December 23, 2005

LinkNews Digest [12/23/2005]

Politicians are Against Spam...Unless It's Theirs

MIAMI (Reuters) - Florida's attorney general has spearheaded an aggressive campaign against unsolicited e-mails, or spam. But as a candidate for governor, he appears to be generating some unwanted Internet clutter himself.

Charlie Crist was a staunch defender of a tough anti-spam law passed by the state legislature last year, under which violators can be fined up to $500 for every e-mail they send. But a report in Thursday's St. Petersburg Times said Crist, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, had annoyed some residents of the state by sending them unwanted e-mails promoting his candidacy and soliciting campaign donations.

Crist was not immediately available for comment. But Vivian Myrtetus, a spokeswoman for his gubernatorial campaign, denied that he was somehow holding himself to different standards than other e-mailers. "This is not spam. This is truthful, it's straight forward. We're honest. To be spam it has to be, under Florida law, defined as being deceptive," Myrtetus. (LINK )

Disturbed Fan Gets Restraining Order Against Letterman

David Letterman has been temporarily restrained by a woman who believes that he torments her over the airwaves using a secret code.

New Mexico resident Colleen Nestler filed court documents late last week, alleging that Letterman has been using code words, gestures and "eye expressions" for more than 10 years to convey his desire to marry her and train her as his cohost.

Letterman's lawyers have claimed Nestler's complaints are "without merit" and have asked Sanchez to quash the order.

In her letter to the court, she claims she began sending Letterman "thoughts of love" after he began hosting The Late Show with David Letterman on CBS in 1993. "Dave responded to my thoughts of love, and, on his show, in code words & obvious indications through jestures [sic] and eye expressions, he asked me to come east," she wrote.

Letterman upped the ante, she claimed, when he asked her to be his wife shortly before Thanksgiving in 1993. In a teaser for his show, Letterman jokingly said, "Marry Me, Oprah," which Nestler rapidly deduced was a message intended for her. "Oprah had become my first of many code names," she wrote. "...[A]s time passed, the code-vocabulary increased & changed, but in the beginning things like 'C' on baseball caps referred to me, and specific messages through songs sung by his guests, were the beginnings of what became an elaborate means of communication between he and myself." (LINK )

College Christmas List: Shocking Guns


Running around like a couple of kids going "bang bang" with laser guns is, well, quite fun. But where's the fear? Where's the adrenalin?

Well, this Shocking Guns kit adds that vital kick. Two players, two chunky guns, and two 'target' plates you wear on your chest are all the kit you need. Now when you shoot your mate (and you better make sure it's that way round), instead of there just being a lame beep, your mate gets an electric shock through the handle of their gun.

There are two levels of shock - wimp or tough guy - and once you've zapped the other person five times, they're out. The guns are auto re-load, and built really sturdily with long range, super accurate power shock beams. If you thought paint-balling was nerve-wracking then you just have to try this. (LINK )

Army Officer Blings Herself Out with Iraq Funds

An Army lieutenant colonel who received the Bronze Star for her wartime service in Iraq was arrested yesterday and charged with taking bribes in a growing corruption scandal involving the Iraq reconstruction program. The officer, Lt. Col. Debra Harrison, a reservist in a civil affairs unit based in Norristown, Pa., is the fourth person and the second senior Army officer to be arrested and charged in the scandal.

She is charged with receiving cash bribes of $80,000 to $100,000, a Cadillac Escalade, a trove of illegal weaponry and other items for steering construction jobs to an American contractor in Iraq.

Some of the cash, intended for projects like a library in the holy city of Karbala and an Iraqi police academy south of Baghdad, paid for a new hot tub and a deck for Colonel Harrison's home in Trenton, according to the federal affidavit. Conviction on the charges, including conspiracy to commit bribery and money laundering as well as a long list of weapons charges, could put her in prison for up to 30 years, the Justice Department said in a statement.(LINK )

Santa Anarchy in the N.Z.

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Forty drunken Santas rampaged through central Auckland, stealing from stores and assaulting security guards, the New Zealand Herald reported on Sunday, in a protest against the commercialization of Christmas.

Police said some of the Santas threw beer bottles, one tried to climb the mooring rope of a cruise ship and a security guard was punched during the fracas.

"They came in, said 'Merry Christmas' and then helped themselves," convenience store staff member Changa Manakynda told the Herald, which reported the Santas also attacked a Christmas tree. The event organizer, Alex Dyer, had warned the antics would only stop when someone was arrested, said the Herald, which linked the incident to "Santarchy."

Santarchy (www.santarchy.com) and online encyclopedia wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org) record protests going back around 10 years in the United States, with participants marking Christmas in anti-commercial manner involving street theater, pranks and public drunkenness.(LINK )

December 20, 2005

Tech Pack Rat

A few months back, our water heater flooded. No big deal, we cleared out the drain hose, mopped up the mess and went on with life. Unbeknownst to us, it also flooded the coat closet right behind it as well. So it ended up that we had a black mold problem, and we had to pull up the carpet, bleach the baseboards and throw away some things we had in that closet.

The most heartbreaking bit for me was that my "Software Box" sustained heavy damage. Nearly every piece of software I've owned since I started with computers was in that box. Everything from the cracked copy of "LEMMINGS" for DOS (circa 1991) to my Roller Coaster Tycoon CD-ROMs. Geeks like me can't bear to throw anything computer-related out. Every bit of hardware that we take out of a computer could be useful later. Every game that we complete, we swear to ourselves that we'll play again someday. Games are what we DID with our time. Deleting those old save games and getting rid of the installation disks are like throwing out a photo album or scrapbook.

The only problem is that technology is always moving on. I tried playing Lemmings again, but it was built for DOS or 16-bit Windows (Pre-Windows95) and wouldn't load. I nearly shed a tear when I placed it reverently on in the "Water Damage" trash pile. Lemmings had a good run. It, along with the original Civilization, helped introduce me to PC gaming, even PC's at ALL. Along with it, went two boxes of 3.5" floppies containing all the programs written for my college Programming classes. And perhaps most painfully of all, my floppies of "SYNDICATE" and "X-COM: UFO DEFENSE". These were such great games, and even looking at the paltry pixel count on these things compared to today, they hold up.

The event was sad, but I refuse to change on this. My CD of Star Control 2 will remain, my cribbed StarMap crammed into the jewel case, until computers won't play CDs. Ask any gamer, there are always a few games that you will never part with for sentimental reasons. I will never forgive myself for ever parting with FINAL FANTASY VII for the original PlayStation.

December 15, 2005

LinkNews Digest [12/15/2005]

Boys Suspended for Looking at Teacher's Pr0n Screensaver

Three Northern Territory high school students have been caught allegedly accessing a pornographic screensaver on a teacher's computer.

The year seven students were suspended from attending the The St Francis of Assisi Humpty Doo school after typing in a password that brought up a screen saver of a naked woman in a pornographic pose.

The computer accessed was the personal laptop of a female teacher.The teacher has been reprimanded by the Territory Catholic Education Office for bringing inappropriate material to school, the Northern Territory News reported.

But the boys' parents say the teacher, who was in the classroom at the time of the incident, let the students use her laptop. And the parents say the so-called password was ambiguous and did not amount to hacking. "The hacking involved a dialogue box coming up on the screen which asked which car do you drive," one of the boys' parents told the paper. (LINK )
The secondary punchline is in bold above. Would you ever send your kids to a school called "St Francis of Assisi Humpty Doo"?

The Effects of "Stay the Course" Rhetoric

STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) - A Frenchman drove up a motorway in the wrong direction for 11 miles, crashing into five other vehicles and killing one person and injuring three others including two children, police said.

The 66-year-old man continued driving after his first two collisions Sunday in the hope of finding an exit off the A35 in eastern France, a police spokesman in the city of Strasbourg said.

