Sunday, March 28, 2004

The Superbowl Streaker Strikes Again

Turns out that streaker from the Superbowl struck again, breaking into the ice skating championship last week. But he kept his pants on, this time. I guess he didn't want shrinkage, but can you really be a world-famous streaker if you don't streak? That just makes him annoying. It's funny, though.
Categories: news

Martha's Bee-Atch

I seems that Martha Stewart is so organized that she's already gotten her bee-atch in advance. FOX News reported that Martha Stewart has hired an inmate to serve as her bodyguard and personal assistant. She'll pay the woman's family and, in return, the inmate will protect her, and serve as her "eyes and ears." I wonder if Martha is also planning to match the colors of her cell with her outfits, and coming up with a new line of designer shanks? I know, those are old jokes, but they still work...
Categories: news

Google vs. Progress

There's another article on alternatives to Google from the BBC. This one actually argues that Google is already losing the war of search engines, that new technology and complaints from people archived on Google are making it less relevant. And of course, it had the usual profile of alternative sites. Just to save time, here's a partial list: Teoma, Eurekster, and Zapmeta. Here's a better question...are these guys also competing to have the goofiest name?

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Take My Wife, Please: Bride Kidnapping

I saw an episode of Frontline: World on Thursday that turned my notion of marriage upside-down. It profiled the custom in the former Soviet country of Kyrgyzstan of men kidnapping their wives. Let me break that down, because I'll bet you don't think I mean what I said. In this country, the custom is for a man to see a woman he likes, go out in a car, kidnap her off the street, drag her home, and force her to marry him. This is not only a popular custom, it's also completely accepted. The documentary even interviewed a woman who was plotting with another family to have her daughter kidnapped. The mother herself was kidnapped as a bride, and sees no problem with it. Check out a summary of the episode for a major case of culture shock. I also found this European article on bride kidnapping which is more sympathic and portrays it in a cultural and historical context. And women in the U.S. complain when American men are too aggressive...
Categories: misc

Century City

I don't know if you heard about a new show on CBS called "Century City". It's not getting a lot of publicity, mainly because it's a mid-season replacement, but also because it's science-fiction. It's basically "The Practice" set in the future. It's about a law firm in the near-future. I didn't think much of it, especially since I had tried to watch "Mercy Point", a show that was "E.R." in the future a few years ago. I hated it, mainly because it seemed more "E.R." than sci-fi. I also flipped by "Century City" a few times, and it looked kind of cheesy. But after sitting down to watch a show last week, I now consider it groundbreaking. I don't know if it will survive, but it will definitely be remembered by scifi fans.

The real hook on "Century City" is that it portrays controversial cases that could lie ahead of us. For instance, a case where a dying man clones a baby for the sole purpose of harvesting its organs to save his life. Or a case where a child actor wants to be emancipated from his parents so he can take drugs that will delay his puberty and extend his career. Or an aging singer suing his old band because he was fired. The reason? He refused to use technology to fight aging, even though all the other members have made themselves look young.

The reason I call the show groundbreaking is that this is what science fiction is supposed to do, take us to somewhere different, and explore the current day. It's also a great idea. I mean, I can't tell you how often I've heard people discussing some new technology and speculating about the problems it will cause in the future. With "Century City", they can act out that scenario and deal with the ramifications in a dramatic way.

There are problems with the show, though. One is that the future they portray is kind of poorly-defined. Since they want to explore a variety of technological issues, they have to combine different levels of scientific advancement. it's a world where they have nanotechnology, but they still use doors. They use holographic judges for the pre-trial hearing, then go to a real courtroom with real judges. And they have holographic computer screens, but still use keyboards. It's doesn't feel consistent.

The biggest problem the show has is that it still looks cheesy. The sets are cheaply-made with goofy stuff designed to look "futuristic," without any real purpose. I didn't believe they were in a real future. The characters aren't too interesting either (i.e. no aliens), but "Law and Order" doesn't have interesting characters, so who cares?

I don't know if the show will last, but I want to catch as many as I can before it gets cancelled. It's good stuff.
Categories: entertainment

Monday, March 22, 2004

Super Tuberculosis

The World Health Organization is warning about a form of TB that is resistant to all known drugs. A report can be found at New Scientist. It's believed to have originated from HIV-weakened patients contracting TB and mutating the disease into a deadlier form. And we thought SARS was bad? Wait'll the American press gets a load of this.
Categories: science

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Thanks to freethepresses

Thanks for giving me info on the Freethepresses campaign. I needed to read an article at the Telegraph and tried it. Guess what? It worked. Free the presses! Power to the people! Here's the info if you don't have it..."Using the log-in 'freethepresses', or '' if an email address is appropriate, and the password 'freethepresses' will provide users with quick access to news without the hassle of registration."

