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March 30, 2007
Haven't we already heard more than enough about Clinton's sex life?
Fool And His Money II
The Queen and I chat:
The Queen: Your post about the Susan B. Anthony coins was pretty funny.
The Bad Review Revue
Black Snake Moan: "Maybe [Samuel L.] Jackson should avoid any more movies with 'snake' in the title." -- Peter Rainer, CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR
I Think I Love My Wife: "Attaching Chris Rock to I Think I Love My Wife is like chaining a Kentucky Derby winner to the merry-go-round in a petting zoo." -- Lawrence Toppman, CHARLOTTE OBSERVER
300: "Should have been called Ode to a Grecian Ab." -- Michael Phillips, CHICAGO TRIBUNE
Arthur and the Invisibles: "This kids' cartoon from France is such a surreally demented attempt to connect with children that it's the equivalent of foie gras breakfast cereal or a bleu cheese milkshake." -- Kyle Smith, NEW YORK POST
The Hills Have Eyes II: "The only folks jumping out of their seats were the ones going for a drink refill." -- Michael Rechtshaffen, HOLLYWOOD REPORTER
Premonition: "I have a strong premonition I'm about to give this movie a big thumbs down." -- Richard Roeper, EBERT & ROEPER, AT THE MOVIES
March 29, 2007
Is everyone clear on the specifics of the US Attorney debacle, or should I do another Scandal Cheatsheet, as I did with the Plame Investigation? I was talking with some co-workers earlier today and surprised to discover that they didn't really have any clear idea what was going on; now I'm wondering if that's true of most normal people (i.e., those who, unlike me, don't obsessively follow political blogs).
In the comments, please let me know if you'd like a primer, if you don't feel the need for a primer, or if you are so uninterested in the whole thing that you wouldn't read a primer even if I wrote it. Thanks.
Update: People clearly need / want a primer, so now I ask that you use the comments to put specific questions you'd like addressed (e.g., "I don't understand is how this is news -
Update2: The primer will appear Monday in The Morning News. Keep those questions coming.
March 28, 2007
March Madness Sweeps Innsmouth
Rates of clinical psychosis have skyrocketed amongst the residents of Innsmouth, Massachusetts over the last two weeks, says Wingate Peaslee, professor of psychology at Miskatonic University. "We see this every year," said Peaslee, "'March Madness,' as we call it--characterized by religious fervor, hydrophilia, and compulsive chanting--typically sets in around the spring equinox, and continues until Walpurgisnacht." The people of the malodorous and ill-shrouded coastal village tell a different story, though, attributing their exuberant behavior to the upcoming, semi-annual festival. "WOOHOO, Dagon's going all the way this year!" exclaimed Barnabas Marsh. "Cthulhu fhtagn, baby!" Others, however, were more skeptical of the hometown hero's chances. "I dunno," slurred Zadok Allen, "Shub-Niggurath fieldin a gud team, whut with her thousand young an' all. We'll be lucky to mak'it past the Eldritch Eight." Though gambling is illegal in Massachusetts, it is estimated that several thousand dollars worth of queer foreign jewelry, and the year's entire fish harvest, are riding on the outcome.
(Related: The LiveJournal of Zachary Marsh.)
March 27, 2007
And His SideKick Rear-Admiral Bucky
Email about the Captain America retrospective:
My understanding is that a person is most properly addressed by the highest office they have held, even after they retire, unless they have taken a different post that calls for a newer, if lower, title. The only exception is Royalty, who get complicated mixed titles.Duly noted.
March 26, 2007
More Odorous Than A Flowering Gardenia
I'm actually kind of impressed by how many ways this offends me.
Curmudgeon: With crap like this on the market, I'm beginning to think Marx had a point.
Father: I'm going to pass on having my three year-old son smell like musk, thanks.
Nerd: Superman is DC, not Marvel! Dude, don't even talk to me if you can't keep your comic book universes straight.
