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September 30, 2003

Hand-Held Design Focuses the Massage Right to Tension

Does sitting in front of that computer for so long lead to stress, pain, or fatigue? Thanks to a friend's Bulletin Board post on Friendster, I can point you to something to make it all melt away.

I do hope that version 2.0 will feature software control. Why hear "You've got mail!" when you could feel that you've got mail? Or maybe this is the perfect accompaniment to the force-feedback joystick. Add some stereo viewing goggles, and you're on your way to the cybernautic holy grail, teledildonics.

A sting too far

Maybe it's just because I have a mordant fear that a single bee sting will kill me instantly, but Slate's Sting Operation - What's the best remedy for a bee sting? By William Brantley article took things a bit too far for my tastes. The author intentionally inflicted 5 bee stings to his hands so he could test a variety of packaged and DIY remedies. The results are informative, but the whole process borders on the extreme. I love Slate's "Shopping" column, and its sinister kicker: "How to be the best consumer you can be." Some of my favorites are the recent review of reduced-carb foods and last year's great meat-substitute cookoff. I just think there's a line, and getting oneself stung is on the wacko side of it.

This explains a lot

Apparently primary schoolers in Australia like to toke up. At least the 5-year-old girl who made a bong in class does.

You gotta love the nonchalance displayed here:

"It's not unheard of that primary school children will be found with drugs at school,'' the teacher said.

"Usually it's just a bit of dope _ they've probably nicked it from their mum's purse and brought it along to show off."


September 26, 2003

Lest anyone doubt...

...that I get my sense of humor from my old man, I thought I would share an email I received from him this morning.

A local animal rights group is advocating sterlizing bears in NJ as an alternative to a recently approved bear hunt. I'm all for cleaner bears but I'm surprised that an animal rights group would suggest boiling them.

More good news on Atkins

As David and I prepare to go on the Atkins Diet, I'm doing research on the negative health effects people get so worried about... and finding only the opposite. Healthtalk, a firm I might be doing a little work for soon,
summarizes a recent study that showed not only did obese women on an Atkins-style low-carb diet lose twice as much weight as women on a low-cal/low-fat diet, they had no negative impacts to their lipid profile, cardiovasular health, or general health. I continue to believe that whatever small risks low-carb has, they are dwarfed by the known risks of obesity.

Recalling California wines

I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who doesn't enjoy California wines... they are almost as overpriced and snobby as French wines and many are just as ill-mannered. Slate has a great piece on the increasing crisis in the California wine industry by columnist Mike Steinberger (whose observations I am really coming to enjoy).

To quote Mike:


Americans are also expanding their wine horizons: Wine drinkers are often weaned on Napa merlots and Sonoma chardonnays but then become more adventurous, dabbling in Loire whites, Rhone reds, and other imports. Many find they prefer the foreign stuff, which usually has a lot more character and goes down better with meals. (California wines tend to be abusively oaked, high in alcohol, and low in acidity, making them distinctly food-unfriendly.)
But none of this adequately explains the contempt so many oenophiles now seem to feel for California wines. They aren't just shunning them; they are cursing them. At any gathering of wine fanatics, you're apt to find one person, and usually more, who will claim to have entirely sworn off California. The manager of a major East Coast wine store recently told me he no longer sets foot in his shop's California section unless a client can't be convinced to try something else.
....
In fact, California produces almost nothing worth drinking for under $15, a failure that borders on criminal. Finding something in this range that is merely inoffensive is a challenge, a point underscored by a recent feature in the Los Angeles Times. The paper gave four local sommeliers $300 each to come up with a list of good, fairly priced wines (fairly priced was loosely defined). Of the 39 wines selected, exactly one was from California. "There's no price-quality ratio in California anymore," David Rosoff of Opaline restaurant explained, "Great mistakes were made here …"

The biggest mistake is vanity: Most of the California producers with the means, skill, and desire to make good wine seem to measure success by the price tag on the bottle and would sooner flog pickles than "devalue" their brand by selling a $15 cabernet. You'd think one of California's star oenologists might be inspired by the examples in France of great winemakers—Aubert de Villaine and Dominique Lafon come to mind—who are happily slumming it on the side, producing terrific, inexpensive wines from satellite appellations. But apparently that isn't the California way.

