Thursday, January 31, 2008

It's been 12 years so it might be $1 million a minute

Wherein I don't have a wherein, just one of my favorite Wired articles

India loses internet access. Kinda amazing how little redundacy some places have. Looking at a 2004 map of undersea cables, India does look underserved.

For further information, there's always Mother Earth Mother Board from the December 1996 issue of Wired magazine. From some guy named Neal Stephenson. I like the way he writes, sure would be nice to see something else by him.

A meandering and extremely entertaining look at the world of deep sea cable operations. In this excerpt he writes about cables being cut:
In 1870, a new cable was laid between England and France, and Napoleon III used it to send a congratulatory message to Queen Victoria. Hours later, a French fisherman hauled the cable up into his boat, identified it as either the tail of a sea monster or a new species of gold-bearing seaweed, and cut off a chunk to take home. Thus was inaugurated an almost incredibly hostile relationship between the cable industry and fishermen. Almost anyone in the cable business will be glad, even eager, to tell you that since 1870 the intelligence and civic responsibility of fisherman have only degraded. Fishermen, for their part, tend to see everyone in the cable business as hard-hearted bluebloods out to screw the common man.

Most of the fishing-related damage is caused by trawlers, which tow big sacklike nets behind them. Trawlers seem designed for the purpose of damaging submarine cables. Various types of hardware are attached to the nets. In some cases, these are otter boards, which act something like rudders to push the net's mouth open. When bottom fish such as halibut are the target, a massive bar is placed across the front of the net with heavy tickler chains dangling from it; these flail against the bottom, stirring up the fish so they will rise up into the maw of the net.

Mere impact can be enough to wreck a cable, if it puts a leak in the insulation. Frequently, though, a net or anchor will snag a cable. If the ship is small and the cable is big, the cable may survive the encounter. There is a type of cable, used up until the advent of optical fiber, called 21-quad, which consists of 21 four-bundle pairs of cable and a coaxial line. It is 15 centimeters in diameter, and a single meter of it weighs 46 kilograms. If a passing ship should happen to catch such a cable with its anchor, it will follow a very simple procedure: abandon it and go buy a new anchor.

But modern cables are much smaller and lighter - a mere 0.85 kg per meter for the unarmored, deep-sea portions of the FLAG cable - and the ships most apt to snag them, trawlers, are getting bigger and more powerful. Now that fishermen have massacred most of the fish in shallower water, they are moving out deeper. Formerly, cable was plowed into the bottom in water shallower than 1,000 meters, which kept it away from the trawlers. Because of recent changes in fishing practices, the figure has been boosted to 2,000 meters. But this means that the old cables are still vulnerable.

When a trawler snags a cable, it will pull it up off the seafloor. How far it gets pulled depends on the weight of the cable, the amount of slack, and the size and horsepower of the ship. Even if the cable is not pulled all the way to the surface, it may get kinked - its minimum bending radius may be violated. If the trawler does succeed in hauling the cable all the way up out of the water, the only way out of the situation, or at least the simplest, is to cut the cable. Dave Handley once did a study of a cable that had been suddenly and mysteriously severed. Hauling up the cut end, he discovered that someone had sliced through it with a cutting torch.

There is also the obvious threat of sabotage by a hostile government, but, surprisingly, this almost never happens. When cypherpunk Doug Barnes was researching his Caribbean project, he spent some time looking into this, because it was exactly the kind of threat he was worried about in the case of a data haven. Somewhat to his own surprise and relief, he concluded that it simply wasn't going to happen. "Cutting a submarine cable," Barnes says, "is like starting a nuclear war. It's easy to do, the results are devastating, and as soon as one country does it, all of the others will retaliate.

"Bert Porter, a Cable & Wireless cable-laying veteran who is now a freelancer, was beachmaster for the Tong Fuk lay. He was on a ship that laid a cable from Hong Kong to Singapore during the late 1960s. Along the way they passed south of Lan Tao Island, and so the view from Tong Fuk Beach is a trip down memory lane for him. "The repeater spacing was about 18 miles," he says, "and so the first repeater went into the water right out there. Then, a few days later, the cable suddenly tested broken." In other words, the shore station in Hong Kong had lost contact with the equipment on board Porter's cable ship. In such cases it's easy to figure out roughly where the break occurred - by measuring the resistance in the cable's conductors - and they knew it had to be somewhere in the vicinity of the first repeater. "So we backtracked, pulling up cable, and when we got right out there," he waves his hand out over the bay, "we discovered that the repeater had simply been chopped out." He holds his hands up parallel, like twin blades. "Apparently the Chinese were curious about our repeaters, so they thought they'd come out and get one."

As the capacity of optical fibers climbs, so does the economic damage caused when the cable is severed. FLAG makes its money by selling capacity to long-distance carriers, who turn around and resell it to end users at rates that are increasingly determined by what the market will bear. If FLAG gets chopped, no calls get through. The carriers' phone calls get routed to FLAG's competitors (other cables or satellites), and FLAG loses the revenue represented by those calls until the cable is repaired. The amount of revenue it loses is a function of how many calls the cable is physically capable of carrying, how close to capacity the cable is running, and what prices the market will bear for calls on the broken cable segment. In other words, a break between Dubai and Bombay might cost FLAG more in revenue loss than a break between Korea and Japan if calls between Dubai and Bombay cost more.

The rule of thumb for calculating revenue loss works like this: for every penny per minute that the long distance market will bear on a particular route, the loss of revenue, should FLAG be severed on that route, is about $3,000 a minute. So if calls on that route are a dime a minute, the damage is $30,000 a minute, and if calls are a dollar a minute, the damage is almost a third of a million dollars for every minute the cable is down. Upcoming advances in fiber bandwidth may push this figure, for some cables, past the million-dollar-a-minute mark.

Clearly, submarine cable repair is a good business to be in. Cable repair ships are standing by in ports all over the world, on 24-hour call, waiting for a break to happen somewhere in their neighborhood. They are called agreement ships. Sometimes, when nothing else is going on, they will go out and pull up old abandoned cables. The stated reason for this is that the old cables present a hazard to other ships. However, if you do so much as raise an eyebrow at this explanation, any cable man will be happy to tell you the real reason: whenever a fisherman snags his net on anything - a rock, a wreck, or even a figment of his imagination - he will go out and sue whatever company happens to have a cable in that general vicinity. The cable companies are waiting eagerly for the day when a fisherman goes into court claiming to have snagged his nets on a cable, only to be informed that the cable was pulled up by an agreement ship years before.

Am I the only one who sees these things?

Wherein another unfortunate URL

This Friday it's GORED FOR WOMEN DAY. Ouch. Sounds a little too violent for my tastes. I think I'll sit this one out.

There's also this local bank whose sign stacks the name for an unintended consequence:

Sorry, I'm not keeping my money in the SEX BANK. Call me a prude.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Because last week's quiz was uninteresting it was skipped; the fact I knew none of the answers had nothing to do with it

Wherein you provide the wherein before leaving a comment

1. French Foreign Legion
2. I missed those headlines and can't think of a connection. After googling I found the answer, though I would dispute that any part of his quoted headline actually appeared in any actual headline.
3. For lack of a better guess -- mountain climber.
4. Phyllis George?
5. Lock, stock, and barrel. Almost wrote "kit and kaboodle."
6. Rock the Casbah
7. Something only the mind of Ken Jennings could intuit.

