Paul Murray's weblog, with news you may have missed and my $0.02 worth on a number of topics.
"You can't make up anything anymore. The world itself is a satire. All you're doing is recording it."
I bet you don't have a friend who's an acupuncturist
E-mail me: pmurray [at] despammed.com
Thursday, February 28, 2002
Check to see your ranking. Forbes magazine has published its annual ranking of the world's richest people.
Equal time. According to a British scientist, "Lack of testosterone leaves men bad-tempered, emotional, depressed and suffering from Irritable Male Syndrome." It doesn't happen on a regular basis, however, only in extreme circumstances. Full text PDF (763 kb) from Reproduction, Fertility and Development.
Cool. I pay absolutely no attention to the Grammys, because most popular music these days stinks. But I'm glad to see that the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack won Album of the Year. (And "I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow" from that album won Country Collaboration with Vocals). Complete list. And no, I'm not a big bluegrass fan, but I really like this disc.
Wednesday, February 27, 2002
Bought and paid for? Representatives John Dingell (D-MI) and W.J. "Billy" Tauzin (R-LA) are pushing H.R. 1542, the "Internet Freedom and Broadband Deployment Act of 2001." Sounds noble, doesn't it? Ostensibly, it's about expanding broadband. But it's actually designed to eliminate the "open access" requirement, which forces the "Baby Bell" phone companies (SBC, Verizon, etc.) to allow local phone competition before they can offer long distance.
I'm sure that Dingell and Tauzin's motives are pure, and have nothing to do with campaign contributions they've received.
From Dingell's 2001-2002 Profile:
SBC Communications $5304 (#5 contributor)
Bell South Corp.$5000 (#7 contributor)
Communications Workers of America $4300 (#15 contributor)
From Tauzin's 2001-2202 Profile:
Bell South Corp $7000 (#3 contributor)
SBC Communications $5000 (#5 contributor)
Verizon Communications $5000 (#5 contributor)
VoiceStream Wireless $5000 (#5 contributor)
Look up your Representative or Senator at OpenSecrets.org.
Fortunately, my congressman is trying to fix it.
Update: Fat lot of good that did. The House passed it today. Now it's up to the Senate to save us from the Baby Bells' clutches.
Monday, February 25, 2002
Got a short attention span? Surfing the web can reduce your attention span to nine seconds, the same as that of a goldfish. I'd write more, but let's face it: you wouldn't read it anyway.
Yet another chapter in the ongoing music brouhaha. Today's NYT has an article about MP3 files being collected into compressed zip files and posted to music trading services. This way, one can get an entire album, complete with graphics. This is new but not particularly surprising to me. What got my attention was the "kill 'em all" attitude of an outraged lawyer:
Peter Paterno, a lawyer who represents Metallica and Dr. Dre, both of whom sued Napster, said he was surprised and angered to hear about the growing use of zip files. He added that downloading these zipped packets of songs could be dangerous, since a virus file could easily be bundled in with the other files.
I guess we can all be thankful that he's not in charge. But I am curious; suppose that he was in charge and did exactly what he said. Just how long does he think it would take before someone sued him for spreading a virus that destroyed their data?
What a tangled mess this has all become. While I don't get into wholesale downloading of music (I have picked up a few miscellanous things here and there), everyone except the artists (mostly) in the music business seems to come off like arrogant, controlling jerks. That's why it was amusing to see the judge in the Napster case demand that the record labels prove that they actually owned the rights.
Saturday, February 23, 2002
Legendary animator Chuck Jones has died. There were never any better cartoons than those produced by Warner Bros. in the 1950s, in my opinion, and Jones was arguably the most creative director there. Pepe LePew, Michigan J. Frog, Wile E. Coyote and The Roadrunner were his creations, but he also directed the most memorable outings for Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, et.al. Just look at his amazing body of work, which spanned from 1934 to 1999. I grew up on Warner Bros. cartoons; in fact, I have a reproduction cel (detail at left, full version here) from "The Rabbit of Seville" hanging in my office, and an autographed copy of his autobiography "Chuck Amuck."
I could go on at length about the many wonderful cartoon moments I remember, but you probably can too. So I'll just repeat a story he told about himself. When Ted Geisel (Dr. Seuss) pointed out that the animated Grinch looked more like Jones than the original book drawings, Jones just shrugged and said, "It happens."
And this memorable quote (maybe not exact, it's from memory): "Bugs Bunny is who we want to be; Daffy Duck is who we are."
His official web site.
Update: A nice remembrance by Richard Corliss in Time Magazine. And one from Tom Shales. And consider this except from an MSNBC article:
In 1995, more than 1,000 animators, cartoon historians and animation professionals rated their favorite cartoon films for a book edited by Jerry Beck, “The Fifty Greatest Cartoons.”
Friday, February 22, 2002
Letters, we get letters... Reader Don Hosek writes about this past week's most ubiquitous trivial news story and e-mail (I received three copies), noted on this page on February 15th:
While writing an entry in my paper journal today, I realized that the e-mail on 20:02 20/02 2002 was incorrect in asserting that it won't happen again. They forgot about 21:12 21/12 2112.
