Monday, May 31, 2004

Cat Expansion


The cat easily transforms from the relaxed, compact "closed" position to the more intimidating "open" position. Posted by Hello

I'll get right on that


A friend of mine took this picture of a sign in Nepal. The English part says,"God, pig and snack whicn are not cooperative stop it." Posted by Hello

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Festival

In Japan, there's always something big going on. It's Kanamara Matsuri. (From Schoolgirl Sophistry)

Peony With Hidden Snake


Peony from my garden. I took this photo a few minutes ago. I like the way this turned out; it is overcast here with a light misting of rain, which made the background very dark. 

The middle of this image looks kind of like a snake sticking out its tongue. I didn't notice that while taking the photo, but now it seems to jump out at me.Posted by Hello

Friday, May 28, 2004

Evolution of a word

When I was younger, we called the type of sandals that keep falling off because they are designed really badly "thongs." But a thong now usually means one of these, so those sandals get called flip flops to avoid confusion. But Gucci makes flip flops and calls them thongs. I'm so confused. The worst part is that I actually think the Gucci flip flops look cool. I must be going mad.

The Online Etymology Dictionary (via Debbie) says:
thong - O.E. Ć¾wong "thong," from P.Gmc. *thwangaz, from a root meaning "to restrain." As a kind of sandal, first attested 1967; as a kind of bikini briefs, 1990s.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Blogger Comments

I'm switching to the Blogger commenting system instead of the external system I was using before. The drawback is that the old comments will no longer be visible, but the page will load faster.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Has anyone ever won a war on terror?

Has there ever been a country, anywhere in the world, at any time in history, that won a war on terror? I mean a country that could legitimately say, "yes, we had a big problem with terrorists, but we fought them, and we won, and the terrorist threat went away."

If so, what did they do? How did they win?

If not, then . . . uh . . . drat.
Fight Club Jr. should be a South Park episode.

Poppy from my garden by the front door. Posted by Hello

More "flower porn": a rose from my garden. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

My first iMix

Agent Bond, James Bond

Today's New York Times article about Abu Ghraib prison abuses explains a rather odd incident:
The memorandum criticizing the practice of keeping prisoners off the roster was signed by Col. Thomas M. Pappas, commander of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, and a James Bond, who is identified as "SOS, Agent in Charge." Military and intelligence officials said that they did not know of a Mr. Bond who had been assigned to Abu Ghraib, and that it was possible that the name was an alias.

An intelligence official said Monday that he could not confirm the authenticity of the document, and that neither "SOS" or "Agent in Charge" was terminology that the C.I.A. or any other American intelligence agency would use. A military official said he believed that the document was authentic and was issued on or about Jan. 12, two days before abuses at Abu Ghraib involving military police were brought to the attention of Army investigators.

Let me get this straight . . . military and intelligence officials somehow suspect that "Agent James Bond" might be an alias? And who figured that out, Colonel Ben Dover? Quick, get this guy on the case!

Portland motorcycle police on SW Broadway, across the street from the Benson, providing security for John Kerry's visit. Posted by Hello

Monday, May 24, 2004

Sunday, May 23, 2004

I wrote a new review of the graphic novel Cats Don't Exist over at LHLS.

The return of MP3.com

MP3.com is finally back, but if you liked the old site, you may be confused at first by the new version. If you want free downloads of tracks by independent artists, you really want to go to music.download.com instead of the main mp3.com page.

Recommended

Rap: RIP Family
Alt Country: Manda Clair
Rock: The Travoltas
Rock: theSTART

"Tiny," one of my two cats. Posted by Hello

Iron Monkey's Rules of Qualifiers

1. In public statements, if a qualifying phrase could have multiple possible meanings, it almost always has the meaning least favorable to the speaker.

When someone says he finished "in the top ten," this technically could mean he finished #1, but it doesn't. If a car manufacturer says the car is the best "in its class" at something, the class in question could be "the class of all cars," but it isn't. A product that costs "under $1000" could cost $19.95, but it doesn't.

2. In public statements, qualifying phrases never occur by chance, but only by necessity.

He who says "I have never been an accessory to murder . . . on a weekday" must have had an interesting weekend.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Stanislav Petrov, the Guy Who Didn't Push the Button

It's right out of a movie trailer. The deep, booming voice-over intones: "The only thing that can prevent the end of civilization . . . is one man!" Unrealistic? Sure. Except for this one guy: Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov. In 1983, he saw an alarm that said the U.S. had launched a nuclear missile at the U.S.S.R.