The retired motorist, driving with his wife, only came to a halt when he collided head-on with another car, killing an adult and seriously injuring two children aboard. Police said alcohol tests on the driver proved negative and he could not explain why he had turned the wrong way onto the motorway. (LINK )

Japan Schools Can't Stop the Gaming

Much like Pokemon is short for Pocket Mosters, Batoen is short for Battle Pencils... just the word for pencil in Japanese is enpitsu. It's a simple idea. Take pencils, write stuff on each of the sides, so that the pencil becomes a sort of six-sided die. You roll the pencil and the pencil, which represents a monster from Dragon Quest, does something, like damage or healing of hp, or other interesting effects (One kid had some hot chick monster, it's effect was, "Monster kisses everyone, they are made happy", more detailed rules after the cut).

The kicker is that you are playing with pencils. Japanese schools are pretty strict when it comes to games. No cards(except for school sanctioned "Japanese cultural cards" like karuta or hyakunin ...), so poker and Magic/Pokemon are out. But the fact that this uses pencils means that it flies under the radar most the time. And even if the teachers did know about it, what are they gonna do, take the kids pencils away? (LINK )


Psuedo-Retro Cellular Handsets


The other day as I headed out of the Versace store at the mall, I felt like I was missing something to go with my sequin-beaded, pre-torn shirt-and-jeans ensemble. I needed an accessory that screams chic, but is retro and old school. Then I found these DIY mobile handsets that I could customize yourself with paints and glitter! Like, totally! I pictured how good my ass would look with a bright orange, glitter-ridden phone handset hanging from the pocket and liked what I saw. The handsets come in all kinds of fashionable colors like white, pink, blue, and lime. Using a cellphone adapter, you plug in your handset to start talking like it’s 1965 all over again. Regular models go for $2,500 while the baby model goes for $750. Or you could Google around a little, get some paint, and do it all for under $40 by yourself. But you have more money than taste, admit it. (News LINK. Also from ThinkGeek.com)

December 13, 2005

Dean Grey Tuesday



Before it's shut down, I recommend Downloading Dean Grey's "American Edit", a Mash-up album of Green Day's "American Idiot" with Oasis, Queen, Doctor Who, The Eagles, Aerosmith and Bryan Adams just to name a few. As an amateur remixer myself, I love this stuff. His "Boulevard of Broken Songs" is my favorite Mash-up EVER. I own "American Idiot", and almost every other song in this mash-up, and I find it highly imaginative and entertaining. Seriously, download it, or at least just "Boulevard of Broken Songs" today.
Today is Dean Grey Tuesday, a net-wide day of protest over Warner Brothers attempt to censor a stupendous noncommercial mashup album called American Edit that remixes Green Day's album American Idiot.
For today, websites across the Internet are mirroring the American Edit album and/or turning their page-backgrounds grey. Mashup albums don't hurt the sales of the albums they sample -- at worst, they have no effect on sales, at best they can promote them. Artists who are signed to major labels can avail themselves of labels' legal departments when they want to remix others' work and get their samples cleared. Indie artists, hobbyists and fans don't get legal assistance from labels' high-priced fixers. This is pure patronage: in the old days you couldn't make art unless the King or some bishop granted you permission; today you need permission from a studio executive.

The labels admit this. Last year, EMI made headlines by censoring DJ Danger Mouse's Grey Album, which remixed the Beatles' White Album and Jay-Z's Black Album. I raised this with an EMI representative at London's Creative Economy conference and she shrugged it off: "What's the problem? We later hired Danger Mouse to make a mashup album for us."

The problem is that copyright law is supposed to decentralize the process of making art, moving the power to authorize art from royalty to the marketplace. Labels have no business setting themselves up as arbiters of what art can and can't be made.

Download while you still can!

December 12, 2005

A Holiday IM Conversation

Foe/Joe: got your card and [Arrested Development] season 1 today, thanks!
SiriusGraphics: Cool. I'm glad it got out quickly. We sent it Saturday
Foe/Joe: wow, with xmas mail going in & out thats great
SiriusGraphics: Yeah. I just hope my other packages have that kind of speed. I need to get my family's gifts to L.A. and a pkg to friends in the UK. Mel and I spend about as much on Postage as we do for gifts for each other.
SiriusGraphics: It's like The USPS is a member of the family.
Foe/Joe: my goodness, tell me about it
SiriusGraphics: Between Christmas ans Ebay, USPS is like another Dependant. Just off in college, so we never really SEE it, and it just takes our money.

The Master Manipulator

Matthew has inherited my love of video games. I've previously posted about his uncanny ability with them, and he's always fascinated to watch me play Katamari Damacy ("Ball Game"). A month back, Melissa bought him his first video game, "Ultimate Spider Man" for the PS2.

For the past year, whenever we go to Best Buy, this game was in the demo players, and Matthew was simply fascinated by it. "'PiderMan!! Piderman!" He'd shout, pointing to the screen. While browsing the games in that row, I let him try it. I've never seen him more excited with anything. On a continuous basis. I know that they say Video games are making kids fat these days, but Matthew is still too young to know that you don't ACTUALLY NEED TO JUMP to make your character jump, so he's effectively getting "Kiddie Cardio" when he plays it.

And it's become the first real bargaining chip that we have with him. We've tried taking away toys previously, but he's never been attached to any one toy enough for it to matter to him. But when I took away the game after a few tantrums, he really feels the loss. He got it back, and he was back into it. He's playing Spider-Man. One of the classic superheroes. He can climb walls and swing through the skyscrapers in New York City. But all Matthew wants to do is have him jump into the water, over and over again. "Hahahaha! SPLASH!!!!" Poor guy, taking dips in THAT river all day for Matthew's enjoyment. No wonder he's mutated.

Two nights ago, we had to take the game away again for bad behavior. Last night, he was really upset he couldn't play. "No, remember last night, when you didn't listen to mommy and daddy? Because you didn't listen to us, you can't play the game for a few days." Complaints ensued, but he eventually calmed down. A few hours later, Matthew was in the living room with us after dinner, and he was kissing Melissa. He's become really affectionate lately. He's always had this little Oedipus thing, kissing Mel quite a lot, but it's spread to others lately, including our friend, Shawn. So while cute, this was far from new, and it was a nice change of pace from the complaints.

Then, after a good minute of kisses and hugs on Melissa, Matthew whispers in her ear: "Play 'Piderman Game?"

I've read books on child-rearing that say that kids are master manipulators by the time they're a year old. Now, I disagree: They haven't truly MASTERED it until 3 1/2. Most kids I know haven't learned to use affection to get what they want until age seven.

December 09, 2005

LinkNews Digest [12/09/2005]

Japanese:When Life Gives You Jellyfish, Make PB&J


Echizen kurage is not an extraterrestrial invader, but a giant jellyfish that is devastating the livelihoods of fishermen in the Sea of Japan. Nomura’s jellyfish, as it is known in English, is the biggest creature of its kind off Japan and for reasons that remain mysterious its numbers have surged in the past few months.

The problem first became obvious in the late summer when fishermen chasing anchovies, salmon and yellowtail began finding huge numbers of the jellyfish in their nets. Often the weight of the echizen kurage broke the nets or crushed the fish to death; those that survived were poisoned and beslimed by their tentacles.

Fishermen on the northern tip of Honshu, Japan’s main island, were forced to suspend work at the height of the lucrative salmon season. In Akita prefecture some communities saw their incomes fall by 80 per cent. In some places jellyfish density is reported to be a hundred times higher than normal. Worst of all, no one yet understands why.

In the meantime locals are making the best of it. Rather than just complaining about jellyfish they are eating them. Jellyfish are an unusual ingredient of Japanese cuisine but are much more prized in China. Coastal communities are doing their best to promote jellyfish as a novelty food, sold dried and salted. Students in Obama have managed to turn them into tofu, and jellyfish collagen is reported to be beneficial to the skin. (LINK )

New Patent: The McDownload

Movie, music or game with your Big Mac, sir? That’s what The Walt Disney Company in Hollywood has in mind. Patents filed by Disney reveal plans to drip-feed entertainment into a portable player while the owner eats in a restaurant.

You only get the full programme by coming back to the restaurant a number of times to collect all the instalments. McDonalds could use the system instead of giving out toys with Happy Meals, suggests Disney’s patent.

Big files, such as a movie, take a long time to capture, so Disney will break the file into several segments that can be downloaded separately and spliced together by the player.

