December 20, 2004

High Roller

I'm back from the 3rd circle of purgatory, better known as South Jersey. The sun didn't come out for four days, so all we had to tell the time was varying shades of gray. Luckily, they didn't need us last Sunday, so a few of us took a day trip to Atlantic City. I called Melissa to tell her where we were going, and asked her to cash in Matthew's savings bonds. She was not amused.

"The A.C." is a truly unique place. Personally, I wasn't dazzled by the huge buildings and the sparkling lights because I found it all very sad. 200 yards from all these glitzy casinos was a long stretch of pawn shops and fleabag apartments that showed the net effect of gambling on the city. People were reduced to abject poverty hoping that their ship would come in somehow, that they would catch a lucky break, and escape their worries.

Probably the most eye-opening bit of education that I got while attending UGA was working at a liquor store on the rougher side of town. Oglethorpe Package had the required assortment of characters come through the door: The frat boy wannabees pooling their money to buy a suitcase of Schlitz, the guys who tried to sneak a 40 of "Johnny 3-Legs" out the door in a puffy jacket, the scraggly old man who kept begging me to buy his daily flask of rotgut gin, and occasionally, the redneck-just-come-into-money who drove a $30k truck but still drank Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. However, the scariest thing about that store was the Lottery machine.

When Georgia started up the lottery in the early 90's, it met with overwhelming support. The net proceeds would go to fund education and scholarship programs, so everyone could feel all warm and fuzzy about small-scale gambling. Most middle-class participants, myself included, only played a dollar or two a week in "The Redneck Retirement Plan," so we saw no harm in it. When we bought our tickets in the suburban gas stations, we only saw other people like ourselves, buying the odd ticket with their tank of unleaded.

What we didn't see was how the games affected the lower-income areas. Working at that store, I saw the ugly flip-side of the lottery. For these people, the lottery wasn't just a throwaway game, but a treasured lifeline of hope. These were good people at heart, and they truly believed that this was an opportunity for God to reward them and take them out of this life. The lottery wasn't a "stupidity tax" as some called said, it was exploiting people's hope, dangling it like a carrot in front of them. These people were addicted to hope and a sense of justice in the world, and it took what little money they had away from them.

Some people spent hundreds of dollars a week in lottery tickets and scratch-off games, and whatever scant money that they won, they gave right back to me to buy more tickets, thinking that they were lucky. One mother came in every month, cashed her child support check, and spent it all on alcohol and lottery tickets in the same visit. During my year of work, I only paid out five winning tickets, the highest being $250. Of those, only one had the sense to walk away from the counter without putting the majority of their winnings back into tickets.

So when I came into Atlantic City, it made me sad more than excited. I saw the people devoid of life, on both sides of the dealer's table. I saw rows of senior citizens feeding dollar after dollar into video slot machines, dreaming of retiring well-off. A 70 year-old woman wheeled her oxygen tank up to a counter and bought a pack of Marlboros for $10. A man with advanced Parkinson's sat down at a "Let It Ride" table and bet $50 per hand. His hands were shaking so bad, the dealer had a hard time figuring out if he wanted to stay with his cards. He lost $300 in ten minutes.

The day wasn't entirely depressing, however. We walked on the Boardwalk. I bought Melissa some salt water taffy from the place that claims to have invented it. I smiled as the streets that I'd come to know from playing "Monopoly" went by. As an homage to "Dogma", I even played me some Skee-Ball in one of the arcades.

I was fascinated watching the Craps tables, since you can bet on pretty much anything. The numbers, if the dice roll past a certain line, if doubles come up, and many other things I could barely guess at. For a moment, I was impressed that the players could understand a game this complex, and then I remembered trying to explain a Playstation 2 game to someone. ("Okay you move with this stick here, jump with the X button, switch weapons with the triangle button, hold the R1 button to aim and hit square button to fire...")

It started getting dark, so we made our way back from the Taj Mahal to the Sands, where we were parked. Before we left, I enjoyed an $18 roast beef sandwich, which tasted identical to a $5 sandwich I bought at Subway.

Footnote: I don't want to hear anyone ever tell me that acting classes don't teach you anything useful. As I was leaving the office on Friday, the client manager wished me a "Merry Christmas." This was the same woman who wanted me to stay until December 23rd, have me, the wife and kid fly into LAX on Christmas Eve, and have me bring my laptop to work remotely while I was there on my vacation. It was my training as an actor that made it possible to fake a smile, and thank her. I lacked the skill, however, to wish her the same regards with any believability, so I didn't try.

December 18, 2004

What a Card

To kindle your holiday spirit, here's a Series of Unfortunate Christmas Cards

December 17, 2004

Love Shack, R.I.P.

ATHENS, Georgia (AP) -- The Love Shack is a pile of ashes.

A fire has gutted the five-room cabin in Athens, Georgia, believed to be the inspiration for The B-52's song "Love Shack." Singer Kate Pierson lived in the cabin in the 1970s.

The cabin was unoccupied and undergoing renovations, and Allisa Huestis was planning to move in next week. She says The B-52's told her it was the original Love Shack and the place where they wrote "Rock Lobster."

Fire Inspector Reginald Hunter says the cabin was not hooked up for utilities, so faulty electricity or a gas leak is not to blame. He says building supplies used for the renovation were stolen, which makes the fire suspicious.

All that's left of the cabin is the burned-out frame and the infamous tin roof.
LINK

December 03, 2004

Christmas "Light"

I've just been informed that I'm going to have an abbreviated December this year. I knew that my job would require me to be in New Jersey working from Friday, December 10th through Wednesday the 15th, but now they're extending that to Tuesday the 21st.

Working 11 days straight. In Marleton, New Jersey. Living out of a Hampton Inn, in December. Merry F-ing Christmas!

No, I've got to think positively. I'll think of it as "December Light - with 36% less days!" Ho Ho!

The only bright spot is that my managers have done a lot to push back on this
assinine request from the client and at least secure our week with my family in LA. The client wanted me to push my flight back, maybe even to the 24th(!), and bring my laptop with me so I can work on the trip as well. Oh yes, and also be on-call through the 31st. (Vacation? What vacation?)

The phrase "Is nothing sacred" came immediately to mind. (Many other, more colorful phrases did as well, but nothing I can print here.)

I explained the situation to my Boss' Boss: My parents live in Hawaii. My brother Lives in L.A. and I, along with the wife and kid, were flying to L.A. to be together for Christmas for the first time in six years. Airline tickets and hotel were all paid for. I have no idea how I'd connect there, and even if I did, it would be working through a glacially slow dial-up VPN connection, so how productive could I possibly be?

Thankfully, they understood and backed me up. I'll still have to be on-site for the additional week, but at least my trip to L.A. will remain a vacation. So while this season will be difficult, at least I still have the week that matters to spend with my family.

So I've effectively got seven days left to prepare for Christmas. If you are reading this, please forgive a sudden lack of posting. If you're a friend or relative of mine, sorry, but you're probably going to get a lame gift this year. (See "Chia Shrek" in the sidebar.)

November 30, 2004

Thanksgiving Wrap-Up

The Kerns went to the backwoods of North Carolina for Turkey Day again this year. It was nice and quiet, save for a nasty virus that gave Matthew a 104 fever and had him at the hospital at 2 AM. He's better now, and Melissa's fighting it off at home. Other people had more interesting holiday experiences, however.

As a Pre-Thanksgiving gift, my brother found out that he passed the California Bar Exam! Congrats to him and beware to any Hollywood people who cross "Rob Kern, attorney at Law".

Justin spent the day with Stacey and her kids in their old home in New Mexico on an Indian Reservation. Now that's what I call a DOWN-HOME thanksgiving.

Chris: Wow. Thanksgiving with the Indians? Were there any hard feelings?
Justin: Not really. They were surprisingly friendly, all things considered.

Then there was our friend, David (who is Sam to Melissa's Frodo in their Lord of the Rings group). After a harrowing trip northwards to spend the day with his girlfriend's family in Indiana, he hit trouble again coming back to Raleigh, NC. After two delays on the first leg to Chicago...

I met a man and his daughter who were on my flight from RDU to Chicago a few days prior. He suggested we book ourselves on a flight going to Greensboro, and take a cab or rental car to the Raleigh airport. While this is going on, an irate woman and her grandmother were having the same problem, so we offered them the same solution and agreed to it.

Now, we have me, a middle-aged doctor, an eight year old girl with A.D.D., her narcoleptic bull terrier puppy, a spastic middle-aged woman and her 93 year old Hungarian grandmother all lined up for a flight to Greensboro, NC. (You will henceforth be known as "The Fellowship of the Wing".)

Well, that flight was delayed several hours (big shock). Once we were all on board and cozy we notice 2 guys in orange vests with screwdrivers in the cockpit, and a panel hanging by some wires...Damn. Apparently there was a mechanical problem. So, the aircraft was taken out of service and we were asked to deplane. We were all herded to the other side of the airport and put on one last plane. We arrived in Greensboro without much further of a problem and I was asked to rent the car for the group. The luggage of course was not available in Greensboro because it had been forwarded to Raleigh (easy for the luggage, not for the people).

