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The Blog Archive

 

Longtime visitors to this site will probably remember that back in the "early days" of jimcofer.com the "Latest News" section on the front page was strictly limited to news about website updates. In time, editorial news and personal observations began to creep in, although the front page was still updated only when I updated something on the website. Well, in the summer of 2004, I had a lot of spare time on my hands and noticed that I was posting stuff almost every day. The section has very nearly turned into a blog of sorts.

Below is an archive said blog entries, although this list is not complete. I never archive any old content on this site and the thought of saving the front page news for later use didn't occur to me until a month or two into it. So the entries below start on July 27th 2004, two days after the Madonna concert in Atlanta. All entries since then are below as well. Note that most links to local content not listed elsewhere on the site are probably dead. For example, the entry from 11/23/2004 has a link to a 100Mb video of French soldiers shooting civilians in the Ivory Coast. That video file was originally hosted on this site but was removed as soon as that story dropped off the front page. I will remove any such invalid links when I get the time, but there's an awful lot of text to cover so this might take awhile. I will *not* be checking any external hyperlinks, so click those at your own risk.

 

July 2004 - September 2004 - October 2004 - November 2004 - December 2004
January 2005 - February 2005 - March 2005 - April 2005 - May 2005 - June 2005
July 2005 - August 2005 - September 2005 - October 2005 - November 2005
December 2005 - January 2006 - February 2006 - March 2006 - April 2006
May 2006 - June 2006 - July 2006 - August 2006 - September 2006 - October 2006
November 2006 - December 2006 - January 2007 - February 2007 - March 2007

 
 

January 2005
 

01/05/2005: First post of the new year!  I hope that EVERYONE had a wonderful Christmas and a kickin' new year!  Allow me to kick off this new year with a deliciously voyeuristic new Google hack for you... It seems that the Panasonic KX-HCM10 security camera can be accessed remotely over a network and even has a built-in web server that allows someone with access to your site and a web browser to not only see what the camera sees, but allows you to (in many cases) manipulate the camera as well - panning back and forth, up and down, zooming in and out, etc.  So here's where Google come in: search for the following string: inurl:"ViewerFrame?Mode=" and this will return hits on unsecured cameras throughout the world.  This works because any camera connected to an outside network will have "ViewerFrame?Mode=" in its address, so by using the inurl: operator, Google will search for any indexed pages that specifically have "ViewerFrame?Mode=" in it's address.  Thus, you get the security cameras in your web browser.  I was trying this trick this morning and it was *so cool*.  The camera appears to be quite popular in Japan, so I was able to look around (what appeared to be) an outpatient hospital, a laundromat, an QA or development lab and a few other places in the Land of the Rising Sun.  I can't tell you how creepy yet fun it is to be able not only to see inside these places, but also to be able to manipulate the camera as well.  It looked like someone had left a TV on in the waiting area of the outpatient hospital, and I was able to zoom in to try and see what was on.  Some early riser was in the QA Lab early this morning, so I decided to watch him work for for a few minutes.  As he moved around, I followed him.  And the Japanese aren't the only ones you can hack... I was able to check out a security camera at a major American university too!  I won't say which one, but think about "melons".  It's bizarre, it's voyeuristic and it's geeky.  It's sort of Godlike.  And it's fun.  In other news, the Steelers kept their march to the Super Bowl going by beating up the Bills (using third-stringers =, no less!) this past Sunday.  It's SO AWESOME to finally be able to read such gushing articles about my team, like this bit from MSNBC: The NFL playoffs don't begin until Saturday, but the league's best team is already known. It's the only team with a 15-1 record. It's the team that didn't mail it in the final two weeks despite having a nice cushion, injured players and desperate quality opponents on the schedule. It's the team with the best defense of any team in the playoffs. It's the team that can run the ball and control the clock, or strike quickly by throwing deep down the field to a trio of receivers. It's the Pittsburgh Steelers, silly.  Damn right!  HERE WE GO STEELERS, HERE WE GO!  Oh and speaking of hacking, two couples in Tennessee have been charged with defrauding Wal Mart of $1.5 million by printing UPC codes for low-priced items at home and placing them over the valid UPC codes for high priced items at the store.  They would then sell the merchandise or return it to the store for a gift card, which then would then sell for pennies on the dollar.  You might recall that a website offering information on how to do just this was shut down back in 2002; it looks like these folks were able to get away with this scam for much longer.  Brought to light this week is news that 1970s batshit-crazy African dictator Idi Amin once planned a "Save Britain Fund" to thumb his nose at his former "colonial oppressors".  Britain was - of course - deep in an economic maelstrom during this time and Amin thought one of the best ways to humiliate Britain would be to publicly try and "save it".  As you might guess, Her Majesty's government has not impressed.  You should check out that article; it's good for a laugh.  And lastly (for now), I urge you to visit a site called Band Aid Dilemma.  This site was put online shortly after the release of the horrible new "Band Aid 20" single in the UK.  What the site advocates is for people to go out and buy as many copies of the new single as they can afford (to help starving Africans), then send them pictures of you destroying the single in new and creative ways (to help humor-starved Europeans and Americans).  And the single really is that bad.  I should just mention that I found the site through Ars Technica, where a guy mentioned in a post that he had found and downloaded this picture (WARNING: possibly not work safe) to post in his cube at the office.  I have one hanging in my computer room right now - for some reason, it cracks me up every time I look at it!  ON THE WEBSITE FRONT: Nothing new yet, but I am planning to update the BIttorrent page now that several torrent sites have been forced to close by the MPAA.  I also promise to update the Rant and Useless Fact sometime this week as well.  Oh, and sorry about posting the This Mortal Coil lyrics late New Year's Eve night.  I swear, I should take out a court order on myself to keep me away from the computer when lots of liquor is involved.

01/06/2005: This story has to be seen to be believed!  It seems that a 67 year-old Bulgarian man was accidentally knocked down by a car on or around December 20th.  He appeared to be intoxicated, so police gave him a breathalyzer test, which gave a reading of 0.914.  Yes, you read correctly - 0.914.  As you might know, a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 will get you arrested in every state in the Union.  Most doctors consider 0.55 to be "life-threatening".  Yet, this guy's BAC was almost twice that!  The cops understandably thought there might be something wrong with their testing equipment, so the man was taken to a local hospital.  Five samples of the man's blood were taken there - and each one reported the same 0.914 level of intoxication.  Police were simply astounded by the event, because "the man was conscious and talked with them", said Col. Angel Rangelov, head of police in Plovdiv.  Wow... just... wow!  It could have been worse for that guy though...  Saudi officials recently beheaded and crucified a man accused of robbing his own mother.  Jesus! (heh) Beheaded AND crucified?  Man, I'm all about me some "law and order" but that's just overkill even for me.  But I'd bet that even the Saudis would be afraid of Nancy Boyd-Porter, a St. Louis woman that has been charged with using a hammer and pliers to punish her son for not doing his homework.  According to the cops, Porter "had her other sons hold down the victim while she hit him in the hand with a hammer. She then squeezed the boy's fingers with a pair of pliers and threatened to break them".  Hey, I'm all for sending any future children of mine to the Our Lady of the Bleeding Knuckles school, but damn - that's harsh.  And the poor kid... how do you ever look at your Mom the same way after she goes Uday Hussein on your ass?  In happier news, the Googling of network security cams goes on.  As I reported yesterday, a certain model of Panasonic security camera can be connected to a network.  If the owners do not properly secure network access to the camera, Google will index the site and add it to its results pages - if you know how to search for it.  I've been sneaking peeks at places all over the world - a few American universities, a garage for racing cars in Australia and dozens of places all over Japan.  This is some interesting stuff for two reasons: one, unlike "web cams" these cameras can usually be controlled via the Internet, so you can move the camera back and forth, up and down and (on some models) zoom in and out.  The other appeal is obvious... unlike web cams - where the site owner usually says "LOOK HERE FOR THE WEBCAM!!!!", these things are supposed to be secret.  Part of the appeal of hacking is getting somewhere you're not supposed to be, and this nails that feeling.  Look down to the next paragraph for more info about the hack or visit this page at the Ars Technica forums for more info and some fun screen shots - including one by yours truly.  Also, (I failed to mention this yesterday) accessing the cameras requires Internet Explorer, as the motion controls are loaded to your computer via an ActiveX control.  ON THE WEBSITE FRONT: Updated the Rant and Useless Fact as promised.

01/07/2005: Allow me to clear up one thing first of all: this article in the New York Times will back up what I've been saying all along: "Diet Sprite" and "Sprite Zero" are the same damn drink.  Apparently it's passé to to refer to something as "diet".  Diet stuff tastes bad.  It represents repressing yourself.  "Zero" and "Free" (as in Pepsi's "Sierra Mist Free", which was originally launched as "Diet Sierra Mist" only last year) are the new buzzwords.  Diet Sprite has always been caffeine-free, calorie-free and carbohydrate-free.  I just wanted to clear that up.  What in God's name is up with CBS News??  I'm sure you all remember the Memogate scandal that broke just before the election last year.  You might not be familiar with some of the smaller incidents that have happened since: Dan Rather's carefully worded (and delusional) "apology" for the story, stonewalling the report about the incident (we're still waiting for it), possible evidence tampering with regards to the report, the CBS News van with anti-Bush material displayed in its windshield, killing another anti-Bush story a week after the airing of the original Memogate story due to its "inappropriate timing" (apparently a botched hatchet job a week earlier was OK though), running a story about how Bush wants to reinstitute the draft (which is itself a lie) in which Beverly Cocco was portrayed as a "concerned Republican mother" instead of the Democrat and a chapter president of People Against the Draft that she really is,  planned to re-package and re-run a story from 2003 (about the long debunked "missing explosives") as new only three days before the election... and even ran a story accusing bloggers of being paid political operatives. But what happened this week might be a new low.  According to this story at DiveNewsWire (I didn't know that divers had their own PR system either), a company called Ocean Rover Cruises is furious at CBS News for their "bait and switch" coverage of the aftereffects of the tsunami on coral reefs in the area.  The story says that "our Cruise Director Hans Tibboel described one specific divesite in Surin Island with the words: 'it looked like a giant sandblaster was used'. Again, Hans was describing only one divesite and made positive remarks about the actual lack of damage at other places. Of course, the CBS editor used the 'sandblast' soundbite and hardly anything else".  Not only that, but apparently "footage was also arranged in a 'before & after' method that is not consistent with the real situation. All the beautiful 'before' footage shown by CBS was actually filmed AFTER the tsunami".  The story goes on to day that "the news piece [that] came out is 100% the opposite of what was promised to us.... The CBS piece is damaging to our reputation and business. It paints the wrong picture about the true level of coral damage in the Similans AND it makes our own website reports look like lies".  How many more viewers will CBS lose to places like Fox News before they figure out that lying is bad?  Man, I used to joke about NPR running "all the news that fits our views", but it looks like SeeBS now owns THAT crown! In some Geek News that I've been holding back on, three designers at the Royal College of Art in London have invented concrete that can display information.  Apparently you take normal concrete and "mix [it] with thermochromic ink and with nickel chromium wires installed right below or behind" where you want to display something.  When power hits the wires, things can be displayed.  It sure would be cool to have a clock actually embedded in the concrete at a train station (see this link for pics), but I don't know how practical it will be.  Of more immediate use are the many new innovations in compact storage that are flooding out of the CES trade show.  For example, Seagate is rolling out a 5GB Compact Flash hard drive, which will surely fit enough pictures on it to allow you to go on vacation for months at a time.  If only your boss would agree! Sandisk is also rolling out a SCHWEET little SD card that has a built-in USB adapter.  SD cards are typically the size of a matchbook, and this one is no exception.  However, this card is hinged in the middle and a super-thin USB adapter pops out when the card is folded in half.  Lastly - even though I could go on and on about the cool stuff coming out of CES - I wanted to tell you about the Beyond Bread Maker.  This little jewel can bake any bread or cake mix simply by scanning the mix's UPC code.  Open bag, dump into bread maker, add water and\or some eggs, scan bag.  How much simpler could you get? ON THE WEBSITE FRONT: Aside from this update?  Nothing.  Have a good weekend!

01/17/2005: I don't have much in the way of news today.  Some art experts in Germany found what they believe to be the last portrait of Mozart - which a museum purchased all the way back in 1934 but only recently had restored.  And of course, the Huygens probe is sending back some spectacular images from the surface of Titan, one of Saturn's moons.  But the biggest news (to me) is that I've finally entered the world of HDTV.  And it's just amazing!  The level of detail available in football games will just take your breath away - individual snowflakes on Teddy Bruschi's uniform... each tiny clump of dirt that comes off the field when Edgerrin James plants his foot... Being able to make out the faces of everyone in the crowd... Wow!  Just wow!  Of course, HDTV has a downside.  Nicollette Sheridan and Terri Hatcher look pretty damn crusty in HDTV.  Troy Aikman looks even stupider in HDTV.  The Fox Charlotte news team looks more like people you'd see walking around Gaston Mall than glamorous news anchors.  I guess genetics will have to kick "pretty" into high-gear before HDTV becomes standard in 2050, or whenever the FCC gets around to putting its foot down on broadcasters.  Until then, I'll be reassessing the beauty of the "Desperate Housewives". Oh, here's one last thing I stumbled across this morning: the best contact in sports!  It seems that the NBA was only going to allow 4 teams from the old ABA to join the NBA after their merger back in 1970.  The owners of the St. Louis Spirits knew that they'd never make it to the NBA so their attorney came up with one of the best deals ever: in return for folding their team, the Spirits' owners obtained the right to 1/7 of any future television money received by the surviving ABA teams (Denver, Indiana, New York and San Antonio) - in perpetuity.  This wasn't big money back in the 1970s, but when the NBA took off in the 1980's, the Spirits' former owners started to rake in the dollars... by the millions.  So these people - in exchange for shutting down a team that probably would have folded anyway - get 4/7ths of this money!  How can I get a deal like that? Read this article for more.  ON THE WEBSITE FRONT: I updated the Bittorrent page now that Suprnova and Demonoid are gone; I also tweaked some of the recipes on the Recipes page and added a couple of new links to the Links page. I also updated the Useless Fact.  And lastly (but certainly not least): HERE WE GO STEELERS, HERE WE GO!

01/26/2005: Well, this season is over.  My much beloved Pittsburgh Steelers choked in the AFC Championship Game yet again.  It makes you wonder if Bill Cower is one of those guys that "just can't win the big game".  Oh well... I have no excuses; the Patriots just came to the Steel City and outplayed my guys - basically playing the same game to us that we played with them in our earlier 34-20 victory this year.  As always though, there's always next year...  And while we're on the subject of football, I guess the Eagles proved what Tampa Bay already knew: that if you shut down Michael Vick, you shut down the Falcons.  Oh well... while I cheer for the Falcons (except when they're playing the Steelers), I'm not that heartbroken about their loss.  I am *not* - in any way - looking forward to this year's Super Bowl.  I can't tell which team I hate more - I guess I'll pull for the Eagles just to spite the Pats.  IN OTHER NEWS:  you people that use public WiFi beware of the newest danger out there: the Evil Twin.  It seems that certain hackers will go out an buy signal boosters for their wireless routers to flood a public hotspot with a similar-sounding SSID to the actual network, all the while logging everything you do on the 'Net.  Wow - and you thought WiFi was only for downloading kiddie porn!  Those crazy Germans are at it again: it seems that a 55 year-old unnamed woman kept her father's corpse hidden in a rubbish bin for three years in order to keep collecting his pension benefits.  I guess the Germans are used to stories like these, what with Internet cannibals running around and all.  You know those odd bits of advice your Dad gave you that took you years to figure out?  You know, like "never trust a man with two first names".. Stuff like that?  I think I'm gonna tell my kid "Son, don't trust the Germans" in hopes that one day he'll call me when he's thirty and say "Ooooo!! Now I get it!"  And some death news: as you know, American legend Johnny Carson died over the weekend at age 79.  That man changed TV more than any other single person.  He could interview Sophia Loren or the Alabama State Spelling Bee champ and treat them with equal dignity and candor.  He also had an amazing talent for finding comedians... Just about *any* stand-up comedian that got his or her start in the 70s or 80s owes their start to ol' Johnny.  Sure, his material was sometimes stale and always inoffensive, but Carson could crack you up with a single expression like few others ever could.  God bless you, Johnny - and on the way to heaven make sure you look out for... the fork in the road.  Also, Italy's last WWI veteran died this week at the ripe old age of 110.  For some reason, this affects me a lot.  When I was in grade school, just about everyone had a grandfather that had been in the Army or Navy in WWII, and we always had guest speakers talk about storming the beach at Normandy or surviving the Battle of Midway.  It gave us something that the 60s generation turned their back on - everyday heroes.  This was in the depths of the Cold War, so the lines between Good and Evil were quite sharp, something I think kids today don't have. I guess the last WWI veteran dying makes me think about WWII and those soldiers - our grandfathers - and how they're dying off so fast.  Life is short people, make it worthwhile.  ON THE WEBSITE FRONT: I added a review of the Samsung i600 (a Windows Smartphone) to Critic's Corner. I also updated the Rant and Useless Fact.

