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July 31, 2004

The secret of The Village

I think everyone must have seen the trailer to The Village, the latest movie from the self-regarding director M. Night Shyamalan. 1897. Remote, isolated village. Uneasy truce with some monsters in the forest. But now something's gone wrong...

Shyamalan is known for his twist endings, and this one is no different. Everything you read about this movie is careful not to give away any 'spoilers'. But who cares about spoilers if the movie is so terrible? Most of the reviews I've seen have been critical. IMDb poster CWessonSpeaks lays it down:

Perhaps the most laughable, implausible, asinine film to grace screens this summer. This shamefully trashy and reactionary yarn about red cape wearing monsters threatening an idyllic Amish-like village is truly preposterous, interminably dull and its narrative `twists' can be seen a mile away. Imagine the silliest episode of Scooby Doo mixed with a `very special' Halloween episode of Little House on the Prairie. The outrageous promotion of this world class turkey from this country's most self promoting, arrogant hack M. Night Shyamalan (who inexplicably and egocentrically seems to fancy himself a modern day Hitchcock) is really unforgivable.

The hype for this thing is a surefire way to make it the big box office winner this weekend and I'm sure there will be plenty of groaning, bored and angry audience members tonight like in my screen who booed and hissed throughout the film's lengthy, incredibly dull duration. I feel embarrassed for all the actors in the film having to speak the ludicrous dialogue and keep a straight face. This is one of those incredible all star train wrecks that people will laugh about for years. I'm still in shock that some of the actors in this film didn't laugh out loud at the screenplay.

Sounds bad right? Not going to go see it? But you want to know what the twist ending is?

You're in luck. I've braved numerous bulletin boards on various obsessive movie sites, separated the red herrings from the facts and come up with this. I even found a wacky left-wing interpretation of the movie that reveals deep important insights into the danger of -- wait for it -- George W. Bush! Select the hidden text below to read it:

Guess what! It's not really 'the olden days' but modern times! One of the town elders was a billionaire and gathered some of his isolationalist buddies to create a primitive utopian community! He even prevented planes from flying over! The younger people don't know anything about the outside world! The monsters are fake and run by a villager to keep everyone frightened!

And how does Bush fit in? Well, I'll let you read it for yourself:

My theory is that the film is against Americas war against terror.Notice the end.The security guard is reading the newspaper that says of a number of soldiers killed in action and the radio reports of more being killed.Plus there is a community in which nobody-with the exception of a small elite-know what is happening out of its borders.They have blind faith in the elders and in order for the villagers to be obedient,they are given a pshycological fear through suggestion about these dangerous and bloodthursty creatures that lurk in the forest waiting to harm them.Ofcourse no one,exept the elders have ever seen these creatures.If you watch the news and have been to America,you know what im talking about.
It's like a ... a metaphor or something. I get it!

July 30, 2004

Exciting new feature!

Well, for me anyway. At the bottom of the left column you can now find out what kinds of horrible noise I'm forcing my poor kids to listen to. I got the idea from and reverse-engineered the work of Austin, the Transplanted Texan. (Thanks guy!) This RSS stuff is kinda cool, Ill have to look into it some more and see what other stoopid, pointless stuff I can add to my blog...

UPDATE: Well, that didn't last very long. Audioscrobbler seems to be out for the count and it's absence messes up the loading of this page. They mentioned they were going to be listed in the next issue of Wired, so maybe they just got flooded. That's the problem with these nifty free internet services -- they're just held together with chewing gum and bandaids.

UPDATE II: It's working again. So this wonderful new feature is once again enabled. Let's see how long they can keep it going...

Love me, Love my Winnipeg

Pity the poor spam writer that was asked to try to entice people to Winnipeg in a mail message I just got. I mean, I like Winnipeg, but to actually go there as a tourist destination? Here's what she (and why do I assume a 'she'?) came up with:

Winnipeg - Summer fun in the sun!

It's almost August—and that means it's almost Folklorama time in Winnipeg! 2004 marks the 35th anniversary of this joyous celebration of multiculturalism. But even if you can't make it for the festivities, you'll find plenty to do and see here. Shop, dine, and stroll in the Forks; cool off in the breeze at Portage and Main, the "windiest spot in Canada"; watch the Blue Bombers play—or just hop on the water bus and explore the city via the Red and Assiniboine Rivers. Ready to plan your Winnipeg getaway?

Uh, no. Thanks, really, but no. But when (if?) that exciting Human Rights money pit is opened... the answer is still no.

What happened to my babies?

They're not babies any more. They're little kids now -- running around, deliberately disobeying me, figuring things out on their own. And about time, too.

I've been told by so many people that the baby days go by so fast and that I should treasure each and every one of them. Well I did; but they didn't really go by that fast. I can't think of any period in my life that seemed to go more slowly than the last year and a half I've spent at home with these guys. Each day was very busy, but not in the where did the time go? sense, but in the clockwatching, planning and juggling tasks sense. I wasn't frantically busy, but I had to manage and anticipate the multiple needs of infants.

Yeah, yeah, poor me. No really, it's been fun. Sometimes. More than you might expect anyway. And what do I have for my troubles? Two active little people.

Talia is talking quite a bit now, though only in her caveman-like two word sentences such as, "Ta-ya cah!" (Father, would you be so kind as to pass me that cup of milk over there?) She has quite a vocabulary, though it's often difficult to understand what she's saying. "Bis... bis... bis... bis... bis... bis... BIS! BIS! BIS!" How am I supposed to understand that? But she understands everything we say -- though she doesn't always listen. Max speaks quite a bit less, still only in single words and from a smaller selection. But he understands quite a bit -- and listens even less than Talia.

