Wednesday, March 30, 2005

An over-the-hill geek am I.

I'm not sure where I go to turn in my Geekdom passport, but it would appear that the correct time for that is now. They've released the lists of nominees for the 2005 Hugo awards, and I don't even recognize any of the authors in the Best Novel category, and only four of the 12 nominated authors in the categories for shorter works. And the novels and shorter pieces themselves? "It is to laugh."

Best Novel
The Algebraist by Iain M. Banks
Iron Council by China Mieville
Iron Sunrise by Charles Stross
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
River of Gods by Ian McDonald

Well, just maybe I can keep my membership for one more year. Now that I look more closely at the titles, I recognize one of them as a book I've started - but not yet finished - reading: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. It's actually quite good - sort of a Harry Potter for adults - but it's also very, very long. Just the sort of book you want for a cross-country plane trip. Or possibly a train trip.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Monty Python vs. Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Not, alas, coming to a theater near you. But there is a six-minute ad for The Institute for Backup Trauma - okay, for some sort of disk-based backup system - that stars John Cleese, with a cameo appearance from Michael Dorn, minus his crabshell forehead.

And whatever you do, don't press the third button.

Monday, March 21, 2005

If you can't beat them.

While you're watching the NCAA regional finals next weekend, if you look closely at the wrist of Coach K, or of any nearby Duke fan, you'll probably spot a blue bracelet. One that looks very much like the one above.

Sure, it's a "spirit band" - but like the Lance Armstrong "LiveStrong" bracelet, it's much more. The proceeds from the sale of the "Duke for Life" bracelets will go to support the Emily Krzyzewski Family Life Center. Named after Coach K's mother, it will be a community center with programs to support families and children in the Durham, NC area.

And if you're looking for a certain dark blue fashion accessory, you can buy it here.

(And who is behind the "Duke for Life" bracelets? Five students at Duke's Fuqua School of Business, who found enough time to look up from their books to plan the fund raising effort. Their initial goal was to sell 5,000 bracelets - raising $10,000 for the Center - and to raise public awareness of the Center. Since when I ordered my bracelet, I was put on back-order while they made more, I'd guess they've already achieved their sales goal.)

Friday, March 18, 2005

The early bird eats a worm.

Of late, I’ve been trying to do something that does not come naturally to me: get up early. Not for any good reason, other than I’m trying to get more hours in at the contract attorney job (and thereby get paid for more hours), and since they kick everyone out at 7 p.m., the only way to get in more hours is to show up earlier.

So the plan for this morning was that I’d get up real early, shower and dress and whatnot, and have a quick session at the computer, catching up on email and checking various news sites. And then I’d be out of the house and on the road by 8:15, getting me to work an hour earlier than I’ve been able to do at any time in the past three weeks.

Didn’t quite succeed.

What was the first sign I wasn’t going leave the house by 8:15? When I looked over at my clock-radio and read that it was already 8:25.

Oh, well. At least I was well-rested when I got to my soul-deadening job.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Pfft, internet.

More on the Numa Numa guy, who you've already heard about. Or possibly less. It's sometimes difficult to tell.

And March lunacy.

If you haven't had enough of filling out brackets for your local NCAA pool, here's something else for you. Some St. Louis republican support group has put together a bracket of "64 Notable Republicans" that you can choose from as a predictor of the 2008 Presidential nomination. Among the notable republicans you can choose from are Dan Quayle, John Ashcroft, Rick Santorum, and Ahh-nold. And Rush Limbaugh and Pat Buchanan. No Dick Cheney, though.

So here's your chance to vote for Dan Quayle (or possibly Kwale, his preferred spelling) for President.

March madness.

Yes, it’s that time of year again. Time for the NCAA basketball tournament.

Back in the Olden Days, when I was in college at Rice, it seemed unlikely I’d ever see Rice playing in the NCAA tournament. After all, while I was there, they won 14 games. Total. In four years. And half of them came in one year. And most years since then, they have not especially distinguished themselves on the basketball court. (They did get a mention in Sports Illustrated around 1980, when they had a ten-point play scored against them – and this was in the days before the 3-point line.)

So it’s with some amazement to me that this year, they’re playing in the NCAA tournament. Well, okay, it’s the women’s team in the NCAA, earning an automatic spot by virtue of winning the WAC tournament. And there was no women’s team at Rice when I was there.