The 1% solution

Wherein using the autosummarize tool in MS Word, I've once again reduced the speeches to their true essence

President Bush's State of the Union Address:
The Congress can help even more. In Afghanistan, America, our 25 NATO allies, and 15 partner nations are helping the Afghan people defend their freedom and rebuild their country. We launched a surge of American forces into Iraq. A free Iraq will deny al Qaida a safe haven. America is leading the fight against disease. Our military families also sacrifice for America.

Democratic response given by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas:
Let’s get to work.

Join us, Mr. President. It’s time to get to work.

Emails from The Wife

Wherein this post might have to be erased if she shows up and reads it

  • Listening to greenday, realized that the reason I like them is because they sound a lot like Me First and the Gimme Gimme’s.
  • Jane just told me that she would pay me to stand up and ask “What is the contingency plan for a crapstorm of this magnitude” tomorrow during our resilience training.
  • I printed the coupon, good today and tomorrow.
  • Ok. I did send the info to Sally, who is a HUGE tmbg fan.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The world's most honest candy

Wherein I prefer the older recipe that was hard as a rock

INGREDIENTS: Corn Syrup, Sugar, Skim Milk, Partially Hydrogenated Coconut Oil, Almonds, Corn Starch, Whey, Honey, Egg Whites, Salt, Modified Soy Protein, Natural Flavor, TBHQ And Citric Acid (to preserve freshness). MAY CONTAIN NUT AND PEANUT TRACES

Being the eighth ingredient definitely qualifies as a bit. AND it sounds more appetizing than "Moderate Amount of Partially Hydrogenated Coconut Oil." There's also a drink called the Bit-O-Honey: 1 part Bailey's Irish cream and 1 part butterscotch schnapps. Sounds tasty, though I could never order it in public.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Recaps for last season's episodes of Lost

Wherein the phone will be unplugged next Thursday so call all you want

Andrew Dignan, writing at The House Next Door, provided some of the most thorough reviews of last season's Lost. An interesting season it was. Started with the six episodes that weren't much more than pointless wheel spinning, then came back after the break with a batch of shows that had everyone in revolt. All was forgiven as they ended with three or four of the finest hours ever on television. In anticipation of the next eight episodes, I'm rereading Dignan's posts. Probably my favorite line: "Some shows are aided by post-viewing discussions and clarifications; this one requires a flow-chart." Heh.

Season Three, Ep. 1: "A Tale of Two Cities"
If the lasting question posed by season two was “Who are you people?”, then Lost seems willing to up the ante in showing us that the so-called “Others” seemed to have been living quite comfortably before that fateful day Desmond chose not to push the buttons. These people could not have possibly anticipated an airplane crash, and yet their level of readiness and focus would seem to indicate otherwise. And why did Ethan and Goodwin forgo aliases and disguises when it was standard practice for Ben and Tom (MC Gainey)?

Alas, in posing tantalizing possibilities and in sheer inventiveness, not much else in the episode matches the opening; instead, "A Tale of Two Cities" regresses into disconcertingly familiar scenarios.

Season Three, Ep. 2: "The Glass Ballerina"
Meanwhile, Sawyer and Kate are stuck toiling away in what amounts to an island rock quarry, working under the hot sun, doing busy work while being observed by a half-dozen armed guards. I certainly don’t want to question the nefarious plans of the Dharma Initiative, but something about forcing our captives to do their best Fred Flintstone impersonations feels like a waste of resources to me. Much of “The Others'” plans thus far have centered around observation of menial, repetitive behavior, so I have little reason to believe that isn't the case here as well. But for a wise-ass like Sawyer to not question why they don’t just bring out a jackhammer feels like the show playing coy.

Season Three, Ep. 3: "Further Instructions"
Of course, Locke wasn’t the focus of the entire episode. After wandering across the island for a couple of days, Hurley returns, injecting some much needed levity back into the show. Giving voice to fanboy skepticism (regarding Desmond’s self-destruct key: “that’s sort of convenient”), Hurley is often the only one on the island willing to ask the burning questions like, how exactly did Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick) survive the hatch explosion (“dude, are you like The Incredible Hulk now?”) and how is it he ended up naked? The show has a tendency to take itself way too seriously and is far too willing to overlook obvious plot holes and character machinations, yet I know as long as Hurley is around someone will keep the show grounded. Andrew Johnston was right: Hurley really is the coolest guy on the island.

Season Three, Ep. 4: "Every Man for Himself"
One of the things that makes Lost such a trying viewing experience is its frequently lazy narrative shortcuts. So when a plot point is introduced that stands out as especially difficult to believe, the skeptic in me has a tendency to jump down the show’s throat, only to be retro-actively corrected down the road. Never one to provide easy--or direct--answers, Lost often plays upon viewer distrust, giving us the answer we expect to see, only to conceal its true motives (think of the episode where Locke believes the "Pearl Station" is nothing more than an exercise in social control). But if nothing else, Lost does eventually reward the patience of viewers, even if it means getting around to resolving story-lines we’ve long since forgotten about (welcome back to the show, Desmond) and delivering the information in frustratingly piece-meal fashion.

Take, for example, a snarky claim I made a couple of weeks back where I grumbled about former Iraqi commando Sayid (Naveen Andrews) missing the boat (literally) and allowing a team of “Others” to board Desmond’s (Henry Ian Cusick) yacht because he was apparently facing the wrong direction. But with a single tossed-off line, another piece of the puzzle is put in place: we’re told "the sub is back." Of course. They have a submarine. They’ve got polar bears and clouds of deadly black smoke and a direct feed of Fox’s Major League Baseball coverage. A submarine seems, by comparison, the least bizarre indulgence.

Season Three, Ep. 5: "The Cost of Living"
But Eko's death has to be especially troubling for fans of the show, and not just because this was the only episode of the season where he's actually done anything. So many of the characters on Lost are easily pigeonholed by their genre-ready back-stories, which often feel as they're writing themselves, falling into familiar grooves of self-destructive behavior. But Eko, either by virtue of Akinnuoye-Agbaje's performance or the show's writers keeping their cards close to their vest, never had a chance to become predictable. Often pitted against Locke (Terry O'Quinn) as a man of resolute faith in the face of mounting skepticism, Eko was one of the bright spots of a show that seems to lose some of its luster with each passing season. He will be greatly missed.

But hey, on the plus side at least we have Nikki (Kiele Sanchez) and Paulo (Rodrigo Santoro) to pick up the slack, right? The new season's most insufferable new additions keep inching their way closer to the spotlight with this episode. Now that all those pesky "Alpha characters" have been hijacked by the "Others," its time for the dental hygienist and the soccer player (alright, I’m just guessing that that's their respective professions) to shine. And what better way for the show to accomplish that than by making the rest of the cast look like blithering idiots?

