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Thursday, September 30, 2004

Oh stop

No matter what else he does, a Commander In Chief cannot send mexed missages.

Time warp

Just in cased you missed it (or will miss it?), the AP has posted a summary/recap of tonight's upcoming Bush/Kerry un-debate, that has apparently already happened.

Impressive.

Man pillow

Salon reports on man-shaped pillows in Japan. They're shaped like a torso with an arm sticking out. The woman they interviewed gave it pillow a big thumbs-up:

    'I think this is great because this does not betray me.'

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

We're What ?

Via Alas, A Blog:

    "While we here in the US struggle for the right of all people to marry, thousands of South African women (and a few men) are fighting for their right not to be married. At least, not without their knowledge.

    Over the last 3 years, at least 3,387 women (and a few men) have discovered that they are married. Married without their knowledge or consent; married to men (or, in the case of the men, to women) they have never even met. In the last month alone, nearly 800 more cases have been discovered."


Hmm.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Interview With The Blogger

alicublog:
    "'Before blogs,' he said, 'tendentious cranks such as myself had no outlets for our ill-informed opinions, besides Letters to the Editor and soapbox rants at parties that were winding down. Also we could not count on our reputations as fuckwads to extend much past the physical borders of our respective communities.' He broke the seal on a fresh pint of Jim Beam and took a long swig. 'But now,' he continued, 'we can all write Letters to the Editor round the clock, and see them published immediately, unedited and misspelled. And at three in the morning, we can get drunk by ourselves, and vomit forth our prejudices without having to yell 'hey, where ya goin'?' at people who suddenly decided they have to get home before the sitter gets nervous. And our names are curses on the lips of people who never even met us. ' He raised his bottle grandly. 'To technology!' he roared. 'All hail the mighty microchip and modem! All hail the --' He looked at me, surprised. 'Hey,' he said, 'who're you?'"

Monday, September 27, 2004

Likeabilities

In the style of McSweeneys, Ted at Crooked Timber makes a list of things he recommends. Sounds like fun. So, reader(s), here's a short list of things I like.


  • Spoon. "Anything you want" just might be the best 2:16 ever.

  • The iPod. It sure beats carrying a new stack of CDs to work every day. Now make one with a battery that lasts at least 12 hours!

  • McIntosh apples. All other apples are insipid, compared to a good Mac. Unfortunately, Macs are extremely delicate and easily bruised. They're also somewhat rare in NC and are susceptible to all the typical apple maladies: grainyness, sourness, thick rubbery skin, etc.. But when they're available and perfect, nothing compares. No contest.

  • Marzetti's Caramel Apple Dip. Now available in handy single-serving sizes, so you can throw one in your work bag with a Granny Smith apple (which are more consistent than Macs, but are too sour to eat without caramel) and have yourself a sweet treat - as soon as you find a knife to cut up the apple.

  • CAMP maple syrup. It tastes like a maple tree.

  • Something Awful and their Photoshop Phriday's, but especially their recent Christmas in Middle Earth. Also good right now, A Week in the Life of The Sims 2. Rude, crude and adolescent, and side-splittingly funny.

  • Fafblog. The world's only source for Fafblog.

  • Antiques Roadshow. No matter how many times the Tiffany lamp ends up being worth $10,000, I'm still surprised.

  • Seagrove, NC. A small town in central NC, that's home to dozens and dozens of small potters (over 80 of them). We drove out there for the fun of it last weekend, happened to show up on a day when 45 local potters were having a festival at the elementary school - beats driving around to all their different studios. We left with a trunkfull of stuff. If we had more places to put them in our house, we'd have bought twice as much.

  • Sept 28th. birfday.

Need some cash?

The World's Shortest Blog is offering a large, and constantly growing, reward for the first person to complete one rather simple task.