OK, there are a few exceptions. Mike lists Ridge, which is generally great, and I am of course a huge fan of David Bruce (especially the luscious Petite Syrah that Bob and Terry cellar).

OK, now I'm ready to leave the office and drink. I'm going to try to stay for at least another hour.

Jay, you better watch out

I mean, you gotta wonder, just a little, how much longer folks will want to pay for your no-doubt top notch branding services when they can get their own logo for free on the web.

And it even came up with a good one for our little venture: Just for the Taste of SDS.

Or how's about: Lipsmackin' Thirstquenchin' Acetastin' Motivatin' Goodbuzzin' Cooltalkin' Highwalkin' Fastlivin' Evergivin' Coolfizzin' Nonfamous.

And finally: Mama Mia, That'sa One Spicy Paulette Mckay!

Coke tracks rugby promo winners by satellite

In one of the weirder promos of the year, Coke is apparently using satellite tracking technology to identify the winners in its Thrill Seeker promotion for the Rugby World Cup to be held in Australia next month. Opening a winning bottle will trigger a device in the lid that is trackable by satellite, and a Coca Cola representative will travel to the winner immediately to deliver prizes ranging from finals tickets to a Peugeot.

The story is a little sketchy on the tech details, but obviously Coke is confident the system will work. It seems that Australia is a good test-bed for marketing technologies, but this one raises the question... what if the winner is in some godforsaken patch of the Outback? It could take quite a while to reach them. On the other hand, if the winner is in a Sydney apartment block, that 10-meter radius could include several apartments. I'll keep tracking this one.

September 25, 2003

Fun with Lawyers

A lawyer writes this parody of a safety warning for a ladder.

Yes, folks, lawyers can be funny! Check out lawhaha.com for other examples if you don't believe me. Even judges can be funny! (If you skip the boring guff on page 1, anyway. They've got the jokes down, it seems, but still have to work on the timing.)

What Libertarianism is Not

OK, I'll admit it. I've heard a few people, especially on blogs and message boards and stuff, describe themselves as Libertarians, but beyond the freedom-is-good-government-is-bad-just-let-me-be mantra, I never really understood what it was, really. I did take the World's Smallest Political Quiz though, once, but it didn't make me a convert despite its bias.

Sometimes, you can learn most clearly what something is by being told what it is not. This Non-Libertarian FAQ demonstrates that point. I now know enough about it that it just ain't viable. This quote from the author of the FAQ is pretty telling, for me:


Why do you spend so much time trying to debunk?
As I told creationists who wondered why I bothered, it's interesting to me to study unusual beliefs for the same reason it's interesting for doctors to study pathologies. You don't have to catch a disease to be able to understand it, fight it, or vaccinate against it.

Comparing Libertarians with Creationists is the ultimate damnation.

Meet Banksy

So my good friend Kevin turned me on to Banksy, a London-based... street artist? Media Jammer? Freelance provocateur? Meme-terrorist? Whatever, check out his stuff... site navigation consists mainly of clicking on the images that come up. My favorite image is this one (or maybe this one), but the "camp" entry (click on the word camp) makes you fear you're going be horribly offended--only to be brought almost to tears by a completely unexpected narrative that serves as Banksy's manifesto.

The bottom line: the best, most provocative art/commercial imagery is happening on the street. Banksy calls is "brandalism" and that's exactly where we are headed.

September 24, 2003

Knightsfollie Ladiesman

Bringing to mind both Dumbo and The Flying Nun, is Mr. Jeffries, a basset hound and grandpup of Mr. Biggles of Hush Puppies fame. This fine specimen of dog-eared-ness has 11- or 12-inch ears (depending on your news source) insured for 30,000 pounds.

More Reason To Blog

I hope that you're all writing about the troubling events in your life somewhere. In a small study, reported by the BBC, even a physical wound heals faster when the wounded write about troubling emotional experiences as compared to those who did not write. Those who did not write also had higher levels of stress.

At various times in the past, I've tried to journal (v.i.) or keep a diary, but this has always ended within just a few days—at the most. I've even started a journal-y blog elsewhere... but that has sat dormant for the last four or five weeks of its six or so weeks of existence. I'm not sure if I'll ever use it as much of a therapeutic practice (at some point in such an exercise, I usually decide that I either need to do something fun or pass the mic for a while).