Season Three, Ep. 6: "I Do"
It was par for the course for Jack, who remarkably gets dumber the longer the episode progresses. Starting off in a taunting, rightfuly antagonistic mode, Jack informs Ben that the tumor located in his spine is in dire need of surgery but he won’t operate on him. For a moment, he finally seems to have realized that nobody on this island can be trusted. Much of the episode is spent on Ben pressuring Jack by using Kate’s feelings for Sawyer (and in turn, Jack’s feelings for Kate), a ploy that would seem to have hit a brick wall upon Jack catching a glimpse of the canoodling.

For a beautiful, fleeting, second I thought we’d see the jealous rage Jack displayed in the season opener. I half expected him to tell Ben “fuck that hillbilly” (or TV-safe words to that extent), calling their bluff to kill Sawyer. But no, Jack decides then and there that he’ll operate on Ben in the morning, because he’s got a plan. And boy, is it a good one. Basically his plan is to stand around letting Ben slowly die on the operating table (he has roughly the length of an episode to live) so Kate and Sawyer can get a one-hour head start on their escape. That’s it. No negotiating for boats or a detailed map listing the best route back to their camp or a phone call to the outside world. Nope, you got 60 minutes to get the hell out of Dodge before the men with guns come after you. My God, these people are idiots, and the good doctor is the worst of them.

Season Three, Ep. 7: "Not in Portland"
As the majority of Season Three has taken place on “Others’ Island” we’ve gotten a sense of these additional personalities in a relatively short span of time, and it’s been obvious from the outset that Mitchell’s Juliet is the show’s breakout new character. Fittingly, “Not in Oregon” is a tour-de-force showcase for Mitchell in much the same way “Walkabout” was for Terry O’Quinn back in Season One. Like Locke, Juliet has two very different physical sides, with the gulf separating the two posing the rare unknown that’s actually worth pondering. Divorced at a young age after a marriage to an older man, the Juliet of the past is a mousey, unconfident push-over, all fidgety body language and averted glances. She lives in constant fear of her former spouse’s reprisal, at one point apologizing for even wishing him (all too prescient) harm.

In excusing herself from the Mittelos job, she tells Alpert “Whatever you think I am, I’m not. I’m not a leader. I’m a mess.” So what fun that we immediately cut to the present-day, where Juliet roams the halls of the Hydra with the steely-eyed resolve of The Terminator. The Juliet we’ve come to know is confident, duplicitous and -- as we see in this episode -- coldblooded and unafraid of getting her hands dirty. Juliet’s still something of a wild card at this point, and it’s a testament to Mitchell that both elements of her personality are entirely believable.

Season 3 Ep. 8: "Flashes Before Your Eyes"
Time travel has been a sub-theme of Lost since the show’s beginning, with seeming incongruities in the island’s mythology (such as the existence of the 19th century slaving ship in the middle of the jungle as well the giant four-toed foot that appears to have been swiped from ancient Greece) possibly explained by a bending of time and space. As recently as last week there was the anagram Mittelos (“lost time”) and a character reading Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. There is, however, a simpler explanation for the strange temporal quarry Desmond has found himself in -- one even he begins to suspect.

While searching out an engagement ring for Penny, Desmond “returns” to a quaint jeweler where the kindly Ms. Hawking (Fionnula Flanagan) helps him pick out the perfect ring for a man of limited means. Yet when he expresses his desire to purchase the ring, she recoils, informing him that he’s not supposed to propose to Penny. His destiny, she reminds him, is to break Penny’s heart and push the buttons or the world will end. Poor Flanagan: she spends most of the episode stuck in the lecturing, Morpheus-like role, revisiting the show’s theories about fate versus free-will and the futility of trying to change the future as the universe “course-corrects.” Desmond accuses Ms. Hawking of being a manifestation of his subconscious -- an astute observation, but not in the way I suspect he intended. Ms. Hawking may in fact be a figment of his imagination, but not one that simply externalizes his fears about marrying Penny. Rather, I see the whole flashback (which occupies roughly 80% of the episode) as a Jacob’s Ladder-like alternate reality, conceived of by Desmond as he lay concussed in the wake of the Swan’s meltdown.

Season 3 Ep. 9: "Stranger in a Strange Land"
Conversely, “Stranger in a Strange Land” is already the second Jack-centric episode of this still young season which would make it (by my count) his ninth overall. After watching Jack save numerous lives, rage against his alcoholic father, struggle in vain to maintain his failing marriage and now getting himself a bad-ass tattoo, it might be time to admit to ourselves that the character has officially played itself out. What’s so irritating about the show is the disparity created by casting a “star” in the middle of what’s supposed to be a true ensemble. The fickle nature of the medium demands that Fox gets as much face time as possible, meanwhile a character portrayed by a less visible performer, like Cynthia Watros’ Libby, can be killed off with nary a flashback to call her own. Dramatic opportunities are constantly squandered in favor of returning to well-trod touchstones.

Season 3, Ep. 10, "Tricia Tanaka is Dead”"
The show’s producers have historically relied on Terry O’Quinn’s Locke and Fox to push along the show’s heavier storylines, but this episode was a reminder that Garcia’s not only a wonderful (and much needed) comedic outlet for the show but a fine actor who specializes in intimate dramas of anxiety and self-realization. It’s been so long since we had an episode that wasn’t dedicated to Jack saving somebody, I’d forgotten how much I missed watching Hurley who, above all else, seems to have a better sense of who he is than anyone else on the island (something that’s all the more ironic when you consider the character is a schizophrenic).

Season 3, Ep. 11, "Enter 77”
For fans of the character, “Enter 77” is an especially disconcerting episode, as it finds the once sage-like Locke doing some incredibly stupid things purely to satisfy his curiosity. Always prone to following his instincts and blind faith above all else, Locke’s judgment has been especially questionable of late (earlier in the episode when Sayid and he discussed Eko’s “Jesus stick” serving as their map, Sayid looked like he wanted to strangle him), and this episode isn’t likely to convince viewers that the character is anything other than a fool in philosopher’s clothing. Despite all the screaming and crashing in the next room, Locke conveniently (or is it cowardly?) waits for the smoke to clear before poking his head out and lending a hand. Later on, while given the simple-task of standing over the restrained Bakunin while Sayid and Kate explore the rest of the Flame, Locke somehow botches the job by returning to his video game, allowing his hostage to not only escape but to get the drop on him. The episode also ends on a potentially disastrous note as Locke blindly follows the prompting of the computer’s automated relay program, triggering a self-destruct mechanism found within the Flame (and, in the process, destroying perhaps their only means of phoning home). Locke has skirted the line of madness in the past; I fear the writers are now using the character’s island tunnel-vision as an easy way to advance the plot.

Season 3, Ep. 12, "Par Avion”
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the show’s become a victim of its own format, as it’s forced to come up with a new mini soap opera each week to eat up half the episode’s run time while never really expanding upon the bedrock of the characters we picked up in season one. There’s really very little left on the shelf, especially for second-tier character such as Claire; the mind boggles at how they’re going to keep this up for another couple years at least.

Furthermore, these episodes that focus on half-hearted rescue attempts are always a bit of a drag. While lending a small element of verisimilitude to the castaways day-to-day lives, from a plot stand-point they’re counter-intuitive and give off the faint odor of wheel-spinning. These people may someday be rescued, but I doubt anyone believes it will be because of a giant “S.O.S.” in the sand or some birds flying south for the winter, especially the show’s writers.