Colonel Petrov recalls that fateful night when alarms went off and the early warning computer screens were showing a nuclear attack launched by the United States. "I felt as if I'd been punched in my nervous system. There was a huge map of the States with a U.S. base lit up, showing that the missiles had been launched."

For several minutes Petrov held a phone in one hand and an intercom in the other as alarms continued blaring, red lights blinking, and the computers reporting that U.S. missiles were on their way. In the midst of this horrific chaos and terror, the prospect of the end of civilization itself, Petrov made an historic decision not to alert higher authorities, believing in his gut and hoping with all that is sacred, that contrary to what all the sophisticated equipment was reporting, this alarm was an error.


And since it was in fact a false alarm, he prevented a real nuclear war from starting. Thanks!

Wait a minute . . . "thanks?" That's it? There should be a statue of this guy in every city that is still standing because of him. His face should be on our coins! There should be a Ford Petrov S.U.V., and a Mt. Petrov. He saved the world and got what? Nothing? We don't even know his name? Wow . . . so much for how it works in the movies.

(story via Exclamation Mark)

Thursday, May 20, 2004

PG- 13 Graffiti

What if you really want to deface public property with graffiti, but on the other hand you don't want to offend people with off-color language? I guess the result might be something like this creation that I saw downtown today.


Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Quote of the day

"I don't understand the women who find dependability sexy!" -- Lisa

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Who Tastes The Wine?

Over at The Swamp, Eve writes:
On Tradition: Even if the girl orders the wine, the waiter will bring it to the guy to taste.

In my experience, at "better restaurants" (and I know that phrase must set off snob alarms), the waiter will offer the taste to the person who chose the wine, even if a different person formally "placed the order." How does the waiter know who chose it? It is simple if the diners ask for more information on the wines they are considering, that way the waiter is involved in the selection process. But without that interaction, the waiter may have to guess based on who is holding the wine list. Without any information, the taste may indeed go to the guy.

Of course, if the waiter gives the taste to someone who did not choose the wine, that person should hand the glass to the person who did make the choice. The exception to this is that the chooser will sometimes offer the taste to someone else, for example to the guest of honor or to someone who has more knowledge of wine.

The Tree In A Tree



It seems that these people disposed of last year's Christmas tree through the ingenious method of throwing it up into the branches of another tree in their front yard, where it makes the statement, "we are creative, outside-the-box thinkers."

Poker

I've been playing poker online at Paradise Poker. It's pretty fun, and you do not have to play for real money. I hang out at the play money tables. Most of the other free sites I've tried don't feel like a real poker game, because people are playing completely irrationally, with everyone calling or even raising with absolutely any trash hand. The free tables at Paradise are at least semi-rational, with most players aware of the existence of a Fold button.

Monday, May 17, 2004

"Something will happen. It always does." -- David Creegan, on Touching Evil

What I like about this line is that at first it sounds ominous or threatening, but on further reflection it is just stating the obvious. It is practically meaningless.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

City of Roses

A picture of a rose from Tom's garden

Portland is the City of Roses, and they are doing well this year.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

My Garden, part 2

I've already listed the plants on my back deck, now I'll talk about the edible plants in my main garden. I like edible plants, and I like convenient snack plants much better than anything that requires too much preparation. "Grab and eat" plants like strawberries, blueberries, sugar snap peas and cherry tomatoes are great. Anything that can go in a salad is great, too.

I'm growing onions (walla walla sweet), spinach, mizuna, bok choi, eggplant (ichiban), bell pepper, sorrel, lettuce (buttercrunch, little gem, great lakes head, and many other kinds I can't remember), tomatoes (juliet, celebrity, bush early girl, supersweet 100), Italian parsely, rosemary, red currants, jostaberry, and a fig tree.

Then there is the cardoon. The cardoon is the only one of my edible plants that I have not yet actually eaten. I like it because it is very strange and exotic looking, and gets about 7 feet tall. It spreads easily, and since I don't want cardoon everywhere in my garden, I constantly have to pull up the shoots from outside the Cardoon Zone. But I still like it.

Our Second Season

Portland has only two seasons: Rainy, and Road Construction. Each year the bright orange cones all over the streets mark the joyful transition from one season to the other. This week they are everywhere.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

I'm posting this if you want to read it

Lately I've noticed an interesting use of the word if. Consider the sentence: "I'm going to the store if you want to come along." Normally that doesn't literally mean I'm going to the store (only) if you want to come along (but I'm not going otherwise). It means: I'm going to the store (and) if you want to come along (you can).

Do people in other parts of the world say this? Or is it an American West Coast usage?