Delayed Moments From "Joe Millionaire 2"

This is long overdue, bear with of the reasons I watched The Next Joe Millionaire was to see the many ways in which Europeans were different from Americans. I was constantly surprised what the Europeans didn't know or understand that we take for granted.

For instance, at the beginning of the show, the European women were told that "Joe" was a cowboy. They expressed surprise and laughed and one began singing the theme song from Dallas. But later, they were all sitting around the pool, and one woman asked the other "What's a cowboy?" The other woman said, "I think that means he works at a rodeo." 1st woman: "What's a rodeo?" 2nd woman: "I don't know. I think it's like a festival for horses." 1st woman: "Oh, you mean like horse races and they decorate the horses?" 2nd woman: "I think so." 1st woman: "That's a job?"

Another time, they were all sitting in the park with David (aka Joe) and one asked David if he ever cursed. As a Southern gentlemen, he said that he cursed sometimes, but not around "beautiful women such as yourselves." One woman asked another woman, "What does it mean, to curse?" To which another woman said, "You know, like, *beep* *beep* *beep* *beep* *beep.*" Then she caught herself and said, "Oh, I'm sorry." But David was already on the ground, laughing. So was I.
Categories: HREF="">entertainment

Thursday, March 18, 2004

First Look: Chronicles of Riddick

The teaser trailer for Chronicles of Riddick, the pseudo-sequel to Pitch Black is now online. Here's the official plot summary: "Riddick has spent the last five years on the move among the forgotten worlds on the outskirts of the galaxy, eluding mercenaries bent on collecting the price on his head. Now, the fugitive finds himself on planet Helion, home to a progressive multicultural society that has been invaded by the Lord Marshal, a despot who targets humans for subjugation with his army of warriors known as Necromongers. Exiled to a subterranean prison where extremes of temperature range from arctic nights to volcanic days, Riddick encounters Kyra, the lone survivor from an earlier chapter in his life. His efforts to free himself and Kyra lead him to the Necromonger command ship, where he is pitted against the Lord Marshal in an apocalyptic battle with possibly the fate of all beings—both living and dead—hanging in the balance."

Sounds freaky. Of course, I don't have enough bandwidth to download the trailer, but it would be nice if someone could download it for me...oh, and there's a videogame coming, too. It's all Vin Diesel, all the time.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Dumb and Dumber

Okay, everyone is laughing at the latest stupidity uttered by Jessica Simpson. While visiting the White House this week, Jessica reportedly told the Interior Secretary Gale Norton, "You've done a nice job decorating the White House."

But to me, what's even funnier is that every story I've heard this in adds an explanation of what the Interior Secretary actually does. In other words, most Americans don't know any more about the Interior Secretary than Jessica Simpson, except that he doesn't decorate the White House. And I'm willing to bet a lot of Americans would have made the same mistake.

I also question the authenticity of this report, because the only place I could find any concrete source on this (as opposed to the usual "somewhere-else reported" method) was in the Washington Post, and they only quoted unnamed "sources," too. So maybe she didn't really say that at all. It's still funny, though.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004


Ever heard of Wiki webpages? The concept is basically a webpage that anyone can edit, rather than just the owners of the website. It sounds like a recipe for chaos, but it actually works pretty well. Case in point is the Wikipedia, a free encyclopedia created by...well, everyone. I looked up an article in it and discovered there was an error. One of the paragraphs had been copied twice. My first thought was, "Bummer, that looks lame." Then I remembered the power of wiki. So I hit the button marked "Edit this page," deleted the extra paragraph, and saved it. Then I took a moment to savor the power. Check it out, it's cool.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

McSweeney's Lists

Here's a funny site I stumbled across, a collection of lists of links like movies where they kill off the black character, and dialogue from commercials: McSweeneys.

The Gray Album Strikes Back

This is a follow-up to the previous post about the Jay-Z Construction Set. It turns out the Gray Album is being tossed around in a legal tug-of-war between the owners of the Beatles' copyright to the White Album and the P2P/copyright pirates. There was actually an event called Gray Tuesday where hundreds of websites mirrored the Gray Album in an attempt to keep the lawyers from pulling it off the Net. This is getting big. Check out the website for the full story.

