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... and a Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 31, 2005
As 2005 draws to a close, we are forced to either look back on the last year or look ahead to 2006. I choose to look ahead, hoping for a better world each year than the one we're just leaving. On a global scale, I hope to see more freedoms for individuals, fair elections, and more peace around the world.

Perhaps in 2006 we can stop killing each other.
Perhaps in 2006 we can realize our dreams.
Perhaps in 2006 we can redeem ourselves.
Perhaps in 2006 we can make the world a better place.

I know. Lofty, idealist goals. Pehaps I should just focus on not getting too plastered on New Year's Eve!

Movie Review: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Tuesday, December 27, 2005
I saw The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe last night. Based on the first of C.S. Lewis's series of seven children's novels, this is the most recent screen adaptation and probably will be the most successful.

The movie itself relies heavily on special effects to convey the magic of Narnia. Fortunately, the special effects are VERY good. The acting is all around well-done, though the presentation of the movie is designed to evoke as much emotion as possible. Like the novel, the movie can be a little preachy and, at times, inelegant in its simile.

Final word on "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe": See it, but not necessarily in the theater.

When all's said and done

We're in that week between Christmas and the New Year, where we're all stuffed from dinners with family and friends and looking to just make it to 2006. I hope both my readers had a Merry Christmas (or whatever holiday they choose to celebrate.)

Not being an incredibly festive person, I have precisely ZERO decorations to take down or trees to dispose of. The major task I face in cleaning up after christmas is getting the tune "Greensleeves" out of my head, where it's been stuck for the past two weeks.

Scrabble

Sunday, December 25, 2005
So I really enjoy the game of Scrabble, wherein players try to assemble random letters into words (and earn major points while doing so.) My vocabulary isn't particularly impressive, but the game itself is fun and challenging and makes me think.

Here are the four versions of the game that I play:
  1. The all-consonant version. This is where I only manage to draw consonants like "H", "R", and "J", without having any vowels. The challenge in this version is finding existing vowels to use.
  2. The all-vowel version of this game. This is the where I have three "I"s, and "O", two "U"S, and an "A". I then struggle (1 point at a time) to make ANY words with these using existing consonants. I end up with words like "are", "in", "to", "up", "axe", "ode", etc.
  3. The high-point version of this game, where I end up with high-point letters like "Q" (but without having a matching "U"), "Z" (but without having any vowels), or "W" and "J", which it's awefully hard to include in words longer than three letters.
  4. The myseterious perfect game, where I manage to make words 5 or 6 letters long (such as "unique" or "attend") and land them on the triple-word score. This version is rarely sighted and believed by the author to be a fairy-tale.

Movie Review: The Island

Friday, December 23, 2005
The Island, Michael Bay's latest action film, is certainly a return to form after having made a string of movies that culminated in the oft-maligned (and rightly so) Pearl Harbor (a movie I'm not going to link to because it was so terrible.) However, he's since made Bad Boys II, which has everything a car chase lover could want crammed into like 3 hours. His latest film is The Island.

The plot is somewhat thin - an element not atypical for his movies. Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson play characters that are clones of people, grown for replacement parts. Of course, they don't know this and are quite surprised to find out that the paradise island that they're supposedly headed to is, in fact, a euphemism for death.

Much action ensues as the hero and heroine escape and plot to free everyone else. My favorite scene is when Ewan McGregor's character "Lincoln 6 Echo" meets the person he was cloned for, Tom Lincoln. Tom talks with a scottish accent, Lincoln doesn't. So Ewan McGregor tries to imitate himself. It's quite fun, though some of the car chase scenes seem like exact copies of Bad Boys II and there's enough product placement to pay down the national debt.

The movie would have been a lot better had it not been pretty widely announced that they were, in fact, clones. Much of the movie is spent examining their world and a greater sense of mystery could have been generated if that secret were kept. Additionally, had everyone not been driving around 50 years in the future in cars that were made this year, that would have reinforced the image, too.

