May 30, 2007

Turned Off

I'm turning off blacklist for a day or two as an experiment to see if the spam on the index page only is too much to deal with. With luck, this will solve the IP denial issue, too.

Posted by Observer at 08:50 PM | Comments (0)

Geek Guide

There are a lot of Geek Guides floating around out there, purporting to summarize all of the wonderful things women will find out if they try dating a geek. I don't take these too seriously. These are written by min/maxer geeks who figure that the 10 minutes of effort is worth it if the "geek guide" gets out there and convinces one or more women to enter the frame of mind where dating a geek is acceptable.

It is a simple mathematical matter of trying to boost the supply of available women so that the geek is more likely to find one. The real geek will try to optimize this process, doing little things that take a small amount of time for potentially large returns. What was scary about this one was this part, written (so it is claimed) by a woman who is now married to a geek:

My geek loves to try to help people on the Internet who say that they are stuck in Myst. He comes up with clever riddles instead of directing them point blank.

Though I don't think it exists anymore out there on the internet, I once wrote something called the "Myst Hint Guide", which was a hypercard-stack style guide that gradually revealed answers to various puzzles in the game. At one point, it was getting more hits per week than this blog has received in its entire 4+ year history. If I were smarter, I would've parlayed that into more than a free copy of the Myst novels from the Miller brothers, but oh well. I've never been big on commercializing my web stuff.

The point here, I guess, is that I am a huge geek.

Posted by Observer at 05:49 PM | Comments (0)

Bitterness

If you want to know why so many people like me have so much bitterness toward the traditional media and the New York Times in particular, you need to do your homework. If you've already read some of Bob Somerby's history of how Gore was treated in 2000, you should also go back and read about Jeff Gerth's adventures reporting on Whitewater.

This is what liberals have to fight against just to try to have a level playing field in the media.

Posted by Observer at 02:15 PM | Comments (0)

Never Have to Say Sorry

The CIA has officially established the fact that under pretty much any interpretation of the law or definition you wish to use, Valerie Plame was indeed "covert" at the time she was outed by vindictive officials in the Bush Administration. Of course, this directly contradicts what the wingnuts and many traditional media types have been saying for years. Glenn Greenwald has some fun with historical quotes and wonders just how many will apologize for getting it so completely wrong.

We know the answer -- precious few.

A good credibility test for political commentators: Have you ever claimed (or implied the possibility) that Valerie Plame was not covert? If so, can you explain why (identify your sources) and have you publicly retracted that claim? Do you still believe your original sources for this claim have credility? Have they retracted it?

Posted by Observer at 02:05 PM | Comments (0)

May 29, 2007

Blessings

It's going to be an interesting summer around here. For much of it, especially June, I'm wrangling all five of the kids while M*chelle works much of the day. I've come to realize that it isn't actually stressful as long as I don't try to get any actual work done. I just go with the flow and call the older kids to help with the younger ones when needed. If I throw in a random errand where I take some or all of them along, the day goes pretty quickly.

While out shopping tonight, I was in the checkout line while M*chelle had taken the two little ones to the van. On the aisle next to me was a poor young woman who looked about ready to pop a little one out with a 3-4 year old girl running around pretty wild. Circling the whole scene was a 20-something strung out looking guy who looked very stressed and altogether unhealthy. He just radiated "meth-head" or some kind of addiction.

Their total was around two hundred bucks, and she was trying to write a check but couldn't find any photo id in her purse, and the guy "lost" his billfold (and was looking in adjacent aisles as though he lost his wallet among the gum displays). As I was leaving the store, the manager was trying to explain the policy to the poor woman, who probably knew that she just trudged around the store for at least an hour with a kid and a half-crazy father-to-be in tow, only to have to leave with nothing.

I think sometimes we are placed in those situations and some sort of cosmic hand is smacking us on the shoulder, saying, "See!?!? Count your blessings, ingrate!"

And so I do.

Posted by Observer at 09:50 PM | Comments (0)

May 28, 2007

Back to Hobb

For my birthday, I started reading good books again, so that means beginning the next Robin Hobb trilogy called "The Liveship Traders". I know it will be good. I actually quit reading for a while there because I was in the middle of a horrible Star Wars trilogy that I wanted to finish for the sake of completeness (I'm almost done with the New Jedi Order series of books), but I was so put off by the mess of a story that I didn't want to pick it up. I finally gave up and just skimmed the last book and a half or so to see all the major plot points.

Posted by Observer at 11:08 PM | Comments (0)

May 27, 2007

Cake Season

The season of cake is upon us. Today is my 39th birthday, and it is the second of six birthdays in this house over the course of two months (only M*chelle's falls outside the window in our family, back in March). My personal favorite at this time is the gigantic chocolate-mousse-filled cake from Costco. Very bad for me.

My sweetie got me a great gift: Not just a barn assembly kit, but the promise of many family members from outside of this household to help construct it next weekend. I wonder if we need a permit? I'm going to try to pick a spot in the yard for it tomorrow so we can clear it and figure out how to level it and put a bunch of cinder blocks down so it is raised off the level of our easily-flooded yard.

Usually, when someone in the house has a birthday, we all go out to a movie. Our birthdays fall around the time when lots of kid-friendly, popular movies are hitting the big screens. Today was Shrek 3, which was very "eh" to me, but the kids liked it fine. The oldest said afterwards, "I guess there won't be another Shrek after that one. Where could they go from there?"

