Thursday, June 22, 2006

Geek Blogging: Master of Champions

GAH! I knew not having a laptop would eventually do me in! I SO wanted to simul-blog Master of Champions tonight, but I can't do it looking over my shoulder the whole time and I can't type that fast anyway.

But I DVR'ed it and hope to get back to it this weekend. But for now, a few observations:

  1. First, I like the concept but I wasn't too thrilled with the execution.
  2. Second, Princess Elayne was a deserving winner, but I would have enjoyed it more if she were 18 instead of 14. There was a certain porniness to it, but 14's jailbait.
  3. Thirdly, I'd rather have two broken feet, with every step causing me agony, than have a ruptured testicle. Who knew unicycling could be so extreme? Forget the helmets they were wearing, give 'em some cups!

I'm sure any men out there can back me up on point number 3.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Earlier Tonight....

Revised and extended remarks on an unusual topic: hockey blogging. What's up with that?

Also, a two (possibly three) front flame war broke out with my arch-nemesis Pooh. Note the bob-and-weave technique: first I get him to agree with me on something, and then I switch to a different attack: Shaolin Snake-style blogging. (Maybe I should have brought up the Dragon style, just so I could mention Tit Yang Sum Si. Naaaah, too obvious.)

This was follwed by some Hell blogging, which was not at all merely an excuse for a clip-post. Hell is serious business, and everyone who knows me just how serious I am.

A brief interlude was taken during the Hell blogging to compose a comment that I particularly enjoyed. Maybe not a truly great comment, but for whatever reason I enjoyed writing it. And who knew there was a Schizophrenia Daily News?

Finally, for the sake of balance, I ended with some Heaven blogging. Dorothy was right, there's no place like home, and on some days home is as far as the eye can see.

Finally, for a night cap, I've ended with some insomnia blogging, which has been pretty much just an excuse for a clip post.

Even the Heavens Smiled Upon Me

Today at work we finished a very difficult project (a set of projects, really) with a presentation to senior management. Everything went swimmingly well. The post-mortem meeting after the presentation quickly devolved into a discussion about our favorite sounds in sports. (Number One: The crack of a wooden bat on a baseball. Number Two: That sweet thwap that a perfectly shot basketball makes as it goes through the net. Backspin and twine, baby, backspin and twine.) The meeting went that well.

Shortly thereafter I left for home. As I turned onto the 417 I realized I was driving into a strong rain cell. I wasn't crazy about driving in the rain today, and hoped that my wife could avoid it, but them's the breaks. Living in Florida, one gets accustomed to driving in the rain.

And the rain has its rewards. I knew the grass and all the other plants would have that post-shower green look about them, that the air would be cleaner, that the sunset would be more beautiful, that the steam coming off the ground would give the atmosphere that languid quality that defines Florida in summer.

I didn't expect a full rainbow to be directly in my path for the last ten minutes of my drive home, hovering over the area where my house sits. It didn't dissipate until right before I turned onto my street. With heavy traffic and unusually cooperative traffic lights, I didn't get to look for that pale outer rainbow that sometimes surrounds a full bow, but I know it was there. Some days the skies bring gifts, and the skies never skimp. I'll never leave Florida again.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

I'm on a Blooooooog Roll to Hell!

Via Amba, I saw this bit of madness: an online quiz to determine which Circle of Hell one is likely to inhabit. Let's see how I did....

The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Second Level of Hell!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:

LevelScore
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Moderate
Level 2 (Lustful)Very High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)High
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Very High
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)High
Level 7 (Violent)High
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Moderate
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Low

Take the Dante's Inferno Hell Test

Okay, let me analyze these results.

Purgatory (Repenting Non-believers) Score: Very low.

This is correct, as I am not at all the repenting type.

Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers) Score: Moderate

Also a correct assessment: I am a non-believer, and non-virtuous. Half-full of one, half-empty of the other.

Level 2 (Lustful) Score: Very High

Hey, I only went to that club for the Shakespeare! Well, that and the strippers....

Level 3 (Gluttonous) Score: High

Ah, my second favorite sin. How to avoid gluttony when we live in such an age? Even the non-wealthy can eat like kings these days, if not every day then as often as our incomes will allow. Yum, Mark's Las Olas.

Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious) Score: Low

I guess this is correct. After all, I'm not broke yet.

Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy) Score: Very High

Wrathful? Gloomy? Well, what the Hell did you expect?

Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics) Score: High

See Purgatory and Level 1 above.

Level 7 (Violent) Score: High

A guy with a name like Stab Master Icepick just may be violent, yes. Just maybe. But I could be worse, and that's why I didn't score a "Very High".

Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers) Score: Moderate

I'm not sure how I scored as highly as I did on this one. Must be because I used to work in consulting....

Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous) Score: Low

Should be "Very Low". Also, I hate cold weather, so this REALLY isn't the Circle for me!

Now let's see how the Missus did.

The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Second Level of Hell!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
LevelScore
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)High
Level 2 (Lustful)High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Moderate
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Moderate
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)High
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Moderate
Level 7 (Violent)Moderate
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Moderate
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Moderate

Take the Dante's Inferno Hell Test

This seems mostly correct, as my wife is moderate in most things. But I don't quite get the "High" score for Wrathful and Gloomy (must be commute-related anger) or the "Moderate" for Treacherous. Both of those seem too high. (And how the Hell can one be moderately treacherous anyway?)

So this is to be my fate:
You have come to a place mute of all light, where the wind bellows as the sea does in a tempest. This is the realm where the lustful spend eternity. Here, sinners are blown around endlessly by the unforgiving winds of unquenchable desire as punishment for their transgressions. The infernal hurricane that never rests hurtles the spirits onward in its rapine, whirling them round, and smiting, it molests them. You have betrayed reason at the behest of your appetite for pleasure, and so here you are doomed to remain. Cleopatra and Helen of Troy are two that share in your fate.
That last sentence sounds more like an inducement than a warning!

And my wife will share the same fate, only not quite so much.

This concludes tonight's Hell-blogging. I hope you enjoyed it more than I did!

And They Want Me to Believe in Global Warming?!!?

So, the year without NHL hockey was book-ended by teams from Florida and the Carolinas winning the Stanley Cup. The last time I looked into the matter, ice was used for margaritas and drinks with little umbrellas in them. When did we Southern boys get so good at hockey?

I believe this can be traced back to the Neil Young song Southern Man. He pissed us off so much we decided we'd kick his and every other Canadian's sorry asses at hockey, there own stinkin'' national pastime. That'll learn 'em!

[I'll come back and edit this tomorrow, when I may be awake and coherent. Maybe.]

Update: Eh, it's clear enough, and do I really need to add a link for the Tampa Bay Lightning winning Lord Stanley's Cup in 2004? I do? Damn.

Incidentally, I seem to recall two other hockey leagues (minor, of course) that had teams from Florida win league championships. I believe each league folded immediately thereafter. If I was more enterprising, I'd go do some research, but I'm not, so you'll just have to do it yourself. Hint: Try searching for "Orlando Solar Bears".

Aw, hell, I may as well give you the links myself. Here are some links for the Atlantic Coast Hockey League, whose sole Championship was won by the Orlando Seals (now renamed the Florida Seals), and here are a few for the International Hockey League, whose last championship was won by the Orlando Solar Bears. In case you're a serious stat hound, this site has stats for the afore mentioned teams. And here's a little more about the end of the Solar Bears and the IHL.

So, victories by Florida teams killed off a fledgling minor league hockey organization, a long and storied minor league hockey organization, and almost killed off the NHL itself. And do you know why? Do you? Bueller? Bueller? Okay, then I'll TELL you why. It's because HOCKEY IN FLORIDA IS WRONG!!!! It offends the laws of God and Nature, and THAT'S why we have global warming: it's divine retribution for our sins....

[Dedicated to my old boss, HJ, who is a HUGE hockey fan. C!A!P!S! CAPS! CAPS! CAPS!]

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Speaking of Baltimore Movie Theatres...

Baltimore still had a couple of old movie palaces when we lived there, although we only managed to see movies in one of them, The Senator. We got to see a couple of re-releases that were tailor-made for such theatres. One was Lawrence of Arabia, which my wife had not seen before. She had steadfastly refused throughout the years to watch it on TV. Based on what she had heard, she wanted her first viewing experience to be on a big screen. Fortunately, the opportunity availed itself in Balmer. (That marked the third time I had seen it on the big screen. I love that movie.)

The other movie I remember seeing there was one of Hollywood's all-time greatest comedies. I'm not going to tell you which movie. Instead I'll make this a brief quiz. Here's the first hint: not quite as funny as The Producers, but much funnier than The Grapes of Wrath. And here's the second, a snippet of dialogue:

I gotta remember never get out of the boat; never get outta the boat.
Yeah, I know that makes it easy, but at this late hour why should I make this difficult?