Taking a break


Nikon D100, 70-250mm

Friday, September 24, 2004

Get thee to a nunnery

Standing in the bathroom at work, minding my business, I'm listening to the muzak, and Peggy Lee's "Fever" is playing. Apparently, I'd never really listened to the lyrics of this thing because when she gets to this verse, I break out laughing and narrowly avoid causing a scene (saved by my exceptional handling, ahem, of the situation) at the sheer silliness:

    Romeo loved Juliet
    Juliet she felt the same
    When he put his arms around her
    He said, "Julie baby you're my flame"
    Thou givest fever
    When we kisseth
    Fever with thy flaming youth
    Fever - I'm on fire
    Fever, yea I burn forsoothe


It was the "Thou givest fever" line that got me. She sings it with the same rhythm and sultry delivery that she uses when she sings the familiar "You give me fe-ver" line: "Thou giv-est fe-ver". Yeah, verily. Suddenly, instead of a revved up sex kitten purring about how hot she's running, she's a 15hth century strumpet and I'm wondering if the fever she's going on about isn't the Black Death; "Prithee madam, hast thou pustules?"

She couldn't have knocked me out of that song any quicker if she'd done the verse in Cantonese.

I hope the other guy in there knew what I was laughing at.

VH1C

Oh, how I love VH1 Classic. Outside of an iPod shuffle, I don't know where else I could hear the following sequence of songs:

Morrissey : Sing Your Life
My Bloody Valentine : Soon
Spencer Davis Group : I'm a Man
REO Speedwagon : Roll With the Changes
Fleetwood Mac : Sara

Now, it's not that I actually want to hear REO Speedwagon (ever again), but the fact that a sequence like that can even happen makes me smile. And yes, they changed from one 'show' to another in the middle of that, but still: juxtaposition is magic.

The MBV video was a revelation as I didn't know they had done any - MTV would've only showed this on their stupid alternative ghetto show that I could never stay up for (midnight Sunday/Monday? stupid). It wasn't much of a video, just hazy overlayed shots of the band members playing, with the disembodied head of Kevin Shields singing in the bottom layers - hey, just like the song! But, the sound had been compressed for TV and came out even denser and punchier than the original. It's a shame I only had my little 4" TV speaker to hear it through. In honor, I will listen to Loveless on my iPod now, even though it's a very sleepy Friday AM.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

This old house


Nikon D100, 50mm, grayscaled in PhotoShop


This was taken somewhere around the town of Micro, NC (pop 474). If you're ever driving around the backroads of NC, you'll see that it's very common for a family to have an old abandoned house in the front of their property and a new house in the back. Even if the land is used for crops, the old houses stay.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Peach butt


Nikon D100, 105m macro

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

DBA

Go read all about the etymology of the words Dickhead, Butthead, and Asshole.

Vermin

If you like fish, raw or cooked, don't read this Straight Dope column.

Sigh.

bur-marigolds 3


Nikon D100, 50mm

Monday, September 20, 2004

bur-marigolds 2


Nikon D100, 50mm

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Sweet equillibrium

We got a break from hurricane remnants today. For the first time in at least a week, the sun came out and the clouds disappeared. There were no tornado warnings or severe weather alerts, just pure blue sky and sun, and in the time since we last saw the sun here in North Carolina, Fall came.

So, instead of 85 and humid, it's 72 and dry. In fact, it's room temperature outside. So, I can turn off the A/C, open all the windows and enjoy the outside inside. (Is there a place that's always 75 and sunny? Do they need programmers?)

But the best part was that I got to put the top down on my beloved convertible for the first time in what feels like forever - and so did everyone else. I saw scads of Sebrings, multiple Miatas, many MR-2s, muchos Mustangs, a slew of Solaras, bunches of Beemers, a couple of Corvettes, a lone Lexus, and best of all, I saw a black 1957 Porsche Speedster 1500 convertible at the grocery store. It was so small and short I couldn't believe it was even street legal. The widshield couldn't have been more than 12 inches tall. Sweet.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

bur-marigolds


Nikon D100, 50mm


These are "bur-marigolds". They're planted along roadsides by the NC-DOT, and line both sides of the road on the 20 miles of my favorite Sunday drive: the mighty-pleasant ribbon of old-US 1 from Apex to Moncure. This batch was about twenty yards from a swollen and stinking deer carcass. I suffer so you can see flowers.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Hug your Ebola

    Now available: The Common Cold, The Flu, Sore Throat, Stomach Ache, Cough, Ear Ache, Bad Breath, Kissing Disease, Athlete's Foot, Ulcer, Martian Life, Beer & Bread, Black Death, Ebola, Flesh Eating, Sleeping Sickness, Dust Mite, Bed Bug, and Bookworm


Get your own happy fuzzy Black Death at GIANTmicrobes.com!

