Recent Entries in Rant

  Time's Asshattery

What kind of asshattery is Time Magazine up to? Richard Dawkins gets listed in the "Time 100". You know, the list of the "100 men and women whose power, talent or moral example is transforming the world". But, get this -- they get Michael Behe to do the writeup for him. Michael Behe? The ID guy? Not even competent enough to be Dawkins' arch-nemesis? The guy who, through his power, talent, and moral example, is attempting to undermine America's scientific educational standards? Why pick this guy at all? Why not pick a real scientist, or someone who at least truly admires Dawkins? They don't have to like him, but this is as big a slap in the face as having no atheists represented on "Paula Zahn Now: on Atheism".

The best Behe can do is a measly 3 paragraphs, written like this:

"Dawkins had a mild Anglican youth but at 16 discovered Charles Darwin and believed he'd found a pearl of great price. I believe his new book follows much less from his data than from his premises, and yet I admire his determination. Concerning the big questions, the Bible advises us to be hot or cold but not lukewarm. Whatever the merit of his ideas, Richard Dawkins is not lukewarm."

dawkins_time.jpg

Richard Dawkins - The TIME 100 | TIME

That lovely headline was pulled from The Onion's archive. I wanted to use it after working on a couple of issues with co-workers and customers, and finding several misuses of the English language. Not that the Onion's headline was misused ... rather, they used it quite cleverly. Unlike my co-worker and customers.

The co-worker's gaff was when trying to "flush out" an idea. I corrected him on it, suggesting he wanted to "flesh out" the idea instead. He maintained that what he wanted was to "flush out" the idea ... putting more into it, and making it take form. Pretty sure he meant "flesh out".

Not that I'm any better. In my last paragraph, I put a period outside the quotes instead of inside. I do these things out of habit. Sure I make mistakes, but I try not to say "pacific," when I mean "specific"; or grisly when I'm talking about bears; or enormity when I'm thinking about something really large. For every mistake I think is obvious, there are about a dozen more subtle mistakes I'm making on a regular basis.

I'm really bad about all things World Wide Web. I can't understand capitalizing the Interweb and Webpages.

The most recent mistake was when reading James Crumley's "The Wrong Case," in which the narrator describes a bartender "niggardly" pouring drinks from a spout. Well, the first thing I thought was "this book was written in the 70s, and the narrator might be a little intolerant." Then I decided I should look it up instead of just thinking bad things about the racist narrator. Sure enough, I learned a few things. Like, while I may still get punched out for including the word in my blog, I can honestly say in court that I didn't use the "N-word."

This site is pretty cool for gettin all book-learning: http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/errors.html. It really got me thinking about the way we use/misuse words, and how language changes over time to become more accepting of deviant usage.

It now makes total sense when you hear the phrase, "You can't eat your cake and have it too." Wow. How long have I been misusing that line?

  Oh sure...

The day the Bell guy has to come over to examine the phone lines, the system miraculously starts working again. Actually, I did add a ferrite core snap filter to the phone cable that runs from the wall to the DSL modem. I also snagged some twisted-pair phone cable from work and put RJ-11 modular ends on it, hoping that it would help cut out any EMI/RFI which might be affecting the system. Surely this wasn't what was causing the dropouts and loss of sync on my system?

  Bad Stock Advice

R sent this to me the other day. Would you take stock advice from someone called hermaphroditicphotosynthesize???


-----Original Message-----
From: Donovan Harrington
[mailto:hermaphroditicphotosynthesize@access.inet.co.th]
Sent: Thursday, January 25, 2007 10:40 AM
To: Licensing
Subject: We have the most lowest and favorable prices join AUNI.OB

Day two

Nice rise. I am happy thet you had belive me.You will not regret of it.
The Beauty of the ppenny sttock arena is that issues appreciate so fast!

A bit of inner information and returns of 1000% are not unheard of.
With profitable deals in China American Unity Investments (AUNI) is entirely where you want to be.

...

I would probably have to see some credentials first.

  Oooh, he good card read.

I've been reviewing resumes (or résumés, if you insist) over the past couple of weeks. I just finished reading one, and was astonished by the number of spelling errors contained therein.

Apparently this candidate (and I use the term loosely) was familiar with some "Mdeamone [sic]" mail security application, though when I searched on Google, it kept asking me "Did you mean: Mdaemon?"

This person also has extensive experience with these mysterious "Viop [sic]" devices, though I have to admit I'm not much of an expert on them.

I laughed openly (scaring my co-workers) when they talked about their "Wireless Netwroks [sic]" knowledge. Heh. Wireless Net RAWKS!

