Sunday, February 29, 2004

Six Degrees of separation: I know this was a big fad for a while, but I sometimes find myself pondering on the idea that there's six degrees separating you from anybody else in the world.

People started out playing it as a stupid game with Kevin Bacon. Then they realized it was possible to do it with any two actors you wanted.

The second is a lot of fun. Buster Keaton to Hulk Hogan? Gary Cooper to Gary Coleman? Margret DuMont to Margot Kidder? Rudolph Valentino to Britney Spears?

Hollywood really is a small town, and most connections don't require using more than two other actors.

But what about you and me? Is there anything to the idea, that you, the random blogger who's surfed in from Australia or France or any of the places I've gotten hits from, you, who have typed something in a search engine and ended up here, could connect yourself to me using less people than I have siblings in my own family?

The argument for the "yes" faction goes something like this:

Behold the power of mathematics, of exponential increases.

Let's say I know 100 people. That's a pretty conservative estimate--my wife was from a tiny little town in Pennsylvania, and her graduating class 142 people, who she knew every one of.

And then, let's say that each of those people knows 50 non-redundant people. In other words, 50 people who I haven't included in the 100 that I know, and that aren't included in the 50 the other people know.

100 x 50 = 5000 people

If each of them know 50 more non-redundant people,

50 x 5000 = 2,500,000 people. (Her county only has 120,000 people)

50 x 2,500,000 = 125,000,000 (The whole population of PA is 13,000,000)

50 x 125,000,000 = 6,250,000,000 (The population of the world is about 9 billion)

50 x 6,250,000,000 = 31,250,000,000 (Over 31 billion)

So, statistically speaking, after six degrees you should know the world more than three times over.

Sound pretty good? Make your jaw drop a little? Wish your 401k had that kind of return?

Well, here's the case for the "No" vote:

Although the initial estimates are quite conservative, the rapid increase in "known" people is a little too rapid. It makes the non-redundancy requirement difficult. Once you hit, say, the 125 million mark, wouldn't it be a little difficult to have every single one of them come up with a list of 50 people who aren't already on the list?

The entire state of California only has 35 million people, and it's the most populous state in the union.

Being the cynic that I am, I'm inclined to believe the "No" folks. I mean, yeah, I know 50 people you don't know, from my time in Brazil. But I met a woman in Quinari, Acre who hadn't been off her own street in six years. I don't know if she knew anybody who neighbors didn't.

But I guess I know her, don't I? And that takes her one degree closer to a bunch of people here in the United States, who she wouldn't ever dream of knowing.

And all of you who know me one step closer to her and the wonderful community she's a part of.

And maybe that's why this just might work, after all. Because all of us are full of little surprises, all of us serve as bridges between one group and another, one community and another, people who ordinarily wouldn't interact, but who our existences link together.

An Alum In Need: I have my email address posted at and my old high school's website. So today I get this email from an "former student" of my high school.

Let me introduce myself,my name is Scott Williams,an ex of Eisenhower
high school,CA,presently i am a navigator employed on board an Ascona
crude oil carrier vessel,owned by a greek firm and i have been navigating
for over 13 years of my life suppling crude oil and liquidfied natural gas
from coast to coast across the globe yet the level of my experience is
insanely low other than the oil sector despite facts that it has
consistently created so much wealth for people from all works of life but
i want to be part of the something new but lacked a reliable part.
Howbeit,one can only place a bet if sure of all the
cards,consequently,i'll place my bet believing you as an ex will not only
have all the cards needed to yield but maintain trust and as far as we are
concern,money is the only reason capable of being understood for any
investment to take shape.
Therefore,a concluded arrangements for the sum of U.S.$10,500,000:00(Ten
Million and Five Hundred Thousand United States Dollars Only)is in place
to you once conditions and terms has been agreed upon between me and
you,and also i would want you to treat with absolute sincerity and
confidentiality as i lye in wait for you to tell me what you consider
appropiate to invest the said sum on through this same medium soonest.
Scott Williams.