I never liked that theatre anyway....

Reader_Iam at Done With Mirrors directs my attention to Pajamas Media, where I came across this story, via this blogger. At a Thursday night showing of X-Men: The Last Stand, a bit of violence broke out:

In what police described as a random attack, Paul Schrum, a 62-year-old medical supplies salesman from Pikesville, was shot dead while watching a movie at Loews Valley Center 9 in Owings Mills. About 20 minutes into the film, police said, the gunman stood, told everyone to get on the floor and fired four shots.

The man then walked to the lobby, placed a handgun containing one unspent round on a counter and told theater management that he had shot someone. He waited for police to arrive.
I happen to know that theatre. I never particularly liked it, mainly because it just wasn't a very good theatre, and wasn't terribly easy to get in and out of. By the time we left Baltimore, my wife and I mostly drove well out of our way and went to the Movieco Egyptian at the Arundel Mills Mall. Inconvenient, but a much better theatre than anything in the Owings Mills area. Still, this story is a bit of a shock.

The Baltimore Sun doesn't get around to naming the killer until the sixth paragraph:
The suspect is a 24-year-old man, a 2000 graduate of Mount Hebron High School in Howard County and a 2005 graduate of Loyola College, where he majored in biology. Mujtaba Rabbani Jabbar's family home is a house valued at more than $1 million in one of Baltimore County's most affluent neighborhoods.

According to charging documents, Jabbar told police that he had planned to kill someone for several months.

He has been charged with first-degree murder. He was being held without bail at the county detention center. A search of court records showed nothing more than traffic violations for Jabbar.
Yikes! Of course, there's one obvious conclusion to jump to here, namely that this is a bit of free-lance terrorism. (And someone has already jumped to that conclusion, of course.)

Whether that was in fact the case will no doubt come out during the investigation. I will point one additional element about this story: Pikesville, and to a lesser extent Owings Mills, have large Jewish populations. Knowing that certainly raises suspicions that maybe this wasn't entirely random.

Which reminds me of an incident from 9/11/2001. When I finally found out what was happening that morning, I left work and headed home. I commuted to work via Baltimore's only subway line. One the way back, the few of us that were in the subway car spoke briefly about what was going on. One of my traveling companions was headed to the daycare facility in Pikesville that her child attended. "It's a Jewish daycare center. I'm not Jewish, but it's a good facility. It seemed like the best place for him at the time, but now I just want to get him home, someplace safe."

That conversation took place before we knew the second tower had collapsed, but somehow we all knew what was happening. Exactly when did we officially know Arabs were behind the attacks?

Respect

A commenter (indirectly) chastised me in a post I wrote the other day. Tom wrote:

We could have respected international law and have solved the problem.
Tom wasn't exactly clear about which problem we could have solved by "respect[ing] international law", but he probably meant Afghanistan, or Iraq, or something.

Back on April 11th, I wrote a post about Nuclear Primacy and an idea for how to handle the Iranian nuclear crisis. My arch-enemy left a few comments, some of which parallel Tom's less precise comment.

In one comment in that thread I wrote:

Like it or not, we are the world's policeman. We're stuck defending the global order, such that it is. And now that Britain is effectively disbanding their projectible military force, we're stuck with an even greater share of policing the globe.

Pooh (that's the arch-enemy, for those that didn't buy the commemorative program at the gate) responded with:
Sure. If that's the case, maintaining the moral high-ground becomes a first order imperative. "Police" power is to a large degree a fiction agreed upon by the population. A side-effect of unilateralism (and, dare I add, torture) is the degrading of our perceived moral authority which serves to lessen the degree to which those being policed agreed. No, we don't need France, but they could certainly help, for example.
And lately, we have once again been hit with polls telling us that the world's opinion of the USA continues to fall. But all of this concern about "global opinion" and "international law" and the "international community" perplexes me. Essentially, these arguments state that we need to keep the respect of the world community. But why should we care about the world community's opinion?

Should we care about China's opinion of our policies or ourselves? How about Russia's? Of course, China and Russia aren't exactly paragons of virtue in these matters, so maybe I should look elsewhere.

Perhaps we should give more concern for the opinion of the Republic of France. After all, their Justice system is a model for the world.

Or perhaps that of the EU itself?

