Saturday, August 09, 2008

Citation Needed. And maybe a new flag.

I just found this on the Wikipedia article for Arcadia University. There's no source cited, so it's plausible it's not altogether true. It's pretty funny, though.
At the beginning of the school year in Fall 2006, in an effort to better portray itself as sensitive to the needs of minority students, Arcadia University created a "civility flag," which was to be flown at half staff in the event of an act of incivility. Students have established a tradition of stealing the flag, and replace it with a variety of other symbols. It was first stolen by a student in November, 2006. The student replaced the flag with a pair of boxer shorts featuring $100 bills.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Are you sure.....

Sunday, July 13, 2008


I've been using mouthwash much of my adult life. So I have no idea how I managed just now, while intending to gargle, rinse, and spit, to instead swallow much of the Listerine as if my plan all along was to drink the stuff. Naturally, this was so surprising to me that I immediately coughed half of it up all over the sink while the rest presumably disinfected my throat and removed any possible unpleasant odors from the inside of my stomach. Stunned and confused, I stood there hacking and spitting before rinsing with some water and trying again.

32 and still getting the basics wrong.

And in case you were wondering, yeah, this'll leave the back of your throat burning for a while afterward.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The floor and the dirt

The underside of my bare feet are annoyingly dirty. The apartment I moved into about a week ago has laminate flooring. It's the first I've had in several years that hasn't been carpeted in the living room as well as the bedroom. I'd been walking around on carpet in Houston, and prior to that, Pittsburgh, Augusta, and the Air Force barracks at Ft. Gordon and DLI. Not since the place with the hardwood floors in Charleston back in 2001 have I had to consider a need for a broom as well as a vacuum cleaner. Dang it.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Netflix suggests a scary future.

I've had my Netflix account on hold for a while, but once in a while I log in and look over the queue anyway. Today I found a little notice informing me that an unspecified change had occurred with the edition they offer of one movie in the queue, the Kurosawa film of a Dostoevsky novel. Toward the top of the screen above the queue, after an exclamation point graphic, was simply the sentence:
The Idiot has been replaced by a different version.
Having forgotten I had the Kurosawa film in the impractically long list, my first thought was simply, "Well, that's what one could say in November this year if John McCain manages to win."

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Charlie Savage won me over quickly.

I'm only a few pages into Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy, and I see already why Charlie Savage won the Pulitzer Prize.

Really wonderful album names

Without comment on the albums themselves:
  • Sleep Late For A Better Tomorrow
  • Everybody Makes Mistakes
  • We Are All Natural Disasters
  • Underachievers Please Try Harder
  • Perfect From Now On
  • Lonely People of the World, Unite!
  • Don't Fall In Love With Everyone You See

(Several of the albums are pretty terrific, though. For more info, visit

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Less work for catalogers but less useful for readers

The Library of Congress has apparently decided to start calling Scottish literature English. I'm annoyed that it took a days-old Neil Gaiman blog post for me to discover this but even more annoyed that they're adopting this policy. All of the objections raised in the BBC article seem valid to me. It's completely counterproductive to the purpose of subject headings. Further, I like Gaiman's point here:
Scotland is its own country, with its own traditions and its own literature, a literary tradition in English and Gaelic. On the other hand, it's less work for the Library of Congress. But then, they'd have even less work if they just filed them all under Books.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The trouble with your fast dictionary

Reddit's been drawing some attention lately to a site called Definr, which bills itself as an "incredibly fast dictionary" and which the goofy description at Reddit calls an "amazing, secret online dictionary." Ooh. Personally, I've never found either or (Merriam-Webster) to be noticeably slow, so I didn't get all that excited by ("A really fast dictionary... fast like a ninja.") But amazing and secret, though? That's intriguing. How can you not check that out?

Visiting Definr moments ago to try it out, I didn't have a word in mind I needed to look up. I immediately noticed, though, they've got a little announcement right now reading "We're currently getting hammered by Digg and Reddit! (not that it will slow us down)." Taking this as a suggestion, I entered "hammered" as my test word.