Cultivating Beneficial Weeds

I think one of the essential techniques of gardening is proper cultivation of Beneficial Weeds (BW). An ideal BW spreads rapidly, is more viciously invasive than the Mongol hordes, and is hard to kill. What separates a BW from an ordinary weed is simply that you like it.

A good BW will spread to every place in your garden where you are too lazy to plant anything, and will out-compete the weeds that you don't like.

My favorite BW is yarrow. Yarrow has a noble history: yarrow stalks were traditionally used to cast the I Ching. Also, I think yarrow looks pretty good. A 100-square-foot section of yarrow is more socially acceptable than the equivalent area of dandelions.

Another BW that works for me is Italian Parsely. It doubles as salad material.

Some plants are almost BW's but don't quite work. Coreopsis spreads well but looks strange growing in odd random places where you didn't intend it. Chamomile is a great plant but lacks toughness and invasiveness. Bamboo is tempting, but it is overkill, like the nuclear weapon of BW's. I keep it in hardened silos containers.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

My Garden, part 1

As promised, here is some info about my garden. I have a lot of stuff, so for this post I'll start with what is on the back deck in containers.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Plant Tycoon

By popular request, I'll be explaining more about my gardening in the next few days, once I have time to organize my info. In the meantime, let me just say that I'm addicted to the Palm OS game Plant Tycoon. It is like Sim City for gardening. You manage a nursery, and you get to create new hybrid plants through cross-pollination.

The game works in "real time" whether your Palm is on or off. If you plant a seed, it will take several hours of real time for it to grow. You just have to check back later. It is still much quicker than real gardening, but it is slower than almost any other Palm game. I highly recommend this game.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

U.S. 3, Mexico 0 (Women's Soccer)

Christie Rampone had another great performance on defense for the U.S. today. She also pushed forward into the attack quite a few times, and served up some great crosses into the penalty area. She is quickly becoming one of my favorite players.

Mexico played a good scoreless first half. They conceded space in the midfield in order to double-team in their defensive end and shut down the U.S. attack. But Mexico could not keep this up for 90 minutes. Eventually, the U.S. created more movement in the offense and scored some goals.

Brianna Scurry was injured on a play where she leaped high in the air to grab the ball, then landed hard on her lower back. No contact with other players was involved.

Heather O'Reilley came in as a substitute in the second half. It was good to see her playing again after the incident last year where she broke her leg in a game against Ireland.

When Lori Chalupny came on in the second half, my initial reaction was, "Who is that?" I don't think I've ever seen her play before. But she scored a spectacular goal from outside the penalty area to put the U.S. up 3-0.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Models


Design your own models at myvirtualmodel.com. From what I can figure out, the idea seems to be that you design a model that looks like you, then use it to "try on clothes" at online shopping sites that support the technology. It's kind of a cool idea. It's also fun to just play around with the parameters and see what happens.

We will agree no more forever

Some intellectuals cherish the notion that other people have very different values and priorities as a result of being "uninformed." According to this delusion, as soon as everyone becomes "educated" and exposed to the proper information, they will see the light and change their worldview.

The Web and the Blogosphere should make it clear just how wrong this idea is. Bloggers probably have better access to more sources of information than any people in history, yet we have not magically started to agree about everything. I see plenty of blogs written by very smart, very well-informed people who nonetheless have radically different views from each other.

People are different. We have different goals. We may be able to get along, but we won't all see things the same way.

Athens from Space

Space Imaging has cool satellite images of the Olympic stadiums in Athens, Greece.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Plausible Gibberish

Language Log explains:
Try slipping into a conversation a remark like More people have written about this than I have. [. . . ] at first people seem to think it is grammatical and means something. Given a few moments to think, though, they soon realize that it is just plausible-looking English-style gibberish. It seems to be an intelligible sentence of the language but it is just masquerading.

This sentence sounds pretty good at first, because it is very close to the valid sentence: People have written more about this than I have. Not only that, it also works as the first part of a valid sentence such as: More people have written about this than I have credited. I think listeners must unconsciously substitute something like one of those.
Michelle has been talking about gardening:
I shouldn't be allowed near garden centers without a chaperone.

Went to WVU Greenhouse plant sale, and then went to Lowe's, 'just to get some mulch.' Ha.

I know how this works. The other day I went to the garden center to get "a fuchsia." That's right, I planned to purchase just one plant, which is about as likely to happen as eating just one potato chip. I came back with about 15 plants, everything from jasmine to strawberries.

I think my garden must be the world's most labor-intensive bird feeder. Instead of putting out birdseed and straw, I plant, water, fertilize, and tend all sorts of plants, only to have them eaten or carried off for nesting materials by the neighborhood birds. I can't blame them, though, they're just doing what birds do.