 

February 2005
 

02/02/2005: What's up, peoples?  Apparently the not all the dead are actually dead in the morgue in Raleigh.  It seems that one Larry D. Green was hit by a car and declared dead by paramedics.  He was then taken the the morgue where the medical examiner noticed the body taking a shallow breath.  Green was then taken to Duke University Medical Center where he is in critical condition.  Unsurprisingly, a $299 holographic plastic disc called the "SmogBuster Fuel Disc" that you attach to the bottom of your fuel tank... doesn't work.  While I can't fault people for throwing down $5.99 for one of those useless "antenna booster" stickers for your cell phone, I can't believe that some people are throwing down $300 for something that allegedly sends "holographic frequencies into the gas tank and changes the molecular structure of the gasoline".  Ummmmm.. yeah.  Right.  "There's a sucker born every minute" indeed.    Also not surprisingly comes news that liberals are racist too! After years of claiming to hold the moral high ground, I'm glad to see someone start calling the Democrats on their hypocrisy.  After all, for a conservative to be against affirmative action is supposedly racist, but a liberal cartoon explicitly calling Condi Rice a "house nigger" is OK.  Right.  And lastly, here's chilling news from the Middle East: it seems that members of a certain Islamic website have begun tracking Christians on the site for purposes of killing them.  Pictures of Christians - including their wives and children - are posted on the site along with as much personal information - home and work addresses, typical schedules, children's schools, etc. - as the Muslim heretics can find.  If it's any consolation, these people seem to be targeting Christians of Middle Eastern decent that debate Muslims, not Western Christians.  These people are the prime suspects in the ritual murder of a Coptic Christian family - yes, even the couple's 15 and 8 year-old daughters - in Jersey City, NJ a couple of weeks ago.  So much for the "religion of peace".  ON THE WEBSITE FRONT: I updated my review of Time Warner's DVR and also added a new review of the Keane concert in Atlanta last week to Critic's Corner.  I also fixed the table on the Critic's Corner page to make it look a bit better in Firefox.

02/03/2005: I don't have time to post any news items today, but I did want to let you know about some updated stuff on the website.  First of all, I changed the "Top Twenty Album List" for the first time in two years.  I took one album off the list and replaced it with another and also swapped the positions of two existing albums.  Lastly, I also tweaked many of the individual entries on the list; there's no major changes there.  In fact, you probably won't even notice any difference.  See the list's intro page to read more about the changes. I also added a review of the newest Emiliana Torrini album to Critic's Corner and fixed some stupid typos in my review of the Keane show. Finally, those of you that subscribe to the RSS feed should notice some GREAT improvements (finally)!

02/04/2005: What a CRAZY world we live in!  It seems that a defendant was running late for court in London... so the judge sentenced him over his mobile phone!  And after weeks of protest, it seems that the Vermont Teddy Bear Company will *finally* stop selling its infamous "Crazy Bear".  Ah, well... it could be worse.  As in, these two crappy products - some of the worst I've seen in ages!! First off, we have this nice, hand-cranked paper shredder.  Who, exactly, has paperwork so sensitive that it needs shredding, yet is so cheap that they won't buy a motor-powered shredder? Damned if I know.  Then there's the Neuros MPEG-4 recorder.  At first glace, it actually looks like a nice piece of kit, able to record from your TV, cable box, DVD player or other sources without using a PC and all for only $129.  But then there's the fine print: it has no built-in storage capacity, so you have to bring your own SD or CF cards to the party. Not only does this add a significant cost to the box, it also means that recording football games or longish movies is a no-go.  I wonder what focus group thought THAT up?  Oh, speaking of movies, it seems that the James Bond franchise is going back to its roots!  The next Bond movie is reported by the BBC to be Casino Royale, which was Ian Fleming's first James Bond novel and was made into a spoof film starring David Niven back in 1967.  The Beeb reports that Goldeneye director Martin Campbell will helm and that Dougray Scott, Clive Owen and Hugh Jackman are finalists for the role of Bond.  LET'S GO CLIVE OWEN!!!  He's slick, he's cool and he already had a test run of sorts making those BMW Films.  And finally for this fine day, why not check out your knowledge of British history with this quiz at the BBC. Being a nerd, I - of course - got 10 out of 10 correct... How about YOU?  ON THE WEBSITE FRONT: Do you use My Yahoo?  If so, did you know that you can now add jimcofer.com's RSS feed to your My Yahoo! page?  All you've gotta do is right-click on the orange RSS button to the left hand side of this page and select "Copy Shortcut" (Internet Explorer) or "Copy Link Location" (Firefox) and then go your My Yahoo! page and click on Add Content > Add RSS by URL and paste the link you copied into the text box.  Presto - you've got me on your My Yahoo! page!  Firefox users take note: I've also added support for Firefox's "Live Bookmarks" RSS system to this site.  Just click the orange icon in the lower right-hand corner of your browser window then check your "jimcofer.com" bookmark for the latest RSS feeds!  Man, after several months of publishing craptacular RSS feeds, I'm finally getting on the stick and tarting it up right!  Enjoy!  And lastly, I've been meaning to mention this for a couple of weeks now, but have forgotten it EVERY SINGLE TIME I've updated the site.  So here it is finally: I posted a bunch of new reviews on my Rotten Tomatoes site.  Please go there and check it out!

02/05/2005: Once again I don't have time to post any news, but I did want to let you know about a couple of updates to the site.  I updated *and* expanded my Madonna Obsession page and my review of the Samsung i600 cell phone.  "Updated" means that I corrected some typo or grammatical error, but "expanded" means I added a fair amount of new content to these pages, so if it's been a while since you've seen those pages it's worth your while to check them out again.  I also linked the Madonna Obsession page from Critic's Corner for easy access (hitherto you could only get to the Madonna page from the link near the bottom of the About Me page). Lastly, given all my talk about RSS lately I thought I'd link to my What is RSS? page for those of you that still don't know what RSS is.  So that's it for today.  I'm entering "Super Bowl lock-down" mode, so don't expect any new content until after Super Sunday... and possibly not even on Hangover Monday.

02/08/2005: Wow - I've got a slew of news for you today! First of of all we have the Welsh rugby fan that cut off his own testicles to celebrate Wales' win over England in the Six Nations rugby tournament.  Hats off to you, my friend... it's often that a sports fan says "if [insert team name here] wins, I'll cut my nuts off!", but this guy actually had the (errr) stones to do it.  A bit extreme, sure, but given the man bonus points for following through on a bet! Since we're talking about the UK, I *must* mention the British Army pilot that's in trouble for commandeering a Lynx helicopter.. to deliver a pizza to his girlfriend.  Amazingly, the pilot was reprimanded but did not lose his pilot's license over the incident.  This - coming from an army that used to have the death penalty for striking an officer - is somewhat surprising.  One thing that might have flown under your radar is the controversy over "homophobic reggae" music.  It seems that reggae artists have been writing songs about gays for the past few years that would make the "White Power" crowd blush.  But now an agreement has been reached with many record labels and concert venues, banning any artist that advocates the "killing or assault of gay and lesbian people".  Progress indeed!  But while killing and assaulting gays and lesbians is no longer "cool", it's apparently still OK to grope or even molest woman on Japanese trains. Last year, Tokyo women reported 2,201 incidents, which is three times the number from 1996. Amazing, given how the authorities in Japan have jacked up the fines for such nonsense.  As bad as that is, it still doesn't top the behavior of Florida firefighter Bruce Coates, who wins jimcofer.com's very first "Jackass of the Month" award for biting off the head of a Quaker parrot at a drunken party.  Few people - well, hopefully no people - would bite the head off a dog or cat... why was this poor bird any different?  Jackass! As far as pure criminal behavior goes, that doesn't top the Ohio man who's in trouble with the law for stealing a house. Exactly how he was able to pull this off is somewhat of a mystery, but it's a good read nevertheless. Here's a mystery worth solving - according to astronomers at Princeton University, the surface of some planets might be covered in diamonds. As luck would have it, there aren't any of these Tiffany planets anywhere near us, so the cost of bringing some home would be astronomical.. plus DeBeers is set to launch probes any day now to blow up those planets, just to keep their racket going.  And lastly, check it out! Burger King is now giving away handheld Activision games with every kid's meal!  As much as I hate their food, it might be worth it to be able to play "Kaboom!", "Grand Prix", "Barnstorming" or "Tennis".  Wow - and to think that 20 years ago, these games needed the latest and greatest computer hardware.. and are now being given away as trinkets!! ON THE WEBSITE FRONT: I added a new article to the Geek Stuff page (yes, that's the first update to that page in over six months!).  I'm also working on a review of a new restaurant in Belmont.  I hope to have it posted this evening on the Critic's Corner page, but it should be up by tomorrow at the latest.

02/09/2005: I begin today with news from the IT world... it looks like HP's CEO Carly Fiorina - one of the few female CEOs out there - has been forced out of her job. In retrospect, the HP-Compaq merger was a bad idea, huh Carly?  Told you so.  Google this week announced a new service - Google Maps - that threatens to kick the ass of every other map site out there.  I'm guessing that the similarity of the maps to Microsoft's Streets and Trips is no accident (both apps use NAVTEQ's map database), yet Google's site performs almost as well as Microsoft's version and is more legible and prettier to boot (check out the drop shadows from the pushpins).  You should really check this site out - it's getting raves from all over cyberspace - although certain Arsians are reporting that the actual directions provided by Google can be... ahhh.. well, wrong. Although the guys at Engadget love TiVo (the gadget) they too are starting to see the writing on the wall for TiVo (the company) and have started their own TiVo Deathwatch.  I'm telling you people that it's only a matter of time... And lastly (for the IT stuff anyway), users of Outlook 2003 should be aware that a new Junk Mail filter is available for download today from Microsoft.  I've downloaded and installed it, but haven't gotten any junk mail since so I dunno how well it works. Here's something just for my hunny: Slate magazine has reviewed a slew of slow cookers (i.e. Crock Pots) and posted the results here. It seems that the Washington Post got ahold of a "routine internal memo" from the "Los Angeles C.T.U. office" and posted it on their site (I saved it as a PDF here).  That's some pretty funny stuff! And while prank phone calls can be funny, it's not so funny when your name just happens to be "William Clinton" and you live in Little Rock, Arkansas.  It seems that this poor man (obviously of no relation to the former president) suffered from a prank caller using "CallerID spoofing" to phone police and tell them that he (Clinton) had a gun to someone's head.  Poor Clinton's home - he was asleep at the time, his son actually answered the phone - was then besieged by armed police officers.  No one has been busted yet for the "prank". Lastly comes a "stranger than fiction" story from the world of soccer.  It seems that Barbados and Grenada were playing for a spot in the finals of the 1994 Shell Caribbean Cup.  Barbados was winning 2-0 when Grenada scored a goal at 83 minutes.  Because of the arcane rules of soccer, Barbados needed to win the game by two goals to advance to the finals - anything less and Grenada would go instead. Realizing that they probably wouldn't score another goal in the last couple of minutes, Barbados kicked the ball into their own goal to tie the score at 2-2. The Grenada team figured out what was going on and then tried to score goals at both ends of the pitch.  Eventually the game ended as a tie and the game went in to overtime where Barbados scored a goal and won - according to the overtime rules - by a score of 2-0.  Nope.  I'm not making this up - check it out here. ON THE WEBSITE FRONT: I added the review of Grand Buffet yesterday, but didn't post anything about it on the front page.  So I am now. I also chopped the Blog Archive page into months for easier navigation.

02/12/2005: It's 4:30am on a Saturday morning and I'm much too tired (and drunk) to do any news today.  However, I *do* want to let you know about two new articles I put online - one is a review of New Order's new album and the other is an "All About HDTV" article. Read and enjoy!

02/14/2005: Happy Valentine's Day!  Wow - there's a lot going on in the world, so I'll get right on it... First of all, it seems that British school children are now being FORCED to add the letters "pbuh" any time they refer to the "prophet" Mohammed in their comparative religion classes.  This article at LGF explains it all: "Religious Education" is taught in most schools in the UK; there are six statutory religions for the class, and the law says that Christianity has to be the dominant religion taught in the class, although 4 religions must be taught altogether, so schools then choose amongst Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, Hinduism, and Buddhism to fill out the curriculum.  Any school teaching Islam is now required to have students put the initials "pbuh" (which stands for “peace be upon him”) any time they mention Mohammed.  This is tantamount to a prayer.  And before you go all "multicultural" and "diverse" on us, keep in mind that this is the same as requiring students to cross themselves any time they mention the Trinity in class or in a paper.  When will Europe grow a backbone and stand up to this political correctness garbage? I know that it'd be a cold day in hell before my kid ever writes "pbuh" in a paper; after all, Mohammed is the only founder of a major religion who was himself a ruler, conqueror, enslaver, bandit, polygamist and pedophile.  In medical news I'm just not comfortable with, scientists are considering using a "harmless" form of the HIV virus to battle cancer. Maybe I'm stuck in the 18th century - when people were scared of being infected with cowpox as a means of acquiring immunity to smallpox - but this just scares me. In some "lighter" news, actor Tom Sizemore - who has played military types in Black Hawk Down and Saving Private Ryan - was caught using a fake penis to pass a drug test, as required by his parole stemming from charges of methamphetamine possession and beating his former girlfriend - famous Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss. What a sordid story that is! A Bank of America branch that was robbed so often that it banned customers from entering the bank... was robbed this past Friday. It seems the robbers simply waited for one of the two tellers to leave and pulled a gun on her as she returned from a errand.  Far out! The embarrassment for the TSA continues... an airport screener at Newark airport was removed from her job after missing a butcher's knife that a passenger had in a handbag.  According to reports, the passenger - a woman from (where else?) North Carolina - had gone on a blind date earlier that week and put the knife in her bag for safety.  She had forgotten about it until after she had passed the screener; she then altered airport security personnel.  The passenger will not be charged with any crimes. And lastly for today.. would you pay over $18,000 for a handheld electronic game from 1981?  How about if it was the legendary Atari Cosmos - a holographic 3-D game console, of which only 5 were made? How about if it doesn't even have any electronics inside?  The person hosting this auction on eBay hopes you will, although the price is steep - especially for a mark-up box - even if only 5 were ever made.  And don't you love his location: Montreal, Canada, United Kingdom.  Oh well.  Good luck to you, man! ON THE WEBSITE FRONT: I added a review of Jaipur Indian Restaurant today and updated and expanded the HDTV article over the weekend. Oh, and I also updated the Useless Fact.

