagner, I stumbled across this site, and found the word marmotomancy, which frankly is an awesome word. If I ever decide to try to customize out my own version of Nethack, marmotomancers are coming in as a low-level monster. It then occurred to me that there might be one thing that unifies Pennsylvania, the Groundhog. Even the PA Lottery, which can't do anything right in their ads, notices this, with their ads featuring Gus the second-most-famous groundhog in Pennsylvania. For some reason I then turned my thoughts to the notion that their should have been a military unit from Pennsylvania nicknamed the Groundhogs. Not sure why my brain made this leap, but it seemed cool. Some sort of marines, or mechanical infantry with the logo of a groundhog at the wheel, with the slogan "Drivin' Angry". So I did a search for "groundhog army" and found this on one link, which makes me feel a little better. Then I saw this. I don't feel so good about it now.

While Joe and Matt have pointed out the coolness of the Ambition de-motivation poster, I have to say that if I had to take a sentence to describe the good and bad sides of NAQT, this one could probably be true in all interpretations.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

The Dead Milkmen Taught us:
Bitchin' Camaro, Bitchin' Camaro
I ran over my neighbors
Bitchin' Camaro, Bitchin' Camaro
Now it's in all the papers.

Apparently one of his neighbors was a tank. Ladies and Gentlemen, the most amazing thing I can link to in quite a while:
David Koresh's Camaro up for auction
via autoblog

Monday, September 20, 2004

Uncollated thoughts of my weekend.

Friday night my office closed up an hour early due to the remnants of Ivan, which tells you enough about the storm that I was about 800 miles inland from its arrival. While driving home the biggest problem I had was that the creek had taken over one lane on Washington Pike, and was working its way over to the other, so I figured I was going to be okay, though I did start to get worried when I noticed that they had fenced off about 10 parking spaces in my lot because the ground beneath had given way earlier in the week. Living on the third floor also helps.

My parents had decided this was the weekend to visit my aunt in the Carolinas, so I needed to check in with my aunt who lives adjacent to my parents. Not that their houses were in any danger, they're up on the hill, worst case would be a tree falling down. The only tree that came down landed on the driveway, so that was good. However I found out that Houston, PA was getting whacked six ways from Sunday. Given they had already wrecked most of the downtown to put in a wider intersection, I figure there's going to be a sinkhole there next week.

On Saturday, I awake to a sunny day, see that I'm in no danger, aside from the possibility of a tree falling over into my entryway on the next storm. I'll live. I'm also under a water advisory, so I decide to roll out to the local store and get some fluids, and find out how bad people are having it. It was then I found out the highway interchange flooded out, so I was feeling really lucky. Coming back to my apartment, I caught a bit of Pitt-Nebraska, including the first real sign of the scope of this thing. They took a blimp shot of just outside Heinz Field, and showed a marina floating downriver, with about 40 boats attached. Immediately, I think "Hmm. Free Marina."

Sunday morning, the radio wakes me to the story of Carnegie, PA. At about 5PM Friday, the entire emergency services staff of Carnegie gets stuck on the elevated bridge in town. About 5 minutes later, the chief of police gets a call telling him that Canonsburg Dam is about to go. Now, for those of you without a map, if Canonsburg Dam goes, and you're stuck on the elevated bridge in Carnegie, you have eight minutes to consider your future career as a marina. On the other hand, I would have approximately four minutes to consider the need to purchase an Alan Parsons Project or other form of commuter hovercraft. Luckily, it didn't go, however it's no way to start your morning.

Sunday afternoon, I saw two of the most disturbing things possible in a Steelers game. First of all was the Tommy Maddox injury, which if you saw it in real time, looked freakishly like what Willis McGahee's injury looked like if done to an elbow.You can bend the elbow one way, or the other, but not both ways in a one second period. I should apologize to Tommy, after he jammed his arm earlier on someone's helmet, and then started jawing with the guy, I said to myself: "He's not making it out of this game, he's either getting ejected or killed." I guess it's my fault. I need to learn to control these powers.
The second scariest thing I saw in this game was our fake punt formation, which looked all the world like we were put Gardocki in at slot, and Polamalu was at quarterback. Let me get this straight, we still have fifteen former quarterbacks on the team, and we're the safety?

Waking up with Burger King next to me has to be about 94-octane nightmare fuel. Comparatively, Arby's oven mitt gouging out its own eye, in an Un Rosbif Andalou moment, only 86-octane.

