May 31, 2005

Animazement

Don't call it a mid-life crisis, I still have about five years to go. But last week, I dyed my hair blond, the way it used to be when I actually went out in the sunlight. It wasn't to make myself look pretty, (although it's not bad looking,) it was for a costume.

Melissa and I went to an Anime convention this weekend and dressed up in costumes. As you can see, we're not talking about alien-spacesuit kind of costumes, it was just two normal people in an anime series about an aspiring rock star. With pink hair. The only thing I had to buy for this costume was the black slacks, the pack of Marlboro lights and the $2 clip-on earring from Spencer's. Everything else, I owned, including the skinny 80's tie. The Haircut & Dye Job was the only thing out of the ordinary.

You know what? It was fun to do this "CosPlay" thing. I got to become a mean (but lovable) bastard and talk smack to my wife for a day without repercussions. Get into a character and play it out. It's Role-Playing games without the dice or cards. I'm not going to do this all the time, but it was a nice change of pace. Add that to the general fun of conventions and the opportunity to see some great friends at the Con and yesterday, and I had the best Memorial Day Weekend in recent history.

See the Pictures

May 26, 2005

LinkNews Digest [05/26/2005]

Early posting beacuse I'm off to North Carolina tomorrow. Enjoy, and I'll bring back lots of pictures.

Germany Bans Dominatrix Bear

ZURICH (Reuters) - A giant dominatrix teddy bear wearing a leather mask and brandishing hand-cuffs has been banned from sober Zurich's street display of man-sized model bears, the project's artistic director said on Tuesday.

While tourists pose for snaps next to a brightly-painted and benign array of models such as the "schoolteacher bear" and the "skier bear," "Baervers" -- a pun on the German for perverse -- has been deemed too steamy for the financial capital's streets.

"This bear is perverse, dominatrix and hardcore. We had to ban it because of the children," Beat Seeberger-Quin, the project's art director, told Reuters.

The offending bear, which sports bright red lipstick, a corset and thigh-length leather boots, stands atop a pedestal bearing the words "first class service." (LINK)


The Star Wars Darwin Award Goes To...

Two Star Wars fans are in a critical condition in hospital after apparently trying to make light sabres by filling fluorescent light tubes with petrol.

A man, aged 20, and a girl of 17 are believed to have been filming a mock duel when they poured fuel into two glass tubes and lit it.

The pair were rushed to hospital after one of the devices exploded in woodland at Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire. (LINK)
("...where hurricanes hardly ever happen")

Drunk Jumps Out Of Car for Cigarette

FOREMAN, ARK.--A 38-year-old Winthrop, Ark. man was hospitalized after jumping out the passenger window of a vehicle traveling an estimated 55 to 60 mph to retrieve his cigarette late Saturday, an official said.

Jeff Foran was riding in his friend's 2000 Dodge Stratus about 10 p.m. Saturday near the Arkansas-Oklahoma border when the cigarette he was smoking blew out the vehicle's front passenger window, said Arkansas State Police Trooper First Class Jamie Gravier.

Foran jumped out of the vehicle to retrieve the cigarette and hit the pavement, causing facial trauma.

He landed on the eastbound lane of Arkansas Highway 234 about three miles west of the Cross Roads community about 10 miles northwest of Foreman.

"If anything could make him stop smoking, this should be it. The man is lucky to be alive," said Gravier. (LINK)

May 25, 2005

Army Recruiters Go Too Far

This kid has got some Journalistic talent.
The premise was simple: McSwane would try to join the Army as a high school dropout with an insatiable fondness for marijuana and psychedelic mushrooms. No matter how stoned and stupid McSwane acted, a pair of recruiters wouldn't wouldn't let him go.

McSwane insisted to the recruiters that he couldn't lick his drug habit, but one recruiter told him to take some "stuff" that would "clean you out." It turned out to be a detoxification kit the recruiter said had worked with other applicants. McSwane said the recruiter even offered to pay half the cost of the kit.

McSwane's claim of being a dropout didn't discourage his recruiters either. He was encouraged to take a high school equivalency diploma exam, which McSwane deliberately failed. That's when he said one recruiter introduced him to the "home-school option."

McSwane was told to order a phony diploma and transcripts from an online diploma mill.

"It can be like Faith Hill Baptist School or something - whatever you choose," one of the recruiters can be heard saying in a taped phone call.

Several days and $200 later, McSwane became a proud graduate of Faith Hill Baptist High School in Longmont.