Of course, the Human Rights Watch tells us that this is the USA's fault, so I guess I shouldn't be so hard on the frogs.

But the Oil-for-Food scandal predates the USA's GWOT (although coverage of the scandal doesn't, IIRC). That scandal puts the lie to the contention that we should respect "international law" or the "international community". The scandal demonstrated that both of those esteemed institutions were for sale to whichever international hoodlum could scrape together enough cash. (Or in Saddam's case, its equivalent in oil vouchers.) The apparent lack of "outrage" by most of the citizens of the world further demonstrates the further uselessness of using international opinion as any kind of guide for action.

If you disagree with a policy or a tactic, fine. Make your case. But arguing about "moral authority" or "international law" or "the international community" is a non-starter, for these terms ultimately mean exactly nothing. Especially amongst "the international community" itself, which exhibits no respect at all for these concepts, unless it's in their own self-interest.

Update: Dang. I forgot I had already covered some of this ground. Damn this poor memory anyhow....

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Not Quite a Theme Night

Tonight I've brought up MILF, Trojans and home-grown. All I needed was a rock and roll reference and I would have had a theme....

My Old School ...

... still sucks! The Orlando Sentinel reports on the latest annual 'report card' Florida schools, and the trends are positive:

More Florida schools than ever earned As and Bs on Florida's annual school report card in 2006, and the number of F schools dropped to the lowest in four years, show results released by the state today.

Statewide, 74 percent of the graded public schools got A's or B's, up from 66 percent last year. The yearly A-F grades are based on students' scores and improvement on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

Across Florida, just 24 of more than 2,700 schools got Fs this year, the lowest since 2002. Seminole County school officials were among those pleased with today's news, as every Seminole middle school earned an A, as did six of nine high schools. The other three high schools got Bs.
But of course, my old high school, Maynard Evans High School, has managed to put up the good fight and has successfully countered this trend.
Jones High in Orlando earned its fifth F in a row, a grade that likely will prompt the Florida Department of Education to demand more urgent action from the district. Evans High dropped to an F again.
Yes! Not only did the Trojans manage to resist the urge to improve, they managed to backslide into pure failure! I'm comforted to know that some things never change. It lends a sense of permanence to this life.

More seriously, the truly sad part of the story is that Jones and Evans have been horror stories for a long time now. The only difference between now and 25 years ago is that at least now someone has drawn attention to the problem.

[Incidentally, "Trojans" is a horrible mascot for Evans. Evans was the first school I personally knew of to build a day care facility on campus. The Evans Rhythm Methods might have been a better choice....]

Restraint

Over at Done With Mirrors, Callimachus points to a couple of articles discussing home-grown terrorists in Canada and the USA. From a Christian Science Monitor story by Rebecca Cook Dube we get this:

With a little leadership, [Marc] Gopin [director of George Mason University's Center on Religion, Diplomacy, and Conflict Resolution in Washington] says, it's easy to create and harness rage in young people. It's possible for people who have never experienced the hardships of war to get even more upset and radical about it than those who have.

In the case of Western born-and-raised Islamic terrorists, Gopin says, "It's not based on the personal experience of grievance; it's a constructed grievance."
This is precisely why the USA SHOULD be the most feared nation on Earth. There's no reason other than a lack of cultural triggers that we can't substitute "American suburban youths" for "Islamic terrorists". From the standpoint of military and economic power, and from distributed technical savvy, we far outstrip any other nation or group of nations on Earth. Given the inchoate nature of our current national culture, the right trigger could put that power in the hands of a wrathful generation unaccustomed to war.

The events of September 11, 2001 could have provided that trigger. Mixed in with the shock of that day was tremendous anger. Around the time the second tower collapsed, I had a cabbie tell me that we needed to nuke the whole of the Middle East, turn it all into slag, even though it would mean the destruction of Israel. He was Jewish, but it seemed to him that the death of Israel would be an acceptable sacrifice in the new reality.

But we didn't unleash the atomic fires on the Middle East, or in Central Asia, or anywhere else. We didn't even expand our military for the coming conflicts. No, our leaders urged restraint, and took great pains to define the enemy very narrowly.

Seriously, I don't think Bush gets enough credit for NOT unleashing the fury of our nation on the Muslim world following 9/11. Almost five years on now, and there hasn't been that much damage done to the Islamic world. Hell, Afghanistan is in better shape now than it was five years ago. By this point in WWII we had already leveled Japan (mostly by ourselves and with one arm essentially tied behind our backs) and Germany (with the full weight of the Soviet and British, amongst others, on our side), laid waste to large swathes of the Earth, and had moved on to post-war reconstruction. And all that from a standing start against nations that were more or less our equals.

