May 30, 2006

Why Pharmeceutical Companies are Evil, Chapter 27

Cutter Biological, a unit of Bayer, in the mid-1980s allegedly sold units of Factor VIII concentrate -- a blood product that can stop potentially fatal bleeding in people with hemophilia -- that had a high risk for transmitting HIV to the patients, to Asian and Latin American hemophiliacs. The suit claims that Cutter allegedly knew the products carried a risk of HIV infection, and the company sold a safer, heat-treated version of the product in the United States and other Western countries



The suit alleges that executives knew that the untreated Factor VIII was potentially tainted with HIV and that the product was sold on foreign markets for more than a year after the treated version was available in 1984 to "avoid wasting existing stockpiles," according to the Wall Street Journal.

Bayer spokesperson Michael Diehl said that the company had not yet been formally notified of the lawsuit but that Bayer "emphatically denies misconduct in the marketing of these products in the mid-1980s," adding, "Decisions made nearly two decades ago were based on the best scientific and medical information of the time and were consistent with the regulations in place at the time."
(LINK)

May 26, 2006

LinkNews Digest [05/26/2006]

School Field Trip Arrested

A teacher who took his class on a school trip to a historic cathedral was arrested for giving unlicenced tours.

The group, from Budapest in Hungary, were in St Michael's Cathedral, in the Slovakian capital Bratislava, when they were all arrested.

Slovakian police said the teacher had broken the law by not having a licence to give guided tours and that the pupils had broken the law by listening.

They were freed hours later after officials from the Hungarian Embassy intervened. (LINK )
I hope those kids learned their lesson! I bet they'll think twice before LISTENING to a teacher again!

Feds Stop Collecting Tax to Pay For Spanish-American War

The Treasury Department said Thursday that it will no longer collect a 3% federal excise tax on long-distance calls and would refund about $15 billion to taxpayers.

The tax was imposed in 1898 to help pay for the Spanish-American War. It was designed as a tax on wealthy Americans, back when phone service was considered a luxury. "It's not often you get to kill a tax, particularly one that goes back so far in history," Treasury Secretary John Snow said.

Treasury said it was conceding its battle to uphold the tax after five appeals courts declared it illegal because of changes in the way long-distance calls are billed. Phone companies and cellular carriers must stop billing for the tax Aug. 1. Individuals and businesses can file for refunds next year on their 2006 tax returns for excise taxes paid on long-distance calls since March 1, 2003. Individuals who don't have phone bill records can seek a standard refund that has yet to be determined.

Snow urged Congress to repeal the local-phone excise tax, as well. (LINK )

Hacking DOT Electronic Signs (Or .HACK//Sign)

I drove my car down the road to the next sign, which was in the same condition: unlocked, with the admin password clearly written in thick black Sharpie. I quickly set about reprogramming the hapless device, and was about halfway done when I heard, to my horror, the sound of rapidly approaching footsteps.

I decided to simply stay bent over the keyboard, calmly typing away, fairly sweating forth an attitude of "I know what I'm doing, I'm supposed to be here."

The footsteps got closer, and then, oddly enough, continued in place. A breathless male voice said, "Uh ... hello?"

I stood up and turned around. It was a jogger, still running in place. I smiled disarmingly, and returned the greeting. "Have you checked the other sign yet?" he panted.

A moment of shock ran through me. "Not just yet," I replied, glibly, still debating whether I could get away with a hasty retreat. "What's up?"

He gestured northward, towards the location of my first electronic victim, and shook his head. "It's saying something really weird. It's like, in another language or something. I think it must be broken." I could feel my pectoral muscles quivering, as I harshly suppressed a crippling fit of the giggles. Somehow, I managed to keep a straight face. "I'll probably get to it next," I said reassuringly. "Thanks for letting me know." The jogger nodded, turned, and continued up the hill. (LINK )
This would explain the sign on I-85 last year that read "Git 'Er Done!"

It's no "Mr. Plow" Jacket, But...

Hugh Jackman says his wife makes him dress in his Wolverine outfit in the bedroom to spice up their love life.

The Australian actor says Deborra-Lee Furness wouldn't let him part with the costume after he finished making the third X-Men movie.

He told Contact Music: "I feel a bit silly in that outfit but, believe me, my wife, really, really likes it.

"They'll have to make a new one for the next movie because she won't let me part with it." (LINK )

Canadian Hockey Fans Drink Town Dry

As the Oilers battle their way to the Stanley Cup finals, bar owners in Edmonton are scrambling to keep beer on ice for thirsty hockey fans.

A report in the Edmonton Sun says managers of bars on Whyte Avenue, known as the Blue Mile during the hockey playoffs, have had to place emergency orders for beer. John MacDonald, manager of Hudsons Tap House, sent his staff out to the local liquor store to replenish supplies on Sunday, when Edmonton beat Anaheim 3-1. Liquor suppliers have also told him that it's busier now than it is at Christmas, which is traditionally the busiest time of the year.(LINK )

Not...urk...Helping...your...ack...Case!