Too Bad To Be True

This post has been a long time coming, but this morning's NPR piece on the murder of Kitty Genovese put a fine point on it. I first heard this story in the comic "Watchmen," where it described the rape and murder of a woman while thirty-eight people watched and did nothing. At the time, I didn't know if it was true, but it was. It turns out this is actually a famous story that became a cautionary tale about the selfishness of urban living.

But the shocker came when the NPR story focused on the fact that "Kitty" was a lesbian, and interviewed her former lover at the time. Since that fact was never told, it got me thinking about the whole story. I think I'll start using the phrase "too bad to be true" to describe news stories that seem to illustrate some horrible fact of daily life. The problem is these stories is that they're almost never what they seem. Kitty Genovese is a case in point. Out of suspicion, I did a search and found an article that argued what I suspected: the story is not about the cruelty of urban living, but of bad reporting. The article argues that trial of the murderer showed that only a handful of people saw any of the attacks, almost none of them saw enough to know for sure she was being killed, and people did call police but couldn't get through in time. There seems to be dispute about that, but the fact remains it's more complicated than the story first appears.

What irritates me is that none of that was brought up in the NPR interview. Kitty's girlfriend even ended the interview with a mournful speech about how it is to trust people now, and how she still can't believe no one helped Kitty, as if even she didn't know the truth. Once again, we learn how hard it is to get at the truth, and how easy it is to jump to conclusions.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

AdWatch: Listerine

So I'm watching TV the other night, and saw a commercial for Listerine. It shows a woman coming home to her family from the grocery store. She describing all the stuff she bought and says "Oh, and I got some Listerine." Then we hear scuffling and she looks around to see her family has disappeared. She calls out "Relax, it's less intense." The family members crawl out of cupboards and from behind furniture, relieved. It turns out to be an ad for the new citrus-flavored Listerine.

Now stop and think about this. This could easily be used as an effective commercial for a competitor to Listerine, pointing out that Listerine burns your mouth. But it's not. It's a commercial for Listerine. Granted, a different brand of Listerine, but it's still Listerine. This is a familiar theme, going back to their commercial showing a guy rinsing with Listerine, making grimaces as a voice basically tells him he's a wimp if he can't handle the pain for 30 seconds. The slogan is "You can handle it, germs can't."

First of all, why do they sell a product that they know people don't like? Listerine is painful to use. If they know and are addressing the problem in their commercials, shouldn't they be working on ways to stop it? Instead, they make fun of the problem in the commercials, then say "Go ahead and use it, anyway." What's more, they have developed a less painful Listerine (I'm assuming, I haven't tried it), and they're selling it by bashing the old product.

Right now, I should say something enlightening as to what it all means, but I don't have a clue. I just know it means something.
Categories: opinion

Six Billion Dollar Man: DARPA

Want to see the future of top-secret military technology? It's not so hard to find, after all. DARPA held the equivalent of a trade show and the results are eye-opening. How about mechanical legs that can be strapped on and allow someone to carry hundreds of pounds without even feeling it? Witness BLEEX, developed by Berkeley. They have video at the website which I'd like to check out. The other projects look even more impressive, from a pair of arms that can lift hundreds of pounds to a high-powered pogo stick. Our tax dollars at work. There's also a million-dollar race called Grand Challenge between unmanned vehicles going on the Mohave Desert. Sort of a cross between the Tour de France and Robot Wars. It could lead to a fleet of self-propelled Humvees...which I guess would be a good thing.

On a related note, why did I have to find this on an Arab website? It's about a new weapon being deployed in Iraq called the LRAD. It's basically a high-tech loudspeaker that causes splitting headaches and hearing loss in its target. It's supposed to be used for crowd control. Is there any limit to the secret weapons they've been pulling out for the war in Iraq?

Animal Lodge

For centuries, men and women have feared and wondered about the secret society known as the Freemasons. Apparently, we had nothing to worry about, because the Freemasons is just a fancier version of a frat house. This was proven by a recent incident during a Freemason initiation ceremony, where they carried out an ancient ritual known to the rest of us as hazing. They blindfolded a guy and claimed they were going to shoot cans off his head. The other guy was supposed to fire blanks from a fake pistol while they knocked the stuff off his head. Of course, being the genius Freemason that he was, the firing Mason used a real gun by mistake and killed the guy. The articles don't say if the Masons were drinking, but I'm willing to bet they were. So this is the mighty Freemasons? Just a bunch of old guys drinking and pretending to shoot cans off people's heads? I wonder if the next ritual was going to be the administering of the all-powerful wedgie. There's a pretty good Newsday article that puts the incident into perspective.

Monday, March 08, 2004

He Hate Me

The other day, Jim Rome reported that Rod Smart (aka. He Hate Me) has fathered five children with five different women. He later got the following e-mail:

Dear Jim,

He hate me.

