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Archive of December, 2003

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[Permalink 2003-12-30] New Year's Resolution I'll Break by the Third

December 30, 2003:

I usually try to avoid doing this, because I'm almost as good at keeping resolutions as Oprah Winfrey is at sticking to a diet. And I think I already made this particular resolution a while ago and failed to keep it, but here goes: I'm going to try to stop cursing.

It's not a problem, really, since the people I work with are at least 55 and couldn't care less about language and my friends just expect it by now. But I know that if I had to listen to someone talk like I do I'd find it annoying. Therefore I'm going to try to scale it back a bit.

As a side note: This is why I don't mess with people who smoke. I have a habit that provides no chemicals to my body, doesn't create an endorphin reaction or anything like that, and I still can't get rid of it. Imagine if there was actually some kind of addictive effect to this. What kind of shape would I be in if I was a smoker, or an alcoholic, or a compulsive gambler?

Hmm, I almost talked myself into believing it's a harmless vice and that I should just let it go.

Anyway, here's the plan. I'm going to start small. For January I'm going to limit myself to 20* a day, regardless of severity. The "dammit" when I drop my keys counts for the same 1 point as the "FUCK!" when I stub my toe real bad. Combinations will be capped at 5, on the theory that at that point I'm not really being coherent anyway and would just as likely be spouting gibberish. I'll then start cutting back my daily allowance until either (a) I get down to about 3 a day (b) I get tired of it and give up. Given how these things usually work out I'm betting on b, but I'm kinda hoping for a.

And yes, that's my only resolution. Making more than a few just sets you up for failure since you can't keep up that many changes to yourself at once. With only one thing to concentrate on I think I'm more likely to be successful.

* 20 is a completely random number, I have no idea how frequently I swear in the course of a day. Limiting myself to 20 a day may be the equivalent of limiting myself to "only" 4 meals a day. In which case January will be easy.

[Permalink 2003-12-29] I'm So Touched

December 29, 2003:

Got my first-ever hate mail -- well, hate comment anyway -- over the weekend. Either someone went through the trouble to check my archives after reading one of my dullest entries ever, or followed a link from the 50th page of Google returns, since I'm getting bitched at for something I wrote months ago.

Gee, when you take it out of context I sound like such an asshole. The fact that I am an asshole is, of course, irrelevant.

[Permalink 2003-12-26] Christmas Wrap-Up

December 26, 2003:

Nothing of note really happened. Got some cool stuff (Indiana Jones DVD set, a pair of golf shoes, The Complete Far Side) and visited some relatives that I haven't seen since last year. Even got to drive my own car to Akron, thanks to the guys at the body shop getting it fixed in less than a week.

Anyway, there may be something worth reading here Monday.

[Permalink 2003-12-25] Merry Christmas

December 25, 2003:

Get off your computer, you heathen.

[Permalink 2003-12-23] Bing Crosby Is Spinning in His Grave

December 23, 2003:

I'm dreaming of a White Trash Christmas...

[Permalink 2003-12-22] Movie Review: The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

December 22, 2003:

What can I say, it was good.

As with the last two movies, people are upset with Peter Jackson for taking some liberties with Tolkein's original, but for the most part his changes were OK. It also helps that I've only read the book once and have forgotten most of it.

The beginning seemed a little out of place, but it was good to watch the Ring work its magic on Smeagol/Gollum over the centuries. We then fast-forward to the end of The Two Towers, with Frodo and Samwise climbing the staircase near Minas Morgul -- which was itself well done; it looked like an evil version of Minas Tirith -- and every arachnophobe's favorite character: Shelob. That's one big muh-fuckin' spider.

The minor characters got the short shrift again, as has to happen when condensing a 1,000,000-page novel into a three-hour movie. In this case I think Denethor came out the worst; I don't recall his being out of his mind in the book.