BOSTON (Reuters) - A man charged with murder in Massachusetts was so angry with his lawyer's performance he attacked the attorney in court, trying to strangle him as a shocked judge looked on, Boston radio reported on Wednesday.

"I think he just didn't like the way some of the rulings the judge was making was going yesterday morning," attorney Bruce Carroll told WBZ Radio of the Tuesday morning attack by defendant John Gomes in Boston's Suffolk Superior Court.

"He eventually stood up, started saying something and reached over and grabbed me by the throat," said Carroll.

Several officers intervened before the 6-foot, 250-pound Gomes was separated from Carroll, the radio reported. Carroll had tried to withdraw from the case last week but the judge denied his request (LINK )


May 24, 2006

AoME Podcast #02

For those of you interested, I've started up a (nearly) monthly Podcast with the Arms of Middle Earth group. It's Me, buddy Wade provides the recording studio and a mean Capt'n Jack Sparrow impersonation, and Foe brings some wit and music as well. I'm hoping to get more people into the act later, but for now it works. I've always needed a creativity/humor outlet, and this is fulfilling that need, in place of WARB and the Accidentals/Local Vocals.

The second MP3 episode is now up for your perusal at http://podcast.ArmsOfMiddleEarth.com/. Episodes 1 and 2 are good, but Episode #00 is a bit rough, since it was more of a technical test than a planned production. Fairly proud of some of these bits. Let me know what you think.

May 22, 2006

PotterPuffs

I've been trying out a new graphics program called FreeHand over the past few months. It's been handy for creating items for The Arms of Middle Earth Shop and my own SiriusGraphics Swag, but I really wanted to create a complete piece with a lot going on.

I settled on creating a scene involving "PotterPuffs" (Harry Potter characters in the kitsch style of "The PowerPuff Girls"). So here it is:


I had to do some of the details (shadows, type) in Photoshop, but the rest is in Freehand. My favorite bits to create were the Tiki Masks on the bar, and Draco's expression. Tell me what you think. (And for those interested, )
There are LJ Icons as well.

May 19, 2006

LinkNews Digest [05/19/2006]

GA Governor Parties With Teen Grads

ATLANTA - Midway through a love ballad directed at their prom dates, the sea of high school students suddenly parted to allow Georgia's top politician to give the karaoke song his best shot.

Wearing a trendy visor and a neon green glow stick around his neck, Gov. Sonny Perdue joined the group in belting "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'."

Five busloads of Brookwood High School seniors unloaded on Perdue's front lawn in Atlanta early Sunday for four hours of partying, eating and face time with the governor after their prom.

The grounds of the governor's swank north Atlanta mansion became the temporary home of inflatable obstacle courses where students jousted one another on spongy islands and strapped themselves to bungee cords in a doomed race against elasticity.

Inside the mansion, Waffle House set up shop in the ballroom, dishing out dinner for the first two hours of the party and breakfast during the last two. A wall of video games attracted a legion of students and Don Balfour, the school district's senator, who jostled a Ms. Pacman joystick en route to a high score.

The event's mission, Perdue said, was to encourage responsible behavior for teens and reward the suburban Atlanta high school for its creative efforts to tackle underage drinking.

Planning a high school party at the governor's mansion also brought a host of unique challenges, namely making sure that young couples didn't slip out of the party to seek alone time in the mansion's 18-acre grounds(LINK )

An End To Plumbers' Crack?

It took three years to develop a pair of pants which move with the wearer`s skin, according to manufacturer Jockey.

Some 6,000 male bodies were scanned and measured to help create the "stay put" shape and prevent unsightly behinds creeping above the belt.

Called 3D Innovations, the pants are made in two halves and cut on the bias. The cotton and spandex fabric is cut across the grain and the two halves are twisted and joined with a seam. This helps the pants mimic the way the skin stretches, according to Jockey.

A spokeswoman for the company said: "The builder`s bum, an unsightly glimpse of a behind that no one ever needs see, is officially going to be a thing of the past." The 3D Innovations go on sale tomorrow costing around £10 per pair. (LINK )
Now, if they can just fix the bigger issue of plus-sized women wearing visible thongs...

Tip #45: Don't Put Out a Cigarette in Paint Thinner

DENVER, N.C. - A man taking a break from painting burned down his house after trying to snuff out a cigarette in a bowl of paint thinner.

Stevie Spencer had put the bowl on his coffee table before taking a smoke break about 10 p.m. Saturday. "I forgot paint thinner was in the bowl," Spencer said. "I thought it was water."