They get on quite well together, following each other around and doing the same thing together. I don't have the impression of either of them being the leader and determining what the other will do. One will get an idea and sometimes the other will join in. They do fight, of course. Max in the past few weeks has become very adept at mugging Talia for the toy she's carrying. He'll grab her shirt from behind, spin her around and knock her down, grabbing what he wants when she starts bawling. He just trundles away after this, with only the smallest of smug smiles on his face. Talia has been countering this recently with bites. She'll grab his arm (or leg) and just sink her teeth in. Right now Max has three oval-shaped bite marks on his arms. They take about a day to fade.

They become little scientists out in the yard. I've put a few bins of water on a small patch of gravel at the end of the driveway, along with cups, sticks, buckets, and pieces of wood. They can get very focused playing in this lab, dropping things in the water, pulling them out, filling containers and emptying them (over themselves, usually). The sandbox is another lab, where they concentrate on similar activities -- pouring, burying, poking and sprinkling. I've managed to keep the water out of there so far, but it's probably only a matter of days before one of them decides to haul a bucket of water from one end of the yard to the other to pour into the sandbox...

July 29, 2004

Taking no prisoners

Paul Jané at All Agitprop, All the Time... (when did the name change?) has been blogging at a furious pace for the past couple of days. His targets have been Dear Leader, the Fat Bastard, the French, the two Johnnies and others. Well worth a look.

The multilateral Bush administration

TCS has a good piece up about the Proliferation Security Initiative, a loose coalition of states (yes, even France is involved) working together to slow the spread of dangerous technologies. It was created by the US because of the clear failure of the UN to do anything in this area except make pronouncements. It was this group that got Libya to give up its nuclear ambitions:

Intelligence gathered mostly by the US and UK last summer indicated that North Korea was shipping a large amount of nuclear weapons manufacturing gear -- centrifuge parts to be exact -- to Libya via several ships. Acting on that information, US and UK warships stopped, boarded and seized those ships, discovering the expected gear on board. Confronted with those findings and the recently successful military operation to depose Saddam Hussein in Iraq -- and undoubtedly mindful of his own unhappy experiences with President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s -- Libya's dictator, Col. Muammar Ghaddafi, who had connections to terrorists going back a few decades, decided it was no longer healthy to pursue nuclear weapons.

His dismantled nuclear program recently arrived in 48 very large crates at Department of Energy facility in Oak Ridge Tennessee. More such crates are on the way; soon the entire Libyan nuclear program will be in US possession. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham told reporters that Libya had possessed 4,000 centrifuges and enough uranium hexafluoride gas to begin manufacturing several nuclear weapons per year. In the hands of a dictator with dreams of revenge against America, or in the hands of terrorists allied to or cooperating with such a dictator, those weapons could have made Libya's the most dangerous regime on earth. Now it is turning into a witness for the prosecution, helping finger the Khan network and explaining the North Korean and Chinese roles in the spread of nuclear technology to rogue states. And the PSI -- a multilateral creation of the "unilateral" Bush administration -- played a key role, though it garnered few headlines and will probably garner just as few headlines in the future.

And now a similar group called Caspian Guard is putting similar pressure on Iran. Go read the whole thing.

And they're even more stupid now...

Dave Barry on the '88 DNC in Atlanta:

But some friends and I went out there to the protest zone, which was then kind of a new idea, and we put boxes on our heads.

Mine was a telephone box; we had little slits cut into them. And we just stood there -- three guys wearing boxes on our heads. And within I would say five minutes, we had a media clot of several hundred people around us. We had print reporters, we had photographers. I mean, because as soon as one goes over they all start running over, and then the clot gets to its critical mass, where as far as these people are concerned it’s the Kennedy assassination, and they’re just running to get there because it might be news. And they’d ask us like “who are you,” and we’d say “we’re people with boxes on our heads,” you know? We were very honest -- we never said there was any protest or anything -- and then we were the lead protests in the AP roundup the next day, and we were in hundreds of papers. And we all wrote columns -- we all three of us were columnists -- about how stupid it was, and then I got these furious phone calls all the next day. I had to leave the bureau because of the just endless calls from editors, asking me why we’d hoaxed the media. And I said “well, we didn’t hoax the media, we had boxes on our heads and we said we had them. You’re the idiots who put it in the newspaper!”

July 28, 2004

Under Attack

I'm under assault by an extremely nasty porn spammer. Evidently he's found a way to get around my meager defenses. Over 500 stoopid comments so far. I've deleted a bunch, but they're coming in faster than I can kill them. I'm going to install MT Blacklist tonight, and I hope it can get rid of this crap retroactively. I should have done this a long time ago...

UPDATE: Wow! This is really great! I'm free and clear! I'm back to my normal zero comment state. This is an absolutely amazing and essential tool for Movable Type bloggers. And so easy to install.

Who's alienating the world again?

Jimmy Carter once again shows why he so richly deserves his Idiotarian of the Year Award. In a speech at the DNC in which he blames Bush for "a devastating reduction in the basic esteem that the rest of the world has for our country", he describes the nations aiding the US in Iraq as "a handful of little tiny countries supposedly helping us".

I think calling the United Kingdom, Poland, Japan, Australia, Norway, the Netherlands, Italy and all the rest 'little tiny countries' who can only 'supposedly' help in a prepared speech is a bit worse than Rumsfeld's offhand comment about 'Old Europe'. Expect to hear about it quite a bit less though.

(via ¡No Pasarán!)

Dave Barry on the DNC

I'm vaguely aware of some kind of political event happening in Boston. It's apparently pretty boring, but Reason Magazine's Convention Blog is covering it in an amusing fashion. But Dave Barry's coverage beats them hands down:

The convention continues tonight, with the theme being: ''Making America Stronger through the Strength of Strongness.'' The idea here is to convince doubtful voters that the Democrats can be trusted to be tough on terrorism and won't create some kind of feel-good liberal bleeding-heart program like enrolling terrorists in bowling leagues.

Emphasis on this theme will continue through Thursday night, when, to climax the convention, an actual live terrorist will be released onstage, and John Kerry will beat him senseless with a hockey stick, after which John Edwards will sue him.