I got a good laugh out of that. I imagine his kids will be first in line for Shrek 9 or 10 when it comes out.

Posted by Observer at 10:12 PM | Comments (0)

May 26, 2007

Delta

You could do worse than spend an afternoon browsing Joe Delta's blog archives, even if they are awkwardly linked. Why don't all blog archival systems have a simple "previous" or "next" button so you can easily read them sequentially?

Posted by Observer at 02:21 PM | Comments (0)

Wonderful

This news is just wonderful:

[Our area] is under siege by floodwater mosquitoes, whose eggs lie dormant in soil for months or even years until rainfall fills low-lying areas that have been dry. This spring's heavy rains have provided the ideal breeding grounds for these bloodsuckers.

"They all came to town at once, and they're hungry," said Jim Olson, an entomology professor at Texas A&M University.

Here are some things you should know about mosquitoes, fleas and other pests.

You can't do much to prevent floodwater mosquitoes from invading your yard and neighborhood. But the good news is they don't carry West Nile virus.

Disease-carrying mosquitoes aren't faring well. They thrive in stagnant, polluted water, which is being flushed clean almost daily by rain. But if and when the rain stops, expect these mosquitoes to breed in big numbers, said James Kennedy, biological sciences professor at the University of North Texas. [...]

It's hard to escape floodwater mosquitoes, which can fly up to 100 miles, Olson said. Other mosquitoes stick to back yards and can only fly a couple of city blocks. [...]

Relief may be in sight, but the next two weeks or so are going to be intense, Olson said. That's the average life span of a mosquito.

"Get the latest copy of TV Guide and stay inside," Olson suggested. "That's the best thing to do."

Unfortunately, all of the kids want to be outside since this is the best (coolest) weather we'll have for the next four months. I'm glad I figured out the siphon technique for the backyard, but that doesn't prevent the mosquitos from coming over from other flooded yards.

Posted by Observer at 09:39 AM | Comments (0)

May 25, 2007

Editors Needed

In today's fun edition of "The Commenters Are Taking Over Swampland", Joke Line learns that despite being fact-checked by "several editors", it is pretty easy for miscellaneous random commenters to show logical incongruities in much of his writing. In this latest episode, he quotes a lawmaker saying she voted a certain way in the past tense when in fact she actually voted the opposite way.

So either the lawmaker is directly lying to him about her vote, which just took place hours before (and is in the public record) or Joe is altering (or making up) the quote to fit his narrative. Either way, if I'm a Time editor, I'd post Joke Line's column on Swampland for comments at least 24 hours before it goes to print, just for fact-checking purposes, because it is obvious Time's staff isn't up to the challenge.

Think the guy will at least apologize for making shit up, or will he try to brazen his way out of (or ignore) another lie?

I think I'm starting to understand why so many journalists identify with and are sympathetic to the Bush administration. They could get away with literally anything if it weren't for those meddling kids!

Posted by Observer at 11:13 PM | Comments (0)

May 24, 2007

Turning the Corner

Glenn Greenwald is excellent today. He discusses how the media uncritically passes along propaganda from anonymous government sources to help prolong the war, just like they did with Vietnam.

What's funny is how the people who do this, like Joke Line, are so arrogant and dismissive of their critics. Glenn has some historical context here, comparing what's being written today about optimism in Iraq with what was written years ago about Vietnam.

Dems have basically given Bush money to continue the war until at least September based on the assumption that we'll be able to make a definitive decision then whether it is worth it to continue. But of course what will happen in September is exactly what just happened this past month.

The generals will come back and say they need more time. Bush will announce a change in strategery that needs more time to work. Wingnuts will accuse liberals of rooting for the terrorists by not giving the new plan time to work. Various anonymous officials will be prominently quoted attesting to the fact that we're turning the corner. "Sensible centrists" will wonder why the "angry left" aren't willing to try just one more time to find the mythical pony or whatever constitutes "victory" in Iraq. We'll be warned that we can't leave because the country will descend into chaos, even as the chaos gets measurably worse each year.

And the can will be kicked down the road another few months. And more of our troops will be killed or wounded. More civilians in Iraq will be killed. The horror of war will continue. And it's our fault. We didn't have to do this, and it is costing us the chance to do Afghanistan right, assuming of course that doing anything right is possible under the current reign of incompetence we are enduring.

Posted by Observer at 10:57 PM | Comments (0)

May 23, 2007

Triumph

Triumph the Insult Comic Dog interviews Star Wars fans, a classic that is always worth another look.

Posted by Observer at 11:56 PM | Comments (0)

May 22, 2007

No Compromise

Over at Daily Kos, they're all talking about the Dems apparently capitulating on war funding to Bush by taking out any meaningful benchmarks or deadlines, with hopes of renewing the battle again in September. September, for some reason, is the new date at which point the pundits have said Iraq will surely be a lost cause if we haven't made progress. Of course, once September rolls around, they'll tweak the strategy, and we'll all be traitors unless we "give it a chance to work" until at least January of 2008 or something.

Why oh why don't the Dems just put together a simple bill with no riders that requires some benchmarks to be met or funding will be withdrawn? If he vetoes it, just keep sending back the same bill over and over. He's not compromising. Why should the Dems compromise? Use the power of the purse since the president has apparently completely taken over the legislature's power to start a war.