Pilot


Nikon D100, 105mm macro

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Ouch!

    "At Andover, George W. Bush writes a morose essay about his sister's death. Searching for a synonym for 'tears,' he consults a thesaurus and writes, 'And the lacerates ran down my cheeks.' A teacher labels the paper 'disgraceful.'"


Via Slate's Burning Bushes - A reader's guide to Kitty Kelley's The Family.
Apex

Nikon D100, 50mm

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Anniversary Song

Have you ever seen a sight as beautiful
as that of the rain-soaked purple
of the white birch in spring?

Have you ever felt more fresh or wonderful
than on a warm fall night
under a Mackerel sky,
the smell of grapes on the wind?

Well I have known all these things
and the joys that they can bring
And I'll share them all for a cup of coffee
and to wear your ring

Have you ever had the pleasure of watching
a quiet winter's snow slowly gathering
like simple moments adding up?

Have you ever satisfied a gut feeling
to follow a dry dirt road that's beckoning you
to the heart of a shimmering summer's day?

Well I have known all these things
and the joys that they can bring
And I'll share them all for a cup of coffee
and to wear your ring

And I don't know how I survived those days
before I held your hand
Well I never thought that I would be the one
to admit that the moon and the sun
shine so much more brighter when
seen through two pairs of eyes than
when seen through just one

Have you ever seen a sight as beautiful
as a face in a crowd of people
that lights up just for you?

Have you ever felt more fresh or wonderful
as when you wake
by the side of that boy or girl
who has pledged their love to you?

Well I have known all these things
and the joys that they can bring
And now every morning there's a cup of coffee
and I wear your ring

-- Anniversary Song
-- Cowboy Junkies

-- My and Mrs Cleek's wedding anniversary, Sept 14th

Monday, September 13, 2004

iPod woes

After a mere seven months, the battery in my iPod is starting to fade. When it was new, it would hold enough charge to run for nine hours or so. Now, it barely makes seven hours: less than a whole work day. That sucks.

So, my choice is to buy an extra dock or a new battery. $40 either way. That also sucks.

Sunday, September 12, 2004


Nikon D100, 50mm

Friday, September 10, 2004

New Toons

Oh boy, it's time to do another list of new music.

Thanks to iTunes, I picked up the following:

  • No Knife : Riot For Romance.
    Found one song by these guys on someone's playlist on the iTunes music store, liked it, bought the album. These guys have a nice mix of sounds: along with a energetic and angular indie-pop style that's all their own, they work in some Spoon-esque minor-key messy minimalist pop, a little emo, and scattered all throughout are Discipline-era King Crimson-styled guitar bits. The album's fun to listen to and I imagine they'd be fun live.

  • Kings Of Convenience : Riot On An Empty Street.
    This is a nice set of laid-back and breezy pop songs. Most of them have minimal instrumentation: nearly-whispered voices and tasteful guitars, maybe some low-key drumming, occasionally keyboards or a horn. Some songs almost sound like classic Simon and Garfunkel - nice harmonies with guitar backup. A couple of songs approach Belle & Sebastian's twee Euro-pop, but they don't get into the lilting effeminate preening the way B&S sometimes does. Very pleasant stuff. Fits nicely between Iron And Wine's Our Endless Numbered Days and Joni Mitchell's Court And Spark...

  • Joni Mitchell : Court And Spark
    This is bigger and richer than her amazing Blue, and not as immediately catchy - except for that damned "Help Me", which has been stuck in my head for a week (thankfully, Elliot Smith's "Waltz #2" just popped up on the iPod, which disproves my earlier assertion that it never plays Elliot Smith, but also promises to push "Help Me" out of my head, since "Waltz #2" is one of the catchiest songs I've ever heard). Anyway... The songs on Court and Spark are more complex and jazz-flavored and the early 70's production and arrangements date the songs much stronger than the more folky, sparse and intimate Blue of just 2 years prior. So, it's a bit harder to get into. Her lyrics and voice are really the most interesting parts of her songs to me, but there's so much other stuff going on she kinda gets lost in all the action. It's something that may take a little effort to fully appreciate.