Late Sunday, two odd bits. First of all, Kellen Winslow blows out the equipment. Given we pretty much already decided to put him on the list, but I forgot to update, can I put him up with strikethru? I need a ruling on this. I then flip over to flooding coverage to find that the death toll is mercifully low, but the injuries are exceedingly high. And Pittsburgh's crappy demographics strike again. The chief injury: broken bones, mostly hips, caused by people slipping and falling as they shovel mud.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

For the record, despite what it says in the ad, I really don't think I want my dental hygenist to have a little captain in her.

Friday, September 10, 2004

MadCraneSkillz DemiBold 12

If I had to pick the notion of something that I'd have no shot at making money at, as a calling in life, (well, besides going full-time as a quiz bowl dilletante,) I'd have to give pause to the notion of historian of typefaces. I've had a longstanding fascination with letters, if not words, ever since I had one of the old 1984-era Macs, some people trainspot, others shout "hey, it's that guy", I sit there going "Is that Trade Gothic?" In relation to the previous post, I sometime try and figure out the age of office buildings by observing the fonts they use. But realism sets in, and I have to think it's the real life equivalent of Mad Crane Skillz (you can check the CMU lexicon for this). So if you would have told me the most pressing issue in the campaign season is the need for forensic typography, well, you can see where I was thinking I missed an opportunity in life. Being the Cyril Wecht of fonts, a talking head called upon once every 20 years... It's no Bond villain, but it's not bad.

I'm not even certain they're complete frauds at this point (I'm leaning about 65% that way, 30% there's something else going on here, some form of incompetence explaining away malice, and 5% these actually are completely true.) The interesting bit I'm seeing in this is the almost direct parallel between what I'm seeing in people in the Killian memos situation, and what went on in the pursuit of the Hitler Diaries ("Smooth, Dwight," he thinks, "antagonize your political readers on both sides, AND invoke Godwin's Law. Real smooth.") My source for this being the account Selling Hitler by Robert Harris, which is a good and surprisingly amusing history of the scam in the early '80s, whose aftermath basically torched the careers of a number of media and publishing figures in Germany. (My copy even comes with an amusing picture of British comedian Alexei Sayle in a funny moustache, as I believe it became a British TV movie.) In the German case, it was clear that the documents weren't right, but people involved desperately, irrationally wanted them to be right. The bit that topped this for me was how Konrad Kujau decided to make his forgeries extra enticing to the buyers:

As a finishing touch, he stuck some imitation metal initials in gothic script on the cover. The initials were bought by Kujau in a department store, were made of plastic in Hong Kong, and were in fact 'FH', not 'AH' as Kujau had thought. It was, like all his forgeries, slipshod and homemade. It would not have withstood an hour's expert examination.
--Selling Hitler, p. 117

Clearing out the backlog Part 3

Earlier this year, I for some reason caught a section of 60 Minutes on John Stilgoe. He's a professor at Harvard, and I really don't know how he manages to keep a position. Not that I think he's doing anything wrong, in fact he's probably doing something nobody else in academia is really doing, emphasizing observation. He got my attention with one of his easy demonstrations: Look at the logo for FedEx. Go on, I'll wait. Do you see an arrow? Do you see it now? Look between the E and the x. Now I had seen it once, a long time back, and then forgotten about it, and then I noticed it when Kinko's got bought and became a FedEx fiefdom that their new logo was a star made of three arrow points. Nice continuity on their part.
S'anyway... I decided to pick up a copy of his treatise Outside Lies Magic, which tries to emphasize observation in the context of exploring your local geography and history. If nothing else, he managed to explain one of the great mysteries of my life. When I lived with my parents there was one road to go to Washington, and that was via Meadowlands. At the end of that road, you'd come to a stop sign and state 519 was there, and if you went across that, you'd end up on Racetrack Road. But Racetrack Road and Allison Park Road didn't meet evenly, they were skew by about 15 feet. So you'd always have to make this hard chicane to go across, and usually about once a year somebody'd get their car clipped going through there. It never made any sense. But with a simple explanation of township planning, premises of equal area for lots, and the curvature of the earth, I understood why the gap was there.
If you're interested in keeping your eyes open, and being able to make connections of things beyond that that you'd find in a tossup, I'd recommend him highly.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Clearing out the backlog part 2

