Monday, December 06, 2004

Last thoughts on the "Queen of Sky" and Warholism

I think this will probably be my last entry on the "Queen of Sky" (who's self-proclaimed title I'm finally writing correctly), as I'm finding her and her "adventures" more pitiful than entertaining.

The QoS, with lawyer, was on a Today Show segment a few weeks back, during the period I was off blogging. Although she was obviously terrified, as opposed to her defiant print interviews and blog postings, she came across as a somewhat clueless young woman who just wanted her job back. She reiterated her claim that she had started her blog in reaction to the death of her mother, but then, when asked about the pictures that prompted her termination from Delta, responded that she had posted them in reaction to the death of her grandmother, leaving Matt Lauer, and presumably most of the audience, bemused and trying to figure out the connection. In explanation on her site, the QoS writes, "My blog is therapy to me, and the photos are part of that therapy... It been a stressful year (even more so now), and my blog lets me let off steam and have fun. "

The opportunity for more "fun" increases for QoS on a daily basis, unfortunately. Although I didn't note it for what I hope were obvious reasons, I googled QoS real name +Texas after she went public, and got back both her address and telephone on the first page of results. As anyone, except apparently Ms. Simonetti, could have anticipated, I wasn't the only one who thought of that, and her blog is now alternately filled with pleading and threatening entries about the phone calls she's receiving from various crazies. A fast review of her postings also reveals that she's being threatened with a defamation of character suit by another blogger and also is being accused of various unsavory things in her "Guestbook."

As I've said before, the `Net is a very nice place in the same way that the Amazon Basin is a very nice place. The fact that it may be beautiful and even entertaining doesn't mean that you can't get eaten alive. I suspect QoS is about 14 minutes and 55 seconds into her Warholian moment. I hope she survives it.




Early thoughts on the Dylan interview...

...mostly random notes, nothing cohesive at this point...

I mentioned to Peg while we were watching that Dylan looked very nervous, as he repeatedly twirled a pen between his fingers, but "nervous" is the wrong term. "Uncomfortable" better describes it, and "reactive." "Reactive" in the sense that I got the impression that most of the questions Bradley asked aren't questions that Dylan spends any time thinking about and he answered only because they were asked.

In the so-called "Rome Interview" conducted with a group of European journalists in July 2001, a very engaged Dylan spends a significant part of the interview talking about the "sound" he's trying to create -- a subject which you can tell the musician is very interested in. The same sense of engagement comes through loud and clear in Volume One of "Chronicles" when Dylan writes about the New Orleans sessions that produced, "Oh Mercy."

The dichotomy between the media/public-created "Dylan" and the musician who goes on stage every night and thinks about the music he's creating becomes more stark with each public statement, and I find I like and identify with the musician more and more.

Other things: It'll be interesting, and nice to see, if the complete out-takes from the reported 90 minute interview ever surface. I'm guessing it must have been a frustrating interview for Bradley and producers, as from a "sound bite" perspective, only Dylan's statement that he couldn't now write something like "It's Alright, Ma..." at the beginning and his closing remark about "holding up his end of the bargain" were the only two provocative segments. You can almost see the 60 Minutes teasers being born: "Big Bubba of Rebellion Sez He Doesn't Have Right Stuff Anymore!" and "Song and Dance Man Admits Bargain with `Chief Commander!'"

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Fan Frustration: Trying to take the Nickel Tour

No, this doesn't have anything to do with the Freudian joke below. For well over a year I've periodically tried to purchase, "Disneyland the Nickel Tour", a massive collection of the complete set of postcards issued by the theme park, plus a history of Disneyland from opening to present day. To date I've been unsuccessful, though I just tried Amazon yet again.

If you follow the link to Amazon, you'll note that the book's availability is listed as "1 to 2 months", the first hint of weirdness. You'll also note that used editions of the book are going for several hundred dollars from various sellers, far above what I want to pay, while Amazon lists a new edition (from January, 2000) at half-price, $47.25 -- a price that I can justify paying for a book as yet unseen.

You'll also note that there's a review of the book from January 2004, which would be indicative, Watson, that the book is available. But, noooo. I tried buying "The Nickel Tour" again early this year, only to receive an auto-response from Amazon after a few weeks that they had been unable to contact the publisher and were canceling the order, which is also what I expect to happen this time around, too. I put a comment in the Amazon "review" section noting the book's unavailability... and the comment, which had to go through Amazon editorial review, was never published.

We pause for the Twilight Zone theme music.

Sometime in the summer, I got het up about "The Nickel Tour" once again after reading another glowing review and this time went to the effort of tracking down the publisher, "Camphor Tree." Go and check their site out, if you like. I'll wait.

Nice, if a little sparse, site, huh? If you click on "The Nickel Tour" link, you'll see you can purchase the book directly from them for $75, plus $7 s&h. Yikes! But what the hey, Fred's got the bit between his teeth at this point, and $82 is still better than $200 - 300. If worse gets to worse, I can always re-sell it on eBay, right?

Peg, if she's reading this, LoL at this point. :-)

If you're following along interactively with this saga, you can try purchasing "The Nickel Tour", or, for that matter, any book offered by Camphor Tree and this is what I bet you'll see, as the message hasn't changed in six months...

This supplier's CCNow store is currently unavailable. To our client: please log into your account and read an important message from CCNow.

I engage in idle speculation at this point and mention that I suspect that the "important message" is CCNow advising Camphor Tree that their account is long expired.

OOOOkay. What's left for Fred, who by this time had gone into his full rico-ga research mode and is determined to track down the Camphor boys (or girls, as the case may be). Well, there's an email address, and predictably, there's no response to the message I send in the summer. They're in Santa Clarita, CA, and a little research uncovers their snailmail address (predictably, a P.O. Box) and a phone number...

... which I call and reach an answering machine, or at least did when I tried this summer. And I leave a message. And (here comes that word again) predictably receive zero response. Zilch. Nothingness. The Big Nada.

That was this summer, and thus stymied (a word that always reminds me of one of the characters on "The Little Rascals"), I went on to other passions, which, as Peg can tell you, occur on the average of one a minute.

So, I'm blogging around this a.m. and go to the Disney Blog, where the author notes that this is one of his "favorite books", suggests it as a great gift idea, and even provides a link to Amazon. I go retrace the path I took in the summer, nothing has changed at Camphor Tree, but I click on the Amazon "buy" button, `cause what the heck, maybe the book is really now available, and go back to the Disney Blog and put a comment in the entry summarizing my tale of woe...

... and first I think it's been deleted ("Twilight Zone" music again) by the blogger, Mr. Frost, but what he's done is created a new entry with this remark at the same time I've been typing this entry...

Update: Looks like Amazon is out of stock on this item. I'll try to find out if there is a supply of these books out there anywhere. The untimely death of David Mumford, one half of the authorship and part owner of Camphor Tree Publishing, has made these books quite scarce. It might be a question of market demand. I think the minimum run for small presses is 10,000. They might just feel that's not warranted right now.

... and there we are. In the big scheme of things, the death of the co-author/publisher is a little more important, of course, and explains the unresponsiveness, and I'm sorry for the many Bad Things I've been thinking about Camphor Tree...

...but I sure wish I could find "The Nickel Tour."

Freudian Joke

that made me LoL, startling Bear this morning as he lay beside the laptop.

Courtesy of Scott McCloud, who notes on his blog that he first heard it on "Prairie Home Companion." I can't resist, btw. For $20, Scott, how do you spell the name of that game show again? :-)

My Neighbor's Wife

A noirish blend of poetry, graphics, and music that will haunt you for hours.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Ewwwww!

Your child's umbilical cord as a permanent memory. Call me old-fashioned, but baby shoes are good enough for me. (via BoingBoing)

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Jim McManus watch

As friend and family know, Jim McManus' article in the Atlantic, "Fortune's Smile" is to blame for my current obsession with poker of the Texas Hold `Em variety. McManus later lengthened that excellent article to a not-quite-as-good book, "Positively Fifth Street", which I thought flawed by the dual story line of McManus' play in the World Series of Poker and his report of the probable murder of casino heir, Ted Binion. The book is still a more than worthwhile read, especially if you're interested in the current fascination with poker, which, as a gambling buddy of mine likes to put it, is becoming "this generation's Bridge."

McManus is reportedly now working on a history of poker, according to this article I found in D magazine. The story mostly concerns the sniping and maneuvering between billionaire Andy Beal and the so-called "Corporation" as both sides try to get an advantage in Beal's proposed $40 million "Big Game."

If you've followed the Binion murder trial story, you probably know that his live-in girlfriend and her boyfriend were recently retried and found innocent, at least of Binion's murder, this time around. Although as a writer Steve Miller makes an excellent former Las Vegas City Councilman, his article on the $5,000 "chocolate chip" and its possible role in Binion's death, is a fascinating read.

The Ten Geekiest Hobbies

I should be concerned -- but am not -- that two of my hobbies are listed. :-) Furry/Plushy sex, however, is not one of them.

Fred is...

A very long Googlism. I think my favorite is, " Fred is always convinced that his parents are about to give him a cat when obstacles suddenly arise." Story of my life. I also like the listing for my niece, Electra.

Fred is...

A very long Googlism. I think my favorite is, " Fred is always convinced that his parents are about to give him a cat when obstacles suddenly arise." Story of my life. I also like the listing for my neice, Electra.