And even more amazement that the men’s team is also playing in a post-season tournament, the NIT.

It turns out that the men have played in the NIT in four previous years, as well – 1943, 1991, 1993, and 2004 – and in the NCAA, back in 1942. And the women previously played in the NCAA tournament in 2000. But this is the first year they’ve both played in post-season invitational tournaments.

Update: True to Rice men’s basketball tradition, they lost in the first round this year. But the women’s team is still alive.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Ohhhhh.... so THAT'S what mitichlorians look like!

"She would rather die than eat the Offical Snack of the Empire."

"Leave that to me."

Hello? Is there anybody out there?

I love Caller ID. I love the National Do Not Call Registry.

I got a phone call tonight from someone who I presume was a telemarketer. Don't know for certain, because they never identified themselves, and they blocked their name from Caller ID. In fact, they never spoke, despite 3 or 4 attempts to get them to say something.

Didn't stop me from filing a complaint with the FTC on them. Did they have my permission to call me? No. Did they have a previous business relationship with me? No. Are they a political group? or a charity? or performing a telephone survey? No. So they're breaking the law.

The Caller ID did capture their phone number, though. It's 877-517-4896. If you want to call them up, feel free.

Update: The comments seem to indicate that this is some sort of promotion for Virgin Mobile, telling you that if you visit a certain website, you'll get a 25-cent credit. Or something. Of course, since I don't have an account with Virgin Mobile (and never have), then it's clear that they're engaging in illegal acts (violating the federal Do Not Call Act), and that their marketing campaign is both stupid and sleazy. Bottom line: I'll never do business with Virgin Mobile. And neither should you.

Further update, July 27, 2005: A comment added today indicated that they'd just gotten a phone call from Comcast cable from this number. Hmm - I got a voice mail from Comcast today, too. So I checked back on my caller ID, and sure enough, I got a phone call from this number corresponding to the Comcast voicemail. (Just the number, and "Name unknown" on the name line.)

Don't know whether this means that the phone call I got in March was from them, or whether Comcast contracted with a third-party promotional telemarketer who calls people and sometimes leaves messages with them. I'm beginning to suspect the latter, because a lot of comments have been from people who can also identify the number as belonging to a phone call - from Virgin Mobile, or Toys R Us, or someone else.

Making anonymous phone calls like this is always sleazy. I'll be letting Comcast know what I think of their tactic.

Friday, March 11, 2005

I approve.

The trailer for Episode III is out, and it looks pretty good. Amazingly dark, but this could turn out to be a better conclusion to the Prequel Trilogy than one might have predicted from Episodes I and II.

(I hope the URL works. I make no promises.)

Updated March 19 with a new URL, one which should work better.

May 19 is coming.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Poodles. Exercise videos. What more can you ask for?

I don't make 'em up. I just send 'em on.

Panasonic has evidently done a contest to make short movies honoring the Olympics. Or something. This one is very, very funny. And yet, incomprehensible at the same time.

Nary a cross word was heard.

I think I impressed the daylights out of my co-workers today. It was after 5:00 p.m., and the BigLawFirm's babysitter had gone home for the night, so we all relaxed a bit. Of late, people have been pulling out crossword puzzles to work on, usually a single puzzle, photocopied so a bunch of folks could work on the same puzzle at one time.

About 10 minutes after the other guys had started in, I got a copy of today's puzzle - this week's Sunday puzzle from the Washington Post. A big one, probably 25 x 25 or so. A half-hour later, I was ready to go home, and compared my progress with everyone else. Well, okay, I was comparing the fact that I'd finished mine. And no one else had more than a third of theirs complete. Heh.

What they didn't know is that I grew up working on the Sunday crossword puzzle from the NY Times, and after that, the "difficult" puzzle in Games magazine. And while I haven't worked a hard crossword puzzle in the past 15 years, it seems to be a skill that - like falling off a bicycle - once learned, is not easily forgotten.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Your - well, New Mexicans' - tax dollars at work.

Citizens of New Mexico are doubtless proud to know that their legislature is considering the "Right to Eat Enchiladas Act". This is not to say that there are a lot of modern-day Carrie Nations running around New Mexico, trying to prevent people from eating enchiladas. Still, what better time to protect a cherished right than when it is not in the least bit endangered?