In the future, a dedicated player sold or even given away by the restaurant could help the scheme to run more smoothly and create a new market opportunity for electronics companies (LINK )
Good idea, but one crucial flaw: Who would just HAND OVER their $300+ iPod to a McDonalds Employee???

Acclaim Entertainment's Bankruptcy Sale

Apparently the prodigous video game company has gone belly-up, and you can now buy the content & Distribution rights to its ENTIRE GAME CATALOG, Game by Game. Here's a few:
Alien Trilogy - No Bid
Bubble Bobble - $5,100
Burnout - $5,000
Burnout 2: Impact - No Bid
Crazy Taxi - $5,000
Double Dragon 2 & 3 - $5,000 for the Series
Magic! Gathering Battlemage - No Bid
Mortal Kombat I & II - No Bid
NBA Jam Series - No Bid
South Park Rally - No Bid
Worms 3D - No Bid
WWF (series) - No Bid
(LINK )

December 05, 2005

Lost Cat

Mayer
A bit of bad news, one of our cats, Mayer (of "Oscar and Mayer"... ba-dum-dum) escaped during our Potter party on November 18th. Bad weather kept us from mass searches during the first crucial days, but then we were able to put up posters and really dig around.

Unfortunately, there was nothing. We checked twice at the Humane Society when they said they'd taken in a Tortie, but no dice. The only spark of hope was that th food we set out by the front door was being eaten each night. We'd almost given up hope when on Wednesday, a neighbor knoced at the door and said he's seen Mayer around the neighborhood. He and his boys tried to lure it out with a can of tuna, but it took off, but she was most likely staying underneath the shed of a neighbor two doors down.

Then, Success! On my nightly rounds of the neighborhood, I saw two glowing eyes shining back in the broken-down playground, and it was her! She ran off before I could catch her, but I was positive it was Mayer. The next day we got a trap from the Humane society, and we tried it in the playground. No luck. After that, we just left it in front of the house, where the food was always disappearing.

We caught a gray tabby. It was at least 4 years old, and too friendly to be a stray, so I set it free after keeping it warm in the garage overnight. A few nights later, the storm door was open, and Oscar scared off a black-and-white cat with no collar that was about to enter the trap. Then tonight, we catch a wild orange tabby. Jesus! How many cats have been swiping this food?!?!?!

Very frustrating. She's been gone for almost a month. I still go out every night and look for her, but no one has seen her since that first night. It might be a question of if she WANTS to come back. Oscar is a mess without her. He's reverted to his uber-needy over-talkative former self, which was what we got Mayer to fix.

Wish us happy hunting. And hope that she doesn't end up in the trailer behind our yard with the Meth Lab.

December 02, 2005

LinkNews Digest [12/02/2005]

50 Cent says "Buy My Game for Kids!"



50 Cent, real name Curtis Jackson, is no stranger to parental warnings. [So] It came to no one's surprise that 50 Cent: Bulletproof, published by VU Games, was rated M for Mature for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, and Use of Drugs. The Entertainment Software Ratings Board believes that "Titles rated M have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older."

Jackson thinks otherwise. Today, he told Reuters that his game is not only OK for kids, but it also could be used to teach them life lessons.

"Just because it is rated Mature doesn't mean you shouldn't buy it for your kids," the rapper, whose given name is Curtis Jackson, told Reuters in an interview Tuesday. "Play the game and explain to them what they are playing."

The game that they will be playing sees 50 taking on underground crime syndicates in New York City with a boatload of guns, capping would-be foes in the dome, and looting their corpses for cash. (LINK )


Bruce Lee: Symbol of Peace?


(Reuters) - Bosnia's southern town of Mostar unveiled the world's first statue of kung fu legend Bruce Lee on Saturday, paying homage to a childhood hero of all its divided ethnic groups.

The life-size 1.68 meter (5ft 7in) bronze statue is situated in Mostar's central park, close to the former front line of Bosnia's 1992-95 civil war. A decade after the conflict, Mostar's Muslim and Croat inhabitants remain deeply split.

"This does not mean that Bruce Lee will unite us, because people are different and cannot be united and we will always be Muslims, Serbs or Croats," Gatalo said. "But one thing we all have in common is Bruce Lee."

Gatalo has said Lee -- a hero to teenagers all over Bosnia in the 1970s and 1980s -- epitomized justice, mastery and honesty, virtues the town had badly missed.

The statue shows Lee facing north, so that Muslims in the eastern part of Mostar and Croats in its western half do not see him as poised for a fight with them. Croatia is in the south. (LINK )

UPDATE: The Statue's Nunchuks were stolen a few hours after unveiling

"Cyber Monday" is Marketing Myth

Do a Google search on "Cyber Monday," and you get as many as 779,000 results. Not a bad haul for a term that was created just a week and a half ago to describe the jump in online shopping activity following the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. While Black Friday is the official kickoff of the traditional retail season, the story goes, online retail really takes off the following Monday. Advertisement

Just one problem: It's not true.It turns out that Shop.org, an association for retailers that sell online, dreamed up the term just days before putting out a Nov. 21 press release touting Cyber Monday as "one of the biggest online shopping days of the year."

"It's not the biggest day," Silverman concedes. "But it was an opportunity to create some consumer excitement." (LINK )

Storefront Noisemaker Discourages Slackers

The device, called the Mosquito ("It's small and annoying," Stapleton said), emits a high-frequency pulsing sound that, he said, can be heard by most people younger than 20 and almost no one older than 30. The sound is designed to so irritate young people that after several minutes, they cannot stand it and go away.

So far, the Mosquito has been road-tested in only one place, at the entrance to the Spar convenience store in this town in South Wales. Like birds perched on telephone wires, surly teenagers used to plant themselves on the railings just outside the door, smoking, drinking, shouting rude words at customers and making regular disruptive forays inside.

Last month, Stapleton gave him a Mosquito for a free trial. The results were almost instantaneous. It was as if someone had used anti-teenager spray around the entrance, the way you might spray your sofas to keep pets off. Where disaffected youths used to congregate, now there is no one.

"It's loud and squeaky and it just goes through you," said Jodie Evans, 15, who was shopping at the store even though she was supposed to be in school. "It gets inside you."

Stapleton, a security consultant whose experience in installing store alarms and the like alerted him to the gravity of the loitering problem, studied other teenage-repellents as part of his research. Some shops, for example, use "zit lamps," which drive teenagers away by casting a blue light onto their spotty skin, accentuating any whiteheads and other blemishes. (LINK )

What Holywood Can Learn from Anime

Anime and manga firms have taken on forms very different from Hollywood studios or publishing houses. They more closely resemble the constantly updating startups of Silicon Valley. Their ethos is to get the product out to the right people -- whether it's on a DVD or over a mobile phone or downloadable -- and see what happens. If it succeeds, milk it; if not, try something different. And if the fans are into file sharing (which they are), keep the lawyers leashed and find a way to make piracy work for you.

Female fans now make up about half the attendees at the conferences. Responding to the interest, CosmoGirl last summer began running its own manga strip on the back page of every issue. 'We started hearing girls say their favorite books and favorite things to read were manga,' says Ann Shoket, the magazine's executive editor. 'The girls have drawn their own manga for us. Not just one weird girl -- a lot of girls.' (LINK )


December 01, 2005

Idle Mind and the Struggle

Last week, the Kerns and Mel's parents drove up to Richlands, NC to spend Thanksgiving with Mel's Grandparents. It's a great retreat; just a modified trailer sitting on some sandy-soiled farmland, far enough away from civilization that you can see the tiniest ribbons of stardust around the constellations. Three clear and cold days of simple living. Pleasantly enough, there was nothing to do but take walks and talk with my wife and her family.

The only drawback was the sleep schedule. Out there, there's no reason to stay up late, so the house was down and quiet by 8:30 PM. This came as a bit of difficult adjustment for Melissa and I, who often stay up to Midnight watching movies and playing on the computer.