The fire from the paint thinner ignited some papers, Spencer said. He got his wife out of the house, then tried to extinguish the flames with a hose. Spencer suffered minor injuries.

Fire Chief Jay Flynn said the house was too far gone to save it when firefighters arrived. (LINK )

Reservoir Dogs: The Game?

Most guys worth their salt have seen Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs at least once or twice (or every night for a month straight in high school for me). Considered a film dear in the hearts of film fanatics everywhere, the great mystery of Reservoir Dogs: The Game is precisely how Eidos/Volatile Games will translate an hour-and-forty-minute movie of mostly dialogue into a third-person action shooter/driving game.

The game itself has one strike against it, and it's one that will likely cast a dark pall over the final experience: out of all of the characters in the film, only Mr. Blonde has the likeness of the actor who played him. Having said that, the rest of the concept isn't too terrible. The game, in the vein of other movie revisionist games like Enter the Matrix (which, for all of its mediocrity, was probably the first blockbuster title to do this in recent memory), allows players to partake in missions that color in the events that are only talked about in the film. That means that players find out exactly why Mr. Blue never made it back to the warehouse. They'll discover exactly where and how Mr. Pink stashed the heist diamonds. They'll drive around and evade cops. And no, it wasn't confirmed whether or not there will be an ear-slicing mini-game.(LINK )

Piano Found Atop Britain's Tallest Mountain

Volunteers clearing litter at the top of Ben Nevis have found a piano. They are now trying to find out who carried the heavy instrument up Britain's highest peak. The only clue is a biscuit wrapper found under the piano. It had a best before date of December 1986.

Fifteen volunteers from conservation charity the John Muir Trust spotted it as they cleared rubbish from the summit. The cast iron frame and strings were still intact but the keyboard was missing reports The Sun.

Volunteer organiser Sandy Maxwell, of Glasgow, said: "We have a constant battle against stuff left on the slopes but this elevates being a litter lout sky-high."

The piano was broken up and carried down the mountain in bits by 30 volunteers (LINK )

FINALLY: English Considered As National Language

Bloomberg Reports:
May 18 (Bloomberg) -- The Senate voted to make English the ``national language'' of the U.S. as part of legislation overhauling immigration policy.

The measure, approved by a vote of 63-34, directs the government to ``preserve and enhance'' the role of English, without altering current laws that require some government documents and services be provided in other languages.

``I don't see how you can unify the United States of America unless we have a national language,'' Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander said. ``English is part of our national identity. It's part of our spirit. It's part of our blood. It's part of who we are.''

The amendment was added to legislation senators are considering that would strengthen border security, create a new guest-worker program and allow an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants to apply for legal status.

Opponents of the language provision said it would cause employees of the federal government to avoid using languages other than English even in warning signs or emergency communications for fear of breaking the law.

Consideration of the English-language amendment was held up for a day as lawmakers negotiated its wording. The final version, sponsored by Republican James Inhofe of Oklahoma, calls for making English the ``national'' language, which was a change from an earlier draft that termed it the ``official'' language.

The amendment also sets requirements that immigrants seeking U.S. citizenship know the English language and U.S. history.

President George W. Bush, in a Monday prime-time address to the nation on immigration, said undocumented immigrants seeking legal status should be required to learn English and that the common language is the key to opportunity in the U.S.

``English allows newcomers to go from picking crops to opening a grocery, from cleaning offices to running offices,'' Bush said.
And read on for the step BACKWARDS in this issue, with commentary by Ted Kennedy:
The Senate today rejected, by a vote of 50-49, a proposal to prevent undocumented workers from receiving Social Security benefits for any contributions they made to the retirement system before they acquire legal status. Opponents said it would take benefits away from people who regularly paid taxes into the system.

``If these immigrants earned it they should receive it like everyone else,'' Massachusetts Democrat Ted Kennedy said.
Yes, folks, Ted Kennedy: The Rational Democrat's embarrasing party guest. "IF THEY EARNED IT" is the key phrase here, and if they're "undocumented" workers, that means they can't actually PROVE that they have. As opposed to the rest of us, who have been paying into Social Security regularly for all of our lives.

Is it wrong to wish that the "Kennedy Curse" would take out the useless members of the family, and not the one or two good ones?

May 17, 2006

I Was a Middle-Age Disney-Rage Dad

How did it happen? For years I would shake my head at the parents who would drag their unwilling children around DisneyWorld and cram "Family Fun" down their throats. Didn't they get it? This place was about letting go of stress and reality. Then halfway through my own vacation with my wife and son, I realized the horrible truth: I had become one of them.

Matthew was a stubborn child from the very first, because he needed to be. From the first glimpse we saw of him on the sonogram, the OB/GYN told us that the little guy probably wouldn't survive to the next few weeks. In his first act of defiance, Matthew held strong. He continued to overcome many obstacles and came out healthy, despite a few careful days in the NICU.