September 23, 2003

5th Graders on Radiohead

The East Bay Express has a great column that starts with the spot-on observation "It is no longer possible to have an original opinion on Radiohead." So he had a class of fifth graders listen to a bunch of Radiohead songs and draw their impressions. These kids did not like Radiohead, but their drawings are pretty amazing. Check it: Radiohead Rorschach, An innocent fifth grader's picture is worth a thousand-word critical analysis, By Rob Harvilla.

September 18, 2003

16th C. Dickhead

This is for real. Next time somebody bemoans the fall of Western Culture after watching Fox, show them this 16th Century Italian maiolica plate. Next time you call somebody a dickhead, reassure them that it's an insult with a real heritage. (Thanks to my old friend Ilene Rubowitz, M.D. for this one!)

September 17, 2003

Where's my goddammed soup?

I know you wouldn't think it to know me, but I am a wuss when it comes to being sick. And it's weird, right? Because usually, I'm tough as nails. Nothing phases me. I'm a stoic. Through and through. Straight-faced. Deadpan. Dry witted.

Ok, that's not true. I take many a cake for grousing. (And while I'm not going to explore the origin of that expression, but what kind of birds do complain? Do grouses grouse? Or does their call just sound whiny? They didn't have any, that I noticed, at the zoo, so I can't say for sure.)

But, yeah, I've got me a little cold. And I'm milking it for all its worth. This is a trait I learned from my father, believe it or not. He may have been a Ranger, but when he got a bug, everyone was walking on eggshells not to bug him. So that's yet another way I take after him. And it's good for me in developing my whole curmudgeonly persona, I think, to complain about the miseries of my viral infections.

So I don't want to go to work tomorrow. I want to stay home, under the covers, and whine. I might even think about calling my mother and whining at her for not being here to bring me chicken soup. Because if you're going to be sick, you might as well take some pleasure in it, and make the woman who brought you into the world feel sorry for not making it a perfectly wonderful and disease-free place, right? I don't know. I need to go to work. But I feel like crap. Chills. Congestion. Light-headed. Generally in a bad mood. Tired. Sore. Somebody just put me out of my misery.

Except, I know that in the grand scheme of things, I'm fine. I'll recover. Probably in a day or two because I've been zincing myself to high heaven. But still. I get sick so rarely that when I do, I want to do it with verve. Panache. Some kind of bang at least. So I complain a lot. Because that is just so out of character for me. Sigh. Maybe I'm just jealous of Cliff and his detached retina. Or maybe I'm just a wuss. I keep asking myself how I'd survive on a boat for a week or more in Alaska if I'm whining about a head cold, but on the other hand, maybe I whine because I've not suffered enough in other ways. So does that mean I'm trying to toughen myself up, become a stronger and better person by going fishing next summer? Or am I just kidding myself? I guess that remains to be seen.

I've been reading this book about fishing on a scallop boat, one my father recommended after I first mentioned my hare-brained scheme, and I think his plan backfired. I'm more jazzed about the whole idea than ever, even despite the dislodged teeth and stiches and severed limbs described in the book. So I'm thinking that, assuming you'll all still love me as much as ever with a prosthetic arm and caps on my teeth, that at least I'll be better off a year from now when I get my next cold and say "This is nothing compared to being 50 miles offshore with a half ton of salmon that I need to pack in ice even as I'm bleeding profusely."

You all can only hope.


September 16, 2003

Who knew?

Apparently, I'm brash and gregarious. At least, how I sleep says I am. Then again, when I was born says that I'm stubborn. And we all know that's about the furthest thing from the truth.

September 15, 2003

A little correction and a big one

As David and I prepare to move into the new place this weekend, it seems like a good time to point out that the house is technically not in Madrona, but in Leschi. Apparently Leschi is a bit tonier but Madrona's where the fun is (cool restaurants, fun shopping, etc.). We're right on the line-- maybe we should call it Madschi? Maybe not.

