just procrastinating

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Happy New Year
I'll be heading South (S. Carolina) for a few days so check back next year.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Slate has an article about the new decade, which frighteningly is about half over.
The precise midpoint of the 21st century's first decade will arrive on Jan. 1. As I write, that's five days away. You'd think by now the English-speaking world would have given this decade a name. Back in the early 1980s, the New York Times tried to pre-empt all future uncertainty by pronouncing it the "ohs." But nobody bit.
I vote for zeros. The term "aughts" is just a little to dated for this modern world, and I can't imagine the kids saying "I was a child of the aughts". When someone asks me what year it is (you know when you meet someone with amnesia, and they ask what year it is?) I'll usually say two-thousand four. But that's quite a mouthful, so I think I should be saying twenty oh-four. Anyway, "the ohs" is a little too simpleton for me, so I'm sticking with the zeros. But ultimately, someone will probably end up writing a popular book that gives this decade it's name, and the media will just run with it.

Monday, December 27, 2004

This little java thingee is pretty neat. You can watch time tick by and see if we are going to be clobbered by this asteroid in 2029. Maybe, but probably not.

Speaking of asteroids, I got this Atari Flashback for Christmas that has 20 classic games, asteroids being one of them. Coincidence? Isn't it odd that 24 years ago, I was playing the same Atari Asteroids game, and now in 25 years there is a 1 in 37 chance that we will be hit by an asteroid. A pattern like that isn't just some random happenstance.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Merry Christmas
I'm watching Ralphie Parker in his classic movie.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

FCC Complaints
These FCC complaints about the Olympics are pretty funny. Jeff Jarvis thinks some of them are just Howard Stern fans, and he's probably right.

Some of them mention indecency in commercials for Cialis and Viagra, but that reminds me of the Levitra commercials. Levitra is the one that has a woman with brown hair who is probably in her early 40s and she sits on a porch swing, tousling her hair and talking about the "quality of response" that Levitra gives her man. Whenever that commercial comes on, I usually say to my wife, "That chick is a complete slut, she totally wants it" or something along those lines. But anyway, there is nothing subtle about that commercial, and it should be banned immediately!

Housing Bubble
Interesting post about the housing bubble, or lack thereof here. It would be interesting to see this kind of analysis done in at a really low level, like in areas where it feels like it must be a bubble, ie., Lincoln Park, Dupont Circle, most of Manhattan, etc. But I imagine that level of data doesn't exist in a reliable form.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

I don't know why I waited so long, but I finally downloaded Firefox. I really like it so far. My last straw with Internet Explorer was yesterday. I was looking for the name of a song, so I typed in some lyrics (this time it just happened to be "another white dash") and got sent to one of these lyrics sites. I don't know but for some reason, pretty much all of the lyrics sites try to get you to download some spyware and if you don't, you get caught up in that loop of saying "no" and then trying to close the window, only to have it pop up again. Repeat. Firefox just fights that battle for you.

Wax On
Something made me stay up and watch The Karate Kid last night, which is now a 20 year old movie. I didn't see all of it, but I had to watch that one scene where the wax on/wax off work is revealed.

You know the scene: Mr. Miyagi has agreed to train Daniel and has assigned him a bunch of manual labor jobs, waxing some cars, sanding the deck, painting the fence and house. Daniel does his best but becomes increasingly frustated because he wants to learn karate, and it seems that Miyagi just wants some free labor. The tension mounts and Daniel, sore from all of this work, decides that Miyagi is just using him. Daniel whines about a sore shoulder and wants to quit.

Miyagi realizes that it might be time to reveal the reason for all of these manual tasks. So he does a quick magical fix of Daniel's shoulder, and asks him to show him what he has been doing. Daniel sloppily moves his hands and feet in the motions of wax on, and the floor, etc. but Miyagi forces him to tighten them up. Then, out of nowhere, Miyagi starts throwing punches at him, only to have Daniel block all of them by moving in the same wax on/wax off motion. Then they go through each of the motions and Daniel equally moves to block the oncoming punches and kicks. Finally, Miyagi throws a flurry of punches and kicks at Danielson, only to have all of them blocked almost instinctually now by him. Daniel stands wide-eyed in amazement, having realized finally the purpose of these mundane tasks.

I think that scene is pretty cool, especially that last part where Miyagi is yelling "Yiayaee" or something like that. So that scene, and any scene that Elisabeth Shue is in, makes this a classic movie. Kinda cheesey, sure, but in an underdog feel-good kinda way.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Hey Dano
Remember about 4 years ago when I was talking about this (hedging your home's value)? It looks like you can do it now in some markets.

I almost went and saw Dodgeball at the theater, but having seen it now on video, am glad I saved the 8 bucks. Not that is was a bad movie, but it just didn't deliver like I hoped it would. I think I need to manage my expectations a little bit better so that I won't be disappointed by these movies.

