Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Last Day of November

Tomorrow is December! The month worth an entire year of anticipation.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Fuzzy Firefox images

Annoying fuzzy image issues can be resolved by Ctrl+ and Ctrl- in Firefox, to adjust text (!) size up or down. Other browsers don't seem to have the problem.

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

New Zealand is out of the loop...?

My emails to New Zealand either get delayed or they bounce, even though I'm writing to an ordinary, good academic address.

Weird. High volume traffic? How do the Kiwis communicate? Wikileaks around the edge of the world?


Friday, November 26, 2010

Remember when StumbleUpon was interesting?

They've run out.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Great Recession

I heard it called "the great recession" the other day. Depressing. A few pounds of turkey and sweet potatoes probably aren't going to lift the gloom much, either. No job, no money, no spending. Get real.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I don't get Megatokyo. I like it. I just wish I understood what it's all about...


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Paparazzi Wild Chase Ratatouille

There are a couple of ways to pervert (heh) GTA Chinatown Wars even more. One way is to redraw the mazelike map as a maplike maze and replace the cars with rats tracking down cheese 'n stuff while avoiding cats. The juvenile humor bits could be rats and cats doin' stuff...

Another way is to make Wills and Kate be "It" and then everybody else is paparazzi trying to get their stuff together (cameras, film, fake invitations, fast cars, nunchuks...) just in time before the Big Day, 29 April 2011 at Winchester Cathedral, then everybody gangs up after the wedding in a wild chase around the streets of London. Juvenile humor provided by steamed up stretch Ferrari windows.

This ends in one of three ways, i.e., Wills deftly swipes your sparkling Nikkor lens with Vaseline, you get a shot of Kate's true blue garter (Brazilian photoshopped later, if necessary), you get several closeups of the dying couple gasping and gazing about after the inevitable highspeed bloody smashup at Gants Hill bloody roundabout in the NE bloody London borough of bloody Redbridge.

For extra points, you pose as a concerned Belgian|Swiss|French|etc. tourist, by sheer happenstance an obstetrician, just passing by the gory scene; you inject Missus Winzzer's half-dead limo driver's carotid artery with bloody Beefeater's, sending his blood alcohol level through the roof, where flights of bloody angels speed him to his bloody rest. All Paparazzi Go Free.

Paparazzi, rats, yakuza, cheesy plot...? Same thing, really. Ok, Legal, where's the prior art on this one?


Friday, November 19, 2010

Gunfight at the PU-238 Corral

"When I hear of Schrödinger's cat, I reach for my pistol." — Stephen Hawking

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Kate's Rock

Wills and Kate stood in a paparazzi lightstorm and shewed off Diana's Windsor sapphire. That was this week. Assuming Diana wasn't assassinated back in 1997 by MI6 or the Mafia in a Paris underpass, Kate will likely be murdered by paparazzi before May. Mixed feelings about that. As a democrat, I generally approve of chopping blocks for royals, but one wonders what this Middleton kid has done to deserve strangling on her Sloan salute. The frenzy in the U.K. is well under way already, with piles of invective heaped on the couple for desecrating Her Mum-in-Law's gaudy bits. Can Buckingham Palace withstand the zombie terror of Diana, staggering back from the beautiful dead?

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Objet trouvé: Message in a Bottleneck

"Hit Start when you're back on the streets, then go to System, then arrow left to New Game."

Synopsis Sophomore Jet Li meets Hymon Roth and gets pixelated for tiny screen. Space opera without up. Campbell's condensed car chases. I Love Lucy Liu, without Lucy Liu. Crouching hidden tiger dragon bobbleheads. No discernible sex. The nightmare everyone's had, helpless and lost in a maze of unfamiliar streets in an unrecognizable city. (Oh, sure, the minotaur you hear creeping up on you is your own beating heart, but we'll leave that for Psych 102.)

I can usually tell in 15 minutes whether I'll like a particular game, but Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars had me groping for the reset button in 15 seconds. This sucks! How do I start over!!?? Where's my @$%#! INVENTORY??!! Where's the REAL instruction manual?? Universal experience, evidently, getting sucked into profanity. Is there nothing to like?

First, I like the Chinatown angle, not so much the Chop Socky ethnic cliches. Second, I think it's odd that nobody talks about the game, only about the game interface — the controls are hidden, but complete, maybe (where's that inventory?!) No hand holding! Is there a conspiracy of silence, or is everyone just reamed out about how thick this load really is? My theory is, Rockstar deliberately chose a 1980's style of human interface guidelines to filter out intelligent young adults with modern expectations, before they're propositioned by the allegedly ubiquitous hookers.