The modern term is "strong-willed", though we parents have many other words for it that we use under our breath. He does everything on his own terms. Everything from feeding to potty training was met with resistance, much to our frustration. This last bit was actually the reason for our vacation; Melissa promised Matthew that if he started using the toilet, we would take him to DisneyWorld. Two weeks later, he was totally off diapers.

Of course, we would have gone to Disney anyways. We've gone at least once a year since we've been married, and never at full price. Between Mel's discounts from working at The Disney Store, favors from friends and her careful scouring of internet boards, she always finds a deal. But as a reward for a truly staggering accomplishment and a real relief for us, we decided to go for "The Full Mickey": The Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Disney MGM Studios. We'd also slip in a visit my grandpa, aunt and uncle, who live in central Florida.

The kid is amazingly tolerant of car trips. He just loves riding in the car, even for the 8 hours from Atlanta to Orlando. It was actually 11 hours down to Sarasota to visit Aunt Sandy & Uncle Allan, and he was predictably excitable when he was unstrapped from the car seat. He happily played with their dog for hours and shook with anticipation when I told him we'd take a swim in their pool after dinner. He can't swim yet, so this is more about me carrying him across the pool, and catching him as he jumps in. We both love the arrangement.

Matthew and 'Grandpa the Pirate'On the way back North to Orlando, we have lunch with my hermit-like grandfather, Neil. A nice enough fellow, but he likes his privacy and his routine, so a couple of hours at lunch is perfectly fine. Matthew, as always, was eager to tell him about what happened in a recent Scooby Doo cartoon. Neil got a big kick out of seeing his only great-grandson. Matthew gets a kick out of grandpa's black eye-patch. He calls Neil "Pirate Grandpa."

Once we get to the parks, there's a bit more stubbornness. I figured that he'd actually behave better in DisneyWorld, since he's getting what he wants. But with strong-willed children, it's more about HOW they want to do things. Meltdowns happened, and I realize that I actually helped cause them. This trip was a wake-up call to some bad parenting I was doing. (I'm typing this out mostly for my own benefit, so forgive me.)

I wouldn't consider myself Type-A controlling, but every father has certain things hard-wired into his brain from his upbringing, and when their own child crosses those lines, things can get ugly. For example, talking back to Mom. My dad flash-baked the idea of absolutely ZERO back-talk to mom into my mind, and I have a similar zero-tolerance policy with Matthew. But each rule has to be taken into context. He's four, he will get upset and not want to do things our way all the time. I have to learn not to immediately get harsh, but to threaten to do so if he continues.

The name of the game is Creative Parenting, or "head-ology" as Terry Pratchett calls it. Pick your battles, and for the ones you pick, don't go for the frontal assault. Strong-willed kids are always ready to meet a frontal assault head-on. Parenting, like magic tricks, are all about MISDIRECTION. If there's an issue, try to turn attention to something else. Case and point: He was happily playing on the playground with some other kids when it was time to go to leave and go to the pool. Wow, I've never SEEN legs kick that fast except Dash from The Incredibles. He was pitching a fit, scrambling to be let go. My instinct was to just hold him and walk out of the playground, but Melissa knew better. She simply said "Hey Matthew, don't you WANT to go to the pool?" He stopped instantly, said "The Pool? All right, let's go!" and took off towards the playground exit. As usual, Melissa knew better. Like most mothers, she's a better parent than she gives herself credit for.

So I'm learning more and more to trust her when she suggests thing. While it may upset me that he runs off every three seconds in a new direction, forcing him to hold my hand 100% of the time does nothing but piss the kid off, practically ENSURING a confrontation. I've got to think of it more like a Shepherd and less like a chain-gang enforcer. There I was, pulling Matthew along at my long-legged pace through Epcot, and he wasn't happy being yanked around. Melissa told me to cool it, and she was right.

I had become those people I despised: The Goal-Oriented vacationing Parents who had to mark everything off their list of things to do. I had to shift gears and think less about getting EVERYTHING done, and more in terms of having positive, quality experiences with a few things that Matthew could enjoy with us. Also, We figured out that he absolutely NEEDS to go back to the room and take a nap. We though he was over them, but I guess it's a growth spurt thing. And it also helps my mood if I take one as well.

Things did get bad, but there was a mid-trip decision NOT to abandon hope and head home. I had a very "Clark W. Griswold" moment of clarity and announced the following:
"This is no longer a vacation. It's a quest. It's a quest for fun. I'm gonna have fun, and you're gonna have fun. We're all gonna have so much f*#%in' fun we'll need plastic surgery to remove our goddamn smiles!"
Melissa agreed, and we are so very happy that we did because the next two days were nearly perfect all-around. (We also decided to get a couple of "Marty Moose" T-Shirts for the next trip.)