Anyway, the final take on the movie is that it's worth renting if you enjoyed Michael Bay's earlier films, such as Bad Boys and The Rock. If you don't like choppy action, quick one-liners, thin plot and unexplainable character knowledge, skip this movie. If you're willing to temporarily suspend disbelief, it's okay. :)

Solstice

Thursday, December 22, 2005
So it's that time of the year - the Winter Solstice. I can tell because I drive to work in the dark and drive home in the dark. And it rains all day.

Fun times.

However, it's all downhill from here. For the next 6 months the days will get longer and longer and as winter turns to spring and spring turns to summer, the motorcycle season will come!

What's the real message?

Monday, December 19, 2005
This morning, the President addressed the nation in an attempt to refocus our thinking on the elections in Iraq and clarify this whole "spying on American citizens" issue that just came up. The full text of his speech is here, but I'd like to address a few points that he made in this speech.

As president and commander in chief, I have the constitutional responsibility and the constitutional authority to protect our country. Article 2 of the Constitution gives me that responsibility and the authority necessary to fulfill it.

Now I am not a lawyer, nor have I ever studied constitutional law. Nonetheless, looking at Article 2, I I don't see a lot written in depth about protecting the country or spying on the citizen, but I do see one line that says: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
I've reauthorized this program more than 30 times since September the 11th attacks, and I intend to do so for so long as the nation faces the continuing threat of an enemy that wants to kill our American citizens.

"For as long as we face the continuing threat..." That very sentence implies that there is no end to this fear we must live under that terrorists may strike us anywhere. That is a mandate to do whatever as long as this unseen threat exists.
This program is carefully reviewed approximately every 45 days to ensure it is being used properly. Leaders in the United States Congress have been briefed more than a dozen times on this program.

Interestingly, that means that the "Leaders of Congress" (whoever that may be) has been briefed on this less than once every four months since September, 2001. Just a little perspective...
Most of the senators now filibustering the Patriot Act actually voted for it in 2001. These senators need to explain why they thought the Patriot Act was a vital tool after the September the 11th attacks but now think it's no longer necessary.

Because some of us are capable of changing our minds and re-evaluating circumstances given new data. Because with 4 more years of new data on the table perhaps a less reactionary path.
The terrorists want to strike America again. And they hope to inflict even greater damage than they did on September the 11th.

Fear, fear, fear...
Despite hurricanes and high gas prices, third-quarter growth was 4.3 percent.

What is this, the State of the Union? And how much of that third-quarter growth is from oil and gas companies?
We were wise with taxpayers' money and cut nonsecurity discretionary spending below last year's level.

First off, this isn't the State of the Union address. And which spending is more discretionary? Almost a trillion dollars invading another country or education, health care, roads, and social security for the very American citizens the President says he has to protect? And did overall spending go up or down? Protection is more than phyiscal security, Mr. President.

Interestingly, President Bush had a Q & A session after his speech. Here are some more excerpts from his responses.
And you brought up something that I want to stress, and that is is that these calls are not intercepted within the country, they are from outside the country to in the country or vice versa.

Are the calls intercepted within our country or not? I mean, are we monitoring OUR phone lines or their phones lines when they call us? The "vice versa" implies that the are originating in our country going out, so we have to be intercepting them here...

This is not to say that I'm completely critical of the administration; I just don't like feeling like an untrusted child. I don't like being told to not look behind the curtain. I don't like "protection" that may rob me of my civil liberties. I want more transparency in my government, and the attitude of "The fact that we're discussing this program is helping the enemy" isn't one that placates me.

Speaking in complete sentences

Sunday, December 18, 2005
Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense, is a guy a lot of people's opinions are divided over. I will give this to him, though: He is interesting to listen to. In his latest interview he poses some interesting points. (He also shows he can speak in complete sentences, unlike others in the current administration.)

Melissa Block interviews him and she asks some pretty direct questions. Secretary Rumsfeld answers them without beating around the bush, which I respect. But he also finds a way to put a positive spin on the same facts or offers a couterpoint to a negative question. In fact, Ms. Block asks several "negative" questions in a row about problems here and there and Secretary Rumsfeld actually almost explodes with frustration, which seems geniune enough. He points out that there's a lot of negativity in the press (we call it cynicism) and really tries to highlight some of the "good things" that are happening over in Iraq.