Read the rest on the Miami Herald's site. You'll have to register, but it's worth it.

UPDATE: Best of the Web has also been working hard making this event seem interesting. Today James Taranto fills us in on what the hard-working crackpots drawn to the lights are up to.

July 26, 2004

The Bourne Supremacy

I had no intention of seeing this movie. I saw the trailer and said, 'pass'. It implied the movie was like one of those Arnold movies from the 80's like 'Raw Deal' or 'Commando', except without Arnold. You know, the one man army doing the raging revenge thing (a theme I've had enough of this year). The tagline to the movie didn't dissuade me from this impression: They should have left him alone. Add in a pan from the only review I read (in the Post) and I was pretty sure they wouldn't be getting any of my money.

But my movie buddy wanted to see it and offered me an escape from the house for a few hours, so I found myself watching it anyway. And I'm glad I did, because it's probably the best movie I've seen this year.

It had a great plot (much more than the trailer implied) that was complicated enough to keep you interested but not overwhelming you with details. Three forces, each with their own agendas and own view of what was happening circled each other looking for advantage. It was expertly paced, never boring you too much action or too much plot. It ends with what has to be one of the best car chases in movie history.

What I particularly liked about the movie was how it didn't insult your intelligence and pulled you into the action. The cinematography had a gritty, jerky feel -- that some found annoying -- but I really enjoyed. During the car chase, I was completely on the edge of my seat and I literally fell back after one spectacular and unexpected collision. And the scenes in various cities captured what (I imagine) the cities feel like. The movie conveyed the taste of a place you get when you're wandering the streets on the first days after arriving. I've never been to Berlin but the movie made me feel like I was there.

Anyways -- great movie, I really want to see it again. I can't wait for the third part in the trilogy.

July 23, 2004

Magical Trevor

There's a new Weebls Stuff animation available. Be warned that if you listen to it more than three times you might possibly never get the song out of your head. Thankfully this happened to me -- the song that was there before, Like a Rhinestone Cowboy (da-da-DUM!), was really starting to get to me. What I can't figure out was how it got there in the first place.

Hot fun in the summertime

I've been remiss in posting photos of Max and Talia. I will correct that remissiveness right now.

July 22, 2004

To the Moon...

Lileks mentioned today that absolutely everyone had already linked to these pages and that they were wonderful. But it wasn't until I saw the third link on a blog that I actually went to take a look. And they are wonderful. The Apollo 11 shot is great, but the Apollo 17 panorama made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Haunting. (You'll need Quicktime.)

Too bad they're fake.

Hot air from Spitzer

I've generally supported New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer's assaults on white collar criminals over the past few years. Companies have a legal obligation to manage their shareholder's investments properly and report accurately on what's going on. Even whan he went after Richard Grasso for the novel crime of being paid too much money, I supported what he was doing. If the price of getting corporate leaders to once again think about their duties to their shareholders was a publicity-seeking and ambitious Attorney General, well, so be it.

But now he's gone completely off the rails. He and some of his fellow AGs have decided it's up to them to save the world. They've decided to sue the largest power-generating companies in the US for contributing to the greenhouse effect. They're not after money, but they aim to force these companies to reduce their carbon emissions by amounts they specify.

There's so many things wrong with this that it's hard to know where to start. First, power utilities are already the most heavily-regulated industry in the world today. Countless agencies, departments, and regulators spin huge threads of red tape around these companies, making it extremely difficult for them to raise rates, build new capacity, or shutdown old plants. California's energy crunch of a few years ago was the direct result of populist politicians strangling the companies that made their air conditioners work. More restrictions will just create the conditions for more blackouts in the future.

Second, even if global-warming was real, it's not as if the power companies can just flip a switch and reduce carbon emissions. These emissions are a result of our modern lifestyle. It's as if they want to use a lawsuit to free us from the shame of being affluent -- by putting the blame on those that supply our needs.

Third, this is just so obviously politically motivated:

State officials spoke passionately yesterday at a news conference in New York about the urgency of climate change and their dismay at the Bush administration.

"We cannot stand idly by while our planet is so endangered," Connecticut Attorney-General Richard Blumenthal said. "To citizens around the country, they ought to expect more from our federal government. We're here because the federal government has abdicated its responsibility."

New York Attorney-General Eliot Spitzer called climate change "a global problem that virtually every other major industrialized country in the world is addressing, except the U.S."

What horseshit. Every other industrialized country is talking about doing something (even the US), but no one has really done anything. But these guys can get up in front of the cameras and say 'Bush is recklessly throwing away our future, but we're here to save the world.' Sure.

Still, there could be good things to come out of these suits. I imagine they'll have to prove harm by these power companies in order to impose these new conditions. Competing 'experts' in the courtroom! This could turn out to be the Scopes Monkey Trial for the premier sacred cow of the environmental movement.

July 21, 2004

NYTimes suggests limp response to Sudan crisis

Nicholas D. Kristof of the NY Times writes an op-ed (registration required) about the situation in Darfur today. In it, he starts off well with the story of a missionary named Carl Wilkens, who stood against the genocidal mobs in Rwanda armed only with his will and reputation, and saved hundreds of lives. It's a great story, but now there's a similar nightmare happening in the Sudan against the Fur, the blacks living in the south of that country. What can be done about it?

Kristof (rightly) complains about the Bush administration's weak response to the crisis, but his proposed solution isn't going to help anyone:

The U.S. needs to send massive aid shipments and take much tougher steps, like issuing an ultimatum that will lead to a no-flight zone over most of Darfur until the Sudanese government disarms the genocidal Janjaweed militia. That would get Khartoum's attention.
A no-fly zone and more aid packages? And this is going to stop roving bands of genocidal killers how? This is a low-tech atrocity. Sure, there have been some occasions where military aircraft have been used in this campaign, but for the most part this is just the latest instance of the ancient art of ethnic cleansing. The War Nerd explains how it works:
1. Arm the nomad militias so they outgun the farmers. The Sudan government sent 50,000 automatic rifles and machine guns to the Arab militias in Darfur. Also provide them with Army advisors and air support, and force them into effective cross-tribal alliances.