Season 3, Ep. 13, "The Man from Tallahassee"
I give up. After years of serving as a de-facto apologist for Lost simply for clinging to the eroding bedrock that everything might come out in the wash, doggedly believing that there really was some sort of a master plan that would retroactively justify hours of wild-spitballing and endless digression, I now concede that the people behind this show are completely winging it. I’ve always suspected that the show was making itself up as it went week to week; I’m now convinced that during the commercial break a team of frantic young writers is quickly churning out pages, faster than my Tivo can advance, in a desperate attempt to get to the end before I do.

Season Three, Ep. 14: "Exposé"
And that’s the end of that. Last night we said farewell, I hope, to the worst idea in the history of a series that’s given us “the magic box,” a couple of polar bears on a tropical island, and entire episodes dedicated to Rose and Bernard and Ana Lucia. I am, of course, referring to the presumed passing of the much derided Nikki and Paulo, a couple of photogenic Cousin Olivers, uncomfortably shoehorned into the Lost universe last fall, instantly earning the scorn of the show’s fans across the world.

Two “red shirts” if ever there were ones, Nikki (Kylie Sanchez) and Paulo (Rodrigo Santoro) represented the show at its absolute laziest. Desperate to replace the void on the beach created by actor exits (Cynthia Watros, Rodriguez, Harold Perrineau) and plot necessity (the abduction of Jack, Sawyer and Kate), the producers clumsily dropped two attractive but bland characters into the middle of a highly exclusive setting and prayed no one would notice. Unprepared for the immediate backlash, the show froze in its tracks. Afraid to enrage fans further, the show seemed to go out of its way to ignore Nikki and Paulo, affording them less than a combined two dozen lines over the course of the first 13 episodes of the third season, quickly reducing them to walk-ons. Yet all along, show runners Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof assured fans that there was a master plan for the characters that would justify all the hand-wringing.

If last night’s episode was any indication of how the show plans on executing its future “master plans,” we’re in for a long ride.

Season Three, Ep. 15: "Left Behind"
Far from feminist doctrine—the hour contained multiple “catfights,” a t-shirt drenching rainstorm and a romp through a mud pit—the episode was still unmistakably committed to re-establishing its two de-facto female leads as strong-willed, driven women who are unafraid to slit a throat if push comes to shove. Deep down, they may ultimately be jostling for position with the good doctor Shepherd, but these two are no damsels in distress. With none of the men around, we see glimpses of both women’s personalities that have been stifled as of late, with Kate’s heart on her sleeve impulsiveness contrasting nicely with Juliet’s deliberate steeliness. By the time we get to the scene where Juliet has to pop her dislocated shoulder back into its socket Mel Gibson-style, with Kate doing the popping (and reticent to do so at the risk of losing a strategic advantage), you start to realize just how much macho-posturing we get on a weekly basis from Sawyer and Jack.

Season Three, Ep. 16: "One of Us"
“One of Us” offers circumstantial evidence to fans of the show who subscribe to the “Noah’s Ark” theory that goes that the island is a bio-preserve and testing grounds, created in anticipation of an impending global disaster. This could possibly explain the emphasis on keeping tabs on the island’s children (a future generation of breeders) as well the imperative in insuring island procreation and the importance of keeping around those who are “worthy.” It’s fun to speculate, but I find myself reversing my long-held critique that the characters of Lost are of secondary interest to the mechanics of the plot. While I still feel the show largely moves its cast around like chess pieces, over the past few months my sympathies towards these people (and the actors behind them) them has grown, while my interest in “getting to the bottom of things” has dwindled.

Season Three, Ep. 17: "Catch-22"
“Catch-22” briefly addresses one of my favorite pet-theories, first introduced in the episode “Flashes Before your Eyes” from last February. I speculated then that Desmond’s adventure in time travel was actually a lucid dream meant to justify a lifetime of poor choices, specifically using his own low sense of self-worth to run away from the woman he loves. While the episode is taken by most at face value, something about the way Desmond engages with his own psyche, the way fate can be conveniently substituted as a scapegoat, struck me as very David Chase-like. The lightning rod at the center of this theory is Ms. Hawking (Fionnula Flanagan) who makes a brief, uncredited cameo in last night’s episode, appearing in a picture frame during Desmond’s flashback. This would seemingly refute my theory (she is in fact, a real person as opposed to a creation of Desmond’s mind) while also lending credence to my belief that Desmond is digging deep into his subconscious, recalling a kindly old woman from a photograph to give voice to his feelings of doubt and defeatism.

Season Three, Ep. 18: "D.O.C."
Sun and Jin’s entire relationship can be distilled down to maintaining appearances. Sun spent years concealing not only her infidelity but her secret unhappiness, her desire to escape her marriage and even her knowledge of the English language. Jin lied about his working-class past in order to be accepted into a different social caste and later kept his feelings of unhappiness to himself at being a slave to Sun’s father, letting it eat away at their marriage instead. Even the uncomfortable truth that it was Jin who was infertile, and not Sun, was kept away from him so he would not lose face. To that end, Sun can clearly see how much Mr. Kwon loves his son and how much embarrassment his past causes him. With tears in her eyes, she agrees to never tell her husband about this encounter or the revelation that his mother is still alive.

So much of the Sun and Jin back-story (once upon a time, these two were considered separate characters) has been dedicated to the declining years of their marriage with the former pouting and petulant, the latter brooding and standoffish. It’s therefore a bit of fresh air to watch them behave as newlyweds madly in love with each other. Like all good screen couples, they’re cute without being cloying; devoted to one another, yet still fiercely individual and proud. Yoon-jim and Kim have been sadly sidelined this season (although at least Jin has been matched up with Hurley as a stoic comic foil). “D.O.C.” allows them the opportunity to stretch for the first time in months.

Season Three, Ep. 19: "The Brig"
So much of Sawyer’s (the younger one) character has been building towards this moment—his very identity is tied towards killing this man—yet I was impressed at how vulnerable Holloway comes across, even as he builds to a murderous rage. His voice reduced to a low whisper (as though anything higher and it might crack), he forces Cooper to read the letter Sawyer wrote as a child, enacting a bizarre ritual he’s no doubt played out in his head hundreds of times (the formality of the act reminded me of Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride), yet only snaps when Cooper tears up the letter in lieu of finishing it. It’s a bit of an obvious metaphor (in an episode filled with them), but an effective one all the same. Confronted with his proverbial “Rosebud,” Sawyer fulfills his life-long goal of revenge, but in the process must leave behind the very identity he’s cultivated over a lifetime. What does a man who’s lived for nothing but vengeance have to live for after he’s taken it?

As I hinted earlier, I fear Sawyer’s days are numbered. Over the past few weeks we’ve watched the character evolve into something resembling a leader, his shiftless self-serving demeanor slowly receding into a mere personality tick. Now that he’s come full circle, destroying the man who has created him, where is there left to take the character other than making him a mangier version of Jack? With the show’s producers warning of an impending blood bath in the next few weeks I can’t help but think the character is being set up for a heroic fall.