Well, after an hour drive through fog and a quick stop to drop off Grandma at her retirement village in Chapel Hill, we finally arrived at RDU. We pulled up to the terminal and the doctor ran in and got our bags fairly quickly. Score one for our side! He said he got them from a roped off area that said, "Do Not Enter", but by this time our group was turning rather desperate as you can imagine.

Next it was off to return the rental car and after a brief skirmish about the price (of course) it was off to get my car in the lot. As I drove home from the airport (another hour drive) I was able to see the sun rise. It was about 7:15 a.m. when I pulled into McDonald's for my First Breakfast. I was supposed to get into Raleigh at 7:42 Saturday night, not 7:00 Sunday Morning... Talk about late. When I told my grandmother my adventure she asked me if I would do it again if given the chance. My response was simply, "In half a heartbeat".

November 19, 2004

LinkNews Digest [11/19/2004]

Hooters Chain Defends "Copyright" on Scantily-Clad Waitresses

ORLANDO, Fla. - Hooters of America and a rival restaurant chain began arguing in federal court over who has rights to the concept of using scantily clad women to sell food and beer.

Atlanta-based Hooters of America accuses Ker's WingHouse of Kissimmee of poaching the idea coined when it opened its first sports bar in Clearwater in 1983, Hooters lawyer Steve Hill said in opening statements Wednesday in Orlando.

"The evidence will show WingHouse has copied the Hooter girl almost from head to toe," Hill said. "For want of a better expression, the Hooter girl is our Ronald McDonald."

But Crawford Ker said he based his chain on Knockers, a failing restaurant with an all-female staff in Largo that he took over after retiring from the NFL, according to pretrial deposition.

Hooters said in a trade dress infringement lawsuit filed last year that Ker's WingHouse stole everything from the design of its parchment menus to staff calendars and celebrity photographs on the walls.

Hooters said other ideas swiped by its rival include hula hoops for waitresses, Christmas lights and surfboards hanging from the ceiling and traffic-style signs on the walls warning "Double Curves" and "Caution: Blonde Thinking."
LINK


David Lee Roth Training as EMT

NEW YORK (AP) -- Rocker David Lee Roth, the former Van Halen frontman, is taking up a new trade.

Instead of screaming "Jump," he'll be yelling "Clear!"

Roth, 50, has been riding for several weeks with a New York ambulance crew in training to become a paramedic, The New York Post reported Tuesday. "I have been on over 200 individual rides now," said Roth. "Not once has anyone recognized me, which is perfect for me."

The singer, who spent a decade with Van Halen before embarking on a solo career, except a collaboration with the band for two new songs on a greatest hits album, has been riding along with crews in the Bronx, Manhattan and Brooklyn several nights a week.

His training seems to be going well.

Several weeks ago, Roth saved the life of a heart attack victim in the Bronx by using a defibrillator.
LINK (CNN)

...When asked about the reasons for this change of trade, Roth replied that the scene in his video for "Just a Gigolo/I Aint Got Nobody", in which he gives a geriatric censor a heart attack by suggestively dancing in front of him, "Really moved me. I mean, The director meant for it to be funny and all, but heart disease is the number one killer in America, and I didn't find it funny at all."

Segway Aross America

Dean Kamen designed his Segway transporter to serve as a cheap, clean and flexible form of urban transit, not as a platform for traversing national parks and encountering wildlife.

But that hasn't stopped former vacuum cleaner salesman Josh Caldwell, 27, who has put the Segway to perhaps its most grueling test yet by piloting the scooter across the length of the United States.

His journey is scheduled to conclude when he arrives in Boston on Tuesday, a little more than three months after he and a small support crew started out from Seattle with a single Segway scooter, more than a dozen spare batteries, one loyal dog and a Jeep Cherokee filled with filmmaking gear to document the trip.

The "America at 10mph" project, hatched by Caldwell and buddy Hunter Weeks, began as something between a joke and a dare but quickly turned into a serious expedition to see America in a new way. Caldwell and Weeks plan to produce a documentary film from footage shot during the trip, showing what small-town America looks like from 6 inches off the ground.
LINK

Ebay pulls "Virgin Mary Sandwich"

MIAMI, Florida (AP) -- The people at eBay were no believers in this cheesy miracle: half of a 10-year-old grilled cheese sandwich whose owner claimed it bore the image of the Virgin Mary.

Diana Duyser put the sandwich up for sale last week, drawing bids as high as $22,000 before eBay pulled the item Sunday night. The page was viewed nearly 100,000 times before being taken down.

An e-mail Duyser received from eBay said the sandwich broke its policy, which "does not allow listings that are intended as jokes."

But, Duyser, a jewelry designer who has bought and sold items on eBay for two years, insisted this was not a laughing matter.
LINK

Government Tests "First Light"

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- A Boeing Co.-led team has successfully fired for the first time a powerful laser meant to fly aboard a modified 747 as part of a U.S. ballistic missile defense shield, officials said on Friday.

The test, dubbed "First Light" by insiders, lasted only a fraction of a second but gave the project an important boost at a time it was deemed at risk of cuts or cancellation.

The Chemical Oxygen Iodine laser is built by Northrop Grumman Corp. It includes breakthrough optics designed to focus a basketball-sized spot of heat on a missile's skin to rupture it up to hundreds of miles away.

Pentagon officials envision several such aircraft flying by turns near North Korea or another potential foe's territory. The goal is to detect, track and destroy a missile when that would be easiest, before it releases a warhead that could be tipped with chemical, nuclear or germ weapons.
LINK

"...In a previous test-firing of this laser, the targeting system malfunctioned, causing the laser to strike a home in southern California. The laser itself did minor damage to the house, but the laser struck an unusually large container of popcorn, which caused serious structural damage when its contents popped."

Human Microwave Gun Goes Airborne

It was only a matter of time, I guess. First, the Air Force builds a real-life, microwave-like pain ray. Then, it gets a company to strap that real-life, microwave-like pain ray to the back of a jet.

For years, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has been working on a millimeter-wave beam that penetrates a 64th of an inch beneath the skin. That causes the water molecules there to bubble. And that hurts like hell; people tend to run -- fast -- in the other direction. Small wonder, then, that non-lethal weapons experts call this "Active Denial System" the "holy grail of crowd control."
LINK (DefenseTech)

Hunting by Internet in Texas

Hunters soon may be able to sit at their computers and blast away at animals on a Texas ranch via the Internet, a prospect that has state wildlife officials up in arms.

A controversial Web site, www.live-shot.com, already offers target practice with a .22 caliber rifle and could soon let hunters shoot at deer, antelope and wild pigs, site creator John Underwood said Tuesday.

Underwood, an estimator for a San Antonio auto body shop, has invested $10,000 to build a platform for a rifle and camera that can be remotely aimed on his 330-acre southwest Texas ranch by anyone on the Internet anywhere in the world.

The idea came last year while viewing another Web site on which cameras posted in the wild are used to snap photos of animals. "We were looking at a beautiful white-tail buck and my friend said, 'If you just had a gun for that.' A little lightbulb went off in my head," Underwood said.

Underwood, 39, said he will offer animal hunting as soon as he gets a fast Internet connection to his remote ranch that will enable hunters to aim the rifle quickly at passing animals.

He said an attendant would retrieve shot animals for the shooters, who could have the heads preserved by a taxidermist. They could also have the meat processed and shipped home, or donated to animal orphanages.
LINK (CNet)

I hope they remember to disable the gun when the attendant is on the field. Golf Driving Ranges have a "Friendly Fire" rule, and we see how well THAT works...

November 17, 2004

JesuSonic

Finally, a product that answers that age-old question: "What Guitar Effects Processor Would Jesus Use?"

The Jesusonic CrusFX 1000 is designed to offer all of the flexibility of a general purpose computer for its effects, without the traditional computer side effects (moving parts, lengthy boot times, questionable stability for live performances, added latency).

For those who are not yet ready to acquire the CrusFX 1000, or those who want to integrate the Jesusonic effects into their computer-based work environment, can try the Jesusonic Software, which offers much of the same feature set and extensive interoperability with the CrusFX 1000.

Using the Jesusonic, you can combine any number of effects in whatever order you choose. Effects can interact with eachother (for example, a volume detection effect can trigger a tremolo effect), or (especially in the case of the Jesusonic CrusFX 1000) with the user (you can assign triggers to effects like loop samplers, for example). A wide assortment of built-in effects are included, and you will be able to share effects with other people, through the User Resources page here on Jesusonic.com.

November 13, 2004

Those Pesky Judges

In keeping with his policy of blasting anyone who opposed his "Big Brother" policies like the Patriot Act, John Ashcroft now contends that the Supreme Court has no business mucking up the President's plans for war.