March 23, 2007
Captain America: A Retrospective
Notable events from a fallen hero's career:
Early 1940's: Fought Nazis.
1945-1960: Frozen in block of ice
1963: Assembled team of metahumans to fight threats too large for any single superhero to handle alone.
1964: Changed name of superhero team from "Jethro Tull" to "The Avengers" after trademark dispute.
1967: Deterred Galactus by telling him about delicious planet called Krypton.
1969: Teamed up with Sub-Mariner, Fantastic Four, and X-Men to buy some schwag, crash Woodstock.
1970-1973: Temporarily relocated after being drafted for the Vietnam War; renamed self "Corporal Canada."
1978: Brought "stagflation" under control by sharply increasing interest rates to reduce money supply.
1981: Ended Iranian Hostage Crisis and secured the release of 52 Americans with the help of delicious Hostess fruit pies.
1983: Admitting to drinking "a few wine coolers" prior to Quinjet / Challenger collision.
1992: Pardoned by Bush for his role in the Skrull-Contra Affair.
1995: Finished Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island without using a walkthrough.
1997: Hooked Clinton up with some She-Hulk action.
1999: Founded Metafilter.
2000: Awarded Congressional Medal of Honor for tracking down and killing "The Baha Men" after release of Who Let The Dogs Out?
2003: Located and removed all weapons of mass destruction from Iraq before invasion. Meant to tell President, but forgot.
2006: Won Tour de France (later disqualified after testing positive for super-soldier serum).
Throughout his career: Adhered to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy by keeping his relationship with The Punisher on the down-low.
March 22, 2007
Well, let's try this ...
Continuing my habit of adopting trends five years after they are in fashion, I've started a linkblog.
It's over there in the right sidebar (--->), and the xml feed is available here.
March 21, 2007
Every Dog Has Its Day
More Peace Corps adventures recounted today in The Morning News: Every Dog Has Its Day.
CHENEY: Not so tough now, are you? Answer me! Oh, you want some too, bitch?!
SECRETARY: John Poindexter is here to see you.
CHENEY: Tell him I'm out.
SECRETARY: I tried that, sir, but he can smell the brimstone.
CHENEY: Bah! Send him in.
POINDEXTER: Heeeeeeeeeeeeeey, Doctor Doom! Howz'it--
CHENEY: SILENCE, MINION! A, I told you never to call me that again. B, you have thirty seconds, five of which you squandered on the "hey."
CHENEY: You may begin. Twenty seconds.
POINDEXTER: Well, look, just wanted to tell you about a new National Security idea I cooked up last night. Oh man, this one is a doozy.
CHENEY: Dexter, your last idea--the future's market where people would bet on upcoming terrorist attacks--wasn't exactly a barnburner. And we're still dealing with the fallout from the whole wiretapping boondoggle. So I'm afraid we're going to have to pass.
POINDEXTER: Wait! My new plan would egregiously violate the civil rights of countless Americans!!
CHENEY: Okay, I'm intrigued.
POINDEXTER: Imagine this: a mechanism that would track the activities of thousands of Internet users. Where they go, what they're doing, who they see--everything.
CHENEY: We've had that for years, knucklehead. We collect IP addresses, sent emails, site logs, the works.
POINDEXTER: Sure, of course. But I'm talking about a system that would keep tabs on Internet users when they are not online, while they are walking around in the real world.
CHENEY: Hmm. I like the way you think, Dex, but I'm afraid that idea is pretty much DOA. We got a Democratic congress now, and there's no way they'll allow us to amend the PATRIOT ACT to allow it.
POINDEXTER: Ah, but that's the best part. The program would be entirely voluntarily!
CHENEY: Why would anyone voluntarily reveal information about their everyday activities?
POINDEXTER: Oh, you know: we'll just say the whole thing is some kind of Web 2.0 Social Networking website. We'll use lots of pastel colors, cutsie icons. Call it "Trackr" or "Twitter" or something. Trust me, Doctor D.: the hipster and early adopters will eat, it, up!