Being here and not there, it's often hard to know what the truth is. I suspect it's somewhere in the middle of everything we hear.

The most magical time of the year

It's that most magical time of the year, when the good Lord blesses us with something that's trying to be either a) snow or b) freezing rain. All the rich folks feel vindicated for purchasing $45,000 SUVs that get 6 mpg, the Portland leftists cruise around in their Subarus and discuss the meaning of snow over a latte, and us mortals who purchased impractical automobiles cower at home with a bottle of brandy and a fire log.

Working Late

Friday, December 16, 2005
At my current job I'm allowed to "flex" my schedule one day a week. Basically, I can come in around noon and leave around 8. This is awesome!

First, traffic doesn't suck those hours. My trip home on the the miserable road known as Highway 217 is done in about a third of the time it normally takes me. The trip in is done in half the time.

Then there's the fact that I'm at work alone for several hours. I don't have to listen to my coworkers (we're all in one small, windowless room) or have them distract me; I can just get stuff done for a couple hours in the evening.

Finally there's the daytime hours benefit. It gives me a couple hours during the week when I can do stuff that can only be done during business hours.

It's just a great deal all around!

Engine Efficiency: More = Better

Thursday, December 15, 2005
Ordinarily I don't like to link to things that I find on other sites that link to things, but this one deserves a comment. I found on slashdot.org a link to a new hybrid engine that BMW has put out: the turbosteamer!

We learn in basic physics we learn that your average automobile engine is roughly 20% efficient. That is to say that 20% of the potential energy from the fuel is actually converted for actual use, while 80% is lost... often to heat.

Capturing that heat would raise the efficiency of an engine. A way to do that with our current fondness for the internal combustion engine is, according to BMW, to trap that heat and add a secondary steam engine to the vehicle! The estimate this adds 15% efficiency to the engine system.

Very, very cool.

Accepting Responsibility

Wednesday, December 14, 2005
In a speech today President Bush said what I said about a month ago. He said, "As president I am responsible for the decision to go into Iraq."

Wow.

Finally El Presidente has acknowledged that simple fact in front of the American people. This is, in my opinion, an admission that - right or wrong - the decision is made by the president. This doesn't weaken the presidency, it strengthens it - at least in my mind. Accepting mistakes and learning from them is something most of us learn in childhood.

So I'd like to commend the president for standing up and admitting certain mistakes.

Greetings, foreign visitors!

One of my favorite tidbits of information in the Site Usage section is the list of vistors by country (that links to December's list.)

I'd like to give a warm hello to whoever's reading this in Germany, Norway, Switzerland, China, the Netherlands, Seychelles, the UK, France, Japan, and the Russian Federation. It's interesting to me that people happen accross my little website which is nothing but me ranting at the world.

However, I notice I'm not getting many hits from there so it seems like y'all aren't coming back much. What's not to like?

Movie Review: March of the Penguins

I watched March of the Penguins last night. It was the most incredible movie about penguins I've ever seen.

The movie is a documentary about Emporer Penguins and their mating ritual. While there's a great deal of editorialization and personification of the penguins themselves, the movie excels because it's a) narrated by Morgan Freeman, and b) due to the amazing capture on film of an amazing animal. Watching the penguins make their journey inland over 70 miles, go for months without food, and hatch their young was awe-inspiring, to say the leasat. The difficulty is that at every stage of the journey there are penguins and chicks that don't make it - and we're reminded of that.

Final word on March of the Penguins: See it. Rent it. Watch it. It's worth it.

Life, Liberty, and the persuit of Happiness

Tuesday, December 13, 2005
So it should be clear to my audience of at least 3 that I'm pretty independent as far as the government goes. Ya know what? I don't mind governement... I mind a hidden government. I mind a government that wishes to abridge my interests and hides itself in a shroud of self-protectionism and secrecy. That's what I mind.

So let's take, for instance, the USA Patriot Act. It's up for renewal now that four years have passed since September 11th, 2001 ( I refuse to call it 9/11 since I hate catch-phrases). However, some of the initial provisions are set to expire and Congress is debating how to renew it. This is where the big battle over civil liberties begins.