Season Three, Ep. 20: "The Man Behind the Curtain"
If Hurley (Jorge Garcia) has often stood in as an audience surrogate for skeptics then Locke (Terry O'Quinn) is the voice of the show’s true-believers, long clinging to the hope that all of the show’s divergent threads will somehow come together in an elaborate tapestry. Lost has a strong grip on the pulse of its audience and, I suspect, as viewer enthusiasm is tempered it can be reflected in Locke. The more he invests himself in the search for answers, the more frustrated he becomes at their lack of availability. The Jacob situation is a perfect example of the way even the most devout of believers grow restless over time, with the futile pursuit of a single, concrete truth turning even the most open of hearts to stone.

Season Three, Ep. 21: "Greatest Hits"
This week won’t find me tripping over the show’s numerous paradoxes (with one self-aggrandizing exception in a little bit) or spinning far-flung theories which may or may not come to fruition before the show’s 2010 sign-off. Nor will I be dusting off my argument in favor of the show scrapping its musty flashback structure. Quite the contrary, “Greatest Hits” found Lost willing to toy with its own format a bit, borrowing a page from High Fidelity (take your pick, book or film) by focusing on a series of self-contained “high points” from Charlie’s life, as opposed to presenting a prolonged and self-contained b-story meant to dovetail thematically with the present. One of the problems with Lost’s flashbacks has always been the way they reduce its characters into a series of cause and effect scenarios, distilling every action into a result of a single event from their past, like placing a thumbtack in a map. Shorter on incident than we’ve come to expect, “Greatest Hits” instead gives us fleeting snapshots from Charlie’s life devoid of all context, other than that they were times in his life when he was happiest to be alive. It’s amazing how much more human these people feel when they’re not reduced to walking algebra equations.

Season Three, Ep. 22: "Through the Looking Glass"
With all the talk of the island as purgatory, could the show truly be as cynical to posit that life outside the island is actually hell, a destination these characters are on a collision course with as a result of their actions in the present? Pre-determination being such a predominant theme on Lost, is the future set in stone with the very idea which gives them hope ultimately what tears them apart? Throughout the hour we see Jack emotionally distraught after reading of the death of an unidentified person in the newspaper (based on fleeting evidence picked up upon with my freeze frame and the reaction of the characters, specifically Kate, I’m going to begin the speculation that the deceased is Locke) to the point where he’s self-medicating and contemplating suicide. Now that they’re free of their island prison has the oft-quoted “live together, die alone” become more relevant than ever? With the shared experience of life on the island safely in the rearview mirror, have their lives lost all meaning? At least when Adam & Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden they knew they were leaving paradise.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Dang it, he's right!

Wherein maybe if I key it in using letters instead of numbers I'll be ok

Everybody's pin number revealed!

Monday, January 21, 2008


Wherein D'oh! Once again I forgot the anniversary

Link: "On January 15, 1919 an 8-foot wall of molasses killed twenty-one people in Boston."

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Why the WGA should be crushed and ground into dust

Wherein freakin' typewriter-vexed luddites

Reading I came across this horrifying news:
This comes from a blog called Why We Write, a collection of essays by TV and film writers who are currently out of work due to the Writer's Guild strike. My favorite part of the site is the placement of two spaces after a period instead of the HTML default of one. View the source to check out the crazy markup they use to accomplish that little bit of fussiness.

Two spaces after a period? No fucking way. Let's take a look. Ohmygod, they are. I thought only weird-ass lawyers stuck in the 1950s were afflicted with this inability to adapt beyond the sixth grade:

To repeat myself, two spaces after a period is an artifact from the monospace typewriter days. It seems like a lot of scripts are written in courier, so two spaces would be appropriate. Actually, 12-point courier:
One is nostalgic (Courier font resembles the look of a page written on a mechanical typewriter), but the other reason is highly practical: Courier is a monospaced font meaning every glyph is the same width (as opposed to variable-width fonts, where the "w" and "m" are wider than most letters, and the "i" is narrower). With a monospaced font only a certain amount of letters will fit on each row and each page, assuring uniformity of the format and achieving the one page per minute of screen time formula.

Nostalgia? Fuck that shit. Go stage a revival of Fiddler on the Roof if that's your malfunction. Anyway, your webpage isn't in courier, so the two spaces just looks wrong. Until you "writers" fix this unforgiveable error, I'm hoping the producers make soup with the bones of your children.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

"The intellectual sloppiness with which this current crusade has been conducted is appalling"

Wherein I've said much of this before though probably not as well

Malcolm Gladwell, while "not advocating steriods be legalized," raises some questions:
  • "James," one of the commenters on the "Free Fernando Vina" post brought up the issue of Lasik eye surgery. That's a very good example. It is perfectly legal for an athlete to undergo "performance enhancing" eye surgery, that moves him from, say, the 50th to the 95th percentile in sight. It is not legal for that same athlete to take "performance enhancing" hormones that move his testosterone from the 50th to the 95th percentile--even thought the additional advantage of the eye surgery may be greater than the additional advantage conferred by the exogenous testosterone.
  • Similarly, it is perfectly legal for an athlete to get painkillers after an injury, so he can continue playing (and, I would point out, risk further injury.) It is not legal for that athlete to take Human Growth Hormone, in order to speed his recovery from that same injury. Again, why? What is the distinction? Why is it okay to play hurt but not okay to try and not play hurt?

  • Quotes from SI of athletes taking painkillers to keep playing and using a hyperbaric chamber.
  • Discusses situations where an athlete could legally take PEDs and asks if this would still violate MLB policy:
    8. So wait. The league's drug policy is an attempt to prevent the use of drugs without a prescription? No. Its supposed to prevent the use of a broad class of drugs. But since the league's policies clearly can't govern drugs prescribed legally by a physican--particuarly if they are undetectable-- it has the effect of only preventing the use of drugs obtained illegally.

    9. I'm confused. Aren't there already laws in place in America preventing the use of drugs without a prescription? Yes. (And I'm confused too.)

  • Free Fernando Vina:
    Let's assume, for a moment, that what Vina said was true--that he only took HGH because he was trying to recover from an injury. Let's assume the same of Pettitte and Bennett. I think we can also agree that there is reasonable evidence that Human Growth Hormone speeds recovery.

    So what, exactly, is wrong with an athlete--someone who makes a living with their body--taking medication to speed their recovery from injury? Is it wrong to take ibruprofen? Is it wrong to ice a sore elbow? For that matter, is it ethical or even legal for Major League Baseball--or indeed any employee or governing body--to deny an employee access to a potentially beneficial medical treatment?

"The absolute least expensive method of exercise available for all income groups above the poverty line"

Wherein since it's less expensive than "a 30 minute walk outside" and I wouldn't want anyone to think we live below the poverty line I should probably order a dozen

If this had been Games magazine and I was reading the April issue, my first assumption would have been I'd found the fake ad. But it's Outside magazine, the month is February, and this $14,615 piece of exercise equipment is real. Exercise in exactly 4 minutes per day with the The ROM Time Machine. It sure does look interesting and he's right, the amount of time needed for a satisfactory cardiovascular doesn't have to be 20-45 minutes. But I think it would be hard to find a product website that was more defensive and angry in its sales pitch.