So I sat there in bed for a long time in the dark, nothing but my mind to keep me company. But I like times like that. I am a big believer in idle time. Not free time, where you find tasks to occupy yourself, but conscious time when there's nothing to do but think and let your brain process all the things that are rolling around inside it. Time like that is absolutely necessary for personal development and learning, because that's when you can make discoveries and connections about the world and your life that you never would think to look for.

As my mind wandered, I thought about the constant struggle of my life, my weight. It's not a huge problem, I know, but I have always been moderately overweight since I was a kid. For contrast, it didn't help that my brother was a walking stick compared even to normal people. My only break came in high school, when a sudden growth spurt stretched my mass out to a medium-build 6'2" gawky teenager. Unfortunately, a few years of College dining halls brought me back to overweight status.

Aside from that, I had a brief period of svelteness a few years ago because of a strict regimen of diet and 30 minutes a night on the treadmill. However, I just couldn't keep eating the same tiny thing for breakfast and lunch EVERY DAY and walking, and eventually got back to being "Obese" by current medical definitions.

The questions remained: Why couldn't I keep fit? Why do I have no real discipline? The answer came clearly in my mind: "Because I've never really struggled with anything, and overcome it, in my whole life."

Like in Poe's "The Raven", I was taken aback at how plainly it was spoken. The more I thought about it, the more I realized it was true. All the big problems that I've struggled with since I was a kid, they're still problems now. I'm still overweight. I'm still shy and awkward around people. I still have problems talking to people, even making simple conversation, even to my own wife. I've never overcome these things.

But I have a good life, and I've had a lot of accomplishments that I am very proud of: My singing, my proficiency with computers, getting my Bachelor's Degree, marrying the right woman, having a great son, getting a great job that supports us. The only problem is that, aside from my quest for the right woman, I never really struggled with these things. Once I left elementary school, I never really studied in school. I had a natural talent for computers and singing, we conceived Matthew as soon as we started trying, and I'm still (essentially) working for the same company that I started with out of college.

Just about everything good that's happened to me in my life, has come easily or luckily, not by hard work or discipline to overcome any real difficulties. That's my problem. That's not to say that I don't work hard, because I at least have that going for me, I've just never worked hard to overcome anything real AND come out victorious.

I was no good at soccer as a kid, so I quit the team. I never practiced my saxophone or piano, so I was never any good at them, and quit playing. I was absolute CRAP as an actor in high school, so I quit it and started singing. I struggled for years with Calculus, only to quit and change my major to one that didn't require it.

The only thing real that I've conquered by struggle was that trivial habit in college. It took me 7 years, but I'm finally clear of it. Addictions, even the petty ones like this, never go away. You never stop wanting or craving it, you have to actively deny the temptation every time it arises. 7 years to fully quit and not start up again. This is the only success I've had overcoming an issue with hard work and discipline. (Finding the right woman was just hard work.)

It might sound like psycho-babble, but I think my problem is that I've almost never struggled and succeeded, I've always given up or tried something else.

Applying this to my weight problem is another matter, though. How do you discipline yourself to overcome a lack of self-discipline? It's like trying to remember to be less forgetful (which I also suffer from). Well, at least I think I have a bead on the issue now, so that's something.

November 21, 2005

The Dark Mark

A few months back, Melissa and I were planning a Premier party for "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," and we needed some plans. This needed to be unique, not just a trivia contest and some PartyCity supplies. I started with a creative Harry Potter-Themed Invitation Then I got the inspiration from a cunning soul on MuggleNet, who made a Dark Mark (the snake-and-skull sign that the Death Eaters send up), out of Rope Lighting. Clever. But I thought I could improve on it. I would make it with EL (ElectroLuminescent) Wire. It's like pliable neon inside plastic tubing.

First, I laid out the design with some string, to see how much wire I'd need. (The wire needs to be one long length, wrapped around in a complex knot, unless you want to buy a dozen power modules for $10 a pop.) It started out at 60 Feet, but I got it down to 40 with some tweaking.

Improvement #2 was to have it mostly visible from both sides (since our roof faces the outside street as well as our court. So I bought some thick copper wire to make a frame out of, and I'd attach the Wire to the outside of it. (Many thanks to the HD guy for reminding me that I'd also need a GROUND wire, if I were to put a copper sculpture on the highest point of the house, lest it be struck by lightning.)



Next, I needed a wooden frame to hold the copper frame upright on the roof, so Mel's father and I put together a cross-piece that would attach to two adjustable legs that would hold the angle of the rooftop. Once painted black, we stapled the copper frame to it and I attached the EL Wire to the copper with plastic wire mounts and thin crafting wire. After that, I blacked out the parts I didn't want showing with black electrical tape and installed it on the roof.


A ground wire and a few scraped elbows later, we had our green glowing "Dark Mark". The party guests had NO DOUBT which house was having the HP Party. The neighbors on the other hand, were a bit concerned when they saw us putting up a black cross with a skull anda serpent on it. But here it is. Not bad for a guy who doesn't know much about tools, eh?


LinkNews Digest [11/21/2005]

It Took America to Merge Rudeness with Robbery

When it comes to multitasking, it's hard to beat the woman who can rob a bank and never interrupt her cell phone conversation.

In an act of either incredible cool or something much more sinister, a young woman has robbed four Wachovia bank branches in Northern Virginia in recent weeks, all while seemingly immersed in cell phone chats, police say. In the most recent holdup, on Nov. 4 in Ashburn, video footage shows the woman to be almost uninterested as a teller hands her a stack of cash, and she continues talking on her phone as she turns and walks out of the bank.

"This is the first time that I can recall where we've had a crime committed while the person was using a cell phone," said Loudoun County sheriff's spokesman Kraig Troxell, echoing comments by officials from other law enforcement agencies. "The question would be whether anyone is on the other end of the line or not."

The cell phone bandit first struck in Vienna on Oct. 12. A woman in her twenties with dark hair, about 5 feet 2 to 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighing 120 to 130 pounds, walked in carrying a box and talking on a cell phone. She moved directly to the teller counter and displayed the shoebox-size box, which had a note taped on it demanding cash. Police would not disclose the wording of the note.

As in the other cases, the robber exchanged few or no words with the teller, because she apparently was busy talking to someone else. She scooped up the cash, started walking and kept talking. (LINK )

The Rest Home for Me

DUBLIN (Reuters) - A nursing home in Ireland has hit on a cheering way to keep up the spirits of its elderly patients -- by providing its own pub.

St Mary's Hospital in County Monaghan, near the Irish border with Northern Ireland, believes ready access to a good pint may help its patients -- average age 85 -- actually live longer.

"We would say the whole social aspect of life does extend the years -- it means the patients aren't bored to death," Rose Mooney, assistant director of nursing told Reuters.

The pub, which opens at 11 a.m. and closes at 9 p.m. and charges normal bar prices, had also led to an increase in the number of visitors, she said. (LINK )

ANOTHER Patient Being Eaten By Ants?

KOLKATA, India (Reuters) - A woman receiving treatment for diabetes at a state-run hospital in eastern India lost one of her eyes after ants nibbled away at it, officials said on Tuesday.

The patient recovering from a post-surgery infection shrieked for help as the ants attacked her on Sunday night, but nurses told her it was normal to feel pain from the infection. On Monday, the patient's family saw a gaping hole with swarming ants in it when they lifted the bandage on her left eye.

Scampering rats and stray cats and dogs sharing bed space with patients are not uncommon sights at India's overcrowded state-run hospitals that are used by millions of poor and middle-class people. (LINK )

Mercedes Demo Crashes, Literally

The new Mercedes S class has a sophisticated radar-based braking system - when it works. A TV demonstration ended up in a 3-car pile-up when the S-class' safety radar failed.

A German television channel got a bigger scoop than they bargained for when Mercedes showed up with three of their flagship vehicles - only to crash them into each other when a safety demonstration failed.

In the programme, Mercedes drives 3 S-classes behind each other. The first car hits the brakes, and the two following cars brake down automatically, to avoid a crash. In theory. In practice, the first car braked, and the two others continued right into the back of each other, resulting in a 3-car pile-up at the test site.