If you go the boring route - and that would be me - and actually read the proposed legislation, you'd find that this is a bill not unlike those introduced in perhaps half of the states since October, and passed in 10 or 15, which limit the liability of manufacturers and fast-food chains from "frivolous" lawsuits by those who claim their health problems stem from eating at the above-mentioned restaurants and fast-food outlets. (See, for instance, Super Size Me.)

So, disappointingly, it turns out that New Mexico legislators are not going to go out and stand behind you when you order enchiladas at your local Outback Steakhouse. And the better name of the act would be the "Right to Sell Enchiladas Act".

Not since bleakfast.

Didn’t we just have one of these? Election Day rolls around again. This one was for five bond issues and a meals tax referendum. And based on how much I heard about them, there must not be any controversy about them.

Nice day for an election, too. Chilly, windy, and rainy. (45 degrees, gusts up to 45 mph, and too much, respectively. And snow, later in the day, although it didn’t stick.) I stopped off at the polling place on my way in to work. A couple of voters were leaving as I arrived, and there were no other voters inside while I was there. Someone else showed up as I was leaving. Perhaps only one-tenth as many people had voted by 9:00 as had voted in the general election last November, although probably 4 times as many people had voted as had voted by the same time in the Democratic primary last February. So I had plenty of time to punch the butterfly ballot carefully and make sure there were no hanging chads.

Well, no matter what the result is, it’ll have to be a better result than last November.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Knee-deep in the hoopla.

Abandon all hope, ye who listen here.

Wonderful report on a motivational/celebratory conference for Starbucks executives (go to the February 24 entry). After the usual nonsense you find at such corporate events, they had a performance of the "Jefferson Starbucks" - upper-management types dressed in 80's rock and roll costumes (the hair, the leather pants, and the like) - singing a Starbucks-specific rewrite of "We Built This City (on rock and roll)" as "We Built This Starbucks On Heart and Soul!"

Sample lyrics:
Knee-deep in the mocha/making coffee right
So many partners/working late at night
We just want to build here--IMDS, does it pass?
We call on development to complete the task!
Living the way of being,
In the Green Apron Book!
Don't you remember?
We built this Starbucks on heart and soul!

Had enough yet? No? Then you simply must listen to the song, which Starbucks put onto CDs for your personal enjoyment.

And once you hear it, you'll probably need a Brillo pad to scrape it out of your memory.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Dragostea Din Tei.

An update to the story of the guy who made the bizarre video of himself singing and dancing to an unusual tune.

The music was Romanian. But he's from New Jersey, which probably explains everything. And he certainly got his 15 minutes of fame. On the plus side, he wasn't as embarrassing as the Star Wars Kid.

Celebrity wineries.

Interesting piece over on Slate, regarding celebrity wineries: Wineries that bear the names of celebrities, and which presumably were purchased with some of the funds they’ve been paid over the years, either because they’re truly interested in owning wineries or as a diversification of assets, or even as a tax write-off.

The article lists Coppola-Niebaum as being the "dean" of celebrity wineries, with Francis Ford Coppola using his Godfather movies’ income to purchase the Niebaum winery. I’d guess there are some earlier ones, with TV entertainers leading the way. (The Smothers Brothers, Pat Paulsen, and Fess Parker among them.) It also lists some golfers' wineries (Ernie Els and Greg Norman) and a couple of others.

I guess the article doesn’t claim to be a comprehensive listing of even golf-related celebrity wineries, as it’s also missing Arnold Palmer. And then there are the celebrity-related, but not -named, wineries that didn’t make the list, such as Blenheim (owned by Dave Matthews) and RH Cohn (owned by the only business manager that the Doobie Brothers have had).

Pig in a poke.

The excitement at work Friday was that one of our number bought his sweetie an engagement ring. (No, he hasn’t asked yet. He thinks he’ll ask next month.) The bigger excitement was that he did all his research and shopping online. (Yes, tying up for a couple of hours the single communal computer with internet access to be used by 35 people.) The biggest excitement was that he made his purchase on eBay.

Yes, he bought the ring sight unseen, except for the photos on the auction web page. Okay, he has the option to return the ring and get his money back, less shipping charges and eBay fees. But shouldn’t he have been a bit suspicious of a diamond ring claimed to be appraised at $6,500 going for $1,250?