Birth Control

And It's Not Even Pink...: Cars For Women

Here's a sneak preview of what the world would be like if it were run by women. Volvo debuted a concept car that was designed exclusively by and for women. Some of the changes make sense, like a paint job that repels dust. I guess women don't like to wash cars. But did they have to remove the gas caps? Is this really a big concern with women?
Dear Nigel,

I, for one, find gas caps very confusing.

Paris Hilton

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Aeon Flux: The Movie

Well, it's official. Cherlize Theron will be playing Aeon Flux in the live-action movie scheduled to film in Brazil. Oddly enough, I can totally see this, although it would cost a fortune to film the movie and be faithful to the original series. Then again, it might actually make sense, unlike the original series. And why does Theron seem like a perfect choice?
Dear Nigel,

I don't think this is a good idea. Adaptations of fictional characters never work as live-action movies.

Angelina Jolie

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Jay-Z Construction Set

Final post for the day...explain the Jay-Z Construction Set to me, because I don't understand it. "You see, I'm a square..."

Whatchu know about basketball?

Everybody's been talking about this on the sports radio stations, so I figured I might as well bring it up. In 2001, Jim Harrick Jr. ran a "class" on Coaching and Strategies of Basketball at Georgia's university. He was eventually kicked out when the class turned out to be a thinly-veiled attempt to give college basketball players a free ride with a ridiculously easy class. Not only did he give A's to students who didn't attend classes or take tests, but he gave this as the final exam. And remember, this is the final exam given to players on the _Georgia Bulldogs basketball team_. It would be funnier if it wasn't true.

Albertson's Sucks

As you know, I've been a loyal Albertson's supporter for several years now. In fact, in the past two years whenever I've moved somewhere, one of my first thoughts is "Where's the nearest Albertson's?" The reason is simply that it was the only grocery store chain that didn't require you to sign up for those stupid "discount cards."

Observant readers will have noticed that I used to word "was" in that last sentence. That's right. I went to Albertson's and got asked the question I dread when I shop at Fry's or Basha's. "Do you have your card?" And the next inevitable question was "Would you like to sign up for one?" There it was, a little sign advertising the new "preferred shopper" card. Albertson's caved in. I'm very upset about this, and know I'm not the only one. I didn't say anything, but the woman in line after me said what I was thinking, "I'm disappointed that you went to the cards." Now I don't have anywhere to shop to get away from inflated prices and Big Brother.

And if you think I'm exaggerating the problem, check out Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they're not out to get you.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Final Word on the Paris Tape

Not to dwell on this too much (well, maybe I already have), but we have an update on the Paris Hilton tape. Salomon now says he released the tape, but only after a few minutes leaked out and he was being accused of rape. Yeah, I'm sure this will improve his reputation.

Calvin and Hobbes Toilet Paper: Bill Waterson's Marketing

Here, at last, is the untold story of why we don't have Calvin and Hobbes toilet paper and we do have Calvin urinating on the backs of trucks: Bill Watterson himself explaining why he refused to license the comics, and the struggle he went through to stop it.

Oscarwatch: Bill Murray

I saw the last hour of the Academy Awards, you know, the hour that mattered. I saw the Best Actor presentation. Sean Penn was nominated for "Mystic River," Johnny Depp was nominated for "Pirates of the Caribbean," and Bill Murray was nominated for "Lost in Translation." Some other less-interesting people were also nominated. Anyway, I don't have to tell you that I was rooting for Bill Murray and anti-rooting for Johnny Depp. I mean, come on. You've got consumate actors like Sean Penn up against Depp jumping around in a pirate's costume? Please.

Anyway, as you may know by now, Sean Penn won for "Mystic River." I never saw that movie, so I can't vouch for whether he deserved it. What I can say is that they did the split-screen where they show the other actors responding to their losses. The other actors took it in stride, cheering and smiling...except for Depp and Murray. Both were visibly stunned and upset. Depp, I don't care about. If he really believed he could win, then he's an idiot. But my heart broke for Murray. He was so disappointed that after Penn's speech, Billy Crystal came on stage and spoke to Murray, saying "Don't go, Bill. It's okay. We love you, anyway." The audience cheered and Bill tried to smile and make a joke out of it, but I couldn't help feeling for the guy. Here was his chance to finally prove himself as an actor and he lost. I need to go see that movie.

Update: After I wrote this post, I read an article at IMDB that portrays Murray in a less positive light...more like a sore loser. Oh, well, I still want to see that movie.