The sad thing is, the grammar actually adds to the credibility of the letter.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Coffee, Tea or Milk?: Yeah, you'd probably guess there'd be a whole website dedicated to airline food.

What you might not guess is that it would be fairly entertaining.

Or how good some people have eaten at 30,000 feet.

Only In Hazzard County, Right?: In California, I'm sure this would never happen. Cops giving out tickets for fun?

Friday, February 27, 2004

Election Time: To honor the fact that we're supposed to vote on some stuff soon, I'm going to cast a bunch of votes. Here goes.

Best Candy Bar: Butterfinger
Best Candy in General: Jelly Bellys
Best Online Tetrisesque Puzzle Game: Bejewelled
Best TV Show of All Time: The Dick Van Dyke Show
Best Movie of All Time: Back to the Future
Best Kids Movie: Matilda
Website That Jumped The Shark The Worst: Coming Attractions
Celebrity Who I'm Glad Isn't Popular Because I Like Having Her To Myself: Keri Russell
Best Book That's Not By Orson Scott Card: Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
Best Film That Showed People Internet Films Could Be High Quality: Troops

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Accepted: More Sorcery For Your shekel: Magic on a Budget has been accepted for publication by the editor/librarian of the Eggplant Library. My writing will sit on the shelves beside such classic works as The Encyclopaedia of Sentient Gems, Vol. IX, Dolphin Poets, and Ninja Animals: Recounting the Scientific Study of the Instruction of Ninjutsu to Non-Human Mammals

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

I Already Gave My Best: I'm no big fan of reality TV. But I am delighted by the internet tidal wave that William Hung fandom has become.

I'd never even heard of him until yesterday, when my brother was wearing a shirt with his now-famous parting words from the show.

This kid's my new hero. In a way, he's a big thumbed nose to the whole idea of "Idol" and all of the other shows that try to quantify what "it" is.

This kid, undoubtedly, has got "it." I, for one, can't get enough of him.

So go, check it out, and become part of the underground.

Monday, February 23, 2004

The Greatest Online Game Ever: The greatest online epic game ever is to be found here.

Even if you never, ever play online games, go check this one out.


Just trust me.

Runelords Movie: Looks like $80 million is the budget for the film adaptation of David Farland (aka Dave Wolverton)'s very excellent Runelords Series.

These books are amazing, and will translate really well to film. Check them out.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

FYI: I am an associate. So any time anything on this site links you to their website (including that link, and the rotating individual book link on the side bar) those are my links, not blogspots, and I do get a couple of bucks. I'm not asking you to "support my website" or anything, since so far I'm paying about as much to post this blog as you're paying to read it, but if you're going to buy something from Amazon anyways, feel free to click through me to them, and I'll be your buddy forever.

I'm actually an associate because of my other site, Simple Magik, which is far more popular than this one, and you're welcome to check out, too, and learn some magic.

Book Review of the Day: While in Pennsylvania, I managed to finish Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. It's based on a BBC miniseries that Gaiman also wrote, which I haven't seen, but, given the BBC's track record, I'm sure is positively atrocious.

The good news is, the book isn't. It's dark humor done well--sort of Douglas Adams meets Lewis Carroll meets Edgar Allen Poe.

The plot's pretty typical British fare--an everyman gets caught up in a world he doesn't really understand, but is far more interesting than his real life. He spends all his time wanting to get back, while a bigger story happens around him. In this case, the world he doesn't understand is right under his nose--the world of the people we don't see who live around, above, and below London. It's populated by strange and sundry characters--you get the idea.

It really is dark, and it really is fun, which makes for an interesting sweet-and-sour combination. As in most of these types of books, you never really care about the viewpoint character, but the people who surround him are every bit as well-drawn and interesting as you'd hope they'd be, and I did come to care about a couple of them quite a bit.

Overall, if the Poe-Adams-Carroll comparison appeals to you, check this one out. If not, you'll probably want to find something else.