March 20, 2007
Email from my conservative buddy Duane, with whom I maintain relations so I can credibly claim to have at least one conservative friend:
To: MatthewI've previously made my views on Al Gore known here, but I loves me a horrible pun.
Hard Habit To Break
Damn it--I'm still writing "Fourth Year of the Iraq War" on my checks.
March 19, 2007
Guess who had a grrrrreat weekend!
No, seriously, take a guess. Go ahead.
Wha-? "Morgan Freeman"? No, I ... how the hell would I know what kind of weekend Morgan Freeman had? And why would I be writing about his weekend on my blog?
Look, I'm going to just tell you, because you don't appear to be very good at this game. The correct answer was "me." Next time, you know, think a little before answering.*
Anyway, weekend. Let's recap, shall we?
Friday: Went to see Bitter:Sweet at the Triple Door. If you get a chance to see them in concert, do so. It's like having sex for an hour.
Saturday: The Queen and I went to Ye Olde Timey Rustic Bed 'N' Breakfast, located in North Bend (a.k.a. "Twin Peaks"), to celebrate our sixth wedding anniversary. We stayed in a small cabin just off the Snoqualmie River, decorated in an aggressively bear-centric motif. Not recommended for Stephen Colbert, salmon, or anyone else with crippling ursaphobia.
While there, our status as The Last People On Earth Without Cell Phones was reaffirmed. The cabins themselves lacked telephones, but the information card said we were welcome to use the proprietor's phone. I hiked down to the main office and knocked on the door, which was answered by the elderly gentleman that runs the B&B:
Proprietor: Well hello, there! What can I do you for?
Saturday: Hiked up Mount Rainier. Well, okay--actually it was Mount Si. ALL RIGHT IT WAS JUST "LITTLE SI" ARE YOU HAPPY NOW?
And where was Squiggle during all of this excitement? Safely ensconced in the home of Ma and Pa Baldwin, where he was stuffed to the rafters with cookies and Maisy videos. We are currently putting him through detox, and have put him on a strict diet of parsnips and the films of Lars von Trier.
* I had just finished writing the first paragraph of this entry (and had not yet post it) when I got an IM from Sarah Brown:
Sarah: Okay, I know everyone jokes like, "Oh, I laughed so hard I spat?" But that link you sent me made me spit all over my nice clean computer.
March 16, 2007
The Squirrelly is inexplicably three. I have no idea how that happened. It's as if time were some sort of nonspatial continuum in which events occur in irreversible succession from the past through to the future, or something.
And while "The Squirrelly" suited him well when he was an infant and toddler, a more dignified blogonym seems appropriate for someone of such a wizened old age.
And so fair readers, I give you "Squiggle."
Though he will, of course, continue to maintain his secret identity.
In the year and a half since Squiggle was diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), he has been averaging about 25 hours of therapy a week, the bulk of which is Applied Behavior Analysis. He has made great strides, thanks to an incredible team of professionals who work with him five days a week. His eye contact, for instance, has improved immeasurably, as has his response to his name. This is fairly incredible when you consider that these two symptoms--the earliest hallmarks of ASD--were the most obvious manifestations of his condition when he was diagnosed at the age of eighteen months.
These days, his most noticeable deficiencies are in the area of expressive language. While he will ask for things he desires ("want Booty" is a common utterance in our household, and not just by me), usually say "hello," "goodbye," "good morning," and "good night" unprompted, and occasionally point things out to us ("that's a truck!"), he's not much of a conversationalist. He seems to have taken his father's aversion to chit-chat to it's logical conclusion. Unfortunately, this makes it difficult for us to know, at any given time, what he wants or how he's doing. We can usually deduce his needs, but he doesn't exactly spell them out.
Which is kind of ironic, given his obsession with spelling. (The kind with letters--not Tori Spelling, thank god). We suspect there may be a touch of hyperlexia in the mix. He learned his alphabet quite early; he wrote his first word at 2 1/2:
(That, by the way, is what he does when you request that he "smile for the camera." :| )
He has a special affinity for writing As and Es. We will sometime find them scrawled, in erasable crayon, on a cabinet and doors, occurrences we have come to attribute to "The Mad Voweler."