2. Block off entry for the foreign aid agencies, so nobody'll see what's about to happen. This is something the Sudan government has learned to do REAL well. They managed to almost wipe out the Dinka without a word from our democracy-loving government.It helps that southern and western Sudan are so hard to reach. Like I've said before, inland peoples are out of luck. Ask the Kurds.

3. Send the nomad militias in to burn the villages. Tell them they can have whatever they can grab, and rape anybody they happen to like the look of. Tell them to be sure to burn the village real thoroughly, so nobody can live there again. (Lots of Fur villages have been burned two, three, four times.)

4. Once the Fur are pushed off their land, squeeze them into concentration camps, with the militias coming in to rape and kill the inmates every few hours, just to keep them scared.

5. Keep all food away from them. This is the key technique. It's not an "atrocity" or an "excess," it's the whole point. Read up on ancient warfare if you need to see how sieges work. Even if you don't wipe out the whole tribe, you'll have killed or stunted the children, so you're changing the balance in your favor in the next round of fighting.

There is a way to stop this, but it's quite clear no one in the Western World has the will of Carl Wilkens. A military force would have to go in and protect what remains of the Fur and ensure that supply routes for aid are protected. But this would involve breaking the sovereignty illusion -- that the Sudan is a country like all others and it's borders must not be violated. Mark Steyn puts it bluntly:
One day, historians will wonder why the most militarily advanced nations could do nothing to halt men with machetes and a few rusting rifles. After Kitchener's victory over the dervishes at Omdurman, Belloc wrote:

"Whatever happens/ We have got/ The Maxim gun/ and they have not."

We've tossed out the Maxim gun for daisycutters and cruise missiles. In Darfur, meanwhile, the Janjaweed on their horses are no better armed than the dervishes were. But we're powerless against them because we've fetishised poseur-multilateralism as the only legitimate form of intervention.

I'd like to believe that President Bush would have been willing to use American military power to prevent what has happened and is going to happen in the Sudan. However, with the extrordinary opposition he's faced in freeing people in Afghanistan and Iraq, he has no room to maneuver on this. We'll never know what he would have been done. Diplomats expressing 'concern', 'serious concern', and perhaps tabling a motion or two is all the Fur can expect from the West. It's really quite hard to believe, but it's true.

UPDATE: Actually, they'll be lucky if they get that: Sudan Militia Still Attack, UN Sanctions Unlikely.

Take the CinC test

Phil O'Connor at Tech Central Station has an article up on some of the great tests of leadership of past presidents.

General Washington in 1776. You've lost every battle and the Revolution seems a bust. Your spies tell you that the British officers are wintering in New York City and you think that means the Hessians will get falling down drunk on Christmas Eve and sleeping it off next morning. However, they are the world's best soldiers and will beat you if they are awake, sober or not. Also, the Delaware River is full of ice and your guys have no food or shoes. And many New Jerseyites are Tories who might rat you out. Do you roll the dice to change the course of the war, figuring the Germans don't like fighting on Christmas, or do you wait for spring time rather than risk what little is left of the Continental Army?
Hindsight is great, isn't it? You probably knew what to do. How about this?
President (Plug in Name of Your Choice) in February 2005. The CIA and South Korean and Japanese intelligence agree that radio traffic and satellite photos of North Korea, where no one has human spy assets, is facing a famine and that it has massed troops to invade South Korea in a few days, after smuggling a nuclear bomb into a major Japanese city to blackmail Japan and the US into giving them a free hand. What do you do?

July 20, 2004

It's a jungle out there

Below are the results of a painstaking 15-minute survey of the condition of my lawn. I knew things were bad, but I never knew they were this bad. Something will obviously have to be done. Mouse-over the photos for more information about each particular problem. Note that I know absolutely nothing about lawns (as if the photos don't already make that perfectly clear) so the names of some of the plants are not accurate...

(To speed loading times for the home page, the photos have been moved to the archive. But take a look! Pictures of my lawn! Wow! Rarely seen before!)