02/16/2005: I've no time to mention a lot of news today, but I *did* want to let you know that I got whooshed (sort of) regarding the thing about British school children and the "pbuh" thing.  It seems that it's not a requirement for anyone in the Islamic branch of Britain's Religious Education classes - it was simply a recommendation in the style guide for the class.  It is *not* required, but if school kids feel the need to add something like this to a paper, this is apparently how they're "officially" supposed to do it. My bad.  But I still stand by what I said about Islam and Europe refusing to see it as a threat to their way of life.  If you actually start reading stuff, you'll find a lot of scary things out there.  France allowing anti-Semitism to run rampant ('cos there's more Muslims than Jews in France), villages in Sweden where normal Christian people are harassed and beaten daily by the Muslim near-majority, Dutch teachers being physically assaulted by Muslim students, Dutch filmmakers being murdered in broad daylight.  It's all happening and it's all for real folks.  Europe can be as "multicultural" and "diverse" as it wants, but sticking its head into the sand to avoid what's happening right now is just idiotic.  It's appeasement all over again.  Harry Truman used to say that "history never repeats itself" and for the most part, he's been proven to be correct about that.  Until now.  Maybe. ON THE WEBSITE FRONT: I was looking for something in some old emails last night and came across an oldie but goodie I wrote a couple of years back - The Cure or Mr. Rogers. I also did a much-needed update to my eBay guide and also added some new information I just learned about Emiliana Torrini to my review of her new album. You stay classy, San Diego!

02/17/2005: Here's some hilarious news I've been meaning to post for a couple of days but just got around to it: it seems that one of the administrators of the Straight Dope Message Board decided to publicly publish information about a certain member - one convicted of a sex crime in the past and who was allegedly "trolling" for minors at the SDMB - on LiveJournal. The jist of the issue here is that the administrator was able to use her powers as an administrator to get information about him and publish it to a different site, claiming that the SDMB's privacy policy does not prohibit her from doing so. It's true that the information she linked to - an official State of California sex-offender registry website - is public information, but she had to use her admin powers to get enough info about the man to figure out what to search for in California SODB. And that's not right. In fact, according to Megan's Law, it is a CRIME to use any information from any sex offender database to harass or cause harm to a person. Needless to say, the SDMB's parent company - The Chicago Reader - freaked and apparently even considering shuttering the SDMB for good. But here's what's truly sad about the whole thing: the administrator had her admin duties suspended for 30 days. That's it.  She's still free to post anything she wants on the SDMB, she just can't admin.  A 30-day suspension might be serious if this was an actual, paying job, but the administrator in question was a volunteer. So she's suspended for 30 days from a job she got no pay for in the first place.  Meanwhile "ordinary users" get permanently banned from the board for far less. In fact, yours truly was threatened with a banning for humorously altering a previous poster's quote in a response. You see, there's a running joke at the Ars Technica forums where someone will post something like "The Browns will win the Super Bowl this year!" and someone will come along and post a reply using the "quote" feature, but will change the original quote to something silly like "The Browns will win the Toilet Bowl this year!".  I almost got permanently banned for that, yet an admin can possibly commit a crime and get only a 30-day suspension?  As George Orwell said in Animal Farm - "all people are equal, but some people are more equal than others". If you'd like to read a statement by Ed Zotti (chief SDMB admin) on this mess, click here.  You can also click here for my SDMB Boycott page. In other news, I stumbled across this page, which goes in to complete detail about Jimmy Carter's infamous run-in with the "Killer Rabbit" and even has a high-res picture of the (almost forgotten) incident.  It seems that Disney has angered the few remaining Carib Indians with the storyline for its follow-up to the monster smash Pirates of the Caribbean. The storyline apparently has as one of it's "central features" the "fact" that Caribs were cannibals - something that Carib Chief Charles Williams strongly denies. It looks like healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente is going to end up suing an 82 year-old woman who has been in the hospital for a year... not because she's sick - by her own admission, there's absolutely nothing wrong with her - but because she has nowhere else to go. If a piece of paper smells funny, check and see if it was made in Tasmania.  It seems that some nutjobs Down Under have taken to making paper out of kangaroo manure - or "'Roo Poo" as the BCC calls it.

02/18/2005: In my article about the future of TV, I wondered what people overseas - who usually have to wait months and months to watch American TV shows like Lost, Six Feet Under or 24 - would do now that it's easy for people with broadband Internet connections to download TV shows.  This article on Ars Technica proves my point: they apparently download them, especially in Britain. Several reasons are given for this: they don't want to wait several months for the show to start airing in the UK, they don't want to bother with commercials and\or they don't want to be bound by a network's schedule.  To be sure, I download a bunch of British TV - almost 40GB worth at this point - and occasionally download an American TV show that I might have accidentally missed.  But news from this report has advertisers all in a tizzy (as I predicted) due to people downloading commercial-free episodes off the Internet or using a DVR to fast-forward through commercials on their TV sets. I'm telling ya, we're gonna see BIG CHANGES in TV very soon... Also, here's a bit of advice for those of you that download video via BitTorrent: stick with British stuff. The British equivalent of the MPAA\RIAA hasn't gone after people for downloading TV shows yet, and it's unlikely that they will.  Here's why: as you might know, people in Britain have to buy a yearly license to watch TV; all the money from all those licenses is what funds the BBC (and is why there are no adverts during BBC shows). Because the British people paid for those shows with their license money, the issue of who owns the shows is quite murky. It's generally accepted that the "British people" own the shows, so there's no worry (well, perhaps a much lesser worry) that you'll get a cease-and-desist letter for downloading BBC shows. Of course, there are other British networks that may or may not take too kindly to you downloading their stuff, but I'd imagine that any legal threat from the UK would have as much weight as DMCA letters sent to a Swedish Bittorrent tracker (translation: American law firms are sending a Swedish website nasty letters about the site violating US law.  In Sweden). Oh, and speaking of "cease and desist letters", how is this for an egregious use of draconian laws?  There's a band out there called Beatallica.  They do parodies of old Beatles songs in the style of the heavy metal band Metallica.  On their website, you can download their various songs, like a rant against "hair bands" like Poison called "I Wanna Choke Your Band" (which contains the delicious lyric: "And when I punch you I feel happy inside").  And OF COURSE, the Nazis at Sony are now suing the band for "posting copyrighted materials" on their website.  OK folks - this is a band that does parodies.  They record their own songs and play their own instruments. They're covering old Beatles tunes in "heavy metal" style and adding their own lyrics.  NONE of this is a violation of US copyright law.  I can record my own version of anyone's music and post it online for the entire world to download for free and I'm not violating a single US law. So here's a big PISS OFF to Sony for once again proving that record labels and movie studios are jackbooted thugs that don't care about "protecting artists' rights" as much as they're interested in money and being able to control who can listen to their music.  Speaking of computers and video, check out this sexy as hell new portable video player from Archos. It offers a fat 100GB to store video and comes with "a 3.8" LCD screen, a Compact Flash memory card slot, support for playback of MPEG4, AVI, XviD and DivX video files, and a cradle for recording TV shows that comes with all the necessary video inputs and outputs to connect it up to either a regular TV or a cable or satellite box". Man, I WANT one of those... and my birthday is coming up! :) Lastly for today, a public service announcement: Do you own an Xbox?  If so, you should know about a recall on Xboxes sold in the United States and Europe.  It seems the power cord can overheat and injure you or scorch your carpet. American Xbox owners should click here (look for the large "Important Safety Notice" link on the right-hand side of the page) to order a free replacement.  In the meantime, Microsoft recommends that you make sure to turn your Xbox off when not in use.

02/19/2005: Here's a rare weekend update for you guys... Do you know what "RFIDs" are? They're tiny computer chips that are powered by radio waves.  They were originally developed for inventory control purposes, and for that they're fantastic. Each tag in each product has its own individual code, so as soon as a Wal Mart worker pulls a pallet off a truck, the store knows exactly what's on that pallet and how many of each item are on the pallet. Think of them like the ubiquitous UPC codes that scanners at the check-out lanes at most stores use, except they don't need to be scanned individually.  In other words, when you use a "self-checkout" lane today, you have to scan each item individually; sometime in the near future you'll be able to bag everything first and then run it under a RFID scanner that can instantly inventory everything in your bag at once. But stores aren't the only thing interested in "keeping inventory".  This week, an elementary school in California stopped a controversial program that required students to wear an ID tag with a RFID chip embedded inside. Sadly, it wasn't stopped because of civil liberties or health issues... it was stopped because the company that developed the technology pulled out for reasons that are not yet altogether clear. What's even scarier is that the RFID-tag program was developed and implemented without parent notification or approval.  Another step towards 1984, or just another helpful technology?  You decide. Although I hate his team with the heat of a billion suns and although I despise how well he plays for the New England Patriots, my good vibes and prayers go out to linebacker Tedy Bruschi, who suffered a mild stroke on Wednesday. The NFL is a family, man, and even though you're from the crappy Boston wing of the family, I hope you get better soon! Oh, and in some other NFL news, my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers are replacing the turf at Heinz Field - yet again. Heinz has only been open since 2001, but the initial surface - 100% natural grass - took quite a beating from hosting games for the Steelers, Pitt Panthers and high school championship games.  The sod was replaced in 2002 but was in such bad shape by the end of the season that the Steelers decided to switch to DD GrassMaster - a mix of natural and synthetic grass that holds up better from the abuse of two football games a weekend than pure natural grass - for the 2003 season. But the field was in such bad shape by the end of this season that the Steelers office decided to replant the DD GrassMaster, hoping it will "take" better this time.  The Broncos use DD GrassMaster and have had fabulous results with it... let's hope that the forth time's the charm! From the "It Couldn't Happen To A Nicer Company" Department: it looks like the State of New Jersey is suing Blockbuster over the brouhaha over their "End of Late Fees" campaign. Here's what Blockbuster didn't tell you about the so-called "end of late fees": the "unlimited" period you could rent a movie for was actually one week.  After that time, you were billed the full replacement price for the movie, although you could bring it back within 30 days for a full refund minus a $1.25 "re-stocking fee".  They also didn't bother to tell you that the program only applied to corporate-owned stores and around a half of all the company's franchise stores, however it seems that every Blockbuster - whether participating or not - hung the "End of Late Fees!" banner outside their stores.  Not only that, but many of the franchise stores ran the promotion in January only, but kept the banners up outside well in to February.  If that's not a bait-and-switch, I don't know what is!  New Jersey is seeking the return of late fees to all customers that were taken by this shoddy marketing scam. Lastly, it looks as if NASA has finally set a date for the next launch of a space shuttle: Space Shuttle Discovery is due to launch on May 15, 2005!

02/21/2005:

Hunter S. Thompson is gone. 

Words cannot accurately express the intense sadness and profound sense of loss that comes from the death of this man.  Only a precious few of us “got” Hunter S. Thompson… And we must consider ourselves to be lucky for that.  Lord only knows how many poor teenagers were sent to rehab just because a parent found a copy of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in their kid’s bedroom. Parents being parents, they’d read the quote of the back of the book and assume the worst:

"We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half-full of cocaine and a whole galaxy of multicolored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers... also a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser, a pint of raw ether, and two dozen amyls. But the only thing that worried me was the ether. There is nothing more irresponsible and depraved than a man in the depths of an ether binge..."

But although he was well-known – some might say “infamous” – for his abuse of mind-alerting substances, there was far more to Hunter S. Thompson than just stories about acid trips in casino barrooms.  To focus only on Hunter’s drug abuse is to miss the undeniable beauty of what the man stood for.

In a world where Ashlee Simpson and Britney Spears dominate the radio, where J. K. Rowling and John Grisham represent the apex of the printed word, where Everybody Loves Raymond and American Idol pass for quality entertainment, where dimwits like Tony Robbins and Carleton Sheets flood late-night airwaves offering to sell “success” and “confidence” for only "3 easy payments of $99.95", where the President of the United States gets into an argument over the definition of the word “is”, where greedy developers won’t stop cutting down trees until there’s a Friday’s or Chili’s or Applebee’s on every corner of this land… it was always reassuring to have Hunter with us, somewhere out there in the American wilderness… to have living, breathing, walking proof that we’re neither alone nor insane in the blissful mediocrity that is modern America. Knowing that somewhere, deep in the woods of Colorado, lived a man that represented everything the New Nanny State we live in cannot abide: a chain-smoking, hard-drinking, gun-toting journalist that refused to look at the world through their eyes.

Much like Keith Richards, Hunter S. Thompson existed to remind us that driving at 125mph through the desert with a head full of acid in a convertible loaded with illegal drugs and handguns wasn’t the plot for the latest ABC After School Special.  It was fun. It’s what this country was made for. Instead of worrying about seatbelts, cholesterol levels and the safety of our 401(k) plans, Hunter S. Thompson lived life. He gleefully went to places many of us would dare to tread.  He covered issues and expressed opinions that many of us agreed with but few would say aloud. He tried to understand and give a voice those who had none, those that got a bad rap from The Man, be it Chicano activists or Hell's Angels. 

But it’s not only that.  Hunter reminded us that “The Man” is very much real and he is a twisted degenerate that wants to take away everything that made America great in the first place. He reminded us that the worst thing we could do would be to take guff from those swine… that the only thing for a sane person to do in this crazy world was to be even crazier than the rest.  Hunter S. Thompson didn’t use his words as a scalpel to surgically attack the cancer that grows on America; he used them as a 50-pound mallet to smash it to death.  And for that, we owe him far more than words can ever express.

Little has been written yet about why Hunter took his own life. I pray to God that it was a terminal illness.  To find out that he loosed himself from the bonds of this world just because he couldn’t take another day in “George Bush’s America” would not only be tragic, it would be an affront to everything that he stood for.  Hunter S. Thompson once wrote this about Ernest Hemingway:

Perhaps he found what he came here for, but the odds are huge that he didn't. He was an old, sick, and very troubled man, and the illusion of peace and contentment was not enough for him - not even when his friends came up from Cuba and played bullfight with him in the Tram. So finally, and for what he must have thought the best of reasons, he ended it with a shotgun.

It’s a shame that Hunter had to go the same way.  He'll be terribly missed.