In his first remarks since his resignation was announced Tuesday, Ashcroft forcefully denounced what he called "a profoundly disturbing trend" among some judges to interfere in the president's constitutional authority to make decisions during war.

"The danger I see here is that intrusive judicial oversight and second-guessing of presidential determinations in these critical areas can put at risk the very security of our nation in a time of war," Ashcroft said in a speech to the Federalist Society, a conservative lawyers group.
LINK (Yahoo)

Yeah, that whole "System of Checks and Balances" thing sure gets in the way of a single person ruling with absolute power, doesn't it? I wonder why we ever had it in the first place?

So the outgoing Attorney General blasted the Supreme Court for upholding the Constitution, and the incoming Attorney General thinks the Geneva Conventions are "quaint" and don't apply to us. I don't know about you, but that doesn't give me a warm, fuzzy feeling.

November 12, 2004

Monkey to Man

As some of you know, Georgia Schools are the laughing stock of the nation because of textbook stickers that call evolution a theory The stickers read: "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered."

It's a whole Church-and-State quagmire here in the peach state.

However, blogger Gary Peare has a "Modest Proposal" to even things out for the Christian psuedo-scientists:

Let's allow the religious right to paste their stickers in all the biology texts they want so long as they affix the following text to each and every one of their Bibles:

"This book contains material on Judeo-Christian theology. Judeo-Christian theology offers insight into the origin and meaning of life and is the basis for several of the world's great religions. But it does not encompass the full range of religious beliefs held sacred by members of our diverse American society. Moreover, this material is based on ancient texts, and significant errors may have been introduced through subsequent translations and omissions. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered."
Linked via BoingBoing)

LinkNews Digest [11/12/2004]

Packs of Vicious Carrion-Feeders, and Coyotes Invade White House

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Coyotes, the rangy animals associated with the American West, have been spotted in the U.S. capital for the first time, sparking gossip in precincts where talk usually turns on politics.

"On our way home from a party tonight, my son spotted a coyote trotting among the trees," one writer said in an e-mail group for one of Washington's tonier sections.

Residents of the Washington area have reported seeing coyotes for months and The Washington Post warned last summer that household pets could fall prey to the omnivorous creatures.

But coyotes' presence inside the city limits was confirmed only in September by a naturalist on duty in the woods of Rock Creek Park. "I suspect we've had coyotes close by for some time. We've just discovered them recently," Michael Bean, chairman of the wildlife program at the Environmental Defense group, said on Friday.

Coyotes originally roamed in what is now the northwestern corner of the United States, but have expanded their range over the last 200 years to include all of North America except the extreme northeast portions of Canada.

The real-life coyote should not be confused with the hapless cartoon Wile E. Coyote, eternal loser in his desert battle of wits with the Roadrunner, Bean said.
LINK

Does this remind anyone else of Scar's alliance with the Hyenas in "The Lion King"? Maybe it's just me.

"Pass The Ammo" - The Home Edition

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Angry parishioners chained shut a church in central Mexico on Friday in protest at the firing of their priest, whose habit of tucking a gun under his robes has earned him fame and the nickname "Padre Pistolas."

Hundreds of people from the town of Chucandiro demonstrated outside the cathedral in the city of Morelia after Catholic church leaders there defrocked their gunslinging priest, Alfredo Gallegos, local media reported.

"We have closed the church with chains and that's how it will stay until Father Alfredo comes back," protester Gilberto Moron was quoting as saying, adding that locals would accept no other priest.

Gallegos is wildly popular with parishioners but has angered his Catholic superiors with his habit of wearing a shiny pistol beneath his robes, despite strict laws in Mexico banning private citizens from carrying guns.

Also known for his love of cowboy boots and country music, Gallegos says he only carries a gun for protection, noting several of his friends have been killed over the years.

Locals say he has brought them huge social benefits, helping the marginalized and raising money for roads and hospital projects. "He has united us as a people," said Moron.

Church leaders gave no reason for sacking the priest.
LINK

"It's Like Gravy, With Bubbles In It..."

SEATTLE (Reuters) - After the startling success of its turkey and gravy-flavored soda during last year's U.S. holiday season, a Seattle soda company will be serving up green beans and casserole, mashed potatoes, fruitcake and cranberry flavors.

"Last year, the response to our Turkey and Gravy Soda was overwhelming, but we really didn't have side dishes to go with it," Peter van Stolk, chief executive of specialty soda maker Jones Soda Co., said on Monday.

The tan-colored turkey and gravy-flavored soda sold out last year in three hours after it was offered on the Web and later fetched prices over $100 on eBay Inc.

This year, Jones Soda is offering the turkey and gravy sodas as a set in 15,000 "holiday packs" for $16 each, complete with utensils.

Particularly noteworthy on the menu is the green beans and casserole soda, van Stolk said, adding, "We're proud that we accented this dish with fried onions."

The pack was available nationwide at limited retail locations, including Target Corp. stores, beginning on Monday.
LINK

November 11, 2004

Exit Ashcroft, Stage Left

Ashcroft is gone, but his replacement, Al Gonzales, is not much better. As Oliver Willis reminds us, Gonzales was the author of the infamous memo to Bush, suggesting that totrure of prisoners would be legal, since the Geneva conventions were outdated and "quaint", and only apply for REAL wars on tangible countries, not the current, ambiguous war on Terror:

"As you have said, the war against terrorism is a new kind of war," Gonzales wrote to Bush. "The nature of the new war places a high premium on other factors, such as the ability to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists and their sponsors in order to avoid further atrocities against American civilians." Gonzales concluded in stark terms: "In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions."
Link (Newsweek)

November 10, 2004

"SAW"

Mel: Hey Chris, what movie did you see tonight?
Chris: "Saw."
Mel: Okay, fine, what was the movie that you SAW?
Chris: I told you, "SAW."
Mel: Yes, we've been through this already. Did you see a movie or not?
Chris: Yes, of course. I just TOLD you, I went to see "Saw" with Justin.
Mel: Aren't you a little big to see-saw with Justin?
Chris: No, they won't let you see "Saw" until you're 17. It's a bit violent.
Mel: Violent? I don't know how you do it, but when I was a kid it was pretty tame. Did you go to a park?
Chris: NO! I just finished telling you I went to the movies!
Mel: You told me you just went to see-saw!
Chris: Yes, You've got it now.


Ad infinitum, ad nauseum, hilarity ensues.

In any case, "Saw" is a top-notch thriller with some incredible plot twists, brilliant setups and an ending that will make you say "M. Night Shama-WHO?" It's a great Serial Killer flick in the vein of Seven and Memento. Honestly, I only wanted to see it because the ads promised Cary Elwes cutting off his foot with a hacksaw. Much to my surprise, it ended up being the best thriller I've seen in years. Definitely go see this one while it's in theaters, if horror is your thing. You can thank me later. (Thanks to Justin for inspiring the "Who's On First" bit.)

Inventions

Teenagers' Wish List Item #10



Keep Out signs are all very well, but they're not much of a deterrent to determined parents and irritating and nosy brothers and sisters. What's needed is some serious armament, and the Room Defender is it. Mounted on three gun-turret style legs, the Room Defender will protect your privacy from prying snoopers. It has a motion sensor alarm, so when someone enters your room it will give a verbal warning to the intruder, then fire a warning shot (in the form of a foam disc).

You can program it to shoot in 'warning shot mode' where it will fire off a 1/4 of its payload, 'ambush mode' will fire off half the magazine, or 'assault mode' when it will empty it's breach completely at the unsuspecting intruder. It makes great Robocop type noises on start-up, activation and shut down, and comes with a remote so you can program and control it from anywhere in your room.

Link (via Gizmodo)

(Now just imagine if you loaded it lith something more substantial, say aluminum washers? Bwahahaha!)

Lock Up Your Daughters!


File this under "Why, God? WhY?!?"
Announcing the World's First Complete Digital Accordion Roland is pleased to introduce another milestone in digital musical instrument history —the V-Accordion. Models FR-7 and FR-5 are the first instruments of their type to successfully integrate powerful digital technology such as new Physical Behavior Modeling (PBM) into a traditional accordion design, offering performance features and authentic sounds that appeal to a wide range of musical styles.

Link

Global Warning

I think we just figured out why Bush refuses to acnowledge the growing dangers of Global Warming:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Rising global temperatures will melt areas of the Arctic this century, making them more accessible for oil and natural gas drilling, a report prepared by the United States and seven other nations said on Monday.

It predicts that over the next 100 years, global warming could increase Arctic annual average temperatures 5 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit over land and by up to 13 degrees over water. Warmer temperatures could raise global sea levels by as much as 3 feet.

Such a change would threaten coastal cities, change growing patterns for vegetation and destroy habitats for some wildlife, but an energy-starved world would have new areas for oil and gas exploration, according to the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment report.