There's always a conspiracy and experts are always wrong:
When finally some people are seriously interested in renting or buying a ROM machine and they have no problem with the price, they would still want to make certain that they are not making a big mistake and they would like to have the advice from an “EXPERT” such as a personal trainer or a doctor. Not to anyone’s surprise these “EXPERTS” will immediately declare that there is no such thing as a 4 minute workout. These "experts" reason that, if there were such a thing as a 4 minute workout, that they would certainly know about it, in fact they think that the whole World would know about it. Such is the circle reasoning of most experts in all fields of knowledge. Experts kill a lot of ROM sales. That leads to lower number of sales, leading to higher manufacturing and sales cost. Experts are in all fields of expertise.

Warnings: Don't drink coffee during your 4 minutes and "Normal stepladders cause much injury and some deaths, the ROM machine is more dangerous than a stepladder."

Did I mention experts are the opposite of right? A list of always wrong experts and gutless journalism.

This isn't the oddest piece of exercise equipment I've recently seen. Just this weekend at Dick's Sporting Goods I came across some sort of vibration plate thingy. I don't remember it being $9,000, but it looked something like this. This was new to me, so I hopped on and pushed a button. And was grateful I had no fillings in my mouth. It rattled the bejeezus out of me and I only lasted 10 seconds. Who the hell would use something like this? Oh, Madonna. Nevermind. Do you remember Samuel L. Jackson's character in Unbreakable? This machine would reduce his bones to a pile of dust.

Among other things I've attempted to simplify is exercising and something new I've been working with is a Kettlebell. If you want a full-body workout with cardiovascular results, try a handful of kettlebell swings. Basically deep squats while flinging iron. Kinda fun, as long as you don't lose your grip and let it go flying through the wall or the television. Enter the Kettlebell is an excellent introduction, breaking down the moves step by step. Also can search youtube for examples. Around here, Kettlebells run about $2 a pound. Then there's the Kettlestack. Since I wasn't sure what weight to start at and wasn't looking forward to filling up the garage with a variety of cannonballs, this has been an excellent purchase. Using free weight plates I already had, I build a kettlebell to any size I want. It loses some of the compactness of an actual kettlebell, but the convenience more than makes up for it.

Misleading headline of the day

Wherein nothing more hilarious than watching news coverage in the South when snowflakes are in the air: DOOM! DOOM! WE'RE! ALL! GOING! TO! DIE!

From the New York Times, it's Long Ago, a Rodent as Big as a Bull Lurked in South America. Lumbered, maybe. Can a one ton rat really lurk? Unless all the other animals were 10 tons, this thing wasn't sneaking up on anything. It's not like we'll see the headline "Pamplona Tourist Gored by Lurking Bull."

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Mmmm, bacon

Wherein mmmm, lard

More from Gary Taubes' Good Calories, Bad Calories.
The observation that monounsaturated fats both lower LDL cholesterol [the bad kind] and raise HDL [the good kind] also came with an ironic twist: the principal fat in red meat, eggs, and bacon is not saturated fat, but the very same monounsaturated fat as olive oil. The implications are almost impossible to believe after three decades of public-health recommendations suggesting that any red meat consumed should at least be lean, with any excess fat removed.

Consider a porterhouse steak with a quarter-inch layer of fat. After broiling, this steak will reduce to almost equal parts fat and protein. Fifty-one percent of the fat is monounsaturated, of which 90 percent is oleic acid. Saturated fat constitutes 45 percent of the total fat, but a third of that is stearic acid, which will increase HDL cholesterol while having no effect on LDL. (Stearic acid is metabolized in the body to oleic acid, according to Grundy's research.) The remaining 4 percent of the fat is polyunsaturated, which lowers LDL cholesterol but has no meaningful effect on HDL. In sum, perhaps as much as 70 percent of the fat content of a porterhouse steak will improve the relative levels of LDL and HDL cholesterol, compared with what they would be if carbohydrates such as bread, potatoes, or pasta were consumed. The remaining 30 percent will raise LDL cholesterol but will also raise HDL cholesterol and will have an insignificant effect, if any, on the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL. All of this suggests that eating a porterhouse steak in lieu of bread or potatoes would actually reduce heart-disease risk, although virtually no nutritional authority will say so publicly. The same is true for bacon and lard.

File this under "Kids today"

Wherein maybe you could get your mom to show you how to type "Randy Newman" into Google. Don't worry, she can explain it while you're eating your animal crackers and milk

Via Brian Tiemann quoting Jason Chen at Gizmodo:
Holy crap. Who knew Randy Newman, the guy who makes the songs your kids play over and over and over again, would sing such crazy crap about our government?

Who knew? I dunno, maybe anyone who realizes Newman has a long, extremely well-documented career outside of Disney? Just a little hint, Jason -- Short People wasn't written about the Seven Dwarfs. If you enjoy Randy Newman singing crazy crap, perhaps you'd enjoy Political Science:
Well, boom goes London,
And boom Paris.
More room for you
And more room for me.
And every city the whole world 'round
Will just be another American town.
Oh, how peaceful it'll be;
We'll set everybody free;
You'll wear a Japanese kimono, baby,
There'll be Italian shoes for me.
They all hate us anyhow,
So let's drop the big one now.
Let's drop the big one now.

Or maybe Rednecks
Last night I saw Lester Maddox on a TV show
With some smart-ass New York Jew
And the Jew laughed at Lester Maddox
And the audience laughed at Lester Maddox too.
Well, he may be a fool but he's our fool
If they think they're better than him they're wrong

Or maybe The Great Nations of Europe
Columbus sailed for India
Found Salvador instead
He shook hands with some Indians and soon they all were dead
They got TB and typhoid and athlete’s foot
Diphtheria and the flu
Excuse me - great nations coming through!

Or maybe How Great Our Lord where God sings:
Sorry ladies to make you wait
There's a couple of Buddhists at the pearly gate
Asked my permission to come on board What'd you do Lord?
I had to have them put out with the trash.

Or maybe A Few Words in Defense of Our Country:
I’d like to say a few words in defense of my country
Whose people aren’t bad nor are they mean
Now, the leaders we have, while they’re the worst that we’ve had,
Are hardly the worst this poor world has ever seen.

Randy Newman has an excellent way of writing in the voice of a character. Even when that character isn't a computer animated toy. To Jason Chen and other infants like him, there's a whole world of crazy crap that happened before 1995. Look it up. And get off my lawn.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Saskatoon is in the room

Wherein Is Chicago, Is Not Chicago

In a Tuesday Morning Quarterback, filled with more than the usual amount of whiny moralization and finger-wagging, Gregg Easterbrook complains:
Sequel in Development: Mothra vs. Cloverfield: New York City gets destroyed in "Cloverfield," the silly-sounding monster movie that opens Friday. New York was destroyed in "Independence Day," in "Escape from New York," in "I Am Legend," in "The Day After Tomorrow," in "Planet of the Apes," in "A.I.," in "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow," in the 1998 "Godzilla" remake, in all three King Kong movies, in the Tom Cruise movie version of "War of the Worlds," in the radio version of "War of the Worlds" and now in the Godzilla-esque "Cloverfield." How about a disaster movie that destroys Wichita or Saskatoon?