Monday, November 29, 2004

TRIO Cable Channel may be off air soon

Thanks to my brother, Lee, a cable channel I don't even receive, TRIO, is high on my list of favorites. I suspect if I got TRIO directly my TiVo would be getting a regular work-out, but Lee has been good enough to provide me with tapes of such oddities as the Johnny Staccato series and Peckinpah's warped movie, "Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia" and in return I burn him a DVD of whatever he's sent when I make myself a copy.

Unfortunately, TRIO is probably not much longer for this world, according to Mark Evanier. The channel's primary outlet, DirecTV, is dropping it at the end of December, and the oft-cited "industry sources" say that TRIO will probably not survive into 2005.

As much as cable was supposed to broaden our choices -- and I suppose it has to some extent when you look at the days of three dominant channels and local UHF programming -- it's sad that no one still seems able to come up with a viable strategy to serve fringe markets. For example, any fan worth the name could come up with a schedule that would be better than what the SF Channel currently offers. The SF Channel had much more diversity in its in its early days and should be so much better than it is now , but programs unwatchable junk at least 60 percent of its air time, and re-runs the same series ad infinitum.

I had never even heard of Johnny Staccato prior to TRIO, yet John Cassavettes over-the-top series turned into one of Peg's and my favorites. I suspect there are many things floating out in the TV wasteland that would only appeal to a very small audience. With TRIO going, the chances of finding those things becomes a little harder.


The Future of TiVo

When not worrying about global warming and nuclear catastrophe, I worry about what I'm going to do if TiVo goes under (actually, I probably spend more time worrying about that than the other two put together). But, as Mark Evanier says, the demise of the company doesn't mean the demise of the technology, just that those of us who laid out the $299 for a TiVo "lifetime subscription" rather than monthly fees will probably end up paying those fees to someone else:

TiVo technicians have quietly leaked word to the electronics community that if they crash and burn, the company will release the source codes that will make it easy for someone else to offer a TiVo Data Subscription Service.

TiVo in some ways reminds me of Apple, an innovative company that never was able to capitalize on its innovation... until the iPod, at least.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Dylan to be on 60 Minutes December 5th

The New York Post reports that Dylan spoke to reporter Ed Bradley for 90 minutes about "his career, fame, troubled relationship with the media and his affiliation with his dad."

Segment to air December 5th.

I'm back, btw. :-)

Monday, November 15, 2004

On holiday

fhb is going on hiatus while I work on some other projects. Although I may come back earlier, I'm currently planning on restarting the blog in early January, 2005, so, if you're a reader, check in then.


Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Resistance is Futile - the 6th Movement

Warning: this one is not workplace-friendly. Music, btw, is from "Let it Be" by Laibach


Patience during the reign of witches

A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles. It is true that in the meantime we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors of a war and long oppressions of enormous public debt......If the game runs sometimes against us at home we must have patience till luck turns, and then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the principles we have lost, for this is a game where principles are at stake.

-- Thomas Jefferson, from a letter he sent in 1798 after the passage of the Sedition Act

This Jefferson quote has been making the blog rounds over the past several days. I saw it again this morning on John Perry Barlow's blog, where a commentor has the interesting - and insightful question, "...The identity of the letter's recipient would be [a] revealing fact, as well."

A Google search revealed that Jefferson had addressed the letter to a John Taylor of Virginia, a politician and writer who served in the Virginia house of delegates and in the United States Senate. A little more searching uncovered the letter itself, which is as fascinating and as timely in its entirety (after you get past the detailed description of a mould board in the opening paragraphs :-)) as the "reign of witches" excerpt. Consider this:

"It is the old practice of despots to use a part of the people to keep the rest in order, and those who have once got an ascendency and possessed themselves of all the resources of the nation, their revenues and offices, have immense means for retaining their advantages. But our present situation is not a natural one."

or this...

"Time alone would bring round an order of things more correspondent to the sentiments of our constituents; but are there not events impending which will do it within a few months? The invasion of England, the public and authentic avowal of sentiments hostile to the leading principles of our Constitution, the prospect of a war in which we shall stand alone, land-tax, stamp-tax, increase of public debt, &c."

Substitute "Iraq" for "England" and you have a fairly close correspondence to our present situation; the prospect of a war in which we shall stand alone, increase of public debt.

Best to read the full letter for yourself, especially my Southern friends, as Jefferson eerily -- or perhaps not so eerily in 1798 - predicts the damage that secession will have upon the United States.

As Jefferson closes his letter, "better luck, therefore, to us all..."

Common ground for the Boy Scout and the renegade

"... We both represent aspects of the American psyche that need each other, the jock and the intellectual, the Boy Scout and the renegade, the guardian and the wild card. We both love this great and terrible country, even as we fear one another's excessive influence on it, and part of what we love is the creative fever that arises from our division. As we need each other, however unwillingly, so America needs us both.

Perhaps it's just the bargaining phase of grief, but I can see that one of the things I must do to feel less a stranger in my own land is to have more conversations like the one I had with Dale. Indeed, as I've said repeatedly before, we must do our collective best to shatter the fetters of intolerance and live more in the necessary amnesty of interdependence. We need to quit scaring each other. Both sides are convinced that the other is trying to impose his culture on us, whether by law or by Internet. Fear of the Other, whether Bush or bin Laden, whether terror without or terror within, has been murdering reason and civility in America. We need to look one another in the eyes and see the human being behind the enemy. If we're not going to start shooting each other over the next 4 years, we will need to do that a lot...."

Post-election commentary from John Perry Barlow, writer, gentleman rancher, and one-time Grateful Dead lyricist.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Cease fire

So, yes, okay, fine. I'm a terrible person -- barely a person at all, really, and certainly not a real American -- because I voted for the losing candidate on Tuesday. If you insist -- and you do -- I will rethink my fundamental beliefs from scratch because they are shared by only 47 percent of the electorate...

... I mean, look at it this way. (If you don't mind, that is.) It's true that people on my side of the divide want to live in a society where women are free to choose abortion and where gay relationships have full civil equality with straight ones. And you want to live in a society where the opposite is true. These are some of those conflicting values everyone is talking about. But at least my values -- as deplorable as I'm sure they are -- don't involve any direct imposition on you. We don't want to force you to have an abortion or to marry someone of the same gender, whereas you do want to close out those possibilities for us. ...


Yes. More from Michael Kinsley's Washington Post column here. You'll have to sign up. But it's free, and if you agree with those excerpts, as I do, you'll want to read the rest.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

if I looking for frog

Here's the story...

A child in New York City loses his pet frog, "Hopkin Green Frog," What to do? Put out a hand-drawn flier- "PS: I'll find my frog/Who took my frog/Who found my frog" in an attempt to recover Hopkin.

From that start, a group of artists created a Photoshop slideshow of the search for Hopkin. Funny and touching, and currently my favorite site of 2004.

Resistance is futile Part the 5th

Well, that didn't take long.




Thursday, November 04, 2004

Resistance is futile - Part 4

Four more years.

What he said

Iggy pretty much has my feelings down on the reliability of Blogger.

Blogger was out of service most of yesterday, proving the old adage that you get what you pay for. I've been working with Typepad on another project, and have been pretty impressed with the hosting service. Some bells-`n-whistles that Blogger doesn't have, but I'm surprised that there doesn't seem to be a spell-checker, meaning I end up using something like Word and then pasting the copy into the Typepad compose window.

Typepad hosting costs ranges between $4.95 and $14.95 per month, not an attractive alternative for something I view as essentially a hobby and personal journal. I have this thing about making money, rather than spending it... except about poker, of course. But, I've been considering getting hosted at GoDaddy, the company I use for my domain registration/renewal anyway and moving my site from Adelphia. A GoDaddy Web site would run me about $45 a year, is probably tax deductible, and means that I could set up a Blog area, use something like Movable Type or WordPress, or even simply Dreamweaver, which I already know and use, and not be dependent on a slow, unreliable host. Blogger support claims that many of the problems will go away when they complete their move to Google's servers, and who knows, perhaps they will.

Decisions, decisions. In any case, it took me years - and a career change - to finally build my own site and become master of my domain. It's not dark yet for Blogger. But it's getting there.

Resistance is futile - Part 3

A reader’s guide to expatriating.

On the other hand, Jill and Leigh, you could just move to New Hampshire. :-)

Resistance is futile - Part 2

An actual email spam received after the election...

From: "Mia Wang"
Date: November 3, 2004 9:28:10 AM EST
To: Taylor
Subject: Bush Gets Re-elected
Reply-To: "Mia Wang"
With 4 more years of Bush coming you need some prozac. Get it here.

Trust me, it'll make you feel better.

ST0P
Don't those singers dislike playing carelessly?
Did Roy love working on the top of the mountain?
I didn't dislike cooking at home.
tomorrow i will wash my hair and go to the salon
--------------------------------------------


via BoingBoing. Tomorrow I will wash my hair.


Monday, November 01, 2004



From "The Cincinnati Enquirer"

Visual poetry

The Visual Poetry Google hack, "translates any text into a series of images by looking up the words on Google image search and projecting the most relevant results as a slide show."

In honor of my friend Jill's love of John Lennon, I tried this (you'll need to scroll down a bit to see the results).