But McSwane knew that if his story was going to hold up, he would need proof. So he enlisted his sister, Victoria, to pretend that she was keeping a photo album of her big brother's military accomplishments. She took pictures of McSwane shaking hands with his recruiters.
He published the story in a class paper, and then it was picked up by the local news afilliates. Once this hit the national media, the entire body of Army recruiters were taken out of service for a day for a refresher course in Ethics.
(LINK via MetaFilter)

Life in Mono

I am a music geek. You know this about me. At work, I listen to my CD's all day long with my headphones. It's quiet as a morgue in this office, partially because practically everyone listens to their headphones all day. I can't stand absolute silence when I'm working, it drives me nuts.

So today, my headphones crapped out on me, and only one speaker is working. Ach! Mono! To paraphrase Harry Potter: "'Tis a half-life, a cursed life."

Okay, maybe I'm not exactly writhing in agony here, but it's annoying, and it's stealing my Chi.

May 24, 2005

Thurl Ravenscroft (1914-2005)

Mr. Ravenscroft was an inspiration to bass singers worldwide. Though being best known as the voice of Tony the Tiger, he was also the singer of "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch." A moment of silence for a man who gave SO MANY VOICES of my generation's childhood.
FULLERTON, California (AP) -- Thurl Ravenscroft, who provided the rumbling "They're Grrrrreeeat!" for Kellogg's Tony the Tiger ads and voiced a host of Disney characters, has died. He was 91.

Ravenscroft died Sunday of prostate cancer, said Diane Challis Davy, director of Laguna Beach's Pageant of the Masters.

For more than 50 years, Ravenscroft was the affable voice behind Tony the Tiger, TV's popular cartoon pitchman for Kellogg's Frosted Flakes.

He also narrated the summertime Pageant of the Masters at Laguna Beach for 20 years and lent his voice to characters on thrill rides at Disneyland, including the Pirates of the Caribbean, Splash Mountain, the Enchanted Tiki Room and the Haunted Mansion.

"Disneyland wouldn't have been, and wouldn't be, the same without him," the park's former president, Jack Lindquist, told the Register. "His voice was one of the things that made it all come alive." (LINK)

May 23, 2005

Overheard : Episode III

Girl #1: So, Anakin is Luke and Leia's father, right?
Girl #2: Right, so who's Hayden Christensen? Who's the sexy guy; not the guy with the beard?
Girl #1: Wait, wasn't Anakin the kid in that scene with Jabba the Hutt, when he was with that ho?...Did they have hos back then?

(via Overheard in New York)

May 20, 2005

LinkNews Digest [05/20/2005]

E3 Gaming Conference Marred by Power Outage

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - It is hard to hold a video game trade show during a power failure, as attendees of the Electronic Entertainment Expo learned the hard way on Wednesday, just as the show was getting underway.
The power went out to mainly the media and administrative facilities at the Los Angeles Convention Center, though it was available on the show floor where games publishers, developers and hardware makers had set up their booths, said Carolyn Rauch, vice president of the Entertainment Software Association.

"The power outage stemmed from a problem with the city's power grid. We're working with them to rectify it as soon as possible," Rauch said.

The E3 gathering is the gaming industry's top deal-making and media event, with thousands of participants congregating each year in Los Angeles to learn about the latest and greatest in gaming. (LINK)


Bush Seeks "Death From Above" Space Weapons

The Air Force, saying it must secure space to protect the nation from attack, is seeking President Bush's approval of a national-security directive that could move the United States closer to fielding offensive and defensive space weapons, according to White House and Air Force officials.

A senior administration official said that a new presidential directive would replace a 1996 Clinton administration policy that emphasized a more pacific use of space, including spy satellites' support for military operations, arms control and nonproliferation pacts.
...
Another Air Force space program, nicknamed "Rods From God", aims to hurl cylinders of tungsten, titanium or uranium from the edge of space to destroy targets on the ground, striking at speeds of about 7,200 miles an hour with the force of a small nuclear weapon.

A third program would bounce laser beams off mirrors hung from space satellites or huge high-altitude blimps, redirecting the lethal rays down to targets around the world. A fourth seeks to turn radio waves into weapons whose powers could range "from tap on the shoulder to toast," in the words of an Air Force plan. (LINK)
"The Crossbow Project... Because there's no defense like a good offense."