I suspect this Nintendo DS money loser (released 2009) may be trading on its pennyweight of infamy on other platforms.

But wottheheck... I got GTA: Chinatown Wars for $5 less than zero, on trade-in at Video Games Etc., so we'll see. As Alexander Pope said, nobody breaks a butterfly on a wheel. But I wonder, what's the attraction? Obviously, a guy thing... (What is this "female demographic" of which you speak?)

The trope is simple. Anarchy destroys itself. Power abhors a vacuum. If there is no khan, the strong devour the weak. To preserve his own hide, a khan must rise and establish hegemony — to extend the benefits of law as widely as possible. War is lawless. War is fought to decide who gets to lay down the law. Political power comes out of the barrel of a gun.

Huang Lee's lost treasure is a fake heirloom sword, Yu Jian, stolen by thugs who killed his father. Huang must retrieve it, and give it meaning. Is Yu Jian worth dying for? Is revenge? To make a real heirloom out of worthless junk, Huang must build order in Liberty City's anarchy, starting Kung Fu-like within himself.

Lotsa verbiage for an urban burn shootout...

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Friday, November 12, 2010

Ariel ben Cartwright

The Israeli National Health Service has apparently convened a death panel and decided to throw Ariel Sharon, 5 years comatose, under the bus. They've sent him home to Sycamore Ranch, David Ben Gurion's ancestral family farm (once he got his hands on it), in care of family and friends who reassure themselves daily that Sharon's pale half-lidded gaze contains flickers of recognition.

Indeed it does! Easily recognizable there is Pa Cartwright at the Ponderosa, the "crown of Lake Tahoe." Except in the TV series the ones who wore out and died back at the ranch were Adam, Hoss and Little Joe's respective mums — Elizabeth, who died in childbirth, Inger, who perished of acute toxophilia, and that slip of a girl, Marie, who fell off a horse — not the insatiable patriarch himself.

It makes you wonder what Ariel ben Cartwright could have accomplished in a world without intifadas. At the Ponderosa, the Cartwrights lived 'longside nice neighbors, such as indigenous tribal peoples who obviously had no use for a prime chunk of Nevada real estate, and they got along with them immigrants, especially Chinese immigrants who did all the cookin' and laundly and bootlickin'.

At the Sycamore Ranch (Havat Shikmim on the map, 35 miles N.W. of Be'er Sheva, near Sderot next to Gaza), aside from being in rocket range of a few misguided malcontents, possibly including Benjamin Netanyahu, things seem to be much the same. Boom tiddy boom tiddy boom tiddy doom tiddy tah dum...

Or was that F Troop?

Euthanasia is illegal in Israel, according to the BBC.

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

John Wayne Day

Today is November 11th, commonly known in the American entertainment industry as John Wayne Day in celebration of that non-serving actor's plethora of phony cowboy shoot-'em-ups and vaguely historical war movies. (I got my Vietnam draft deferrment the old-fashioned way. I volunteered for the draft, then got rejected at the Fort Des Moines induction center. They classified me 1-Y and promised to call me up when Ho Chi Minh invaded Iowa.)

Wayne was known for pompous bombast about patriotism and John Birch society conservatism, but the closest he ever got to serving in an actual shooting war was an Army training film in which he demonstrated how to use a P-38 (i.e., not the Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter plane, not the Walther P.38 pistol, but the guvmint issue P-38 C-ration can opener) for which reason U.S. Marines call it a John Wayne.

That's the polite version — the P-38 is also the dinkiest edged weapon in the Marine arsenal, frequently confiscated these days by TSA airport goons from decorated veterans who've carried one on their keychains for decades. A similar item in Australian Army kit with a stamped dimple in one end to serve as a "spoon" is called the FRED, or fucking ridiculous eating device (sic).

Wayne despised American Indians and Vietnam-era college students with "hippie" opinions, by which he meant liberals. He was owned, body and soul, by Republic Pictures, which educated generations of Americans in the delicate B-movie art of shooting first and asking questions later. The Great American Dumb-down continued for years after Marion Morrison, so it's not entirely his fault even though he had Ann Coulter's mouth and walk and cultivated both.

So, I do not celebrate John Wayne Day, but rather those solemn and silent men in my own family and among my father's veterinary colleagues who came back from WWII alive. I've known a veteran of the war in the Pacific who hated the Fourth of July because the noise of fireworks made him relive the endless threat, detonation and suspense of kamikaze attacks. He shuddered and put his jacket over his head, and we left early.

No John Wayne for me. It's tomorrow. I'd rather watch a Kia commercial.

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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

MSNBC blinked!