His current favorite toy is the Superman Laptop, which is no surprise they apparently used the Autism Society of America as their focus group for market testing. ("I like it, but it needs more buttons, bee-boop noises, and letters.").
"I'm Superman!" says the toy, in a voice completely unlike any actor who has ever portrayed Superman in any medium. "Can you help me find the W?" Squiggle presses the correct key, and the toys crows, "Good job!" It's cool that Squiggle likes it so much, but it makes me kind of sad. I grew up thinking of Superman as a role model, someone faster than a speeding bullet and faster than a locomotive; my son will grow up think of him as someone so helpless that he has to enlist the aid of toddlers to find the "F" on a keyboard.
* * *
The question of his cognitive abilities is a tricky one, unfortunately. He's maxed out some tests; on others he falls on the low end of average. As with most attempts to quantify intelligence, the results largely depend on what specific skills they are measuring and how they elicit his responses. And, obviously, his disinclination to express himself verbally complicates any assessment.
We are currently considering our schooling options. Our hope is to eventually enroll him in a FEAT (Families for Effective Autism Treatment) preschool--in which a mix of ASD and neurotypical kids share a classroom--but their services are highly sought after, and there is a considerable waiting list. In the meantime we will likely have him attend a regular preschool a few times a week, accompanied by a therapist who will help facilitate his learning and integration. Squiggle has attended music class for years (one class a week--not continuously), and does well in group settings, so we think he will fair well (and possibly thrive) in a classroom setting.
* * *
Though much has changed in the last year and a half, one thing remains constant: Squiggle has the most delightful disposition you are ever likely to encounter. Seriously, the kid could charm the pants off of another pair of pants. We recently received a thoroughly objective, dispassionate, and clinical assessment on his progress from the University of Washington, and, even here, the psychologist couldn't help but describe Squiggle as "endearing" and "sweet." This seems to be the consensus opinion, shared by everyone who interacts with him (except for our cats, who still view him as Monkey the Napwrecker*).
(* Gunning for the 2008 "Most Nickname-Intensive Post" Webbie Award, here ...)
Raising an autistic child is frequently frustrating and often exhausting, but it also brings it's own rewards. In many respects it is like watching a foreign movie: sometimes you feel like you don't have enough context to understand everything that is happening, but you appreciate that you are seeing a story completely different from the conventional narrative.
Squiggle is different than typical kids, but that's okay. If he weren't, he wouldn't be the son we love so much.
March 12, 2007
March 09, 2007
Will Wonders Never Cease?
Overheard at the aquarium: "The amazing thing about otters is how waterproof they are."
A Selection Of Articles "Speedy Deleted" from Wikipedia in February 2007
February 1: Ball Sweat
February 2: Fiction Deaths
February 3: Assorted Bargains
February 4: Chinese muslims studying overseas
February 6: Fog pump
February 7: Air Poo
February 8: Influence of Music
February 9: Ultramaterialism
February 11: Saturday (Carpenters song)
February 12: Random Article
February 13: Temple of the Jedi Order (Real)
February 14: Clown Suit
February 15: FIFA World Cup 2022
February 16: Characters in Sonic Riders 2
February 17: Scouting in Greater Manchester East
February 18: Jabba and slaves
February 19: Goatsurfing
February 22: Medieval crimes and punsih ment
February 23: Dark Super sonic the hedgehog
February 24: Workin Title (Myspace Comedy Series)
February 25: Cheesemonger
February 26: Straid Lazed
February 27: Ape jazz
February 28: Pewter Report (magazine)
March 08, 2007
Fool And His Money
Coworker One: The vending machine is giving out Susan B. Anthony coins.
Coworker two: Mm?
Coworker One: Yeah. I put in a five, and got four of these back as change. It usually gives you those Sacagawea coins--I've never seen it give Susan B's before.