Favorite Gadgets

I love gadgets, but some of them work out better than others. Some sit relatively unused, but others make me think, "How on earth did I ever live without this? I could never go back." Here are the gadgets that I like even more than I thought I would:

  • Playstation 2. The fact that it doubles as a DVD player makes it indispensable.

  • TiVo. If you like TV, you should get TiVo. If you have premium cable, you must get TiVo.

  • The Infinity Basslink powered car subwoofer. I know what you're probably thinking: car subwoofers are only for annoying teenagers who drive by at 3am with their music blasting so loud that it rattles your windows and wakes you up. But that would be incorrect. The truth is, no matter what kind of music you listen to, and no matter what volume level you prefer, a good subwoofer will make your music sound better.

  • Sony Clie NX80V. It doesn't have a phone, but it has everything else, including digital camera, thumb keyboard, and MP3 player.

  • Spyderco Ladybug knife. This is the perfect keychain knife, with both serrated and plain areas of the blade. I use it all the time.

  • The Rabbit Corkscrew. Opens wine bottles so quickly it looks like a magic trick.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

"You know which city has a really big Chinatown? Hong Kong."
Marge: "C'mon, Homer, Japan will be fun! You liked Rashomon!"

Homer: "That's not how I remember it."

- The Simpsons

Message on a Mobile

(to the tune of "Message in a Bottle," by The Police)

Just a castaway, an island lost at sea, oh
Another lonely day, with no one texting me, oh
More loneliness than any man could bear, oh
Text to me before I fall into despair, oh
I'll send an SMS to the world
I'll send an SMS to the world
I hope that someone gets my
I hope that someone gets my
Message on a mobile, yeah
Message on a mobile, yeah

Sending out an SMS
Sending out an SMS
Sending out an SMS . . .

Saturday, May 01, 2004

The Calm

We often hear about the calm before the storm, but there must also be another calm, the one after the storm, right? Why don't we hear about that one? Isn't that the nicer one? When you get right down to it, the calm before the storm isn't very calming, is it? That one doesn't relax us. Nobody says, "hey, this must be the calm before the storm, quick, let's have a picnic!" Maybe we should try saying that, but we don't. The calm before the storm is a nervous calm.

The calm after the storm, though, that one is the "let's roast marshmallows" calm. Maybe it's the "find a stick in the wreckage and play stickball" calm. Maybe it's the "take a picture, because they're never going to believe this" calm. But it's the one where you always relax. Given a choice, I'll take that one every time.

WordPop Strategy Guide

WordPop is a great game for Palm OS. It is a word game similar to Boggle, but because you can turn the playing field and slide the letter tiles around, it also has Tetris-like elements to it. WordPop has a lot of potential for replayability. My personal highest scoring words so far are WHEREVER, JALOPIES and FLAPPING for 190 points each, and QUILTERS and TAXATIONS for 180 points each.

Here is my strategy guide to the game.

Start of board: Trouble Letters: each time you get a new board full of letters, start by looking for the "difficult" letters Q, J, X, Y and Z. Note the positions of these letters (if they appear), because they can cause trouble for you later if you can't find words for them early on. Your goal should be to get rid of these letters soon. They can be very good because they are high-scoring, but you should use them up early in the board while you still have a lot of options. Remember not to use up all the U's while you still have a Q. Some boards have a Q and only one U.

Start of board: High Scoring Words: the other thing to do at the beginning of a board is to try to find high-scoring 7+ letter words. You may find one that can be spelled on the very first move. You may also find a "close call," a 7+ letter word that you can almost spell, but some letters are out of position. Make a small word that shifts the tiles so that you can make your big word on move 2.

Middle game: vowel/consonant ratio: in the middle game of each board, pay attention to the ratio of vowels to consonants. Obviously, if you wind up in the end game with 9 consonants and 0 vowels (or the reverse) you are in big trouble. Try to keep the vowel/consonant mix approximately even. If the board is vowel-heavy, start making small words with more vowels than consonants until the ratio evens out. If your board is vowel-poor, do the opposite and make a few words like "depth" or "tasks" to even things up. If you get through the middle game with a good balance of vowels and consonants, the end game will be a snap.

End game: When you get to the end game, the object should be to avoid using your blank or extra letters if at all possible. It may be better to make a few low scoring words and clear the board than make a high scoring word that requires you to use a blank tile on your next move. Plan ahead. Once the board is down to around 7 tiles, I don't make another word until I have a plan that accounts for all the remaining tiles.