Definr returns one definition, with no links to other forms of the word. Simply, "adj : shaped or worked with a hammer and often showing hammer marks: 'a bowl of hammered brass'." That's all they give us, and it doesn't fit their own use of the word.

Meanwhile, offers, without much delay and from such known sources as the American Heritage and Random House dictionaries, over a dozen different definitions for various forms of the word, including the precisely relevant "To keep at something continuously."

Ninjawords, meanwhile, ("fast like an ineffectual ninja") draws from and defines "hammered" with one simple word: "drunk." Right. Thanks. offers for "hammered" as an adjective only "having surface indentations ..." and "drunk," but prominently offers on the same page five definitions for the verb "hammer,"which do a pretty good job at making things clear.

I'll stick with, with an occasional m-w detour. Honestly, Definr and Ninjawords have much, much cooler names. But how good is fast but useless?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Our Dangerous Shoes

The folks at Boing Boing have persuaded me that Bruce Schneier is perhaps the most sensible and persuasive writer we have on matters of terrorism and security. And I agree with their view that all the restrictions against liquids on airplanes are ridiculous and limit our liberties without improving our safety or security. I want to agree likewise with them that the same is true about making us take off our shoes all the time at the airport security checkpoints. It certainly seems that way to me. But Cory Doctorow in his post yesterday linking to an excellent recent Schneier essay, "Portrait of the Modern Terrorist as an Idiot," seems to misuse that reference somewhat in furthering his argument against the airport checkpoints with all the shoe-shedding and liquid-leaving.

Before the two paragraphs he excerpts from the Schneier post, Doctorow opens with a sentence briefly describing the essay and closes with one effectively summarizing its thesis as "We devote all our security energy to saving ourselves from idiots whose capacity for self-delusion is far greater than their capacity to kill us and blow up our national monuments."

In between is a paragraph that I want to agree with that begins "There's an analogy to DHS checkpoints where we take off our shoes and shed our liquids." On the matter of liquids, I've never encountered anything to dissuade me from the Boing Boing view.

On the shoe question, though, Doctorow says, "It's only because [Richard Reid's shoe bomb] plot failed miserably that we even know about it," which I pretty much agree with. However, he uses this idea to argue that therefore "Blowing up airplanes with your shoes doesn't work." It could well be true that rigging your shoes as explosive devices is hopelessly useless, but the man he's linking to as an authority on these matter actually says, "if shoe-bomber Richard Reid had been just a little less stupid and ignited his shoes in the lavatory, he might have taken out an airplane." That sounds as though it does work.

I hate taking off my shoes airport security checkpoints. I want to be on board with Boing Boing when they explain why I'm right to. But Cory Doctorow only hurts that cause when, in arguing that shoe bombs don't work, he links for support to his preferred authority suggesting that they can.

Update: Cory Doctorow points out something important via e-mail. "X-rays don't detect explosives in shoes, Steve." Which is a comment highlighting the two levels to the issue here. One: as long as I'm nitpicking, Cory's suggestion in his post that blowing up an airplane with shoe-bombs wouldn't work is still undermined by Schneier's that it would have worked had Reid the sense to get a little privacy before attempting detonation. Two: that criticism aside, he's restored my certainty of the wrongness of the airport shoe-scanning circus.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Suspension of Disbelief

Cinematical's review of Spider-Man 3 has a really great paragraph about suspension of disbelief as it pertains to good stories built on ridiculous foundations:

Some would argue that any movie with "Spider," "Man" and a hyphen connecting those two words in the title doesn't need rigorous or especially well-thought-out story logic – after all, this is a universe where exposure to radiation gives you superpowers, not leukemia; where blows to the head result in amnesia, not fatal cranial bleeding. But I'd argue just the opposite – if you want me to swallow a man swinging between Manhattan's concrete canyons on webs, lifting cars and leaping yards at a bound, you have to make the rest of the film as tightly and carefully as possible. I can suspend my disbelief up to a point, but it ultimately has to have something to hang from. One of my favorite things about Spider-Man 2 was almost subliminal – but you'll notice that whenever Alfred Molina's robot-armed Doctor Octopus picks something heavy up, he's got one robot-arm on the ground for leverage, because they may be super-strong robot arms, but they obey the laws of physics. And, that simply, you knew someone cared. A rock falling from the sky into Central Park coincidentally near our hero? That simply, you know the exact opposite.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

My life is full of drama...