On your vote (throwing away thereof)

I deliberately have tried to keep fhb non-political, although it's obvious which side I fall on. I've made my decision on what I'll do tomorrow, but in the perfect world, I'd follow Kris Lachowski's sentiments, eloquently stated in this on-line comic strip. There's more than one way of throwing away your vote -- for example, by not voting your conscience.

Aside from Kris' message, it's interesting to see how much he's absorbed Scott McCloud's style. Many of the panels could have come from "Understanding Comics", a perfect intermix of art and text delivering content together much more effectively than either could by itself. It's why I love comics. There's a handful of work that could not have produced any way except in the comics medium.

Ironically, McCloud feels the same way that I do...

Two words, Kris: Run-offs. (Or is that one word?)
... and tomorrow conscience takes a back seat to pragmatism.

"Queen of the Sky" fired

From a 10/30 posting at the "Diary of an ex-Flight Attendant" blog.

1.) Yes, you read correctly... Queen of Sky was fired yesterday (actually effective Monday). Big blunder on Delta's part, if you ask me (see #2)

2.) Q of S has hired a PR firm, as she has received so many interview requests.

3.) A BIG lawsuit is coming for Delta Air Lines.

4.) Q of S is going to send her resume to Richard Branson this week.

5.) Q of S hopes Delta doesn't go bankrupt, because all of her friends still work there.

6.) Q of S and her PR firm are working on T-shirts to support her cause. Also, Q of S is thinking about going on a "laptop signing" tour :) But that does not mean, as one of her fans suggested, that she will be sitting on top of your lap as she signs :O


The air war heats up, with Delta firing the QotS on Friday, October 29th, purportedly (according to the QotS, as is all the following information) for posting photos of herself in uniform. The photos are now back up on the QotS blog, including the much-discussed "cleavage" shot.

The QotS does not use permalinks, and there are many photos on the site, so expect a slow load.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Da-da-da-da-da-da

Batman!

"Not too long ago, I got a bug in my head to put a blinking Batphone on my
desk at work
..."

...writes Mr. Stinkhead of the "Millionaire Playboy" site, and then proceeds with detailed instructions on how to build your own Batphone. Sounds like it'd be a good winter project. (via BoingBoing)

Thursday, October 28, 2004

What, us work? Today is Red Sox Nation day!


Go Sox!
from left: Jess, Jill, Mary Jo, Peg, and Sam

(click the photo to see a large image) Posted by Hello

Miracleman - Rebirth?

For the "comics geek" file. It looks like Alan Moore's great comic, "Miracleman" may be coming back as early as December under the auspices of Marvel Comics. Neil Gaiman apparently to pen what one would assume among other things would be the resolution of the Miracleman/"Young Miracleman" cliffhanger.

For my readers not into comic-books, Miracleman, known as "Marvelman" in the U.K. where the series was originally produced, was a series originally written by Alan Moore, a writer fascinated with the idea, "What if the Superman was real in the real world?", a subject he addressed in such books/series as WATCHMEN (still, to my mind, the greatest limited comic series ever produced), Swamp Thing, and Miracleman.

Miracle/Marvel/man had a long torturous publishing history, which you can read more about by following the link above, if you're interested. In brief, Moore eventually turned over the series to Gaiman -- I think as much as he had answered the "Superman" question to his own satisfaction by that time with WATCHMEN as anything else -- and the comic, always published on a haphazard schedule, finally ended in mid-plot in 1994 with the bankruptcy of its then publisher, Eclipse. Since that time, legal ownership of the character has been in dispute, with 3 to 4 individuals all owning a piece of Miracleman. Rumors have floated in cyberspace for years that Marvel was/would eventually revive Miracleman, which would be appropriate, as the character was originally based on the British version of Captain Marvel, that is, Marvelman, and the name change was forced by ongoing legal pressure from Marvel.

Confused yet? Good. :-) I could go into the whole original Captain Marvel/Superman suit between Fawcett and D.C. at this point, which killed off the Big Red Cheese for years in the States but not in Great Britain, but I'll resist. Suffice to say that there is mucho bad karma associated with any character with the word "Marvel" in his/her name.

In any case, I'm more looking forward to finally getting the "collected Miracleman" as a trade paperback(s) as seeing the series revived. I think Gaiman, as much as I like his writing, was taking the character in a different direction than Moore's intention. That, of course, is one of the serious weaknesses -- and sometimes strengths -- of all continuing comics.

I'll keep my fingers crossed that Marvel is taking full rights to Miracleman and we'll see a proper, bound, Miracleman set sometime soon.

Link to the Alan Moore fan site

Link to "The Pulse" blurb

Link to Neil Gaiman's blog, which currently has zero info on any Miracleman revival.

The Curse Reversed


Posted by Hello

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Why is fhb like a yo-yo?

`Cause it keeps on going up-and-down.

This is a test post just to see what the time-stamp is going to be, since the QotS post below time-stamped several hours in the future from its actual writing.

And to continue BBC day, did you know that www.georgebush.com is inaccessible (at least somewhat inaccessible) to Web surfers outside the U.S. according to the Beeb?

To make it even more Twilight Zonish, BoingBoing reports that some servicemembers stationed overseas can't access the site either.

Incompetency or paranoia on the part of the Bush team? Does it matter? Same results: Access Denied.

"Queen of the Sky" update

Seems to be serious blogger problems today, so not sure if/when this will get posted.

The QotS saga continues, as the Queen breaks cover (real name "Ellen Simonetti") and goes public (well, more public) with a BBC interview as well as one of the pictures that Delta apparently found offensive.

Thanks to the story, fhb has been getting a swarm of hits from the UK, probably from searchers trying to find the Queen's site. Ever-accommodating Fred complies.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Technology run amuck

I've been experimenting with another Lazlo "blox", LinkBlox. Results are to your right. I currently have mixed feelings about using it, but am going to leave it up for awhile. I'm not sure how intuitive its use is. Feedback would be appreciated, you swarms of fhb readers you.

Pros: It's cool. :-) Using it taught me a little bit more about writing/editing XML, although I'm basically in "monkey see, monkey do" mode. The app pulls data from an external XML file that I have on my site. Took me some experimenting to modify the code to make the email link work. Also found out that XML is very touchy. Doesn't like ampersands, for example, and it was easy to make the code barf an error message. For reasons I don't understand, I had to remove some header code that worked in the original, seemed to work if left intact when on my site, but freaked out when I made modifications to the original. Who knows? "FM" ("fucking magic"), as an old friend used to say when confronted by a piece of confusing code that worked/didn't work without anyone understanding why.

Cons: Lots, the primary being that control freak Fred isn't in control. The actual applet, like WeatherBlox, is hosted on a Lazlo server. It goes down, as the WeatherBlox server has done several times since this weekend, so does the LinkBlox. Since the applet has to be pulled from the Lazlo server, which in turn has to query the XML file on my site, loading is noticeably slow.

I could live without the "Steal this Widget" header. There's also a limit to number of links you can insert under each category, according to a thread on the Lazlo support forums and, I would assume, the same limitation applies to number of categories too.

Most of these problems can be fixed. If I was really dedicated to the idea, I could fire up Flash and probably build something in Flash itself a few days weeks months time (I'm having way too much fun with strikethrough code lately), although I'm not sure whether I could handle the expansion problem. But there's a hint in the Lazlo support forums (also down, as are many things Lazlo today) that one of the other "Blox" has expansion capabilities, which means it should be fixable within Lazlo itself.

In any case, according to David Temkin's site, and rumors elsewhere, the need for a presentation server will become optional, and it should be possible for me to build a "LinkBlox"-type app myself without needing a Java-enabled server... which shoestring Bals does not have.

Why there will be no cats in space anytime soon

That fluffy, spinning object bouncing off the walls in zero-g is, yes, a cat, riding the Vomit Comet.

I suspect this will be gone Real Soon. However, here's the link to the QuickTime movie, courtesy of the USAF Department of Physics web site a BoingBoing reader (via BoingBoing).

Update (1:27 pm ET): That didn't take long. It's gone.

Uber-update: You can't keep a good cat down. As could be expected, a BoingBoing reader donwnloaded and mirrored the QuickTime of the flying kitty, and I've updated the link. Now, someone please tell me, "Who are these people?" "Is the cat okay?"

Things are getting nasty

Alex Ross's "Village Voice" cover. Probably not workplace safe if you work in a Republican environment.

(image courtesy of The Beat, via Scott McCloud's Morning Improv)

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Friends (Hi Sandie! Hi Jill!) have asked me what playing on-like poker is like, so I took a few screen shots of Thursday's tournament at PokerStars...



This is close to the beginning of the game. We all started with $1,500 in chips. I'm at the far right, "ricoM", and already down $350 chips. My avatar, if you look closely, is a picture of me with my Maine Coon, Bear, in his usual position on my shoulder.


As the popular saying goes, Texas Hold `Em is the "cadillac of poker", taking minutes to learn, but a lifetime to master. Each player is dealt two cards and has to put together the best poker hand using those two cards and the community cards in the middle of the table. This is the end of a hand where two players stayed in. Both hold a full house -- Aces with three tens on the board. You can see at the top of the screen that the pot is $930, which the players will split.



We're midway through a break at the end of the first hour of play, which I mention with some relief in the chat box. I've been moved to a different table sometime during the first hour, and have been doing much better, even a little ahead chip-wise of the pro to my right, "AustinKearns." The player in the upper right, "MtDewVirus" would eventually end up winning the tournament.