Obscure Movie Review of the Day: Pumping Iron

This 1976 documentary was fairly entertaining. It's funny now, to watch it in context. The Lou vs. Arnold competition seems quaint in the light of everything that's happened to both of them since them. But just watching the documentary leaves out two of the most important things.

Fortunately, this is the age of DVDs, and both of the important things are addressed in the nifty extra features.

The first one is the historical context of the piece. When you're watching the auditorium full of screaming fans cheering at the competition, it's hard to remember that that bunch of people represented like nearly all the fans of the sport in the whole world. Weightlifting wasn't accepted as a sport then--the guys who did it were either seen as insecure kids who had been beat up a lot, or freakish, self-obsessed monsters.

This film was an attempt to bring that to the masses--almost a propaganda piece.

Which makes the second important thing all the more interesting--that half the "story" in it is a lie. They would make things up on the spot, or shoot extra things, or otherwise attempt to make the film more interesting. Arnold tells stories he heard once, from somebody somewhere, as if they happened to them. They have Lou's father, who never really had any interest in Lou's career, play a sort of Burgess Meredith character, pushing him harder, yelling at him, giving him advice. They say his father retired from the police force to focus full time on his son's career.

All of this is intermixed with true interesting stuff, like Lou's struggle with hearing problems.

When viewed in this light, I think the film is amazing. And it did it's job--you just have to look at how much of your hard earned money you've paid out in gym memberships--whether you go or not--to see that.

Instructing Vs. Teaching: Mo wrote in to respond to my last post on censorship. It was actually a comment of Prof. Vu's that got to her:

"Suppose, for example, that a man 'teaches' that racial minorities are subhuman, explains in detail how to make a bomb and then encourages his listeners to plant the bombs in places where minorities gather. It makes no sense to say that this activity is 'protected' while a woman baring her breast is not."

To start with - that man can "teach" people whatever he wants about minorities and bombs... First Amendment, free speech, blah blah blah. Should he be able to? Absolutely. What he teaches makes my blood boil, but living in a truly free society means that freedoms I have to express my beliefs and opinions should be the exact same freedoms given to the people who make my blood absolutely boil. However, this isn't what got me steamed about what Prof Vu said....

To encourage someone to plant bombs in places where minorities gather is a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT issue from teaching someone about how to build bombs and/or how racial minorities are subhuman. Encouraging someone to plant a bomb is a call to criminal action - something that is NOT protected because you're not "teaching" someone anything. You are trying to get someone to DO something illegal. I don't know all the legal terms for it, but that borders on "inciting a riot" or "aiding and abetting" or something. If a listener takes the message to heart and DOES end up planting a bomb, the messenger is just as guilty as the listener.

For example, let's say I told you that I was mad at someone, and during that same conversation I mention that there's a knife in the drawer. If you then took that knowledge of the knife and my anger at someone and then ended up killing that person, I am not guilty of the murder because I never told you or encouraged you in any way to kill that person. HOWEVER, if, during that same conversation, I encourage you to kill the person I'm mad at, I would DEFINITELY be guilty of the murder. Simply saying "there's a knife in the drawer" isn't what would have caused my guilt - I was merely providing information. Saying "I'm mad at _____" isn't what would have caused my guilt because, again, I was providing information. Those two pieces of information are (relatively) innocuous because it would take a logical (or, in this case, illogical) leap from you to go out an kill the person I was mad at with the knife in the drawer. It's the call to action - me saying "You should kill _______ with that knife in the drawer because I'm mad at him/her" - that would have led to my conviction because I'm taking those two innocuous statements and making the (il)logical leap of what you should do with that information for you. Providing people with information and then encouraging those people use that information to commit a crime IS NOT protected speech.

I think that's a valid point. The example used probably does cross another important line--for lack of better terms, I'll call it "Instructing vs. Teaching." If your words encourage evil, they're protected. If they cause evil, like if I gave an order to someone who worked for me to do something bad, then they're not.