...and action, suspense, and star power. Or at least the general vicinity of my workplace is. One of my part-time jobs is in downtown Pittsburgh, and the past couple of days, I've been walking past a full-blown television production in progress. Actually, today's the first day I saw them filming, but the accouterments have been all over the place around Smithfield Street, PPG Place, and Market Square.

Turns out it's "The Kill Pit" with John Leguizamo and Donnie Wahlberg, set to air this summer on Spike TV. I figured they were just filming around here, and I wondered why. But it turns out the story's actually set here. It's kind of an interesting story how that came to be. Take a look at this Post-Gazette article.

Not realizing the story actually takes place in Pittsburgh, I figured when I saw part of a scene being filmed today that at least some of the cops I saw around it were just there for crowd control. Obviously the guys in SWAT gear were wearing costumes. But all those actual Pittsburgh police uniforms? Figured it was the real thing. With it being a show about cops in Pittsburgh, though, that was probably all pretend, too. Now I'll have to get Spike TV in the summer to watch the show, wait for this scene and figure out what I was looking at. And they'll probably have cut the scene.

I kept scrutinizing the faces of the folks in the SWAT gear trying to spot Walhberg or Leguizamo, but if one's playing a bank robber and the other a negotiator, it's no surprise I didn't see them.

I'd plan to pull out the camera if I run across any more of this, but with the threat of snow for the next four days, they're probably done filming outdoors for a while. John Leguizamo holds fictional bank customers hostage; bizarre weather holds John Leguizamo hostage.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

I thought we were done with April Fool's.

It's warm, sunny, and beautiful in Pittsburgh today. According to various weather reports I've seen, it's 75 degrees right now--and beginning Thursday and lasting through the weekend, it's likely to be in the low thirties, with snow. Snow. That's ridiculous. That's completely unreasonable. Who makes these plans? I want to file a complaint.

Sunday, April 01, 2007


For anyone who might happen to stumble upon this blog (probably searching for info about prawns or the library of Alexandria) and isn't already familiar with Bighappyfunhouse, please take a minute to direct your attention to that marvelous site.

Items from the past few days I particularly like are storytime, celebration, and prepared. Other recent highlights: Conversation. Threat. Uplifting. Wonderment.

Oh my God, no, Leonard, no!

Also enjoyable are the rollover comments on the photos. You know, when you hold the cursor over the image and wait a second, and a little box of text pops up. Humor and/or insight to be gained from that with such pieces as this and this, among others.

Really, any archived month is well worth scrolling through.

Plus, after devoting an unreasonable amount of attention during my teenage years in the early nineties to DC Comics, I was a bit startled to see this careless disclosure of secret identity.

The 61-cent paper archive

There's a coffee shop on Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill, pretty near to where I live. It's called the 61C Cafe, probably because of the 61C bus line that runs past it. Last night while driving past it, I noticed the sign out front advertised "Sunday, April 1st: 61¢ cappuccinos (and after 10 PM on April 2-7)." I decided I'd have to get one of those on my way to work today, but then this morning it dawned on me--maybe it's an April Fool's joke. Probably not a good business move if so, but it is April 1st, and that is a notably cheap cappuccino.

It turns out that it's no joke; it's just a smaller cup. It got me wondering what other April Fool's jokes are going on today, though. Besides the weather, I mean, which got ridiculous fast. While wondering about that, I directed my browser to Gmail and saw on the login page this promotion of a new feature:

New! Introducing Gmail Paper

Everyone loves Gmail. But not everyone loves email, or the digital era. What ever happened to stamps, filing cabinets, and the mailman? Well, you asked for it, and it’s here. We’re bringing it back.

A New Button Now in Gmail, you can request a physical copy of any message with the click of a button, and we'll send it to you in the mail.

Simplicity Squared Google will print all messages instantly and prepare them for delivery. Allow 2-4 business days for a parcel to arrive via post.