My LaPlaca Picks

10-Father of the Pride (NBC)
We've discussed this.
9-House (FOX)
I pulled this one because I figure it's problematic given its running against another new show, Clubhouse, which means that even if someone recommends it, they're likely to mistakenly recommend its competition.
8-Desperate Housewives (ABC)
Either this is warmed over Knots Landing, or the worst title ever. I can ruin your opinion of this show in two words: peanut butter. If you know the joke, you won't be able to watch.
It's in the third position at its time between MNF, and CSI: Honey BBQ.
6-Common Savages (ABC)
Dumb title.
5-Drew Carey's Green Screen (WB)
Okay, the one unfunny bit from Whose Line is It Anyway? and it treads frighteningly close to You're in the Picture.
4-Jonny Zero (FOX)
Friday 9pm, Fox. Stupid Title. This is like buying bonds.
3-Life As We Know It (ABC)
They're describing it as My So Called Life for teenage boys. From past experience, I doubt you can plumb any emotional depth from teenage boys, well that won't disturb the viewer.
2-Boston Legal (ABC)
Never name your show after Seafood. Already fixed but the damage is done. And James Spader's hunger for series is not yet slaked. Run away, Bill, run away!
1-Center of the Universe (ABC)
This is just because it has to die. Steinhice demands it.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Clearing out the backlog part 1.

The annual draft post.

Fourteen teams, I had the 5th pick.
Round 1: Deuce McAllister
The question was simple Alexander or McAllister, those were the two left on my list. I'll probably regret it.
Round 2: Hines Ward
Last year, Brian swiped Hines directly in front of me with the first pick in the third, and I screwed up with the notion that Plex was a reasonable replacement. Maybe I got territorial, maybe not. But I wasn't about to have that happen again.
Round 3: Santana Moss
I wasn't going to get 2 of the top 20 running backs, so I concentrated on two of the top 10 wideouts.
Round 4: Duce Staley
My gut was telling me there wasn't much difference between running back 20 and 25, and that group was running out. Couple that with the possibility of the double deuce backfield, that made it easy. The only other option at this point was figure that this one of the RB's would be there in 10 picks, and take a TE. However, as I noted to Craig at the time me taking Kellen Winslow II, would have been like me running out in a thunderstorm wearing copper underwear screaming "All gods are bastards!" It went significantly beyond fraught, straight into tempting fate.
Round 5: Marc Bulger
Winslow went in the intervening picks, and the TE's were overpriced here. So the best QB available was Bulger, now to be dubbed BulgerBulgerBulgerBulger Q-B-Q-B.
Round 6: Isaac Bruce
I keep playing this game on the premise that I can sub in a strong 3rd wideout for a weak second back. This would fall under that premise. This would also fall under the by-law for this year that I get every starter I can with a long-U sound in their name. You'd think it would limit my options.
Round 7: Jeff Wilkins
You know, I'm going to end up living and dying by Mike Martz, Supergenius. This is going to suck.

At this point Craig's connection died, and we had to scrap the rounds until three days later, when I was going to be around. The bad side of this was me being unable to panic in place during the draft, and not go snarky on everything. The good thing was me being able to map out the plan for the remaining rounds. In the intervening days, I figured out two pieces of information which allowed me to hopefully save some face. The first was finding out exactly how many of Minnesota's running backs could be relied upon early, and the second was finding out Marc Boerigter's injury was really bad, making KC wideouts an interesting choice. Not bad, of the people I targeted as "I'd really like to get them," I bagged 4 of them (rounds 8,11,12,13)

Round 8: Moe Williams
Had no problem with Moe last year, and finding he'd get a few early games without either Smith or Bennett was a real good find for me.

Round 9: Freddie Jones
Needed a TE.

Round 10: Carson Palmer
Needed a backup QB in case the Rams implode. I'll also need to get my head directly in front of the gun at that point.

Round 11: Dante Hall
I'm either going to be a mad genius for this or the village idiot. I lean towards the former for the following: He's right now the second WR for KC, and this year for the first time in our league, return TD's count for the player, not just the defense.

Round 12: Itula Mili
Standard issue second TE, I probably didn't need him, but I actually kind of like him better than Freddie Jones.

Round 13: Antwaan Randle El
See Dante Hall, I specifically put him on my grab list. See the Kick return argument, he'll also be the 3rd string QB, which tends to make me think he might get in a game at some point as a passer.

Round 14: Minnesota D
I needed a D. I saw an article last year about how one could basically pick the best matchup every week and grab a D off the waiver wire and beat over half the D's out there. I'm half-tempted to try that notion out.

Round 15: Garrison Hearst
I just said, get me another RB if I only had 3 at this point. I should have just had him take Ricky Williams (either one, maybe I could get a field bet).

So in theory, here's your 2004-05 Bridgeville Trolls
QB: BulgerBulgerBulger
RB: Deuce, Duce, with Williams in matchups
WR: Hines, SMoss, Bruce, with Hall in matchups
TE: Mili
K : Wilkins
D : Minn

I like the wideouts, and I hope that there's enough duct tape everywhere else.