Other than the fact that New York is used for its iconic value because no one knows (or cares) what the heck fuck Wichita and Saskatoon looks about it? I think the redundantly lettered flag football coach takes a few liberties with his movie facts.
  • Independence Day. No direct indication that aliens destroyed Wichita and Saskatoon, but millions world-wide were murdered. McConnell Air Force Base is in Wichita, so quite likely received reprisals after the first failed attack on the alien ships. I'll say 50% chance Wichita was severely damaged, if not outright destroyed. -1 for Easterbrook. And another -1 for ignoring the destruction of Los Angeles.
  • Escape from New York. I won't even let my kindergartener daughter get away this sort of misrepresentation. New York wasn't destroyed, it was walled off and turned into a prison. It's a functioning city suffering from neglect of upkeep. Maybe in the Canadian remake it'll be "Escape from Saskatoon"; until then: does not apply. -2 for Easterbrook.
  • I Am Legend. Some sort of virus kills off most of the humans, leaving a few survivors and some zombie mutants. Again, New York is not destroyed, it is just shown in a state of extreme neglect because that's what would happen if everyone died. Since this was a global pandemic, we can assume that Wichita and Saskatoon suffered the same fate. -2 for Easterbrook
  • The Day After Tomorrow. Buried with snow, not destroyed. Couple of snowblowers and some rock salt everything is good as new. Anyway, if New York was destroyed by a superstorm ice age, I don't think there's much hope for Saskatoon. No one is wasting a helicopter trip looking for survivors there. According to the wiki description, "Survivors are forced to flee to the Southern and Southwestern United States and Mexico." Kansas is not in the South on or Southwest. Reading Geology of the Kansas City Vicinity: "The modern landscape of the region was shaped largely during the Pleistocene Epoch (Ice Age) when continental ice sheets advanced into northeastern Kansas and northern Missouri." Maybe not completely buried by a giant mountain of snow, but tens of thousands dead sounds likely. -2 for Easterbrook
  • Planet of the Apes. Once again, this movie does not destroy New York. What we see is 2,000 years in the future, after a nuclear war and talking monkeys flinging their talking monkey feces everywhere. Even without a nuclear war, two millenium would do a decent job of destroying everything. -2 for Easterbrook
  • A.I.. Haven't seen it, so relying on wiki: "Global warming has led to an ecological disaster resulting in a drastic reduction of the human population and rising sea levels. Cities like New York City and Venice lie in ruins. Mankind’s efforts to maintain civilization lead to the creation of android artificial intelligence." Do we see it destroyed or just the aftermath that wiped out many other cities around the globe? I'll call this one a push.
  • Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. I'm pretty sure I saw this and I don't recall New York being destroyed. There's a robot attack and substantial damage. No points either way.
  • 1998 Godzilla and all the King Kongs. Lots of damage, no destroyed city, and no evidence that maybe more than a couple hundred people were killed. In fact, I think just a cursory glance at the movies will show that the military did more damage than the monsters. No one is filming King Kong in Wichita or Saskatoon because there aren't any buildings to climb. -8 for Easterbrook
  • War of the World. New York and half the world. Whatever, here's two points, don't spend them all in one place.

For accuracy, Gregg Easterbrook scores a -16. Not too good. Stick to whining about football. Speaking of which, here's Gregg performing a Vulcan mind-meld on Tony Romo and judging his soul to be as black as coal (emphasis added):
Jersey/A seemed to sense that Romo was not properly prepared for the game and would wilt under pressure, which is what happened. Romo kept trying to throw deep, rather than throwing slants, which are the standard counter to the big blitz. You sensed Romo wanted to hit a deep pass so everyone would credit him for winning the game.

Oh what a selfish bastard he was. And then this:
At the end, it was the second consecutive season the Cowboys lost in the playoffs after their glam-boy quarterback spent late December and early January boasting to the media and mingling with celebrities instead of focusing on football.

I know nothing about media boasts but in the one vacation photo I saw it looked like Tony Romo was ignoring the bikini'd babes and was intently reading a large notebook folder that I seemed to sense was related to football. I have a lifelong hatred of the Dallas Cowboys (don't ask me why, I don't know why, I just do), so if you end up making me defend them you've massively screwed up several things.

I did mention origami

Wherein as Jennings takes liberties with the use of "feature," I'll take full points for that answer

  1. It's doubtful I could answer any question concerning music released in 2007. I am currently listening to Chaka Khan's 2007 album and I'm pretty sure the answer isn't on there.
  2. I'll say Vietnam.
  3. Sounds Italian, so I'll go with Bocce.
  4. Sam, Diane, Norm, postal worker guy, Woody, Carla, Lilith. I think I can recall all but Sam and Carla. Ted Danson was doing shows during that time, so may have been less available than Rhea Perlman. Pretty much a coin flip, so I'll say Sam never appeared.
  5. wiki answer. One of those that makes me think that with more time I could have had a proper guess.
  6. ????
  7. Unharmful ingestion of mind-altering substances by minors? Minors being children under a certain age, not people who dig underground.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

"A pack of maple-syrup-swilling squirrel worshippers"

Wherein hey, I'm a morning person; also, I changed the title

A. Whitney Brown on New Hampshire voters.
The Big Picture

Excerpt from chapter 6: "How Maple Syrup Elects Our Presidents"
One of the main bottlenecks in our electoral process is New Hampshire. Every election, it gets first cut. Its inhabitants pass themselves off as some kind of Norman Rockwell poobahs. Well, my question is, who died and made them kingmakers? It just isn't fair. If the primaries were all at the same time my apartment building could vote as a bloc and cancel out the state's entire electoral body.

"The Granite State" -- it has a solid, permanent sound to it. A more accurate name would be "The small mammals by the side of the road state." "Live Free or Die," that's their motto. That's what it says on their license plates. But when you consider that those license plates are made in prison it makes you wonder how sincere it is.

I always thought of it as a free or die. But from the few times I've visited New Hampshire, as far as I can tell it's a reference to how cheap they are.

I don't mean to come down so hard on the state, I just feel a little leery about handing the future of our government over to a bunch of people I wouldn't even ask the time of day from. And a lot of these people are farmers. You can always tell by the hat. I know, because I have farmers in my family. Now don't get me wrong, farmers are good people. They love their crops and all, but they don't get out much.

Those that aren't farmers are truck drivers. Dwell on that for a moment; minutes after eating truck-stop food, these people are in the booth voting. As if that weren't frightening enough, I'll tell you something else about New Hampshire people: they get up early.

They're morning people. Do we want morning people choosing the candidates for the highest office in the free world? Morning people have a disturbing tendency to tyranny, as you know if you've ever lived with one. It's a known fact that every major dictator in history was a morning person.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it's perfectly safe to place the destiny of our nation in the hands of a pack of maple-syrup-swilling squirrel worshippers. It just seems a little risky considering that hundreds of thousands of brave men, many of them night owls and slugabeds, died for our right to vote.

"No need to resort to ugly stereotypes"

Wherein I caught Elizabethtown the other night and that's pretty much Jack Donaghy

Select Alec Baldwin's signature role.