Swiss Put Blanket on Glacier

GEMSSTOCK, Switzerland, May 10 (Reuters) - Alarmed by the retreat of its Alpine glacier, a Swiss ski resort on Tuesday wrapped part of the shrinking ice-cap in a giant blanket in a bid to reduce the summer melt. If successful, officials at the Gemsstock resort above Andermatt in central Switzerland expect the example to be followed elsewhere in the Alps, where scientists say glaciers are under threat from global warming.

"We think it will become common practice to cover parts of the glaciers," Urs Elmiger, a board member of Andermatt Gotthard Sportbahnen, the cable car operator behind the project, told Reuters.

A thin protective layer of artificial textiles, including polyester, was laid over an area of 3-4,000 square metres (yards). The fleece-like material, hard to distinguish with the naked eye from snow, will reflect the rays of the sun. The 100,000 Swiss franc ($83,000) blanket will protect one of the main glacier access ramps, which has to be rebuilt each autumn at the start of the ski season to cover a yawning 20-metre gap opened up by the ice melt. (LINK)


Kansas Schools Disbelieve Science Itself

Just when I thought this whole evolution fiasco was over, Kansas takes it a step further...
TOPEKA, Kan. - The Kansas school board's hearings on evolution weren't limited to how the theory should be taught in public schools. The board is considering redefining science itself. Advocates of "intelligent design" are pushing the board to reject a definition limiting science to natural explanations for what's observed in the world. The proposed definition has outraged many scientists, who are frustrated that students could be discussing supernatural explanations for natural phenomena in their science classes.

The conservative state Board of Education plans to consider the proposed changes by August. It is expected to approve at least part of a proposal from advocates of intelligent design, which holds that the natural world is so complex and well-ordered that an intelligent cause is the best way to explain it. (LINK)


Technology Makes Virual Chicken-Petting Possible

Researchers have developed a cybernetic system to allow physical interaction over the internet. The system allows touching and feeling of animals or other humans in real time, but it's first being tried out on -- chickens.

"This is the first human-poultry interaction system ever developed," said professor Adrian David Cheok, the leader of the team, who has been developing the technology for nearly two years.

"We understand the perceived eccentricity of developing a system for humans to interact with poultry remotely, but this work has a much wider significance," he added. Remote haptic interaction could allow people who are allergic to dogs and cats to caress their pets remotely. Used in zoos, it may allow visitors to pat a lion or scratch a bear. A security officer could remotely and silently signal a dog wearing a haptic suit, giving the animal instructions by simply touching it, which could be useful in rescue work or homeland security applications. (LINK) via WIRED


Singapore Fights Spread of "Singlish"

SINGAPORE (AP) - Singapore's prime minister launched the country's latest behaviour modification campaign on Friday, urging teachers to use hip-hop and rap music to teach proper English and warning that continued use of the mutated local form of the language could make Singaporeans unintelligible.

Lee was referring to two words commonly added to the end of sentences in "Singlish" - a mishmash of English and local dialects. "Can or not? I think can," he said, using another commonly used phrase in Singlish.

"If our English becomes too mutated, then we become unintelligible to others," he said. "If we speak in a dialect which only some Singaporeans can understand, then we are handicapping ourselves and cutting ourselves off from the rest of the world." (LINK)
See also: Engrish

Gotta love Google Maps

A wonderful internet tool intended to show you points of interest...bastardized by the masses. Now you can use it to pinpoint the locations of first degree murders in the Chicago Metro area.

May 19, 2005

My Little Rog

Just had to share. We had some Hobbits and a Balrog over for the weekend, and we all went to RenFest. Matthew has been dubbed "Little 'Rog" or "'Rog Jr." by the group because of his fiery temper. The pics are just being posted, and this was my favorite. The contrasting themes of childhood and adulthood play out with the sippy cup in one hand, and the plastic "Sting" that he commandeered in the other.



(5/23) Update: Maddy da Hobbit took the photo and RAN WITH IT.

May 18, 2005

Star Wars Linky Thing

In anticipation of tomorrow's release of Star Wars - Episode III, SiriusGraphics.com proudly presents The Obligatory Star Wars Link Post

HowStuffWorks.com Presents: How A Lightsaber Works

Compete with product warnings:
Important Safety Information : A lightsaber is not a toy! Keep it out of reach of children at all times. Lightsaber locks are required in most states.

There are two ends to any lightsaber -- one end has the belt ring, while the other end houses the blade arc tip and blade emitter. NEVER point the blade emitter of a lightsaber toward your own body. NEVER look down the "barrel" of a lightsaber, even if you are "sure" it is in safe mode. If you accidentally activate the lightsaber, serious injury could result.