The final table, and lil' Rico is in very bad shape, the short stack on the table with only $598 left in chips, and about to be blinded out in the next hand, since the blinds are at $600/$1200. Play is fast and furious at this level. The Venetian would be knocked out in this hand, me the next, and AustinKearns in the following hand.

Humbird took 6th, jerge88 5th, the spooky Johni D 4th, TuckerKatt 3rd, ToddCommish 2nd, and MtDewVirus 1st.

WeatherBlox Gone but Not Forgotten

One of the Lazlo systems that serves up the WeatherBlox application appears to be down, so I've temporarily disabled the link (10/25 update: Back online) to the WeatherBlox applet, in case you were wondering. It will be back RSN, I'm sure.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Mother of God, is this the end of Rico?

***

PokerStars Tournament #2868250, No Limit Hold'em
Buy-In: $20.00/$2.00
133 players
Total Prize Pool: $2660.00
Tournament started - 2004/10/21 - 21:00:00 (ET)

Dear ricoM,

You finished the tournament in 8th place. A $69.16 award has been credited to your Real Money account.

Congratulations!

Thank you for participating.

***

Well, yes. Given that my experience could charitably be described as “virginal”, it was a fun, interesting – even profitable - tourney for me that clearly illustrated the difference of play you’ll find between “real money” and freeroll tournaments. As someone noted in Iggy’s comments section, it was refreshing not be in a situation where you had high pocket pairs only to be bad beaten by someone who decided to go all-in with an unsuited 3 7 combo pre-flop because he “had a feeling.”

I accomplished all four of the goals I had set to myself before the tourney’s start, “have fun,” “don’t play hands you know you shouldn’t,” “don’t embarrass yourself,” and “make back your entry fee.” Well, maybe not #3 at times, but #1 made up for it.

Not much to say about my hands, which were generally unmemorable except for one river flush that brought in a pretty little pot and a full house I pulled at the turn late in the game. Unfortunately, I ended up splitting what should have been a sizeable pot for me with “AustinKearns” aka “Fast Eddie”, who I had dreaded playing against based on Iggy’s description of his behavior, but who turned out to be a relatively quiet and polite player, at least for this tournament. Smart, too. It was interesting watching him make his moves against pots, usually pulling them in with an unchallenged large bet. “Austin” would eventually get knocked right after me, in 7th place, getting beaten as I remember with a pair of Jacks against KK… I may have that wrong, it was close to midnight by then, I was out of the action, and I was failing after too many marathon nights cheering on the Sox.

Other impressions? The game flowed continuously between tight and loose action. Wasn’t unusual for a large bet – or often just a call – in any position to take the pot pre-flop. I took an unusual number of unchallenged pots when in the BB, with not even the small blind calling, again something I’ve seldom seen in freeroll play. On the other hand, when someone felt that they had a strong hand, the bet was often all-in… again from any position, especially after the second hour, where antes and blinds were increasing and stacks were shrinking. Most of the show-downs were between high pairs, A 10 suited, and so on. Got into the spirit of that myself, and saved my increasingly shorter stack with pocket pairs several times over the near-three-hours I was in the game. Very, very little slow play at the tables I was at.

Didn’t get the opportunity to play against Iggy (who was apparently going under the appropriate screen name of “Guinness”, nor, I think, Wil Wheaton. Much speculation during the game about where/who our Wil was, with the popular vote going to “Thehammer72”, although various players with spacey names such as “Spock” and "Spaceman” were closely questioned.

If “Thehammer” was Wil, he had an early night, getting knocked out in 80th position. Iggy had left the scene even earlier, finishing in 88th... both victims of the "maldito rio", according to the Iggster.

Me? For the first time since I started playing tournament poker I was blinded out, ultimately having my remaining $546 eaten by a $600 big blind $598 eaten by a $1200 big blind where all I held was an unsuited 10 7. Unsurprisingly, I lost, and that was it for lil’ Rico.

Mother of God, is this the end?” as my avatar would have said. Obviously should have moved earlier, but I hesitated too long, and the blind she came and sucked away all my money.

In retrospect, I think I have to start learning how to change gears in late game play. When I’m playing my strong, tight game it’s not unusual for me to survive to late in the game – but it’s also not unusual for me to end up in the finals with the short stack on the table. At that level, large blinds, players with stacks in the $20,000+ figures, and loose play, my waiting game often doesn’t work. That and I also suspect I’ve swung the pendulum too far and my play is now often too conservative for too many hands. If I’ve seen the flop, a large bet from an opponent will too often drive me out unless I’m certain I have the nuts.

I guess. On the other hand, I finished 8th, right? 124 other players didn't. I had enough scary situations, especially in the 2nd hour, where I went all in, and either my pocket pairs held or I matched the board… so I’m not that conservative.

Luck and skill. Skill and luck. The game’s a combination of both. That’s why I love no-limit Texas Hold `Em.

Thank you, Iggy! Looking forward to the next one.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Revenge is Sweet

I thought the "Hell Freezes Over" photo below was the best I'd see about the Sox win over the hated Yankees, but I was wrong. (via Iggy at Guinness and Poker. Did you know that I was playing in his tourney tonight?)

Delta flight attendant suspended for photoblogging

"... But Delta may have a public relations problem here. Because really, when you have on one side a big, faceless corporate airline, with the usual flight delays and discomfort; and on the other a fun-loving, six-foot-tall blonde flight attendant in a short skirt, it's not hard to imagine where most people's sympathies will lie. Or at least most men's sympathies."

The sexism of that last sentence aside, Cathy's Seip's comments on the anonymous "Queen of the Sky's" suspension from Delta for posting, ah, "suggestive" photos of herself are an interesting read. According to "Queen of the Sky" (via the Seip's link)...

"I have found plenty of pics of MALE Delta employees on the Web in uniform, who actually identify their airline. Therefore, today I filed a discrimination complaint with the EEOC. They thought the whole suspension was ridiculous, too. The man that took my complaint and his supervisor did not find anything inappropriate about these pics. So I think I have a good case."

Maybe. I could be wrong, but I doubt if QotS found any pix of male Delta employees in cheesecake poses while in uniform, which, appropriate or not, is what QotS was posting, if the photo on Seip's site is representative. And I suspect that Delta has a policy about maintaining the airline's image while in uniform. Hell, when I was an American Airlines brat, the company had a policy about family members maintaining the company's image when flying.

In any case, it will be interesting to see where this goes and I'll try to keep my eye on it for follow-up.

Scott McCloud to Pen Limited Superman Series in 2005

Last of today's Scott McCloud listings, who I like a lot, if you can't tell (run, in the virtual sense, right now to Amazon and buy "Understanding Comics" if you're interested in writing, drawing, or anything to do with the creative process. End of advertisement).

In any case, while we wait for 2006 and Scott's promised, "Making Comics", we can temper our impatience with a new 3-part Superman series from McCloud: "Superman Strength". Includes a nice-looking cover from Alex Ross, somewhat reminiscent of Superman #1. Here's the link to the hard-to-navigate-or-find-anything-for-that-matter Comicon "Pulse" site.

Overcompensating

This seems to be a Scott McCloud, "Morning Improv" day at fhb, which, is cool, except of course I did have to acknowledge that the Yankees and Sox have finally played out their version of Ragnorak.

5,000 points to Peg for staying up both Tuesday and Wednesday nights and finishing the games. Feeble Freddie was too worn out after the 14-inning, 6-hour Game 5 marathon to continue.

I found this daily comic blog via "The Morning Improv" and added it to my permanent links to the right after reading this one.

Zen politicking

This pretty well puts me feelings on the national election in a nutshell...

"When we went to see Fahrenheit 9/11 the other day, there were protesters lined up along the entrance to the multiplex parking lot. On one side were your 'Moore is a Liar' bunch, and on another side were your 'Bush Sucks' bunch. And off over to himself, was one lone hippie-looking guy carrying a sign that said, 'I like cheese!'

When we passed him, he yelled at us. 'I like cheese!' he said."


Indeed. (from an email to Scott McCloud of "The Morning Improv")

Howza `bout those Sox?


Posted by Hello

Wednesday, October 20, 2004


Ignatious Unbound Posted by Hello

In honor of the PokerStars Guinness and Poker Bloggers (and their readers) tournament tomorrow night at 9 PM Eastern (have I mentioned that I'm playing in it?), a rare, one-of-a-kind, never-seen-before photo of Iggy. Once his secret was revealed, it was child's play to uncover it.

The sword, I believe, is for falling on.

The Case of the Two Castles


Entrance to The Magic Kindom Posted by Hello

A fascinating story about what happened to the castle that used to sit atop the marquee at the entrance to Disneyland (now gone with the construction of "California Adventure").

Nota bene: The blogger uses the conceit that a house is keeping an online journal, thus the references to "my owners." (via "the Disney Blog")

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Google Desktop cracks password-protected Word docs

While every day brings a new article on the potential security hazards of Google's desktop search tool, most of the concern seems to center around its potential use in finding private information on shared computers.

However, I've only seen one mention of something I recently discovered while using Google Desktop: that it can be used to break open MS Word password-protected documents (or at least a cached copy of the doc).

I keep many of my "easy-to-forget" passwords in a password-protected Word document.
While doing a search with the Google desktop tool, I noticed a link to that document, tried clicking on the link, and was prompted for the password when Word launched. All to the good, so far. However, clicking on the "cached" link brought up the entire contents of the file -- with all my passwords.