My personal belief on this matter is that civil liberties are the core of the American experience. They define us as Americans; our committment to our civil liberties and our willingness to fight for them. Protecting our civil liberties is and should be one of the chief jobs of our goverment, for we are a nation of individuals united. Hence, the United States of America. As cliche as this has become, old Ben Franklin had it right when he said, "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both." We, as free and independent Americans, must not be willing to sacrifice our liberties for the sake of the fight on terrorism. Instead, we must face the fears and accept the risks of being truly free people... I know I would.

Movie Review: Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire

Monday, December 12, 2005
This weekend I also saw Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire.

The quick summary: Harry has strange, potentially prophetic dreams during his fourth year at Hogwart's. He mysteriously gets entered into the Tri-Wizard championship (for which he's the fourth of three contestants and for which he doesn't meet the age requirement.) Adventures abound - and in the meantime Harry discovers girls.

The movie starts out in a disjointed fashion and really takes a long time to start making sense and flowing evenly, but once it does it becomes enjoyable. I get really, really tired, however, of movies where the people in the know speak in cryptic messages and never seem to communicate with each other. No wonder the good guys are constantly getting their asses kicked - they have poor communication and coordination.

This movie is pretty dark and suffers from an overabundance of characters. You really have to have seen each of the previous movies to get a lot of what's going on in this one. It's still fun, for the most part... if nothing else watching all the characters be a foot taller than they were in the first film.

Final word on Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire: Worth seeing, but you could wait for the rental if you must.

Movie Review: Sky High

What do you get when you have a supporting cast that includes Kurt "Disney" Russell, Kelly "John Travolta's Wife" Preston, Dave "Kids in the Hall" Foley, Lynda "Wonder Woman" Carter, and Kevin "Kids in the Hall" McDonald?

You get Sky High. While I'll admit, I think they thematically ripped off from Pixar's incredible The Incredibles, this movie manages to be extraordinarily entertaining on its own.

The plot is such: Boy (son of superhero and superheroine) goes to high school. He doesn't have super powers like everyone else. Boy meets nice girl. Boy gets super powrs. Popular people like boy but shun boy's longtime friends. Boy shows that true friendship and loyalty are more important than being popular by beating up bad guys.

The movie was just plain fun. There aren't any low or slow points, and, while parts of the movie are hideously overacted, it's by design. The movie just plain works.

Final word on "Sky High": A great rental! See it!

The benefits of a higher education

Now that I'm slightly drunk, I muse:

Why is it that everyone I went to the University of Oregon with can drink more, drink faster, and hold their liquor better than those that didn't?

Portland finally gets on the map!

Thursday, December 08, 2005
Ladies and Gentleman, allow me to introduce Google Transit! This is Google's latest beta tool and it basically combines Google Maps and the local transit info. The neat part, at least for me, is that the city they're testing on is Portland, Oregon.

The bad news is that I looked up my morning commute on there. Yes, I travel the length of Highway 217 twice a day. ("The Trudge.") It would take me almost an hour and a half to get to work via bus in the morning! Driving that takes me about half an hour. Cost-wise it's a wash because I burn about $3 of gas a day, which is roughly the price of two bus tickets. How much is that extra hour of my life (each way, remember) worth?

Anyway, check it out and have fun!

The power of spoken word

Wednesday, December 07, 2005
An email came across my desk today entitled "When I was a kid". I got about three sentences into it when I realized it was a transcription of the hilarious spoken word of Ernest Cline.

I highly recommend you check out his stuff at http://www.ernestcline.com/spokenword/. "Airwolf" and "When I was a kid" are my favorites.

I just wish he'd post new stuff. What he's got is a gold mine!

Look ma, I'm a superhero

Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Mike had this on his blog. I had to do it too. Highly cool. Which superhero am I?


Your results:

You are Superman

Superman
70%
Robin
65%
Spider-Man
65%
Green Lantern
60%
Hulk
60%
Iron Man
55%
Supergirl
48%
The Flash
40%
Catwoman
30%
Batman
25%
Wonder Woman
18%
You are mild-mannered, good,
strong and you love to help others.
Click here to take the "Which Superhero are you?" quiz...