There were definitely a few laugh out loud moments, but I quickly grew tired of Ben Stiller's character, which I think he overplayed, and I was a little less than enthused about Vince Vaughn's character, which I think was underplayed. Still, worth renting. I'd give it 2 1/2 stars.

I didn't move to Virginia to wake up to a seven whole degrees (F). I could have gotten plenty of that in Chicago. Seven degrees is not a lot of degrees. It's merely a handful. Our apartment is not really equiped to handle temperatures this low. The heat-pump just can't pump out the cold fast enough. Nor is this office building, where at 7:30, it's probably only about 65 in here and my guess is that we are topped out.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Apprentice Finale
I cringed at the throught of sitting through 3 hours of the Apprentice 2 Final Show, but I managed to watch most of it. The result, as I'm sure anyone who cares knows: Kelly (who is a dude) wins!

For awhile there, I thought the editors were tricking us the whole season into thinking that Kelly was going to win, only to pull a fast one on us and reveal that Kelly wasn't so competent. After the initial poll of the live audience where Kelly got all but one of the votes from the crowd, I thought he was a shoo-in. But in the final board meeting Trump dressed Kelly down a little and did a bit of a head fake with Jennifer so I thought he was going to give it her, but turns out, he fired her.

I got a real problem with that Jennifer Massey, such that I would have had to withdraw my support of the show if she won this. I think she lied a few times in the boardroom and is so abrasive and confrontational that I would just hate to work with her. And, as I said before, she really isn't that pretty, but it needs to be said: She looks pretty darn good everywhere else.

The one thing about Kelly that bugged me is when Jennifer confronted him about talking behind her back she said something like, "Be a man", to which Kelly just kind of sulked. He should snapped back and said, "like you?"

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Tired Cliche
You know when you arrive at work and two people are wearing the same or a similar clothes? Isn't it time to put the old "Hey did you call each other this morning?" line to rest. I hear that every time and it hasn't ever been funny.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Goofy Spare
The coldest morning of the year, and I wake up to a flat tire. Well mostly flat, and I figured I could make it to the gas station for some air, which I did. But in the process, I think I knocked it out of kilter so that any air I was putting in it seemed to be just going out into the air somewhere. So I had to change it, and of course, my car has one of those goofy looking little spare tires. So that means one more drive of shame with a trip to the tire store later today.

Monday, December 13, 2004

I take my dog walking down by the Rivanna River most days. On the other side of the river runs the Rivanna Trail, at trail that circles Charlottesville. In the section right across from the park where we walk, there is an area where the trail has been closed. The reason? The woman who owns that section of it has put razor wire up to keep people walking on that part of her property. Here is a recent article about it in The Hook, one of Charlottesville's free weeklies.

It is a complicated issue for me and I am torn between my libertarian leanings and my desire to justice done. Part of knows that because it is her property, she has a right to do whatever she wants with it. The other part of me that seeks justice wants to see this freakin' old hag get what she deserves. She is the only person in town who hasn't given permission to the trail foundation and is being a complete bitch about this. Article excerpt:
As part of its quest to create a continuous 20-mile trail around the city, the nonprofit Rivanna Trails Foundation obtained easements from waterfront property owners beginning in the early-'90s. But, in what the Foundation has called an "oversight," no one obtained the permission from the homeowners on Bland Circle, a cul-de-sac of compact homes on a high bluff over the Rivanna.

While some Bland Circle residents forgave the lapse and eventually gave permission, Presley grew more frustrated with-- and fearful of-- the increasing number of hikers crossing her property.

In the summer of 2002, the Foundation, acknowledging Presley's property rights, created a bypass redirecting hikers away from her property and onto the asphalt of River Road and Locust Avenue.

The posted detour, however, wasn't enough to keep interlopers away. In early summer 2002, Presley erected a large brush pile across the trail to deter users, many of whom were frustrated by the blockage of a riverfront route that had allegedly been in casual use for decades.

After several more confrontations with interlopers-- including one that occurred with police present, according to her lawyer-- Shirley Presley took protection of her property to a new, more extreme, level, erecting not one-- as has been previously reported-- but two parallel strings of razor wire approximately 60 feet apart across the trail near each edge of her property
The truth of this is that her land is so steep that she can't even see the hikers from her house and there is no way to get to her house from the trail unless you have mountain climbing gear. People and animals are getting injured on her razor-wire now, so it probably won't be too long before something bad happens here. I'd be willing to donate money and time to building an extension of this trail around her property by extending it just into the river via a dock or pier of some sort. That would actually be the perfect solution because it preserves her property rights and would annoy the hell out of her.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Laser Beams
This actually seems like a joke. Frikin' lasers?
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Terrorists may seek to down aircraft by shining powerful lasers into cockpits to blind pilots during landing approaches, U.S. officials warned in a bulletin distributed nationwide.