As I said, I'm not the first person who's noticed this. There's also a reference to it here, too:

http://www.kottke.org/04/10/google-desktop

It appears you can - clumsily - exclude files using the "Preferences" settings of the tool by detailing the path name to the files or folders, but it would have been nice if Google Desktop had provided that option during set-up.

Did I mention the Tourney on PokerStars?

Thursday night, 9 poppa momma ET. Full info is on Guinness and Poker. Nearing 50 players last time I looked. Good news and bad news time.

On the good news side: According to Iggy, Wil Wheaton (of STNG, "Stand By Me," poker, and blogging fame) will be in the tourney. Wil's one of my heroes. In fact, I got so excited about the possibility of playing against him that I just went out and bought, "Just a Geek"

On the not-so-good side, the annoying and obscene "Fast Eddie" aka "AustinKearns", the "semi-literate caps-lock chatting grammar-challenged buffoon'"will also be in the tourney, according to Iggy. My chat window gets turned off if I'm unlucky enough to be at the same table as this bozo. He's like an embodiment of every on-line personality I dislike, if half of Iggy's July posting about him is true.

Now That's Comedy!

Slappy Squirrel from The Animaniacs goes to Woodstock with her nephew, Skippy, and confusionism reigns. Transcript courtesy of the T.R.E.S.S. foundation. The skit is an update of the classic Abbott and Costello, "Who's on First" routine, of course, or maybe not "of course" to readers of a certain age. One of the funnier things I've ever seen on the Web is someone noting after reading a transcript of "Who's On First" that it had obviously been copied from "Woodstock Slappy."

WOODSTOCK SLAPPY
----------------
Written by: JOHN P. McCANN & TOM RUEGGER
Director: AUDU PADEN
Animation: TOKYO MOVIE SHINSHA LTD.
NARRATOR: 1969. As brave American soliders went to battle in Vietnam,
back at home demonstrators protested the war. It was a time
of flower power, pyschedelic music, student marches, and a
nation divided. Which brings us to August 1969 and Slappy
Squirrel.
{Go Up To The Country}
SINGER: Go up to the country
Gotta get away
Got to leave the city
Gotta get away
We might even leave the USA...
SLAPPY: Ah, here we go, summer in the country. Nothin' but rest and
relaxation, right Skippy?
SKIPPY: Yeah, groovy, Aunt Slappy, man, groovy.
SLAPPY: Skippy, don't talk like that, people will think you had brain
surgery.
SKIPPY: I can dig it, man, far out.
SLAPPY: <*sigh*> I had to get him out of the city, away from all those bad
influences.
SKIPPY: You mean like peace and love?
SLAPPY: Exactly. That stuff will warp ya!
{Humouresque (Slappy's theme)}
SLAPPY: There is it. Our summer cottage.
SKIPPY: Outta sight, man.
SLAPPY: Make yourself at home, kiddo.
SKIPPY: I can dig it.
SLAPPY: <*sigh*> I'll have him speakin' English again in no time.
{some 60's rock anthem...}
SLAPPY: Knock it off with the Bing Crosby, Stills, and Nash, will ya'?
SKIPPY: Why?
{Slappy's Theme}
SLAPPY: 'Cause the only tune I want to hear is "The Sound of Silence",
can you dig that?
SKIPPY: I hear ya.
SLAPPY: Good. Now let's rest up for tomorrow.
SKIPPY: Why? What are we doing tomorrow?
SLAPPY: Napping all day if I have anything to say about it.
Ah, rest and relaxation at last.
{Beautiful Dreamer}

M.C.: There is 300,000 of use here today, man! And now Miss Janis Joplin!
JANIS JOPLIN:
{Piece Of My Heart?}
SLAPPY: Oops. Somebody just ran over a dog!
For the love of Kaopectate, what's going on?
SKIPPY: Something's happening here,
What it is, ain't exactly clear.
SLAPPY: Well, thank you for that.
Hey, you kids, what are you doin'?! Go on, get away from my tree!
HIPPIE1:Like, mellow out, you running-dog squirrel.
HIPPIE2:Hey, we're here for the Woodstock concert, man.
HIPPIE1:Three days of rock from groups like Jefferson Airplane, The Band,
The Who, The Grateful Dead...
SLAPPY: I'd be grateful, too, if I didn't have to listen to this noise.
Now clear out all of ya, go home! Scat!
{Animaniacs' theme}
SKIPPY: Aunt Slappy, be cool. Let's just go with the flow.
SLAPPY: I'm not goin' anywhere with Flo! I want some peace and quiet.
SKIPPY: But, Aunt Slappy, man, we're witnessing history. Woodstock. A
single event pulling together a whole generation.
SLAPPY: A bowl full of prunes would have the same effect.
{I Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die Rag}
COUNTRY JOE McDONALD: And it's two, four, six
What am I singing for?
Don't ask me; I don't give a hoot
Just pay me with lots of loot!
And it's eight, ten, twelve
I'm just killing time
My contract says to sing a song
Yee haw! I need a rhyme!
SLAPPY: All right, all of ya', hit the road! Party's over! Go on, shoo!
SKIPPY: They're not listening, Aunt Slappy, man, they're tuned into the music!
SLAPPY: Well, we'll see about that. Come on.
SKIPPY: Where are we going?
SLAPPY: To the stage, to put a stop to this. I came to the country for
some peace and quiet and I'm gonna get it.
{Brand New Key}
MELANINE: Who's got a box of brand-new crackers?
I've got some brand-new cheese!
{With A Little Help From My Friends}
JOE COCKER: Would you still cheer if I had a tin ear?
Would you throw a tomato at me?
SLAPPY: Yes!
SKIPPY: Chill out, Aunt Slappy, man.
{Feel Me}
ROGER DALTRY: Can you watch me?
Can you listen to me?
Can you smell me?
Can you hear me?
SLAPPY: Unfortunately, yes! Skippy, what is the name of that group playing
on stage?
SKIPPY: Who.
SLAPPY: The name of the group.
SKIPPY: Who.
SLAPPY: The group on stage.
SKIPPY: Who.
SLAPPY: The group playing on stage.
SKIPPY: Who.
SLAPPY: You're starting to sound like an owl, Skippy.
SKIPPY: Who is on stage!
SLAPPY: That is what I'm askin' ya', who is on stage?
SKIPPY: That's what I said.
SLAPPY: You said who?
SKIPPY: I sure did.
SLAPPY: So tell me the name.
SKIPPY: Who.
SLAPPY: The name of the group.
SKIPPY: Who.
SLAPPY: The group on stage.
SKIPPY: Who.
SLAPPY: The name of the band on stage!
SKIPPY: Who!
SLAPPY: You're doing that owl thing again, Skippy!
SKIPPY: I'm not, Aunt Slappy, I'm telling you Who is on stage.
SLAPPY: So tell me.
SKIPPY: Who.
SLAPPY: So tell me.
SKIPPY: Who.
SLAPPY: The name of the group.
SKIPPY: Who.
SLAPPY: The group on stage!
SKIPPY: Who!
SLAPPY: That's what I'm asking you!
SKIPPY: And I'm telling you the answer.
SLAPPY: Wait, Skippy, let's start over. Is there a band on stage?
SKIPPY: Yes.
SLAPPY: Does the band have a name?
SKIPPY: Yes.
SLAPPY: Do you know the name of the band?
SKIPPY: Yes.
SLAPPY: Then tell me the name of the band on stage.
SKIPPY: Who.
SLAPPY: The name of the band!
SKIPPY: Who.
SLAPPY: The band, playing on stage!
SKIPPY: Who.
SLAPPY: That's what I want to know!
SKIPPY: I'm telling you!
SLAPPY: Who is on stage.
SKIPPY: Yes.
SLAPPY: Who is?
SKIPPY: Yes.
SLAPPY: Oh. So the name of the band is Yes.
SKIPPY: No, Aunt Slappy, Yes is not even at this concert.
SLAPPY: Then who is on stage?
SKIPPY: Yes.
SLAPPY: Who is?
SKIPPY: Yes.
SLAPPY: That's just what I said, Yes is on stage.
SKIPPY: No, Yes is not here. Who is on stage.
SLAPPY: Whaddya askin' me for?
SKIPPY: I'm not!
SLAPPY: Wait, let's try this again. Do you see the band on stage?
SKIPPY: No I don't see The Band, that's a different group entirely.
SLAPPY: On stage, Skippy. Look, see the band?
SKIPPY: No I don't.
SLAPPY: Get rid of those John Lennon glasses and look! There, there's the
band!
SKIPPY: No, that's not The Band. The Band is performing later on. Who's
on stage.
SLAPPY: You tell me.
SKIPPY: Who.
SLAPPY: The name of the group on stage.
SKIPPY: Who.
SLAPPY: The name of the group!
SKIPPY: Who.
SLAPPY: The group on stage!
SKIPPY: Who.
SLAPPY: The band!
SKIPPY: No, The Band is performing later. Right now, we're listening to
Who.
SLAPPY: That's what I wanna know!!

ROGER DALTRY: Hey, you squirrels are funny, man. Come on up here and take
a bow.
SKIPPY: Yeah! Far out!
SLAPPY: Oh brother....
{Humouresque}
SLAPPY: Yeah, yeah, OK. Thank you. Now everybody go home! Including you
guys, what's your name?
ROGER: Who.
SLAPPY: Don't start with me! Just get off the stage! The rest of you, go!