The pics are also well done:
"The big advantage of using a lightsaber, of course, is that you can both cut and toast the bagel in one stroke."



The Jar-Jar Comspiracy by Noel Wood

I have a theory, and the more I think of it, the more it makes sense: Jar Jar Binks was a mere distraction. He was a patsy. Nothing but a diversion from the real problems at hand. That’s all Jar Jar was intended to ever be. George Lucas knew that he had a stinker of a movie in his hands; so to avoid people relentlessly picking it apart, he threw Jar Jar in front of the firing squad as a bulletstopper. And considering the general consensus of “Jar Jar ruined Star Wars”, it looks like his mission was accomplished. (LINK for full review) See Also: Guide to Inconsequential Star Wars Characters

SW-EPIII Premier Reportedly Lame

$500 for a no-show of Samuel L. Jackson, an "Intergalactic" After-Party featuring Cardboard cutouts of the stars, and a Dollar-Tree Gift Bag:
The gift bag was the most insulting part of the evening. A gift bag that was described in a press release as containing "Star Wars merchandise and other special gifts" only contained the following:

1. A bag from reebok to hold the gifts
2. A light up lightsaber spoon that is found in Kellogs Cereal boxes
3. A Burger King Star Wars kid's toy
4. A single package of Star Wars fruit snacks
5. A small bag of Starbucks Coffee
6. A small tin of Starbucks mints
7. A coupon for a free whopper at Burger King
8. A discount card for 20% off at Kenneth Cole
9. A cd from an undiscovered singer
10. A bottle of marinara Sauce
11. A lipstick
12. A box of tea

Out of all the items only 3 were even Star Wars related and all were items that cost a dollar or less. Considering most fans are male, why would we need a lipstick? What is so special about a bag of Starbucks Coffee? Who ever made these gift bags did not make them for the Star Wars fans who attended this event. (LINK) via BoingBoing.net


The Star Wars "Last Supper"


  • A callback to "Hardware Wars": The Organic Food Association's (Grocery) "Store Wars". Complete with Obi-Wan Cannoli and ChewBroccoli
  • Lego Star Wars for the PS2
  • "How the Sith Stole Christmas" (video)
  • Quentin Tarantino's Star Wars (video)
  • "American Jedi" (American Pie meets...well, you know. (video)
  • Kevin Spacey's Star Wars Auditions (video) [iFilm is about 90% SW apparently]
  • AtomFilms.com's SW Fan Film Spotlight (George's favorite: "For Love of the Film")
  • George Lucas, For the Record, did NOT base Anakin's character on Bush
  • "Slave Girl Leia" Pet Outfit (shudder)
  • The Darth Vader Lawn Sprinkler: "Let the Dark Side defend your lawn from the ravages of summer heat or cool you off on a hot day with this Darth Vader sprinkler! Standing 10" tall, this great new Vader sprinkler spins around with water spraying action, wielding his lightsaber in a furious battle to save your lawn!" (via BoingBoing.net)
  • "Luke Skywalker: Dork by Destiny" An Essay
  • Top 11 Bastardized Star Wars Quotes. (Favorite: "Ani, do you like movies about Jedi Knights?")
    Star Wars Chicks The fluffy, feminine underbelly of the SW Geek fanbase. Complete with FanFics and pink color scheme.
  • Star Wars Origami
  • The "Star Wars Kid" vs. The Matrix Video
  • The *ahem* Imperial Scout Walker Kama Sutra (slightly NSFW)
  • TheForce.net's Top 46 SW Humor Bits
  • The Han Solo in Carbonite, done with Legos.
  • May 17, 2005

    I'm Going to JesusLand!

    BusinessWeek reports on "Earthly Empires", How Churches are Taking Cues From Business
    Flush with success, Osteen is laying out $90 million to transform the massive Compaq Center in downtown Houston -- former home of the NBA's Houston Rockets -- into a church that will seat 16,000, complete with a high-tech stage for his TV shows and Sunday School for 5,000 children. After it opens in July, he predicts weekend attendance will rocket to 100,000. Says Osteen: "Other churches have not kept up, and they lose people by not changing with the times."

    Pastor Joel is one of a new generation of evangelical entrepreneurs transforming their branch of Protestantism into one of the fastest-growing and most influential religious groups in America. Their runaway success is modeled unabashedly on business. They borrow tools ranging from niche marketing to MBA hiring to lift their share of U.S. churchgoers. Like Osteen, many evangelical pastors focus intently on a huge potential market -- the millions of Americans who have drifted away from mainline Protestant denominations or simply never joined a church in the first place.