I guess I'm just naive, but with a large majority of the country in favor of ending this war asap, I don't see why it's so hard to build a coalition of Democrats and Republicans in Congress to force the issue.

Posted by Observer at 09:40 PM | Comments (0)

May 21, 2007

Conversations...

Daniel: Knock knock.

Me: Who's there?

Daniel: Banana!

Me: Banana who?

Daniel: Banana orange if you say so! (laughing)

Posted by Observer at 06:22 PM | Comments (0)

May 20, 2007

Training Wheels

Atrios is always a good place to go for perspective on the Iraq War. He points out that Bush said this...

President Bush sought to rally Republican lawmakers around his Iraq plan Thursday, saying Iraqis are ready to "take the training wheels off" by assuming some political power.

He warned that violence is likely to worsen as that transfer approaches, and after it passes.

exactly THREE YEARS AGO today.

Posted by Observer at 11:26 AM | Comments (0)

Conversations...

After setting up all of the trains in a row on his train table, Daniel and I counted them up. He couldn't get past sixteen in the right order, so I helped him, and we got all the way up to sixty-five (including tenders and other freight cars and such).

Me: "Wow, Daniel, you have sixty-five trains!"

Daniel: "Yeah!" (laughing) "I have a-lot-of-five trains!"

Posted by Observer at 11:07 AM | Comments (0)

May 19, 2007

Thinking Ahead

Here is some good advice for the upcoming week. Al Gore's new book is being released this week, so you can expect to hear more shit about his utility bills or about "Earth tones" or about how he invented the internet.

Just remember, Gore's critics will talk about anything and everything EXCEPT WHAT GORE IS TALKING ABOUT, whether it is global warming, health care, the economy or the war on terror. Doesn't matter, because the Republican machine will use "smear and fear", and the "liberal" media will play along.

Oh yes, they'll report, Gore's new book says that 2 + 2 = 4, but did you know the Gore has PUT ON TWENTY POUNDS?!? Oh sure, Gore claims that the sky is blue, but did you know that he SOMETIMES APPEARS STIFF IN PUBLIC?!?

The real story is who is smearing Gore (who is funding it, most importantly) and why. The "pox on both houses" crowd doesn't care, they just want a good little catfight. So the wingnuts whose only goal is to muddy the waters, just like tobacco industry scientists or global warming skeptics, so the Moron American can relax comfortably knowing that it is all too hard to figure out so they can vote either way since there's not a "dime's worth of difference" between all of those crooked liars.

This is the establishment that must be fixed or torn down because it is killing our country.

Posted by Observer at 07:19 PM | Comments (0)

May 18, 2007

Afterlife

Pat Oliphant has some idea of where Jerry Falwell is now.

And via Steven Brust comes this obituary that sounds about right. If you want to know what an ACTUAL "socialist liberal" media would sound like, this should give you a clue:

In fact, as a religious conman and bigot, Falwell contributed what he could to the debasement of American political, social and cultural life. [...]

He was a proponent of segregation at the time, telling a local paper in 1964 that the new Civil Rights Act had been misnamed: "It should be considered civil wrongs rather than civil rights." His television program hosted prominent racists such as Govs. Lester Maddox of Georgia and George Wallace of Alabama.

Some years earlier Falwell had declared that the famed 1954 Supreme Court decision striking down school segregation "would never have been made" if Chief Justice Earl Warren and the other members of the court "had known God’s word and had desired to do the Lord’s will." [...]

Along with a number of others, he launched the Moral Majority in 1979—on a program of imposing fundamentalist Christian dogma as state policy, ferocious anticommunism and anti-welfare-state economics—which was credited with assisting Ronald Reagan in winning the presidency in 1980.

If historian Douglas Brinkley is correct that Falwell "set the tone and tenor for the 1980s," it is a sad commentary on the decade. In any event, he certainly both embodied and agitated for the lurch to the right that has occurred in official American political life.

Falwell inveighed against gay rights, feminism and, in general, any signs of social liberalism. The Lynchburg preacher denounced Martin Luther King and others for their "left-wing associations" and declared that "Labor unions should study and read the Bible instead of asking for more money. When people get right with God, they are better workers." In 1979 he told his followers that he yearned for the day when America "won’t have any public schools. The churches will take them over again and Christians will be running them." He opposed sanctions against the apartheid regime in South Africa in the 1980s, warning of a Soviet-backed revolution.

Falwell later wrote that he was convinced that a majority existed in America that could "turn back the flood tide of moral permissiveness, family breakdown and general capitulation to evil and to foreign policies such as Marxism-Leninism."

The actual political alliance was bound up less with such apocalyptic moralism than with the earthly material interests of the American upper class. Falwell and dozens of other television preachers helped mobilize disoriented sections of the middle class and working class behind a program which resulted in a dramatic transfer of wealth from working people to the super-rich, as well as enriching a sizeable layer of the upper middle class, including Falwell himself.

The premise of the Moral Majority proved to be a fraud, even in its own terms. Successive Republican administrations talked the language of the Christian fundamentalists and made significant attacks on democratic and constitutional rights, but these measures encountered a deep-rooted popular opposition. The promised theocratic transformation of American life did not materialize, and Falwell and many of his fellow televangelists, like Pat Robertson, had to continually up the dosage of their extreme-right demagogy, embracing increasingly bizarre theories.