I jumped ahead a little bit to the mid-trip epiphany to get the unpleasant parts out of the way. So let's talk about the good parts now.

Day One - MGM Studios:
Lights, Motors, Action! DriversTorrential Rain was the first thing we saw, and the reports called for it all day. I doubted it, and sure enough it stopped 2 hours later. Those Mickey Ponchos we bought are the best way to PREVENT rain at the parks!. They have a great new car stunt show called "Lights, Motors, Action!" that was INCREDIBLE. Matthew was jumping up and down and squealing with delight, even though the heat got to him in the end. Mel is always looking out for me: Since she can't ride the Rollercoasters with me anymore (migraines), she took Matthew to see a show while I hit the Rock & Roller Coaster and the Tower of Terror. Matthew saw his first 3D movie with the Muppets, and loved it. He was reaching out to touch the bubbles and everything. We left mid-day for a nap, and didn't have much to do when we came back. The fast, cold wind and looming clouds were enough of a warning not to stay for the "Fantasmic" show.

Day Two - Epcot:
They're redoing the Living Seas to a "Finding Nemo" theme, which beats out the retro "Sealab 2025" thing they had before, and the interactive "Crush the Turtle" segment was really fun. Matthew also loves the "Soarin'" ride, which is like a suspended hang glider simulator with a wrap-around IMAX screen. We liked walking around the World Showcase, but Matthew didn't really get it.

To show how preoccupied with the kid we were, halfway across France, Melissa remembered something: "Crap! You know what today is? Our anniversary!" We'd planned our trip around it, and yet we forgot when the actual day arrived. I told her it was all right, and that I'd bought us two tickets to see Poison and Cinderella at Earthlink Live.

We were all a bit snippy, but after a Nap-Trip back to the room, Matthew was 100% better, and finally got to enjoy the fireworks show without hiding behind one of us from the loud noises. He really got into the show and was jumping around. Totally worth it.

Day Three - Day Off:
Slept in, had lunch at Beaches & Cream, with some huge ice cream sundaes for dessert. Tried going to Downtown Disney to shop, but he had a meltdown at every shop we went to, So, Nap-Trip #3. Took him "Swimming" in the pool and he loved it. He even accepted the fact that it was time to go in when it got dark.

Day Four - Animal Kingdom:
Goofy All AroundWe had a late night from the "Clark W. Griswold" decision, so we got to the park a little late, but in plenty of time to catch the Safari, the Flights of Wonder Show, the Festival of the Lion King (his favorite), and get a lot of character Meet & Greets in. Matthew was good all day, and we were getting a better idea of how to handle the little issues by now. Instead of grabbing him by the hand when he wouldn't come and let us put on his sunscreen, I backed up, sat in the shade and started putting mine on, making it look fun. Sure enough, he walked over, sat next to me and let me put his on. (YESSSSSSSSS!)

At nap time, Melissa took little man back to the room while I went on "Expedition Everest" twice via FastPass. VERY cool. I won't spoil the surprise, but I'll just echo one riders sentiment: "It does things that a coaster shouldn't be able to do." On the way out, I couldn't pass up the kitschy "Primeval Whirl" with only a 5-minute wait. But I shouldn't have pushed my luck... I lost my hat on that ride. But no biggie, we went back to Downtown Disney that night for dinner at RainForest Cafe, and I bought another one.

Day Five - Magic Kingdom:
This was the big one. The weather was perfect. Cloudless, 70 degrees and light breezes. Even the people in the fur costumes seemed comfortable. I thought that we'd start with the Speedway, since it's the WORST later in the day, when the Karts have been running. (Fully-exposed to the sun in the line, and the fumes give everyone a headache.) Good plan! Matthew got to drive, and thought he was king of the world. After that, it was a strange day of luck with all the rides: The most we waited for anything was 10 minutes on "It's a Small World"! Don't ask me how, maybe Allah thought we were due a break or two, given the rough start we had a few days back. Call it Karma, but it was amazing. We did nearly EVERYTHING in the park!

On Goofy's BarnStormerWe accidentally stole someone else's rental stroller, but returned it for our own. (I just hope they found theirs again!) Melissa even got some great pictures of Matthew and I riding the Coasters (yes, he's big enough for most of them now). I sat with a Napping Matthew while Mel took in the Haunted Mansion. I thought I'd surprise Mel with a ride on the Carousel of Progress (which was closed earlier in the day), but halfway there, BAM! She popped out a FastPass for Space Mountain that was valid right then! God, I love this woman.

At the Parade and fireworks, he was hopping up and down in excitement on my shoulders. (Let me see if I can add a few MORE prepositional phrases to that... "In front of hundreds of people, under the stars, around 9:30 PM, above Main Street USA...") IN any case, a great end to the trip.