Four games

Wherein flying to Las Vegas with next month's mortgage

Using this Java dice roller, I rolled a 20-sided dice for each team. Then I multiplied the away team by 2.5 and the home team by 3. Why those numbers? Why not? Home team usually has a slight edge and those seemed fair.

Games and scores:
  • Seattle (5) at Green Bay (3)
  • Jacksonville (7.5) at New England (39)
  • San Diego (35) at Indianapolis (42)
  • N.Y. Giants (10) at Dallas (33)

Green Bay loses a close one at home -- check the weather forecast for that one -- otherwise it's all home teams. Indianapolis and San Diego look to be the only game worth watching. I don't know what the point spreads are, so place your wagers accordingly. I looked at this USA Today page and it made no sense to me. Looking at a vegas page gives the odds at different casinos. Favorites are Green Bay (8.5), New England (13), Indianapolis (9), Dallas (7.5). If I'm understanding this correctly, that means I should bet Seattle, New England, San Diego, and Dallas.

Another Tuesday

Wherein it's safe to say that this blog is no longer even treading water. More of a deadman float with an occasional lift of the head for a gasp of air. Call it the January doldrums

1. circumcision
2. First thought is Bush, but I don't think he was a colonel. I'm leaning towards Castro, so that's my answer.
3. Mountains in Pennsylvania...mountain lions in Pennsylvania mountains...I got nothing.
4. Venice. I'm hoping acqua is Italian for water and alta means high or rising.
5. Triangle guy -- Pythagoras.
6. Is "as a stab" a clue? Nothing on this one.
7. First guess is something to do with a character playing with dolls. Second guess is something about origami.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Three lists

Wherein just killing pixels

All That Jazz
Blues Brothers
Breaking Away
Devil in a Blue Dress
Dr. Strangelove
Local Hero
Wings of Desire
Honorable mentions: Gregory's Girl, South Park, Bliss, Breaker Morant, Stranger than Fiction, About a Boy

30 Rock
Coupling (BBC version)
Fawlty Towers
Northern Exposure
St. Elsewhere
WKRP in Cincinnati
Honorable mentions: Action!, Arrested Development, Mythbusters, Fanzone soccer replay

Black Like You, John Strausbaugh
Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson
Interface, Stephen Bury
Memoir From Antproof Case, Mark Helprin
Moo, Jane Smiley
Out of Control, Kevin Kelley
Road Fever, Tim Cahill
Stalky & Co., Rudyard Kipling
Where the Suckers Moon, Randall Rothenberg
Sometimes a Great Notion, Ken Kesey
Honorable mentions: the rest of Neal Stephenson; And the Band Played On, Randy Shilts; Milagro Beanfield war, John Nichol; Confess Fletch, Gregory McDonald; Hackers, Steven Levy; Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Thinking about summer vacation

Wherein dude

Child might be with grandparents at that place with the castle and princesses and long lines. Parents of child need some beach time.
Cocoa Beach, FL 4 day camp, $200.00 per person, ½ day surfing each day (8-11am) M-Th
they have an adults only camp. $400.00 per person in 2007. No 2008 schedule yet
adults only camp 6/23-6/27 9:30-2:30. $399.00 per person

Thursday, January 03, 2008

I have an Iowa story

Wherein shouldn't everyone?

Made easier by the fact that the gf at the time was an Ioweegian.

I think it was a Saturday morning after Thanskgiving. As we're driving back to Minneapolis from Dubuque the car hits an icy patch, does a 180, and slides backwards down an embankment. As we're walking up to the road we note the car missed by five feet a giant concrete somethingorother that would have totaled the car and probably killed us.

We're standing there wondering what the hell we're going to do now -- life before cell phones -- with not a farmhouse in sight and figuring the nearest town* is at least a mile away when a car pulls up. An older couple saw the car in the ditch and stopped by to check on us and then gave us a ride into town. They were meeting some friends at the local cafe before heading off for the Iowa-Iowa St. football game. On the way over they also gave us the name and number for a mechanic who might be working that day. After confirming the guy was available, and after knowing us for about 30 minutes, they gave us the keys to their car and told us to leave it back at the diner with the keys under the floor mat when we were finished. Four days later after selling the car in Vegas and blowing all the cash at the roulette wheel, we finally made it home. So the guy towed the car, replaced a damaged rim, and did some other stuff -- basically spent about four hours on the car and charged us $26. We returned the car and found their address in the glove compartment so we could rob them blind send them flowers for their help.

*No longer remember where this occurred. I think we traveled in Hwy 52 most of the way so I'm guessing this happened somewhere between Gutenberg and Decorah.

A Northern Minnesota story
Which reminds me of another automotive breakdown story that happened a few years prior to the Iowa story. January, freshman year of college, four of us pile into Paul's car to roadtrip to Duluth to visit some friends. There's lots of skiing, some drunkenness (in Wisconsin since most of us were still 18), but no debauchery. Driving back Sunday morning, about 45 minutes south of Duluth, the car started to make a horrible noise. Drove down the shoulder at about 10mph for the next two miles until the next exit. Paul thinks a friend of the family moved up here about a year before to open an auto parts store at the town at this very exit. We find the store (closed) and we find the friend's name in the local phone book. Call him up and his wife answers. He's made a parts run to Minneapolis and will be back in a couple of hours, so come on over. We do and she feeds us lunch. Husband shows up, diagnoses the car with shattered bearings or something, opens his store to find the replacement parts and fixes the car in his garage. At some point while we're all sitting around and talking, it turns out that prior to moving up north they'd lived in the same neighborhood as my family. And...AND I had babysat for them a handful of times. Car gets fixed, doesn't charge us a dime, and we're home 9 hours late.

Iowa story #2
I have more...

One of my early jobs was doing market research at the Burnsville Center -- I carried a clipboard and interrupted people while they tried to shop. Doing this during the Christmas season demonstrated that people are evil sacks of water. You want to see people at their rudest and most mean-spirited? Hang out at a mall during Christmas.

If you're traveling up I-35, Burnsville is pretty much the first thing you see, other than Owatonna (which doesn't really count), after leaving Iowa. Seemed like every other weekend a couple busloads of Iowans would show up on a shopping junket. They were easy to pick out as most of them wore Hawkeye jackets. Also, they were the people walking around slack-jawed and commenting "We ain't got anything like this back home." That's a verbatim quote. I bet the Mall of America caused a few heart attacks with its immenseness.

Iowa story #3
Most of the Iowans I knew were attending St. Thomas college in St. Paul. I think it was a feeder path for Iowan Catholic high schools. One woman I knew came from a family of 20 children. All single births. Basically, her family town ran the town she was from. If I recall one brother was the mayor, another was the fire chief, etc. Both her and her younger sister (18 and 21 when I knew them) had lived with their 40-something siblings since their parents had passed away. Probably from exhaustion.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Eating penguins

Wherein tomorrow will be in the low 20s. Sixteen years ago I would have called that a warm January. Now it will be freaking cold

1. Fay Wray
2. I doubt it's the president
3. Sri Lanka
4. Foiled again by a lack of bible knowledge
5. Cholesterol
6. Foiled again by a lack of NBA knowledge
7. Foiled again by a lack of knowledge

A couple years ago I unsuccessfully searched for penguin recipes. This seal (youtube) doesn't require no stinkin' recipes.