The bigger correction, which is related, is that the eponymous Chief Leschi wasn't a murderer. So says the Nisqually tribe, respected historians, and even a former Pierce county prosecutor. Looks like it was a pretty standard White Man Speaks with Forked Tongue affair 150 years back, as settlers and the government attempted to force native tribes onto reservations. Leschi became the tribes' "war chief" and was convicted of murdering a militia soldier, despite evidence that he was not present at the ambush in question. Leschi became the first person sentenced to death by white justice in the Washington Territory. (Even if he was guilty, I think the settlers had it coming.)

Anyway, with the help of historians the Nisqually tribe is making an effort to formally clear the name of the Chief whose memory is still alive and well here in the Northwest. As a soon-to-be Leschi resident, I wish them all the best.

September 11, 2003

Badgers

Mushroom mushroom Snake SNAKE! weebls stuff

Weirdly addictive, worth the long load time.

What makes America great

OK, at the risk of sounding jingoistic, I want to share a story that really does make me proud. Sure, the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well elsewhere, but come on: where else could a baggage handler come up with an industry-leading in-flight entertainment system in his spare time? I love it.

This guy is a college dropout, working like three jobs, and managed to create a great solution for something that has vexed airlines and travelers alike. This guy who has spent 16 years slinging bags in Seattle for Alaska Airlines has invented and perfected a light and inexpensive system that stores and plays movies, music, and more. To top it all off, he convinced major content owners like 20th Century Fox that the box was secure enough to protect their IP--no mean feat.

No bitching about high taxes or barriers to small business from this guy-- he just busted his ass and did it. What an inspiration.

Oh, and at the same conference in Seattle this week where he launched the "digEplayer" (OK, he needs some branding help) he also announced a system that lets passengers buy drinks from the cart with their credit cards. As someone who has more than once boarded a flight in desperate need of a drink with no cash in wallet, this may be the best news of all.

September 10, 2003

Send pirates, guns, and money

Have I mentioned lately that I love pirate movies? They are just so cool. Growing up I had a huge crush on Errol Flynn, and could go batty over just about any flick with a fair amount of swashbuckling. And by now most of you nonfamous nonstrangers know of my love of cowboys. Oh, cowboys. Let me just daydream about them for a few moments...

So why is this? I mean, sure my ultimate movie hero is Indiana Jones. And that makes sense. Because, for one thing, on 1982, Harrison Ford was HOT. Really hot. And then, Raiders of the Lost Ark was essentially a western. And most definitely a World War II movie, another favorite genre of mine. He was an intellectual, and adventurer, a loner, a risk taker, a man against the world, not too morally upright to be nauseating, but not too much of an opportunist to be repugnant either. And did I mention he was hot?

Well, so, but I wonder, why is that girls like bad boys. By the way, in no way am I thinking this is an original question to pose. It's more a segue into a discussion of the Pirates of the Carribean movie, which I saw tonight, and which, by the way, was really good, considering that it was based on a ride at Disney World. But see, you know, the thing is, that as hot as Johnny Depp is generally, and as entertaining as he was in this movie. He wasn't the love interest. The love interest was, well, the good guy. And not so much. A pirate. But a good guy.

And that's kind of a theme of the movie. That sometimes you can be a pirate and a good guy at the same time. Like Indiana Jones, I guess. Or Han Solo. Who was also hot, but then again, was also Indiana Jones. (Is it obvious yet I haven't been sleeping enough lately?) And while we're at it, why hasn't Harrison Ford played a good cowboy role. Oh, but you know who has? Robert Redford. Talk about hot. And Sundance. Yeah. I need to swoon for a few moments...

So, sure, I'm also not saying that the theme of the good guy pirate is new. Or the hooker with the heart of gold, which was not a theme in the POTC, but seems like a related theme. Or that recognizing that there are guys hotter than Johhny Depp is new. I mean, I figured that out when I saw Gladiator. Duh... But, well, first of all, how the hell did someone make a good movie out of a Disneyworld ride? And second of all, how did I see a pirate movie where I wasn't swooning over the pirates? I mean, I'm the classic chick, thinking Ilsa was a fool to opt for that Victor Lazlo guy over Rick Blaine. I usually like the good guy/bad boys. And I liked them in this movie, but, no, there was no swooning.