On the morning we departed, Matthew informed us that we didn't NEED to go home, that the hotel was now our home, and we needed to bring down the cats, Grandma & Grandpa, and his friend Phillip down as well, to keep him company. This trip was a learning experience for all. It had it's down moments, but in the end it was so wonderful.

And one last thing: If you're ever traveling in South Georgia on I-75... NEVER stop in the "town" of Cecil. It looked like it had been deserted for 20 years. We tried to stop for a bathroom break at a gas station, across from the "Family Time" motel that probably went under due to renovation costs back in the Nixon administration. The Station was the ONE building that looked to have the new-fangled electricity, and it housed a graveyard of 26(!) broken-down cars with "For-Sale" signs in their windows. It had a neon "OPEN" sign, but upon further inspection, it had a hand-written sign that read "Back in 5 Minits." We couldn't get out of there fast enough.

>> Browse the Pictures

May 05, 2006

LinkNews Digest [05/05/2006]

Lucas To Release Original Trilogy UN-SPECIAL EDITION-ED!

In response to overwhelming demand, Lucasfilm Ltd. and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment will release attractively priced individual two-disc releases of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Each release includes the 2004 digitally remastered version of the movie and, as bonus material, the theatrical edition of the film. That means you'll be able to enjoy Star Wars as it first appeared in 1977, Empire in 1980, and Jedi in 1983.

This release will only be available for a limited time: from September 12th to December 31st. International release will follow on or about the same day.

"Over the years, a truly countless number of fans have told us that they would love to see and own the original version that they remember experiencing in theaters," said Jim Ward, President of LucasArts and Senior Vice President of Lucasfilm Ltd. (LINK )
Translation: "Yeah, we figured that we've reached a critical Point-of-No-Return in fan alienation and disinterest with the Star Wars franchise, and we decided that we needed to cash out all the things we were still holding on to that could POSSIBLY make money."

Freed by DNA, Killed by GMC

CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) -- A man who spent 12 years in prison for murder before new DNA testing exonerated him last year was killed in a hit-and-run as he walked on the city's South Side.

The vehicle sped away after hitting Dan Young Jr., 45, Wednesday night, police said. He was pronounced dead Thursday, the Cook County medical examiner's office said.

Young had been released from prison in January 2005 after new testing on DNA evidence failed to link him and another man to the 1990 murder and sexual assault of Kathy Morgan, 39, whose body had been found in a South Side building after a fire.

Chicago police said the hit-and-run was under investigation. No arrests had been made in the case Friday morning, police spokeswoman Laura Kubiak said. (LINK )

FBI Don't Need No Stinkin' Warrants

The FBI sought personal information on thousands of Americans last year from banks, Internet service providers and other companies without having to seek approval from a court, according to new data released by the Justice Department.

In a report to the top leaders of both parties in the House, the department disclosed that the FBI had issued more than 9,200 "national security letters," or NSLs, seeking detailed information about more than 3,500 U.S. citizens or legal residents in 2005.

"This tells us why they didn't want to tell us in the past how many of these they were actually using," said Caroline Fredrickson, Washington legislative director for the American Civil Liberties Union. "The idea that this kind of power resides in the hands of so many people at the FBI with no court oversight is very troubling."

At the FISA court, the number of warrants for clandestine searches and surveillance has more than doubled in the past five years, according to government figures. The court -- which historically has refused only a handful of warrant applications -- did not reject any of the government's requests last year, although two cases were withdrawn by Justice before a ruling was issued, the report said.(LINK )

Prince Admits to Liking Dogs - Fried

The Effects of Royal-Family inbreeding, Case and Point:
A Danish prince has upset animal rights campaigners by admitting he loves dogs - delicately sliced and lightly fried.

Prince Henrik of Denmark told Ud & Se magazine: "Dog meat tastes like rabbit. Like dried baby goat. Or perhaps - I know! - like veal. Like the veal of a baby suckling calf, only drier."

The 72-year-old Prince, the husband of Queen Margrethe, is the honorary president of the Danish Dachshund Club, reports the Times. He developed an appetite for dog-bone stew and other canine delicacies at an early age. He grew up in Vietnam, where roast dog remains a speciality. "I’ve got no qualms about eating dog meat," he said. "These dogs are bred to be eaten, just like chickens."

The Prince is rarely seen without his dachshunds. He has said that he would like to be reborn as a dachshund in the Danish Court. And he has advised parents "to bring up children like dogs".

Danes recall a tabloid-fuelled drama in the 1990s, when one of the royal dachshunds disappeared. "In the light of the Prince Consort’s confessions, perhaps we should reopen the case of the disappearing dachshund," Mats Jørgensen, an architect and cat owner, said. (LINK )

Invention of the Week: The TeddyGun

(IMABARI, Japan) -- A paintball firm is hoping to add color to wedding receptions in Japan with a new device it has jointly developed -- a gun-shaped party cracker that shoots out a teddy bear.