Total Control A stack of Gmail Paper arrives in a box at your doorstep, and it’s yours to keep forever. You can read it, sort it, search it, touch it. Or even move it to the trash—the real trash. (Recycling is encouraged.)

Keep it Secret, Keep it Safe Google takes privacy very seriously. But once your email is physically in your hands, it's as secure as you want to make it.

It's appropriate, I guess, that I rediscovered in a conversation last night with some friends and then another on IM with Jim Henley this morning that, much as I may imagine myself a wit, I'm sometimes too dense or humorless to get some jokes. I must have stared at that Gmail Paper explanation for a good two or three minutes as the thought formed in my mind, "Why...wouldn't...people...just print the stuff out on their printer?" Finally, it dawned on me, "Wait a minute....This coffe was only 61 cents, but...this is a joke!" Artfully done joke, too. Here's more.

Update (x2): Via the comments here [and, uh, now via the comments here, too], this is another, more clever Google prank.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

NMPA vs XM: another tale of copyright claims vs music listening

From page B3 of Friday, March 23's WSJ comes another example of copyright claims asserted in an effort to prevent consumers from listening to music and, likely, of those asserting the copyright ultimately behaving self-destructively.

The National Music Publishers Association, the article says, is suing XM Satellite Radio Holdings over XM receivers' XM+MP3 service, "which allows listeners to store songs they hear on XM and arrange them in playlists."

The NMPA suit claims that XM is thereby "unlawfully reproducing and distributing copyrighted music without paying appropriate royalties," but XM points out that it "pays royalties to writers and composers, who are also compensated by [the] device manufacturers. " The article also says
XM has contended that songs captured and stored on their receivers aren't true sales, in part because they stay on the radio only as long as the owner remains a subscriber; also they can't be moved...onto a computer or another music device. Legally, XM has said, the recordings are little different from those taped onto cassettes from the radio for personal use, which is permitted by law.

Actually, the two facts they note just before the mention of the cassette argument seems to indicate a marked difference between this and recording to cassettes--but a difference that's advantageous here to XM. Once I record a song off the radio onto a cassette tape, I have that recording indefinitely, possibly for years, without having to worry about maintaining any kind of connection to the corporate entity from which I recorded it. Moreover, I can play that tape in any cassette tape player owned by me or anyone else. There's a great deal more flexibility and less restriction to the use of the recording on a cassette tape. If that's legal, I'm not sure how NMPA can argue that XM's functionality with this has any less legality.

Apparently, the NMPA's disagreement entails "saying users get to use and store the songs recorded with the devices just as if they owned them." How? Given the restrictions XM described above, it's not clear at all how that is, and while there are two vague claims by the NMPA's president and CEO that the "devices go well transmission" and "replace the need to buy music," he gives no evidence at all, that the article quotes, for either those claims or the initial claim in this paragraph.

I think NMPA would probably like to see the whole situation continue but with them getting a lot of money out of it, but what if the suit were to drive XM to abandon the XM+MP3 service altogether? Not only would XM and their consumers lose, but so would the members of the NMPA--XM has pointed out that "the devices encourage its subscribers to buy songs they like, allowing them to bookmark favorites and facilitating digital sales with its partner Napster Inc.; buying the song allows users to transfer it to computers or other music players." If someone wants to play a saved song anywhere other than on the XM player itself, they have to buy it. And they will want to listen to it elsewhere, and they will therefore buy it, because they only stored it in the first place because they really like it a lot. The service is actually a terrific marketing tool to sell more songs, creating greater revenue for the NMPA members than if there were no XM+MP3.

I'm interested in arguments on behalf of the NMPA, but I'm pretty sure I really want XM to win this.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

E.G. Deadworry and The Toastrack Enigma

One of my part-time jobs at the University of Pittsburgh's Hillman Library is in a room that's considerably colder than much of the rest of the library. As I found my hands growing increasingly and unpleasantly colder, I decided the solution would be to wrap my hands around a nice, hot espresso. Conveniently, there is within the library a little coffee shop serving Starbucks products. When I ventured back to The Cup & Chaucer, though, I found there were six people in line ahead of me, so I'd need to wait a few minutes.

