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."