Simply because the order involved some teaching ("Here's how to work a gun. Go shoot that man with it.") doesn't pull it under the protected umbrella of what I call "teaching." For semantics sake I'll call such teaching "instruction," and say it's part of the order rather than educational or political.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Another Problem With Insurance:I've never been a big fan of insurance, so this article drew a smile from me.

Seems that a bunch of politicians in Thailand are avoiding paying hotel costs by checking themselves in to hospitals overnight. And the insurance companies don't think they should have to pay the costs.

This is probably my silliest link today.

And while you're at it: Take a shot at shutting off the internet.

Getting to Know Me: Congradulations! you're a Complete Psycho!
'Complete Psycho' PLEASE VOTE!!!

What Type of Lunatic are You?
brought to you by Quizilla
You have a lot going for you, but most people will
only remember you for one thing, and a lot of
them will try to copy it. They'll all suck at
it, though. Besides, you've got better stuff.

What band from the 80s are you?
brought to you by Quizilla
You are Amanda

Which one of Joyce's Friends are you
brought to you by Quizillaalias
You are most like Sydney Bristow from Alias. You
have that secret agent edge. Your smart and
quickminded. Even in the hardest of pressure
you can keep a level head.

Which SuperChick Are you?
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You are GILL!
What Finding Nemo Character are You?

brought to you by Quizilla
You are smart and sexy!

Which Ultimate Beautiful Woman are You?
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You came from the future. You have wisdom beyond
your age and are always thinking ahead. A
favorite poem of yours is "Autumn" by
Emily Dickinson. You have strenth and
independence. Intelligence and creativity are
your strong points and you always try your
best. Your heart shines through hatred and
always discovers truth. Often you are found
looking ahead and wondering what put us on this
Earth. Your heart is in the right place, but
don't let your wisdom shine through fun. Your
worrying can often prevent you from finding
friends, but your nice and caring spirit makes
up for it. Wisdom is your soul.

Where did you come from when you were born?
brought to you by Quizilla
You are Mario. You're pretty good-all-around.
You're most of the time the hero, and you don't
get too hung up in it...just try and let others
get a little spot-light too, k? (plz rate)

What Nintendo Charater are You? (pics)
brought to you by Quizilla

Bichos: My short story "Bichos" is up for critique this week at Critters. If you're signed up, check it out and shoot me a crit.

Those Who Can, Do; Those Who Can't, Teach: While I was gone, Prof. Vu responded to my comments on his cenorship post.

His argument is basically that "teaching is a form of doing" and "doing things can teach people" and therefore my distinction is arbitrary.

In order for that to make any sense, though, I would have had to argue that ALL doing is wrong. I didn't. There are lots of things you can "do" on TV that nobody should be able to stop you from doing, and one of them is teach whatever you want (It's the old all Fords are cars, but not all cars are Fords).

My argument was that teaching should, in every circumstance, be protected, in exactly the same way it is protected on the street (ie except in cases of slander and libel and such).

And, contrawise, public broadcast channels should be held to the same decency standards as public places.

What I'm arguing is teaching people to do something wrong isn't the same as doing the wrong thing.

He says, "But in all seriousness, teaching is an act, and one that can have serious consequences. Suppose, for example, that a man 'teaches' that racial minorities are subhuman, explains in detail how to make a bomb and then encourages his listeners to plant the bombs in places where minorities gather. It makes no sense to say that this activity is 'protected' while a woman baring her breast is not."

I say it does make sense, absolutely and completely. Because, as horrible as it is, if we start placing limits on people's ability to teach that racial minorities are subhuman, then we've opened up the door for placing limits on people teaching other "immoral" things like "Questioning the government is good" and "Dissent from popular opinion" a generation from now.

People must be free to hold evil beliefs and advocate illegal acts. Advocating crime or evil or whatever is not the same thing as enacting evil. The line may be razor thin but it's vital, because it is the difference between Orwellian thought control and a free society.