    To reach these untapped masses, savvy leaders are creating Sunday Schools that look like Disney World and church caf├ęs with the appeal of Starbucks . Although most hold strict religious views, they scrap staid hymns in favor of multimedia worship and tailor a panoply of services to meet all kinds of consumer needs, from divorce counseling to help for parents of autistic kids. Like Osteen, many offer an upbeat message intertwined with a religious one.

    To make newcomers feel at home, some do away with standard religious symbolism -- even basics like crosses and pews -- and design churches to look more like modern entertainment halls than traditional places of worship.(Link)

    I've never understood the appeal of these Mega-churches. I feel enough like an anonymous sheep in a massive herd when I commute to work or go shopping. How could I go to a church where I'm indistinguishable from the 9,999 other members? With 5000 kids in sunday school, would my son need to wear a barcode or an RFID Tag in order to keep tabs on him? Does it say anything when a former Lockheed Martin factory on Sugarloaf Parkway has been converted to a 5,000+ member mega-church parish?

    Melissa and I even met a family who went to one, located off North Point Parkway in Alpharetta. I mentioned how I preferred smaller churches, because no one was friendly, or even welcomed us when we tried out the larger churches. Her response was well-rehearsed: "When I find fault with a church, you know what I do? I think about what *I* could have done to be friendlier myself." Oh, of course. So it's my own fault if not one in a parish of 800 could be bothered to say hello? The people themselves probably weren't impolite, my point was that the church was so huge, how could you really know your fellow parishioners?

    The billboards alone scare me. Out of curiosity, I went to BigSkyChurch's web site, advertised on the GA 20 drive across the 985-to-400 corridor. A representative line is "To Schedule Your Baptism email joe@bigskychurch.com." Shouldn't churches be just a bit more personal than that?

    Now that I drive down I-85, I see the "Victory World Church" billboard near Pleasant Hill, with it's "Church for people who don't DO church" slogan. The visuals of guitars and teens with headphones, along with an overdone web site for it's FUSION youth program smack of Stephen Baldwin's "Skate for Christ" lame tie-ins.

    And I understand the need for the diversity of faiths (Baptist, Methodist, Episcopal, etc.), but branding faiths according to marketing demographics seems a bit low:
    This year, the 16.4 million-member Southern Baptist Convention plans to "plant" 1,800 new churches using by-the-book niche-marketing tactics. "We have cowboy churches for people working on ranches, country music churches, even several motorcycle churches aimed at bikers," says Martin King, a spokesman for the Southern Baptists' North American Mission Board.

    Sorry to say I can't wrap this up with a nice bow on top. I just wanted to say that this current trend of mega-churches is frightening.

    (Note that I resisted to use the phrase "scares the bejezus out of me".)

    May 13, 2005

    LinkNews Digest [05/14/2005]

    Marilyn Sculpture "Open for Business"

    HENDERSON, N.C. -- People in Henderson are talking about the massive sculpture of a woman's legs, spread open on Welcome Avenue.

    At first glance, it looks more like something you'd find at a strip club, instead of a quiet neighborhood.

    A backhoe contractor, Ricky Pearce poured concrete into hand-drawn molds to create the 40-ton, 17-foot-high legs. Complete with some landscaped foliage, strategically placed, the display is making some folks chuckle, and others shake their heads in disgust.

    "The project took about three years," Pearce said. "I was inspired by Marilyn Monroe's legs, with the skirt blowing."(LINK)
    Reminds me more of a certain scene from "Patch Adams" where he tried to make the Gynecologist Conference "feel more at Home"

    Jesus Christ Can't Get Drivers License

    Attempts to prove his name really is Jesus Christ have led the man born as Peter Robert Phillips Jr. through a lengthy legal battle and a recent victory in the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.

    Described by his attorney as a white-haired businessman in his mid-50s, Christ is moving to West Virginia to enjoy a slower lifestyle. He bought property near Lost River, about 100 miles west of Washington, and has a U.S. passport, Social Security card and Washington driver's license bearing the name Jesus Christ.

    But he still falls short of West Virginia title and license transfer requirements because his Florida birth certificate has his original name on it and he has been unable to obtain an official name change in Washington.

    "We just need official documentation that that's his name," said Doug Stump, commissioner of the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles. "He will be treated no different than anybody else." (LINK)

    Detroit Considers "Supersize Me" Tax

    In an effort to curb a looming $300 million budget deficit, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick last month floated what he called a "different budget than has ever been presented to our city council."