Waiting in line is always improved by some light reading, of course. Fortunately, the room that includes the coffee shop also houses the Alldred Collection, the library's principal selection of "contemporary fiction and popular non-fiction." Even from where I was standing in line, I could browse a decent number of titles, but most of them were thick novels of no interest to me. And then I noticed a little volume by Edward Gorey, The Haunted Tea-Cosy : A Dispirited And Distasteful Diversion For Christmas. This did the trick nicely. I noticed something that surprised me, though.

The edition I picked up showed a copyright date of 1997. "That's odd," I thought. "I had no idea Gorey was alive in 1997. From the little I've seen of his work, he's always struck me as having a perspective, however bizarre, that's stuck in about 1912. I'd imagined he lived from 1887 to 1964 or something." Naturally, when I returned to my desk, I looked on Wikipedia to see what it showed of his actual lifetime. It says he actually lived from 1925 to 2000. That's mighty interesting to me, especially considering that a guy I thought produced most of his work before the advent of television was apparently a big fan of Cheers and The X-Files.

Also of interest are some interesting points Wikipedia raises about Gorey's fondness for pseudonyms. "Gorey was very fond of word games," it says, "particularly anagrams. He wrote many of his books under pseudonyms that were usually anagrams of his own name (most famously "Ogdred Weary")." It goes on to list several of the anagrammatic pseudonyms he used, along with the works they accompanied. My favorite has to be "E. G. Deadworry," the author of The Awdrey-Gore Legacy. which is followed in the Wikipedia entry's list by "D. Awdrey-Gore" as another Gorey pseudonym, associated with the titles The Toastrack Enigma, The Blancmange Tragedy, The Postcard Mystery, The Pincushion Affair, The Toothpaste Murder, The Dustwrapper Secret. This is charmingly followed by the clarification "Note: These books, although attributed to Awdrey-Gore in Gorey's book, The Awdrey-Gore Legacy, were not really written."

That's brilliant. The Dustwrapper Secret and The Toothpaste Murder were imaginary books that Gorey pretended were written by his imaginary persona D. Awdrey-Gore in a book that he wrote under the pretend identity of the magnificently named E.G. Deadworry. I love it. This is so clever the author must have confused himself.

Further, the titles of the books he actually did write are often at least as cool as the ones he just wrote about his pretend self fictionally having written. I very much look forward to reading The Sopping Thursday, The Fatal Lozenge, The Deranged Cousins, and The Glorious Nosebleed. I am a bit concerned, though, that the actual works may be unable to quite live up to the high expectation set by such terrific titles.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

One little exception perhaps?

From the Post-Gazette's Super Bowl week coverage:

The Steelers shouldn't take it personally, but Bears kicker Robbie Gould hates them. Hates the Pirates, too. Again, it's nothing personal.

"My brother liked the [Miami] Dolphins growing up," Gould, a native of Lock Haven, Pa., and a Penn State graduate, told a throng of reporters yesterday. "So, I wanted to root for a team in the AFC East and I took the underdog [New England] Patriots."

Why not the Eagles?

"No, no," Gould said, "I hate every Pennsylvania team possible. Pirates, Phillies, you name it, Eagles, Steelers.

"I got tired of hearing Eagles and Steelers chants. I like to be unique. I like to be different. We started Dolphins chants and Patriots chants in Lock Haven."

He hates...every Pennsylvania team possible? College must have been a rough four years for him.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Well, that sounds appetizing.

New Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has selected former wide receivers coach Bruce Arians to be offensive coordinator.

A fan asks the Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette whether that's a wise pick:

PhillyMarty: Ed: What gives the Steelers reason to think Arians qualifies to be OC? During his 3-yr term in Cleveland, even the year they lost the playoff game to the Steelers, their offense was ranked 21st. The other years it was bottom six. I know you were not consulted, but do you agree with this promotion?

Ed Bouchette: Yes. Arians is qualified and it gives them some continuity. He made chicken salad out of chicken droppings in Cleveland.