SLAPPY: Why aren't they leaving?
SKIPPY: They dig you, Aunt Slappy, man.
SLAPPY: Oh yeah? We'll see about that. I said leave!
[Smashing Jimi's guitar]
ROGER: Oh, very groovy, mates, isn't it, totally! >-together
PETE TOWNSHEND: Totally groovy. /
ROGER: We are The Who!
[Smashing insturments]
ROGER: erg...

SLAPPY: Yeesh! These kids would applaud my laundry! Why won't they take
a hike?
SKIPPY: They want more music.
SLAPPY: All right, then. They can have more music!
{Slappy's theme}
SLAPPY: Hey everybody! Let's polka!
"Uncle Yasha lost his shoe
It fell in a bog; he did too.
Uncle Schmeeda grabbed his foot
He jumped in the bog and went kaput."
[evacuation]
{Beethoven's 6th Symphony}
SLAPPY: Ah. Peace and quiet at last!
{Star Spangled Banner}
In the land of the free,
Now that's comedy!

Monday, October 18, 2004

A Crossfire of Cream Pies

This has put [Jon] Stewart in the amazing position of being able to criticize the media while assuming no responsibility for showing them how it should be done. -- Mark Evanier

The blogosphere is all agogasphere about Jon Stewart's recent appearance on Crossfire, with almost every blog I regularly visit boiling over with one or opinion or another on it. Mark Evanier (link above) gets closest to my feelings, which comes down to the recurrent nightmare I've been having that I turn on CBS News and Stewart has replaced Dan Rather...

... and nobody can tell the difference.

It's a sad thing that the Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly's of the media have been answered with the equally obnoxious Michael Moore and Jon Stewart's of the opposing side. A plague on all their houses.

The Guinness and Poker Blog Tournament...

... is on at PokerStars at 9 pm ET this Thursday. Currently 37 signed up for the no-limit Texas Hold `Em tourney, including yours truly. More info and sign-up code at Iggy's site.

Life and Death in the Haunted Mansion

eBay bidding to become the "1,000th ghost" at Disneyland's Haunted Mansion currently stands at $35,000.75, although more than one of those bid is probably bogus. Be interesting to see what it finally goes for.

How many Bush administration officials does it take to change a light bulb?

None. There’s nothing wrong with that light bulb. There is no need to change anything. We made the right decision and nothing has happened to change our minds. People who criticize this light bulb now, just because it doesn’t work anymore, supported us when we first screwed it in, and when these flip-floppers insist on saying that it is burned out, they are merely giving aid and encouragement to the Forces of Darkness.

-- John Cleese (via William Gibson)

Friday, October 15, 2004

No Manuals

"The problem is there's no manual that says how to do this... We had to investigate how to make hydrogen for this." - High School teacher Cory Waxman, on his classes' construction of a self-sustaining hydrogen vehicle for less than $10,000.

I read a depressing article on America's - as well as the world's - addiction to oil last night, "Pump Dreams", in the October 11th issue of "The New Yorker" or via the link.

A future where the U.S. is locked into a global war with China and India over control of the Middle Eastern oil fields is all too possible. The conventional wisdom from a variety of "energy experts" quoted in the article is that affordable hydrogen-powered vehicles and "energy independence" is very far out in the future, if even attainable.

Maybe. On the other hand, a group of high school kids, led by their physics teacher, converted a truck to hydrogen power, a vehicle which also creates its own fuel from solar energy and water, a technical feat funded with less than $10,000. It may be the first self-sustaining hydrogen vehicle ever created.

Stories like this and Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne fuel my increasing belief that real change is made by individuals willing to work "without the manual." (via BoingBoing)

Phone Sex, Vibrators and Threesomes, Oh My!

The Smoking Gun comes through again with the complete transcript of Andrea Mackris's complaint against Bill O'Reilly for sexual harassment.

As everyone who has read the file believes, it's obvious that Mackris taped some of O'Reilly's calls, including Caribbean sex fantasies. The full 22-page document is worth the read, but The Smoking Gun also offers direct links to the steamier sections... kind of like fast-forwarding through an X-rated video.

"What the heck happened to Billy?"

And an update: Gibson notes in today's posting that the real punchline of the joke I linked to is that it's originally from the Soviet Union.

William Gibson is blogging again, deciding that the defeat of George Bush is worth the time/distraction it takes away from his writing. His October 14th post is pretty funny.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Ghost Stories - "The WereWolf Wasp!"

I've come across an all-but-forgotten posting I had made to the UseNet group, rec.arts.comics, back in my salad days at DEC. Interesting synchroncity. BoingBoing had mentioned yet another new search engine, Snap, that I went to check out, and did my usual vanity search to see if Snap provided anything different than Google or A9.

The first listing was for an online art gallery, "Ukranian-Art.Com", which I'm not linking to, as the sleazoid entrepreneurs there are probably already getting more than enough undeserved traffic. The site uses a script to generate a pseudo-page based on search results from Google Groups, which is added to the Ukranian-Art site. If you click on the search engine link, you'll be mystified as I was as to what association I had with Ukranian art, until I scrolled to the bottom of the page.

Interestingly, it produced Usenet group results from nearly 20 years ago, which a search of Google Groups itself omits, including this one, about a comic book I had been obsessing about since childhood....

Back in my sprouting youth (say when I was around 9 years old which would put the year at 1961), I read a comic book that simply *terrified* me. I mean, sweats, nightmares, lights on all night, you name it, I had it. I loved it. Unfortunately, my much-suffering parents didn't. I had a *no more comic books* ban imposed upon my fevered brow, my mother trashed the book, and life went on.

I've thought about that damnable book for nigh-on 24 years now. I'd love to have it back -- though I'm not sure why. Maybe to put that scared kid inside of me to rest once and for all.

Description follows, and you'll see *how* well I remember it. If anyone can give me the title, number, and publisher of the book, you'll have my undying thanks and gratitude.

Ok, description. The comic was an anthology of horror tales. There was a continuing narrator that introduced and closed all stories. The stories (probably not in order):

Guy inherits mansion/car from mad scientist. Guy is driving car, seatbelt locks, hypodermic needles appear, start draining blood from the dude, he goes over cliff.

Kid captures strange wasp, brings to pleasant old who knows *lots* about insects. Flashback where reader finds that old man is severely allergic to insect bites, and always is "seen" completely engarbed in hood and clothing. Kid gets to old man's house, no one around, kid goes to basement, finds other kids strung up in giant spider webs, old man appears, unmasks, is actually giant humanoid spider (!!), attacks kid, kid drops bottle with wasp. Old man/spider gasps, "The werewolf wasp!" Wasp grows, stings old man/spider to death.

Kid(s?) gets caught outside on dark, stormy night. Finds refuge in barn. Awful horse with blood-red eyes appears, attacks, starts kicking down barn. Man with Colt .45 appears at last moment, yells at kid to run and takes a shot at the horse. Next day kid, father, cop come back, find that barn has collapsed, old farmer appears and relates that 20 years ago, a horse had gone crazy and had killed a child before someone was able to put a bullet through its head. Last panel is of graves (including
horse).

Little orphan girl gets adopted, is shown new room by parents. During the night a terrible-looking door emblazoned with skulls appears on the wall of the girl's room. She goes out and sleeps on the porch. Terrible gnashing and thrashing noises come from inside house. Next morning she goes in, place is wrecked, new parents gone (lots of blood), door gone. Last panel is her hiking back to orphanage sighing something like, "This always happens!"

Last one. Young man comes back to abandoned street where he used to live. Street is abandoned because people kept on being found dead, all juices drained from their bodies -- including this guy's little brother. He comes in, finds that what's been doing it is giant green hand that emerges from manhole -- and it's hungry. Hand almost gets him, but Army, happily stationed nearby, bazookas hand. Near to last panel shows pores on green hand to demonstrate how it sucked juices.


Although no one responded to the UseNet posting, I had also mentioned it in a DEC VaxNotes forum (one of the first tools for computer forums), and a reader not only recognized it as the 1962 Ghost Stories #1 from Dell Comics, but actually had the comic and ended up giving
it to me.

And it was as good as I remembered. Thus do we reclaim our childhood, piece by piece.

IE Out - Firefox In

I've just about completed my migration to Mozilla Firefox, speedier and safer than Internet Explorer.

Biggest problem I've encountered so far is trying to remember all the passwords I've accumulated from years on the Web... Almost all autofilled by IE and long forgotten. Google, for reasons known only to itself, wants a separate password entry for gMail as opposed to everything else Google (Google Answers, the forums, et al), but displays exactly the same "change password" screen for both.

While I can't use currently use the A9 toolbar, that's a minor thing to me, as I found I was still using the Google toolbar more anyway. I'm now using the Firefox extension, GoogleBar to emulate the Google toolbar. I miss the autofill feature for forms, but I suspect there's a Firefox extension for that (indeed there is, Autofill).

Monday, October 11, 2004

On the Kancamagus

I'm using another Lazlo applet, Photoblox, to display some shots that Peg took on our Saturday tour of the Kancamagus Highway. These are from Rocky Gorge. The link will open a new window. If you're using a pop-blocker, you'll need to turn it off, and you may need to be patient while the images load.