"Although lasers are not proven methods of attack like improvised explosive devices and hijackings, terrorist groups overseas have expressed interest in using these devices against human sight," the memo said.

"In certain circumstances, if laser weapons adversely affect the eyesight of both pilot and co-pilot during a non-instrument approach, there is a risk of airliner crash," the agencies said.
Sounds to me like the Department of Homeland Security is overstaffed.

Apprentice Update
These Apprentice candidates are lightweights, that's for sure. Kevin and Sandy were justifiably fired and leaves Kelly (who is a dude), who should win, and the annoying Jennifer. Man, that Jen just can't win, it wouldn't be right. She is awful and she really isn't that pretty.

On last night's episode, she and Sandy were battling it out in the boardroom, with Sandy, the entrepreneur, saying that Jen wasn't a risk taker. Jen's reply was so typically Ivy League and condescending. She said that she took a risk by moving out to San Francisco which was a very competitive legal market. OK, Jen. You went to Princeton and then to Harvard Law School and then you became an Associate in a law firm. That is just the typical progression of an Ivy League educated professional. I consider that mundane and risk-free for someone with her background. That's just what people like her do. So STFU and get fired next week.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Fascinating article here about the origin and uses of the word "dude". Here are some meanings:
An admitted dude-user during his college years, Scott Kiesling said the four-letter word has many uses: in greetings ("What's up, dude?"); as an exclamation ("Whoa, Dude!"); commiseration ("Dude, I'm so sorry."); to one-up someone ("That's so lame, dude."); as well as agreement, surprise and disgust ("Dude.").
I like that "agreement, surprise and disgust" bit. When I read that I was like "dude".

Bonds, Steriods
Interesting article by Matt Welch here in Reason. I agree with most of his article, but I take exception with this part of his defense of Barry Bonds:
The United States government has sent the impressionable Youth of America an unmistakable signal: Do not, under any circumstances, break any sporting records after adding 18 pounds of muscle at age 36.

If you do, Uncle Sam will use the awesome powers at his disposal—grand jury inquisitions, illegal leaks, even the State of the Union address—to humiliate you in public and pressure your union to accept year-round random urine testing, even if you will never be charged with breaking a single law.

In 2001, the San Francisco Giants' Barry Bonds, one of the five best players ever to wear a baseball uniform (he has won an unprecedented seven Most Valuable Player awards, including the National League's last four), broke Mark McGwire's single-season home run record, with 73, far surpassing his own previous high of 49. Unluckily for him, he did so in a media market inhabited by an ex-jock IRS agent who didn't appreciate Bonds' famously surly attitude.

"That Bonds. He's a great athlete," Internal Revenue Service criminal investigator Jeff Novitzky told California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement agent Iran White three or four years ago, according to White's account, as reported in a remarkable May 2004 Playboy article. "You think he's on steroids?" When White reckoned that Bonds was, Novitzky reportedly answered: "He's such an asshole to the press... I'd sure like to prove it."

Remember, kids: Don't be an asshole to the media!
I think that Bonds is reaping what he sowed in this case. Barry Bonds made himself a target by being an asshole. You don't see the feds breathing down Sammy Sosa's neck, even thought it's likely that he was doing something similar. And the difference is that Sammy Sosa is a great guy--as far as I know anyway.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

So it looks like Yushchenko was poisoned. That's actually a relief to me, because when I first found out about this story a couple of weeks ago, I was worried that some horrible disfiguring disease was out there that could do this to me. According to the article, he should be able to make a full recovery, so I assume that means his face.

Five People
I got roped into that The Five People You Meet in Heaven last night. I didn't read the book by Mitch Albom, but I read his Tuesday's with Morrie, so I figured it would more of the same maudlin, meaning of life kind of stuff, and it delivered on that. But the movie could have been better. Jon Voight wasn't very likeable as Eddie and this movie should have been about 30 minutes shorter.

Michael Imperioli (Christopher on the Sopranos) is in this, and I have to admit that he is a pretty good actor. When he was cast on the Sopranos I thought he was a horrible choice. I mean, after all, look how long he lasted in Goodfellas. Remember that he played Spider and ended up getting shot in the foot by Joe Pesci, and then ultimately killed by him because he couldn't control his mouth. How could he be a good mob character? But I guess I was wrong on that.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Tomorrow is the day that the average daily high temperature drops below 50 for this area. (Here is a previous post I did on this topic) We've been having some warm days this winter and tomorrow it is supposed to be 65 and sunny. I'm sure it will start getting crappy, but I'll take what I can get.

Holiday Learnin'
I never knew much about Channukah, so I found this post about its background and the irony of why Channukah is celebrated today pretty interesting.