Sunamiya, a paint firm based in Imabari, Ehime Prefecture, announced the development of the device, which blasts a teddy bear equipped with a parachute into the air. The teddy bear parachutes down afterwards.

Developers hit on the idea after noticing that it had become a trend for people to throw teddy bears into the air instead of bouquets at wedding receptions. "We're hoping to capture the hearts of couples," a company representative said, commenting on the new device. (LINK )

Snakes on a Porch... On Fire

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Shatavia Kearney, 19, called the Charter Landing Apartments office Sunday and asked someone to remove a snake from her porch. Police said she was told to deal with the situation herself, The Florida Times-Union reported Wednesday

So Kearney doused the snake with a flammable liquid and set it on fire, according to a police report by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. In the process, the vinyl siding caught fire and was charred and melted in two places. No one was charged and the snake got away. (LINK )
Now she's done it. As Foe and Maddy know, Snakes can really hold a grudge. This snake is going to get her back when she least expects it. One day, she'll just be having breakfast and POW! It pops out of the toaster!

May 04, 2006

Moussaoui: Punishment for a Terrorist

Zacarias Moussaoui has been sentenced to life in prison, and will not receive the death penalty. This issue divides some people. The crime is surely deserving of the death penalty, but isn't that what a suicide bomber WANTS? I think the judge nailed it:
U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema responded: "You came here to be a martyr and die in a big bang of glory. But to paraphrase the poet T.S. Eliot, instead you will die with a whimper," she said, borrowing a line from "The Hollow Men."

The judge then followed the decision of the jury and ordered the al Qaeda terrorist to spend the rest of his natural life in prison.
How do you punish a man who has been prepared to, and even looks FORWARD TO, dying for his cause? You rob him of that glory. You deny him the martyrdom that was to be his reward. You put him in solitary confinement where he cannot spread Allah's word. You let him die an old, broken man in prison, not as a hero who was killed by the evil empire. He does not go forward to meet Allah, Allah will have to come and collect him when his body expires from age.

That is exactly how you should deal with a suicide bomber.

And Justin is right: In Prison, there is a justice even among the lawless. Those who commit heinous crimes are often dealt with by the populace who have not totally lost their morals. Child molesters are even put on protective watch in the prisons, for fear of them being found with their privates tucked into their shirt pocket. Even criminals love America. So how much more danger from other inmates will Moussaoui be in, when he helped orchestrate the largest civilian attack on America ever, and the mass-murder of thousands?

Instead of killing citizens of the Infidel Empire, he may well die at the hands of robbers and petty criminals. The middle east pioneered the idea of punishments fitting the crime; Thieves having their hands cut off at the wrist, Perjurers having their tongues removed, Adulterers, likewise. There is no glory to Allah in dying a failed martyr, just shame. That is the most fitting punishment I can think of.

May 03, 2006

Egg, Meet My Face

In my much-neglected LiveJournal, I posted a link about people getting Tattoos of Web Comics, like this:



I commented Thusly:
You know, I like web comics like Toothpaste For Dinner and Diesel Sweeties, but I'm not sure about getting permanent ink done for something that isn't permanent enough to be printed tangibly on paper...


Then THE GUY WHO DRAWS "Toothpaste For Dinner" *RESPONDS*:
Permanent enough to be printed tangibly on paper... hmm... like... maybe... my book that came out last year and sold 22,000 copies in Q4 2005? :)


PWNED By a cartoonist.

WTF is it with me posting something about someone's work and them FINDING THAT ONE POST and replying to it that night? First Peter S. Beagle now this!

Good thing I don't talk smack about them. The writers and cartoonists are getting more web savvy these days, I guess. Maybe I should use this power for the good of mankind. Not sure how, though. Any ideas?

"SuperSize Me" Helps Rid Schools of Soda

NEW YORK - The nation's largest beverage distributors have agreed to halt nearly all soda sales to public schools, according to a deal announced Wednesday by the William J. Clinton Foundation.

Under the agreement, the companies have agreed to sell only water, unsweetened juice and low-fat milks to elementary and middle schools, said Jay Carson, a spokesman for former President Bill Clinton. Diet sodas would be sold only to high schools.

Cadbury Schweppes PLC, Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo Inc. and the American Beverage Association have all signed onto the deal, Carson said, adding that the companies serve "the vast majority of schools." The American Beverage Association represents the majority of school vending bottlers.

The deal follows a wave of regulation by school districts and state legislatures to cut back on student consumption of soda amid reports of rising childhood obesity rates. Soda has been a particular target of those fighting obesity because of its caloric content and popularity among children.