The Arctic region, particularly offshore, has huge oil and gas reserves, mostly in Russia, Canada, Alaska, Greenland and Norway. Warmer temperatures would make it easier to drill and ship oil from the Arctic, the report said.

"Offshore oil exploration and production are likely to benefit from less extensive and thinner sea ice, although equipment will have to be designed to withstand increased wave forces and ice movement," the report said. Energy companies would find it easier to transport oil and gas because the warmer temperatures would open sea routes
Link (Yahoo)

We warm the arctic by burning fossil fuels, so we can find more fossil fuels to burn. Talk about a downward spiral.

November 08, 2004

The Roman Connection

My Brother is taking Bush's re-election pretty hard. But he makes a few good points in his requisite post-election rant:

About a week or two ago I got a forwarded email titled "The Fall fo the Athenian Republic" - It purported to tell about how an 18th century political scientist said that all Democracies fail after 200 years or so because they vote for Liberals, and that voting for Kerry would cause the fall of American democracy. When that was supposed to have been written, there had only been two democracies in the world - Athens and Rome. Athens fell when they were conquered because they were too proud to keep up their allies. Rome's democracy fell because they allowed a leader to scare them so much about an outside threat of barbarians from another culture that they gave him emergency powers to fight the threat, and he used those powers to make his absolute power permanent. Do either of those sound familiar?
(Link for full text)

I remember having similar thoughts about Rome earlier this year, when some republican was predicting that allowing gays to marry would spell the end of America, suggesting that it was the "Decadance" of the romans that caused the empire to fall. No, it was not that. Actually, it was the fact that Rome built roads out to the far corners of the empire and overextended themselves taking over other countries. Eventually, some low-tech barbarians came IN on those roads and pillaged the cities. That has a familiar ring to it as well.

November 06, 2004

Inside Conservative Christianity

Many bloggers and journalists dismiss LiveJournal as nothing but whiny high school kids complaining about life not being fair and losers who think others would care what they had for breakfast. Given, maybe a few, but there is occasionally that diamond in the rough. Just like my Blog, not every post is thought-provoking and well written, but every now and then we have some special insight to share with the rest of the world.

I found a link to This LiveJournal Entry from Metafilter, and it really helped me understand the Southern Conservative Christian mentality a bit better. It's scary, but it makes sense when this filter of their logic and beliefs are applied to everyday life, and the recent election.

November 05, 2004

Lessons Learned 2004

[Blogger.com has been almost unreachable from the fever-pitch posting over the past week, having a server load stress-test comparable to what the cellular networks experienced on 9/11. So I'll put in my two cents now that I can connect again. ]

So What Went Wrong in 2004? Let's descuss.

1) People need a strong candidate to vote for.

It's not enough to believe in your party and be diametrically opposed to the other guy, your candidate must be directly supportable by at least SOME of your party. Dukakis didn't win in 1988 beacuse he was less appealing than George Bush version 1.0, which is a feat in itself. Gore lost in 2000 because while his party was trying to hit the Repeat button on Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow," some soft-line Democrats couldn't face the idea of Al being the man in charge.

Dubya is nothing if not a strong figure, I'll grant him that. He's a man who stays the course, no matter what. However, while determination is a good quality in general, when you refuse to listen to logic, advisors who are experts in their fields, and public opinion, and continue just because not doing so would make you look "weak," it becomes a hinderance. A husband refusing to stop and ask directions is annoying for a wife, but a President doing it puts our whole nation in the firing line.

Democrats need to regroup, employ some of the ousted senators and congressmen, go off to some remote camp for a year and have some sort of gladiator competition to find the next candidate. Sadly, they'll have nothing better to do for the next four years. In 2008, we'll need the strongest candidate for the party, not just the least offensive one. If the Republicans think that America will vote Dick Cheney in on Bush's Coattails, we might not have much of a fight, but we still need to be strong.

2) Sadly, Prejudice buys more votes than Logic.

How did Bush make loads of middle-class republicans forget that they were losing jobs and paying more for healthcare and gas? By putting homophobia on the ballot. Sure, you might be shelling out half your unemployment check at the Chevron station, but at least gays can't marry in most states now! That's a victory, in some people's minds. "Sure, I may be destitute, but at least groups of people that I don't know, but are nontheless inferior, are refused the same freedoms that I enjoy."

The point is that with the exception of a two or three states, same-sex marriage wasn't legal in the first place, so it was never really an issue. Continuing his policy of pre-emtive strikes, Bush brought the issue to the forefront of America's mind as if it were a national crisis. All eleven states that voted to amend their state's constitutions to ban gay marriage, passed by an overwhelming majority. The glacial pace of progress made by pro-gay groups to slowly gain acceptance as humans, with the same right to breathe air as the rest of America, has been slowed even further.

3) Fear Tactics Work, If Done Right

The prime example of this was Cheney's assertion that if Kerry is elected, the Terrorists will attack again. After seeing the poll numbers jump at this statement, Kerry made his own doomsday prediction about the possibility of a nuclear device being set off in a major city. However, it just lacked that certain "spooky" vibe that only Cheney and Rumsfeld can infuse into a press release, and was not very effective.

And every four years, there's the Ad so horribly bad that you have to laugh. My 2004 favorite was Bush's Ad insinuating that packs of hungry wolves are poised at the borders, ready to descend on an unsuspecting suburia, if the wrong man is elected. That's right, Junior. If you can't move your audience with big words, drop hints that they might not be on top of the food chain if they make the wrong choice. Someone explain the link to me: Are the wolves all disgruntled Democrats, or does Kerry have some sort of mind-control over animals, like AquaMan?

4) The Unpredictable Rationale of the American Public.

Finally, there are always reasons that no one expects for candidate preference. I spoke with my grandmother the other night, and she revealed that she voted for Bush because "That Laura Bush is SO much better a first lady than that Kerry woman would have been." My jaw dropped at this. "What's her name? Theresa. She is just rude. She's the kind of woman who's had everything given to her for so long, she just doesn't know how to act." Agreed, the president's family IS an important part of a candidates PR image, but I never thought of it as a make-or-break issue. But that's my Grandma, manners and social graces have always been very important to her.


To wrap up, here's my personal "Moment of Zen". The Daily Show's Ed Helms sums up what changes can be expected in Bush's second term: "Word of advice, If you want to have gay sex or visit a library, it's probably your last night to do those things. Personally, I'll be killing two birds with one stone."link

LinkNews Digest [11/05/2004]

The Vatican Writes a Sex Book

A Vatican-sanctioned sex guide is encouraging churchgoers to make love more often in an effort to offset "impotence and frigidity" and address papal concerns over declining birth-rates among Italian Roman Catholics.

The controversial book, It's A Sin Not To Do It, written by two theologians, promises the reader answers to "everything you wanted to know about sex but the Church (almost) never dared to tell you".

In both style and content, the guide - published earlier this month - marks a radical break with traditional Church pronouncements on physical intimacy. Forty years ago, the Vatican published a notorious set of guidelines for courting Catholics that outlawed even French kissing before marriage.

Another chapter likely to raise eyebrows unearths theological justification for post-coital masturbation for women who fail to achieve orgasm during intercourse.

Beretta told The Telegraph: "The Church is not against sex. In view of the trivialisation of sex and the rise of impotence and frigidity in consequence, as well as the increasing number of only children, it is better for the Church to promote sex in the right circumstances, instead of just focusing on prohibitions and perversions."
LINK (Telegraph UK)

Nothing Says "I Love You" like Liposuction

LONDON (Reuters) - If larger breasts, fuller lips and fewer wrinkles are on the Christmas wish list, cosmetic surgery gift vouchers could be the answer.

"Husbands buy them for wives, or daughters for their mothers," said Rebecca Johnson, a spokeswoman for Transform, one of the UK's biggest commercial cosmetic surgery groups, which has sold hundreds of the vouchers this year.

They range from 50 to 1,000 pounds ($90-1,800) and are mostly used for non-surgical procedures such as botox and skin peels, she added. Most patients had already expressed an interest in plastic surgery before receiving a voucher, she said, and were not offended by the gift.

"Before, if you asked a woman if she'd had a nose job or a face lift it was like asking her age ... but normalization and a growing obsession with what we look like is key to why cosmetic surgery is growing," said Sarah Winterbottom, spokeswoman for BUPA private hospitals.

Breast enlargement among 31-40 year-old women was their most popular procedure, accounting for almost half of cosmetic operations.
LINK


Canada Courts Rule "Kemosabe" Not A Slur

OTTAWA (Reuters) - "Kemosabe," the name given to the Lone Ranger by his friend Tonto in the 1950s TV western, is not a racist term, a Canadian court has found.

The ruling was delivered by the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal last week in a case involving a native Canadian woman who complained that the manager of the store where she worked had created a poisoned environment by calling her kemosabe.

The manager of the second-hand sports store, in Sydney, Nova Scotia, argued kemosabe was a term he used to address customers as well as employees.