 “There he goes. One of God's own prototypes. A high-powered mutant never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”

- From Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

02/25/2005: Sorry for the lack of updates lately. I haven't been much in the blogging mood lately, and I've actually been trying to let the news pile up a bit before scraping the bottom for an update.  SO - what's going on in the world?  Well, as a last piece of news about Hunter S. Thompson, it appears that his final wish - to have his ashes shot out of a cannon - might indeed be granted. How awesome would that be - having your earthly remains stuffed into a 12" diameter mortar and shot 800 feet into the sky!  Talk about going out with a bang! Speaking of "going out with a bang", it looks as if the end is near for Anglican churches in North America, as the a majority of the primates (leaders of individual national churches) of the Anglican Consultative Council - a key body for contact among the national churches and one of the four Anglican "instruments of unity" - "asked" the American and Canadian churches to leave that body. Why has it come to this? Well, the Anglican Communion is a partnership of churches that started with the Church of England.  As Britain colonized the world, each colony got its own "spin-off" church, like the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada. Unlike the Catholic church, there is no single body that governs the entire Anglican communion.  Each national church is governed by its own House of Bishops (or a similar scenario) and although the Archbishop of Canterbury is given the honorific prima inter pares ("first among equals'), this is only a courtesy.  He has no power except within the Church of England itself and as a moral figurehead for the entire communion.  Therefore, each church is free to make up its own traditions and practices, within certain boundaries.  Those boundaries are decided upon or clarified at an international convention called the Lambeth Conference, which is held every ten years.  At the last Lambeth Conference (in 1998), the Communion agreed that "gay practices were 'incompatible with Scripture' and opposed gay ordinations and same-sex blessings". This is where things get interesting.  The "Western" Anglican churches (especially in America, Canada and the UK) are trying to be more "progressive" by admitting admitted homosexuals to the priesthood and are clamoring for some form of "legal" same-sex marriage rite within the church. At the same time, memberships are dwindling in these churches while memberships in churches in the former colonies - especially in Africa - are skyrocketing... which presents a problem as these churches tend to be much more conservative than their Western counterparts. So the Communion as a whole is in peril - the West thinks they have the moral high ground and are being "sensitive" and "caring" in their outreach to gays; the "Southern churches" - who outnumber their Northern counterparts - say that none of this is sanctioned by the Scriptures and considers the West's "outreach" to be "overreach".  Will the Communion split?  What will happen to those parishioners in the West - like me - who consider themselves to be "traditional" but might be part of a church that has values that we cannot agree with - and therefore gets kicked out of the Communion? I don't know, but it'll sure be interesting!  In some fascinating science news, it seems that some bacteria that had been frozen in ice for 32,000 years were brought back to life by scientists in a lab. The implication - that we could some day bring back ice samples from Mars or Europa and bring extraterrestrial critters back to life - is stunning.  Also from the Science Desk, a researcher at the US Agricultural Research Service says that not only are vegan diets not good for pregnant mothers and small children, it's downright "unethical" and "harmful" (her words). You should have a read of the news article, it's some fascinating stuff! Do you remember THE foul ball - the one that destroyed the Cubs chances of going to the World Series back in 2003?  It seems that the ball - which was purchased by Harry Caray's restaurant group - was destroyed this past season as a way of ending the Cub's curse.  When that didn't work, the top three suggestions were to drown the remnants in beer, hit it with a laser beam or eat them. The people at Caray's decided to do all three.  They removed anything that would be harmful for humans to consume and then soaked the rest in beer along with some rosemary, thyme, oregano and bay leaves.  They then shot the mixture with lasers and mixed the liquid in with their traditional marinara sauce, so now anyone in the Chicagoland area can pay $11.95 to sample the "Foul Ball spaghetti". I've eaten at Harry Caray's in Chicago and I can say with confidence that this sauce cannot be any worse than their regular sauce!  I kid, I kid... sort of.  The food's not bad at Harry Caray's, it's just not worth the wait and the price. Besides, the profits from the sale of "Foul Ball spaghetti" go to charities that help fight Juvenile Diabetes, something that hits close to home.  So if you're in Chicago, go try it out! And lastly... I'm sure you've heard by now of how Paris Hilton's T-Mobile Sidekick got hacked last weekend. Here's what you might not know: that the hacker responsible for getting in to her online account didn't have "mad hacking skills", he simply used T-Mobile's online password recovery system to change it.  This was easy to do because Paris had her challenge question - a question the website asks that only you are supposed to know the answer to - as "What is the name of your pet?" As anyone that watches The Simple Life knows, it's "Tinkerbell". This is not exactly high-tech hacking folks. If you didn't get a chance to see her information, I have mirrored it in the Member's Section.  You can get Frankie Muniz's email address or Fred Durst's cell number if you want (although by now I'm sure they've all been changed). There are also some... interesting things in her "Notes" section as well as some interesting lesbian pictures in her "Photos" section.  Just login and see!     

02/28/2005: WHAT THE HELL DOES MARTIN SCORSESE HAVE TO DO TO WIN AN OSCAR?  This man directed The Aviator, Gangs of New York, Kundun, Casino, The Age of Innocence, Goodfellas, The Last Temptation of Christ, Raging Bull, The Last Waltz, Taxi Driver and Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore... *and* he works tirelessly for film preservation causes and STILL the Academy snubs him.  Idiots.  And how's this for stupid?  A couple of guys named Thomas Belcher and Danny Morales were being questioned by police in New Jersey about a missing AK-47 machine gun that was used in a murder. Both denied any knowledge of the gun.  At some point, one of the suspect's cell phones started ringing... revealing the suspect's wallpaper... which was a picture of him holding the gun in question. Although neither was a suspect in the murder, they have been charged with selling crack cocaine and additional charges are pending. In the "Why Didn't They Think Of This Earlier?" department, Philips today has finally debuted the first known MP3 alarm clock. It comes with 256MB of flash RAM, a nifty LCD screen and it'll set you back around $160.  While it's certainly "cool" it has at least one serious drawback.  The storage is not removable, so you have to connect the clock to your computer to transfer your tunes.  That sucks.  I'd pay $99 for the same clock if it just had a CF slot that you could slap a removable memory card into... after all, what's easier - dragging and dropping a bunch of MP3s using Windows Explorer and shuffling a matchbook-sized card to my bedroom, or reaching behind my night stand and moving a clock back and forth?  In the "For People With More Money Than Sense" department, Nikon has released their newest monster - the DX2. This is a 12.4 megapixel camera that can grab five full 12.4 megapixel images per second and comes with a wireless option so that you can 802.11g them back to a laptop or desktop computer.  This is just the sort of greatness you'd expect for a $5000 camera, which is expensive - even for professionals. Oh, and here's something cool for my hunny - a cell phone with a built-in glucometer!  Just put a test strip in a slot on the side of the phone, add some blood and you've got a reading!  Need further proof that the record labels just don't "get it"?  How about this: apparently the jackbooted thugs at RIAA aren't content to pocket 65 of the 99 cents that most every online music stores charges per song, so they are in the process of renegotiating their contracts with iTunes and other online vendors to get even more of that money. Steve Jobs is reportedly livid over the moves, so there's a good chance that this won't happen.  Here's something to put this in perspective for you: consumers save only around $3 per album by buying online, and for the privilege of doing so they get neither jewel case nor artwork and the music is usually in a DRM format that might not be easily transferable to other mediums.  For only $3 more, they can just go to Best Buy and buy the damn CD outright and get the artwork and jewel case, in addition to having the disk handy for ripping to MP3, FLAC, AAC or whatever format they prefer. So why should we bother?  And if the online vendors aren't making any money - Steve Jobs has always said that the iTunes store was about selling more iPods, not making money off selling music - why should they bother? Except for a few "holier-than-thou" tight asses at Ars Technica (that have never shared any music, nor used any pirated software, nor exceeded the speed limit, nor photocopied a page from a book nor ripped the tag off a mattress) most people see a direct correlation between being feeling "ripped off" and "piracy".  I'd feel some shame if I used Kazza to download a song I could easily buy in a non-DRM format for 99 cents from an online vendor... I would not feel any guilt whatsoever in downloading that song if the same vendor charged $2.99 for the same track. Although the exact costs might vary from person to person, the principle holds true for most people I know.  But the jackboots just don't GET THAT, do they? Dumbasses.  Here's a bit of good news for film fans: it seems like two movies long absent from DVD will be finally released next year: Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet (see this fansite for a copy of the email from Warner) and Disney's Song of the South. Hamlet has been tied up with rights issues for years, but should be worth the wait.  It's a *huge* production: it was the last film shot in 70mm, if I'm not mistaken and is one of the few Shakespeare plays filmed in its entirety (hence the 4 hour running time).  Of course, the issues with Song of the South need no elaboration, but I want to get it on DVD just the same. ON THE WEBSITE FRONT: I added some pictures from various outings... to the Various Outings page.

 

March 2005

 

03/02/2005: Every once in a while an awesome hacking job comes along that I must tell you about. In this case, a guy named Nils Schneider wanted to reverse-engineer the firmware (operating system written to a chip) of Apple's iPod music player so that he could write Linux software for the device.  What he ended up doing was pretty damn clever: he rigged up a way for the player to "output" the firmware as a series of musical tones.  Then he wrote a program that would convert the tones back into code - in theory, he created an acoustic modem! Man, that *is* some mad hacking skillz!  Also in some tech news, a group of "interested parties" just filed an amicus curae brief with the Supreme Court for the MGM vs. Grokster case, which will be heard by the court on March 29th. Said brief defends the right of tech companies to develop new technologies and also describes how the world will end if file-sharing is made illegal, etc, etc. This is kind of scary... after all the years of back-and-forth with the jackboots in the **AAs, the fight is now definitely *on*.  I have *no idea* of how SCOTUS will rule, but I'm sure they won't outlaw the concept of file-sharing - after all, it's why computers were networked in the first place! But they could always go the other way and make it illegal... just as the Costa Rican government reportedly wants to do with VoIP. Fortunately in this case, the proposed law will be put there simply to favor the existing telephone monopoly and not some militant right- or left-wing government that wants to block freedom of speech - as was so typical thirty years ago. We *have* come a long way, haven't we?  Lastly from the IT Desk, here's a story from the Washington Post that everyone should print out to hand out to their friends or family members that think that Windows 98 and Office 97 are still "good enough". It explains - in plain English - why that's wrong and what they can do to fix it.  Here's a funny follow-up to a non-funny story: last month, the United Kingdom instigated the largest food recall in that nation's history after a batch of Worcestershire sauce - which is used in hundreds of recipes - was contaminated with "Sudan 1", a type of dye used in shoe polish that is potentially harmful to humans. This recall was huge folks - involving individual products at stores, prepared meals sold at grocery stores and every pub, restaurant and caterer in the UK.  Anyway, now the Sudanese government is asking why a potentially deadly dye is named after its country. Which is kind of funny if you think about it... Here's something that's *not* funny AT ALL: crime numbers in Sweden have exploded in recent years, apparently due to the influx of Muslim immigrants.  This article runs down the alarming statistics: 68% of Swedish rapes are committed by people of "ethnic minorities", as are 65% of the rapes in nearby Norway (where "ethnic minorities" (mostly Muslim, mind you) make up only 14.3% of the population). And these rapes aren't only perpetuated against non-Muslim Swedish women that refuse to wear headscarves in their own country: the number of child rapes has almost doubled too.  In fact, court proceedings this week continue in a case involving a 13 year old native Swedish girl who was "allegedly" group-raped by four Kurdish Muslims, who raped the girl for hours and even took photos of them doing so.  But rape is only a part of it - robberies have increased with 50 % in some towns while threats against witnesses in Swedish court cases quadrupled between 2000 and 2003.  Again, these crimes are mostly perpetuated by young Muslim men. Ahhhh.. multicultural Europe!  What's it like having your head in the sand for so long? So as not to leave you on a "down note", I end with this - a solution for which no problem exists.  You know "tourist binoculars" - the binoculars at dramatic vistas like the Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore that you put a dime or quarter into for a couple of minutes viewing?  Well, one company has a plan to replace the "old-fashioned" optical works with an LCD screen. OK.  Sure, it looks cool.  And it might be cool to let your whole family watch simultaneously. But the things cost $20,000 each.  They're also are fragile as can be, so one punk-ass teenager with a hammer can ruin it in a second.  The old ones are damn near indestructible and cost far, far less than that.  I love technology, but sometimes it's just too much!

03/16/2005: Wow - a new look to the site, no?  Here's what happened: I've had an unusually nasty case of writer's block lately.  You see, I usually write the articles for this site in around a day or two.  If possible, I write the entire article in one sitting, or at least frame it out as much as possible.  I'll then go in a few hours later and add various details and what I call "a first coat of varnish" (a.k.a. "proofreading").  I'll then sit on it for at least 24 hours and tweak it with the "final coat of varnish" and then post it for all of you to see.  This maxim even applies to articles with a lot of content (like my Top 20 albums list).  That whole thing was written out at home and work in Microsoft Word over the course of just two days; actually getting the tables and graphics in FrontPage and cutting and pasting the text from the Word document only took a couple of hours.  Having said that, I've been stuck on an article I've been writing about Mozilla Firefox. For some reason, it's just stumped me.  It's an awful lot like how pimple cream drove Denis Bagley insane in How To Get Ahead in Advertising. It's just driving me mad - I have an awesome product that I just can't "sell". I've been a Firefox convert for some time now and would now never go back to IE even if Microsoft paid me.  But it's just so hard to convey how much better it is.  In a way, it's much like how tech support over the phone sucks.  As I'm the guy that usually answers the phone at the Help Desk, it drives me insane to have to walk soccer moms and granfathers through a simple computing task.  Those phone calls take 45 minutes when I can do it on a computer I have physical access to in about 5 seconds.  Just trying to convey a user experience in plain text is stupid.  In the future I hope to add some screen capture videos to this website.  You'll still have the same old text articles you know and love but in the future you'll have downloadable movies of me actually doing a task on my computer.  Because modern computing is based so heavily on the visual, seeing it done once on a computer is usually enough for me to remember how to do it forever while lists of instructions - although easy to print out - are hard to memorize. But anyway, I'm still working on the Firefox article and hope to have it ready someday.  So even though I have a writer's block thing going, it still wanted to update my site.  So instead of writing, I started playing around with the layout of the pages. And came up with this.  Half of the site has been reformatted, the other half hasn't.  I don't care.  I'm walking on the wild side today! I'll probably keep playing with the for the next few days, so expect some interesting changes on the site in the next week or so. Also expect some news tomorrow and an update to the RSS feed!

03/24/2005: OK... good for me!  I give the website a new look... and then totally disappear!  Well, I haven't disappeared completely.  I completed the page on Mozilla Firefox that I promised and I finally added a page of "honorable mention" albums to the Top 20 Albums page. Hell, I even updated the Useless Fact and Rant for the first time in ages! But the blogging stuff has certainly dried to a trickle. Oh sure, I've wanted to add links about the self-lighting cigarette and the mobile pizza delivery oven... But I've just been really "meh" about the whole thing lately.  I was even gonna post something in the "self-congratulation" vein when the site exceeded 50,000 hits... but couldn't be bothered (apparently, someone hit my webmail login page about 7,000 times in a few hours a few weekends ago... dictionary attack anyone?  My advice?  Try harder, you bastards!) But I hope to have a nice, long "Good Friday" post for you tomorrow... if I don't have too much fun tonight at the Breakfast Club!  Have fun!  You stay classy, San Diego!

 

April 2005

 

04/12/2005: Sarah Cracknell is the lead singer of Saint Etienne.  Today is her birthday.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY SARAH! More actual content coming in the near future, I swear!

04/13/2005: The NFL's 2005 schedule was announced today. I upgraded the Steelers 2005 Schedule for Outlook on the Downloads page. Enjoy!

04/14/2005: So - what's going on in the world?  Well, John Kerry is a dumbass, that's what! Just the other day he was whining about Republican "dirty tricks" in the last presidential campaign, distributing a flyer "produced by Republicans in Florida" that advised Democrats that they were supposed to vote on Wednesday rather than Tuesday. Which would of course be sad if it were true, except that this "news article" originally appeared on the news-spoof  website The Onion. In fact, here's a link to the original article. Funny stuff, that! Also from the political desk, it looks as though San Francisco parent (and anarchist) Mike Travers is in a quandary.  Travers was recently quoted as saying “It’s hard being an anarchist parent because as a parent you have to be the authority figure". heh!  That quote is almost as funny as a lawsuit filed by watch makers against cell phone companies, which alleges that said cell phones are hurting watch sales. And you thought that only IT companies used the "if you can't beat 'em, sue 'em" philosophy! Want even more funny?  Just when you thought that this site was slow at putting out news, it looks as though the BBC is far, far behind the times. On April Fool's Day, news broke that BBC had e-mailed a request to reggae legend Bob Marley, asking him to appear in a documentary BBC3 was making about the song "No Woman, No Cry".  The only problem is that Marley died 24 years ago. The move was so amazingly stupid that many in the UK were convinced that it was an April Fool's joke - until the BBC issued an official statement saying that the gaffe in fact did happen and that it wasn't a joke. Perhaps BBC3 would also enjoy emailing Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Elvis, Buddy Holly and Sid Vicious to see if they wanna take part in a documentary too?  The fools! Well folks, that's all for today!  I hope to do some more updates on Saturday, so keep an eye out, OK? Oh, and by the way, I posted a review of the Sonic Boom! alarm clock to the Critic's Corner page today... Enjoy!

04/19/2005: Added pictures from Saturday's romp at Jeff's Bucket Shop to the Various Outings page.

