February 28, 2006
This story popped up today and I had to laugh. It's bad enough that the city is still living down a burning river and Dennis Kucinich as mayor, but now it appears the poor cops are driving down with a picture of a pig on the side of their cars.
Learned something interesting today. The day before Ash Wednesday (i.e. today), is typically referred to as "Fat Tuesday" here in the States. It's the day we're suppose to gorge ourselves on food and drink before the fasting of Lent begins (at least for the Christians in the room).
Other countries have their "Fat Tuesdays" as well, but in certain areas of the world today is referred to as "Shrove Tuesday" or "Pankcake Day." Instead of just eating anything you can get your hands on, as we Americans enjoy doing, they specifically stuff their faces with pancakes.
Now that's an idea I can get behind.
To help with the annual feasting of pancakes, IHOP has started hosting their own "National Pancake Day" on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday Stop in today between 7am and 2pm and they'll give you a free short stack of pancakes. The free short stacks are for dine-in only and there is one per customer limit. But still, FREE PANCAKES! How is this not a good thing?
February 25, 2006
Darren McGavin died of natural causes in Los Angeles at the age of 83
Do Knotts hadn't done anything in the last few year that I was aware of, but it is still sad to see someone like Knotts die. He was a very funny actor, and I usually enjoyed watching him perform. McGavin, of course, will forever live for me as the grumpy old father from A Christmas Story. He did plenty of other things - lot of other things in fact - but it's as the Old Man that I'll remember him for.
It's said that most things happens in threes. In fact it was game I used to play with buddies back in Cleveland. As soon as someone (or two) died, we would try and guess who would be next to go - and link them in some way. Movie actors from the 60s. Men with bad hair. More popular in German than in America. Things like that.
So now we've got two: Knotts and McGavin. Who will be the next to go? And what will be the link?
February 23, 2006
Average American Family Income Declines
The average income of American families, after adjusting for inflation, declined by 2.3 percent in 2004 compared to 2001 while their net worth rose but at a slower pace.
Americans work more, seem to accomplish less
Most U.S. workers say they feel rushed on the job, but they are getting less accomplished than a decade ago, according to newly released research.
People who talk loudly on their cell phone on the train are more problematic. At least when it's two or three people all yakking away you can hear the whole conversation. When some is blabbering on about this and that on a cell phone all you get to hear is their end of the conversation. You don't get to hear what the other person is saying. I think being able to hear the whole conversation - pick up on the rhythm and flow of what's being said - allows you to tune the whole thing out. I don't like loud cell phone talkers and get grumpy when they show up on my train to talk for extended periods of time.
Today, however, I discovered someone who is more annoying then the loud cell phone talker. It's the people trying to whisper on the train so everyone else on the train can't hear their conversation. It's a noble sentiment, but one that fails. When people have a conversation on the train in normal speaking tones - either with someone on the train with them or with someone on the phone - we can what's being said. We can try and tune them out. When you get two people trying to have a conversation by whispering back and forth you get lots of hissing sounds. Over and over and over and over.
Holy crap does that drive me nuts! It's like having a air leak running next to your head.
I know I can put on the headphone, fire up the iPod, and be done with it. But sometimes I'm reading or I don't want to plug up my ears so I can relax. It's when I want my ears to go naked that I end up with the crazy conversation whispers sitting close by.
I wish they would just talk in regular conversational tones. They don't need to worry about me listening in. I'm going to tune them out anyway.
February 21, 2006
The Ricky Gervais Show is to become the first paid-for Podcast.
The show features British comedy personalities Ricky Gervais, Steven Merchant and Karl Pilkington. Their irreverant brand of monkey-based comedy has seen the weekly half-hour podcast storm to the top of the iTunes charts and stay there.
The first run of 12 episodes was sponsored by UK newspaper the Guardian and were free to download via iTunes. Following on from the success of the show, the second run of episodes will be hosted on Audible.com and will be accessible only to those who’ve paid a subscription fee. […]
An Audible subscription to the show will cost $7 a month in the US and 4.50 (pounds) a month in the UK. For the money, you’ll get four half hour shows.