  • The Cure : The Cure
    Well, I broke down and went back to The Cure. I had given up on them when Wish came out (because of the accursed "Friday I'm in Love" and "Doing The Unstuck" (let's get happy!)), after years of adoration. But I read that they'd gone back to their old ways on this new record. Did they? Yeah, sortof. There aren't any attempts at commercial hits like the aforementioned abominations, but they didn't make it all the way back to their glory days of angst and gloom either - except lyrically, where Robert Smith reuses lines, phrases and constructions from older songs. There are some B+ songs here but I wouldn't put it up there with anything from their Faith through Kiss Me records.

  • Merge Records : Old Enough To Know Better
    This is a 15 year, 3-CD, Best-of-Merge collection. It features all the big Merge bands: Superchunk and Portastatic, Neutral Milk Hotel, Polvo, Spoon (with a surprising cover of Yo La Tengo's "Decora"), etc., and of course lots of their lesser-known bands. And, amazingly, the whole thing cost the same as a single CD. It's a good way to sample a lot of good bands, and support a great little label at the same time. I bought this one in real, physical CD form, as should you.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Best opening lines for an album

Opiniatrety has a post looking for the best opening lines from an album. There are some great ones already submitted there (while I like what I submitted, I think the truly great were already posted). I was going to copy the good ones here, but I found I had picked like ten or twelve. So, go look for yerselfs!
Leadership

I've been hearing various political types trying to advocate a new definition for the word "leadership". Their new definition goes something like this:

Real Leadership is sitting back and letting your subordinates execute the Existing Plan.

Ensuring that your subordinates are holding up under the stress of a catastrophic situation, that they are playing nice with each other and that they're actually following the Existing Plan is a plain waste of time. Something as simple as getting out of your chair to make sure that the Existing Plan is applicable to a completely unexpected and novel situation would be a demonstration of obsessive micromanagement and could even be seen as a very un-leaderly display of panic. A Real Leader reacts to sudden catastrophe by sitting still and silently fidgeting.

A Real Leader is not someone who directs, manages, coordinates or rallies his staff around his vision, but rather he is someone who allows others to make and execute their own decisions as they follow the Existing Plan, and so earns the trust and respect of those beneath him. By doing nothing, he ensures all is done correctly; and we trust that he'll do nothing. His very existence is optional - only the idea of The Real Leader is required. And so the Real Leader becomes a disinterested, silent but comforting totem.

And at the same time, the Existing Plan is infallible and its execution requires no supervision, even in times of great stress. All contingencies have been planned for, and the staff could execute the Existing Plan in its sleep; real-time adjustments are never necessary.

Look around. See the people not taking charge of anything ? Notice how they do not direct your actions, but allow you to execute the Exiting Plan without distraction or guidance? They are Real Leaders.

--

Well, I'm not sure I agree with that. Could you tell?

--

Update: I see the Medium Lobster has a much more specific and hillarious take on the issue.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

The Civyl Wor

This page is full of misinformation; and it's actually kind of funny. But, since it already pops up on the top of Google searches about a certain war, I won't say any more about it - mustn't encourage abuse of Google's ranking system.
AWOL

Did W inhale?
Real life becomes slow and boring

MSNBC asks: What's to blame for the rise in ADHD? On the way to answering that question, they mention something that's both obvious and interesting:

    "Children's programmers use a technique called the 'orienting reflex,' known as OR, to capture and keep a child's attention. OR works in this way: If we see or hear something the brain doesn't recognize as the correct sequence or a typical life event - such as a dancing alphabet or quick zooms and pans, we focus on it until the brain recognizes that it doesn't pose a threat. The problem with watching too many programs that rely on OR is that real life becomes slow and boring by comparison."


atrav├ęs de minha esposa encantadora.

Sony P7 + Photoshop


This is for a contest over at CodeProject. The object is to put their mascot, that green guy, into one of your vacation pictures. So, here's one from our little plane ride, with a giant, but friendly, "Bob".