The Kiss


The Kiss Posted by Hello
Via boingboing, a picture that deserves its own fictional story, if any ever did. And, here's the facts.

Farewell, Christopher Reeve

A nice eulogy, better than I can produce, from Mark Evanier on the passing of Christopher Reeve.

A phrase I've always believed in, unfortunately associated with the Nazis thanks to Leni Riefenstahl, is "triumph of the will." Most superhuman efforts have little to do with physical strength, but everything to do with desire. If you saw any interviews with Reeve after his accident, you saw a man determined to walk again. Only death itself forestalled him.

I'll Never Grow Up

A quote from Walt Disney I like a lot...

"Too many people grow up. That's the real trouble with the world, too many people grow up. They forget. They don't remember what it's like to be 12 years old. They patronize, they treat children as inferiors. Well I won't do that."

Me neither, please God. More quotes from Walt can be found here at the Walt Disney blog.

And if you're unhappy with the "profit before magic" direction that Disney has taken under Michael Eisner, why not do something about it? Sign up at savedisney.com. It's free, there's strength in numbers, and you'll even get a free bumper sticker.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Google Ads Out - Lazlo WeatherBlox in

I've decided to dump Google AdSense, as fhb isn't the right vehicle for displaying internet ads. I'm not sure what the right vehicle is, except search result pages or very focused blogs, but that ain't me, babe.

Via boingboing, I found a new Open Source "application development environment" called Lazlo that looks pretty cool, and might (with the stress on that word) be the key to the long-sought-for application delivery via the Web that Java was supposed to be and never became. Remember Sun "thin clients" and "Web appliances"? Am I totally boring you?

Anyway, I don't know if/when I'm going to try developing with Lazlo, my programming skills -never that strong - have completed deteriorated after several years of disuse, and I've never worked in XML. But what the heck. It may become a winter project if things get slow.

I've replaced the Google ad block with a Lazlo app called "WeatherBlox", currently displaying weather at fhb central. This is more for you, Gentle Reader, than me, since I'm writing this at my kitchen table and can pretty well figure out the weather by looking up and glancing out the bay window. So, feel free to put your own zip -- or family/friends' -- in the top right entry field.

Sodomy and 20 Questions

I do like coming up with these heads. I think I was a New York Post lead writer in a previous life... "Headless Body Found in Topless Bar!"

Anyway, two links via Iggy at Guinness and Poker. The first from the snopes.com Urban Legend site, a good productivity-buster to explore when you don't feel like working.

"In response to a question from host Bob Eubanks about the 'most unusual place you've ever made whoopee,' a female Newlywed Game contestant responded, 'That would be up the butt, Bob.'"

Interestingly, the legend turns out to be partially true, even though Bob Eubanks repeatedly denied the story and even offered a $10,000 bounty if anyone could prove it true. Read all about it here.

Unfortunately, Groucho's remark to the mother of 22 children still remains unproven.

GROUCHO: "Why do you have so many children? That's a big responsibility and a big burden."

MRS. STORY: "Well, because I love my children and I think that's our purpose here on Earth, and I love my husband."

GROUCHO: "I love my cigar, too, but I take it out of my mouth once in a while."

Okay, let's get our minds out of the gutter, shall we? Here's an interesting experiment in AI, based on the game "Twenty Questions." The link will take you to a demographic survey, which you can fill out or ignore as you wish before hitting the "Play" button. The AI engine is surprisingly realistic, guessing both my objects (a tennis ball and a cat) with twenty questions each.

Thanks again to Iggy for both links, and btw, the Igster is hosting a $20 no-limits tourney at PokerStars on Thursday October 21st. More info, as well as the usual cross of shilling and uber-posting at Iggy's very funny blog. See you at the tourney on Thursday, given that I can find a way to get some money into PokerStars quickly.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Cheney lies! Sez time was 9:00; was actually 9:03:47

I've been trying to keep fhb politics-free, being mostly of the ol' hippie mind-set, "voting only encourages them." And no, you don't have to comment on how important voting is. Yes, I'm voting, and no I won't tell you for who, thank you very much.

Anyway, there's many things to love about the blogosphere, but one unloveable thing is the heated, over-the-top rhetoric that this election is engendering, including the latest tub-thumping about Cheney meeting Edwards. Boingboing, which should know better, publishes a link about Cheney's "lie" in last night's debate when he said to Edwards, "The first time I ever met you was when you walked on the stage tonight." and points to several sites, including the Kerry campaign blog, where a photo of them together at a National Prayer Breakfast is posted.

Now, let's ignore the fact that that photo seems less evidence that they actually "met" (given the usual definition of "meet") but more "were in the same room at one time." The list of Cheney's and the administration playing loose with the truth is near-endless, with WMDs, the reasons behind the invasion of Iraq, Abu Ghraib (which everyone seems to have forgotten about), and Halliburton just a few of the things off the top of my head that the veep could be brought to task about.

And there's a mini-furor over whether he told the "truth" about meeting Kerry? Yes, Cheney lied. He and Edwards are actual participants in a sex slave ring disguised as a prayer breakfast, where he regularly dresses in a polka-dot cocktail dress. Obviously, he had to lie.

Sigh. I know talking about issues is déclassé. But the blogosphere can't do better than ET-style reportage?

Monday, October 04, 2004

"Come Find Out"

An interesting article by Steve Badger here, which started out as a point on poker strategy, but turned into a meditation on the death by his own hand of poker player Andy Glazer. (via Guinness and Poker). Badger is right that poker, especially tournament poker, is a game of emotional high and lows -- and the lows can be very low. It's not a game for emotionally fragile people.

I keep on meaning to write a "What I've learned from Poker" essay, which is something that every poker blogger eventually writes. I guess I haven't found all that much profound to say. But I'm sitting here watching/listening to the webcast of SpaceShip One's attempt to take the X Prize, and I'm not willing to go to work until the flight is completed. So here we go, to fill the time...

In no particular order:

1) Texas Hold `Em Poker is a game of luck as well as skill
2) Control your destiny
3) Recognize when you're in trouble and cut losses early

Opposed to most of the tournament play you see on television people who play on-line tend to bet their hand without giving much thought to their opponents' cards. That can be very frustrating when you have the statistically best hand... until the turn or the river, that is.

The best starting hand doesn't always win, in fact often doesn't win if the hand is played out till the river. One thing I have learned from Hold `Em is that you're always better off being in control of your own future, whether in life or at the tables. In poker that means betting hard pre-flop and flop with a good hand, trying to make it as painful as possible for anyone else to continue. The more you let random chance (in the form of another card on the table) play a role, the better your chance of losing.

I'm always amused by the whining you hear -- both live and on-line -- about bad beats. It's a fact of poker -- and life -- that it's not deterministic or mechanistic. The best hand always does win. But the "best hand" is not the best hand until the hand is over, whether that's because your opponents folded, or because the river card is played.

You have to acknowledge when you've lost, which is a difficult thing when you've just bet a significant part of your stack -- what the commentators call "pot committed" and the cards -- or your opponent's bet -- is giving every sign that you have the second-best hand. You start with a pair of Aces in your hand, a deuce shows up in the flop, another on the turn, and your opponent goes all in. You've probably lost. There's a million variations of that scenario. Some days I feel like I've played every one. I've probably been knocked out more often through refusing to let go of losing hands early than other way. It's very hard to let go.

At some point it does make more sense to stay in and let luck take charge -- when you're short-stacked and will be going down in a few hands anyway. In fact, in one of the tournaments where I placed second that's exactly what happened. I was in one of the final tables with less than $12,000 of chips where the next-smallest stack was over $50k. Several all-ins later I was at the final table, still short-stacked in comparison to the other players, but now with over $60k in chips. I ended up in second-place, still my best finish in an on-line tournament.

All done. SpaceShip One has flown. The X prize is won. Time to go to work.

Mark Chapman up for parole

In more Lennon news, Lennon's murderer, Mark Chapman, is up before the parole board this week. It's unlikely he'll be released, according to reports I've heard/read. However, it might be worth your time to sign the online petition (currently over 3,000 signatures), asking the Parole Court of New York to deny his parole.

Lennon would be 64 this year.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

High Concepts

Stumbled across this site by accident, but I'll be returning regularly. "Done Deal", actual movie script deals, with story synopses. An example...

Hip Hop Nanny: A Scottish woman comes to the United States to work as a nanny for a hip hop/rap family.

Sold to Disney for "low six figures."

Run, Fat Boy, Run: A charming but oblivious overweight guy leaves his fiancée on their wedding day only to discover years later the he really loves her. To win her back, he must finish the New York marathon while making her realize the her new handsome, wealthy fiancé is the wrong guy for her.

Sales price unknown.

Curly Oxide and Vic Thrill: A Hasidic Jew and a grizzled rock musician form a band.

Based on a true story from a segment about the duo on National Public Radio. Lorne Michaels and John Goldwyn will produce. Sold for mid-six against seven-figure.

Who could make this stuff up?

Doing Lennon

a couple of John Lennon-related links, both via boingboing, that I think will be of interest to my buddy, Jill. Buildings of Disaster sells sculptures of buildings associated with some tragedy.

"Souvenirs are important cultural objects which can store and communicate memories, emotions and desires. Buildings of Disaster are miniature replicas of famous structures where some tragic or terrible events happened to take place. The images of burning or exploded buildings make a different, populist history of architecture, one based on emotional involvement rather than scholarly appreciation. In a media-saturated time, world disasters stand as people's measure of history, and the sites of tragic events often become involuntary tourists destinations."