The court ruling confirmed a earlier decision by a Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission board of inquiry. That decision was made after the board spent a full shift watching "Lone Ranger" reruns.

"When asked what it meant, Tonto responded 'trusty friend,'" the board found. "Both the Lone Ranger and Tonto treat one another with respect...At no time during the episodes is the term kemosabe ever used in a demeaning or derogatory manner."
Link (Yahoo)

Of course, The Far Side has a different translation. Another opinion is that Tonto is saying "qui no sabe" which roughly translates from Spanish as "he who knows nothing" or "clueless.

Web Scammers Teach Lesson in Finance

Russian spammers are targeting thousands of Australians with a work-from-home Web training scam, security experts warned on Monday.

The fraudsters invite victims to sign up for a free two-week Web learning program that purports to be run by financial services company Credit Suisse Group to recruit staff, antivirus company Sophos said on Monday. The program offers to help students graduate in basic finance skills.

The catch comes in the second week, when students are asked to transfer some of their money as part of an exercise.

"They lure you with a false sense of security," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. "Its intent is to defraud innocent computer users out of their savings. Spam is usually things like Viagra and Rolex watches, but Russian spam tends to be about training courses and business opportunities."
Link (via TechDirt)

Spam Stages A Comeback

LONDON (Reuters) - Spam, the luncheon meat which valiantly sustained Britain's war effort only to suffer so cruelly at the hands of Monty Python, is being relaunched in the UK.

A 2 million-pound campaign will feature the first TV adverts for the brand, portraying it as quintessentially British despite the fact it was invented in America and is now largely produced in Denmark.

"It celebrates all things British from camping to the great British institution of the pantomime," Spam said of the adverts. "With the new ad we will remind lapsed users about the delicious taste of Spam whilst raising awareness among new users," said senior brand manager, Marianne Pollock.

The chopped meat gave its name to junk e-mail because of a sketch by British comedians Monty Python in which singing Vikings kept drowning out a waitress offering dishes such as spam, egg, spam, spam, bacon and spam.
Link (Yahoo)

November 04, 2004

Day of Defeat

A writer for UK's The Guardian Captured a good bit of what half of America was feeling yesterday:

The mistake we all made was in getting our hopes up. Until lunchtime on Tuesday, in accordance with the rules of superstition, lay supporters of John Kerry kept their outlook pessimistic. In bones, waters, winds and related vapours across the land, the election was divined by pro-Democrats to be in the bag for Bush. This is what is known as preparing a soft landing; it is measured in units of unhatched chicks.

When people woke yesterday morning, those for whom Bush's overnight gains were unwelcome weathered two sensations: a slug of shock, followed by a surge of recognition. We had been here before. This was 1992, the morning after the general election when, despite hatred for the Tories having peaked over the poll tax, they still managed to bring home a 21-seat majority. And so, not even callers to 5 Live could summon any outrage; despondency was instant and lethal. On the way to work, the faces of people on the tube looked like chalk pavement pictures after a downpour. (OK, so they look like this every morning; but they had particular resonance yesterday, suspended as they were above front-page pictures of Bush smugly meditating). By 10am, as people got to their desks and began a day of low productivity and high personal email exchange, it became clear that the most pressing post-election question was not, "Where were you when you heard Bush was winning?" but rather, "Where were you when you allowed yourself to think it could ever have been otherwise?" Dismally, people asked each other how long they had stayed up the night before. "Until 4.30am," said my friend Jim. "Long enough to start crying like a girl."

The first email I received the following morning read: "F*cked off, dejected, our hopes have been blown to sh*t."

The next one read: "As REM once sang: 'It's the end of the world as we know it.' Only unlike REM, I don't feel fine."

At lunchtime, friends from America woke up and joined the chorus. With a defeated sneer, the Brits among them threatened to move home in protest; it isn't hard to imagine a Republican reply to this. "There's going to be a brain drain from this country which will leave the Red-State [Republican] morons to fend for themselves," wrote an American on the Guardian talk-boards. "I wonder what the immigration requirements are like in the UK?"

A friend in New York wrote: "The one consolation that people are clinging to is that he will f*ck things up so badly in the next four years that the Democrats will move back into favour. That's if we still have a world."

November 02, 2004

Hobbit Halloween

We had some Hobbit-y houseguests for the weekend, some friends we met at DragonCon in September. Matthew refused to wear most costumes, so we dressed him in overalls and a red plaid shirt ad tried to pass him off as a farmer. But he had a Frodo (Mel), a Samwise, a Merry, a Rosie Cotton, a Balrog, and a Shark-bit American Tourist (yours truly) to walk him around the neighborhood.

With the exception of the Samwise Gamgee, they were all girls, so Matthew was hyper having them around all weekend. He especially took to Gayle the Balrog, who was not particularly fond of children.

Something about kids and cats; they always are attracted to the ones who don't like them or are allergic to them. But even Gayle was won over by him when he pointed to her in Balrog costume and happily called out "'Rog!"

For the first time, Melissa and I threw a Halloween party, and it went surprisingly well. 38 of our closest friends packed into our little 3-bedroom house and generally had a good time. I explained it to my friend Larry like this: I've been gone for nearly a month, Fall is our favorite time of year, Melissa's favorite holiday is Halloween, and we haven't seen many of these people in a while. So this party let us do something to fix all of that. We gather all our friends together in one place, so they can meet each other and we can spend some time with them, at least in a fast-food sort of way.

We went a little nuts at Party City for some cheesy decorations. We had a disembodied hand that rolled a tray of candy around the edges of a table, some spooky window clings, cobwebs all over the place, a black-lit hallway where a demon-faced portrait of "Little Boy Blue" was hung, and my personal touch: a bathroom where the shower curtain was pulled down and some blood was running down the drain. And for a Lord of the Rings touch, Gayle carved The One Ring's inscription around a pumpkin, over which we placed a prop Shelob the Spider.


The house is slowly coming back to normal, but it seems strangely quiet without all the guests now. Matthew kept looking around yesterday, expecting to see them all, and was a bit sad not to find them. He will probably wonder what happened to the nice bald man who showed him something called "Dance Dance Revolution."

Now that Halloween is over, the stores are already playing Christmas music and are stocked with holiday toys. Looking forward, it's going to be a weird holiday. I'll get my wish, and Mel, Matthew and I will be together with my brother, mom & dad for the first time ever. It'll be in Los Angeles, which might be even less Christmas-y than Hawaii was, but at least we'll be together as a family.

>>> See All The Pictures >>>

November 01, 2004

Fallen

"Fallen" is a narrative video set to the music of Delerium, using the "Star Wars Galaxies" game as the video engine. Some seriously good production values, and well scripted and put together. Definitely worth the download.


Just Shoot Me

After throwing a Halloween party, I didn't have time to make a run to the grocery store for actual food. I ended up subsisting on nothing but hobbit-feet cookies and candy for most of the weekend, resulting in the most disturbing state of strung-out half-consciousness. I felt only partially alive, with dulled senses and energy levels that were swinging wider than a semi truck's left turn.

This 3-day glucose bender, in addition to the 4 weeks eating out on the road, has given me 8 additional pounds "to love". I had to break out some roomier trousers, which I am absolutely swimming in.

It makes me wonder if the statement "If I ever weigh xxx pounds, just shoot me" said to a friend or spouse has ever been carried out and successfully defended as a legal binding verbal contract? There's a law degree research project for you.

UPDATE (11:41AM) : On my way out for lunch, I realized that I left my wallet at home. I had to hit up my manager for a dollar to buy some trail mix from the vending machine. The bender now extends into day four.

October 28, 2004

LinkNews Digest [10/29/2004]

Florida Absentee Ballots Already Missing

Tens of thousands of postal ballots have gone missing in the US state of Florida, sparking fresh concern over irregularities in the poll campaign.

Some 60,000 absentee ballots were despatched by authorities in Broward County, north of Miami, this month. However, only 2,000 of them have been delivered.

Electoral officials have been overwhelmed by calls from anxious would-be voters who are not going to be able to get to the polls next Tuesday and fear that their votes have been stolen.

The missing ballots have fuelled an atmosphere of intense suspicion in Florida, with Democrats already backing nine separate law suits in the state, says the BBC's Justin Webb in Washington.

If the outcome is close and decides the result in the presidential race - and both of those eventualities are perfectly possible - it seems virtually certain that protracted legal battles will follow, our correspondent says.

A police investigation into the missing ballots has not uncovered any indication of criminal wrongdoing. Meanwhile, the US postal service inspectorate said it was highly unlikely that 58,000 pieces of mail had just disappeared. A spokesman said inspectors were trying to establish whether the ballots were ever delivered to the postal service.

Broward County election official Gisela Salas said the situation was "something beyond our control". "We really have no idea what's going on," she told the Associated Press news agency.
Link (BBC)

"And coming in at #10, it's Nokia with "Ring Ring!"