The election of Bill Clinton in 1992, in particular, seemed to set Falwell off. He threw himself into the campaign to destabilize and bring down the Clinton administration, producing a fanciful "documentary," concocted of lies and innuendo, known as The Clinton Chronicles. The video hinted at the most outrageous crimes, from cocaine-smuggling to murder.

In 1999 Falwell declared that the Antichrist was probably on earth, and he would be Jewish and male.

Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, Falwell notoriously declared: "I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America ... I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.'" He declared that the terrorist attacks were God’s judgment on America for "throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked."

Such comments were criticized or even ridiculed by the American media, but these same people had been passing off this ignoramus as a serious moral leader and statesman for two decades. They bore considerable responsibility for his having a national audience to begin with.

By the time of his death, Falwell’s moment had clearly passed. Even at the height of his influence, it would be mistaken to believe, as the media and his own followers claimed, that his ideas ever had mass support. Falwell became a national figure in a period of political reaction when organizations to which broad layers of the population looked for leadership or assistance—the trade unions, civil rights organizations, the Democratic Party—were in the process of decomposing or dramatically shifting to the right. The relative prominence of the religious right has come in large measure by political default, as well as enormous subsidies from corporate America and the wealthy.

The vacuum of progressive politics in America has brought all sorts of people to the fore and, in many cases, made them rich. To give the man his due, Falwell was obviously a savvy business operator. He transformed his humble church, started with $1,000 in 1956, into a massive propaganda and money-making operation. He made use of various technologies as they emerged to promote his cause. His Liberty University in Lynchburg has nearly 20,000 students, each paying some $16,000 tuition a year.

Religion in America is big business. Total retail sales of religious products—including books, music, gifts and cards—amounted to some $7 billion a year in 2005, according to BusinessWeek. Of the $260.18 billion in charitable contributions Americans made the same year, $93.18 billion went to religious organizations.

As we noted at the outset, religious hucksterism is not something new in the US. Such people have been around for a long time, since colonial days. The early twentieth century saw no shortage, in the Billy Sundays and Aimee Semple McPhersons. Sinclair Lewis (Elmer Gantry), H.L. Mencken and others did their share to discredit the charlatans and religious backwardness in general.

Writing in the Baltimore Evening Sun in September 1925 in the aftermath of the death of William Jennings Bryan, notorious for his campaign against the theory of evolution in the Scopes Trial, Mencken commented: "The way to deal with superstition is not to be polite to it, but to tackle it with all arms, and so rout it, cripple it, and make it forever infamous and ridiculous. Is it, perchance, cherished by persons who should know better? Then their folly should be brought out into the light of day, and exhibited there in all its hideousness until they flee from it, hiding their heads in shame."

For a generation Falwell personified the smarminess, hypocrisy and thinly veiled thuggery of a retrograde social trend. All in all, his was a baleful presence in American life.

Imagine something like this appearing on the front page of your local "liberal" newspaper, and you'll get some inkling of why the claim of "liberal media bias" gets a bitter laugh from me.

Posted by Observer at 09:15 PM | Comments (0)

Stand Back!

This cartoon is appropriate for my recent adventures trying to find an IP address hidden inside a huge directory tree full of files.

Posted by Observer at 08:29 AM | Comments (0)

May 17, 2007

Worse...

Let it be known that I officially gave up on this sorry train wreck of a franchise BEFORE they got swept by the Double A's.

Heads must roll. This thing must be blown up. Now.

Posted by Observer at 11:22 PM | Comments (0)

Upgrading

I'm having all kinds of problems with the IP ban list on this version of MT, which I can't find, edit or remove things from using any interface, Mac or PC. Anyway, I don't need the IP list anymore since I've disabled comments on old posts. Of course, that was a sort of hack. I changed the name of the comment script and rebuilt the index page but didn't rebuild the archive pages, so the archives point to the wrong script name, that's all.

I'm going to see if our gracious hosts are willing to install the next version of MT for me, and I'll try to get that working. Maybe that, combined with the no-comments-on-archives hack, will solve the spam problem and the other problems once and for all.

Posted by Observer at 05:53 PM | Comments (0)

May 15, 2007

8-21

That's the current Rangers record, omitting games played against the Blue Jays and the Double A's. Time to blow this thing up. God, what a depressing team.

Posted by Observer at 01:19 PM | Comments (2)

May 14, 2007

WWII as a MMORPG

Ok, this is funny. It's the chat log you would expect if World War II were played out as a MMORPG over the course of about 15 minutes.

*Hitler[AoE] has joined the game.*
*Eisenhower has joined the game.*
*paTTon has joined the game.*
*Churchill has joined the game.*
*benny-tow has joined the game.*
*T0J0 has joined the game.*
*Roosevelt has joined the game.*
*Stalin has joined the game.*
*deGaulle has joined the game.*
Roosevelt: hey sup
T0J0: y0
Stalin: hi
Churchill: hi
Hitler[AoE]: cool, i start with panzer tanks!
paTTon: lol more like panzy tanks
T0J0: lol
Roosevelt: o this fockin sucks i got a depression!
benny-tow: haha america sux
Stalin: hey hitler you dont fight me i dont fight u, cool?
Hitler[AoE]: sure whatever
Stalin: cool
deGaulle: **** Hitler rushed some1 help
Hitler[AoE]: lol byebye frenchy
Roosevelt: i dont got crap to help, sry
Churchill: wtf the luftwaffle is attacking me
Roosevelt: get antiair guns
Churchill: i cant afford them
benny-tow: u n00bs know what team talk is?
paTTon: stfu

It goes on from there for a while...