The usual suspects are displayed, The Twin Towers, the Oklahoma City Federal Building. One building I wasn't expecting was the Dakota. But when you think of John Lennon's death, don't you immediately think of that building, too?

During our anniversary trip to New York City, Peg and I made a pilgrimage to the outdoor foyer where he had been shot. The entrance to the Dakota is guarded now, and you can't go into the foyer anymore, as Mark Chapman had, but you can see inside. We stood there for a few moments, silently, and then walked across the avenue to Central Park, and Strawberry Fields.

yoko ono created an installation, apparently over a year ago, called "Odyssey of a Coackroach."

"I have decided to be a cockroach for a day, and see what is happening in this city through his eyes..."

I think it's best experienced through the Quicktime movie tour, but the individual photos also make striking - and moving - statements, especially a trash can filled with "Imagine Peace" buttons.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Okay, Mommy then I want this instead...

...more affordable than a zeppelin, but just as weird, a Chris "Jesus" Ferguson bobblehead. I'm thinking about getting one for Peg, as Jesus is her second favorite after Annie Duke on the poker circuit. And speaking of Annie, how come there are no women represented at Pokerheads?

Buy this for me, mommy, please

Neiman-Marcus' Christmas catalog is out, with the usual over-the-top gifts, including your very own personal zeppelin. You too can be admired by pipe-puffing Germans as you glide across the countryside.

Not to re-fight old wars, (especially when we have so many current ones) but does anyone find it a little scary that the Zeppelin-NT company's first sale was to Japan?

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

The Big Bubba of Rebellion

I had told myself I wouldn't blog today, having way too much on my plate, and also wanting to get an email off to my buddy, Jill, but I am just so delighted with the Dylan excerpt in the October 4th issue of "Newsweek", plus the reaction to it on rec.music.dylan that I had to note it.

Dylan's off-hand comment, "Eventually I would even record an entire album based on Chekhov short stories—critics thought it was autobiographical—that was fine." has sparked my favorite line from rmd, as the speculation about which album he's referring to ("Desire", "Planet Waves", "New Morning", "Blood on the Tracks" are all candidates),

"How do we know it's not Chekhov from Star Trek?"

I am so looking forward to Chronicles.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

A transgendered Shana Hiatt renames herself "Bobbi Dylan"

There's an old formula for how to write a best-seller, based on the theory that books on Abraham Lincoln, doctors, and pets all sell well and, therefore, a book titled, "Abe Lincoln's Doctor's Dog" would be a natural winner.

Based on search hits of fhb since I started to seriously maintain it in June, I'd suggest to bloggers that you couldn't go wrong focusing on Shana Hiatt photos, transgendering, and Bob Dylan's forthcoming "Chronicles" as subject matter if you want traffic. Ms. Hiatt, not surprisingly, is well in the lead, but interest in Dylan is growing. For those of you who have arrived here looking for Ms. Hiatt, even in the virtual sense, I've provided the link above.

Jenny Boylan's book, "She's Not There" seems to have engendered (no pun there) the transgender hits, although there was one person specifically looking for transgender photos (no indication of which from to what to).

Donald Hamilton's unreleased "The Dominators" book and the "Eccentric Soul" compilation from Numero Uno also brought a few searchers into fhb, as did my two mentions of photographer Timothy Archibald and his "Sex Machines" project, although at least one of those hits was through a vanity search by Mr. Archibald himself.

Strangest links to date are a tie between someone looking for "animatronic babes", which I'm hoping was someone in search of information about the use of an animatronic pig in the movie "Babe, Pig in the City", but I suspect not, and a search for "levien tilt download", which connected I'm sure what was a very confused searcher to my mention of a new poker series entitled. 'Tilt" co-written by a David Levien.

Google ads subject matter continues to annoy and amuse me, given what mood I'm in at the moment. As I write this, all three Google ads are for lice remedies, generated by two words in a 2,000-word+ posting about Sinead O'Connor. Similarly, and not all that surprisingly, all three ads for two weeks after September 11th and my mention of the anniversary of the Twin Towers destruction were September 11th-related.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Amusée Bouche

10:30 yesterday morning, and we're in the downstairs club bar room of Upstairs on the Square, formerly Upstairs at the Pudding. We're under the love note chandelier, watching the papers flutter, and have been in the room for at least five minutes. But no one has put any food in front of me yet, a notable difference from Saturday night, when we started eating at 8 p.m., and didn't stop until we staggered out the door sometime after midnight.

We like to eat, as do my sister-in-law, Roberta and her husband Ted, but no one would call any of us gourmands. However, on Saturday night we all did a fair imitation of say, Robert Morley, in one of his bulkier roles. Roberta and Ted's long-time friend, Sheila, is the hostess at "Upstairs", and owners Mary-Catherine Deibel and Deborah Hughes put on the full dog for us as soon as we walked in the door. We started with cocktails downstairs, and - evidently since we looked wan from our three-minute walk from the Harvard Square hotel - were provided with a complimentary "amusement for the mouth", this offering being a Leaf Spinach, Broccoli Rabe, Hot Peppers and Whole Milk Ricotta pizza.

Our bouches being properly amused, we made our way up the stairs to the hot pink Soiree room, where we were enthroned at the best table, which included a purple couch. "Upstairs" is in the former "Grendel's" restaurant, a Harvard fixture now departed, although the small "Grendel's Den" is still in the basement. Grendel's, which I used to go to regularly on cold winter days for the lentil soup, looked as if it were housed in a run-down library, with old dark furniture, bookshelves, and smoky fireplaces on either side of the room. "Upstairs", on the other hand, appears to have been decorated by a somewhat mad 80-year-old flea market bargain hunter, and would fit nicely in New Orleans with its pink and gold motif, bizarro chandeliers, and zebra carpets. Exceedingly funky, "Upstairs" housing is a vast improvement over their old location above Harvard's Hasty Pudding Club, in a room so deteriorated that screens were used to shield diners from the moldering walls.

But we haven't eaten and we've been seated for all of three seconds, so another amusée bouche appears to help us struggle through the wait for our appetizers, this time some sort of tuna tartar, I think, compliments we’re told of the chef who is still experimenting with it before its menu launch and would appreciate comments. We do so, although I’m not sure how “ooo” and “aaah” will work on the menu.

We charge into the appetizers. Roberta and I work on a heritage tomato soup while Peg tackles an enormous Buffalo Mozzarella salad. Confronted with a daunting wine list, already logy with food, and not willing to make the effort of matching wines to an eclectic dinner choice that includes tuna (me), duck (Roberta) veal (Ted), and scallops (Peg), I instruct the waiter to find a couple of “nice bottles” of red and white.

The “nice” sparks Peg to tell Roberta and Ted the infamous story of our first trip to the Black Point Inn, where they’ll be staying this week. Peg and I love to dance, which I don’t do very well, but I’m by God, enthusiastic, and the Black Point at the time had weekly dances in their ballroom. So, after dinner, we went to the dance and, in the course of the evening, found we were thirsty, and decided on cognac. At the Black Point, no filthy lucre ever changes hands. Meals are included, and you settle the bill for extras, such as alcohol, at check-out. So, I went to the bar, asked for cognac, and was offered the dangerous question, “What would you like, sir?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” I said off-handedly. “Something nice.”

And he gave me two glasses, and I brought them back to Peg, and they were very nice. In fact, so nice, I almost ordered another round, but we got distracted by dancing, and then decided to go to bed.

A few days later, at check-out, I’m going through the bill, and everything seems right, except a bill for $80. And yes, you’re right, it was for two very nice, small glasses of cognac at $40 a pop.

“Very nice” has since become a code phrase in our marriage, usually about my tendency to live a champagne life on a beer budget.

Dinner is almost served, but there is guess what? Another amusée appears first, this time some type of hand-rolled tortellini, which we’re told is “Sheila’s favorite”, and thus must be tried. Of course. It includes braised rabbit, which would please my friend Jill mightily, as she had been inciting me by email to try the “Rabbit Two Ways” main course since I told her we were going.

The rabbit was very good, Jill.

And our main courses were very good. And, the wine, picked by our enthusiastic waiter, a French white and a California Pinot Noir, were very good. And somewhere in there we had another amusée, which all I remember about is that it included a roasted corn salsa, and that was very good, too. Then, for the first time in my life, I ate three desserts, a palate-cleansing amusée, which was a dab of mint pudding, and then the dessert I selected, Coconut Profiteroles with Warm Chocolate Sauce and Caramelized Macadamia Nuts, which I shared with my sister-in-law, and then some after-dinner mints that appeared on our table with our coffee just because they had run out of anything else to feed us I think.

10:30 yesterday morning, we're back to say goodbye to Sheila, who is getting the place prepped for a shower party and the Sunday Brunch crowd. I’m watching the restaurant ticking over on slow revs as the waiters in the downstairs club bar trickle in, as Sheila finds a replacement for the bartender who is MIA, as the shower organizers arrive an hour earlier than anticipated. It’s 10:30 on a slow Sunday morning, and I’m sitting in a restaurant that hasn’t opened, feeling like I belong, having a cup of coffee set in front of me without my asking.

Thinking it’s a pretty good life.