According to a German news site, the blushing Mercedes security engineers soon discovered the problem: The test had been done in a hall which was made of steel. This confuses the radar, and the system doesn't work properly, causing more than £150,000 worth of cars to crumple into each other. (LINK )

November 15, 2005

Axed Development


A friend loaned us Season One of "Arrested Development" this month, and Melissa and I were absolutely loving it. It's the world's most hillarious Non-Animated family. You can't go through two issues of Entertainment Weekly without them beating the drum, trying to get more people to watch it. I never really got to see the acting chops on Jason Bateman until this, and I really like his style. Amazing that Melissa and I can watch something together that's not anime, I know.

Then, halfway through the box set, we hear that Fox is cancelling the series at the end of the season.

To quote Dr. Evil..."Shit."

We finally find something on television that's actually worth watching, we borrow the forst season to bone-up on the backstory, and then it gets cancelled. Great. Figures. But, actor David Cross has a few ideas about the series' hard times that I think ring true.

November 11, 2005

LinkNews Digest [11/10/2005]

Japanese Invent "Smell-Tones"

Keitai KunKun have developed “smell tones” as the next-gen ringtone. Using the these smell tones, you simply set up the enclosed liquid to hang off your phone. When you get a call or message, instead of a ring, you can get a smell alerting you to pick up your phone. I don’t see how this could be useful when your phone is shoved in your pants and your jeans start to reek of Doraemon-scent after awhile. However if multiple scents could be used, it’d be genius. When your girlfriend calls, a perfume scent could eject and if it’s your buddy, the stench of warm beer could emit slowly from the phone. They’re retailing in Japan for 1980 Yen a pop or about $17 here and come in scents like Hello Kitty, Disney, and Doraemon. (LINK via Gizmodo)

German News or "Showtime After Dark" Movie Plot? You Decide

Pupils at a German school were allowed to strip down to beachwear after the heating system stuck on full power.

The piping hot radiators left classrooms sweltering in 30 degrees centigrade, even with all of the windows open.

So staff announced children could wear swimwear - including bikinis and swimming shorts - in class until the radiators could be fixed.

The Anne Frank primary school, in Linden, only recently had the expensive digital heating system installed and experts have been unable to identify the problem. School headmaster Bruno Kraft said: "We have been having problems ever since they installed the new, fully digitalised heating control system." (LINK)

Serbian Contraception Comes as a Shock

Men in Serbia are lining up to have electric shocks delivered to their testicles as part of a new contraceptive treatment.

Serbian fertility expert Dr Sava Bojovic, who runs one of the clinics offering the service, said the small electric shock makes men temporarily infertile by stunning their sperm into a state of immobility.

He said: "We attach electrodes to either side of the testicles and send low electricity currents flowing through them. "This stuns the sperm, effectively putting them to sleep for up to 10 days, which means couples can have sex without fear of getting pregnant. The method does not kill the sperm permanently and it does not affect the patient's health."

Dr Bojovic added patients were now lining up at his fertility clinic in Novi Banovci for the shock treatment, as it had none of the problems attached to using condoms, the male pill or having a vasectomy.

He added: "We are hoping to have a small battery powered version on sale in the shops in time for Xmas." (LINK)

2 Youths Die Playing Catch With Grenade

BANJA LUKA, Bosnia (Reuters) - A hand grenade being used instead of a ball in a game of catch exploded early on Saturday killing three youths in this Bosnian town, police and news agencies said.

Two youths aged 19 and 20, one of them from neighboring Croatia, were killed instantly while a 20-year-old woman died on her way to hospital, police said. Her sister was slightly injured but two other youths suffered serious injuries.

ONASA news agency quoted witnesses as saying the youths tossed the hand grenade to each other before it exploded in the hands of one of them.

Bosnia is awash with illegal weapons left over from the 1992-95 war and tragic incidents are frequent despite several successful campaigns by international peacekeepers and police to get people to hand over illegal weapons.
(LINK)

November 07, 2005

Fun with Google Earth (Part 2)

Thanks to my brother for remembering the old addresses:


November 04, 2005

Fun with Google Earth

Here's a cool activity for all you bloggies: Find all the houses you've lived in on Google Earth:





(Ironic, I remember my street address from 1983, but not from 1992.)

LinkNews Digest [11/04/2005]

Denver Cool with Pot Possession

DENVER -- Residents of the Mile High City have voted to legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana for adults. Authorities, though, said state possession laws will be applied instead. Under the measure, residents over 21 years old could possess up to an ounce of marijuana.

"We educated voters about the facts that marijuana is less harmful to the user and society than alcohol," said Mason Tvert, campaign organizer for SAFER, or Safer Alternatives For Enjoyable Recreation. "To prohibit adults from making the rational, safer choice to use marijuana is bad public policy."

Bruce Mirken of the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project said he hoped the approval will launch a national trend toward legalizing a drug whose enforcement he said causes more problems than it cures.

Seattle, Oakland, Calif., and a few college towns already have laws making possession the lowest law enforcement priority. (LINK)

Red Light Cameras in L.A. Unplugged Since June

A day after Councilman Dennis Zine revealed that Los Angeles' red-light cameras had been unplugged in June, several colleagues suggested Tuesday that he should have hit the verbal brakes. Zine said he was just telling the truth.

"I don't think it was good" that he told, Parks said. "People see those cameras and slow down. It's a deterrent."

Zine's disclosure came during a debate Monday over awarding a contract to a new vendor for the cameras, which photograph red-light-running drivers and their vehicles' license plates.

Red-light running has long vexed traffic officials. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, more than 900 people were killed and 176,000 injured in the United States because of red-light runners in 2003.

The LAPD has said the cameras reduced the number of accidents at those intersections by 18%. About 64,000 citations, at $271 each in 2002 but eventually hitting $351, were issued in the first four years. (LINK)


Catholic High School DNA Girl Scientists

Sounds like great idea for an Anime series. Or geek pr0n.
HILTON HEAD, South Carolina -- There were many big-league DNA scientists at the annual genome sequencing conference held here last month, but no one stood out more than a slight high school teacher in religious habit towing five of her students through the imposing crowd of genetics pioneers with a quiet grace.

The unlikely delegate was Sister Mary Jane Paolella, of Sacred Heart Academy, an all-girls Roman Catholic high school in Hamden, Connecticut. She wasn't here on a sightseeing trip. Paolella showed up with her students to make an official presentation of DNA sequencing data that her honors biotechnology class generated from genes associated with osteoporosis. (More from the WIRED Magazine Article)

The Only Legal Way to Kill a Home Invader

BENTONVILLE, Ark. - It looked like a crime scene, but no charges will be filed after Wayne Goldsberry killed a buck with his bare hands in his daughter's bedroom.

The engagement lasted an exhausting 40 minutes, but Goldsberry finally subdued the five-point whitetail deer that crashed through a bedroom window at his daughter's home Friday. When it was over, blood splattered the walls and the deer lay on the bedroom floor, its neck broken.

Benton County Sheriff Keith Ferguson said that when he arrived he found the deer dead in the front yard. Goldsberry intended to have the deer processed for its meat.

Gay said that, this time of year, bucks that see their reflection in windows often charge them, believing the mirror image to be a rival. (LINK)



October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween

  • Worth1000's Monsters in Classic Art Photoshop Contest
  • Worth1000's Halloween Jack-O-Lantern Photoshop Contest
  • Secrets of Disney's Haunted Mansion
  • A kick-ass hom-brew AT-AT Halloween Costume
  • Harry Potter Halloween Fan Art from MuggleNet.com
  • Virtual Pumpkin Carving
  • "It's the Geek Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!" or "Halloween at Radio Shack"
  • "Do They Know It's Halloween?", an Alt-Rock send up of All-star holiday songs with an uber-cool (LARGE) video
  • Floating Holidays

    Surya is my mentor in the new job. He's a great guy, very smart, very funny and talks reeeeally fast. I work with computers, and thus have dealt with my share of Indian co-workers, and I try to keep my stereotypes supressed. And then Surya calls me today.