The scene with the palantir remained, although without the prophecy it doesn't really make sense for Sauron to pay attention to a hobbit when he knows his Ring is out there somewhere. A quick mention of the prophecy to Theoden or Treebeard (since it was left out of Frodo's encounter with Faramir in Two Towers) would have plugged that hole easily. Likewise, Aragorn's use of the palantir to lure the Dark Army to the Black Gate would have worked better than simply running an assault -- again, Sauron has gazillions of orcs, what does he care when he needs to find the Ring?

Gollum's demise at Mount Doom didn't ring true to me; I know what Jackson wanted us to think when Frodo basically shoved him over the ledge, but the accidental destruction of the Ring from the book would have been better -- part of the Ring's influence is to make the bearer unable to part with/destroy it. If Frodo had simply bucked when Gollum bit his finger off -- a reasonable reaction, no? -- the end result would have been the same.

OK, enough nitpicking. We got a pair of Braveheart-esque speeches from Theoden and Aragorn, and some kick-ass battle scenes. The seige of Minas Tirith was brutal and I felt like I was in there watching it. Eowyn's battle with the Lord of the Nazgul was similarly well-done, though there was no mention of either her or Pippin needing the healing touch of the king, even after they recoiled from their strikes against the Witch King and left their arms numb. That'll probably make the Extended Super-Duper Mega-Edition, due out in 2007.

Should you see the movie? Oh, hell yes. Unless you're a purist who won't be happy unless the novel is transcribed to the screen word-for-word you'll like it. It's worth $8.50, and worth standing in line for half an hour to get good seats. In fact, I think it's worth seeing twice.

Aside: Crap Codes update... Fuck you very much, MPAA, for interrupting the Battle for Minas Tirith with your asinine red dots. My hatred for you burns with the intensity of a thousand suns.

But still, see the movie. You'll like it.

[Permalink 2003-12-19] About the Rental Car

December 19, 2003:

This was originally supposed to be a review of ROTK, but they were sold out by the time I got there. Seeing it Friday now, so it should be Monday's entry.

Anyway. The Impala. It's a decent car, really. Nice interior, and a bunch of stuff my 11-year-old Civic lacks. Automatic headlights, cool idiot light LEDs, a stereo that adjusts the volume to account for road noise, an engine that heats up quickly.

But I don't like it.

For starters, it feels huge compared to my car. It's wider, I sit higher and it's longer -- longer than most cars in the parking lot, actually. I have no idea where this car is in its lane; I'm too far away from the door (and thus the left side of the car). Add the squishy shocks to that, and it's like the driver's seat is a Barca-lounger.

Then there's the automatic transmission. I've learned to like my manual, and I've finally learned why that is. In my car, I know how fast I'm going to within a few MPH. I know what gear I'm in, and I can hear and feel the engine revs. Thus, I have my speed. Also, since there's a direct line between the engine and the wheels, the car accelerates instantly when I stomp on the gas. I like that.

Automatics are different. I have no idea what gear it's in, and thanks to the wonders of the torque converter shifts are so smooth that I miss them most of the time. Am I doing 20 or 50? I have no idea without looking at the speedometer. And thanks to the way torque converters work, the response isn't instantaneous (or necessarily predictable) when I hit the gas. A friend of mine summed it up best -- it feels like I'm driving a video game.

I'm torn though; it is a decent car. If I were to replace the Civic with something larger I'd be more likely to get a V-6 Accord, but it's the same basic idea. Although the guys in the shop would probably look at me funny when I told them to stiffen up the suspension so I could actually feel the road underneath me.

Well, this is just a waste of cycles anyway. I like my Civic and I plan on keeping it a while; I'll probably drive it till the wheels fall off. But seeing what else is out there once in a while can be fun. I just wish it had happened under better circumstances.

[Permalink 2003-12-17] Special Wednesday Edition: Car-ma

December 17, 2003:

Yup. Happened again.

I was driving on Liberty to go to work, and someone pulling out of the UPMC Shadyside garage decided he wanted to be in the right lane. No big deal, 'cept that's where I am. With about a car-length to come to a stop, I would've collided with him in the best of conditions, never mind the thin layer of ice that was there this morning.