Posted by Observer at 03:17 PM | Comments (0)

May 13, 2007

Booooooooooo

After Dreamz broke his promise to Yau-Man, I have to say that from that point even to the reunion show, Yau-Man took it with a lot more class and dignity than I ever would have. I really wanted Yau-Man to win, but Earl is an ok second choice, I guess.

If I were in Earl's shoes in that last vote, I would like to think I would not have voted for Yau-Man, but it is hard to say what really happened between the two of them. The editing process can make a lot of things to be not what they seem, including their friendship.

I hope Dreamz enjoys paying the taxes on the $60,000 truck that Yau-Man gave him. If he really deserves the kind of sympathy and friendship he was getting from his core alliance, then I hope for his sake that he surrounds himself with friends who will be brutally honest with him instead of just being his buddy no matter what.

Posted by Observer at 11:24 PM | Comments (0)

Man vs Woman

I thought this was a funny picture.

Posted by Observer at 11:43 AM | Comments (1)

Hollywood Money

Eric Alterman has a very good article on "Hollywood Liberals" and their campaign contributions. Why, of all of the rich people in America who donate money to campaigns, do Hollywood celebrities always catch the most hell for it in the media?

In reporting on the power of political contributions before the election, Business Week, for instance, explained that Hollywood environmental activist Laurie David was seeking "tougher anti-pollution laws if Kerry wins in November" while Wall Street would be "lobby[ing] for new retirement savings plans if Bush triumphs." The article concluded: "In any case, the special interests can be expected to call in their chits one way or the other."

Excuse me, but how is it that the term "special interest" came to be applied without distinction to both a lobbyist seeking to improve the quality of air and water for an entire planet and wealthy firms seeking a government retirement plan designed to line their own pockets? As David fairly complains, it is ridiculous to compare "a corporate CEO trying to evade paying for pollution controls with someone raising money to hope for an administration that will try and keep mercury out of the air so small children don't get brain damage."

While there are undoubtedly social and professional benefits in Hollywood that derive from giving money to liberal causes, rich liberals get nothing from the national treasury or tax code for their activism. A March 2004 report by Public Citizen found that of the 416 Bush campaign "Rangers" and "Pioneers"--donors who had raised $200,000 and $100,000 respectively--90 percent represented the special interests of America's most powerful corporations. The top six, CEOs all, enjoyed an average bonus of $270,000 each last year, merely on the basis of their personal tax reductions, according to analysis by Campaign Money Watch.

Paul Begala recalls that during all his time in the White House, meeting with hundreds if not thousands of powerful contributors, "Ninety-nine point five percent of them were asking me for something designed to put money in their own pockets. Hollywood people were the only big givers who never asked for anything but that we try to make America a better country as they saw it."

Indeed, billionaire entertainment mogul David Geffen raised in the neighborhood of $20 million for the President and his party during the Clinton years, perhaps as much as anyone in the United States. He threw large fundraisers at his house and small, billionaire-only dinner parties, where he would provide entrée to Clinton for various entertainment moguls and then hit them up for contributions. According to biographer Tom King, two such dinners totaling just twenty-four guests raised a total of $2 million.

But instead of seeking special favors from the President, they actually lobbied him not to give them any. There was one night at Geffen's Malibu beach house, one knowledgeable source informs me, when Geffen brought nine or ten of these guys together and told the President not to cut the capital gains tax. "We've already got enough. We don't need this, too." Clinton gave it to them anyway. [...]

As the Irish actor Daniel Day-Lewis notes, "The media are sick and tired of people in my profession giving their opinion, and yet you're asking me my opinion. And when I give it, you'll say, 'Why doesn't he shut up?'"

What's worse, an actor who is relatively uninformed and politically naive (you can tell by the embarrassing quotes from actors that always accompany criticism of Hollywood liberals) who is giving truckloads of money to a candidate in a gesture to help their political case? Or a corporation that gives for the purpose of getting a bigger return on its investment from the government (i.e. giving a million to get a tax break worth ten million)?

And of those two, which gets coverage from our "liberal media"?

Posted by Observer at 11:25 AM | Comments (0)

May 12, 2007

Victory

Ok, I figured out how to beat "really hard" on virus defender, and I'm up past my bedtime again. Oh well, tomorrow is a weekend, and I'm done with school anyway. I ended up with only 3 life points to spare, but I only let one object through after about level 15 or so, and that was a 25 point monster that somehow got through the freeze path on level 50.

Basically, I built everything within two columns of the center vertical path, including my two initial machine guns (which were right at the center adjacent to the path), then my first two flamethrowers at the top and bottom corner. Once I had four flamethrowers up to full power (two at the top, two at the bottom), I ditched the guns and just lined up a dozen full strength ice towers in the two columns adjacent to the center row.

After that, I only needed to build weapons to kill things faster, and as long as I put them in range of the center of the grid, it didn't really matter what I built. I didn't bother trying to kill anything that wasn't on that vertical path. I figured if it made it through that corridor, it was going to go all the way anyway. My mistake had been trying to spread out damage over the whole path instead of concentrating all at one spot and using a lot of ice to hold things there (the game was easy once I realized it was possible to stop things rather than just slow them down a lot).