I love The Ricky Gervais Show, but I don't know if I'm ready to pay $7 for only 4 episodes. $1.75 an episode for something I only listen to? I'm going to have to think about that. In the meantime I'm going to enjoy the final free episode for everything I can.
February 20, 2006
A couple of years ago, as part of a company outing, we all went to the Chicago Curling Club for an afternoon of throwing the rock. We were all given lessons on how to throw, sweep, and score, and then they turned us loose for some wicked curling action. Ever since then I've had an even greater appreciation for the sport.
This year I have actively sought out when NBC or any of its affiliate stations were televising curling matches. I've been up early on Saturday and Sunday morning watch the American men and women throw the rock. I've even turned off Olympic hockey - usually one of my favorite off-network Olympic televised events - so I can check out some curling.
Curling isn't too wildly popular, so the only opportunity to watch it is during the Olympics. It's too bad really. I certainly could get in to taking in a good curling match on lazy Sunday afternoon in February, after the football season is over, instead of the usual boring fare of pro basketball. Maybe things will change? Maybe I should join a curling club?
February 19, 2006
Now I like Superman. Being a dyed-in-the-wool DC hero fan, I think Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, and the rest of the DC pantheon are just about the great collection of heroes ever put to pen and ink. But when it comes to how I would list as my favorite super-powered, flying Boy Scout, Clark Kent and his alter-ego is not first choice. For that, I'll put my money on Captain Marvel.
Captain Marvel is an interesting character. First, his namely is often confusing for most people. Rival Marvel Comics have their own character named Captain Marvel, whose name they trademarked while the other Captain Marvel sat in limbo. As a result, Marvel can slap the Captain Marvel name all over the place while DC has had to be creative in their use of the name. More often than not, they have fallen back on using the character's catch phrase to market and publish him under - Shazam!
Now I'm sure you know which hero I am talking about. Most people don't recognize the Captain Marvel name. The Marvel comic’s character has never been too popular and because of the trademark issue, DC's Captain Marvel has been promoted under the Shazam! title. So obviously this leads to some confusion.
The premise behind Captain Marvel is fairly simple. Young Billy Batson is visited by the wizard Shazam and given magical powers. Whenever Billy shouts the wizard's name, Billy is given the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury - SHAZAM. As the hero Captain Marvel, Billy has near-Superman powers and fights crime and defends Fawcett City, where he lives. In fact, it was the similarity of the adult Captain Marvel character that caught the eye of DC Comics and caused them to drag Fawcett City Comics into court claiming they were infringing on DC's copyright on Superman. It was common tactic of DC back in the early 1940's. Superman became an instant hit, which meant every other publisher in the business wanted his or her own "Superman" to cash in on.
Fawcett fought against DC's claims, standing by their position that Captain Marvel was unique as a character. Not a knock of the Man of Steel. DC never technically won any of their cases against Fawcett, but they did drive the publisher out of business. At which point DC bought up the publisher and all the heroes Fawcett owned, including Captain Marvel.
Captain Marvel has always appealed to me more because I think it does a better job of tapping into the secret identity fantasy that many superheroes base themselves on. Most people like to think that there's more to whom they are than what everyone in their life sees day in and day out. Superman tries to tap into that with the whole Clark Kent / Superman dual identity. Simply take off your glasses and open your shirt - viola - you are now a hero who can move planets and fly at the speed of light.
Captain Marvel hits closer because you don't need to be an alien. Superman is from the planet Krypton. No matter how much he might look like a human or act like a human, he's still from another planet - and that's how he is able to do the things that he does.
Billy Batson is just a regular boy, like any other kid. He's given a fantastic gift by wizard in which Billy is able to gain god-like powers and transform himself in his own vision of what an adult hero would be like. It makes the character more human (because he is human), grounds him, and gives him a better balance of strengths and weaknesses. Superman is nearly a god on Earth. Captain Marvel may have god-like powers, but he is still a mortal human.