Monday, September 06, 2004

P.U.

Chuck D, in this month's Mother Jones:

    Voting is about as essential as washing yourself. It's something you're supposed to do. Now, you can't go around bragging, expecting to get props because you voted. That's stupid. You don't see people running around trying to get props because they washed you. "I washed today! I took a shower today!"
    But if you don't vote, you can't go around saying, "Aw man, stuff just stinks!"


Eight weeks left.

Nikon D100, 105mm macro
Welcome to Hell. This way, sir.

I'm not much of a gamer. I did play FarCry earlier this year while the Mrs was away for a few days and I had a brief but torrid affair with Snood a while back; oh, and then there were a few months of after-hours Unreal Tournament with the guys at work a few years back. And many years ago, I really liked Civ III. But, compared the people I work with who subscribe to multiple gamer magazines, buy every game that comes out, and build their own computers with gaming performance as the top priority, I'm not even an amateur. Nevertheless, after many weeks of part-time effort, I've finally finished Doom 3. And here's my review.

First, it's long. The game is basically many hours, many days, weeks even, of walking room to room, killing the demons that appear. And it's frightening. After the first ten minutes, you know that each time you walk into a new room something is going to jump out and try to hit you with a wrench, shoot you with a pistol, burn you with a fireball, chop you to bits, sting you, eat you, or blast you with a rocket; yet even though you know it's coming, it's nearly always a surprise. It's fun to play: the fighting is fun, the weapons are cool, the physics are realistic, etc.. And it's a dark, creepy and disgusting game: corpses and skeletons, body parts and blood are everywhere. Some tunnels are covered in graffiti written in blood, some wind through the throbbing and dripping flesh of some gigantic organism; there are people wrapped in coccoons, twitching; demons skitter away down the hall with corpses for snacking on; some levels literally take place in Hell where souls scream and fly around you, and half-insect / half evil-human-baby creatures attack you and scream in agony when you kill them - disturbing. All the rooms are intricately detailed and there's even a lot of humor in the little things: funny magazines lying around, video games you can play, clever emails on the PDAs of deceased workers, etc.. The designers clearly went out of their way to make it all feel as real as possible - and they succeeded.

There's a grand story that explains why you're running from room to room, and why you're being attacked by demons and why you have to go into Hell itself - something to do with evil scientists, alien artifacts and ancient civilizations, but it's not important; you don't have to know anything about the story in order to finish the game. And that's the weakest part: I can't think of a spot in the game where your movement isn't completely guided - you can't turn down the wrong hallway and end up not finishing the game, because there never is such a thing. If there's a door you can go through, you just go through it - it's the right way. So, you find a door and go through it, kill whatever attacks you, pick up any goodies you can find, and then you go through the next door : ad infinitum. The scenery and the monsters keep changing but the game remains the same. You never have to know what you're doing in terms of the big story, because there's no chance for you to deviate, even a little, from the path the game sets for you - you can't even get lost. And yet, despite such simple dynamics, it's still fun, engrossing and scary. A testament to the room designers' talents, I suppose.

FarCry, the last game I played before Doom 3, has a similar storyline (evil scientist creates monsters, stop him). But, FarCry doesn't guide your actions as strictly as Doom. In FarCry you are often outside, walking around in the jungle, or bobbing around on a raft, and it's not quite clear what you need to do or where you need to go. You need to explore a little and sneak around looking for ways to approach the tasks you're given: you know there's a group of bad guys over there, but you don't know if you have to fight your way through them or not; maybe you can sneak around them, or maybe you don't even need to go in that direction - you can choose. Eventually you'll have to fight your way through some bad guys, but you don't have to fight all of them. In Doom 3, there is no choice: you have to fight everything you see and there are no alternate paths. That's a bit of a letdown, in my opinion. Doom 3 is still a good game, but knowing that you're simply following a pre-determined path the entire time, and that your only job is to kill everything, sucks a bit of the mystery and fun out of the experience.

Thursday, September 02, 2004


Nikon N80, 105mm Macro, Fuji Sensia 100

Wednesday, September 01, 2004


Sony P7

All images Copyright 2004-2005, cleek.