 

May 2005

 

05/04/2005: I watched the most amazing movie last night. It was called Der Untergang (or Downfall, as it's known in English). It's the story of the dying days of the Nazi regime and focuses especially on Adolf Hitler's descent into madness. It's *easily* the best war film since Saving Private Ryan, although it's more of a character study not only of the man that almost ruled the entire world, but of the people surrounding him. Bruno Ganz is simply brilliant as Hitler; even though the time span of the film cannot be more than a couple of weeks, Ganz is a master of the subtle nuance. As the film progresses, the Third Reich's collapse becomes more and more eminent - and Hitler loses his grip on reality ever faster - we see Ganz's hair become slightly more disheveled, his palsy-like shake become more pronounced and he seems to almost shrink as he stoops over more and more. One almost feels physically uncomfortable watching parts of the film, such as when Hitler - in a tiny, claustrophobia-inducing room in his bunker - orders his several generals to take command of armies that no longer exist, defend cities reduced to rubble and fight the invading Soviets with non-existent ammunition. In one memorable scene in particular, he gives command to the Luftwaffe from Hermann Göring to Generaloberst Robert Ritter von Greim, with orders for him to build 1000 jet fighters and "rebuilt the Luftwaffe from scratch". This, with the advancing Soviet army mere meters from his bunker door. But what makes Ganz's performance truly remarkable is that we see Hitler not as some Aryan superman leading the world's most feared army, but as the petty, genocidal, hate-filled, shell of a man that he was. Parts of this movie would almost be funny - you can almost imagine Hitler literally picking up his toys and marching home like a petulant child - if the stakes weren't so high and the consequences of his actions so very real.

One also almost gets physically ill at witnessing the dying days of an empire, from streets lined with the corpses of Berlin's defenders - the 12 year-old boys of the Hitlerjugend and the 60 year-old men of the Volkssturm - to the free-for-all parties many Nazi top officials had in the last dying hours of the Reich. Some of Hitler's top men sit around a table and get totally blitzed while others solemnly plan their escapes or their suicides. And even though the bunker shakes from the Soviet artillery, Hitler continues to either plan his "magic offensive" to win the war or petulantly rail against the German people, calling them cowards for losing the war. But it's not all "in your face". As Hitler goes on and on in making impossible demands of the High Command,  his generals - professional military men of the first order - trade worried glances with each other, trying to appease their insane master on the one hand and deal with the reality of a lost war on the other.  It must have torn them apart to hear Hitler call their soldiers traitors and cowards, the Fuhrer being unwilling or incapable of knowing the reality of the advancing  Allied armies. These generals might or might not have been Nazis in their hearts, but they were soldiers first and foremost - and they knew the game was up.  Other subtle signs that the war is lost abound.  As the movie begins, we hear phones ringing in Hitler's bunker, and they are answered on the first or second ring. As the movie progresses, we hear the phones ring longer and longer until they simply go unanswered. The same thing with typing - at first, the rattle of typewriters seems to permeate every nook and cranny of the bunker.  By the time the movie reaches its halfway point, there's a solitary typewriter clicking away amid the drunken singing and falling shells.  It's a quite subtle effect, but it totally works.

But here's the thing about this movie for me. Have you ever watched a movie and had *totally* inappropriate thoughts while it's going on? You know, like the episode of Seinfeld where Jerry made out with his date during Schindler's List? Although this movie is ostensibly about all those who surrounded Hitler, it is - at least nominally - centered on Traudl Junge, Hitler's personal secretary. And she is played by Alexandra Maria Lara - who is absolutely the hottest thing since Laetitia Casta. She has these big brown eyes, a curvy (but thin) little body and the perfect "European girl" face.  Seriously - she's "all that" and more; check out a picture of her here (or see her official website here). So anyway, here I am, watching this excellent movie about one of history's greatest villains... and all I can think of is "Damn, mein Fuhrer... I really want to bang your secretary!" I know this is mostly my own fault, but still - who did the casting for this part? I mean, imagine if a movie about Osama Bin Laden starred Uma Thurman \ Kate Beckinsale \ Kate Winslet \ "Other Actress That Really Floats Your Boat" as his secretary? What kind of distraction would that be?

Speaking of movies, my buddy Chris Wall and I took in a movie called The Game of Their Lives (imdb) a couple of weeks ago. It's the story of an improbable US soccer team - which was put together in only a few weeks - that took on (and defeated) the best team in the world (England) in a first-round match at the 1950 World Cup. It's a pretty good movie, mostly about the relationships between the players - the snooty "East Coasters" (led by Richard Jenik, who played the creepy "video camera boy" in American Beauty) and the gruff but tight knit, full of moxie Italian immigrants from St. Louis. It's a movie about these men setting aside their differences and styles and coming together as a team.  As far as "sports underdog" movies go, this film (to me) wasn't as good overall as Miracle (about the 1980 USA men's hockey team) or Chariots of Fire (about two British runners in the 1924 Olympics). But the scenes of the games were excellent and exciting - I was on the edge of my seat during the actual game - the film (mostly) lacks the kind of "Disney Schmaltz" that Miracle had a bit too much of. But still, John Rhys-Davies (as the American team's coach) is too distracted and quiet and is as nowhere near as compelling or interesting as Herb Brooks (the coach of the 1980 hockey team, played by Kurt Russell in Miracle).  Still, it's a fine film for a Sunday afternoon, especially if you're interested in football\soccer. You might not want to drive out to Rea Road to see it though - wait for the DVD or for it to come on HBO.

Well, that's about all I have time for today.  I'll try to post more tomorrow, including more of my usual "linky linky news items" kind of thing.

05/10/2005: I'm still in that "honeymoon" phase with HDTV.  I'll sometimes record a show or movie just because it's in HD, especially if it somehow relates to me.  And so it was the case last Saturday when I DVR'd then new HBO Film Warm Springs. Mostly set in Warm Springs, Georgia - about the only tourist spot in my home state that I haven't seen - the film is centered on the time between when FDR was first diagnosed with polio in 1921 and when he finally pulled himself up by the bootstraps and got back into public life.  I didn't have high hopes for the film - as I said, I mostly recorded it for the HD "eye candy" - but boy, am I glad I saw it! Shakespeare buff Kenneth Branagh stars as FDR, which might seem a bit strange at first, but he actually pulls off the role quite well - even if his accent does wax and wane throughout the film. But even if his "Yankee patrician" accent isn't perfect, he easily handles the vast range of emotions that FDR experiences throughout the film, from deep depression, to hope and to fear.

You see, when FDR was diagnosed with polio, he initially went on one hell of a bender.  When he finally slowed down on the whiskey, he then tried various cures - none of which worked.  Through the grapevine he heard about a place in rural Georgia that had "curative mineral springs".  So naturally, he visits the place... only to find a complete dump. To call the original Warm Springs spa "rundown" is to be generous.  When FDR first arrives, he looks around him with disgust, hardly believing that "some people" can live in such squalor.  He looks around the place with fear, as if he's afraid to touch anything.  Eleanor begs and pleads for them to leave. 

But FDR stayed, and in the years he spent there, he learned a lot about racism, rural poverty, and the plight of the "common man".  In a way, it's almost as if the richest, snootiest person you can think of got trapped in a line at the DMV for years and years. Of course, at this time there was also a lot of hysteria about polio as well.  Those of you old enough - like me - to remember the early stages of the AIDS crisis when people were afraid of toilet seats and door handles might be familiar with this. FDR might have been white, well-educated and rich as the King of England, but because of his polio he too knew what it feels like to be an outcast. 

But it took him some time to learn this. For instance, there's a wonderful scene where in which the local schoolmaster - pleased to find that there's a "gen-u-wine" celebrity in his tiny town - asks FDR to come speak at his school's graduation ceremony.  FDR acquiesces, shows up at the appointed time and begins his prepared speech.  He talks about his days at Groton, Harvard and Columbia Law School,... but then he looks around the tiny one-room schoolhouse... at all the dirty faces of farmer's children... at the tired parents who are there in their ratty and frayed "Sunday best" clothes.  He awkwardly rambles on about his life, and vainly tries to find a way to connect his experiences touring Europe with people for whom Europe is some abstract place "over there". The look on FDR's face when he finally realizes what a pompous ass he sounds like is simply priceless.

Time passes, and FDR slowly starts to bond with the locals and with the polio victims that are slowly but surely starting to show up in Warm Springs. FDR still considers himself to be "above" the other folks in the town and at the spa, but when a teenaged boy arrives in town - stuffed into a boxcar without food or water for two days instead of traveling in "regular" car due to the other passengers' fear of polio - FDR finally "gets it".  He finally begins to see his place in the world, and that he can use his wealth and connections to make the world a better place for all victims of the disease. He begins a crusade to make Warm Springs a safe haven for these people, regardless of their race or economic status. It was a long, hard road, but FDR finally find his place in the world again.

The movie ain't perfect though.  Cynthia Nixon is cast as Eleanor; even though she was the least attractive of the Sex and the City girls, she's still far too attractive to play Eleanor Roosevelt.  Ironically enough, Kathy Bates is also in the film as a therapist.  She (Bates) has the perfect face to play Eleanor Roosevelt, but unfortunately she's much too stocky to play the role of the slim First Lady.  Perhaps they could CGI Kathy's face onto Cynthia's body?  Although Nixon doesn't much resemble Eleanor, she seems to almost channel her personality - what I know of it anyway, and people at a couple of Internet movie message boards seem to agree.

All in all, it's an excellent film. I was completely and unexpectedly engrossed in the movie and think it's definitely worth your time.

In other news, guess who's whining about "consumer rights"?  None other than former RIAA jackboot Hilary Rosen. It seems that lady that once accused pretty much anyone using the Internet of being a "thief" has posted a blog where she asks when "Steve Jobs [will] let me buy music from somewhere other than the Apple iTunes store and put it on my iPod".  Oh, the irony is so, so delicious here. Here's one of the major mouthpieces for Big Music whining about a monopoly. Think about it. 

And oh yeah, there's a new "megaburger war" thing going on out there.  Remember Denny's Beer Barrel Pub - the place that offered a 6 pound burger that no one had finished... until February of this year?  Well, shortly after that the Clinton Station Diner in Clinton, New Jersey introduced a 12 ½ pound burger called "Zeus" that took the "World's Biggest" crown away from Denny's.  But now Denny's is striking back with the "Beer Barrel Belly Buster" - a 15-pound burger that has 10 ½ pounds of beef, 25 slices of cheese, a head of lettuce, three tomatoes, two onions, 1 ½ cups each of mayonnaise, relish, ketchup, mustard and banana peppers - and a bun. Wow - good times, people... good times!

Lastly, all that talk about FDR made me update the Useless Fact for this week\day\month.. whatever.

05/11/2005: Howdy-ho, people!  I added a new feature to the site today - a list of my Top 10 Celebrity Hot Chicks! Indulge me, why don't 'cha? The whole idea of doing a celebrity top ten list came to me while surfing at one of my favorite Internet "time waster" websites: The Superficial (WARNING: this link is probably not "work safe", unless your place of employment is cool with websites that deal with celebrity body parts in a frank, college-aged male manner). That site is sort of a celebrity blog, but the guy that writes it is funny as hell.  For example, check out his comment about Johnny Knoxville and his alleged affair with Jessica Simpson on the set of The Dukes of Hazzard movie: "[t]he reason guys come to Hollywood is because dudes like Johnny Knoxville should be back in Tennessee wearin a coon skin cap and working on air conditioners, but instead he’s bangin away on Jessica Simpson and Lindsay Lohan, based on a career where he gets punched in the nuts by a midget in a panda suit. I can’t wait to be famous. God it's gonna be great. Until then I’ll just stick with pulling girls over and flashing my fake badge". Some of the headlines for his posts crack me up all on their own ("Kevin Federline still trash") and The Superficial was one of the first websites to break the story of Katie Holmes and her herpes\plague infected lips. Oh, and the site also informed me of another thing... Ever heard of Flickr? It's actually a cool website that lets you create and share photos with the world; if all you ever wanted web space for was to share photographs, you should really check it out - it has lots of cool features!  Anyway, The Superficial noted that Rosie O'Donnell has a Flickr account, and you can look at her pictures (if you must) by clicking here. Let's see... what else?  Oh yeah, remember my much-ignored Geek Stuff page?  I added two new tips to it today.  And lastly (but certainly not least), I've been meaning to mention that I've added several new movie reviews to my Rotten Tomatoes page... check out the "My RT Journal" link in the left-hand navigation bar to check it out!

05/18/2005: Hello, hello!!  There's all sorts of stuff going on with the website, so let me get right to it: first of all, (as you might have noticed) I changed the overall look of the home page somewhat, adding an "Up To The Minute" section where I'll show ya what book I'm reading, what Xbox game I'm playing, what album I'm listening to and what TV show I'm watching.  I added this as a kind of personalization feature, just to let you know a little more about me.  Keep in mind that it's not an automated thing - like some websites that display what the site's owner is listening to in WinAMP at that particular moment.  I'm not actually watching Veronica Mars right now, or yesterday or today.  But it's definitely one of my new faves; you should check it out if you're interested.  I also added some other new stuff to the site, like a new recipe on the Recipes page, a new tip on the Geek Stuff page, a funny new download, updated MP3 lists, as well as an all-new About Me page.  I hope you like it!

05/24/2005: I got an email today from lovers unite (the Saint Etienne fan club)...  Audio and video previews of the band's new single ("Side Streets") have been posted to the Sanctuary Records website here. It sounds pretty good, although it's a bit too mellow for my tastes.  Whatever happened to the good ol' electropop Saint Etienne? Hell, you know I've got that CD on preorder anyway, right?

05/25/2005: Some sad, sad news today: accomplished film producer Ismail Merchant died in London at age 68. Together with director James Ivory, Merchant made dozens of great films including Howard's End, A Room With A View and Remains of the Day. But more than that, he was a nice guy.  I saw him interviewed on Kumars at Number 42 and he seemed like a great, down to earth guy.  He wrote several cookbooks, one of them (Ismail Merchant's Passionate Meals : The New Indian Cuisine for Fearless Cooks and Adventurous Eaters, check it at Amazon here) being an excellent primer for Indian cuisine.  Ismail, you will be missed!  I also updated the Rant, although I'm too sad about Merchant's death to find the humor in it.

05/26/2005: Do you like 80s radio stations or clubs but wish they'd play more (or any) songs from bands like Dead Kennedys, UK Subs, The Damned, Split Endz, Alphaville, Japan, The Cramps, Ebn Ozn, Book of Love, Gang of Four, Sparks, Kon Kan, Fun Boy Three, Captain Sensible, Jesus and Mary Chain, Prefab Sprout, Colourbox, Aztec Camera, Re-Flex, The Plimsouls, Burning Sensations, The Teardrop Explodes, Q Lazzarus, The Specials, Angelic Upstarts, Sham 69, The Meatmen, Nu Shooz, Feargal Sharkey, Hazel O'Connor, The Waitresses, Nik Kershaw, Mission UK, The Undertones, Fad Gadget or The Birthday Party?

Do you like 80s radio stations or clubs but wish they'd play Duran Duran’s “Faster Than Light” instead of “Rio”? Or Bananarama’s “Hey Young London” instead of “Venus”? Or Siouxsie and the Banshees’ “Hong Kong Garden” instead of “Kiss Them For Me”? Or a-ha’s “The Sun Always Shines on TV” instead of “Take On Me”? Or Madness’ “One Step Beyond” instead of “Our House”? When someone says "Nena", do you think of “99 Luftballoons” instead of “99 Red Ballons”? Do you wish the DJ would once - just once - play The Cure’s “The Funeral Party” instead of “Just Like Heaven”?

Do you like 80s radio stations or clubs but find that your local DJs think that “JoBoxers” are underwear and that “The Specials” are “$1.50 PBR cans”? Do they consider Bauhaus "a fine example of modern architecture" and think that a “trouser press” is a fine hotel amenity?