(Mildly funny aside: The cop who (finally) showed up parked about where I got hit originally. He almost got rear-ended twice that I saw, maybe more.)

So my car's at a body shop in Bloomfield, the report's filed with the police and the insurance company, and I'm riding the bus for a while, or at least until the insurance companies decide he was at fault and his company picks up a rental for me.

Damage tally
My poor, abused '93 Honda Civic: Crushed left headlight array, ruined left fender, caved-in wheel well, busted side-view mirror, torn-up bumper, dented hood.
His '00 Mercedes SUV: Blown tire, some of my paint and road salt on his right fender and door.

Almost makes me want to make my next car (whenever I get it; this one can be fixed) an SUV. If everyone else is going to play bumper-cars out here, I at least want to get something that won't crumple if you look at it wrong.

Shit; I just realized that I'm going to need that car next week to get back to Akron. Hopefully the insurance company and body shop can get this taken care of quickly.

Merry fuckin' Christmas.

Addendum: Last night, I was treated to a pair of dreams about car wrecks, both much more serious than the one I'd been in. Both dreams woke me up. Thank you, subconcious, for deciding to get imaginative on me. It's not like I had to wake up half an hour early to catch the bus or anything.

Update: 12/17 2:15 PM: Just got off the phone with the other guy's insurance carrier; I get $25 a day towards a rental car. So, if you will allow me a slight loss of decorum (such as it is around here) to celebrate not riding the bus again:


There. I feel much better now.

Update: 12/17 3:34 PM: (Why I put the PM here I don't know; I'm obviously not up that early.) Just talked to the body shop. They think they can get it fixed by Tuesday, meaning I should be able to drive my own car to Akron for Christmas. This is going much better than the last time.

[Permalink 2003-12-16] Must... See...

December 16, 2003:

The new home of the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum sounds frickin' awesome.

[Permalink 2003-12-15] Movie Review: Master and Commander

December 15, 2003:

In short: Good flick, go see it. A British captain, commanding HMS Surprise, is sent out after a new French ship-of-the-line, Acheron. After being out-maneuvered twice by the French captain, Crowe's character develops a bit of an Ahab complex in his pursuit.

Keeping this action-oriented captain in check is his chief surgeon (this sound familiar to any geeks out there?), who would rather be cataloging the new species of the Galapogos than repairing the damage wrought by a full-on broadside attack.

As the Brits are the good guys, and the French are the French, Acheron is eventually captured after a long, dangerous cat-and-mouse game.

I know I'm showing myself to be a major geek by saying this, but this movie struck me as a 19th-century episode of Star Trek in many ways. The dialog between the captain and surgeon could have easily been written as Kirk-McCoy exchanges, right down to the nature of the arguments. The events leading up to Surprise's capture of Acheron had me leaning forward in my seat like the Enterprise-Reliant confrontation at the end of Wrath of Khan. Even the final scene could have been lifted nearly word-for-word from the Kirk-Spock-McCoy banter at the end of an episode.

That all made me enjoy the movie even more -- even though the setting was different the feel was very familiar -- I don't think anyone else in the theater was disappointed with it. All in all, it's a very good way to spend $8.50 and 130 minutes.

Before I finish, though, I'd like to deliver a big, hearty fuck-you to the MPAA. Recently they've started adding a series of red dots, about a quarter the diameter of a change-reel marker, in patterns across the middle of the screen. Like a change-reel they only last for a few frames but these are dead-center on the screen instead of in the corner.

Their purpose is to allow the MPAA to view a bootleg copy and know which theater the pirated copy was recorded at. What it did for me was to interrupt a very well-done scene and pull me out of the movie for a few seconds. Not everybody can see them, but if you can it's irritating.

So, to sum up: Movie, good. Red dots, bad.If you're the type who doesn't see the change-reel marker you won't notice the dots, so go ahead and give it a look. If you are going to see the dots it can still be worth it, but like I said it can pull you out of the movie for a sec. But even with that, I don't think this is one you should wait to see on DVD.