    The budget includes a proposed 2 percent tax that would be levied only on sales at fast-food restaurants, among other items that would generate additional revenue for the city.

    The Mayor's office hasn't released too many details about this fast-food tax but one basic question is about how they differentiate between a McDonald's or a Wendy's or a casual dining chain like Chili's that also sells curbside and offers takeout," he said.

    "If you're targeting so called 'unhealthy food,' which is the better option -- a bigger tax on salad sold at a McDonald's or a bigger tax on ribs and mashed potato sold at a casual dining restaurant?" he added. (LINK)

    Viagra for the Mob

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Three New York doctors were charged on Thursday with giving large amounts of Viagra and other anti-impotence drugs to mob members in return for construction and auto repair work done by mafia-controlled businesses.

    Arlen Fleisher, Stephen Klass and George Shapiro, all doctors in Westchester County, a suburban area north of New York City, were accused of trading prescription drugs and drug samples with members and associates of the Gambino crime family. The one-count complaint was filed in Manhattan federal court. (LINK)

    Auction Houses Battle with Rock-Paper-Scissors

    Christie's won the right to sell a £10 million art collection by beating rivals Sotheby's at 'scissors, paper, rock'.

    Takashi Hashiyama, president of Maspro Denkoh Corporation, could not decide which auction house he wanted to sell the impressionist paintings. He invited representatives from both auction houses to draw either a rock, paper or scissors on a piece of paper.

    Sotheby's picked paper while Christie's chose scissors.(LINK)


    May 11, 2005

    Waste of Money

    If I ever became rich or won the lottery, I would never buy an insanely expensive imported sports car. Because even if you drive a $90,000 400 HP Lamborghini, you'll still be stuck going 5 MPH up I-85, just like everybody else. Plus, all the geeks slow down around you to take camera Phone pictures.

    True Romance

    Yesterday, Melissa and I celebrated our 7th anniversary. While trying to plan the evening last week, She suggested going to dinner and seeing a movie (in the theater!). Which movie did she want to see? Kung Fu Hustle. "It looks really funny," she said. God, I love this woman.

    We dropped little man off with her mother, and opened our cards to each other there. Mine was sappy, hers was funny. She wanted a couple of Anime DVD's from Best Buy, I wanted $50 set aside for the new digital camera I plan to buy this summer. My parents mailed us an AmEx gift card for a night out, and Mel's parents gave us some money as well, so we went ALL-OUT and splurged on a dinner at Romano's Macaroni Grill. Any place where they leave you crayons to draw on the butcher-paper tablecloths is about as fancy as we usually get.

    Since it wasn't 8PM yet, traffic into and out of Alpharetta was moving at a blistering 10 MPH. While we creeped along, Mel relished the fact that, since she wasn't in the company of toddlers for a change, she could curse openly like the daughter of a Marine she was. Over the course of our hour-long drive, she let it all out. Every person that ticked her off during the week, every stressful moment, delivered with a heaping helping of four-letter expletives and her trademark wit. By the time we arrived at the restaurant, she was visibly relieved and ready to have a nice, quiet dinner.

    The food was unremarkable, but the Chianti was good. We're not high-class people, we go out to enjoy company and conversation rather than the fare and atmosphere, and so we did. We talked about grown-up things. People without young children just have no idea what a big deal it is to talk to another adult about adult things. You can speak in complete sentences without being interrupted every ten seconds. You don't have to refer to your significant other or yourself in the third person ("No, Go see Mommy, Daddy is working now"). Plus, you don't have to spell out words, so they go over the kid's head.

    The movie was incredible. It's every chop-socky "Your crane style is no match for my praying mantis style kung fu" storyline you've ever heard, put in a blender and set on "Frappe`". Stephen Chow must have grown up watching nothing but Jackie Chan and WWII-era Looney Tunes. The sheer variety of fighting styles and characters is amazing. Catch it in the theaters while you can.

    Not many people would consider going out to a kung fu flick a romantic way to celebrate an anniversary, but we found it quite fitting. Our first date was catching "Pulp Fiction" at the Beechwood Cinemas in Athens.

    May 10, 2005

    Pictures from Iraq


    Michael Yon is the photographer in Iraq that captured this now-famous picture. His blog is full of inspiring pictures and stories about the small-picture, person-to-person view of the war.

    http://michaelyon.blogspot.com/

    May 06, 2005

    LinkNews Digest [05/06/2005]

    I'll do this link first, because it hits close to home: Ebay Item of the Day: Wedding invitation from Georgia's infamous "Runaway Bride" (The seller lives in Flowery Branch, GA.)