This appears to be regular grass but it isn't.  The leaves are wider and many sprout from a common root.This is a pretty typical look at my lawn.  You've got some token 'grass', some moss, some bare patches, and some kind of weed, in this case that funny flat-leafed stuff.
I got ants.  Lots and lots of ants...I've never been sure what crab grass is, but someone once told me that it looks like this.
More ants, more weeds, more bare spots and even a little bit of grass.  Is this interesting to anyone?  What would move me to take photos of my lawn and put them on the internet?  Am I losing my marbles?  Note that I didn't say 'loosing my marbles', as that would have indicated a crack-up for sure, but still I'm concerned.  I really need to get out more.Clover can grow pretty large.  Betcha didn't know that.  That's because no one but me is lazy enough to let it run rampant.
Here's some of that funny flat-leafed weed.  It's a pretty successful lawn weed due to the heavy leaves that push the flimsier weeds and grass out of the way to hog all the sunlight for itself.  Sort of like Microsoft.A small bright spot of fragile beauty in a field of corruption.  It probably symbolizes something, but I can't imagine what...
Many years ago when I was pulling down the tall dollars to surf the net in a air-conditioned, Herman Miller furnished office, I paid someone to plow my driveway.  As an added bonus, he would plow my lawn and rip up my sod.  Maybe it's about time I did something to repair it.Oh look!  How pastoral!
These stones are all that remains of a sacrificial altar used by the indigineous Americans in elaborate rituals to make their warriors invincible in battle.  Either that or it's part of some unfinished project by the previous inhabitants of this house.  Either way, I've applied to make my yard a UNESCO world heritage site.We had a yard contractor do some work for us last year and he did a real professional job.  But when he replaced some of the sod he damaged, he used grass of a different colour from what was there before, resulting in this line.  He also used grass.
Look!  There's actually a spot on my lawn that has a nice bit of grass.  No weeds, no dead spots!  The problem is that the rest of the yard needs such infrequent mowing, this nice spot (and it is unique) gets overgrown quickly.This is a strange purple plant that is slowly taking over the whole yard.  All you still reading this?  Don't you have anything better to do?  We've established that I don't, but you -- you have your whole life in front of you!  Don't spend it reading reading these pointless, self-indulgent works of nonsense.  When you're 82, thinking back on your life, do you want to have this as a memory?
More of that purple plant, with some sumac that I'm desperately trying to get rid of poking through.This is where my septic tank is buried.  Every couple of years I have to dig it open so the guy with the worst job in the world can stick a hose in and suck it out.  This year the guy complained that the cover was too deep and that I would have to help him get it open.  We ran a chain through the handle and each yanked on one end.  *Ploonk!*  An flukey splash made it out of the hole and drew a line of sludge all the way up my body.  Yes, right up to my face.
Since this spring, strange brightly-coloured objects like this have been found all over the lawn.These are wild strawberry plants.  Why they have such strange discolouration, I don't know.  Toxic waste, I guess.
We have a very nice pine tree towering above the yard.  It doesn't help the lawn.Looks like grass right?  It's not, it's this strange weed that has taken over a large section of lawn.  It's very fragile and grows like a bush.
Mama left a tarp full of soil over a spot of lawn for a very long time and killed everything under it.  We planted grass seed mixed with some clover on fresh soil and -- voila!  Looks pretty good, eh?  Doing the rest of the 1/4 acre of lawn could take a while.Still here?  God, you're pathetic.  You're worse than me.  I mean, I have an excuse.  I'm not well.  I've been deprived of contact with civilized society for a long time now.  I'm expected to be all obsessive and introverted.  But you, you're out there in the big wide world, doing things and going places.  Or at least you would be if you weren't reading stoopid blog posts about different kinds of weeds.  Really, it may be a cliché, but, 'Get a life.'

July 17, 2004

I, Robot

I try to avoid reading reviews before I see a movie. If they say it's great, I nitpick while I watch because my tastes are a little different from most people; and if they say it sucks, I also nitpick when I watch because I know they're probably right. I like having no preconceptions before I see a movie. I can enjoy it or shake my head at its stupidity and not have to compare what I'm seeing to what I expect.

But I caught a couple of reviews of I, Robot before I went today. They were generally negative, so me and my movie-fanatic buddy weren't expecting too much. The effects would be cool though, and I always like checking out how filmmakers imagine the future. Bring it on!

(No real spoilers follow, but read on at your own risk.)


So how was it? Ehhh... not too bad. It started out great, I was enjoying the plot and found things generally held together and made sense. Not a lot of sense, but enough to keep you interested. I was enjoying myself. Then someone in Hollywood pushed the STUPID button and a bunch of clichés came spilling out of the screen. A totally gratuitous, unconnected-to-the-plot (though kinda cool) action scene, the 'hand in your badge!' scene, the completely unnecessary plot twist, and the revealing your tortured and sensitive soul to the hot chick scene (complete with the absolute worst syrupy violins you've ever heard). They came one after each other very quickly, and I just sighed and sank into my seat.

But things improved after that. Maybe it was because my expectations were lowered, but I enjoyed the last bit of the movie. There were some great (though pretty far-fetched) action sequences and some genuinely interesting plot developments. I actually found the crash course in Utilitarianism I took last night was useful for helping me enjoy the philosophical hinge to the movie, which I won't get into.

So, I'd say it's worth seeing. The view of the future is quite interesting, the action is great, the hot babe is the type of hot babe I go for, and deep down under the clichés is an interesting plot. And if you have two toddlers at home, you'll probably even enjoy it more.

July 16, 2004

John Stuart Mill of his own free will...

I generally avoid those internet quizzes that claim to analyse you through a few questions. (What Simpsons' character are you!?! What flavour ice cream are you!?!) But this philosophers quiz I found over at Heart of Canada is pretty intriguing. It asks a number of interesting moral questions and matches you to the philosopher your worldview most resembles. It turns out me and John Stuart Mill would have little to argue about because we matched 100%. Mill claims:

  • The Utilitarian principle is correct when the quality of pleasures is accounted for.
  • Liberty is the most important pleasure.
Okay, but what's the Utilitarian principle? Well, it
holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain and the privation of pleasure.
Hmm, that sounds about right. I believe that being a moral person involves working toward a better world -- a world in which more people enjoy comfort, happiness, and freedom. These things may not be able to be quantitatively measured, but using that guideline helps make difficult choices. Of course one's individual comfort, happiness, and freedom are most easily changed and so should be focused on, but not at any cost. Sometimes the needs and priorities of others must come first. The difficulty lies in determining where that boundary is. One of the questions in the quiz I found most interesting was whether I felt ends, means, or intent were most important in making a moral decision. I've never really thought about it before, but I chose means, which surprised me.

So take the test and see which kind of philosopher you are. And hey -- the comments to my posts have been silent for so long I'm starting to wonder if there's anyone out there. Drop a note and tell me what strange moral code you follow. Come on, you lurkers! If I get enough responses I'll ... I'll draw one name at random and send them a really great prize. Yeah! Or maybe just a mediocre prize. But think about the bragging rights...

Moving Target back up

My old site on Blogspot has been decaying for a while now and I was starting to get a little worried. The server I had the pictures on had changed its protocol resulting in a formating mess and loss of content. I wanted to keep it these posts and pictures for the future, but I didn't want to go back into Blogger and fix everything.