If any or all of the above applies to you, consider checking out Rex Fenestrarum's "Big Fat 80s" Shoutcast! I don't spin the "same old same old" 80s tunes on my show! Instead, I play songs by bands that most 80s radio stations ignore, play different songs by some of the 80s most popular bands, and even play some 80s cover tunes, like Leatherstrip's cover of Soft Cell's "Sex Dwarf" or Eve's Plum's cover of Duran Duran's "Save a Prayer".

Ya see, I grew up in the 80s. I remember all those different social groups you see in the John Hughes' films. I was part of the "freak" crowd and I grew up on the bands they talked about in Melody Maker, NME and Trouser Press. I enjoy listening to my local radio station's 80s show but positively cringe when they play "mainstream" 80s stuff like the Pointer Sisters' "The Neutron Dance" or Phil Collins & Philip Bailey's "Easy Lover". I don't like Motley Crue, Quiet Riot, the Jeff Healey Band, Richard Marx *or* Lionel Ritchie. And I don't want to hear Glenn Frey's "The Heat is On" or Dan Hartman's "I Can Dream About You *ever* again.

So that's why I'm doing the Shoutcast - as a refuge for my fellow "Class of '89" freakpeeps... as well as a place to hear something new and different for those of you that think the only band that existed in the 80s was Culture Club. However, this *doesn't* mean that I only play oddities, b-sides or bands you've never heard of. There will be some popular bands playing their most popular tunes in the mix.

So check it out! I'll be spinning tunes from noon to midnight EDT today (Thursday, May 26th 2005) at the following location:

>>> Link Removed - Show's Over, Dude! <<<

05/31/2005: Minor site update this morning... I added a link to my Ars playlists, so you can check out what I'm spinning on the Ars Shoutcast.  Also, keep your fingers crossed for me - I might (just might) have some REALLY BIG news about my "secret life" as a DJ\Shoutcaster on Wednesday!

 

June 2005

 

06/08/2005: Added a review of the Archos AV400 Portable Media Player to Critic's Corner. It's an awesome little box - you should check out that review!  Also, I haven't forgotten about the REALLY BIG news about Shoutcasting... the final details are being ironed out as I type! I hope to have details about it posted here by Friday!

06/12/2005: Man, there's ALL KINDS of stuff going on, so let me get right to it. As you might know, I spend a lot of time hanging out at the Ars Technica forums. There are a lot of us over there that feel very strongly about music, and enjoy sharing that love with other Arsians.  So we've decided to join forces to form the Ars Crew Radio Network. ACRN is a Shoutcast-based Internet radio station that allows Arsians from all over the globe to broadcast playlists as well as live DJ sets and talk shows to just about everyone on the planet. ACRN also is also a member of the SWCast Network; SWCast handles all the ASCAP and BMI licensing issues for ACRN, so we're 100% legal, too! ACRN has a webpage here (still under construction, I'm afraid), as well as a Yahoo! Calendar here with all of our upcoming show times. I am currently scheduled to do 5 shows:

"Absolutely Icebox"
Mostly Britpop like Saint Etienne, Coldplay, Snow Patrol, Radiohead, LCD Soundsystem and Keane mixed in with some "popdance" tunes.
Weekdays beginning June 13th
Approximately 3 hours

"The Big Fat 80s Show"
Neglected 80s bands and songs, with some more popular stuff thrown in.
Friday afternoons beginning June 17th
Approximately 5 hours


"Morphine Beach"
An ambient chill-out show with tracks by Eno, Budd, Czukay, Tangerine Dream, and more!
After midnight (or after the last DJ spins), schedule TBA
Approximately 5 hours

"His Master's Voice"
The classical show.
Sunday afternoons beginning June 19th
Approximately 3 hours

"Widescreen"
The movie soundtrack show, playing scores from movies of every genre and every age.
Occasional Sunday afternoons, replaces "His Master's Voice"
Approximately 3 hours

Of course, you'll need to check the Yahoo! calendar to get the exact show times (all times listed are in Eastern (US) time). You can listen to the station - ACRN offers both 128kbps (cable\DSL) feed and a 40kbps (dial-up) feed - from any computer that has Windows Media Player, WinAMP or RealPlayer installed by clicking here. I'm really excited about all this - and I hope that you are too!

In other news, my review of the Archos AV400 player was such a hit at Ars that they've asked me to submit it for posting on their front page!  Woo-Hoo!  In order to do this, I will have to take a bunch of original pictures, as all the pics I used in the review were stolen from other sites.  I hope to do this on Monday, so hopefully the review will hit Ars' front page sometime later this week - I'll keep you posted as I get news myself.

On the website front, the USA takes the lead from the UK and the blondes trounce the brunettes in this month's Top 10 Celebrity Hot Chicks list. I also posted pictures from Chris and Mel's baby shower to the new Various Outings 2 page and also posted the two playlists from this week's Shoutcasts to the Playlists page.

 

July 2005

 

07/24/2005: Sorry that there's no new action on the website front. I'm spending all my free time these days on my shows on the Ars Crew Radio Network. Be sure to check out our website here for complete programming schedules!

07/26/2005: Updated the Top 10 Hawt Chicks list and have more updates planned in the next couple of days - honest!

 

August 2005

 

08/16/2005: HAPPY BIRTHDAY MADONNA! You're still the hawttest chick in the universe (next to Lisa, of course!).

And speaking of music, I just thought I'd take a few minutes out to pimp my new favorite music site, Allofmp3.com. Allofmp3 is not new, in fact, it's been around for a couple of years now. I've even been to the site several times in the past... but I'm one of those people that just can't seem to remember what he wants the second he enters a record store. However, this past Saturday, the missus wanted me to find a particular Belinda Carlisle song. I fired up all of the usual P2P applications, but came up empty. So - out of sheer desperation - I went to AllofMP3... and suddenly found tons of music to download! Now here's the deal with AllofMP3: it ain't free, but it's really, really cheap. First you create an account. Then you choose how much money to "pre-pay" into your account. Next you select which albums or individual tracks you wish to download. You're given the option of downloading the tunes in MP3, WMA, OGG, AAC or a few other formats. Once you've decided on a format, you then have the option of choosing the bitrate (for MP3 that's 128, 192 or 320 kbps). This is where money comes in - you're basically paying for bandwidth. Most albums cost around $1.25 at 128kbps, $1.95 in 192kbps and $3.50 in 320kbps - although this will vary based on both the length and the number of the songs. For example, I believe that I paid around $1.97 for a 192kbps version of Japan's Assemblage album, but $4.27 for a 192kbps version of New Order's Substance - which is (of course) a double album.

The next question you might have is "Is AllofMP3.com legal?" The short answer is no, but the long answer is more complicated than that. AllofMP3  is based in Russia and the owners have apparently paid licensing fees to Russia's RIAA equivalent. So AllofMP3 is 100% legit... in Russia. However, due to some arcane legal mumbo-jumbo over what constitutes a "recording" and how said "recording" is "transmitted" to you here in the US, the general opinion is that AllofMP3.com is not legal in the United States (although no specific law or court decision has stated this). In other words, although it would be perfectly legal for one to buy a (non-bootleg) CD in Russia and bring it back to the United States, buying an MP3 from a Russian web site is not the same thing (legally speaking). So using AllofMP3 is not "legal" like using iTunes would be. However - as far as I know - the RIAA has not attempted to sue anyone for using AllofMP3. So consider AllofMP3 to be a "grey market" of sorts. Even if it's not 100% legit, AllofMP3 does have a huge catalog, offers its music in a variety of non-DRM formats and bitrates, and also has ACCURATE ID3 tags on the music - all of which is much better than you find on most P2P apps these days.

In website news, I'm proud to announce the release of SilentAIM 2.0 - snag it from my Downloads page. I also updated my article about Bittorrent with some news about legal issues and software updates.

08/17/2005: As you may know, Madonna fell from a horse on her birthday yesterday, breaking a hand, her collarbone and several ribs. Although news reports are saying that she's recovering well, I thought I'd send out my best "get well soon" vibes and hope you will too! In website news, I added pictures from Kim's birthday to the Various Outings 2 page. Actually, I added those pics a couple of days ago, but failed to mention it on the site.

 

September 2005

 

09/27/2005: Wow - so much has happened since my last post! Katrina & Rita, Don Adams dying, the Steelers once again unable to beat the Patriots... But fear not folks - I'm still here. I have a few ideas I'm working on and hope to get over this writer's block soon - YAAAAA for new content!  In the meantime, I've done a "technical update" by posting an updated copy of my résumé to the My Résumé page. I also updated the Useless Fact and "Up To The Minute" sections of this page.

09/29/2005: What's up, people? You having fun? I know I am! And believe it or not, I have NEW CONTENT! Check out my new Guide to Re-Encoding DVDs as well as a new tip on the Geekstuff page. I hope to have the new "Hawt Chicks" list up in a couple of days, too!

09/30/2005: As promised, I updated the Hawt Chicks List today. Not appearing on that list... Tori Spelling:

 

October 2005

 

10/04/2005: Not much of a "web update" today - in fact, I only updated the "My Wireless Network" entry on the GeekStuff page.

The main reason that I'm posting anything at all today is to shower praise upon my webhost (the people that own the computer that runs this website) - JaguarPC. Several years ago, I signed up with a hosting company called Aletia Hosting, who were recommended by many folks at the Ars Technica forums. Aletia had low prices and a decent hosting package. It was affordable, but the service wasn't all that great. The site was subject to frequent downtime and support tickets seemed to take forever to get answered, much less resolved.

One day, Aletia sent me an email saying that they had been purchased by a company called JaguarPC. I was somewhat apprehensive, not knowing the fate of my site, how well the new company would be run or whether they would honor Aletia's old hosting packages. I'll admit that the relationship was somewhat rocky at first as this site suffered even *more* downtime as it was transitioned into the JaguarPC family. But then, something happened: my site was moved from one of the old Aletia servers to a Jaguar server... and it stopped going down! Low and behold, my uptime went from around 82% to 99.99%! And to make things even better, once Jaguar offered a plan that was better than my old Aletia plan, they kindly upgraded me for new extra charge!

So - why did I post this today, instead of six months ago? Because Jaguar is at it again! They recently upgraded their hosting plans to include 5GB worth of storage space (up from 1GB) and 75GB worth of bandwidth per month (up from 45GB), along with the standard unlimited @jimcofer.com email accounts, unlimited SQL accounts and much much more. I posted a Help Desk ticket to see if I could get upgraded, and within 8 hours I was (even though I posted it as a "low priority" ticket). This is AWESOME service, and all for $7.95/month (when paid yearly)! If you find yourself needing a web host, please consider Jaguar - I promise that you won't regret it!

So what does this upgrade mean for you? Well, I have space enough to put music and videos into the Members Section now, and I'll probably do just that. I'll also probably post a lot of pics as time goes on.

10/05/2005: Finally updated the Spooks page for series 4 and also added a new tip about avoiding Scottish currency to the London Tips page.

10/14/2005: You know who I never thought was all that attractive? Sex and the City's Kristin Davis. I used to think that she was kind of mousy and "plain Jane"... plus, her body ain't all that, especially compared to... I dunno... Jessica Alba or Charisma Carpenter. But you know what? I was surfin' the 'Net last night and came across this picture:


Click to enlarge
(WARNING: full-sized pic is 566kb)

You see those crow's feet? DAMN, that's hot! And that got me to thinking about my "new" obsession with older women. Of course, I've always been in awe of some pretty older women. For instance, Catherine Deneuve is #1 on my current Hawt Chicks List. But up until a few years ago, I used to think that women like Catherine Deneuve were pretty (but not "hot") and even that was in a fairly detached sort of way - sort of how you might think your best friend's sister is pretty, but you just don't "go there". But that all changed a few years ago, and I remember exactly when it happened - the first time I saw Madonna's "Power of Goodbye" video. For the first time, an older woman wasn't just "pretty", she was "hot" too! I don't know why exactly I felt the need to tell you all of this. Is it a sign of my inner maturity? Is it some biological thing in my brain that's making me realize I'm much closer to middle age than to all the young tarts on MTV? I dunno, but I don't care. Give me a woman with a few wrinkles - that's a few wrinkles, mind you, not your grandma! - over some skank like Christina Aguilera any day!

Oh, and speaking of "skanks", Paris Hilton's show "The Simple Life" was cancelled by Fox this week. I guess a show with a wedding theme (for a wedding that's not gonna happen anymore) based on two "best friends" that hate each other simply wasn't gonna work. Oh well. And hey, speaking of Madonna, she was a lot of promo stuff coming up for her new album Confessions on a Dance Floor. She will be on MTV's Total Request Live this Monday to debut her new single "Hung Up"; the same network will also debut the new video of the same later on this month on MTV Overdrive and VH1 Vspot. BUT WAIT - THERE'S MORE! On Oct. 21, MTV will premiere a new documentary I'm Going to Tell You a Secret, which follows Madonna's Re-Invention Tour. BUT WAIT - THERE'S STILL MORE! Beginning Nov. 8 - a week before the album's official release - fans will be able to exclusively preview the full 12-track album on MTV.com, VH1.com and LOGOonline.com. Pretty cool, huh?

Not so cool is news of terrorist bombings at Georgia Tech this week and also the sad story of one Debra Bolton, of Alexandria, Virginia. Ms. Bolton fell afoul of DC laws recently after having a single glass of wine with dinner. It seems that the parking valet at the restaurant Ms. Bolton dined at disabled the "automatic headlights" feature of her car; since the area she was in was quite bright, Bolton didn't notice that her headlights were off until she was pulled over "a few hundred yards down the road" by the police. She thought she'd just get a ticket, but instead was arrested for DUI under a DC law that allows police to arrest anyone with a BAC of over .01%. Apparently, .08 is the "legal limit" in every state in America - as well as The District - but most states have a clause that allows for "officer's discretion" arrests for low levels of alcohol intoxication combined with some blatant moving violation such as reckless driving or racing. DC is apparently the only jurisdiction in America that will absolutely arrest people with .02 blood alcohol levels for any reason whatsoever (such as, say, something simple like driving with your lights off). Although Ms. Bolton was eventually able to get the DUI charges dropped, that wasn't enough for the people at the DMV, who refused to reinstate her driver's license until she "got help" for her "drinking problem". Ms. Bolton's story is a true Kafkaesque nightmare - you should really check it out if you have the time!

And lastly, I just finished a GREAT BOOK that I'd like to tell you about. It's called Illegal Tender: Gold, Greed, and the Mystery of the Lost 1933 Double Eagle and it's the story of... a coin. But not just any coin, mind you. The "Double Eagle" was an American  $20 gold piece designed by Augustus Saint Gaudens and is considered by many to be the most beautiful coin the US has ever minted. The 1933 version of the Double Eagle in particular is the holy grail of coin collectors. It's Keyser Sose, Prester John, El Dorado and the Maltese Falcon all rolled into one. Men have spent years and all of their riches trying to obtain this coin, yet it existed in a world of quasi-legality and whispered reports of it's very existence. Trying to find a 1933 Double Eagle was literally like trying to find the end of the rainbow. Why? Well, in a nutshell, some 400,000+ 1933 Double Eagle coins were minted in late January, 1933 just prior to FDR's inauguration (inaugurations were still held in March back then). Before any of the 1933 coins could be released to the general public, FDR made the possession of gold bullion illegal and the vast majority of American gold coins - including all of the 1993 Double Eagles - were melted down into gold bars and shipped to a brand-new facility at Fort Knox, Kentucky. The story should have ended right there - after all, the government's own records account for every single 1933 coin. But no - the coin began appearing in limited quantities in Philadelphia's coin shops. Most were confiscated and subsequently melted down in the 1930s and 1940s, but yet... were there still any out there? What makes this coin such a siren song that someone would pay $7,590,020 for one?

Now, as far as the website goes... I added a list of Helpful Hints to the site today. If you have any of your own that you'd like to add, feel free to email them in!