    School Band Banned from Performing "Louie Louie"

    Benton Harbor Superintendent Paula Dawning cited the song's allegedly raunchy lyrics in ordering the McCord Middle School band not to perform it in Saturday's Grand Floral Parade, held as part of the Blossomtime Festival.

    "Louie Louie," written by Richard Berry in 1956, is one of the most recorded songs in history. The best-known, most notorious version was a hit in 1963 for the Kingsmen; the FBI spent two years investigating the lyrics before declaring they not only were not obscene but also were "unintelligible at any speed." (LINK)


    Alcohol: The Male Afrodisiac

    Mentioning alcohol to a man is enough to trigger his sex drive, scientists have found. A study at the University of Missouri found that even a reference to alcohol triggered the brain into finding women far more attractive than normal.

    "This research shows that even if men aren't drinking but are merely exposed to alcoholrelated cues, those who expect that alcohol will make them want sex will rate women as more attractive," said Professor Ronald Friedman, who led the research. "In other words, we propose to have found a case of automatic 'beer goggling'." (LINK)


    Keeping Our Children Safe From Burritos

    CLOVIS, N.M. - A call about a possible weapon at a middle school prompted police to put armed officers on rooftops, close nearby streets and lock down the school. All over a giant burrito.

    Someone called authorities Thursday after seeing a boy carrying something long and wrapped into Marshall Junior High. The drama ended two hours later when the suspicious item was identified as a 30-inch burrito filled with steak, guacamole, lettuce, salsa and jalapenos and wrapped inside tin foil and a white T-shirt.

    In the meantime, more than 30 parents, alerted by a radio report, descended on the school. Visibly shaken, they gathered around in a semi-circle, straining their necks, awaiting news.

    After the lockdown was lifted but before the burrito was identified as the culprit, parents pulled 75 students out of school, Russell said. (LINK)


    Soderbergh & Cuban: Movies Relased Simultaneously in DVD and Theaters

    In a break from the traditional model for releasing movies -- theaters to DVD to pay-TV to networks to cable -- 2929 Entertainment, a film company owned by entrepreneurs Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner -- are planning to release six films by director Steven Soderbergh on all of the various platforms on the same day, published reports said today (Friday). Bubble, the first of the films (all of which are being shot using high-definition electronic cameras), is currently in production in Ohio, the newspaper said.

    It noted that the multiplatform plan worries theater owners, who fear that if it catches on, moviegoers will stop buying tickets and buy the DVDs instead. Regal Theaters spokesman Dick Westerling told the Times: "We do not exhibit films that are simultaneously being released on DVD, video or pay television ... and we do not anticipate changing that policy." (LINK (via BoingBoing.net))


    Police Give How-To Meth Lab to Teens

    ELMA - A local woman went 'through the roof' when a deputy took his anti-drug message to high school. She says he showed students how to make methamphetamines, and she has the video to prove it.

    Grays Harbor County sheriff's deputy shows class, "And the reaction will start occurring down there and start bubbling up." It is part chemistry class and part drug enforcement as a member of the Grays Harbor drug task force talks to Elma High School students about making Methamphetamine. Deputy shows class: "Then you'll have a little bit down at the bottom, the white stuff, and that's your meth."

    "I was really upset when my daughter had come home and said 'mom we learned how to make meth today in school,' " said parent Teresa McCutcheon. "My jaw just kind of dropped and I said, 'what?' "

    Christene is asked, "So you think you learned how to make methamphetamines because of this demonstration?" Christene answered, "Yes. I just don't know how to mix it all together." (LINK)


    A New "Don't Give Up" Attitude on Suicide

    A man shot himself five times before driving from his Godfrey, Ill., home to a bridge -- a distance that took 10 minutes -- and jumped from a bridge.

    Sixty-seven-year-old Franklin Carver shot himself three times in his head and twice in his chest, but none of the shots was immediately fatal, police said. (LINK)


    The Haunted Mansion, in Sand



    Anime Eyes

    Skin like porcelain. Eyes like Astroboy. The latest trend for Japanese schoolgirls is colored contacts - not green or blue ones that ape gaijin eyes, but inky black lenses that make them look like they have gigantic monochromatic pupils. Thanks to a steady diet of manga and anime, Tokyo teens have come to admire the outsize peepers on hand-drawn heroines. "The bigger the character's eyes, the cuter they look," says 15-year-old Yumi Koba. And now, thanks to Share Generate's Nadesicco Black, emulating Sailor Moon is no longer a dream.