Naturally, if you already have the first and most famously super hero in your stable you are going to run him a lot more than the one you though was a knock-off back in the 1940's. Be that as it is, there aren't a whole lot of Captain Marvel comics to go around. Every few years DC dusts off the character and some interesting stuff is done with him, but for the most part Captain Marvel has been regulated to second-string status at DC. It’s why I relish books like The Power of Shazam! or Captain Marvel’s appearance on the Justice League Unlimited cartoon show.
I think it's unfortunate. I really like the character and think that he can be used to tell some interesting and fun stories. Superman is great and all, but I could really stand to see a little more Captain Marvel on the shelves.
February 16, 2006
February 15, 2006
From the looks of the article, there are plenty of podcasts to choose from. I know Heather will be interested in these, and I'll probably even give some of them a listen myself.
February 14, 2006
February 13, 2006
February 12, 2006
Vice President Dick Cheney, center, accepts a rifle from National Rifle Association President Kayne Robinson, right, and NRA Vice President Wayne R. LaPierre, after concluding his keynote address to the 133rd annuanl NRA convention in this April 17, 2004 file photo in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)
And no, I don't mean Dan Quayle. I meant the bird Quails.
DC comics had a panel at the show about the future of the DC Universe. Essentially what's going to be going on after Infinite Crisis finishes up. We already know all the books are going to skip over a whole year and pick up 52 weeks after Inifinite Crisis wraps up. The panel tried to give some more details without giving secrets away.
The talk about the new Justice League of America series looks interesting enough that I might want to try reading that book again. I dropped it about three years ago, but the relaunch and new direction might be worth an investigation. I certainly liked the art that was attached regarding the new series. It makes it look like the new JLA series will be done in similar fashion to Cartoon Networks Justice League Unlimited where there is a rotating mix of the big seven (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman, Green Lantern, and Martian Manhunter) and other heroes. I think it works wonderfully in JL: Unlimited and could make the new JLA a fresh and exciting book. I guess I'll have to wait and see if that's the direction they decide to go.
The other big news that interests me is who's going be writing Batman in the near future. James Robinson is going to be penning an 8-issue story that spans both the Batman and Detective Comics monthlies - which is almost enough to get me to start buying 'Tec again.
After Robinson's tale is through, though, Paul Dini takes over for Detective Comics and the incredible Grant Morrison will be the writer for Batman. I've always respected Dini's writing and his take on Batman, so if not for Robinson, than I might add 'Tec to my pull list when Dini takes over.
Morrison on Batman is fantastic news. Especially considering that he says he has the first 15 issues already plotted out. This means at least a year and a half of Grant Morrison, one of comics best writers, handling my favorite character. That's going to be great. In the past two years Morrison has quickly risen on my list of "must-read" writers. He absolutely the trippiest, most exciting guys to read. I can't wait for him to take over the writing chores for the Dark Knight.
February 11, 2006
The game is set during the Episodes I, II, and III of the Star Wars movies, and all the charactes and environments are made to look like they were created with LEGOs. Ian absolutely had to have, and once he got it has played it quite a bit. It certainly has become his favorite game.
Guess what's coming out this fall.
Tentatively called LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy, the sequel game will take its stories and characters from the Original trilogy. Which means we'll get Han Solo, Luke, and Leia to play with.
Ian (and his parents) loved the first one, I have to believe the second game will find its way to house after it is released too.
Here, we bring you a tutorial for how to fold a fitted sheet, as provided by Target Australia.
Step 1 Hold the sheet inside out, by its two adjacent corners on one of the shorter ends. Position your hands inside each of these two corners.
Step 2 Fold the corner in your right hand over to the corner in your left, enveloping it. With your right hand, pick up the corner that is hanging down in front and fold it over the two corners in your left hand.
Step 3 Pick up the last corner and fold it over the other three corners. The sheet should now be right side out.
Step 4 Place your folded sheet on a table and straighten it, tucking in the elastic edges as you go.