I wonder if "impossible" level is really possible? I just don't see how I could get past the first "strategic inflection" to get a flamethrower up and running. If I could get four level 2 flamethrowers in place quickly, I bet I could finish just like I did with "really hard".

Posted by Observer at 12:10 AM | Comments (4)

May 11, 2007

Yau-Man

If you've watched much of this season of "Survivor", then you must know that Yau-Man is a Survivor Jedi. He doesn't look like much, but he's really good in challenges, and he's got good instincts. He knows how to get sympathy from people, and he knows how to politick to stay in the game without pissing people off.

When the game started, I would've pegged him to be voted off as one of the first few, being old and apparently weak and not having much in common with his tribe, kinda like the old Asian guy from the last series. But he avoided trouble somehow in the early going and cemented an alliance with another respected player.

Unlike last time, the tribal distinctions are fairly blurred. There's no obvious tribe or alliance to root for, just a few individuals you love, a few you hate, and most you don't care much about. Yau-Man is one of those you root for, and he sniffed out a major backstabbing attempt this last time, as almost everyone casually lied to his face about their vote. Yau-Man didn't believe them and played his individual immunity idol that he had found, and it is a good thing because it saved him from the vote.

That's the first time I've seen someone so well and truly lied to who still managed to come out on top after the vote. I just hope he can survive to the finals because he'll be a very deserving winner.

Posted by Observer at 09:15 PM | Comments (0)

May 10, 2007

Woo!

Hey, I didn't realize this, but you can actually beat that virus defender game if you can break level 51. I managed to do it for the first time on "hard", and I guess now I'll try "really hard". After I beat "hard", I went back to "easy" and won without letting a target past the halfway point in the path.

My advice is to only use machine guns to get to the point where you can build flamethrowers and ice towers, then forget the guns. Ice towers rule. Build lots. Avoid the super expensive weapons. You don't need anything like the last two weapons, just some plasma cannons or void cannons later to make the kills quicker once you have enough cross-firing ice towers to freeze the little targets in place for a while.

I can't get past level 12 yet on "really hard". Surviving the early stages until you can build flames and ice is the hardest part. There may be another inflection point in the strategy later on, but I can't survive the first transition from guns.

Posted by Observer at 10:59 PM | Comments (3)

Experiment Results

Last week, I closed off all comments on individual archives. You can now only comment on this blog by clicking on a comment link on the "front page" of the blog. If you click on an individual entry and THEN try to comment, it will send you to a non-existant script name.

This has cut my blacklist log quite literally by a factor of 1000. I was getting a few hundred blocks per day on average, and since starting this new policy, I've had six blocks total. It was getting to be a problem because even though blacklist was successfully killing 99.99% of the spam without my having to do anything you could see, it was still eating up cpu time on the server, which occasionally annoyed the hosts enough for them to shut down comments for a while.

Plus, I had to occasionally manually clean out a bunch of comments that MT-blacklist had flagged for moderation. I'm glad that I won't have to tear down the blog and start over. Looks like this is a stable long-term solution that will keep me from having to update to a new version or switch software altogether.

Posted by Observer at 07:42 PM | Comments (0)

But Mars Is Warming!

Bob Somerby mentions today a little myth that has been rattling around in tiny wingnut brains lately about global warming. You see, Mars seems to be warming up right now based on the changing size of the icecaps, so wingnuts are saying, "See? Humans aren't causing that, so it proves any warming on Earth is natural!"

That's about the entirety of their idiot thinking.

Of course, the whole story is a bit more complex. It turns out the Martian climate has natural variations that are much larger than Earth's. Mars' lack of a large natural satellite like Earth means it has larger orbital variations and so larger natural climate changes.

Yes, both planets have natural climatic variations, but human-induced climate change is a different story. Right now, the scientific consensus is that multiplying the carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere by about a factor of five or six over the next century is going to lead to some climate change. The range of possibilities ranges from relatively small (the degree or two we've experienced this past century) to enormously large (8-10 degrees or more), and most of the possibilities in between are unpleasant and potentially a LOT more harmful to the world economy than a simple shift away from fossil fuels to renewables.

Do you think you can process that, you braying right-wing half-wits? Jesus.

Posted by Observer at 07:41 AM | Comments (0)

May 09, 2007

iPod

I got my sweetie one of those fancy 80 GB black iPods kinda sorta for birthday, mother's day, hell-of-it, put brownie points in the bank, whatever occasion you want to choose. Of course, I'll get to use it too maybe once in a while or at least we'll have good music in the van without having to shuffle through a bunch of mix CD's. We also got one of those FM radio adaptors so that the iPod broadcasts on an unused FM station of your choice, and you tune your car stereo to that station. Haven't tested it yet, but it'll be good for road trips.

I hope she'll have some time to set it up over the next few days. It just wasn't right having two kids with iPod nanos that they got for Xmas while M*chelle was drooling over them and occasionally commandeering them when she needed exercise music. That's why she got a "Mommy iPod".

Posted by Observer at 11:15 PM | Comments (1)

Closed Door

I was reminded today why I have a policy during finals week of keeping strict office hours. Once my office hours are over, the door is closed, and I will not meet with students. Conversations about grading policy can never have a satisfying conclusion at this time of year, no matter how convincing a case I can make.

Enough said.