Coworker two: I've never seen a Susan B. Anthony coin in my life.
Coworker One: Really? Here, take a look.
Coworker two: Thanks.
Coworker One: You can go ahead and keep it, if you want.
Coworker two: Okay, cool.
Coworker One: Hey, wait a minute: I just gave you a dollar.
March 07, 2007
If you see this, walk briskly in the opposite direction:
I've played a few PopCap titles in the past, but only the demos--I'm a notorious skinflint when it comes to shelling out cash for computer games. Still, I wanted to support my friend in her new endeavor, so I bought this one.
DO NOT DO THIS!! This game is to free time what whales are to krill. Even now, as I type this, I am trying to resist the urge to go play a few rounds (and my resolve has already faltered a few times since I wrote the first paragraph).
If this game were half as addictive, I would urge you to buy a copy; as it stands, I'm afraid I cannot, in good conscience, recommend Peggle to anyone who has a spouse, a child, a friend, a job, or reservations about wearing astronaut diapers to avoid ever having to leave the PC.
March 06, 2007
In this article from the NY Times, Anthropologist Scott Atran argues that humans are hardwired to believe in the supernatural--a contention I agree with, despite the fact that I'm an atheist myself. But here's an anecdote Atran cites as proof:
[Atran's] research interests include cognitive science and evolutionary biology, and sometimes he presents students with a wooden box that he pretends is an African relic."If you have negative sentiments toward religion," he tells them, "the box will destroy whatever you put inside it." Many of his students say they doubt the existence of God, but in this demonstration they act as if they believe in something. Put your pencil into the magic box, he tells them, and the nonbelievers do so blithely. Put in your driver's license, he says, and most do, but only after significant hesitation. And when he tells them to put in their hands, few will.It seems pretty obvious to me what they are afraid of: a painful electric shock and the sudden appearance of Ashton Kutcher bellowing "YOU GOT RELIC'D!!"
Under these circumstances, I, too, would be be wary of the professor's convoluted reassurances as to the safety of the box. That's called skepticism, not faith.
The 2008 presidential race is as engrossing as "Mile two" of the Boston Marathon. "Oh my goodness, Giuliani has pulled within 30 feet of McCain. With only 24.1 miles to go, this has turned into a real nail-biter!"
Presidential campaigns are always ridiculous, but, nearly two years before the actual election, this one has already taken absurdity to a whole dumber level. The latest fashion in manufactured outrage is Candidate A demanding that Candidate B apologize for remarks made by Idiot C.
It's a trap, of course. If Obama apologizes for one of his donor's remarks, then he'll have to apologize for the remarks of all of them. If Romney denounces Coulter's latest comment, he is, in effect, saying "Coulter speaks for me, except in this isolated incident."
Several prominent bloggers, on both the left and the right, have made careers of reprinting the stupidest thing ever written by someone on the other side (usually the 113th comment, by someone named "TrueAmericanPatriot71," in a thread on freerepublic.com or democraticunderground.com) and saying "OMG this is what everyone who disagrees with us believes!!!" This practice appears to have percolated upward.
People said that blogging would transform politics. That prediction looks to be coming true.
CRITICS SAY US ATTORNEY FIRINGS POLITICALLY MOTIVATED
I was going to write a Sternly-Worded Email to NPR over a news story they ran last Thursday, but I can't seem to scare up the audio on their website (apparently "Top of the Hour" newscasts aren't publicly archived), which means that I have to recreate the offending passage from memory. And as my memory has more holes that 80's-era acid-washed jeans, my letter would basically come down to "I'd like to call your attention to piece of NPR reporting I have largely fabricated that MADE ME SO ANGRY!!"
Fortunately, I have a place for my wildly inaccurate and unreasonable screeds. It's called a "weblog," or, for short, my "eblo."