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Those synthesized tunes that send people grabbing for their cell phones and annoy patrons in restaurants and theaters have been recognized as part of the music industry by Billboard Magazine.

The weekly entertainment industry publication, which tracks top record and CD sales, said it was launching a new chart that will track the popularity of cell phone ringtones, as they are called.

The new chart, known as the Billboard Hot Ringtones Chart, will reflect the "Top 20" polyphonic ringtone sales for each week, including song title, artist, previous week's position and number of weeks on the chart.

The ringtone market has exploded in recent years, with global revenues estimated to have topped $3.5 billion in 2003, according to industry estimates.
Link (Yahoo)

Making A Better "Mr. Bigglesworth"

(CNN) -- A California biotechnology company has started taking orders for a hypoallergenic cat for pet lovers prone to allergies.

Cat allergies are caused by a potent protein secreted by the cat's skin and salivary glands. The allergen is so small it can remain airborne for months.

Using "gene silencing" technology, Allerca is able to suppress the production of the protein.

Allerca expects the first kittens to be born in early 2007 and is already accepting $250 deposits from interested customers.

They don't expect to have any problems with federal regulators after neither the U.S. Department of Agriculture nor the Food and Drug Administration objected to the creation of a genetically-engineered pet fish because it wasn't meant for human consumption.
Link (CNN)

Homeland Security Repeals Ban on Jungle Cruise Skippers' Sidearms

Disneyland's Jungle Cruise skippers have long been the bull-goose studs of the park: Walt's favorites, these castmembers got to fire actual blanks from a real pistol at a (fake) hippo and tell bad jokes about it. Sure, from time to time one would drop his gun in the drink and they'd have to get the frogmen to dredge the firearm back up before they could restart the ride, but damn, it was worth it just to have a real pistol in the hands of a 17-year-old with a bad sense of humor. Then they took the guns away -- shooting at hippos was deemed inappropriate. Now, Disney's embarked on a quest to get back to its roots now, and they're giving the Jungle Boat skippers their guns back.

Giving the Jungle Cruise skippers their guns back is what seems to have delighted visitors the most, however. "At least once a week somebody would get off the boat and say, `Hey, what happened to the guns?'" said Ribble's daughter, Sherri, one of the ride's operators.

Now, she says, people burst into applause when she opens fire
Link (via BoingBoing)

Guardian Pines for American Political Assassin, Apologizes

LONDON - A British newspaper apologized Monday for a weekend article in which a writer appeared to call for the assassination of President Bush.

In a regular column in The Guardian newspaper's Saturday TV listings magazine, Charlie Brooker described Bush in scathing terms, and concluded: "John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr., where are you now that we need you?"

Booth assassinated President Lincoln, Oswald killed President Kennedy and Hinckley wounded President Reagan.

The Guardian's apology described Brooker's comments as "flippant and tasteless" but said they were "intended as an ironic joke, not as a call to action — an intention he believed regular readers of his humorous column would understand."

It was the second time this month the newspaper was embroiled in a trans-Atlantic political controversy. Previously, it invited readers to write letters to unaffiliated voters in Clark County, Ohio, a swing state, about the importance of the Nov. 2 election. Clark County contains the city of Springfield.

The newspaper's Web site said letter-writers were free to support either Bush or Sen. John Kerry but noted that a Guardian poll showed 47 percent of Britons backed Kerry and 16 percent supported Bush.

After being overwhelmed by responses, most of them hostile, the newspaper ended the campaign after their Web site was broken into by hackers.
Link

Squatter Invades, Redecorates Owner's House

DOUGLASVILLE, Ga. -- A woman came home from vacation to find a stranger living there, wearing her clothes, changing utilities into her name and even ripping out carpet and repainting a room she didn't like, authorities said.

Douglas County authorities say they can't explain why Beverly Valentine, 54, broke into an empty home and started acting like it was her own.

During the 21/2/ weeks the owner, Beverly Mitchell, was on vacation in Greece, Valentine allegedly redecorated the ranch home, ripping up carpet and taking down the owner's pictures and replacing them with her own.

Mitchell was a complete unknown to Valentine, said Chief Sheriff's Deputy Stan Copeland. He said he had no idea how Valentine knew Mitchell was gone.

``In 28 years, I've never seen something this strange,'' Copeland said.
Link

British Navy approves Satanist

Naval technician Chris Cranmer, 24, has been allowed to register by the captain of HMS Cumberland, based at Devonport Naval Base in Plymouth.

The move will mean that he will now be allowed to perform Satanic rituals on board the vessel. According to the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Cranmer realised he was a Satanist nine years ago. Mr Cranmer said that was when he stumbled across a copy of the Satanic Bible, written by Church of Satan founder Anton Szandor LaVey.

He said: "I then read more and more and came to realise I'd always been a Satanist, just simply never knew."

Mr Cranmer, who is from Edinburgh, is now lobbying the Ministry of Defence to make Satanism a registered religion in the armed forces.
Link

What Not To Listen To

As a public service announcement, this blog seriously recommends against listening to the Portishead album "Dummy" while feeling a bit groggy at work. It just saps your energy even further. This warning also applies to the collected works of Radiohead. Right now, a tab of amphetamines would be needed to return me to "slightly productive" status.

October 26, 2004

If You Need This, Seek Help Now.

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    The Daiquiri Whacker gas powered blender takes the fine art of blending drinks to the Extreme! The Daiquiri Whacker is totally portable! No longer are you restricted by extension cords or generators. The 23cc Homelite motor has enough power to whip up a batch of your favorite blended drink faster than you can say "Dos Margaritas Por Favor
  • October 25, 2004

    Home Again, Home Again

    At long last, I'm back in Atlanta for more than a weekend. I feel like I've been cheated out of a whole month of Fall. I left on the first week on the coattails of post-DragonCon activities. When I get back, the leaves are falling and it's almost time to think about Christmas. Well, at least we still have Halloween weekend.

    Last night, Phil and Anya came up to Flowery Branch and cooked us a Thai dinner. It was their way of saying thanks for helping them out with their annual "Monster Island Luau" party a few weeks back. (It was a great party, complete with a Tiki Bar, six pitchers of Mai-Tai's and Melissa in a so-tacky-it's-cool hawaiian print halter top. She won the title of "Tiki Goddess" for that.) Phil is an amazing cook, and the finished product was wonderfully hot and spicy. They even made a "Melissa-safe" serving without all the spicy stuff, which she only had a brief reaction to.

    October 20, 2004

    Chris vs. Marlton, New Jersey

    After a too-short weekend, I was off again. This time, it was New Jersey. Kevin always ended up getting upgraded to First class, since he travels so much, but this time, I got the seat. The distance seemed to go under us faster in the dark. I had covered some ground in a book as well by the time we landed around midnight in Philadelphia.

    A short drive later, we pulled up at a Hampton Inn in the town of Voorhees, New Jersey. (There’s no Camp Crystal lake, though, I already checked.) I had seen enough of it in movies, but I’ve never been serenaded by the banging headboard and the residents in the next room before.

    Most of the women here speak with that lovely New Jersey accent that reminds me of my ex-girlfriend Karen. Think of the standard NJ twang and say “I’m Kaaaaaren. Kaaaren Harris-e-aaaadess.” Makes me shudder to remember.

    I can take the cold here, no problem. I grew up in the north, so it’s not a big issue. I kind of miss having real winters, living in Georgia. What I can’t deal with is the continuous overcast sky. I haven’t seen the sun in three days. We come to work at 8 in this dull, gray light that continues until it gets dark. There is no sense of the passage of time, so the day seems to go on forever.

    October 10, 2004

    Chris vs. Little Rock Pts. 2+3

    The news came on Tuesday afternoon: We were already behind schedule with a bunch of technical issues kept us all from working. We would have to be in Little Rock again the following week. This in addition to the week after that, where we'd travel to lovely eastern New Jersey for another fun-filled week of hotel living. So three weeks in a row, with only the weekends to see the loved ones.

    It was a bit easier for the others, I thought. Tina had a new husband, so new that her married name just got switched in the e-mail directory a few weeks back. Gina has a boyfriend, I found out this week, but all Kevin has is his dogs, and Mike is newly-divorced and loving the single life. No, that was petty, saying that I was hit hardest. Who cares who it affects the most? We were all in this together.

    No one wanted to do it, but none of us could argue with the necessity of coming back again. The initial shock of the news wore off in about ten minutes, and I dealt with it better than I thought I would. I've been really stressed out lately, and a good deal of it was related to these trips, so I figured that I would flip out. I guess I knew, after so many problems came up one after another that day. Anyway, I dealt with it, and Melissa did as well. She's taking her mother and Matthew down to Florida to visit a friend...and of course to see another friend named Mickey.

    The week passed uneventfully as it did before. The only memorable moments were Kevin's stories about his time serving as a Marine in Africa. You could tell people about your favorite way to organize your sock drawer, and people would be riveted if it started with the line "When I was stationed on the border of Kenya..."