Luckily I didn't have to. With HTTRACK, I was able to download all the pages into one directory with relational links. Then I just had to find the missing pictures and do a bit of editing to make it all come together. The pages are now hosted on my own web domain, so if Blogger disappears tomorrow, I won't have lost anything. HTTRACK is a good tool to take a look at if you just want to backup your web content on your own computer too.

So all the archived Moving Target pages on the left have now been refreshed, if anyone wants to take a look at them. Pictures after Max and Talia's birth, my trips to Iqaluit and Argentina, and numerous inane ravings are all neatly arranged for posterity. Go have a look.

July 15, 2004

Life with toddlers

So what's it like? Well, listen for yourself. Read it out loud for the full effect:

I think this is what Kraftwerk used..."Trois - un - deux - trois ... trois - trois -tr-tr-tr-t - trois - un - deux - trois - trois - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - un - deux - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - deux - deux - deux - deux - deux - un - deux ... deux - un - deux ... un - deux - deux - deux - deux - deux - deux - deux - deux - deux - deux - deux - deux - deux - deux - deux - deux - d-d-d - deux - deux - deux - un - deux ... arf-arf - arf-arf ... arf-arf-arf-arf-arf-arf-arf - ar-ar-ar-ar-a-a-a - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - trois - trois -tr-tr-tr-t - trois - un - deux - trois - trois - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - un -deux - trois - quatre ... meow-meow - meow-meow - meow-meow - me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me - meow-meow ... trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - un - deux - trois ... arf-arf - arf-arf - arf-arf - arf-arfeine zwei drei vier... - arf-arf - arf-arf - arf-arf - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - un - deux - un - deux - un - trois - tr-tr-tr-tr-t - trois - un - deux - trois - arf-arf - arf-arf - arf-arf - arf-arf - arf-arf - arf-arf - arf-arf - arf-arf - arf-arf - arf-arf-arf-arf-arf-arf-arf-arf-arf-arf-arf-arf-arf-arf-arf-arf-arf-arf-arf-arf-arf - ar-ar-ar-ar - arf-arf - arf-arf ... arf-arf - arf-arf ... arf-arf - arf-arf ....... quatre - un - quatre - quatre - qua-qua-qua-qua-qua-qua-qua-qua-quatre ..... ar-meow-meow ... meow-meow - meow-meow - meow-meow - meow-meow - meow-meow - meow-meow - meow-meow - meow-meow - me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-meow-meow ....... un ... un-un-un-un-un-un-un-un-un-un-un ... trois - un - deux - trois ... is - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - trois - un - deux - trois ... quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - quatre - un -deux - trois - quatre ..... "

Now read it again.

Jihad TV set for Canada

The CRTC has been busy in the last couple of days. I just heard on the radio that the CRTC has approved Al-Jazeera for Canadian consumption. This after withdrawing the broadcasting licence of a radio station that joked about the size of woman's breasts and their relation to her intelligence. They've been talking about it for a little while, but I guess Al-Jazeera's promise to be nice, made yesterday, might have been just what was needed to push some vacillating bureaucrat to say, "okay". (Am I just being cynical when I wonder whether this new 'code of ethics' of Al-Jazeera's was whipped up just to satisfy Canada?)

Our country -- which is right next to the United States, is its largest trading partner, and is supposedly its friend -- now is in the surreal situation of preventing its citizens from seeing America's top rated News channel (Fox), while providing a podium for the propagandists who want to destroy it.

Stuff and things

Some interesting things I've been reading:

  • Charles Krauthammer writes a good piece in Time musing on why the French are being such unreasonable bastards (even for them). It's not pretty.
  • Brian Micklethwait at Samizdata writes about the possibility that oil is not a biological residue but a geological substance -- and that there's lots more of it. I'd heard a similar theory years and years ago and it made a lot of sense to me. The best thing about the theory? It really annoys the environmentalists.
  • James Lileks has discovered a great piece of anti-communist agitprop from the 60's. The author learned about the glories of Soviet revolution firsthand, so he knows what he's talking about.
  • Victor Davis Hanson is seriously grumpy. A historian that has understands the big trends in our civilization, he is not impressed with the self-inflicted blindness that infects our culture. He's usually pretty cool and patient in his writing, but here he just gets angry.
  • Anti-Americanism is the new religion. Check out what's been happening at the World AIDS conference.
Okay. Maybe I'll find the time and energy to write something of my own soon.

July 12, 2004

An analysis of media bias

Orson Scott Card writes a detailed analysis of media bias in the Wall Street Journal. It's quite revealing of the low-level propaganda we're all subjected to day after day.

No such thing as white collar criminals

At least according to Terrance Corcoran, anyway. In Saturday's Post, he comes out swinging (as expected) to defend Ken Lay against what he calls 'George W. Bush's war on business'. Except his swings are pretty weak, because he doesn't have any real arguments to make in Lay's defence. (The WSJ had a few, if anyone's interested.) He instead rails about past investigations and trots out his standard grievance list about government photo-ops, destruction of shareholder wealth, and the trivial nature of the charges that manage to stick.

Corcoran's main objection seems to be that these investigations and charges provide fodder for the anti-capitalist forces that want to strangle businesses in red tape. There may be something to that, but letting wrongdoers off the hook is surely not the best way to combat them. Business leaders are put in a position of trust, expected to look after other peoples assets and report accurately on how those assets are performing. If they fall to the human temptation of using those assets for their own gain, or use deception to hide mistakes they've made, they should be punished as a message to others on the importance of proper business ethics.

If he is as big a supporter of capitalism and markets as he seems to be, he should welcome the public corrections of wrongdoing and not ridicule them. Defending to the last the men of privilege who have broken the trust given them gives more leverage to the socialists he fears than creating false martyrs out of them.

July 09, 2004

The latest craze

All the toys we have have lost their appeal to our children. They played with them each for a few days and wore them out. Mama says our toy budget for the year is almost depleted, which would mean our Max and Talia might be deprived of adequate stimulation and be at a disadvantage in getting into their college of choice. Luckily we have cats.