What?? Salad made of....droppings? Dung salad? Ugh. That sounds terrible. No one wants any of that. Is that the kind of offense Bouchette's suggesting Arians may serve up? Crap salad?
Of course, maybe he was just catering to the tastes of connoisseurs of Cleveland cuisine.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Unless you count Terry Bradshaw, right?

ESPN has an excerpt up on its web site tonight from a book glorifying Tom Brady, which is fine. I like Tom Brady just fine. 21st century Joe Montana and all that. But let's not let the whole Joe Montana angle, enjoyable as it is, obscure our view of history. Author Charles P. Pierce includes this sentence in the excerpted passage of the book: "He's won three Super Bowls, more than any other professional quarterback except Joe Montana." Um...what? Forgetting about someone, maybe?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Cause for celebration.

From Slate magazine's recent consideration of what the new Borat movie gets right and wrong about the real Kazakhstan:
In Borat's Kazakhstan, popular sports include cow punching and "shurik, where we take dogs, shoot them in a field and then have a party." In reality, Kazakhs, like most of the world, prefer soccer. But they also like horsemanship, wrestling, and, occasionally, buzkashi (literally "grabbing the dead goat"). In this popular game (a precursor to polo), players on horseback try to control the "ball"—the headless carcass of a goat or sheep. Then they have a party.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Seriously, the web is much better with RSS.

I took a long time to start using an RSS reader. I'd see bloggers making reference to RSS, figure it was some technical thing that was beyond me, and ignore it. When I eventually realized how simple and convenient Bloglines is, it became my principal way of exploring the web.

It's terrific, of course, for being alerted to new stuf from sites that update frequently. But such alerts are at least as valuable if the site doesn't update regularly and you wouldn't know to expect new content. My friend Joel has a blog that he until recently updated as infrequently as I do this one. I'm not in the habit of reading his stuff, because his not in the habit of posting it, but I have had a subscription to his site's feed, which is generated automatically by Blogger. Consequently, when he posted something this week for the first time in months, I knew right away, even though I'd have never had motive to go looking there each day or even each week. I made this point in a comment there, and he sought clarification.

I'm ashamed that it's taken a couple of days to provide that clarification when I actually had an old e-mail lying around I could have tweaked and forwarded, but I wanted to dress it up a little to put it here in the hopes of edifying at least a couple more people besides Joel. I'd almost be ashamed that it's been almost two months since I last posted here, but, unlike the first year or so of this site's life, I'm actually really busy these days.

Anyway, here's a brief explanation of RSS for those unfamiliar with it. It's a slightly edited excerpt of an earlier e-mail on the topic I've sent to a couple other people.

RSS is wonderful stuff. Using an aggregator to subscribe to syndicated feeds from the blogs and other web sites I follow regularly, I can see all their new posts and articles from one central program (in the case of a web-based aggregator such as Bloglines, it's one central web site) without having to check back to see if they've updated.

For instance, I want to read every new thing Radley Balko posts at The Agitator, but I don't want to keep going back there all the time if there's nothing new. Because I subscribe to his site's feed, Bloglines puts his site's name (and those of other updated sites) in bold with a number in parentheses after it of how many new posts there have been since I last clicked on the listing for it under "My Feeds." When I click on it, it shows me just the new items. I can read the whole entry there (for most sites, though not all) and/or choose to click through to the actual web page for that item.

This Slate article explains it better than I can. This is also a helpful article. There are a lot of different RSS-reader programs, but I find two advantages with Bloglines. First, it's free, unlike several others. Second, it's just really convenient to use. With a "Subscribe with Bloglines" toolbar button, you can very quickly and conveniently add subscriptions from any site you're viewing that has a feed. You can see my subscriptions here for an example. There are no parenthetical numbers reflecting updates that way because it only tracks what's been viewed already if you're logged in to your account, but you can, by clicking on a blog title there, see how the content appears from the feed.