It just didn't seem like they had all the "Professional Expereince [sic]" they claimed.

Oh sure, fine. I understand English may not be their first language, and I'm plenty guilty when it comes to using language bad. However, this is their resume (sorry, résumé) -- this is what they are using to impress other people. Me, I just blog online, and no one even reads my writing. Also, these errors are simple typos, which means they're either ignoring Microsoft Word's automated spell checker, or using something like vi to edit their resume (which would be soooo cool, if they only told me that).

I decided to let my eyes heal a bit, so I haven't been blogging much. Everything's going to be a little sore for the next couple of weeks/months.

More importantly though, I'm seriously beginning to rethink the whole blog concept. I've been at this for over 5 years now, and am running out of things I want to say to the outside world. Also, there's been a little negative publicity with blogs recently. Yesterday Kimveer Gill, a 25-year-old Montrealer, walked into Dawson College and started shooting, à la Columbine. While it's not much of a "blog", you can see his personal information here. Apparently, he expected to die either "like romeo and juliet or in a hail of gunfire".

Not that I'm comparing myself to this person, but we both have blogs. Yes, I know ... so do millions of other people. But I'm not sure I want to die in a horribly publicized event and have people digging through my blog archives looking for some kind of proof or explanation about why it all happened. Granted, we may not be too dissimilar, as people may go looking into my archives anyway and find that one of my previous goals in life was to take a bullet for someone. That's pretty close to a "hail of gunfire". It may be the opposite of what Kimveer Gill was thinking, but the way personal thoughts get taken out of context, especially when posted on online journals, who's to say?

Here's an interesting post about Kimveer Gill from (gasp!) another blogger.

For the record, my new goal in life is to live to a ripe old age, sailing around the world in my 42' catamaran (named "The Turanga Leela"), painting pictures of island women on black velvet, and donating extensively to charity. Let's see them try to twist that when I'm killed in a murderous rampage.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to judge a person solely by what they've put on their blog. If reality TV has taught us anything, it's that people say different things in public than they do in private, and their personal thoughts may never reach either of those two outlets. Lord knows I've said things on this blog I'm not proud of, yet there are things I would never publish on here. Certainly, not any kind of personal opinions. Believe me, if I'm mad at you, I'll tell you straight up (this means you, Enrique, you asshole), not publish it on the web.

  Room?

I hate all this coffee lingo. All this doppio, no-fat, decaf, long pull, half foam, skim milk shit. Usually I'll ask for a medium black coffee -- but of course you can't do that at Starbucks. It has to be a grande Sumatra or whatever the café du jour is. I order the regular coffees because a) they're cheaper than the $3.50 lattes/cappuccinos from the big machine; b) they're delivered quickly, so you don't have to wait; and c) no one orders them, so there's usually a lot left and you don't have to stand in line, like a chump. In a pinch I'll ask for an Americano, since it's about as close as you can get to a normal coffee when they -- get this -- run out of it.

I once stood in front of the counter at a Starbucks and the guy said, "Sorry, but we don't have any more of the [insert disenfranchised 3rd nation region] coffee left." None of the three servers behind the counter were making moves to make another pot, nor were they rushing to find a dark roast replacement for the expired [insert disenfranchised 3rd nation region] blend. But I digress ....

So, last month when I showed up with my lines memorized, quickly scanning the daily coffee menu (that sounds ridiculous because it is) for the desired dark roast name, I ordered a grande Sumatra. The guy looked at me, smiled, and said, "Room?" I stared at him blankly, wondering what he meant by this. Was he asking me to get a room? Was there room enough in my belly for a grande Sumatra? Might I not want the tall (small) instead? Was I wearing a nametag that said "Room" on it? Was that how much it cost?

No. "Room" is apparently Starbucks cant for "Do you want room for cream in your cup?" I suppose it was too difficult for him to say, "Want room for cream?" I kind of laughed at him. Not kind of ... I really laughed at him -- a big belly laugh. I then wiped a tear from my eye, made some snide comment about the Starbucks jargon, and took my coffee. I walked away, leaving him with an embarrased look. In retrospect, this was probably mean. Though, in retrospect, I'd probably do it again.

coffee_and_arthur_c_clarke.jpg

Today I went in and ordered my grande Sumatra. The server (a different person) asked "Want room for cream?" I smiled and politely declined.