Nearly 35 million students nationwide will be affected by the deal, The Alliance for a Healthier Generation said in a news release. The group, a collaboration between Clinton's foundation and the
American Heart Association, helped broker the deal.

"This is really the beginning of a major effort to modify childhood obesity at the level of the school systems," said Robert H. Eckel, president of the American Heart Association.

Under the agreement, high schools will still be able to purchase drinks such as diet and unsweetened teas, diet sodas, sports drinks, flavored water, seltzer and low-calorie sports drinks from distributors.
(LINK)

May 02, 2006

Apology to Commentators

Thanks to my brother for clueing(sp?) me in that my comments were being sent to a black hole. Some glitch with the Blogger had comment moderation set up by mistake, and I wasn't getting notified. Whew! I thought that people had just gone suddenly silent on me. "I don't get it.. the hit counters show that people are still reading it...?"

So feel free to comment again, I wasn't ignoring you.

May 01, 2006

"A Day Without Illegal Immigrants" - This is a BAD Thing?

Everyone probably knows by now that today, Immigrants around the country are uniting in protest to walk out on their jobs (for the day), boycott American Businesses and clog the streets of major cities. This is to show America how much that our economy depends on them, how much we need them. And that is exactly the WRONG statement to make to America: A cocky statement about how they don't need America, it is America who needs THEM.

Like my wife and just about every other American, let me say that I have nothing against Immigrants. Anyone who wants to come to America is welcome, so long as you respect your new country enough to learn our language and follow our laws to emigrate legally. Anyone whose first act in this country is to break the law and enter it illegally, is setting a bad precedent to the rest of their time here. Learning our language and our laws does not mean giving up your native tongue or culture. But you have to respect OUR country first before we respect yours. You came to us, remember? I would expect the same thing if I went to another country.

Learning English is not some pennance that we demand of them, it is for everyone's safety and prosperity. Speaking English in America will garner you more respect from people, and a higher level of success in business than work alone can ever grant you. Also it saves crucial seconds when immediate help is required from doctors or police. Melissa lost count of how many times people who called 911 had to be directed to a Language Support line, losing several minutes, when the caller couldn't speak English. It is also the best way to ensure that your children get the best education that we have to offer. Separate schools or even classrooms have never been equal in terms of educational quality.

There is no doubt about the opportunities available in this country. From the beginning, America was all about the promise of a new and prosperous life, and countless millions have found it here. It is a great complement that people think so higgly of this nation that they would leave everything that they knew to be a part of it. In my field, I have worked with countless immigrants from India, East Asia and even Canada, and they were among the most dedicated members of our team. Even if their English was clumsy, they were accepted and given respect because of the respect they gave this country.

I'll take a moment here to pick apart their main arguments:
(1) Illegal Immigrants take the jobs that Americans don't want to work. Well, NOW we don't want them, because we don't like the idea of being the only person that doesn't speak Spanish in the establishment. Everyone is uncomfortable in a place where they don't understand what is being said around them. Melissa was once offered a management job at an establishment outright, on the sole basis that she was white and could speak Spanish to the workers. We don't even want THOSE jobs. But if the workplace was returned to the native-speaking world, you'd have a lot more people willing to sling quarter-pounders.

Additionally, Americans wouldn't take the low pay, no benefits and being paid under-the-table that companies get away with. It's not that we wouldn't work the JOBS themselves for the most part, we just would be able to demand minimum wage, Social Security and Health plans, as official citizens. So in effect, what EMPLOYERS have done by hiring illegal immigrants, is force Americans who want to work these jobs to find other work, because we can't live at rates far below minimum wage.

(2) America was built "on the backs of Immigrants". True. However, almost all of these immigrants came over legally. Of course, there were shiploads of illegals brought in from time to time, like the chinese who were forced to help build the railroads, but the government did it's best to stem illegal immigration then, just as it is now. You are not like the Immigrants back then, because you are demanding that America change to suit YOUR needs, instead of changing yourself to suit the country. And I know my ancestors were immigrants once as well, but they took the high road and came here properly.

(3) Illegal Immigrants Contribute to the Economy. Sure, they have to buy stuff just like we do. But a large number of them send huge portions of their paychecks back to their families in the Old Country. So they're also taking a large amount of cash OUT of the economy and supporting their country of citizenship. This point also doesn't take into account the DRAIN that illegal immigrants put on this country. Almost all of them are paid in cash under-the-table, so they pay no taxes into the country. BUT they are sure to use tax-supported amenities like medical care, public schools, and police.

In closing: Attempting to force your way into legal citizenship is no way to get respect from America. Pushing this "We're already here... posession is 9/10ths of the law" crap, in order to justify cutting in front of countless others who are patiently, respectfully and LEGALLY trying to become citizens is not the way to get respect. It's elementary school bullying and the nation is not impressed.