Anyway, on a story on the fired attorneys, the reporter said (something to the effect of):
Administration officials claim that that the attorneys were all dismissed for performance-related reasons; Democrats in Congress, however, say that six of the eight fired attorneys had recently received favorable evaluations."Nnnnnrrrrgh! This drives me crazy!
Dear NPR: Did six of the eight fired attorneys recently receive favorable evaluations, or is this just something the Democrats in Congress "say"? If you don't know, why not do a little research and find out? If you know this to be true, (and you do, if you read the New York Times), why not state this as a fact?
Well, nothing new there.
Ohhh, Hillary Clinton ...
March 02, 2007
The Cliche Rotation Project
7/16: The next round of the Cliche Rotation Project is going on now. Submit your entry here.
Rosecrans and I had a weird moment of Baldwinicity last month, as we were both struck by essentially the same idea at the time. I called on my readers to participate in The Cliche Rotation Project, a drive to replace old and worn out sayings with new ones of roughly equivalent meaning. A few days later, Rosecrans unveiled the Contest for Total Idioms, in which readers of The Morning News were asked to submit newly minted proverbs and adages.
Well, the winners of the Contest for Total Idioms were announced today. So it seems only fitting that I published some submissions in the CRP as well.
I got lots and lots of entries, but have narrowed this batch down to 30. I think this might become a reoccurring feature, though, so you'll see some of the rest later. And you shouldn't hesitate to send new ones to email@example.com.
So: out with the old and in with the new! Or, as I like to say, let's shed skin and slither in style.
Update: Theresa writes:
Some time ago, my brother-in-law decided to teach my daughter, N., the phrase, "That dog don't hunt," to be used after any sentence that had a lie or tall tale included in it. N. used it quite often at first and even would ask me to make up some untrue statement just so she could respond with, "That dog don't hunt!". Having a three year old armed with this phrase and knowing when to use it was a great ice breaker and/or party trick. The phrase eventually wore out of it newness and was not used. Recently, N. and I were visiting a friend, and when someone made a random, nonsensical comment, N. responded with, "That spoon don't scoop!" My jaw dropped and I had to ask her, "Where did you learn that?" and she responded, "I made it up!" Either she is pretty darn smart or a pretty darn good liar...That dog don't hunt, N.!Yeah, along with the kid activities Heather previous classified here as "cute the first time, obnoxious the 65,000,000,000th," add "using a catchphrase." I taught The Squirrelly to use the phrase "down the hatch!" when eating. Hilarity ensued--until he started bellowing it before every forkful of Veggie Dog during every single meal. That's a cliche in dire need of rotation.
The Bad Review Revue
The Hitcher: "All thumbs." -- Desson Thomson, WASHINGTON POST
The Messengers: "A screenplay that has the sophistication and complexity of a college dorm message board." -- Tirdad Derakhshani, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER
Epic Movie: "Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer must be stopped. For the last two years, this filmmaking team has created a series of spoof movies so feeble, shoddy and unfunny that they may be part of a diabolical, Manchurian Candidate-like plot to stunt the intellectual development of American adolescents." -- Jason Anderson, THE GLOBE AND MAIL
Because I Said So: "Not so much phoned in as it is auto-dialed with a text-to-speech prerecorded message in one of those creepy robotic voices." -- Carina Chocano, LOS ANGELES TIMES
Norbit: "If I thought hijacking a plane carrying prints of the film and crashing it into [Eddie] Murphy's house would put a stop to it, I'd go out and buy a box cutter right now." -- Pete Vonder Haar, FILM THREAT
Blood and Chocolate: "Werewolf flick that seems to have used up its entire special-effects budget on canine contact lenses." -- Kyle Smith, NEW YORK POST
Ghost Rider: "All the sugar-injected horsepower of a 6-year-old on a Big Wheel. " -- Marc Savlov, Austin Chronicle
The Number 23: "Grips hold of one stupid idea and runs so far with it, in so many directions, to such little purpose, that it nearly won me over from sheer berserkoid effort." -- Nathan Lee, VILLAGE VOICE
March 01, 2007
Odds and Ends