  Superman Returns

Saw the new "Superman Returns" film on the weekend. People have been talking about how it rates as a film, especially a superhero film -- considering that Bryan Singer stopped working on "X3" to do this film ... also considering that they altered the DC mythos and Superman's powers to fit the film a little better. I liked the film, and I liked what they did with Superman, though I had continual issues with Clark Kent's eyebrows.

I'm no DC comics purist, or anything, but I do like to see comic book characters stay somewhat within their initial template. You know -- Superman works good in sunlight, he's allergic to kryptonite, he flies, has X-ray vision, heat vision, and otherwise, he's pretty much impervious to damage. If you explain these powers, or fine tune them, that's all good. For example, he's not immediately disabled by kryptonite, but it will kill him. That's OK. If he recharges his "batteries" in sunlight, that's also fine. But if you start saying he's really from Earth, and got bitten by a radioactive spider, it's not so good. So in that respect, this was still good. Superman pretty much remained in the template we expected.

I used to be a big comic book reader, mostly interested in alternative and small label comics, such as Image, Dark Horse, etc. So I'm more concerned with the way the "TMNT" franchise made the Shredder into an alien in an exoskeleton, or how "The Mask" was dumbed down for children instead of being a darkly humourous (and very bloody) horror film. To me, those were big deviations from the mythology. Making Superman younger or setting it in modern time -- there's nothing wrong with that.

One point of note. It was interesting to see the dilemma that Superman faced after his return to Earth. Imagine meeting up with someone you haven't seen for five years, and to see that they now have a son -- one which looks a lot like you, and which may or may not be your own. How do you even start a conversation with them about it? If life is like the "Superman Returns" film, you don't. Interesting lesson.

Continuing the whole unsurprising and fundamental misunderstanding of scripture, I found an interesting link to positiveatheism.org. They offer a reprintable, royalty-free .pdf which they encourage you to distribute widely. It's available here. The handbill includes commandments from Protestant Catholic, and Hebrew texts. The order is similar for the different commandments, but the description of them varies between the texts. Most notably missing is the "graven images" commandment from the Catholic text. Understandable.

The handbill also includes information about the first AND second set of tablets (remember Moses smashed the first set of tablets?). Apparently the second tablets tell a very different set of rules (from Exodus 34:1). They (positiveatheism.org) suggest it's arguably is the oldest and most authentic version of the ten commandments. If they're right, then this should be the version that hangs in courthouses in the U.S. It would certainly make for some interesting interpretation:


  1. Thou shalt worship no other god (For the Lord is a jealous god).
  2. Thou shalt make thee no molten gods.
  3. The feast of unleavened bread shalt thou keep in the month when the ear is on the corn.
  4. All the first-born are mine.
  5. Six days shalt thou work, but on the seventh thou shalt rest.
  6. Thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, even of the first fruits of the wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year's end.
  7. Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread.
  8. The fat of my feast shall not remain all night until the morning.
  9. The first of the first fruits of thy ground thou shalt bring unto the house of the Lord thy God.
  10. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in its mother's milk.

I can just see religious types trying to work these commandments into some kind of moral lesson: "Johnny, remember the 10th commandment: Thou shalt not seeth a kid in its mother's milk." Huh?

The troublemakers at atheists.org also cite the above list of commandments, and have a better proposition for the display of commandments in public spaces -- hang 'em all -- specifically, hang all the various, conflicting versions of the big ten:

"... it seems to me the only solution to the problem of hanging commandments is this: hang them all! Hang all three sets in full text - don't hang just the epitomes. Make sure they are the best English translations possible, rendering the Hebrew Tetragrammaton YHWH as "Yahweh," not the namby-pamby "Lord" of nearly all current translations. (Political correctness would make it advisable for a Spanish-language version be mounted also, wherever Hispanic votes are a force to be reckoned with.) Then, so the probable meaning of the texts can be inferred, mount other biblical verses that seem to clarify Yahweh's intentions on the three occasions when he asked Moses to report the "Big Ten." We should mount all the commandments in adjacent chapters in Exodus and Deuteronomy so the full context can be understood by the average school child or visitor to a courthouse.

"Of course, very large walls will be needed for this civic purpose. If monuments are to be erected, care will have to be taken lest they take on the appearance of the Berlin Wall, since thoroughness perforce will make commandment hangers want to stretch their displays as far as necessary."

This is pretty classy.

colbert_report.jpg

Crooks and Liars has this video of the Colbert Report. Stephen Colbert's guest was Republican Congressman Lynn Westmoreland, a republican who wants to introduce legislation to have the 10 Commandments displayed in public buildings.

Except he can't think of any places where it might be more appropriate to display them (i.e. in a church).