[Permalink 2003-12-12] 57 Channels and Nothing On

December 12, 2003:

Ah, Japanese game shows. I just discovered Most Extreme Elimination Challenge on the channel formerly known as TNN. It's essentially Double Dare for grown-ups, with ridiculous overdubbed commentary that may or may not be a faithful translation of the original. It looks like it should be completely moronic and a waste of time. And it is. But it's a good waste of time.

[Permalink 2003-12-11] Quickie Quiz

December 11, 2003:

Today's Quickie Quiz: Where's the jet stream?
Weather map from last Friday
Image blatantly stolen from

[Permalink 2003-12-09] Yoy and Double-Yoy

December 09, 2003:

Watched a story on Jim Brown on ESPN last night. Brown is the best running back in Cleveland Browns history, arguably the best running back in NFL history. Who delivered a noticable chunk of his story? Myron Cope, the voice of the... Pittsburgh Steelers?

Note, Tuesday morning: Dear Cleveland Browns,

If you're going to lose a Monday night game, at least make it known what you're up to by the middle of the third quarter. Some of your loyal, borderline-delusional fans have to go to work the next morning. Also, if you're going to finish this far below .500 (4-9 and counting) at least get a draft pick that doesn't take a year to do something useful.

Thank you.

[Permalink 2003-12-08] Thank You, Amazon

December 08, 2003:

I am t3h l4zy. All my Christmas shopping, with the exception of a Borders gift card, was done online. It's on the way to me now, with the exception of one item (a sweatshirt) that hasn't shipped yet.

Now if I could just convince Amazon to sell those gift cards...

Quote of the Day: From ESPN's Browns-Rams preview. "Including the playoffs, the Browns have been limited to fewer than 100 yards rushing in five straight games." Of course, Cleveland's last playoff game was 14 games ago.

[Permalink 2003-12-05] Are you ready for some -- oh, no, you're not

December 05, 2003:

Have to miss the Monday Night game coming up between the Browns and the Rams. I'd be a little ticked about it if Cleveland had a chance of winning, but as things stand now it's actually kind of a relief.

[Permalink 2003-12-04] S-M-R-T

December 04, 2003:

Got the last two things done on that client site. Then remembered I had one more thing I hadn't done yet. It's easy (edit as opposed to add) but still a pain in the ass. And I shouldn't have forgotten it.

And I've been staring at an API for a piece of software at work for the last, oh, 10 years now and I still have no idea how the damn thing fits together. The Java API? No problem. MapGuide's ActiveX API? Cake. But I spend a majority of my day staring at this thing like an idiot. Frustrating as all hell. Makes me wish I smoked so I could take smoke breaks every couple hours and get away from the screen.

Hmm... I wonder if they'd give me beer breaks...

[Permalink 2003-12-02] Urge to Code... Fading...

December 02, 2003:

Dammit. I only have one more thing to do for this client site -- convert a color picker to work in multiple places on a page -- and I just don't have the motivation to do it. I didn't do it the Wednesday or Thursday before last because I just didn't feel like it, then I was getting ready for the PBB trip that Friday, then that weekend was out because I was in Cleveland. Last Monday I had to catch up from being in Cleveland, then Tuesday because I had to pack, then I was in Akron till Sunday night. On the first I went out for dinner with some friends, then tonight I'm meeting some people.

Sure, some of those are legit excuses, but damn. Two weeks of procrastinating for what's probably two hours of work max. I haven't achieved levels of laziness like that since college.

[Permalink 2003-12-01] Good News, Bad News

December 01, 2003:

Good: I'm going to win this week at UC.
Bad: That means I was right when I picked the Browns to lose.
Good: It also means I was right when I picked the Steelers to lose.
Bad: Cleveland's only points came on a punt that the punter double-clutched on, and wound up kicking into his own center's ass at about the 20, which Cleveland ran back.
Good: They're probably going to get one of the first 5 picks in the draft.
Bad: Butch Davis will probably still be employed, and pick another loser.

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