Olbermann's back. Whenever I've had an Olbermann overdose, I gaze for a moment at this photo of the young firebrand Commie intellectual, Leon Trotsky, and he, Keith, seems relatively normal again.

I however am not. My political views as a natural follower have always been shaped by the Zeitgeist of our times.... (Heh.)

As an Independent, I find it disturbingly easy to carom off any nearby rail into pockets I've never considered before. After so many years of contemptible indecision, I suppose I most approve of America's strangest bedfellows, James Carville and Mary Matalin, as best illustrating the point that all politics is organic, homegrown, family-friendly and local. Bunkies aren't the whole story, of course.

You have to look beyond yourself to find your principles; in American politics, we start with the Constitution.


Monday, November 08, 2010

You might be a tea drinker

Has the Tea Party made tea drinking popular in America? Back in the day, us real Americans drank coffee and nothing but — at least until Juan Valdez smuggled an unintended ethnic note into the four part harmony.

Tea was so unpopular that Disney actually expurgated most of the snide British tea jokes in Mary Poppins — Uncle Albert's tea party on the ceiling (we call that manic-depressive these days), Marpop's lesson to the wee bairns about how to brew tea and "pour out," the flavor of East India Company cargoes adversely affected by Boston Harbor seawater, etc.

I like tea, myself. Especially idiosyncratic mixtures like Lipton's orange pekoe and pekoe cut black tea dust plus green tea plus English Breakfast plus Golden Yunnan. It's still trash, according to British ex-pat tea snobs in Hong Kong, but I like trash, sometimes. Including some of the "You might be a tea drinker" hillbillies from that last election. Yeah, the country's going to hell, but there's still tea.

Although, your average Kentucky tea ceremony is just other name for drinking the Kool-Aid, 'ey?

I will admit a certain predilection to Republic of Tea teas, although they use the racist and derogatory term "monkey picked" to describe some their catalog items. The "monkeys" in question are Asian women paid next to nil for the agriculture they support by wage, or possibly overt, slavery.


Sunday, November 07, 2010

Bad Motivator

If you can't say "R2" without a hint of whiny exasperation in your voice you might be over 65.


Saturday, November 06, 2010

MSNBC's Hatchet Job on Keith Olbermann

MSNBC stepped waaaay over the Freedom of Speech line when it essentially fired Keith Olbermann yesterday. The abuse of corporate power involved is so well understood, and so despised, that prohibitions against it are part of every union contract and enshrined in federal law.

Federal merit-system employees are allowed by law, courtesy of the Hatch Act (somewhat ironically), to put bumper stickers on their cars and to make political contributions. The same goes for the UAW, the AFL/CIO, AFSCME and every other sovereign citizen of the United States.

It's worth noting that what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, in this case. Olbermann contributed a paltry $2,400 apiece to three obscure regional Democrats running for office. GE, NBC, and MSNBC, his employers, contributed millions in the last election (according to the gleeful CNN).

Fie! MSNBC owes Keith Olbermann its abject apology, reinstatement and back pay, plus a $1,000,000 fine for corporate abuse of the First Amendment.


Thursday, November 04, 2010

The Hidden Doors of Professor Layton

Now that the election's over, it's time to get back to the minutiae of the low arts... videogames! The Professor Layton games for Nintendo DS consoles get really high marks from me. At my age, the foreboding threat of memory loss and problem-solving skills begins to wear on the nerves, and we start grasping at straws to keep Alzheimer's at bay.

The strategies we employ, such as haranguing offspring with our years of accumulated wisdom (such as how to clean black, rotary dial telephones using Q-tips dipped in isopropyl alcohol) normally leave our families mounting interventions against causing 17-year-olds to weep and gnash their teeth in the captivity of boredom. I think thrusting Professor Layton and the Unwound Future into our hands and solitary hours of retirement is a brilliant move, as may be suggested by the puzzle illustrated.

That's a sliding block puzzle, and the idea is to slowly move the gem around until you eventually slide it out the north edge. This particular one, found behind the Hidden Door of the third game in the series, may be the hardest yet revealed, and a really nasty personal rejoinder to those of us who've been moaning about how easy these puzzles have gotten of late.

Almost... There is a worse... Kids who encounter it too early return their games to the Used Videogames shelves, where we oldtimers pick them gleefully up for a song.

The top secret Hidden Door is a feature of all three games in the Professor Layton series. Getting them open is a puzzle in itself, because the passwords and keys are buried in the next game of the series. Or possibly in the prequels as well as the sequels, I'm not sure.

At any rate, as long as you've got all three of the games released so far in the U.S. (and these are not the same in details as the U.K. versions!), you can unlock the Hidden Doors in all three games, whether or not you've played the the main storylines to conclusions. Fascinating.