10/17/2005: Woot! 100,000 hits!  My Internet Penis is now XBOX HUGE! In celebration of hitting the big 100k, there's an extra special treat for jimcofer.com members in the Member's Section today! :)

10/19/2005: A READING FROM THE BOOK OF MADONNA: And lo, though it had been sixty-three score days and a fortnight since the Queen of Heaven last speaketh to the faithful, verily she at last came unto this world with a new Message. And all the faithful tribes of the Madonna Nation there assembled, and heldeth their collective breath whilst Our Queen gave unto them Her new Message. And, when Her words of wisdom were thus received by the Tribes, their cries of joy were without number or end, for the new Message had arrived and it was Good.

10/20/2005: Added 10 movie reviews to my (much neglected) Rotten Tomatoes page today; check 'em out via the "My RT Journal" link in the left navigation bar. And speaking of, I switched around the left navigation bar a bit by getting rid of the Firefox button, moving the external links to their own "section" and also moved the My Résumé link towards the bottom of the bar, so that the links make more sense from top to bottom. And hey - I finally included a link to my MySpace profile (which I also updated recently to have a similar color scheme to this site!) I also added a couple of links to the Links page, updated the Useless Fact, moved some older front page news to the Archive page, added a couple of treats to the Member's Section.

10/21/2005: FEAR NOT, TRUE BELIEVERS, for Our Queen hath returned, and She hath returned with a mighty vengeance:

New York Post: "The Material Girl's returned, and the material's fabulous!"

Daily Telegraph (Australia): "Once again Madonna has proven she is one of the most astute artists or our time and there is little doubt Confessions of A Dancefloor, out next month, is set for a No.1 debut."

The Sun (UK): "Anyone who thought Madonna might have abdicated as the Queen of Pop can kneel at her throne once more. I’m the first [journalist] IN THE WORLD to have heard her new album – and it is an absolute belter. Confessions On A Dance Floor wipes the, er, floor with her critically acclaimed CDs such as Ray Of Light. It is an hour of pure electronic dance/pop heaven."

GMTV (UK): "Madonna... has been one of the major movers in the music industry for over 20 years with her ability to shake up pop music by working with the hottest producers, writers, stylists and image makers to produce her unique sound and look. Her latest stirring is no exception and shows that the queen of pop has by no means hung up her dance shoes and is no doubt set to be a huge success."

Popjournalism.com (Canada): "Madonna is back on the comeback trail... while 'Hung Up' doesn't rank as one of the best Madonna singles, it should more than do the trick in bringing her back near the top of the Billboard Hot 100."

Perezhilton.com (USA): "Finally, after all those false leaks, the real thing has arrived, and it is worth the wait!!! Welcome back bitch, we've missed you!"

Also, "Hung Up" is currently #2 at the US iTunes site and is #1 at iTunes sites in: Luxembourg, Switzerland, Austria, Spain, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, UK, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland and Norway! Also, Sweden's largest online music store (Poplife.se) made "Hung Up" available this week and it went directly to #1!

How dare you doubt me? Seriously, Madonna's on her way back... and in a big ol' bad way.

Also, I updated the Spooks page and moved MORE older front page news to the Archive page.

10/26/2005: Who knew that the engineers at Scientific Atlanta (and\or Aptiv) had a sense of humor? I sure didn't. But speaking of humor, I quietly rolled out a new picture section the other day called Silly Internet Pictures! It's four pages of random funny pics I've collected over the years. Wireless Magazine's Earl Dittman called them "JUST PLAIN LAUGH OUT LOUD FUNNY!", although you should be warned that many of them are not "work safe".

While I'm on the subject of "funny", I gotta pass on this phishing email I got the other day:

While performing it's regular scheduled monthly billing address check our system found incompatible information which seams to be no longer the same with your current credit card information that we have on file. If you changed your billing information or if you moved from you previous address please follow up the link bellow and update your billing information: If you didn't change any of this information you still need to follow up the previous link and update your existing billing information because it means that our database regular scheduled update wasn't made correctly. Choosing to ignore this message will result in to a temporary suspension of your account within 24 hours, until you will choose to solve this unpleasant situation.

We apologies for any inconvinience this may caused you and we strongly advise you to update your information you have on file with us. Clicking LINK CLIPPED you will avoid any possible futuring billing problems with your account.

Ya know, if you're gonna try and pass yourself off as a legitimate American company in order to fool people into giving you their credit card and\or banking account information, perhaps it would behoove you to spend a few minutes actually learning the language, no?

10/27/2005: Updated the "Up To The Minute" section and the Rant; will (hopefully) post a new review tomorrow.

10/28/2005: Added a gorgeous new Madonna wallpaper to the Downloads page and also updated the Useless Fact. I hope to post a new review over the weekend.

10/31/2005: HAPPY HALLOWEEN!! I added the pics from CarnEVIL to the Photo Gallery.

 

November 2005

 

11/01/2005: Well, it looks like Sony has set off a firestorm of controversy on the Internet in the past couple of days. It seems that Mark Russinovich of the kick-ass Windows site systernals.com was testing out some software on his system when he found evidence of a rootkit on his PC. What's a rootkit? It's a technology that can "hide files, Registry keys, and other system objects from diagnostic and security software". Although any type of file could exist in a rootkit, they almost always hide bad things... so you could think of a rootkit as a type of "invisible virus"... and not only can you not see anything, neither can your antivirus or antispyware software! But how had Mark - easily one of the smartest Windows users on the planet - been infected by a rootkit? By putting a Sony Music CD into his CD-ROM drive! What actually happened when Mark put the Van Zant brothers' newest CD into his computer is a bit too technical for most folks, so I will summarize it this way: the CD installed software on his computer without his consent; the software completely hid itself from Mark, his security software and the standard Windows user interface; the software runs as a service and cannot be disabled, even in "safe mode"; the service runs under a misleading name; the (badly-written) software uses too many CPU cycles and is apparently cobbled together from many different sources; the software does not come with any "uninstall" feature; uninstalling the software manually requires a fairly advanced knowledge of the Windows architecture and several tools average users have never heard of; and lastly, the software disables any CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drives if tampered with. People, this is pure evil. This is something *I* would have a difficult time fixing on my computer, much less Mom and Dad. And it's allowing Sony to do anything they want with your computer. This MUST be stopped. Check out Mark's article on the subject for the complete skinny, or check out this easier-to-understand article on the same subject from F-Secure here. What's truly interesting about all this is that it makes you wonder what the hell Sony was thinking. They don't want us to pirate music... so they release copy-protected CDs that contain "viruses" that are harder to remove than anything you'd find on a P2P network? Does that make any sense to you? Now that this news is out in the open, I can promise you that there is a substantial number of people that will just download the damn album off Kazaa rather than buying it and risk getting their computers "rooted". Way to think that one through, Sony!

11/02/2005: The list of "Top 10 Reasons Rappers Don't Tour As Much As Rockers":

10) By the time you round the posse up, 3 of them have released solo albums and want their own tour.
9) It takes a long time to pimp the tour bus.
8) Acting roles keep interfering...
7) Bling-related injuries!
6) "Pimpin' Ain't Easy"
5) There's only 3 cities on the Rand-McNally Rap Atlas (New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta)
4) The Man
3) Death
2) Palimony suits
1) Probation

11/03/2005: BREAKING NEWS: It's finally HERE!!!! Get it from the Member's Section! Also, I added an article about how to cheat on Internet polls to the My Writings page last night. Enjoy!

11/08/2005: Wow - I saw Depeche Mode this past weekend in Atlanta and can I just say that it was REALLY GREAT! So many "technopop" bands just really suck live (New Order, I'm looking directly at you), so I wasn't expecting that much from the show... but it was really freakin' good! I had a great time and would like to thank Lisa, Kim, Ken and everyone else who made it possible... as well as my sister and brother-in-law who put us up for a couple of nights... THANKS EVERYBODY!

On the website front, I *finally* added a page with some Smartphone themes I created back in January - better late than never, no? I also *finally* updated my MP3 list and added a cool (free) program to the Downloads page. Oh, and I also tweaked my article about how to cheat at Internet polls to reflect some honest uses for macros. I'm still working on that review and hope to get it posted in the next couple of days.... and I also hope to have my RSS feed updated then too; updating it manually kind of sucks.

11/10/2005: So I was eating some Crows candy today - yummy, old-school licorice gumdrops - when I started wondering about their origin. A visit to the Tootsie Roll site revealed that they were "invented in the 1890's by confectioners Ernest Von Au and Joseph Maison". It was at the Tootsie site that I learned an interesting bit of trivia: "originally, Crows were to be called 'Black Rose', but the printer misheard the name as 'Black Crows' and printed wrappers with the wrong name on them" (Tootsie apparently dropped the "Black" from the name when they bought the brand back in 1972, so they're just "Crows" today).

And so - the name of the candy I was eating came about because someone misheard the name! That got me to thinking about some of history's most interesting misunderstandings:

California received her independence in a manner eerily similar to the way Texas did - white Americans rebelling militarily against their Mexican leaders. In California's case, one of the rebellion's leaders was a man named Jebediah Bartlett, an agricultural tycoon and developer of the Bartlett pear. To symbolize their victory over Mexico, the rebels quickly designed a flag (which is almost identical to the current California flag). The only problem was that the flag called for a pear; whether due to bad handwriting or smeared ink, the artist commissioned for the flag pained a bear on the fabric instead of the fruit. (Cite)

Electric Light Orchestra's debut album was called No Answer in the US but Electric Light Orchestra everywhere else in the world. This is because an American record company executive misunderstood (or rather, took a bit too literally) a note his secretary had scribbled on a piece of paper. She had been tasked with calling either ELO's management or record company to get details for the upcoming album. When no one answered her calls, she wrote "No answer" on a piece of paper. He somehow thought this was the name of the album, so it was released in the US with that title. (Cite)

A similar thing happened with The Byrds. Because the group had not yet decided on a name for their newest disc, their manager wrote '(Untitled)' on the official label copy sheet sent to the record company. Before anyone realized what was happening, the albums had already been pressed (and the sleeves printed up) as (Untitled). (Cite)

Fun stuff! Let see... I added some links to the Links page and also put a new tip about saving multiple email attachments to the Geek Stuff page. I also updated some older articles on the GeekStuff page and cleaned it up so that it looks better in Firefox.

11/10/2005: How's this for crappy: Cincinnati soldier Tim Hines was killed in action in Iraq. The evening after his funeral his wife - who is eight months pregnant with their second child - awoke to the sound of her car alarm going off. Racing outside, she found her car on fire. Police say that the fire was set using American flags that the family had in the front yard. So - let's review. A soldier dies. His wife is eight months pregnant with their child. Less than 24 hours after buying him, someone burns Ms. Hines' car using American flags as fuel. Fuckin' classy, really classy. And true too.

On the website front, I updated the Top 10 Hawt Chicks list and posted my review of the IMFree AIM device.

11/18/2005: Do you remember the USFL? It was an "alternate" football league started way back in 1983. It was an "alternate" league in that the league's main gimmick was a March through June schedule that did not directly compete with the NFL. Football fans could then (theoretically) enjoy football almost year-round. Unfortunately, the league folded after just two seasons. But that's not why I'm bringing up the USFL. No, I'm bringing it up of because of one of its teams:

My, my... that looks familiar, doesn't it? Especially to those of us in Charlotte. Hmmm.. How about the helmets?

 Michigan Panthers helmet above, Carolina Panthers helmet below.

I looked on the 'Net for some other similarity between the teams - same owner, same coach... maybe John Fox played for the Panthers? I could find nothing - although I'll freely admit that the web isn't exactly teeming with information about a chump team from twenty years ago. In any case... what a rip! I think that if I designed the Michigan Panther's logo, I'd be in a federal court right now with some serious-ass infringement charges.

Oh - and speaking of "chumps" - it looks like Costco is the first major retailer to jump on the "bottled water for dogs" craze. Yes, it's true - PupCups are sealed, disposable containers containing "the best-tasting, safest drinking water available. Every drop of our delicious water flows through a multi-step purification process". Of course, ya know... dogs think the cat's litter box is an all-you-can-eat buffet, so I don't know what the point is behind 1) Carbon Filtration 2) Pretreatment 3) Reverse Osmosis 4) Hot Filling and 5) Sterile Sealing water into containers for dogs. Granted, it sounds like a decent idea if you travel with your dog a lot... but the 4 ounce containers mean that anything bigger than lhasa apso is going to need three or four per stop. And at $34.99 for a 48-count case (at Costco), you'd better bring your wallet too! Idiots!

Speaking of idiots - I updated the Rant and Useless Fact for this week.

11/21/2005: Karma's a bitch, ain't it? It seems the bad news just won't stop for Sony Music these days - and given their almost maniacal hated and distrust of their own customers, it's not hard to see why karma's so busy dumping on them lately. Just about every website on the planet - including this one; see my news for 11/01 - covered the initial news about the "rootkit" that Sony included on 20-50 audio CDs for sale in the United States. Here's a brief recap in case you missed some of the finer points of the story:

  •  On Halloween, Mark Russinovich - one of the most skilled Windows users in the entire world - posted a story about the rootkit on his blog. Rootkits are essentially a cloaking technology that allows someone to silently install a program on your system. The files installed by the rootkit will be completely to invisible to the user, his or her administrator... and even to Windows itself! Almost like a wiretap, a rootkit intercepts certain native Windows API calls (stuff deep within the Windows operating system; think of it as Window's "nervous system") and forwards the calls on as if nothing unusual is installed.  Unless (of course) that API call is something the rootkit creator wants to prevent Windows from doing. In this particular case, the rootkit is there to prevent people from playing the CD via any other player except the restricted one included on the audio CD. What makes the Sony case so despicable is that their rootkit (and related copy prevention software) offers no uninstall routine, can easily destroy your Windows installation if tampered with, and appears to be badly written piece of junk cobbled together from many different technologies. But perhaps the worst thing about the rootkit is that it leaves an infected Windows computer wide open to future exploits; this is because any file subsequently copied to your system's hard drive prefixed with "$sys$" in the file name will now be hidden on the user's system. All an enterprising virus writer has to do is name his virus $sys$virus.exe and the file will be invisible to the user, Windows and the user's antivirus software! 
     

  •  Many news outlets picked up on the story in the following days. In response to the bad press, Sony at first admits nothing, then implements a hideously complex uninstall procedure. Well, sort of. At first, Sony's "uninstaller" simply removes the cloaking... but does nothing to remove the actual  dangerous files themselves. And rather than doing the right thing and put the information front and center on their website, Sony buries it in the FAQ. A user wanting to uninstall the program has to track down the FAQ in question, which leads to form one must fill out so that the uninstall information can be emailed to them (and of course, you have to give your email address to Sony in the process). The email contained yet another link to the patch - which is a a 3.5MB file that apparently does nothing other than run the following command: net stop “network control manager”. In other words, no files are deleted and nothing is "patched" - the cloaking service is simply stopped. Russinovich also discovers at this time that the Sony CD player "phones home" each and every time the user plays a CD - something Sony vehemently denies.
     

  •  On November 4th, the president of Sony BMG's global digital business division Thomas Hesse pissed off millions of computer users, displayed the total moral bankruptcy of the Big Music cartel and revealed the utter disdain the music industry holds for its customers by saying the following in an interview for NPR News: "Most people, I think, don't even know what a rootkit is, so why should they care about it?"
     

  •  On November 9th, Sony issued an actual patch for the rootkit. Again, the uninstall information is buried in Sony's site and again the affected user has to jump through hoops to uninstall the offending software. The new patch is pretty interesting: the user once again has to fill out a form and wait for a link to arrive via email. Once the user clicks on the email link, he or she is prompted to download an ActiveX control. Why an ActiveX control instead of the more common executable file? Because the uninstaller creates a hash - a numerical pattern based on the hardware in your system. Mark Russinovich determined that each email is individually tailored for each infected system, so that if the user sends the email from one system and tries to run the uninstaller on another... the patch won't work. This is additional "phone home" behavior, which Sony is still denying at this point.
     