    Surya: "Cood morning, Chris how are you?"
    Chris: "Good, Surya, and you?"
    Surya: "Good, Good. Tell me, what do you know about this 'Floating Holiday'...thing? It says we have four of these per year."
    Chris: "Oh, it's a few extra vacation days that companies give employees, to take for holidays celebrated in their religion, or country that we don't have off here in America."
    Surya: "Hmmm. Really?"
    Chris: "Yeah Really. It's a nod to the growing cultural diversity of the corporate workforce... or something. " (I must have read that somewhere. I would never talk like that otherwise.)
    Surya: "This is incredible to me. I am working for the company for three years and I never heard of this. I am working like a slave and not taking a vacation day yet until just recently."
    Chris: "Well, you have every right to take them off."
    Surya: "This is good something to know. First of November is a major holiday in India, where we burn a lot of crackers." (The image of a flaming 'Saltine' enters my head.) "I mean firecrakers, fireworks. A big day."
    Chris: "Then by all means, take it off. Just tell your supervisor. Take all four of them by the end of the year or you lose them."

    It was like listening to a child asking what this "Christmas" thing was all about.

    October 28, 2005

    "Wheel in the Sky Keeps on Turnin'..."

    There's some petty stressors going on in our life, but nothing to write home about. (or Blog about, as the case appears to be.) But right now, I'm listening to my Friday All-Day 80's compilation, I'll have a nice evening with my wife and kid tonight, and the smell of my Mother-in-Law's banana bread is in the air.

    It helps to let go of the things you can't do anything about for a while and focus on what's right in your life. Don't blow off responsibilities, but nothing short of solving Fermat's Last Theorem requires constant attention and thought without a few hours off. It's like Chainsaw said in the 1987 Mark Harmon classic "Summer School" : "There is a valid biological reason for summer vacation: the human brain needs rest."

    LinkNews Digest [10/28/2005]

    Texans Accidentally Try to Ban ALL Marriage

    "I do" could become "by golly, we didn't" for more than 4 million married couples in Texas if voters approve a clumsily worded proposed constitutional amendment, opponents said Monday.

    Two lawyers said the words at issue could be read to outlaw marriage but courts probably won't kiss that bride. The first sentence of an intended ban on same-sex marriage, drafted by state lawmakers last spring, defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

    The second sentence states: "This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage."

    And not recognizing anything "identical" to marriage could mean not recognizing marriage, said Glen Maxey, who heads No Nonsense in November, an Austin-based group battling the amendment. Automated calls raising the charge are being made to nearly 2 million Texas households, Maxey said.

    Save Texas Marriage, an anti-amendment group represented at a Wooldridge Square park news conference by several male-female spouses, said drafters imperiled every marriage, an error that could have been avoided by barring governments from recognizing any legal status "other than" marriage. (LINK)


    If Only the Braves would do this for the World Series...

    STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Elfsborg will refund the admission fee and traveling costs to soccer fans who attended their crushing 8-1 defeat at newly-crowned champions Djurgarden in the final game of the Swedish premier league season, the club said Tuesday.

    Elfsborg admitted their performance at Djurgarden was "unacceptable," and promised to refund ticket and travel expenses to fans who made a round-trip of around 435 miles to Stockholm to watch the game.

    "We wish that we had been able to say that it depended on external factors, but there are no excuses, no explanations. We were just bad," the club, who finished the season in seventh place, said in a statement. "We want to apologize to all our supporters, members and sponsors and the volunteers who work for our organization." (LINK)


    Elmo, Mr. Incredible Arrested in Hollywood

    HOLLYWOOD, Calif. -- Last Wednesday, the furry red Muppet named Elmo learned that Hollywood Boulevard is a long, long way from Sesame Street.

    In plain sight of children and tourists, Elmo -- or at least, a man named Don Harper in a knockoff Elmo costume -- was arrested here by the Los Angeles Police Department. Elmo was taken down by a special task force created to combat a growing nuisance in the Hollywood tourist district: famous costumed characters who try to be photographed with tourists and sometimes badger them relentlessly for tips.

    LAPD officers, posing as clueless foreign tourists in front of Mann's Chinese Theater, also busted Mr. Incredible, the superhero from the animated hit "The Incredibles," as well as a man dressed as the villain from the "Scream" movie franchise. All three icons were arrested and could face charges ranging from illegal vending to aggressive begging. (LINK)


    "Weekend at Bernie's - South of the Border"

    TIJUANA, Mexico (Reuters) - A motorcyclist with a helmet-wearing corpse strapped to his back crashed in this Mexican city on the U.S. border on Friday and fled on foot, setting off a police murder hunt.

    The unidentified driver was trying to ride with the body through the center of Tijuana, south of San Diego, California., when he lost control rounding a curve. He fled the scene, leaving the dead passenger on the curb. Police said the corpse, which had head injuries and bore strangulation marks, had died at least six hours earlier.

    "When the police arrived they took the helmet off the corpse, believing at first that he had died in the crash," said Francisco Castro, a spokesman for the Baja California state police's homicide division. "But he had adhesive tape stuck to his face, a knife wound to his forehead, and showed signs of strangulation," he added.

    Castro said the dead man had wraps of methamphetamine in his pocket and an unkempt appearance, which led investigators to believe the killing was drug related. We think the killer was trying to take the body to a more deserted area to dispose of it," he said. (LINK)


    New Anne Rice Novel:"Christ the Lord"

    Having completed the two cycles of legend to which she has devoted her career so far, Anne Rice gives us now her most ambitious and courageous book, a novel about the life of of Christ the Lord based on the gospels and on the most respected New Testament scholarship.

    The book's power derives from the passion its author brings to the writing, and the way in which she summons up the voice, the presence, the words of Jesus who tells the story. (LINK)


    My Halloween Game Pick: "Stubbs the Zombie"


  • "Stubbs the Zombie: Rebel Without a Pulse" Site
  • WIRED Magazine Review

  • "Kitty Trooper" T-Shirt
  • Are you creeped out by the "Wake up with the King" ads? Then Try this parody ad for Captain Morgan.
  • Guinness Ad: "Evolution"
  • Retro Tech: The Portable Table Telephone
  • Okay, You've seen it before, but The Calvin and Hobbes Snowman Series is still funny.
  • The Empire Strikes Back, as a lo-res Motion GIF (see also: Star Wars as a Gif)
  • The lyrics to The "Shaft Theme", in Chaucer's English
  • Playing video games against a computer? No big whoop. But playing Foosball on an actual table against a computer? THAT is Technology! (German Site w/ Videos)
  • October 27, 2005

    Movie Trailer Remixes

    I was going to post this with the weekly digest, but it deserves it's own topic.
    Trailers are intentionally misleading, (ex: Making "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" out to be a horror movie, when it ended up being a courtroom drama), so why not make them CREATIVELY misleading?

  • "Star Wars Episode III as a Gay Love Story"
  • West Side Story as a Zombie Movie (by ps260)

  • Then, The director of Cabin Fever, saw that his music was used on the West Side Redux, wanted a spoof of his own, so
  • Cabin Fever as a Tear-Jerker Drama (by ps260)
  • And my favorite: The Shining as a Romantic Comedy (by ps260)
  • October 25, 2005

    My "Evil" Brother


    Has anyone ever noticed that my brother is a dead-ringer for the guy from Resident Evil 4? Here's a cosplay option for you, Rob. I think you've even got some of his equipment already.

    October 24, 2005

    The Smoking MILF

    Mel and I went to Anime Weekend Atlanta last month and had a blast. (See my Flickr badge on the left for pics.) We went around together, dressed as the Gravitation couple that we were at the last convention and posing for squee-ing teen girls. ("What? You wan us to kiss? Okay, she IS my wife, sure thing.")

    Later in the evening, we split up to go to some panels. She went of with some Con friends, and I sat in on an Anime Music Video (AMV) Panel. Well, it ended up being a talk on the nuts-and-bolts back-end of running the website AnimeMusicVideos.org. I, along with half of the people there, were expecting to see short clips of giant robots blowing each other up to the sounds of Godsmack or Nine Inch Nails. So I took off, and I wasn't alone.

    Nothing else was going on for the remainder of the hour, and I had brought a cigar with me for just such an situation. Out of courtesy, I picked the bench farthest from the courtyard door, away from the quick nic-fixers and fired up. I had originally bought these cigars to celebrate Phil's glorious exit from the "SHIVER" movie he'd been working on, but Phil doesn't smoke anymore.