Monday, December 06, 2004

This looks like the work of eco-terrorists. Whenever you hear talk like this, you gotta suspect that something untoward is about to happen:
"It's really the last viable Sweet Bay magnolia bog in the world," said Ellie Cline, a Charles County resident who is a plaintiff in the lawsuit.
I didn't even know there were Sweet Bay magnolia bogs, much less ones that were viable.

Liberalism and Bums
I get a kick out of this letter to the editor in U Va's Cavalier Daily. A couple of Anthropology professors writing about the lack of conservatives in academia:
While it is certainly possible that people who become academics start out as Democrats and then go to a university to complain, it is more likely that academics become politically liberal in the course of immersing themselves in the pursuit of knowledge and the practice of critical inquiry.

Anthropologists are professionally committed to taking seriously the experiences of all human beings in their cultural settings, including people all over the world whose interests are disregarded by conservative U.S. policies.

Moreover, anthropology emphasizes learning about others not just through abstract indices, but by living among them and participating in their lives, a method that leads us to view people empathetically and with awareness of the constraints they face. It is only natural for this kind of knowledge to lead the vast majority of anthropologists to disapprove of policies that magnify human suffering, whether through economic mechanisms, social legislation or the prosecution of needless wars.

If we can take seriously that such lack of parity creates a situation which for some can be stifling, we should be all the more prepared to recognize the many in this world who are in a truly disadvantaged position.
Reading this about the "truly disadvantaged" made me think about this bum, or perhaps he is a homeless person, that hangs out at a corner near our place. Just yesterday, I was thinking about how, back in my early 20s, I would almost always give bums my spare change. But then at some point along the way, I started to avoid them, and then, I just kind of stopped. Maybe every now and then if I am accosted by someone I might give them something, but I usually just try to avoid them now.

So anyway, I saw this guy again yesterday and thought that maybe I would give him some cash around the holidays, to relieve whatever remaining Liberal guilt I have. But later that evening...what do you know, I see the guy at Food Lion. And what does he buy with his crinkled up dollar bills and loose change? Of course: beer and smokes. Not that I blame him for this, but his sign (Hungry, Need Food) is clearly misleading.

Back to Normal
My wife finally started her job back at U Va. last week, so things are finally getting back to normal around here. And since she is a university employee again, that means that I got to return to my old gym at U Va, the AFC. I had been working out at this place here in town that was way too expensive and was filled with tons of old people, like me. But yesterday, back at the AFC, I looked around the free-weight room and noticed that of the 20 or so people there, I was pretty much the oldest (and the best-looking, but that might have just been luck). There is something kind of nice about being in a university town, and being able to use their facilities.

Friday, December 03, 2004

I've been watching the Apprentice this year and it's not as good as the first season. The teams are too boring, but I always liked that Ivana, who got fired today. Sure, she is a little crazy, but just enought to make her interesting. I kind of felt for her on this episode.

For the entire season, Jennifer has been Ivana's foil. The whole thing with the Levi's jeans, where Jen basically stole Ivana's idea, underscored the differences between Jen and Ivana. In this episode you could feel Ivana's frustration that the other team was using sex appeal to sell their candy bars for $5. What idiot would pay 5 bucks for a candy bar? So in an act of desperation, Ivana (who is the hottest of the remaining women) decides to try the sex appeal thing, and charges $20 for a candy bar and a drop skirt underwear flash. Ultimately, it was too little too late and her team lost. That kind of behavior wasn't really appreciated by Trump's henchwoman Carolyn, and Ivana was swiftly fired.

I don't know who deserves to win this thing. Probably Kelly, who despite the name, is a dude.

The Idiot Excuse
Barry Bonds is back in the news. We'll see how long the idiot exuse can hold up:
Barry Bonds testified to a grand jury that he used a clear substance and a cream given to him by a trainer who was indicted in a steroid-distribution ring, but said he didn't know they were steroids, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday.

Bonds told the federal grand jury last year that Greg Anderson, his personal trainer, told him the substances he used in 2003 were the nutritional supplement flaxseed oil and a rubbing balm for arthritis, according to a transcript of his testimony reviewed by the Chronicle.
I'm almost inclined to believe that he thought this at first, but how can flaxseed oil explain this?

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Offsite Meetings
I've been out of the office the past couple days for meeting that we have had here in town offsite with some folks from out of town. Yesterday was one of those long days with meetings all day and then we had a nice tour of Monticello at night followed by a free dinner. Kinda fun, but I hate going to work at 7 AM and not getting home until 10PM. Also, I would have killed somebody for a toothbrush. I hate to go more than four or five hours without brushing my teeth, and you can't really be brushing your teeth during the breaks at these meetings. (can you?) Enough with the small talk and the name tags, I need to get home and brush my teeth.

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