A lot apparently happend between then and now, the least of which was probably John Madden, Michaels' partner on Monday Night Football, bolting for the new NBC-produced Sunday night games. Earlier this week is was reported that ABC had let Michaels out of his contract, and that he was probably in talks to re-join Madden in the booth Sunday nights.
For the most part that was the story, but then the comic and cartoon blogs that I read picked up on one of the details of Michaels getting released by ABC. As part of the deal to let Michaels jump to the NBC network, NBC sold ESPN cable rights to Friday coverage of the next four Ryder Cups through 2014, and granted ESPN increased usage of Olympic highlights through 2012 and other NBC properties through 2011. NBC, in turn, gets expanded highlight rights to ABC and ESPN events. And here's the kicker, NBC Universal, the parent of NBC, gave the rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit back to Disney, parent company of ESPN and ABC.
Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was one of Walt Disney's first creations, before he came up with Mickey Mouse and launched his empire. In fact, taking a close look at Oswald and I think you'll see Mickey fighting to emerge. Walt created the character while under contract with Universal back in the 1920's. When he became upset with how things were being run, he up and quit but didn't get to take Oswald with him. Instead he set up his own shop. Soon Mickey was born and the rest, as they say, is history.
So Al Michaels gets out of being stuck calling football games on cable and Disney gets one of Walt's earliest creations back in their stable. Sounds like a good deal for both sides.
February 09, 2006
The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) will become the first law enforcement agency to outfit cars with a device that propels and sticks a Global Positioning System (GPS) onto a fleeing car.
The department will mount the StarChase LLC device in the grill of some squad cars in the fall. "Officers in the car would control a green laser light, similar to an aiming device that fixes on your target," said LAPD Lieutenant Paul Vernon on Friday. "A small dart-like device is propelled from the officer's car."
The LAPD is hopeful the GPS device will reduce the number of high-speed car chases through the city. The department conducted more than 600 vehicle pursuits in 2005, up from 581 in the prior year, said Vernon.
Rather than engage in a high-speed chase that is dangerous for the public and police, an officer can trigger the GPS tracking device from their car. The officer also will have a remote unit, about the size of a device that unlocks a car, when they're outside the patrol car.
Read the whole article.
I noticed on the homepage Zillow was displaying the following text, "Site seems slow? Close your eyes and envision your perfect home. By then maybe the server can handle our zillions of visitors." Didn't think too much about it until I was in and using the site for a couple minutes. I got an initial estimate on the value of our house, but when I tried playing with some of the other tools on the site things stopped responding.
I figured that a lot of people were hitting the site because it was around lunch time (early lunch out west, late lunch on the East coast), so I emailed the URL to my personal account and figured I'd check things out at home at another time.
Well today I found an article on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that explained Zillow.com was simply slammed yesterday. They ended up serving up more than 2 million pages in one day. The servers almost came to a halt in the middle of the day.
Apparently the site became instantly popular with anyone who visited it, causing them to stay long and request lots and lots of pages. The newspaper article talks about a woman who was checking the prices on the homes for everyone on her Christmas card list.
Pretty fantastic first day for Zillow. Now if they can readjust to handle higher volumes of traffic. They should be off to a good start.
February 08, 2006
The reaction by the Muslim world to these Danish political cartoons only builds up my fear that the world might become an ever more dangerous place to live than it is right now.
Clarence Page has what I think is a unique and insightful editorial in today's Chicago Tribune. In it he points out that the recent riots and violence isn't about the cartoons that were published, but rather resentment from Muslims against the West rising up and finding an outlet and small-minded attitudes in the West about Muslims. The cartoons in themselves are stupid and provocative for all the wrong reasons.
"Of course, editorial cartoonists in particular are not doing their job very well if they don't provoke somebody into outrage on a regular basis. Offense should make a point. While there is always something in the paper that will offend, we should try to avoid offending unnecessarily.
That's my problem with the Muhammad cartoons. They seem to be intended primarily to do nothing more than provoke Muslims, including the vast majority of law-abiding Muslims who never did the cartoonists any harm.