Even without resorting to nuclear weapons, we could have essentially annihilated every Muslim nation-state on Earth by now, had we chosen to. We didn't have to occupy territory. We could have swept through the Muslim world in a manner reminiscent of Sherman's march to the sea. Our military is built for speed and breakouts. It would have been much easier to level everything in sight and never look back. Fight block to block in Muslim cities? No, just surround them and level them with artillery batteries and carpet bombing. Start on the north-western coast of Africa, and head east until you hit India. Skip over to the islands of Malaysia and Indonesia, and finish off with Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the Philippines.

But we didn't. I think that history will be kinder to Bush than most now imagine, if only for his restraint. Either that, or far harsher than even Chomsky might imagine.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Okay People, Settle Down!

Another in the "Day Late, Dollar Short" series....

Alright, let's get something straight. Yesterday was not 6/6/6, or even 6/6/06. Yesterday was 6/6/2006. That extra two thousand makes all the difference!

Furthermore, even if it had been 6/6/6, it still would have meant nothing. Because 6/6/6 is not 666, but merely a convention for abbreviating dates which utilizes slashs or hyphens. (The American styles of mm/dd/yy and mm/dd/yyyy stink, BTW. The styles that should be used are either dd/mm/yyyy, or better still yyyymmdd without separators of any kind. Any old HR data hounds will understand why.)

In fact, trying to get a number out of 6/6/06 yields one of two answers:

6/6/06 = (6/6) / 06 = (1) / 6 = 1/6

-or-

6/6/06 = 6 / (6/6) = 6 / (1) = 6
For Revelations to be relevant to yesterday's date, it would have to read something like this:

"This calls for wisdom: let him who has understanding reckon the number of the beast, for it is a human number, its number is either 1/6 ... or 6. We're not real clear which."
Not very menacing!

(Not that 666 is all that menacing, either. It's not even prime! And the prime factorization of
2 x 3 x 3 x 37= 666
hardly strikes fear in ones heart. It doesn't make me the least bit uncomfortable. Really, they should have picked a truly intimidating number like eleven.)

All of which provides me an excuse to quote some King of the Hill dialogue. (This is from memory, as I didn't see this quote at IMDb.) Hank Hill, his wife Peggy, and their twelve year-old son Bobby are driving to Bobby's Little League game:

Hank: Bobby, remember to give it 110 percent. You can't give anymore than that.
Bobby: Why can't I give it 113 percent?
Peggy: Oh, I don't like that. Thirteen is an unlucky number!
Hank [annoyed]: It's not thirteen, it's one hundred and thirteen!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Chopper City: What It Is

In the comments to a previous post, I linked to my other blog, Chopper City. You're welcome to read the other site if you like. But I will just say we can be a little raw at times. We really need some sort of FAQ for that place, just so people showing up looking for motorcycle stuff can find out why there isn't anything about motorcycles at the site.

Chopper City is a nickname for our old neighborhood, Pine Hills. It was originally a suburb for employees of the defense contractor Martin Marrietta. That would have been late 1950s and 1960s era Pine Hills. In the late 1970s and 1980s it started sliding downhill. Back then it became known as Crime Hills. It wasn't THAT bad, even though it wasn't that good, either.

But in the 1990s the bottom fell out. It has become one of the poorest neighborhoods in Central Florida, and in terms of crime its as bad as any place in the region. We even had a former head of the Haitian secret police living there at one time. [Update: I mean this guy. I need to do a little bit of research and then alter the language.] (Forget Spanish, you should learn Haitian Creole if you want to hang in Pine Hills these days.)

Plus, it's Sex Offender Central! Go to the National Sex Offender Public Registry and type in the zipcode 32808. The following error message will occur:

- Florida (32808): Too many matching offenders. Refine your search criteria.

Yes, it's that bad. Other searches will reveal about 520 offenders in the Pine Hills area, and there's about 80 in close proximity to my old house.

Several years ago a friend found out that the youths had taken to calling Pine Hills Chopper City because of all the police helicopters flying overhead at night. So when a bunch of us decided to put together a small site, the name seemed obvious. We've tried to live down to expectations, and we treat it mostly as an opportunity to give each other hell.