And he can't name them all. Couldn't name more than 2 or 3. Maybe it *is* a good idea to hang them up somewhere so that right-wingers can remember them.

Christ. Here they are, in no particular order (and from memory, thank you very much):

  • Honor thy mother and father (unless they mean to do you harm, I suppose)
  • Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, his ox, ass, or his slaves, etc. (heh, ass)
  • Thou shalt not steal (nothing that might be missed anyway)
  • Thou shalt not kill (I assume it means humans)
  • Thou shalt have no other gods before me (not a moral commandment, but something entirely X-tian)
  • Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy (another X-tian-centric commandment)
  • Thou shalt not take the Lord's name in vain (another X-tian-centric commandment)
  • Thou shalt not commit adultery (I could never figure out if this was OK if you weren't married but the other person was)
  • Thou shalt not make graven images (another X-tian-centric commandment)
  • err ...

Ok, I missed one. Forgot the "Bear False Witness" commandment, as in "don't bear false witness" or more plainly, don't lie. Probably the most commonly broken commandment (though the adultery and stealing ones are likely pretty close behind). Still, 9 out of 10 isn't too bad, especially for a person who lives their life according to a set of moral, secular, and governmental codes, not religious codes. Sheesh. The most moral humanist around would still be violating 4 of the commandments. Why would they want to stick these in a public place? Do they want to promote X-tianity over other religions? Do they want to promote religious lifestyle over a secular one? Are they trying to blur the line of separation between church and state?

Why, yes, yes, and yes. Thanks for asking.

The guys over at religioustolerance.org have a great set of discussions on the 10 commandments, including this little gem:

"Only 68 of 200 Anglican priests polled could name all Ten Commandments, but half said they believed in space aliens."

  Damn online translators

I ran an Italian email through the Babelfish translator and got this shit:

"I have installed file on my PC but it demands an only number for mine broswer I have a connection gprs with modem from cellular telephone and I cannot use the only number of mine broswer otherwise the logon does not allow me to enter in net is one solution?"

What the hell's a "broswer" anyway? Even I can code a program that will throw individual words at you, but without context, it's all useless. They've really got to clean up the algorithms which sort languages out. Either that, or we have to start learning to talk to each other according to the rules of our own language. I'm probably as much to blame as anyone else, when it comes to excessive comma use, grammatical inconsistencies, and bad speling.

This is funny. An end user sent a support email to his ISP, instead of the company they bought the software from. It caught my eye because there's at least three sentences crammed into one, and it was a little hard to read:

"I recently installed [foobar application] and it really didn't help at all the first day it seemed to but after that nothing so I ran a test and it told me to send this info to you maybe you could help."

This kind of misdirected email comes in frequently, and it's really our fault, since our default support string is "Contact your ISP". It's supposed to be changed when a service provider brands our software, but some SPs are lazy, and leave the default strings in. To make matters worse, the ISP looked at the application and said, understandably, "no, you should contact the software manufacturer," which the user did next, which is why I got this email. Unfortunately, the service provider gets away with little or no support calls, pocketing this user's money, and putting the load squarely on us.

It seems pretty obvious to me that if I'm paying someone for something and it doesn't work, then I go straight back to that someone who's got my money. I do that first. If that fails, then I go to the manufacturer. Since this isn't an iPod or something, and the user's essentially buying a subscription to a service, they shouldn't really be going to the manufacturer, not even if the service provider says so. We don't see any of this user's money, and we can't cancel their account or put a stop-payment on their credit card. Still, we see a lot of these calls, and we never quite know what to do with them.

Update: OK, now this guy's getting on my nerves. He sent in two more emails, and paged me on my Blackberry. I'm going to kill him.

Well, it's snowing in April, and the Conservatives are in power. Tim Horton's has IPO'ed, I've got an art exhibit, and Microsoft is supporting Linux now. I'm beginning to think Hell has frozen over.

Ah, I'm just kidding. There's no Hell. Everything's pretty good, aside from the bone-chilling cold. We were outside doing yard work on the weekend. I kind of slacked off, since I was busy getting ready for the show at the Queen St. Yoga Studio, and had to supervise (not like I helped any) the installation of my paintings. By the time I got back, R had filled 13 bags of yard waste, and had amassed a pile of branches. I added to the pile with my new tree trimmer device -- you know, that thing that's a big fiberglass pole with a rope and cutters attached to one end. Used it to cut some large branches that were encroaching on the neighbour's yard and over some hydro or telephone wires. I also picked a fight with one of the three trellises (trellii ?) on the side of the garage/art studio. I eventually won, but whoever put these things up must have buried them a foot into the ground. I spent some time getting tangled in rose thorns and vines before I figured it out. I'm going after the other two next, and will replace them with something nice. Then I'm going after the heart-shaped shutters. I mean it this time.