For example, the "Hidden Door of St. Mystere" password on my DS Lite is 4B7F8F1B. That gibberish is keyed to my unique DS console (possibly as a function of its serial number), and unlocks the Hidden Door in Professor Layton and the Curious Village, but you find it in Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box, the sequel to the first game. The number will unlock "passwords" that go with other games in the series, a rigamarole best described here.

If you can get through that you're safe from the ravages of dementia, at least for the time being. (ADHD is your problem, dudes. Where's my Pratchett book?)

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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Weird off-year elections, Iowa style

Personally, the best result last night was U. S. Rep. (IA-2) Dave Loebsack beating back Marionette Miller-Meeks (yes, that's her name). Loebsack was supposed to lose that race. This was Miller-Meeks' comeback challenge. Unless she's made of money and has a strong masochist streak, it'll be her last. Clearly, she was done in by her own wishful thinking about the merits of incumbency in a GOP year.

Three Iowa State Supreme Court justices got booted off the bench. That's almost unheard of. I don't know if that's because the question was confusingly worded or not. Maybe people who voted No (do not retain the judge in office) thought the question was asking, "Do you want to fire this judge?" in which case No should have meant Retain, but din't. On the other hand, maybe gay marriage in Iowa really does strike most Iowans as a bridge too far.

The Iowa Supremes could have dodged the bullet by refusing to consider the case, so history should award them their purple hearts for shooting themselves in the foot, then forget about 'em. No profiles in courage, the ousted justices didn't think courage was needed in a mundane job. (On the SCOTUS front, there's no remedy other than counting the minutes until Antonin Scalia or one of his bobbleheads stroke out, drop out or drop dead. That's Alito, Thomas or Roberts.)

Guvner Branstad is back for a non-consecutive fifth term, which is so-so news for Iowa. Senator Grassley as well. I suspect both these races were decided by opponents' negatives, rather than any glowing adulation for two relics from the Reagan 80's.

Fun stuff: Christine O'Donnell, the witch of Delaware, declared victory to no one's surprise, despite getting swept under the rug. And Harry Reid trounced Sharon Angle, which is all you need to know about Tea Party kooks, except for Rand Paul. The family name carried him past the extremist label, evidently, but he's a one-term wonder.

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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

A little last-minute electioneering

Nobody who remembers the Iowa governship of Terry Braindead (1983-1999, during the Presidencies of Ronnie Rayguns and Bush One) actually wants him back.

Terry Branstad was no Jerry Brown. Hold your nose and vote Democratic on this one.

I have no opinion about the Senate race. Iowa won't elect Roxanne Conlin under any circumstances, and Grassley's too dipped in the discoloring vats of Big Money for my taste — especially the credit card industry. Grassley's been coasting on a pitifully few laurels he earned very early on in his Senate career (the whistleblower's shield law comes to mind), but as they say, what has he done for us lately?

And a last word about Christine O'Donnell, the Delaware teaparty's inexplicable Senate candidate who subscribes to the Tinkerbell "Think Happy Thoughts" school of social climbing, would it kill her to release her college transcripts, or at least her SAT scores? Is there any grist in her mill at all? As it stands, it seems everything she needs to know, she learned in kindergarten.......


Monday, November 01, 2010

Why emulate a bad example?

If Fox News is such a barren-brained expostulatory flack for a redacted, contorted, barely recognizable Republican party entirely congenial to its own corrupt outlook on the political landscape of America (or as much of it as Rupert Murdoch can buy, bribe, besmirch, smear or subvert), why does MSNBC adopt the Fox News playbook with such alacrity?

Granted a news organization that has abandoned balance and even-handedness whilst spewing the merely assertative prerogatives of its own contumely and self-serving bald-faced lies like "Fair and Balanced" probably does need a standover thug with a hammer to break bones when the outrage factor gets too enormous, why is the judge and jury role reserved solely to MSNBC?

I say, can't anybody get in on that action? Say, by voting against the Faux Snooze agenda tomorrow?

I'd vote, would that I could, AGAINST Sharon Angle and Christine O'Donnell, FOR Lisa Murkowski, and AGAINST the teaparty on general principles. I can be nuanced and dial back my own doctrinaire tendencies on that — I doubt the teaparty is entirely full of loons — but this year, considering all the foul rhetoric that's come from that quarter, I'd rather make them wait and let them prove themselves two years from now.

O'Donnell in particular seems to think the United States Senate, one of the most august deliberative bodies in the world, is a kind of beauty pageant which she is entitled to win by virtue of having looked in her own mirror this morning. Fie, McNugget! You are not so grand as that.