    Two inches of ash later, a woman in a red plaid mini-skirt asked if she could sit down, since the other benches were taken. I moved my stuff over, not gazing above ankle-level. I could tell she had a nice figure from my peripheral vision, but I didn't look directly. Didn't want to look like a creep.

    I didn't talk at first. You never know if smokers at these places wanted to escape FROM silence, or into it. This one was up for smalltalk, though. I mentioned that I was here with my wife and my son was with a sitter, just to get that out in the open. Her daughter was working one of the booths in Artist Alley and she was helping out. The formalities out the way, we discussed the general feelings of an over-30 parent at a convention mostly attended by kids under 21.

    The wind shifted, making her seat downwind from me. "Hope you don't mind this," I said, motioning with my cigar. "Not a bit," she said, exhaling, "I'm smoking cloves."

    It was standard smalltalk, nothing to commit to memory, until she lit up her second cigarette off the stub of the first one. "My son had this problem with skipping school," she began, and I knew something memorable was on the way.

    "No matter how much we punished him, he kept on skipping. We took away the computer, grounded him, everything. Nothing worked. Then I sat him down one day and told him 'Look, I can't make you go to school every day, BUT... I do have some vacation days coming to me. So here's what I'm going to do: Next time you skip, I'm going with you to school the next day. I'll be with you, every class, all day. And I'm going to wear that red plaid mini-skirt and midriff shirt, and put my hair up in a ponytail. I won't talk, I'll just sit at a desk in the back, sucking on a lollipop all during class. The day after that, I'll come in my jogging suit with nothing but a sports bra and thong underneath. I've got a week of vacation, so it'll go on like that for seven school days.'"

    "'And if all your friends don't think I'm a MILF already, they will by the time that week is over,'" she said, and then stood up for me to take in the aforementioned outfit. She had the body to pull it off, no doubt. But she also seemed to be someone who depends too much on her looks to get though life, which is quite a negative in my book. She was a woman who was used to men gaping at her, and my lack of attention probably threw her off so badly that she had to resort to standing up and doing the "TA-DA" pose to get a full glance.

    And a glance was all she got. I laughed and looked down at my feet again. She took one last drag and stubbed out the clove on the concrete. "Never had another problem with him skipping school," she exhaled. I nodded in approval. Creative parenting. Use the skills that you have, I suppose.

    She walked back inside, but I didn't watch.

    October 19, 2005

    Anime Geekiness +1

    I'm writing little batch automation programs for my company, and I've incorperated a little script to ZIP up reports and automatically mail them out to people. Saves me a lot of time and hassle.

    My name for this little wonder? "AutoMAIL". To most, a rather unimaginative name for an automatic mailer program. But to the Anime Initiated, a tidy little reference to the series Full Metal Alchemist. Self-amusement like this is just one of the perks to this job.

    October 17, 2005

    Phil's Web Site

    It's official, Fangoria.com just did a news item about Phil's new book, "Wet Work". And in it, they divulged the location of the web site I built for him at PhilipNutman.com as well. I'm pretty proud of how the site turned out, and it's fairly advanced on the back end. But, again, it means nothing unless people actually like it. Check it out and let the constructive criticism fly. I can take it.

    October 14, 2005

    LinkNews Digest [10/14/2005]

    UNICEF Bombs the Smurf Village

    The people of Belgium have been left reeling by the first adult-only episode of the Smurfs, in which the blue-skinned cartoon characters' village is annihilated by warplanes.

    The short but chilling film is the work of Unicef, the United Nations Children's Fund, and is to be broadcast on national television next week as a campaign advertisement. The animation was approved by the family of the Smurfs' late creator, "Peyo".

    Belgian television viewers were given a preview of the 25-second film earlier this week, when it was shown on the main evening news. The reactions ranged from approval to shock and, in the case of small children who saw the episode by accident, wailing terror. (LINK)


    "Rogue Choir" Forceably Removed from Church

    CHARLOTTE HARBOR — The pastor of a Charlotte Harbor church had 16 church members booted from a service after they allegedly refused to stop singing and let the clergyman preach.

    Deputies were called at 10 a.m. Saturday by Pastor David Noel of the Seventh Day Adventist Church on Harborview Road. Noel told a deputy he was instructed by regional church superiors to involve law enforcement to remove the rogue choir. The deputy issued trespass warnings to the group, and all 16 left the church without incident.

    The sheriff's office got another call from the church shortly before noon when a parishioner wanted to file assault charges against Noel.

    Edourd Pierrelus, 57, of Port Charlotte, said Noel got mad at him, hit him in the chest and twisted his earlobe during a church service a week earlier. (LINK)

    Is the "iBoob" In Our Future?

    Computer chips that store music could soon be built into a woman's breast implants.

    One boob could hold an MP3 player and the other the person's whole music collection. BT futurology, who have developed the idea, say it could be available within 15 years.

    BT Laboratories' analyst Ian Pearson said flexible plastic electronics would sit inside the breast. A signal would be relayed to headphones, while the device would be controlled by Bluetooth using a panel on the wrist.

    According to The Sun he said: "It is now very hard for me to thing of breast implants as just decorative. If a woman has something implanted permanently, it might as well do something useful." (LINK)


    Craft Project of the Week:Make A Stitch Backboard! (Brought to you by DoomBuggy Productions)

    October 12, 2005

    Chris Vs. The Tolkien Holding Company

    I feared that it would happen sooner or later. CafePress suspended most of my t-shirt & bumper sticker designs for the Arms of Middle Earth shop. And the only way to get the designs cleared again is to make my case with Tolkien Enterprises and their packs of lawyers.

    Now I expected this to happen eventually for some items, but for some brain-dead reason, they also flagged pictures of us dressed as Lord of the Rings characters as "Infringing", as well as pictures of two guys dressed as Pirates of the Carribbean. (That's not even their MOVIE!)

    I was up late last night preparing my rebuttal for the lawyers. It wasn't ALL infringing, was it? Okay, I'll start with the Balrog. Tolkien didn't INVENT the Balrog, it's a demon from existing folklore, right? WRONG. Ends up he did create the Balrog, and it became so well-known that it became part of the public perception of demon folklore. "But since it's effectively part of the public domain, shouldn't it be fair use to use the word on a T-shirt?" I reasoned. WRONG. Here's a clip from the Sources of Dungeons & Dragons:
    Demon, Type VI (Balor)
    Originally named Balrog, it was taken from Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. It was renamed "Type VI Demon" (with one example being named "Balor") after the Tolkien estate asked TSR to stop infringing Tolkien's copyrights.


    Okay, so the lawyers at the firm I'm about to make my case to... convinced the most popular role-playing game of all time to take the Balrog out. And little old me has what kind of chance at succeeding where they failed?

    Needless to say, I think I'm going to have to concede the Balrog design. and maybe everything else. I doubt that these lawyers will consider the fact that Arms of Middle Earth has only 200 members, and only about 20 of them have ever bought this potentially-infringing merchandise.

    October 10, 2005

    Wallace + Grommit Studio Fire

    Aardman Studion Arson?

    This morning, while the Aardman animation studios shoudl have been celebrating the fact that The New Wallace & Grommit Film was #1 at the box office, they're taking stock of a fire that burned down the arehouse that containged all of their past props, sets and characters.
    The roof and three interior walls of the Aardman Animations building in Bristol, west England collapsed after the blaze tore through the Victorian building, fire officials said

    The fire broke out at about 5:30 a.m. (0430 GMT), with flames reaching 100 feet into the air. The cause of the blaze was being investigated.

    A spokesman for Aardman said the building housed props and sets from the company's history, including its first three "Wallace and Gromit" films.

    No one was in the building when the fire broke out. Aardman said the sets and props from its latest film, "Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit," were not caught in the blaze.

    Aardman has used stop-motion clay animation to create a series of acclaimed films, including three shorts featuring cheese-loving inventor Wallace and his resourceful dog Gromit.