Which I kind of think is something that Johnny Depp does intentionally. Have you noticed that for such a hot guy he plays a lot of nonhot characters? I kind of think that's cool. Especially for a guy who got his start on 21 Jump Street as the cutie patooty. He's a good actor. Really he is. And when I first heard about this pirate movie, all I could think about was what a great pirate he would make. And he does, but in a quirky, very nonsexual way that probably shouldn't surprise me based on the roles he's chosen in the last decade or so, but still kind of did. I was expecting him to be channeling Errol Flynn. Somehow, he seemed to be channeling a bit more Mick Jagger than Flynn. Which is weird for a pirate movie. Yet worked. And still, not what I was going for.

So, where am I going with this? Really, I don't know. I'm just kind of intrigued. I liked the movie. I don't see myself buying it on DVD. Mostly because I never swooned. The love interest, by the way, might have been really good looking, but his character lacked depth and bore a really unnerving resemblance to someone I know. And like. But still. That's not what I'm going for in a movie. I want to see a pirate movie where I can be caught up in the plot and dreaming of being the girl who everyone is trying to rescue.

Ramble over. No real point made. You may now resume your regularly scheduled blog reading.

Oooooklahomo!

Thought some nonfamous nonstrangers might find this an interesting article.

September 09, 2003

Yikes!

I love The Onion, and I love its biting satire. But if I owned a small retail store, this "guest editorial by "Wal-Mart Store #3297" would make me cry. A sample:

I love looking around these mom-and-pop places. It helps me get a feel for a town's local flavor. Just out of curiosity, what do you tell your greeters to say around these parts? Oh, you don't have greeters? Then who greets the customers? Interesting. That certainly is one way of going about it, I guess.

It's dead-on, of course, and one of oh-so-many reasons I hate Wal-Mart.

Celebrating non-diversity

Here's something I've always wished for: a gathering of all the David Smiths. It's just for a small town in Vermont, but maybe this will lead to a US-wide (or even world-wide!) convention someday. I'd go.

I've always felt cursed by having the dullest name in the universe. (My close friends know that my middle name is equally dull, so no hope there.) It's caused any number of logistical problems, from getting the wrong mail to having to wait an extra 10 minutes while the support rep on the phone scrolls through 10 pages of names just to find mine. It even caused a minor problem with the house-buying process -- in the title search some other David Smiths turned up with judgements against them, and I had to prove I wasn't them. On the other hand, it does help to become anonymous when you need it.

On a more serious note, the one-to-many mapping of names to people has caused problams for several people as a result of the current War on Terror. There is now a "passenger watch list" which the airlines are meant to scritinize, and if your name matches one on the list you get searched. In detail. Every time. Problem is, there's no way to get your name off the list if it's added mistakenly, and because the list only has first and last names (and sometimes just initials!) many innocent travellers are being inconvenienced. For example "J Adams" is on the list, and if your are John or Jenny or James Adams you will be stopped. The WSJ covered the issue. Let's hope "D Smith" never gets added to the list -- not just for my sake, but to prevent the 4-hour security lines it would cause.

September 08, 2003

Whatever happened to investigative journalism?

Greg Palast, journalist for Salon and the UK Guardian, has a website for the new edition of his book, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. The story of the many irregularities of the Florida election, which most likely handed the election to Bush, is kinda old hat now. There's really not much we can do about it until 2004. But of more interest to me was Greg's story, which you can read online in Chapter 1, of how the mainstream US media refused to pick up the story (despite it being widely reported in print and TV in the UK). CBS news, for example, didn't run it because the only check they did was to call Jeb Bush's office and, surprise, surprise, he denied the facts of the story.

Is investigative journalism simply non-existent in this country? Greg attributes the lack of follow-up on this story to the fact that the media would actually have to investigate to validate the story, and this would cost time and money. In fact, the only reporting that was done was after the US Civil Rights Commission had delivered their report six months after the fact. Seems like it's easier just to wait for someone else to investigate and report the results.