Now all that work we did is hidden under a light blanket of snow. Ah well, at least Winter is finally here.

Apparently there are no less than 5 different "Slipstream" films listed in IMDB, one of which (1967) was written and directed by Spielberg. Another is due out in 2007, just 2 years after a cheesy sci-fi film, starring Sean Astin ("Goonies") was released. Whoever thought Sean Astin should be the star of a film (aside from "Goonies", of course -- he was adorable in that film)?

So, I decided to find and watch all of these films, just to see what was so popular about this title. It's like so many things with Hollywood -- why doesn't someone come up with a new name once in a while? I mean, come on. Why name a film "Running Scared"? There's five of those in IMDB, not including the TV series. Or "Traffic"?

As Mr Cranky puts it: "If you're going to rip off the title of another film, why not go for broke and call it "Citizen Kane"?"

So whatever. I'm going to find all the "SlipStream" films and watch them. And write reviews about them -- starting with this one from 1989:

This film is an ultralight.

The story and the characters really REALLY needed work. The world idea is kind of neat, but no one bothered to develop any of it either through exposition, or through plot. Despite the cheesy notes at the beginning of the film, it makes sense that you wouldn't use exposition, since no one is new to this world. And yet, when Matt Owens (Bill Paxton) and Byron (Bob Peck) stray off-course and get lost, and get introduced to the wind-worshipers and the fat, lazy, rich people in the museum, we don't get any real idea of who these people are, or why we should care about any of them. Smart films have ways of developing this simply by having the characters live in the world. Simple things, like ordering a drink at a bar, or talking about something in the past -- these are the kind of things that make the film world memorable, not endless shots of crappy planes, and cheap CG effects of someone trying to do loops in an ultralight.

If this is too difficult for you, here's a little tip -- pare down the multiple locations. If everything's becoming disjointed because you're pulling up to often, stay in one place for a little while and have the characters talk a little. All the superfluous crap should be removed. Get rid of the entire wind-worshipers scene. Get rid of the stuffy museum people. Get rid of all the crappy flying crap unless you can make the wind relevant to the story. Have the entire thing set on a big plane, or something. Just get people talking about something we care about.

Hey, get rid of Bill Paxton. Have the film center around Tasker's character and his relationship with the robot, Byron.

Indeed, the biggest problem of the film is that we don't care anything about anybody, because no one takes the time to either explain their motivations or delve into their characters. We don't like Matt (well, because he's played by Bill Paxton, among other things). He's a scoundrel, who doesn't redeem himself enough, except to let the android, Byron, go. And this action has even less meaning than most because of three key points:

1. Byron is a murderer.
2. Byron is indestructible
3. Byron can leave any time he damn well pleases.

We try to like Byron, because there's a kind of pathos there, but it's largely undeveloped. All we're left with is a whiny, glassy-eyed robot guy who's acting is subdued and wooden one moment, and practically zany the next. We don't know why or how he develops emotions, but we do know for a fact that he's murdered someone. We don't know why he murdered someone, or the circumstances of this grisly event, because it isn't developed. We can't feel pity for him if we don't know the story. All we know for a fact is that he murders people. And he likes Bill Paxton.

We don't hate Tasker enough (partly because he's played by good-guy Mark Hamill), since while gruff and ruthless, doesn't do anything out of the ordinary for his character -- a post-apocalyptic peace officer. Sure he kills Montclaire (Robbie Coltrane) and his team, but they are drug dealers, on their way to grow poppies for heroin. And they shoot at him first. He doesn't kill anyone who doesn't get in the way, or who does not try to physically harm him first. That goes equally well for the final confrontation in the museum. He uses a smidge of police brutality against a lazy dilettante (F. Murray Abraham is wasted in this role), and everyone else draws a gun on him.

I really don't understand what's the deal with Belitski (Kitty Aldridge), Tasker's partner. After only an accumulated 10 minutes with Matt, she's ready to switch sides, despite her shouts of loyalty, and despite Matt's trash-talking her, and punching her out. If that's love, then I'll choose hate any day.

Really. Paxton's character is about as lovable as Simon in "True Lies", or Pvt. Hudson from "Aliens". Does anyone fall for him in these movies? No. Why? Because he's a loud-mouthed idiot, and a loser. Why put him at the helm of this film?


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