    The sets from those shorts -- "A Grand Day Out," "The Wrong Trousers" and "A Close Shave" -- are all thought to have been destroyed, along with those from "Chicken Run" -- Aardman's first feature-length release. (LINK)


    Now call me crazy, but a devistating fire on the weekend of the studio's biggest success sounds a bit too much of a coincidence to me. I'm thinking it was arson. But who has the motive? Who would want to take out an animation studio? Melissa thinks I'm a nutter, but I think it was another Rival animation studio named Disney.

    Disney courted Aardman Studios back in the 90's, but Nick Park et al kept saying "No thank you, we'd quite like to keep our creative control and merchandising rights." And when Katzenberg (leading the Disney wooing efforts) left the Mouse and started up Dreamworks SKG (where he's the K between Spielberg and Geffen), he finally offered Aardman complete creative control and they agreed to sign on.

    Disney's been hurting for an animation hit, now that Pixar's jumped ship, so I'm thinking it was industrial espionage or at the very least, the actions of a far-right militant wing of European Disney fans. Michael Eisner just stepped down from his position as Chairman of Disney this past week. COINCIDENCE? Now that he's not tied to the company, the hit can't be tied back to him. Again, call me a conspiracy theory nut, but it just seems like too many coincidences.

    October 07, 2005

    The Were_Rabbit

    I have to send out a huge Thank YOU to Foe for giving me one of his Preview passes to see Wallace and Grommit in Curse of the Were-Rabbit. I love W&G ever since "The Wrong Trousers", and this is absolutely their best yet. Lots of great humor, great characters, amazing animation, and a good dose of subtle Adult-related humour for the older kids among us. I give it 4 out of 4.

    LinkNews Digest [10/07/2005]

    "Millions have enjoyed this back-pain Tratment..."

    SEATTLE (Reuters) - An Oregon woman whose doctor convinced her that he could cure her lower back pain by having sex with her is suing him and his medical clinic for $4 million, according to legal documents obtained on Monday.

    The doctor, Randall Smith, who was 50 at the time, was stripped of his license and sent to jail for 60 days last year for charging the state's Oregon Health Plan $5,000 for his 45-minute "treatments" involving the woman.

    "Dr. Smith's medical treatment included intercourse in which he told plaintiff was needed to help alleviate plaintiff's lower back and lower extremity pain," the former patient said in the lawsuit.
    (LINK)

    13 Ft. Python Chokes on 6 Ft. Gator

    MIAMI - The alligator has some foreign competition at the top of the Everglades food chain, and the results of the struggle are horror-movie messy.

    A 13-foot Burmese python recently burst after it apparently tried to swallow a live, six-foot alligator whole, authorities said.

    The gory evidence of the latest gator-python encounter,the fourth documented in the past three years, was discovered and photographed last week by a helicopter pilot and wildlife researcher.

    The snake was found with the gator's hindquarters protruding from its midsection. Mazzotti said the alligator may have clawed at the python's stomach as the snake tried to digest it.

    In previous incidents, the alligator won or the battle was an apparent draw. (LINK)

    Epcot Dolphins Learn to Sing "Batman" Theme

    Scientists have taught dolphins to combine both rhythm and vocalisations to produce music, resulting in an extremely high-pitched, short version of the Batman theme song.

    The findings, outlined in two studies, are the first time that nonhuman mammals have demonstrated they can recognise rhythms and reproduce them vocally.

    "Humans are sensitive to rhythms embedded in sequences of sounds, but we typically consider this skill to be part of processing for language and music, cognitive domains that we consider to be uniquely human," says Professor Heidi Harley, lead author of both studies.

    Gordon Bauer, associate professor of psychology at the New College of Florida who did not work on the studies, says, "This is the first report, to my knowledge, of a nonhuman mammal's ability to discriminate rhythmic patterns." (LINK)

    Item of the Week : Steven Seagal Beverage

    Lightning Bolt, the one and only energy drink crafted by martial arts expert and herbal specialist Steven Seagal, is the only all natural 100% juice energy drink on the market. This long lasting energy elixir is made with key ingredients from all over the globe. With a healthy dosing of Tibetan Goji Berry, Asian Cordyceps, B-Vitamins, Green Tea, Yerba Mate, Ginseng, Ginkgo Biloba, Guarana, and Policosanols, Lightning Bolt will give you the strength you need to punch your adversary’s faces through plate glass windows day in and day out!

    Oh and it gets better, Steven Seagal’s Lightning Bolt is available in 2 great juicy flavors! Cherry Charge brings you the great taste of freshly squeezed cherry juice, while for those of you that desire a slightly less sweet drink can partake of the true Asian Experience. Either way, you still get a powerful bolt of energy delivered into your body that Steven Seagal precisely blended for lasting maximum performance. So get ready to take on the world with new meaning with Steven Segal’s own Lightning Bolt Energy Drink! (LINK)

    Item of the Week 2: The Wake-Up Grenade


    The Sonic Alarm makes the whole 'getting them out of bed' exercise a very simple, and indeed amusing, operation. Looking like an old-fashioned comedy hand grenade, the Sonic Alarm will wake pretty well anything up. Simply pull the pin, yell an emphatic "fire in the hole" and lob the grenade into the sleeper's room. After ten seconds a very annoying and piercingly loud noise (there are three volume settings) will blast out from the alarm. That's not all however, what makes this especially great is that to stop the alarm the sleeper has to find you so you can put the pin back in. It's stupid, and brilliant, and will be the bane of every over-sleeper on the planet. (LINK)

    October 06, 2005

    A Pilgrimage to Micca

    We just got back from a family trip to DisneyWorld this past weekend. I never thought I'd say this, but I'm...GLAD... that Melissa and I went often to DisneyWorld before we had Matthew. Because now that we can't see everything in the parks, we're not so down-hearted about it. We know it's mostly about the kid's experience now, and we can prioritize the most important things for us to do.

    While he's down for his always-too-short nap in the park, Mel and I trade off babysitting the sleeper and the other goes solo for a while. In Epcot, I got to ride Mission:Space TWICE and Test Track once during his 1.5 hr nap (single-rider lines are great). Melissa didn't end up taking advantage of her free time in the Magic Kingdom, though, and we got trapped in a store on Main Street. Sleeping kid in the stroller, and a Marching Band at every door threatening to wake him up and thus make him a temper-ball for the rest of the day.

    A couple of amazing things we discovered about Matthew:

    1. He is OBSESSED with water.

    We took him in the pool for the first time ever. He pretty much jumped right in. Even when he fell in, he righted himself and climbed in more carefully the next time. And every park we went to, the WATER was the star attraction. We were walking through the countries of the world in Epcot, and all he said was "Look! WATER! Wanna see Water!" The next day, we had a character meet with Stitch, Buzz LightYear and The Incredibles (all his favorites) ALL TOGETHER. What did he want to look at? The bubbly water tube behind the characters. This is what we get from having a child born under a water sign.

    2. Matthew has the Smart-Ass Gene

    This should come as no surprise, since his parents are both dominant carriers, but I didn't expect it to EXPRESS to early. We were walking to the bus stop, Matthew happily bounding ahead, and Mel says "Matthew, slow down! Mommy and Daddy can't go that fast." So the little guy-- Still 3 1/2, mind you -- starts walking in slow motion and saying "sllllooooooowwwwwww".

    3. Matthew Loves Roller Coasters (YES!)

    Haunted Mansion? No, he was too scared. But Big Thunder Mountain Railroad? Hellyeah!

    "Wanna ride CHOO-CHOO!!" he shouted, pointing to the spiny mountaintops of BTMR.
    "Um, Kiddo, that's not an ordinary choo-choo. It's very fast and scary for a kid," I told him. He shook his head.
    "No, Wanna RIDE it!"
    Sure enough, 40" was the height requirement, and he just cleared it. He held tight on a few of the high-G turns, but he rode it like a champ and talked about it all day long.

    4. He (and WE) Need a Day Off Between Parks

    Especially if you're doing a 7AM wake-up, in the parks all day, see the fireworks and wait for a bus until 10 PM kind of day. Otherwise, meltdowns abound, like any other kid his age.

    Pics to come soon.