Posted by Observer at 09:01 PM | Comments (0)

Catholic Priorities

So, apparently, the Pope has decided to butt into Mexican politics, declaring how abhorrent it would be if anyone would have an abortion there. I'm with Athenae on this. Yes, abortion is a horrible thing to go through. Whenever anyone comes out against it, the debate is framed as though someone out there is "for" it, like people are lining up and buying tickets for a chance to have one.

Anyway, it's just disappointing to see the church (of any religion) transformed into such a shallow and obvious political tool. Yes, let's go ahead and decry abortion, but oh, uh, where's the encyclical about the Iraq War? About poverty? What about the death penalty? No, it's all about gays and controlling pregnancy.

Let's get all high and mighty and deny Kerry communion because he's pro-choice, meanwhile embracing Flight Suit Georgie and his vanity war that has killed hundreds of thousands of innocents and soldiers. For what? Why can't the church grow up and act like an adult sometimes? Surely the Catholic belief system is more subtle and complicated than (as Athenae so aptly put it) a "Cosmic Just Say No"?

Posted by Observer at 08:54 PM | Comments (0)

Conversations, cont...

Daniel will be four years old in July, just for reference.

Daniel: "Daddy, I found my white blanket!"

Daddy: "That's great!"

Daniel: "Look, it has penis pictures all over it."

Daddy: "Peanuts, Daniel. Peanuts. Charlie Brown and Snoopy."

Posted by Observer at 09:58 AM | Comments (1)

May 08, 2007

New Depths

I have to admit, I had never thought of this type of corrupt behavior, but state politicians are way ahead of me. It seems a common trick around here, used by both parties (in fact, Dems more often than Reps in recent years, according to the article), involves state laws about legislators and trials.

The rules goes like this: If you are a state legislator and have a case pending for trial, you can automatically receive a deferment if you can show that you are doing some sort of legislative business, and this deferment can more or less last indefinitely. In recent years, lawmakers have had to report publicly when they do this, so it's nice to get some sunlight on it.

Some cockroaches, however, are too dumb to run from the light. Take Phil King, a stalwart family-values Republican. When an oil company is about to get sued over an accident that killed a worker, they hire their buddy Phil a few weeks before the trial date. Presto! Trial has been on hold for over a year now.

So if a company wants to postpone an expensive trial, they simply have to retain a legislator willing to manipulate the system for the company's benefit. Molly Ivins used to eat guys like this for breakfast. Now we're lucky if a paper has the guts to place such a story prominently. It's very rare.

Posted by Observer at 08:03 PM | Comments (0)

Virus Killer

This flash game is kinda fun. Kinda like setting up a battlefield for maximum kill rate. Which weapon? What position? Wait for the upgrade or keep buying the cheap stuff? I just stayed up 30 minutes past my bedtime on it. Oops. And an 8am exam in the morning. Bad Observer.

Posted by Observer at 12:04 AM | Comments (0)

May 07, 2007

Birthday Idea

If you are interested in buying something for our little toddler's first birthday this weekend, please consider an 18m or 24m size t-shirt that says "Already Smarter Than Bush!"

Posted by Observer at 11:29 PM | Comments (2)

A Little Late...

You know, it's nice and all that the LA Times is now calling for withdrawal from Iraq, but as Atrios points out, JUST TWO MONTHS AGO, they were ridiculing "General Pelosi" for "micromanaging" the war by calling for a troop pull-out.

So, yes, they're clueless morons, but at least now they're OUR SIDE's clueless morons.

Or something.

Posted by Observer at 11:13 PM | Comments (0)

Finals Week...

... is upon us, and I'm officially done answering student emails until August. Yay!

Posted by Observer at 10:17 PM | Comments (0)

May 06, 2007

Rat

The Boston Globe has an article today outlining the career of one of the typical rats infesting the Justice Department, a guy the liberal blogosphere has been doing the legwork on for months.

This guy is a case study in why a Republican cannot win the presidency in 2008. The whole appointments structure in the executive branch needs to be thoroughly fumigated. For the last seven years, appointments to various governmental agencies have been made based purely on party affiliation rather than on qualifications and competence, from the Justice Department to the Environmental Protection Agency to the Young Republicans running the reconstruction in Iraq to "Heckuva job" FEMA.

Posted by Observer at 08:42 PM | Comments (0)

Experiment

99.99% of the spam attacks on this blog occur through ancient individual archives. I believe I can stop this without using up a ton of processing power with blacklist.

For now, if you wish to comment on a post, you can comment using the link on the index page. However, comments made using the standard form that comes in individual archive entry pages will no longer work because they will point to the wrong script. This has the benefit of denying spam without calling on the processing power required by MT-Blacklist.

Better this than have to scrap and start from scratch just because of a bunch of spamming low-lifes.

Posted by Observer at 12:10 AM | Comments (1)

May 05, 2007

Mission Accomplished

Image from Bob Geiger's weekly comic roundup.

Posted by Observer at 11:55 AM | Comments (1)

Debates

Jamison Foser helpfully compares the debate questions and follow-ups (or lack thereof) posed by the guardians of our ultra-liberal socialist communist terror-loving America-hating media. Which side do you think got the "Can you tell us how much you love America?" questions and which side do you think got the "Some say cutting off funds for our troops is a bad idea ... do you consider yourself a traitor to this country?" questions.