The latest game of our children is Lie on the cat, and it's quite challenging. Cats don't like being laid on, so they've learned to be stealthy in approaching the cat in order to lie on it. They approach slowly, pet the cat nicely, the way they've been taught ... then fall on top of it. The other two cats have learned to avoid this indignity by now, but Squeak still falls for it...


July 08, 2004

How to make (and not make) a correction

Mistakes happen. That's why they put the backspace key on computers. The NY Post shows a lot of class and respect for its readers with its correction of the blooper it made the day before. It made me smile:

Before...After...

Contrast this with the Los Angeles Times, which wrote last Sunday that:

L. Paul Bremer III, the civilian administrator for Iraq, left without even giving a final speech to the country — almost as if he were afraid to look in the eye the people he had ruled for more than a year.
Of course he did give a speech, which at least some Iraqi's found very moving:
Suddenly Mr. Bremer appeared on TV reading his last speech before he left Iraq. I approached the TV to listen carefully to the speech, as I expected it to be difficult in the midst of all that noise. To my surprise everyone stopped what they were doing and started watching as attentively as I was.

The speech was impressive and you could hear the sound of a needle if one had dropped it at that time. The most sensational moment was the end of the speech when Mr. Bremer used a famous Arab emotional poem. The poem was for a famous Arab poet who said it while leaving Baghdad. Al-Jazeera had put an interpreter who tried to translate even the Arabic poem which Mr. Bremer was telling in a fair Arabic! “Let this damned interpreter shut up. We want to hear what the man is saying” One of my colloquies shouted. The scene was very touching that the guy sitting next to me (who used to sympathize with Muqtada) said “He’s going to make me cry!”

Then he finished his speech by saying in Arabic,”A’ash Al-Iraq, A’ash Al-Iraq, A’ash Al-Iraq”! (Long live Iraq, Long live Iraq, long live Iraq).

I was deeply moved by this great man’s words but I couldn’t prevent myself from watching the effect of his words on my friends who some of them were anti-Americans and some were skeptic, although some of them have always shared my optimism. I found that they were touched even more deeply than I was. I turned to one friend who was a committed She’at and who distrusted America all the way. He looked as if he was bewitched, and I asked him, “So, what do you think of this man? Do you still consider him an invader?” My friend smiled, still touched and said, “Absolutely not! He brought tears to my eyes. God bless him.”

So a mistake was made, and today the Times finally corrected themselves:
Iraqi handover — A news analysis about the new Iraqi government in Sunday's Section A stated that outgoing administrator L. Paul Bremer III did not give a farewell speech to the country. His spokesman has since said that Bremer taped an address that was given to Iraqi broadcast media. The spokesman said the address was not publicized to the Western news media.
So, a legalistic correction, late, and with the lame excuse, "no one told us". (What? Is transcribe press releases all you do?) No apologies for the insulting tone of the original piece, and no information given as to what the speech was about. No class at all, those guys.

They indicted Lay, finally

Ken Lay surrendered to the FBI today to face charges for his role in the collapse of Enron. The extremely long wait for an indictment is probably due to the care in which the case has been built against him. They want to get this guy, and I'm sure they have the evidence they need.

If I had the time, I'd probably really enjoy reading a good book on what happened at that company. For the last couple of years they were hiding liabilities in a complex financial shell game using Special-Purpose Entities. If these liabilities were reported correctly, Enron would have been posting losses, and Lay and his partners in crime would not rich and celebrated as business geniuses.

Enron was involved in bringing together the buyers and sellers of various commodities. They bought and sold complex futures contracts and supposedly made money off the spread. In reality the company was a problem gambler, making foolish deals to stay 'in the game' and resorting to more and desperate measures to hide its mounting losses. The type of man that would be able to know about all this corruption and yet continue to encourage others to hand them more money deserves a harsh sentence.

This is a big story. His trial might rival Saddam's or OJ's for the amount of coverage it gets. Much of this excitement in the media will have to do with imaginings on how this reflects on President Bush. After all, they were friends, right? Lay donated money to Bush's campaign, right? Unfortunately for them, they'll find no evidence of Presidential favours given to Enron. When the company was going down, Bush didn't lift a finger to help them. Even when the company was on the top of the world, Bush pulled the plug on the Kyoto Protocol, dashing Enron's hopes of managing the global carbon market.

I think Lay's going to plea not guilty. This will be an interesting trial.

UPDATE: Whaddya know, the Democrats are already starting to fling mud at Bush over this: Bush Ties to Enron, Big Business Back in Spotlight.

July 06, 2004

The only F911 review you need to read

Many of the blogs I frequent have linked to fiskings of Monsieur Moore's latest silly movie. There's these fifty-nine deceits pulled together by Dave Kopel, there's this piece from Newsweek, and a comprehensive takedown from Spinsanity. Moore has threatened to sue anyone that calls him a liar but so far there's been no word of him following through. You think the threat was maybe just another media stunt?

Anyway. I still haven't heard what the movie's like. I have no intention of seeing it, but I am a little bit interested in what I'm missing. Luckily, Liberal Larry braved the evil forces of Bush and Ashcroft to actually go to a theatre and see it, and sends this report:

For all it's hype, the movie starts out somewhat slow and confusing. Michael Moore is being chased across what is either an ice planet or Flint, Michigan in wintertime, by Ashcroft's brutal dissent-crushing thugs. I might add that Moore is looking fantastic. Gone are his trademark undulating rolls of fat, to be replaced by a hard, svelte physique that makes the Governator look like a 98-pound weakling. Moore's obviously been working out, and he kicks major neocon ass through the whole movie. There's something weird going on with his eyes, though. I've never been one for the vanity of colored contacts, let alone the glow-in-the-dark style Mike is sporting. Yet symbolically, they fit him to a "T". After all, he's a man with vision, who can see through the cold darkness of Bushie lies and right into the heart of pure Truth.