    My favorite story of his was when he and some Marine buddies took two weeks of leave and went on a driving safari. A week in, they came across a pair of Masai warriors that were herding their cattle across the plains. They usually subsist on the cows' milk and blood, so a few snacks from the marines were welcome. Kevin traded a t-shirt and a bar of soap for one man's bow and arrow and some bead jewelry.

    "So where are you going?" Kevin asked.
    The man pointed to a far-off hill and said "We're going over there."
    "Why, what's over there?" He asked.
    "We don't know," the man said plainly, "That is why we are going there."

    October 01, 2004

    BlogRoaming

    My parents are going to be visiting with us this weekend, stopping off on their annual whirlwind tour of the lower 48. Then, Monday morning I am off to Little Rock for another week. Fun Fun. I've brought other things to occupy my time on this trip, so I hope I won't be as bored out of my freaking mind. Wish me luck.

    LinkNews Digest [10/01/2004]

    Daily Show Refutes "Stoned Slackers" Comment

    NEW YORK (AP) -- The folks at Comedy Central were annoyed when Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly kept referring to "The Daily Show" audience as "stoned slackers." So they did a little research. And guess whose audience is more educated?

    Viewers of Jon Stewart's show are more likely to have completed four years of college than people who watch "The O'Reilly Factor," according to Nielsen Media Research.

    O'Reilly's teasing came when Stewart appeared on his show earlier this month.

    "You know what's really frightening?" O'Reilly said. "You actually have an influence on this presidential election. That is scary, but it's true. You've got stoned slackers watching your dopey show every night and they can vote."

    Although seemingly taken aback by repeated "stoned slackers" references while talking with O'Reilly, Stewart was ready with a joke. "This election is going to rely on the undecided," he said. "And who is more undecided than stoned slackers? Ice cream or pretzels? Ice cream or pretzels? What's it going to be?

    Comedy Central also touted a recent study by the University of Pennsylvania's National Annenberg Election Survey, which said young viewers of "The Daily Show" were more likely to answer questions about politics correctly than those who don't.

    Comedy Central had no statistics on how many people watch "The Daily Show" stoned.
    Link (CNN)

    Coming Soon: The 10-Mile-High Club

    Just a short time after SpaceShipOne completed the world's first civilian spaceflight, Super-conglomerate Virgin has purchaed the rights for flights.
    Today at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London’s West End, Sir Richard Branson and Burt Rutan made their announcement to the world’s media that Virgin Galactic was now in a position to commence a programme of work that would result in the world’s first affordable space tourist flights in 2 to 3 years time.

    Sir Richard said: "Virgin has been in talks with Paul Allen and Burt throughout this year and in the early hours of Saturday morning signed a historical deal to license SpaceShipOne's technology to build the world's first private spaceship to go into commercial operating service.“
    Link

    Florida Database "Glitch" Blocks 28,000 Blacks from Voting Register

    Short version: Felons are not allowed to vote in Florida, and last July, after a protracted battle by the state, a federal judge forced Florida election officials to make their newly created felon list public. Surprise! It turned out the list had lots of blacks (who mostly vote Democratic) but virtually no Hispanics (who mostly vote Republican). After a public outcry, the list was scrapped.

    Fine. But why were there no Hispanics on the list? Was it just an unforeseen computer glitch or was it deliberate hanky panky? The bottom line is that the evidence seems to indicate that it probably wasn't just a glitch.

    The technical reason that Hispanics were excluded from the list is that Florida officials insisted that no one be purged from voting rolls unless their voter registration record matched perfectly with a prison record. This is a good idea, but it turns out that Hispanics are listed as "white" in the prison database and as "Hispanic" in the voter registration database. Thus, none of them matched perfectly.
    Link

    September 27, 2004

    Chris Vs. Little Rock (#1)

    The flight out to Little Rock on Sunday night was as mundane as one would expect. I met Kevin, the Business Consultant and Tina, our Project Manager when we landed. I'd never met Tina, but she was able to guess which passenger I was from the crowd. (The fact that I was carrying my UGA Accidentals suit bag with my name on it apparently didn't enter into it.) The Embassy suites that we're staying in is nice, but the rooms are twice as big as any one businessperson would reasonably need. (Two TV's, two double beds, a wet bar and a living room for one person?)

    It was only 9:30 when we headed to our rooms, and even with it being an hour behind my usual schedule, I couldn't just call it a night. I walked out in search of a place that I could have a beer and read my book. Unfortunately, there is little need for places to stay open later than 10 PM in town, even the local Starbuck's. I returned to the hotel and broke out my last resort, the PS2.

    Monday morning, we met for breakfast downstairs at 7 and took off to the Fidelity offices at 8. We were joined by Mike, a programmer from Denver and Gina, a Consultant from Texas. The usual kick-off meeting and pep talk followed, and I spent the day debugging various issues. We broke for lunch and drove to Cotham's Hamburgers, a local joint that advertised itself as "Home of the Hubcap." Four of us were curious, and couldn't pass up the opportunity, so we ordered it.

    The Hubcap burger was a huge slab of meat, easily two inches thick and 7 inches across. We each cut it in half and forced ourselves to eat that half, along with some tasty Jalapeno cornbread, and took the other half home in a box. On the way back to the hotel at the end of the day, Kevin's laptop case fell on top of his burger box. When he took it out and had a look, the burger didn't even have a dent in it.

    Figuring that we could all have the leftovers for dinner, (and since none of us was remotely hungry after that lunch,) we opted to stay in and take advantage of the hotel's "Manager's Reception", which was dollar drinks from 5:30-7:30. To pass the time, we bought a $4.50 pack of playing cards with "Arkansas Sunrise" on the back and I learned to play "Texas Hold 'Em" poker. Once we got a hang of the game, we played for $1 per hand (which would in turn be used to buy the winner's next drink).

    The family next to us had two blond-headed boys, probably three and two years old. I couldn't help it, I missed Melissa and my little guy. Tina caught me staring and asked, "You have any kids, Chris?"
    "Yeah, one."
    "How old?"
    "About that old," I said, motioning to the toddler, who was emptying a sugar packet into the Koi pond. In accordance with federal law, I passed around the picture of him.

    After 3 1/2 hours of cards and well-mixed drinks, the group was pretty happy when we called it a night. Before retiring to our rooms, we all hit the gift shop to satisfy our munchies. I went back to my room, Drumstick in hand, and ate the remainder of the Hubcap. I'd never watched "World Poker Tour" before, but now that I actually knew what the hell they were playing, I was fairly interested.

    It took longer than I thought to finish off that burger, so Melissa called me at 8:30, which was bedtime for Matthew a time zone away. The daily status was exchanged, I told the little guy goodnight, and Melissa that I loved her and hung up. After I did, I took a slow look around the empty room. It has been a long time since the prospect of being alone and bored in the evenings was a problem for me. I wasn't about to turn in at 9:00, so I flipped on the PlayStation 2.

    Tuesday passed just like Monday. Learning our lesson from the previous night, we decided to forego the lunch at a place ominously called "The Whole Hog BBQ", and eat at Popeye's. On the way back to the office, we each bought a roll of dimes from a bank, in preparations for another round of Texas Hold 'Em that night.

    [Aside: Honestly, I thought I'd have more to write, but every day was pretty much the same. Little Rock has lots of great places to eat, but little else. Nice enough people, but very little to write home about.]

    While taking the 45 second trip up four floors in the elevator, a bearded man riding with me was wishing out loud. "It'd sure save some time if we had some technology like Star Trek, where you'd just push some button on your watch and you'd just appear where you're goin'. Would beat these slow elevators." Then, as the doors opened, he took it back. "But then I suppose we'd just have to get more WORK done in the day."

    It's tough to be out here by myself. Well, not entirely, I'm lucky to have a great bunch of co-workers on this project. But while it's fun to pass the time playing cards, it's still just passing time, postponing going back to my room and going to sleep alone. I really miss coming home at night and having Matthew give me an excited hug and kissing Melissa. I miss the feeling of total comfort in my house with all of us there. I miss hearing what the two of them did during the day, and being able to forget about work entirely.

    There's a small stream carved into the ground floor lobby of our hotel, and Koi swim up and down it. I took a break from the cards to get a drink and I noticed one of the fish off by himself, hardly moving. I though he might be dead, but he was still kicking, if fitfully. Just around the corner, not ten feet away, the rest of the Koi were swimming all around, having a grand old time. And this one was alone, isolated from the group, barely flipping his fins. I never thought I'd ever tell a fish "I know how you feel."

    I'm going to have to get used to this, at least for a few months. I ship out for three more weeks this fall, one of them in December, and it'll be just the same.

    September 17, 2004

    LinkNews Digest [09/17/04]

    [Sorry, most of these are from last week, but I had to post the pics and report from DCon.]