It all works a whole lot better if you use Firefox and its tabbed browing, I can tell you that. If you're still using Internet Explorer, you really should get Firefox. Joel's seen me wearing the T-shirt enough times, I think, that he ought to know by now. But let me just try to make this clear for everyone. There are a lot of reasons listed on the Firefox site to start using it, but the tabbed browsing alone makes it worth it. I rarely simply left-click on links anymore, right-clicking instead and choosing "Open Link in New Tab." I can toggle back and forth then between large numbers of different web sites much more conveniently than if I had multiple browser windows open. It's easy to download and easy to install.

Afterward, it's easy to start up a Bloglines account and start subscribing to feeds from your favorite web sites. For instance, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, or this.

Oh, and anyone who's clicked onto Joel's site and is wondering why he's invented this word, "Rhetorantical," I have a couple of theories, but my favorite is that just as I learned the hard way not to blog drunk, he's learned the same about blog creation.

Quick update: In case anyone might be confused, you don't need to have your own blog to have a Bloglines account. Just so we're clear on that.

Friday, August 18, 2006

It's so obvious once it's pointed out.

It's not a substantiated news item but an anecdote. Still, Eugene Volokh of the eponymous blog seems a pretty credible guy. Yesterday, I saw this from him:
An acquaintance of mine (whom I've always found quite reliable) reports that when she sought out an egg donor, one candidate donor — a woman who was past the age of majority, and in fact in graduate school — was disqualified by the agency involved because she was ... a virgin. The theory, I take it, is that somehow the lack of sexual experience made it harder to maturely make the egg donation decision, though that sounds pretty odd to me. (The acquaintance stressed that the disqualification was the agency's choice, not her own.)

Perhaps there was something lost in the translation, but, as I said, my source was quite credible. Nothing illegal here, just interesting.
In the comments on that post, many people kicked around various ideas about the reasoning behind such a decision. One person, though, made the most of the moment:

Clearly religious. They want to avoid creating a virgin mother.

Comedy gold.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Would that we all had such a gift

Say what you will about Tim Cavanaugh—he does have a real knack for clever titles on his blog posts.

(See here if clarification is required.)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

When to Ignore Public Support

According to reports today, a federal judge has overturned the Maryland law that "required Wal-Mart to spend 8 percent of its payroll in the state on medical benefits...or pay the difference in taxes."

From Dow Jones Market Watch:
In reversing the act, federal Judge J. Frederick Motz wrote that the law imposes "legally cognizable injury" upon the world's largest retailer because it would have required Wal-Mart to track and fund benefits for its Maryland employees in a different manner than its other U.S. employees, according to his opinion accompanying the ruling. Wal-Mart insures about 1 million people nationwide.

Motz also wrote that the law violated the "fundamental purpose" of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or ERISA, that permits multi-state employers to keep national health and welfare plans, provide uniform nationwide benefits and permit uniform national administration.
Groups opposing Wal-Mart were critical of the decision, of course. That's to be expected. What I object to here was a view conveyed by one of the comments in their reaction. A statement from the group "WakeUpWalMart" varyingly attributed to Paul Blank, campaign director, and to Chris Kofinis, spokesman, includes the comment, "The District Court's decision, unfortunately, ignores legal and public support for requiring large, profitable corporations to pay their fair share for health care."

Now, "legal support" could mean a few different things. Do they mean legal precedent from earlier court cases? Do they mean the Maryland law itself? Do they mean their own group's lawyers' opinions of the validity of that law? It's unclear.

"Public support," though, seems pretty plain. And whatever position any of us may take on the desirability of laws requiring corporations to pay for their employees' health care, the group's contention that it's "unfortunate" that the judge's decision ignored public opinion is perverse and disturbing. It isn't the judge's role to be influenced by what the public supports or opposes. It is simply to adhere to the law, as passed by state legislatures or Congress, derived from judicial precedent, or laid out in the Constitution itself, and to reconcile these as necessary.

A judge deciding cases based on perceived public support would be usurping the role of the legislative branch. The effect of that is to devalue the importance of the legislative branch and, consequently, to diminish the democratic process and ultimately the power of the public to play an effective role in lawmaking. That WakeUpWalMart thinks it unfortunate not to see this occuring indicates, whatever their views on health care, they don't think much of democracy.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

BSFUC: Back to square one?