After making short order of the goons and stealing their spaceship, Moore takes his camera to Iraq, where Bush's junta already has a hegemonic stranglehold on the innocent, befuddled populace. Seeking to impose a fascist theocracy upon all human life, Bush moves from nation-state to nation-state, ordering all to either convert or die. "You're either with us, or against us!" Bush proclaims as he rips the very soul out of one plucky ACLU lawyer who dares question him.

Bush's show of cowboy machismo doesn't phase Michael Moore, who flexes his muscles and growls "I wanna piece of YOU!" to one of Dubya's subordinates. The audience is then treated to a very thrilling knife fight that ends with a neocon lying dead at Moore's feet.

If you plan to see the movie, be careful when reading the rest of the review. There's a major spoiler at the end.

July 05, 2004

What else is there to talk about?

I sure as hell don't want to talk about the election. I am in denial? Am I refusing to face reality? Am I withdrawing from the world? Yes. So let's talk about the kids.

It's hard to believe it was only a month or so ago that Max started walking. The house looks very different when you have two toddlers compared to having two babies. Danger lurks everywhere -- and if by chance I've missed one of these sources of danger, I can count on Max to find it for me.

They've become very agile over the last two months. They quickly scurry around the house and yard, picking up any new thing and exploring it. They carry large, cumbersome objects around -- not caring if they prevent them from seeing where they're going. They climb onto things and then look to see how they might climb even higher. They chase each other, and play strange games that I don't understand but that have them giggling away. Max has learned (from watching Teletubbies) how to 'walk sideways'. He shuffles his feet to the side and wears an enormous grin as he does it. Talia tries to do it too, but only manages to rest her head on her shoulder and walk in a circle.

Talia is learning words quickly. She seems to understand everything we say and repeats the key words (though not very clearly). She's even started making sentences, and her first one was quite funny. They were in the bath and Max was gripping his penis pretty tightly, as boys his age will do. Attention was drawn to this portion of Max's anatomy, and we told them that was his 'penis'. "Peens?", said Talia. That's right, little girl. Now, Talia will say her name and point when she wants something. So she pointed at Max's penis, looked at us, and said, "Ta-ya peens!" No, I'm sorry little girl, you can't have one. "TA-YA PEENS!" I think she's got over the disappointment by now.

I'm sure Max knows as many words as Talia does, but he doesn't talk as much. But he listens. This morning Mama was changing Talia and Max was watching. Talia had her toothbrush in her hand to distract her while Mama worked. Max wanted to see it to, but Mama told him to wait until he was being changed, then he could have his toothbrush. Time passed. I changed him ten minutes later, and I usually give him a toy car to look at and keep him busy. But he wanted nothing of it, he reached out across the sink and said, "too ... too."

It's funny, Max has still never said his name even once. Before, I thought it was because he considered himself 'Da-da', which he said a lot (and Talia said too). But he hasn't said that in a while, and Talia has started calling him 'Tax'. He manages to express himself though, even though he only says about ten different words.

Every parent of a child this age has a 'cute little trick' they like to have their kid do to impress visitors. Mine is to ask Talia if she loves Max. She always walks over to him, wraps her arms around him, and rests her head on his shoulder. It's possibly the cutest thing anyone has ever seen. Until Max pushes her away and she falls over and lands on her bum...

They've started to play a little more deeply than they did before they were walking. They both make brrm-brrm noises when they push toy cars, even though we never taught them that. Talia has become a cuddle girl, hugging stuffed animals and the little dolly we got her. Max is more thing oriented, starting to play with the gizmo toys and find out their secrets. Talia sorts things and Max messes them up. The scientific method is applied to objects by both of them. They push things under water, drop them, roll them, stack them, then change some variable and do it again. They're learning fast. It's a real treat to just watch them go at it.

It's customary in these posts to finish with a picture, so here it is. IKEA has the solution to all your storage problems. IKEA. Proud sponsor of Max and Talia's childhood.

They're generally happier than they look in this picture...

July 02, 2004

Iraq in Planet Reuters

There is an alternate earth, similar to ours in some ways but very different in others. This is the planet Reuters sends their reporters to. How else to explain how their man-in-the-street interviews with ordinary Iraqis on the topic of Saddam failed to turn up even one glad to see him behind bars? Even the BBC was forced to concede that maybe a few Iraqis are happy to see their former tyrant facing justice.

July 01, 2004

Happy Dominion Day

How can I explain why I don't like Canada day without sounding like a mean-spirited grump? I don't think I can. I guess I'm a mean-spirited grump. But I'll try.

I was just watching CBC kids this morning ("Hi CBC kids! What a great day, isn't it CBC kids? We're your annoying peppy hosts that you'll have to suffer through between programs, because commercials are bad but most of the programs we show don't fill their time slot. So how about another really crappy song? Okay, CBC kids?") and they had a special Canada Day song and video. It was as if you took the worst of Can-con schmaltz and distilled it to a lethal concentration. Soaring, painfully earnest lyrics, sung by a precisely-constructed, multi-cultural choir, mixed with shots of people in canoes, standing next to totem poles, and assorted other 'Canadiana'. About a minute of it was all I could take, but it just kept going. I was forced to change channels while we waited for Zooboomafoo to start to preserve my sanity.

Canada day for me is like that video. It tries too hard. It's insecure. It's embarrassing. All that government-sponsered flag-waving is flat-out Orwellian. It gives me the creeps.

Canada is a great country and I don't think there's anywhere I'd rather live. My wife and I frequently reflect on how lucky we are to be here. But we use today to have a barbecue, have some drinks with friends, relax. But taking part in the great nationalist religious service sponsored by the feds in every town -- it just gives me the willys.

But having said that, here's my kids waving our government-issue flags. Aren't they cute?

Update: Mark Steyn has a good little rant up on this subject.