Actually, looking at the list:
I might just have the "Il Duce" offense. Yeah, we're officially overthinking this.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

File this under why I loathe interleague: This article notes the likely arrangement for interleague next year, and points out that the Pirates may finally get to play the AL East formally. The kicker will be if we actually get to complete the circuit. Even at this point the Pirates have yet to play either Baltimore or the Yankees. This wouldn't annoy me so much, were it not that these are the only two teams the Pirates would want to play on historical grounds, rather than geographical. (No disrespect to Boston and Detroit folks, but reliving either the 1903 or 1909 series just isn't doing it. Not enough centenarians around here, despite our petrifying demographics, sorry.) Since 1927, the Pirates have played in four World Series, two against the Yankees (1927, 1960), two against the O's (1971, 1979). It's not that I actually expect MLB to the throw us the bone, and given it would involve a sacrifice by two of the most powerful owners in the league, I really don't expect it to happen, unless there is no choice for them. So we'll see.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

In real life, people have asked, "So Dwight, what do you actually do all day?" And my stock answer has been "I break things for money," which has the advantage of being both true and undistinguishing of my job of testing engineering software from that of a mob enforcer. Occasionally our software ends up showing up in the darnedest places, like a couple years back where our stuff was kind of key in figuring out if they could raise the Hunley. Well, our stuff's at it again, but I'm now ticked at the Canadian government. Our company's helping to back the da Vinci Project (No, we're not Golden Palace), which is a Canadian entrant in the X Prize competition. Apparently the government won't let them fly without insurance, but no insurance company has ever had to write a policy for this, and so they're all apparently overpricing. On the other hand, the jokers at the Winnipeg Sun are managing to drive the price up. Of course, on any insurance claim, they'd be coming after my company, and more specifically, my butt. Admittedly, there would be something cool about being the guy responsible for the obliteration of Saskatoon (the post here would read "Saskatoon blow'd up. My bad."), it's something the Bond villain in me would aspire to. And yes, the job description of Bond villain is also undistinguished from software testing, by my description.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Given I was figuring there was one sure thing among the LaPlaca dead pool entries it was Father of the Pride, I figured I'd better double check it, make sure I'm right. And oh boy was I.
I've just been freaked out by a house cat servicing a lion on national television. And that's a laugh line for them. How bad is it when the one joke I like is Carl Reiner suggesting we should all watch the World Series of Poker, and I immediately think, yeah, that's actually true, and put that on for 30 seconds. And to follow it all up, they spend five minutes on a "behind the scenes" commercial. That's the moral equivalent of filming the cast party.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

If this doesn't show up on in a day or so, I really will be surprised. Yeah, it's frat humor, and yeah, it's something I heard on sports radio, but I know I'm not going to be able to hear the phrase "It's not a hard job" for a couple months without laughing.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

I'm not even going to imply that these are related:

1. While flipping through channels last night, I found myself watching Telefon, probably the first film to introduce me to the immutable law of film cliche "if there's a shot panning over a rattlesnake in a glass cage, you're going to see that glass cage upset sometime soon. I was able to notice this at the age of 8, so I feel good about that as a formative experience. S'anyway, way earlier in the film last night, I noticed something I hadn't noticed in years, in retelling the list of dead Russians, Tyne Daly utters the phrase "Sailing Mishap", in almost exactly the same tone as which was used as a laugh line in a Teen Girl Squad.

2. Between the recent fight between the Pirates and Rockies, a Pirate leading the league in HBP, and Ty Wigginton's apparent fetish for reenacting David Cronenberg's Crash with himself and catchers (Previously, Koyie Hill, today, Yadier Molina), I'm wondering if someone should be releasing "Lloyd McClendon's Combat Baseball."

3. While at a Washington Wild Things game earlier in the month, I kept hearing them promote "Washington Redbirds Night", which is tonight. I had never heard of the Washington Redbirds, and none of the local historians I knew had. Doing some research, I found this as part of 30pointsthis. So now I know.