Unfortunately, it looks as though I won't get to read the rest of the Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children any time soon after all. On the other hand, I wasn't expecting to at all before last spring. So perhaps I can sweep away the disappointment by simply dialing back my expectations a year or so on this.

On the bright side, I have gotten to meet the author (well, you know, over the web), which is pretty awesome.

Last year, I wrote on this blog of my excitement at the appearance of the scans of all the BSFUC issues and then my disappointment at their disappearance. This year, I wrote of my excitement at the prospect of publication of a BSFUC anthology, and now it's necessary to note my disappointment at the collapse postponement of that plan.

Since the delinquent beginning of my involvement last fall with Dave and Dan's message board, I've kept an eye on it pretty regularly. What I didn't watch, though, was another page on the BSFUC site called BSFUC Nation. Naturally, that's where the devious Dave dished on the deal's demise.
Unfortunately, the would-be publisher went bankrupt soon after coming into contact with us, and now the deal is off. Good to know that our reverse Midas touch is still intact!
I noticed this only after, Spring having come and gone, I e-mailed him and asked what the word was on the anthology, and he pointed out that the deal fell through a while ago and he'd already posted on it.

"Hmmmm?" I grunted, in my best confused Scooby-Doo voice, and remembered the BSFUC Nation page. The trouble is he updates that page pretty much quarterly. It's one of the same reasons people don't follow this blog. They can't have any reasonable expectation of finding new content from one day to the next. (Well, that and my navel-gazing bores them.)

The solution, of course, to keeping up to date without needing to check back to a site all the time is RSS. I didn't think BSFUC Nation had an RSS feed, though, but I can't even tell anymore, because all I know is now I'm subscribed to an update feed for it I made with RSSPECT, a service from Ryan North (of Dinosaur Comics!) that can create feeds for any site. So now I should stay up to speed on that, at least. You can tell I know what the important things are in life.

So, anyway, the point is despite my earlier announcement, there was no Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children anthology this spring, nor this summer, and while Dave remains confident it will happen, we are left without anything concrete. Just so we're clear on that. Stay tuned, and give him and Dan support that they might be able to use to entice publishers.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The only spot you can park in is any of them.

When's the only time this parking lot is for bank customers?

Only always. That's all.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

It's good that she's wary.

Peter Lynn has a section in his sidebar entitled "What People Are Saying About Peter Lynn" filled with not only the ample praise he's received in comments and on the web elsewhere from readers but also the insults and outright denunciations.

The praise outweighs the criticism, but some fun highlights of the latter are

"... you almost come across as human in that story! Well done!"
"You're hated around the office, aren't you?"
"Your misery brightens my day - thank you."
"Why do you insist on ruining everything?"
"... we're no longer friends, after your gross calumny and slander on manvsclown."

He's described these to me as "strangely satisfying."

I don't plan on copying the feature, but I can certainly identify with the satisfaction that comes from people recognizing and responding to what we write. Also with the element of that satisfaction that comes from the perceptiveness evident sometimes in a less enthusiastic view. Skepticism, at least.

I personally provoke little comment or opinion with my bland and infrequent remarks here. This site is such a meager little effort that most of the visitors are hapless Googlers querying on crustaceans, BSFUC, and Equifax vice-presidents. Generally they return whence they came with nary a word, and so I tend to take for granted that the only people who hold any thought of this blog as a whole are a few of my friends and some some scattered bloggers elsewhere.

Of course, there was a time when the scope of folks I presumed to intentionally read this stuff didn't inclulde those bloggers, and I was happily surprised to discover I'd made an impression. The happy novelty of that kind of surprise hasn't worn off yet.

This morning I noticed an unfamiliar site in the referral log and, checking it out, was all too flattered by the description of me therein. It's really cool to have complete strangers appear out of nowhere and announce that I'm "very witty." That really made my morning. "I'm 'very witty,'" I'd say to myself, doing stuff around the apartment.

Also, it's a compliment to my approach with some topics, I think, that she calls me "exhaustive."

"Not exhausting," she clarifies, then qualifies that: "Well, not yet."

Some people have more patience than others, but I think it's smart of her to be prepared.

Just wait. You'll get there.