The chapter mentions two of my favourite news sources: the Guardian and BBC2's Newsnight. I've spoken of my love for the Guardian before, but I never knew it was owned by a non-profit corporation. Newsnight is a British intitution, an occasional (2-4 times weekly) evening news program, which spends 45 minutes discussing 2-3 (and sometimes just one) current news story in detail. Often it involves a live interview by the inimitable Jeremy Paxman with an MP or CEO, and it's generally a no-holds-barred affair (but not in a 60-minutes way). Jeremy asks the tough questions, and it's a joy to see the politicians squirm. (There was a famous incident when he asked the then Home Secretary the same question: "Did you overrule the director of the prison services" fourteen times before finally getting an answer, by which time it was kinda redundant, since not answering 14 times makes it pretty clear what the answer was.) But Newsnight, and in particular Paxman, is held in such high regard, that for it to be stated that you "declined to be interviewed for this program" so obviously means that you have something to hide that it's a bigger expenditure of political capital not to appear. Why aren't there any programs like that on US TV?

September 04, 2003

Postrel on Buffy

Before anybody gets steamed that I am linking to Reason, I should say I am not a libertarian. But some of them, I like. Virginia Postrel is one. She wrote a great book a few years back called The Future and its Enemies, which posited that the old Liberal/Conservative dichotomy didn't make sense any more; she agrued that the new division was between "Dynamists" who embrace the chaos and messiness of change in a free market and "Stasists" who fear change and promote inertia and seek to enforce a highly selective nostalgia to combat it. Being a dynamist doesn't mean that the government should never make a rule, just that maybe it could let the market try to figure things out first. She uses this basic argument to defend gay marriage. If it is a healthy, viable model for life, it will thrive; if it's not, the market will decide and it will die out. She also uses some great examples about donut shops and West African hair braiders in LA.

Anyway, she has a great piece in Reason this month about "why Buffy kicked ass." It's one of the best pieces of pop-culture critique I've read in a while. Sample:


Buffy assumes and enacts the consensus moral understanding of contemporary American culture, the moral understanding that the wise men ignored or forgot. This understanding depends on no particular religious tradition. It’s informed not by revelation but by experience. It is inclusive and humane, without denying distinctions or the tough facts of life. There are lots of jokes in Buffy -- humor itself is a moral imperative -- but no psychobabble and no excuses.

Postrel's new book just came out, and I can't wait to read it. It's called "The Substance of Style: How the Rise of Aesthetic Value Is Remaking Commerce, Culture, and Consciousness" so you pretty much know it's right down my alley.

They Rule

Here's a cool little Flash app. Check how board members of the Fortune 100 interrelate. Be sure to click "Load Map" in the lower left to see some pre-canned examples.

Here's the link: They Rule

Please may I never see these on the road!

Some numbnuts in Florida decided that his big 4x4 just wasn't enough overcompensation. So he invented Bumpernuts. Lord help us.

That's right. For just $24.95 you can have a realistic metal ballsac hanging from the bumper of your oversized gas guzzler. (Available in gold, silver, flesh, blue, black, and red.) Or, you know, pretty much any wheeled vehicle lying around the house.

I mean, I'm at least as big a fan of balls as the next person, but doesn't this just strike everyone as a) a bit crass and b) enticement for any thinking person to rear-end your car, just out of sheer decency? And wouldn't the fear of "automotive castration" be an added anxiety to anyone so in need of masculine reinforcement to put a pair of fake testicles on their bumper? What's next--hood dildos? Sheesh.

Brits+easyJet+beer=a big mess in Prague

I love it when the NYT gets all bitchy. This time, the headline readsTravel Advisory: British Abroad, Staggering About. The article is more than a bit arch, and funny as hell. I wouldn't want to run into 30 drunk blokes in their underwear in Wenceslas Square, but it's fun to read about them.

Also, apparently we are lightweights. To wit:

The pub's owner, Robbie Norton, said that though there was some truth to the complaints, most groups were harmless. Also, they are big business. For instance, he said, a party of 23 men drank 180 vodkas and 60 cans of Red Bull one Friday. "I know that sounds totally insane, but they came back and did the same thing on Saturday and the same thing on Sunday," he said.

Damn.

But the end of the article is the best:

Back at Rocky O'Reilly's, another stag party settled in. Having taken a bus tour of Prague that morning ("we're not just philistines," declared the groom, Marty Neley), they had concluded that it was time to get down to the real business of the weekend.

They planned to remain indoors, they said, so as not to offend people in the street. But it raised an interesting question: If all they wanted to do was drink at an Irish pub, why not just stay home?

"It's cheaper to come here than to go to Blackpool," said one of Mr.

Neley's friends, "and nobody knows us here."