I think he's correct. Are Don and I missing something? Or did absolutely no one else catch this?
Wednesday, February 20, 2002
Conspiracy? Speculation? A woman from the Federation of American Scientists claims that the FBI has "a strong hunch" about who mailed the anthrax letters last fall: a scientist who used to work at Fort Detrick. She further claims that the government may be dragging its feet so that said person does not publicly disclose what the government has worked on. (via Interesting People and rc3.org)
Tuesday, February 19, 2002
What's all this, then? As much as I like Monty Python's Flying Circus, none of their three lines in a British poll of favorite film lines strikes me as particularly funny. Actually, none of the lines uttered by anyone cited in the article seem particularly funny.
Monday, February 18, 2002
Dogs and cats living together. Robert X. Cringley urges Apple to make OS X work on the PC platform. His argument makes sense to me, but I'm not holding my breath.
Friday, February 15, 2002
Tweaking the resumé. Check out the Secretary of the Army's current biography. Now check out the cached version at Google to see what's been removed. Hint: third paragraph of the cached bio. (via rc3.org)
Only once. I don't know where this item came from; it was e-mailed to me by a friend of mine from college, Dan Schreiber:
As the clock ticks over from 8:01PM on Wednesday, February 20th, 2002, time will (for sixty seconds only) read in perfect symmetry. To be more precise: 20:02, 20/02, 2002. It is an event that has only ever happened once before, and is something which will never be repeated. The last occasion that time read in such a symmetrical pattern was long before the days of the digital watch (or the 24-hour clock): 10:01AM, on January 10, 1001. And because the clock only goes up to 23.59, it is something that will never happen again.
I suspect it comes from England, because this symmetry requires the European date style (day/month/year) rather than the U.S. style (month/day/year).
Thursday, February 14, 2002
Because we said so. While a lot of people have noted the quirky story about Saudi Arabia banning the observation of Valentine's Day, I'm more intrigued/amused by the governmental body that did it: the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Evil. I suppose it's run by the Islamic version of John Ashcroft.
Wednesday, February 13, 2002
This just in: U.S. considers military action to remove skating judges; President issues ultimatum to ‘Axis of Cheaters.’ (via MetaFilter)
Tuesday, February 12, 2002
Oops. Microsoft Office XP provides such dramatic productivity improvements that Microsoft uses... Office 97.
Monday, February 11, 2002
Shhhhh. Dubya's prediliction for secrecy has shown up again, this time over his records as governor. Dubya donated his governorship papers to his father's presidential library, which says it can't live up to a state law requiring public requests to be fulfilled within 10 days. The state archivist says that 90 days isn't good enough, so they're fighting over custody.
BASTARDS. My brother and I have noticed that our cable net connection performance has deteriorated; we hoped it was a temporary thing as Comcast tweaks its network. Nope. Comcast has capped download speeds at 1500 kbps. Worse yet, a Comcast VP admits that most users will not be able to get more than 1000-1100 kbps. For comparison, we were getting over 2000 kbps before. (They've also capped upload speeds.) So since they've reduced the speed by 50%, do you think they'll reduce the price by 50%? HA! It's time to regulate this like any other utility. Update: Here's a somewhat calmer write-up I did for TV Barn.
Wow. A new type of digital image sensor being introduced today is the first to meet or beat the quality of 35mm film.
Sunday, February 10, 2002
Pontiac sheds its cladding. It took Bob Lutz to finally make it happen, but the Pontiac brand is dropping the bodyside cladding and other busywork from its vehicles. For years, they've made attractive vehicles hidden under way too much plastic.
Just cool. This is another clever thing someone has managed to do. (Link opens in a new window, and is a 620k download.)
The battle rages. Those who argue that Shakespeare's work was actually produced by Edward de Vere are gaining ground. (Be sure to check out the cool multimedia examination of the painting.)
Oh, the cable connection is back. But my brother is cursing the software that Comcast claimed was necessary to change settings, which also plastered the Comcast name over everything. I never trust software from any ISP anymore; just tell me the settings and I'll change them myself, thank you.
Saturday, February 09, 2002
Friday, February 08, 2002
Here's a shock. The rich got richer and paid less taxes from 1995-99, mainly due to the capital gains tax cut in 1997. So why exactly do we need to cut them again, Mister President?
Wednesday, February 06, 2002
The next Enron? I have seen several articles recently about long-distance giant Worldcom that don't bode well. Today's NYT reports that Verizon and SBC both considered buying Worldcom but backed out over the unprofitability of the long-distance bids, and possibly its aggressive accounting. And MSNBC's Christopher Byron predicts that Worldcom is headed for bankruptcy. Worldcom shares are down about 50% this year.