One drawing depicted the Prophet with a bomb-shaped turban. Another shows him standing at the gates of heaven telling newly arrived suicide bombers that heaven has run out of virgins. I might find these gags amusing if they were directed at Osama bin Laden or some other fanatic who has hijacked Islam for violently radical purposes. But, by targeting the Prophet, the cartoons insult the religion as surely as similarly demeaning cartoons of Jesus would insult Christians."
I guess that sums up what I've seen going on. These cartoons were what amounted to the West poking a stick in the eye of Muslims. There's nothing insightful about drawing Muhammad with a turban shaped like a bomb.
Of course, the cartoonists aren't the only ones at fault here. As Page points out "How sadly ironic it is to see young Muslims defend Islam as a religion of peace by committing acts of horrible violence."
Page closes out his editorial with a half-hearted belief that the two sides will eventually learn to share their countries, cultures, and religions. He doesn't sound convinced of what he is saying, and I can't say I believe what he is saying. Religion makes people do dumb and crazy things with more conviction than a political party or government can drum up, which is probably why the events in the Middle East concern me so.
February 07, 2006
There was plenty of speculation that the Mini might come back, especially considering how hotly the old Minis are selling on eBay.
That speculation was put to rest this morning when Apple announced a new 1Gb iPod Nano priced at $149. Apple then re-shuffled (excuse the pun) the pricing for the iPod Shuffles so that the 512Mb Shuffle now only costs $69 and the 1Gb Shuffle is $99. The gap was closed.
I certainly think the new Shuffle pricing is great. More in line for the type of product you are getting. The new size and price of Nano doesn't do anything for me, because it's not something I've ever been too interested in. My brother got a Nano for Christmas so I got a close look at one. It's just too small for my tastes. If I'm going to have an iPod (which I do), I want something with some weight and size.
It does make me wonder if the music store that is allowing you to trade in used CDs for free iPods is going to change the trade-in rate. Heather and I have been running through all our CDs to see what our trade-in options are. We easily made the 512Mb Shuffle level, but now maybe we can hit the 1Gb shuffle. It's not that we need another iPod in the house, we just figured why not get something cool in turn for dumping all these old CDs.
February 04, 2006
Our park district hosted the dance at the community center. Heather and I do a lot of things through the Fox Valley Park District, and they have never failed to deliver with their programs. The swim lessons in the summer are great, the family fun nights are always a joy, and the pop-and-tot and little learner classes are fantastic. Heather and Ian went to a Mommy - Son sock-hop last year and had a great time, so I was looking forward to going to the dance with Emma.
I kicked out of work early on Friday so I could stop and pick up a rose from the florist for Emma. She loves it when we get Heather flowers, so I knew she'd think getting her own would be something special. I picked out a pink one, because it's currently her favorite color. She really enjoyed receiving the flower from me. She made Heather promise to put it in a vase with water so that it would keep nice until we returned from the dance.
Heather took some photos of Emma and I, and we were off to our dance. Everyone was happy, except for Zoe, who was not only disappointed that she didn't get a flower from Daddy but that she wasn't getting to go out with Daddy and Emma. I‘m sure I'll be taking two dates to future Daddy - Daughter dances.
Not only did Emma and I get our photo taken before going into the dance, but also Emma got another rose. (This one was plastic.) She chose a red one - because she already had a pink one, she told me - and decided that we would give it to Mom when we returned home that evening.
Once inside, Emma was eager to dance, even though the dancing hadn't really started yet. There was some music playing, but it was mostly background filler music. Nonetheless, Emma and I twirled around a bit on the empty dance floor while being accompanied by the dulcet tones of Kenny G.
We decided to get some snacks before the big dancing started. We got M&M cookies, which Emma proceeded to pick all of the M&Ms out of and eat individually, and followed that with the infamous "red juice" and Oreos. Later we went healthy and munched on cheese, carrots, and some celery. (Okay, I ate the carrots and celery. Emma ate the cheese) We also made Heather a Valentine card using the photo that had been taken of us. Emma had fun using the stamps to decorate a blank card and then insert the cropped photo.