"Far Out"

Gentle readers,

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to revitalize the phrase "far out". Seriously. "Far out" is way underused in my generation, and it has such a wonderful ring to it. It's like saying "groovy" except you don't automatically sound like Bruce Campbell when you say it.

"Far out" is a gentle phrase, a calm phrase. It says "that's cool" without sounding insincere. "Far out" can be said in monotone without offending anyone. "Far out" is to "that's nice" what "Yo" is to "Hello". "Far out" has attitude and panache where other phrases are becoming flat.

Yes, gentle readers, the time has come. Go forth and pass the "far out" love. When someone tells you something interesting, respond with a "far out." When your boss tells you you're getting promoted (or fired), respond with "far out." When you receive news from the IRS that you no longer have to pay taxes, give them a "far out."

This message will self-destruct in 10 seconds.

Far out.

Fear Words

Monday, December 05, 2005
Today's message is brought to you by my morning commute and NPR. I've been noticing more and more that I keep hearing the word pandemic over and over in the news.

The flu is a pretty terrible virus. In 1918 and 1919, it killed over 50 million people worldwide. Apparently that strain was pretty close the the H5N1 bird flu strain we're seeing emerge now.

What I'm seeing right now, however, is the usage of the phrase "pandemic" in the media almost as much as I was seeing the word "terrorism" four years ago. I'm not trying to say that this isn't something the prepare for; far from it. But the hype surrounding this is disproportionate - I believe - to the amount of worry the average human being should have to put into it.

Take, for instance, terrorism. Terrorism affect thousands or millions of people every day around the world. But is it something that needs to make the news every day? Is it something that we need to live in fear of? Is it something else we need to concern ourselves with?

To some, this may sound like I advocate sticking one's head in the sand.

I contend that there's little benefit to the alarmist language that accompanies every announcement. I contend that the average person can't care about everything that could kill them. I contend that the world is a very dangerous place and people die a lot. We make our world as safe as possible, but should we as individuals spend time worrying about every last thing?

Things I don't personally worry about:
1) Terrorism
2) Meteor strikes
3) Alien abduction
4) Dying in a traffic accident
5) Plane crashes

Things I DO think about on a regualar basis:
1) Dying from my own stupidity.
2) Nuclear proliferation
3) Pandemics (seriously)
4) Injuring myself in a motorcycle accident.

The attention of The Man

Thursday, December 01, 2005
So that neat-o site usage information has already turned up one REALLY interesting tidbit of information. Someone visited my site with the IP address of 63.148.99.237. I didn't recognize the range - starting with a 24 or a 67 is usually Comcast, 71 is usually RoadRunner, 66 is Google AND Yahoo, etc. So I looked it up.

Check out Qwest Cyveillance.

That's right. They're scanning MY writings for things like:

  • Executive Threats

  • Corporate Brand Abuse

  • Information Leaks and Insider Threats

  • Online Credit Card Fraud

  • Activism


I'm getting the chills already. Now of course I'm harmless (I'm a dissident, not a criminal), but the idea of being WATCHED by either our corporate or govermental masters is creepy in an Orwellian 1984 sort of way.

Remember, kids: War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength.

The definition of insanity...

Someone said, once, that "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." (I've seen this quote attributed to anyone from Benjamin Franklin to Albert Einstein to Rita Mae Brown.)

Let's apply that to the world around us, shall we? Let's say - and this is a strictly hypothetical case, I assure you - that somebody tries to print a document from their computer. Nothing comes out of the printer. Now a reasonable step might be to try one more time to make sure it was done properly. If nothing still comes out, what do you do?

Do you:
a) try to get assistance, or
b) try FIVE MORE TIMES on the off chance that one of them will work?

What's the definition of insanity?

"Flakes in the West Hills"

This was my favorite headline: Flakes Fall in Portland West Hills. Were they deposed?

Seriously, though... as much crap as we give our trashy neighbors to the south about their chronic inability to drive in the rain, we get the same treatment every time our city shuts down because of a few inches of snow. Admittedly, it's a prety moist, slick snow (as opposed to a drier snow), but the fact remains that not many of us here know how to drive in the white stuff (no, I'm not talking about cocaine.)

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