4. While perusing this, I found myself surprised by a listing for peru, as a color. Now I had never heard of this, and suspected it was a load of gypsum. Even and Roget's Thesaurus failed to give anything. Then I thought about it, and realized it was probably an in joke: Peru brown being the approximate tone of Paddington Bear, rare sort of bear from said locale. Can't prove it yet, but it at least seems logical.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Just noting this for later, because I know I'll need it: That's why he's Plaxico.
Apropos of nothing, I have to say that I almost miss the ads up top here. It was kind of fun to screw its classification system up. But now I'm seeing how the combination of new toys I have can get real interesting. It looks like whenever you publish, you'll pick up a new listing under Referring Web Pages as the next weblog picks you link up. So it looks like I'll be getting things as random as what MemeTracker kicks up.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

I might have to extend out the Fro-ght call out to a class of hair-related incidents. During tonight's Texans-Steelers exhibtion, the TV commentator noted that David Carr's hair was getting a little long, due to a bet he had with his father, that he wouldn't cut his hair until the Texans won back-to-back games, something that they haven't done yet.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

My cousin's next big project gets some pub.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Craig requested this, based on this article, and previous actions. While I really want to nail down a call of fraught based on this (especially the "I've just got to make better decisions," quote, which is up there on the leading indicator chart with "I can stop drinking any time I want.") However, I'm hesitant that it's not fraught sense, but me wishing the Browns ill. So, as a check on my senses:

Am I Fraught or Not? The Kellen Winslow II edition. Pro or con, answer below.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Cleaning out what I saw recently on Cronaca/Laputan Logic/and Mirabilis:

10points Chaucer's copyist
10points Columbus' bones
10points Henry VIII's favorite boat
10points Saint-Exupery's possible suicide
10points coffee's indigestion and coffee's genetics
10points England's jesters
10points Atlantean theories
10points Archeopteryx' capabilities [fixed]

Finally this article, which I can't find an easy answer to turn it into a question, but I find it very cool.
Just wondering:

Dan LeBatard's crazed leaping to the defense of Dave Wannstedt, during this afternoon's PTI, got me to thinking. Earlier this year, when I called fraught on Dan Marino's stint as GM of the Dolphins, I didn't think much of it once it collapsed the next day. However, looking at what's transpired in the past couple weeks with the Dolphins: losing Ricky Williams, losing David Boston, choosing to bring in a new QB, then getting A. J. Feeley, I'm beginning to think I may have underestimated exactly how big a call I was making. There is serious possibility of a hideous season for these guys, and I almost feel sorry for them. Had I known that this would have been the result (team wreckage, salt sown in your SportGrass), I might have held back.
Generally accepted quiz bowl principle: Three on a match makes a bonus: 30points
Singapore's third prime minister takes office.
Three of your five senses are under attack.
Rank these pieces of nightmare fuel in order of their octane rating.

SIGHT: Yes, it is supposed to look like that. (Inbreeding on a Hapsburg scale.)
SMELL: Yes, it is supposed to say that. (Neither a typo nor a photoshop.)
HEARING: Yes, it is that show. (I listened to the album coming back from the Burns. Listen to the clips for full fear.)

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Those of you who need your creativity jones handled:
Option 1: Designing for Cause
Option 2: Designing for Effect

Monday, August 09, 2004

Notes from the week:

I spent the last week either compiling my packet for Burns, doing the tournament, or recovering from it, so here's where I'll clean out the inbox.

Last Wednesday, Kenny sent me the link to this story, to which he noted:
I would put the over/under on FOX airing "The Running Man" at about 18 months...

And just as I was all set to post up, Olbermann pointed out the really scary bits of this on Countdown, that same night.

The House of Wacky Prop Bets will go over on that, after all, I can't see them doing it so obviously while the current governor is the Butcher of Bakersfield.

Found item: Altoids has added licorice to its flavor mix, or as they have spelled it in British: "LIQUORICE". I await the ad with Jessica Simpson asking "is it liquor or is it ice?" It appears to be isolated to the Ohio turnpike. Eating one is kind of like eating a black jelly bean the size of your head, and has the interesting effect of leaving a coating on your tongue (of flavor, not color, the mints are pure white.) On the other hand, while the can is closed, it disturbingly smells a little like Brut. If you like licorice, recommended, if not, well...

In our cute animals department: upon entering the parents' home last night, they were all atwitter about their new arrival. It seems that a small brown bat has made a sleeping spot for itself under the eaves next to the front door. Yes, I'm only mentioning this so I can say: "Don't you understand... THIS IS BAT COUNTRY!!!"

And finally, last night, I had one of those moments. While talking on the phone, I looked down to see a bag labeled "Half Price Books" lying on the floor. So while sitting there listening, I thought: "When did I buy those books?" and for the life of me I couldn't remember. The sudden feeling of "yeah, Dwight, maybe it is time for an intervention." came over me, as the possibility of me having used book purchasing blackouts became apparent. Pawing at the bag, revealing it only had a couple magazine back issues in it released the tension, but only slightly. Just not a good feeling to ever have.