Posted by Observer at 11:41 AM | Comments (0)

May 04, 2007

Thin Gruel

I usually listen to the local sports station, which covers mostly teams in the D/FW market for some odd reason. Well, they're in a funk, and here's why:

The Cowboys don't start training camp for 3-4 months, and they might still suck this year.

The Stars got bounced in the first round (yay, hockey talk on the radio is an immediate tune-out for me).

The Mavwrecks got bounced in the first round, the most embarrassing spectacle since I cared about the Sonics losing to Dikembe and the Nuggets in '94.

The Rangers have the 2nd worst record in baseball (so many owners must be sending thankyou cards to the Double-A's for making them look good) and a horrific offense, as I feared.

What's left to talk about at the sports station, given that they'll never discuss soccer or any other minor sport? They've got a lot of segments to fill over the coming summer months, and it often makes for funnier and more interesting radio than sports talk.

Posted by Observer at 09:10 PM | Comments (0)

May 03, 2007

Suddenly Syria

I seem to remember a couple of weeks ago that "everyone" was criticizing Nancy Pelosi for going to Syria, despite the fact that none of the critics could articulate exactly WHY she was going to Syria (turns out it was to reinforce the Bush administration's message that they shouldn't expect to be treated any nicer by Democrats, etc., which sounds fine to me) and despite the fact that a long line of Republicans has been visiting Syria for over a decade now since Syria officially became recognized as a state sponsor of terrorism, and these critics never have seemed to find their voice on those occasions.

The administration led the way in the criticism, saying that any dialogue right now with Syria only gives their government credibility and so no one should go talk to them. "Full stop," said press secretary Dana Perino emphatically. This despite the Iraq Study Group's recommendations that we engage in some diplomacy with Syria and Iran, who have to be a part of the solution in that region whether we like it or not.

Anyway, now it seems that Condi Rice has headed over there for a chat with a senior Syrian government official.

And, you know, I'm really fine with that. I'm willing to accept that ISG's recommendations as sort of "the least we can do" that is different from the disastrous foreign policy we've been pursuing with Iraq. And as far as this deeply stupid administration is willing to go to carry out those recommendations, that's fine.

What I'm NOT fine with is all of the fucking blowhard assholes who got on their high horse about Nancy Pelosi when she went but today seem to have found something else worth talking about, like Democrats' haircuts. You should follow that last link to Glenn Greenwald's latest, because he is in truly excellent form today in his media criticism.

Posted by Observer at 11:13 AM | Comments (0)

Hurricane

A big momma of a storm system moved through here last night, the fourth one in as many weeks, each dropping over 2 inches of rain on us. This one was the worst, with about 3 inches of rain in an hour (cars were halfway underwater on major streets all around our neighborhood) and winds all over the area in excess of 70mph, touching 90-100 mph in a few places. It was basically like a small Category 1 hurricane moving over us, and we're a few hundred miles inland.

Like every storm lately, we lost power (so did a few hundred thousand other people, according to news reports), this time for about 8-9 hours. Just came back up, and I woke up to reset the house and put stuff back into the fridge from the big freezer, can't sleep now. I'm surprised no big branches were lost from our backyard jungle of old trees, but there are plenty of big downed branches around the neighborhood.

We had just finished cooking supper when the power went out, so we ate a yummy meal mostly in the dark as the lights flickered. The kids, especially J*stin, are full of manic energy when a storm is coming. Kinda crazy listening to them bounce off the walls and each other while also trying to listen through the lightning-induced static on the radio for the reason why the damned tornado siren is going off. Lots of funnel clouds spotted but no touchdowns, apparently.

Times like these make me glad I got such a nifty new flashlight with my latest drill purchase (here is a picture). Like every rechargeable drill, this one has two power supplies, but it also comes with a flashlight/lantern that is very powerful and long-lasting because it feeds off of either power supply. Our old plug-in rechargeable flashlights were always weak, unreliable and short-lived. This new one has been wonderful. Our rechargeable booklights have also been very handy.

We have normal flashlights that use C or D batteries, but I don't ever bother with them. The kids are always screwing with them and leaving them on, so they almost never have power when you really need it. I bought them all rechargeable booklights for Xmas that they can use in their rooms late at night or in power outages. Of course, J*stin seems to have lost his, so he goes crazy when the power is out, having no light source of his own.

The bad thing about losing power for a whole evening is that we miss all the shows we had planned to record. It would really be nice if networks would maintain a high-number cable channel that just reruns prime-time programming at all hours of the day, even from a week or two ago. So often around here we miss it because of power outages or because it is preempted by hyperventilating weather people throwing it to field reports, "Yeah, Bob, the rain is REALLY coming down here, just like the radar image says! Back to you!"

Makes it very hard to follow continuing series story-lines. iTunes has saved us on this count a couple of times for "Survivor" episodes, but most shows don't have anything like that.

Posted by Observer at 03:33 AM | Comments (2)

May 02, 2007

Conversations with a 3-Year-Old, cont.

D*niel: "Why does everything have things inside?"

Daddy: "You'll understand when you take set theory."

D*niel: "Oh. Okay."

Posted by Observer at 12:47 PM | Comments (2)

May 01, 2007

Words to the Wise(guy)

There are a great variety of interesting, subtle and impossible-to-detect ways that a professor can intentionally screw you (or help you) without you even knowing about it. I'm not saying I would ever do anything like this, even if a student were to richly deserve it for some reason.

I'm just saying it is possible.

Posted by Observer at 10:15 AM | Comments (1)