    Hefner & Stan Lee Team Up for "SuperBunnies"

    LOS ANGELES, California (Hollywood Reporter) -- A silk pajama-clad superhero fights crime with the aid of a superbuxom team of specially trained Playboy bunnies. If that sounds like it must be a cross between the oeuvres of Stan Lee and Hugh Hefner, that's because it is.

    MTV has ordered an animated pilot for "Hef's Superbunnies," a collaboration between cartooon veteran Lee's newly launched Pow! Entertainment and Playboy's Alta Loma Entertainment division. Hefner's name and likeness will be featured in the pilot, and he also might provide the voice of his cartoon alter ego.

    Hefner said he sparked to the notion of being involved with an edgy, sexy animated series as soon as Lee, the mastermind behind such Marvel comic book legends as Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, approached him with the "Superbunnies" concept.

    "This project is going to be a lot of fun," Hefner assured. "It's going to be more than just an action show. It's going to be very satirical with a lot of cutting-edge aspects to it."
    Link

    'Weird Al' Yankovic Attacked by Moths

    DU QUOIN, Illinois (AP) -- Things got hairy for parody singer "Weird Al" Yankovic as a flock of unwanted fans rushed onstage during his performance at a state fair in southern Illinois.

    Green moths swarmed Yankovic, some nesting in his trademark long curly locks.

    "My band asked me if I could find a concert where we would be attacked by insects," Yankovic told his audience Wednesday at the Du Quoin State Fair. "I said I would see what I could do."

    Yankovic didn't seem bugged by the uninvited guests, though, as he plugged along with songs and costume changes during his self-described "rock and comedy multimedia extravaganza" to support his recent album, "Poodle Hat."
    Link

    Wind From Hurricane for Sale on eBay

    MIAMI - For anyone who didn't get enough of Hurricane Frances as it blew through Florida, remnants of the storm are for sale. More than 170 items were listed on eBay's Internet auction site Monday, a day after the eye of the Category 2 storm came ashore.

    The starting bid for Tupperware filled with wind was a penny. Photos showed Broward County residents running around with the containers "catching" the wind. Surprisingly, someone had already bid $10 for one of the four containers.

    Carol Baroudi, industry analyst and author of The Internet For Dummies, said "I think these are all tongue in cheek. I don't think anyone's serious about these things. I think it's trying to find a sense of humor, which is a good thing."

    Ebay has canceled auctions that coincide with tragedies, such as items billed as debris from the space shuttle Columbia or pieces of the World Trade Center and Pentagon (news - web sites). Ebay officials did not return a phone call seeking comment about the Frances auctions.

    "It's a different kind of thing," Baroudi said. "So far I don't think it's crossed the line of totally tasteless. I don't see anybody being victimized by this stuff. I've seen a lot of positive stuff here."
    Link

    S*it Really Does Happen

    THE HAGUE (Reuters) - A Dutch driver was covered in hundreds of liters of manure when a tank burst on a lorry carrying fertilizer, police said on Tuesday.

    "It was a nice night ... so he probably opened his window when he stopped at a traffic light, and then -- (it) happened," said Dana Kragten, spokeswoman for police in rural Drenthe province. "The tank had a small window which burst, probably due to pressure ... The man said he had no time to back away his car or close his window."

    Police said the man, whose car was sprayed with an estimated 1,700 liters (370 gallons) of liquid manure, escaped injury though his car had to be towed away
    Link

    Iraq Deemed Civilized With Women's Workout TV

    Iraq's Iraqiya TV is preparing a series of tutorials about aerobics, intended mainly for Iraqi women. The programme will be aired nationally twice a week in the morning to encourage Iraqis to work out. The programme is called Allah b'il Khair ya Iraq, meaning To Your Good Health, Iraq, and will feature students from Baghdad's college of physical education.

    Once criticised as being amateurish, and a mere tool of the US-led coalition, al-Iraqiya TV is being incorporated into an Iraqi national broadcaster. A programme like Allah b'il Khair ya Iraq - with its aerobics show - should provide welcome relief for some Iraqis from the daily routine of conflict and bloodshed on television screens.
    Link (BBC)

    Rotten Tomatoes of Varying Color Hit Schroder

    BERLIN (Reuters) - The mushy remains of a tomato thrown at a prominent member of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats has posed a legal dilemma for authorities trying to assess how to punish the thrower.

    Police investigating the fruit, thrown by an unemployed protestor at the premier of the state of Brandenburg, said on Thursday they have concluded it was a yellow tomato. Had it been a soft red one, the man would have faced a lesser charge of causing malicious damage. A harder, green tomato could carry the tougher charge of bodily harm.

    A yellow one is somewhere in between. "In these types of cases it has to do with the consistency (of the fruit)," said Caecilia Cramer-Krahforst, spokeswoman for the court in the eastern city of Cottbus.

    No decision on the charge has yet been reached.

    SPD politicians have been facing the wrath of the public in recent months especially in the economically depressed east where many people face painful jobless benefit cuts from next January.
    Link

    Real-Life "Cannonball Run" Shut Down

    MADRID, Spain (Reuters) -- Spanish police temporarily seized luxury and sports cars driven by people they suspected of participating in an illegal road rally named after a 1981 film starring Burt Reynolds, a spokesman said on Tuesday.

    Police said they were tipped off by a driver of a family car who said he had been overtaken by high-powered cars bearing rally-type markings in the northeastern region of Catalonia.

    The managing director of Cannonball Run Europe, Tim Porter told Reuters on Tuesday that entrants in the rally of the same name had been fined by Spanish police, citing a law which the Spanish embassy later told his organisation does not exist.

    "I think it is absolutely outrageous the police can make up laws as they go along," Porter said, adding that another of the rally entrants detained was charged with suspected speeding."At least half a dozen of them were picked up in a service station drinking coffee."

    Police said they tracked down and impounded 71 cars including Porsches, Ferraris and Rolls Royces and took statements and addresses from their mostly British drivers. "We suspect (the racers) of belonging to an illicit group, which organised illegal races which could put the lives of other people in danger," a Catalan regional police spokesman said.
    Link

    Storm Front

    Last year, when my division split off from ALLTEL and became Fidelity Information Services, we kept our place in the ALLTEL building. Since then, we've moved most of our numbers to a Buckhead office of another company that we've bought up. The scant few of us still in Alpharetta are being re-consolidated to a single wing off the 2nd floor.

    We were supposed to move yesterday, but my cube doesn't have a desk in it yet. My managers are working on it, but it's okay by me. I'll be in Little Rock next week, and with only four people in this section, no one is around to complain when I crank my MP3 80's CD today. It's a great feeling to be at work and hearing Thomas Dolby's "Hyperactive" blaring from my computer:

    "At the tender age of three
    I was hooked to a machine
    Just to keep my mouth from spouting junk
    Must have took me for a fool
    When they chucked me out of school
    'Cause the teacher knew I had the funk"
    Hurricane Ivan hit us last night, when Justin was paying us a visit. A lot of debris, some huge wind gusts and two power outages, but we're all right. When the first power outage hit, Melissa and Justin went up to Publix to get some storm supplies. This consisted of batteries, candles, a lighter and a case of Flying Dog beer.

    Justin is now Matthew's godfather. I think it's only fitting. He was the first guy to meet Matthew in the hospital, except for our pastor, and he's the man that's consistently been there for us. He's also the only friend that I have that Melissa is friends with directly (i.e. not in just because he's MY friend). Even though he's a single man with no parenting experience, he's proven himself to be kind and trustworthy time and again. It just feels right, and this brings the legacy of The Aforementioned Friend to a proper close.

    September 15, 2004

    "Well, they never Arkansas her..."

    It's your basic Good News/Band News situation: The good news is that I don't have to worry about my billable hours until February, because I'm now full-time on a project. The bad news is that I will have to go out of town every few weeks to be on-site in Little Rock and New Jersey. Next week, it's Little Rock, Arkansas. A dozen or so skyscrapers built on the Mississippi River in the middle of nowhere. Not exactly the "Social Armpit of America", since that title is still being defended by Cleveland, Ohio, but close enough.

    This will be my first week-long trip away since Matthew was born, so I wanted to do something to help Melissa out. I left a message for Justin, asking him to look in on Mel and the kid next week "In a sort of Vincent Vega and Mrs. Marcellus Wallace sort of way. You know, not a date, just good company is all. Take her to JackRabbit Slim's, maybe enter the Twist contest."


    Melissa grinned as she overheard this. ("Pulp Fiction" has a special place in our hearts, as it was our first date.) "Just as long as I don't end the evening with a cardiac needle sticking out of my chest," she insisted.

    Later that night, I pick up the phone and hear "Say it with me. In the fifth...your @ss goes down." I smiled and repeated it back to Justin. He's always been dependable to keep up with us, and check up on Melissa when she's been feeling down. I just wish that we could say the same about other former friends.

    [Quote from Rockapella's "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?"]