    Because the lenses are nonprescription, schoolgirls can even order them - like everything else - via cell phone. ( LINK ) via WIRED


    May 05, 2005

    Mount St. Kern

    Men are sometimes peculiar in how they deal with crisis. Some make a big deal about everything, so when a real crisis comes along, people have little sympathy. Others keep their struggles inside until they snap. I usually lean towards the latter. Like a volcano, I sit dormant, quiet, and lull the community into security. Then, when the pressure starts building, some rumblings and steam vents open, then go quiet again. You and I know that the inevitable blowup is coming. Yesterday it arrived for me.

    You probably know what crisis I'm talking about, so I'll skip the background. I hit a deep blue funk yesterday afternoon, and determined that tonight I'd have to do something about it. I needed alone time, to vent and get my head together. On the drive home, I felt so low that I wanted to skip out of Choir practice and just leave for a while. I felt marginally ill from all the stress, and thought about staying home from work tomorrow, if it continued.

    Drinking. Drinking or gaming. I needed to do at least one of these tonight, or I'd go mad. I'm no alcoholic, but a well-placed drinking binge can be useful, when used strategically. And as they said on The Simpsons, "Nothing like a depressant to chase the blues away!"

    I got home and gave Mel the situation. I had to make a decision and act on it. She understood, and we talked it over while we fixed spaghetti. By the time we ate, I felt better, and decided to go to Choir after all and take off when we got home again. Practice helped. Being around other people and cracking my usual jokes helped.

    We got back at 9 PM. I kissed Matthew goodnight and Melissa goodbye as I headed for the cyber cafe around the corner... Which was closed. It was a Wednesday night in Flowery Branch, GA, which is not exactly a hotspot for tech-savvy gamers. I settled for a glass of Shiraz at "Hops and Grapes" across the street.

    I pulled out my pad and paper and laid out the situation, the options, and the Pros and Cons of each. I had the facts all laid out by the end of my glass, when they were closing up at 9:30. (Again, Flowery Branch.) I grabbed a large bottle of rotgut cider from the bottle shop next door and set up shop on the patio of a nearby restaurant.

    For half an hour I reviewed that paper and added the possible courses of action. By the time THAT place closed (10:00), I had it all down. I was amazed that it took roughly an hour. There was a whole lot more thinking to do, but I'd laid the groundwork, most of the heavy lifting, by the time I got home at 10:30. The burden had lifted, my eyes were no longer squinting and my shoulders were loose again.

    I looked at the 40 of cider in the paper bag and decided that if I WAS going to call in sick tomorrow, it would be from a hangover and not a nervous stomach.

    May 03, 2005

    Digging a Hole

    No matter where you live, there's always one backwards-thinking extremist in office. It's a fact of life, but I've never seen so MANY of them in office until I moved to the South. Alabama State Representative Gerald Allen says homosexuality is "an unacceptable lifestyle," and proposed a bill that would ban public school libraries from buying plays or books by gay authors, or even featuring gay characters.

    "I don't look at it as censorship," says State Representative Gerald Allen. "I look at it as protecting the hearts and souls and minds of our children."
    Yeah, and victims of the Crusades weren't murdered, they were merely sent to heaven faster. Man, I love it when people get so wrapped up in a cause that anything is justifiable.

    Think about losing the complete works of Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal, Truman Capote, Oscar Wilde and countless others, because they were homosexuals. Then think about all the great works that have gay characters in them: "The Color Purple", "Brideshead Revisited", "The Picture of Dorian Gray", and many works of Shakespeare, Chaucer and Hemingway. Depending on the wording, the blacklist might unintentionally include the Bible.

    The proposed bill would also ban public school textbooks that suggest homosexuality is a genetic trait, and prohibit a teacher from handing out materials or bringing in a classroom speaker who suggested homosexuality was OK. Likewise, Theater groups at state schools would be banned from performing plays written by gay authors or containing homosexuality-related subject matter. When asked what would become of the books, Allen replied "I guess we dig a big hole and dump them in and bury them."

    Everyone is welcome to his or her opinions about homosexuality, and to what degree that they accept it into their life. However, removing all books with even a reference to it is nothing short of revisionist reality: Let's imagine a world without gays. Let's imagine that all the stuff we don't like doesn't exist and literally bury it.

    Thankfully, the right thing happened and this bill died with very little support.
    (via The 2% Company)