  •  Some time around November 12th, the first viruses taking advantage of the $sys$ exploit appear. An estimated 500,000 computers are "infected" with the rootkit, easily making this the largest computer infection of all time. And it could have been far worse: makers of antivirus and antispyware programs dilly-dallied for a couple of weeks before deciding this the rootkit was, indeed, bad and including it in their updated definitions. Also around this time, Sony announced that they will stop selling the infected discs.
     

  •  On or around November 16th, Sony announced that it would cease production of the rootkit CDs permanently, recall any infected CDs remaining in stores, and send any affected customers "rootkit-free" replacement CDs. Even though Sony is offering free DRM-free MP3 downloads of the albums to affected customers waiting for their replacement CDs, the general consensus amongst the geek set is "too little too late".
     

  •  On this past Friday, some delicious news appeared: it's almost certain that First4Internet - the UK company that created the copy protection system on the rootkit CDs - used large portions of the open-source LAME encoder in their software. LAME is released under the Limited General Public License (LGPL) - and the terms of the LAME license mean that any software author that uses any of the GPL code in his or her project must publish their code publicly. Which means that - check your Irony Meters, folks - First4Internet (and, by extension, Sony) might be guilty of copyright infringement in their crusade to stamp out... copyright infringement! Delicious!

So... what does this all mean? It's hard to say exactly, but one thing is clear: digital rights management (DRM) simply doesn't work. People have been ripping CDs to their hard drives for almost a decade now - an eternity in IT years - but Big Music still hasn't come up with an effective way to protect their precious, precious content. They want to be able to dictate whether or not you can copy music to your iPod or other device. They want to be able to dictate whether or not you can make your own mix CDs. And they want you to pay more money every time you use an iPod or make your own CD. But yet in a decade - the amount of time it took us to go from Windows 95 to Windows XP and from standard definition TV to high definition TV - Big Music still hasn't figured out an effective way to control their content.

Given Sony's latest debacle, Big Music's greatest fear is that they'll never be able to implement a DRM scheme. And rightly so. But one has to wonder what Sony's balance sheet will look like after the dust from this scandal has settled. First, Sony will have to eat the cost of recalling 4.7 million CDs from stores and 2.1 million CDs from consumers. That's almost 7 million CDs that will take up space in a landfill, all because Sony decided to take its marketing cues from its legal department instead of people that know music. Secondly, there are several class action suits forming in the US and elsewhere (like Italy) because of this boneheaded move, and that's not even mentioning the legal actions that several state attorneys general are considering now. Thirdly, one has to consider the cost of the negative publicity Sony now faces. I don't think that consumers will stop buying CDs from their favorite artists just because they're on one of Sony's many labels, but you can certainly bet that many tech-savvy folks will seriously consider buying the disc from iTunes or just downloading it from a BitTorrent or P2P site rather than get a virus by doing the "right thing" and buying the actual CD from a store. And honestly, who can blame them? When one can get a virus by putting an official music CD into their computer, who can honestly blame them for taking their chances elsewhere? I've never gotten a virus from any music I downloaded, which is more than I can say about Sony CDs.

In the end, one has to wonder if it was all worth it for Sony. How much money could they possibly "lose" from piracy to justify the recall, the lawsuits, the lost sales and the bad press? Surely they couldn't have lost that much money. But even if they end up claiming that they did, in fact, lose more money to piracy off those 20-50 CD titles than they lost from this fiasco, I'm not sure that I'll believe them. Simple macroeconomic theory says that, if given an ultimatum of paying for something they used to get for free, a huge chunk of people will simply do without. And that should trouble Big Music even more than piracy itself. What if Sony came up with the perfect DRM system? What if they came up with CDs that couldn't be copied? Personally, I'd just stop listening to Shakira. My life won't be any less richer for it, I suppose. And Big Music would lose its favorite scapegoat. Like a Third-World dictator always blaming America for his own country's economic woes, Big Music would no longer would they be able to hide behind the spectre of "piracy" any time one of their albums tanks.

Another thing I learned in macroeconomics is that black markets exist for a reason. At the end of the day, most people want to do the right thing. But if people are buying your product from the back stalls at flea markets or doing the digital equivalent by using a P2p network, one of two things must be happening. Either your product is in short supply, or it's priced too high. I don't think anyone will say that music is in short supply, so that means that music is simply too expensive. But rather than adapt to and embrace the Internet, Big Music sees it as its sworn enemy. Part of this is because selling music online means selling individual tracks instead of albums. And trust me, Big Music is far happier selling 2 million Britney Spears CDs at $12.99 (almost $26 million) than selling 5 million digital copies of the one good track on the album for $4.9 million. But guess what? People are sick of doing this. Customers want to be able to spend 99¢ for that one good song precisely because they're sick of paying $12.99 for the same thing.

But Big Music's fear of the Internet goes even deeper than just dollars and cents. It's afraid of the Internet and has stuck its head in the sand for years when it comes to digital distribution. That's something which it can continue to do if it wants to, but that will be at it's own peril.

UPDATE: Yep, I knew it would happen. Texas is officially the first state to sue Sony over the XCP discs, according to court papers filed today.

UPDATE: It looks like the EFF is now suing Sony! They are not only suing Sony for the XCP debacle, but are also targeting SunnComm MediaMax, another type of DRM that Sony has used on 20 million compact discs. According to the EFF, MediaMax "installs files on the users' computers even if they click 'no' on the EULA, and it does not include a way to fully uninstall the program". MediaMax also "transmits data about users to SunnComm through an Internet connection whenever purchasers listen to CDs, allowing the company to track listening habits - even though the EULA states that the software will not be used to collect personal information and SunnComm's website says 'no information is ever collected about you or your computer'. The EFF also says that users had to provide multiple requests for an uninstaller "but they first had to provide more personally identifying information". The EFF also determined that "SunnComm's uninstaller creates significant security risks for users, as the XCP uninstaller did." Sony is so busted!

UPDATE: Kudos to Amazon.com for doing the right thing and offering refunds or replacements to anyone that purchased a Sony XCP CD from the online giant. This refund is as "no questions asked" as they come - purchasers get a refunds or replacement whether the disc has been opened or not and Amazon has also waived the 30-day limit on refunds for these discs. Amazon is doing this solely on its own and has no agreement with Sony to return the crippled discs to the manufacturer.

UPDATE: Plain ol' Scotch tape placed on the outer edge of these discs can apparently defeat the XCP protection entirely. More proff - as if we needed any - that DRM CDs simply do not work.

On the website front, I added a new recipe to the Recipe page and also added a new link to the Links page. Oh, and I also expanded the list of my favorite concerts from 5 to 10 on my Favorite Things page.

11/22/2005: FIRST THINGS FIRST - HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAD!!! :) OK, just so you know, I added several updates to yesterday's entry about Sony getting sued into oblivion. Scroll to the end of the entry to read them if you wish. I promise I'll shut up about it in a minute, but I *must* clarify one delicious point about the whole Sony fiasco: as you might know, Sony didn't write (or, more accurately, steal) the software published on their CDs. That was done by a British company called First4Internet. However, because Sony distributed the software they are also open to liability... due to the standard the US Supreme Court set earlier this year in... (are you sitting down?) MGM Studios Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd. My God, people - it's as if Sony has started a chain of events that have caused the very fabric of spacetime to rip! Irony is piling on top of irony piling on top of irony on top of yet another irony... until the spacetime itself warps and takes us back to 1980 where there aren't any CDs. And not only has this story hit the mainstream media, it's even hit the comics too! Lastly, I felt that yesterday's commentary was so important that I gave it its own page (which compelled me to finally get around to cleaning up this ancient document).

I also added a bit about Obscure Windows Shortcuts to the GeekStuff page and also cleaned up the table on the Critic's Corner page.

11/28/2005: OK - I'm back from Atlanta and the whole Thanksgiving gig - see some pictures here. I also added a link to a page of Mimi pics and also added a few new links to the Links page. I had a great time this past weekend, but when I returned home I discovered some highly disturbing news... Imagine owning a beverage company with worldwide brand recognition. Imagine that despite being the "default brand" people think of when they think of your beverage, your sales have been flagging as of late. Imagine that you have a team of research folks working on changing a formula that's been popular and unchanged for ages. You're convinced that the "new formula" will be a smashing success and it'll help you regain flagging market share. Well, stop imagining... and stop thinking of "New Coke" - I'm talking about Guinness. And if Coke's management team thought they had a disaster on their hands, the people that run Diageo PLC (Guinness's parent company) have no idea what the shitstorm they're about to unleash will be like. Seriously. Don't screw with Guinness... or else!

 

December 2005

 

12/01/2005: No real updates today, just some housekeeping. I deleted some of the files from the Member's Section because they are now easily available all over the Internet. If you need help finding what used to be there, just ask. I also archived some older news to the news archive, which should make for faster homepage downloading.

12/06/2005: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HUNNY! My sweet girlfriend turns 22 today! :)  Aside from mentioning her birthday and telling ya that I added a few new links to the Links page (and edited some older ones), I just wanted to post this:

hehehehehehe!

12/07/2005: Lots of lil' updates today! I edited the Justice for Kirsty entry on the Links page, added a cool new Guinness commercial to the Downloads page, updated my MP3 lists (also on the Downloads page) and also updated the Useless Fact.

12/09/2005: Today's odd lil' bit of trivia: Andrew McCarthy wore a wig for the final scene of Pretty in Pink. Many of you might know that the original ending of the movie called for Andie (Molly Ringwald) to finally hook up with her friend Duckie (Jon Cryer). However, test audiences simply hated the ending, so John Hughes reshot the ending to have Andie and Blane McDonnagh (McCarthy) get back together. The only problem with doing the reshoot was that Andrew McCarthy had already shaved his head for a play he was appearing in at the time, so he had to wear a wig for continuity purposes. (He had also lost around 20 pounds for the role in the play too, although the weight loss is not as obvious (to me) as the wig).

Even more of the pointless and random trivia you know and love: Belmont Abbey is a private Catholic liberal arts college in my city of Belmont, North Carolina. They recently opened a student-named coffee house called ... (wait for it...) Holy Grounds.

In website news, I added a new recipe to the Recipe page. Enjoy! Oh, and by the way, Scarlett Johansson fans should absolutely check out these pics of her posted over at The Superficial. Push-up bras are TEH WIN!

12/12/2005: Mariah Carey is so classy. When she came onstage to accept the award for Best Female R&B/Hip Hop Artist at the Billboard Music Awards a week or tow ago, she not only had the nerve to read her acceptance speech off her Palm Pilot, she even complained about "whoever wrote this list for me" because they apparently left some names off of it. Not writing your own "thank you speech" for an awards show is bad enough - admitting it onstage during your acceptance speech is something altogether worse. What a tired old whore! In fact, she's so tired that she even has an assistant bring her drink to her mouth for her. Ah well...

I posted the pics from Lisa's birthday gathering at the Bucket Shop to the Photo Gallery and also swapped out the QuickTime version of the Guinness commercial for a high-res XviD one on the Downloads page. Enjoy!

12/16/2005: New uploads in the Member's Section. That is all.

12/17/2005: Added a new tip to the Geek Stuff page, updated the Playlists page, Useless Fact and the Up To The Minute sections.

12/22/2005: Since I won't be able to update this until next year, I just wanted to quickly say MERRY CHRISTMAS and throw out a few fun facts for you:

1) Magazines make the lion's share of their profits from ad sales, not subscriptions. The amount of money a magazine charges for its ad pages is directly related to how many readers they have. In other words, you're worth far more to a magazine as a statistic to be used for ad sales than you are as a paying customer. Many magazines - especially newer ones - are usually so desperate to build a readership base that they'll do just about anything to get one - including giving subscriptions away for free! There are thousands of "free magazine subscription" websites out there, but I don't advise you to use them. Some sites basically give you the magazine in return for your address and marketing information; expect a ton of junk snail mail and spam if you use them. Other sites are multi-level "scams" that require you to get three or four friends to subscribe before you can get your "free" subscription. But even if 90% of the "free magazine" sites aren't to be trusted, that doesn't mean that you should be a sucker and pay the price listed on those annoying postcards that are stuffed into magazines. Sites like this one are perfectly legit. They offer dozens of magazine subscriptions for $5.95/year - even for some weekly mags like OK!

2) For years, I was a fan of "wacky law" websites and newspaper filler stories. You've probably gotten an email with a list of such "wacky laws" like "It's illegal for a man to marry a camel in Broken Arrow, Arizona" or "In North Carolina, it's illegal to use elephants to plow cotton fields"... crap like that. Now, I've always been interested in how such crazy laws came to pass. It was in search of the origin of these laws that I found out the horrible truth: these "wacky laws" are usually huge embellishments on the real thing. It's true that some of the "wacky laws" floating around in emails or on the web are laws copied verbatim from city or state ordinances. These archaic laws have been ignored for so long that people have forgotten that they even exist. Most of the "it's illegal for a woman to to X in the state of Y on a Sunday" laws are, in fact, real laws from 150 years ago that are still "on the books" but haven't been enforced in 100 years. However, the vast majority of the "wacky laws" you read about take real laws and try to put a funny spin on it. For example, imagine a pedestrian-friendly city like New York. Imagine that dog owners typically take their dogs with them when they run errands. Imagine that they tie the dogs up to something outside of the store, then go inside to pick up their dry cleaning, get some groceries, etc. Now, imagine that one particular summer several people are bitten by a few of these dogs, so the city of New York passes an ordinance making it illegal "to leave any animal unattended within the city limits of New York". Well, the people that collect those "wacky laws" will take that ordinance and change it to something like "it's illegal to leave a hyena unattended in the city of New York"... and hilarity ensues! Sort of. Here are some real world examples from a well-known "wacky laws" website:

"Ordinance #223 in Bexley, Ohio prohibits the installation and usage of slot machines in outhouses" - I can almost guarantee you that the law bans slot machines in any building in Bexley, Ohio - it's just funnier to say "outhouse" than "any building".

"It is illegal to offer whiskey or cigarettes to animals at the zoo in Manville, New Jersey" - It's almost certainly illegal of offer animals at the zoo anything - it's just funnier to say "whiskey and cigarettes" than "any item".

"It is illegal to visit a cemetery in Virginia for any other reason than visiting the deceased" - not especially "wacky", this is probably part of an anti-loitering or anti-vandalism law.

"It is illegal to tie giraffes to street lamps in Atlanta, Georgia" - See my example above. It's probably illegal to tie any animal to a street lamp in Atlanta.

"It is illegal to pawn your dentures in Las Vegas, Nevada" - This is hardly unique. There's an entire class of personal items that cannot be sold at retail - used mattresses, used underwear, used toothbrushes, etc. Of course, you can sell any of these items on a person-to-person basis, but a retail store (which includes pawn shops) cannot.

"It is illegal to juggle without a license in Hood River, Oregon" - Many cities require street performers to have licenses. This includes jugglers.

"According to Indiana state law, once your breath leaves your body, it is no longer your property" - That sounds like a law that was written up after one particular DUI case, doesn't it?

"In Grand Haven, Michigan, it is illegal to abandon a hoopskirt on any public street or sidewalk" - Yes, littering laws... most places have them.

"It is illegal to drink beer from a bucket on any street curb in St. Louis, Missouri" - Yes, it's called an "open container law". Walking down the street and drinking a beer is illegal in just about every state in the Union. The part about the bucket was just added for laughs.

"In Memphis Tennessee, it is illegal for a woman to drive a car unless there is a man running or walking in front of it, waving a red flag to warn approaching motorists and pedestrians" - I actually like this law! Seriously, if this is a real law, then it's an archaic one. When I was a kid, I knew several older women that had never driven a car before.

3) Actress and confirmed hottie Jessica Alba once had the phone number 867-5309. She says that she got an average of eleven "Jenny" calls a month while she lived there. Unfortunately, I can't find the interview online at the moment, but if I find it in the next day I'll post a link.

 

 
Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 May 2007 14:06