Tuesday, February 05, 2002
Too much self-esteem. It has been generally regarded that low self-esteem is bad and high self-esteem is good. Recent studies have been casting serious doubt on this notion:
Last year alone there were three withering studies of self-esteem released in the United States, all of which had the same central message: people with high self-esteem pose a greater threat to those around them than people with low self-esteem and feeling bad about yourself is not the cause of our country's biggest, most expensive social problems. The research is original and compelling and lays the groundwork for a new, important kind of narrative about what makes life worth living -- if we choose to listen, which might be hard.
Hollywood is in turmoil about DVD pricing. Warner Bros. and MGM are both using aggressive pricing designed to boost sales through popular stores, while all the other studios would prefer to stick with the VHS model (outrageous prices at first to rental outfits, followed by later price cuts). Some say this is the real "Risky Business." Find out everyone's motivations (including Blockbuster's) in this WSJ article.
Horrors! The liberal media strikes again! The conservative NewsMax site (which someone once described as The National Review for blue-collars) is whining that the mainstream press has produced twice as many stories about Enrongate (their word choice, not mine) than at a comparable point for Whitewater. Gasp.
I'm somebody. Hey, I made it into Google. Not until results #331 and #338, but nevertheless. (Actually that's also me at #214, at TVBarn.)
Warning: grumpy old man rant. I would never have thought it would be so difficult to find sneakers/tennis shoes, to use those dated terms. (In my day, we didn't have $200 shoes to play in! We had Keds and P.F. Flyers, and we loved 'em!) I don't want specialized shoes for cross-training or basketball or hiking; I live in the city and I want some comfortable all-white shoes that I can wear to work. (Yes, we're casual.) I have never seen so many ugly, ugly shoes as in the time a few weeks ago when I went shopping. I went again on Sunday and finally had better luck.
Monday, February 04, 2002
Creative appointments. What actor or actress would you appoint to the governing board of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in our nation's capital? Well, Jack Lemmon's gone. Brando, nah. Kevin Spacey, maybe? Kirk Douglas? Oops, never mind; the Bush Administration just filled that slot with a true master thespian.
Ha! I've been telling anyone who would listen how hypocritical some conservatives are. I'm talking about the ones who in 1993 demanded that then-First Lady Hillary Clinton release documents relating to her health care policy task force, but who now support VP Dick Cheney's refusal to turn over documents to the GAO related to his energy policy task force. The Washington Post not only agrees, they say that what differentiates the two cases "may mean that the GAO has a stronger claim than Clinton's foes did." Slate also singles out Cheney for his "lectures, legalisms and lies."
Sunday, February 03, 2002
I've made a few changes. I've added a very short bio of myself, and renamed the "Reasons to get rid of W" page to "Dubya Watch." Additional tinkering will occur as time allows. I'm toying with adding a page where I publish feedback.
Stranger in a strange land. I told my girlfriend last night that at times such as this, I feel like a foreigner. I have no interest in the Super Bowl whatsoever. I've been asked who I think is going to win; I don't know and don't care. I'll probably be working tonight while all of America is glued to the TV.
The stupidity will continue. Don't look to the Bush Administration to improve relations with Cuba. Key posts that deal with Latin American countries have been filled with Cuban-Americans, who insist upon maintaining the same hard-line stance that has not worked for more than 40 decades.
Why is our policy on Cuba is different from our policy on China? Both are communist countries with questionable records on human rights (just accept that for purposes of this argument). Yet we have approved and encouraged one's trade while doing everything we can to block the other. Why? What's the difference? As far as I can see, the answer is that one has 1.27 billion potential customers living there, while the other has only 11 million.
The "constructive engagement" argument that applied to China should apply to Cuba as well. We should be positioning ourselves for the inevitable day when Fidel Castro drops dead. (Don't hold your breath; members of his family tend to live quite long.)
Dubya didn't create our Cuba policy, but he's not about to change it. Not with that razor-thin vote margin in Florida, where he needed the voted of every Cuban exile he can get -- and so will his brother, Governor Jeb. The only way this will change is if more people is the country speak out.
Saturday, February 02, 2002
The media is biased. To the right? To the left? No, to the simple.
Principles or politics? Like me, John Dean doesn't buy VP Dick Cheney's arguments for refusing to hand over energy policy papers to the General Accounting Office.
Friday, February 01, 2002
Enron. Since I have people asking me what exactly happened with Enron, I'm going to link to occasional articles that are particularly helpful. Today's WSJ has a good one about a November 1997 meeting where bad decisions started to be made. It has a good timeline, too. For links to a ton of Enron news stories, go to this page maintained by Oliver Willis.
When spin boomerangs. Speaking of Enron... does anyone think that the interview given by Linda (Mrs. Kenneth) Lay was a good idea? “We’re fighting for liquidity. We don’t want to go bankrupt. And we’ve had long-term investments and those long-term investments have cash calls. Other than the home we live in, everything we own is for sale.” Would that include the $30+ million worth of real estate and $10+ million worth of stock?
Argh. The winter storms appear to have taken down our net connection (sigh). And apparently Comcast wasn't too helpful on the phone.