Dancing with my three-year old was an interesting experience. She certainly wanted to dance. Whenever we took a break for more Oreos or juice, she inevitably cut our snack short with a declaration of "let's dance!" However, I don't think she really got a hang of how to dance with her Daddy. A lot of our dance time involved me lifting Emma up to either spin her around by her wrists or making her jump up high into the air over and over. Forty-five minutes into the dance I thought my arms were going to fall out of my shoulder sockets.
I'd see her watch how some of the other girls where dancing with their dads, and she tried to imitate that with me. But I don't think she got it. In the end she just wanted Dad to make her bounce up high into the sky. So I kept throwing back Dixie cups of red juice, rubbing my sore shoulders, and yanking Emma up as high as I could on the dance floor. It made her happy.
On the way out we learned that all the girls got goodie-bags full of candy and other fun treats. It certainly capped off the night nicely for Emma. After getting two roses, making a card, and then a bag of candy, she triumphantly declared to me that the dance was "wonderful.”
We didn't arrive home until after Ian and Zoe had gone to bed, so it was just Emma and I brushing teeth and reading stories. I was kinda glad it worked out that way. Emma got to have her Dad all to herself from after dinner all the way until she went to bed. Over three hours of just Daddy and daughter time. It was quite special for me, and I think Emma had a good time too. Next year Zoe will be this close to being three (the official cut-off age for the Daddy - Daughter dance) and I suspect I might have to figure out how to throw two girls up into the air at the same time while the DJ is spinning the dancing tunes.
"A great many people think they are thinking when they are really rearranging their prejudices."
- Edward R. Murrow
What Murrow said back in the 1950s is still relevant today. While I'm sure I fall into the same trap of simply "rearranging my prejudices" when considering other points of view, I think Murrow's point illustrates why I usually don't like to get into political or religious discussions with people. Rarely is there an honest exchange of ideas that are thoughtfully considered by both groups. Mostly it devolves into expressing the same platitudes and tenets over and over.
And when I think about it some more, Murrow's quote is even more relevant today that I think I first thought. Especially if you consider it in light of this topic of egocasting that I have brought up before. If you only go to blogs that share your same views, read the news that is presented from your shared world view, listen to radio stations that present news and commentary in line with your already established beliefs, then when your "thinking" about a new idea, development, news item, or whatever, then you're only reshuffling your prejudices to allow yourself to comprehend this new idea. You don't face it and consider it.
While exploring the quote from Murrow, I found another one from this historic journalist that I think works as a nice bookend to the one I presented above.
"Everyone is a prisoner of his own experiences. No one can eliminate prejudices - just recognize them."
We can never really escape our prejudices, because our worldview is shaped by our unique experience of the world. Therefore, when faced with a new idea or a challenge to that view, we need to recognize and understand our position and opening consider the opposition before dismissing it outright.
February 03, 2006
It just feels like it gets just a little harder each time.
February 01, 2006
While I was using urinal #1, I observed a guy (using urinal #3 - good job!) take a call on his cell phone while still in the act of relieving himself. Now I've seen plenty of guys take calls in the bathroom. Usually while sitting in a stall. I thought it was a bit rude and odd, and symptomatic of the erosion of how we conduct ourselves in public bathrooms, but I let it go.
Today, however, I saw Mr. Multitasker answer his phone, say a few things, and then ask his caller if they would hold. The guy turns, hits the mute button on the phone while flushing at the same time, and then starts walking out of the bathroom after zipping up.
Let's break down his transgressions:
One - he answered his phone while peeing. Let it go to voicemail, mate!
Two - he didn't wash his hands. But maybe he's got handy-wipes in his bag.
Three - He made the person who called him wait in silence while he zipped up, flushed, and walked out of the bathroom.
If you have to answer your phone even when you’re busy with other things, can't you do the courtesy of telling the person that you will call them back? Why waste that person's time because you were so anxious to talk on your phone you couldn't wait to answer it while you wee-wee was still hanging out. You can only play with so many toys at once, my man.