He says, "If we set about deciding what can be banned and what can't be banned without sort of neutral principle (assuming such a neutral principle can even exist), we are left to the rather arbitrary standards of our own prejudices."

What I'm arguing for is a neutral principle. That principle is, if you can't do it in a public place, you can't do it on TV. Why should my naughty bits, which I would be arrested for exposing to children in a park, suddenly become okay to show just because network executives, a producer, a director, lighting people, camera people, and a whole bevy of others have conspired to carry the image to millions of children across the country?

Again, this doesn't necessarily apply to private cable channels, which are not publicly accessible. Those are like private clubs and residences.

But public broadcast channels should be held to the same decency standards as public places. Simply because it's a broadcast media doesn't automatically transform every wave of transmission into a form of "expression" that's covered by the first amendment.

Doing can make a statement--shooting President Bush would make a heck of a statement, but it really wouldn't fall under first amendment protection.

That's why the "appropriateness" has to be decided independently of the morality of the piece. And that distinction isn't that hard to figure out--we figure it out in public places, so we'll be able to figure it out on the airwaves.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

School Magazine Fundraisers: When my brother-in-law, who's still in high school, asked us if we wanted to buy a magazine to help him raise money for something or other, the first magazines I looked for were Sci-Fi and Fantasy, as you'd probably expect. None were on there.

Now I come across this story. Now, granted, this story is probably setting of four-alarm bells on everybody's "How To Read The News" meter, but just in case, here's the response from Asimov's.

The story in question is apparently "Tammy Pendant" by Chris Beckett. There's a review of that story, and the rest of the magazine, over at Tangent.

Deep Space Nine: While in PA, I saw Star Trek: Deep Space Nine for the first time. Does Quark remind anybody else of Sam from The Apprentice?

Around the World and Home Again: Just got back from a week in Pennsylvania at the inlaws.

I hope the Internet managed to get along in my absence.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

More Linkage: Good list of resources over at Spec Fic World.

I really liked this Damon Knight article on plot. You know Damon Knight, whether you realize it or not--he wrote all the cool SciFi stories that became Twilight Zone episodes, like "To Serve Man".

This is also a good article on Writing Mistakes.

Censorship: Alright, I'm finally going to say something about the halftime show.

Nhan, this week's guest blogger at ::Freespace:: posted a cute and link-intensive post that represents what pretty much all Janet's defenders are saying.

"You think that's bad? Don't you know what else is on TV?"

Among the shows he touts as being worse than Janet is What Not to Wear , appropriate because in this case, there was something Janet should have worn.

But the reality is, his post is griping about what TV is teaching, and those upset about the halftime show are griping about what Janet actually did.

What's the difference?

Nobody anywhere would tell you that you couldn't stand around in Central Park discussing the positive aspects of nudity. You could stand on a table and make a call to all mankind to live a nudist lifestyle, and the first amendment says you can say it. You have the right to teach and say whatever you want.

But if you actually start taking off your clothes, you and law enforcement will have a problem.

It's the same way with television. The FCC should never step in and stop anybody from teaching anything they want on TV. That's what the first amendment protects, whether anybody likes it or not.

However, broadcast channels are public, and therefore they should be treated like public places. That's why the FCC has the right to interfere with what's actually done on TV. If you can't do it in a public park, then the FCC has the right to get involved if you do it on TV.

Now this gets into a hairy area. For instance, you can't kill anybody in a public park, but it's probably okay to do it on TV. This is largely because the violence on TV is simulated, therefore nothing really wrong is done. It would be like faking a killing in central park. The cops would think you were weird, but you wouldn't go to jail for murder.

But what about sex? Isn't that simulated on TV, too?

But remember, the couple in the park isn't being arrested for having sex. They're getting arrested for a lewd public display. No actual sex has to take place to meet that criteria.

And again, this law would probably be applied differently in Central Park than in, say, a bad part of some seedy neighborhood.

In this case, the Superbowl is the equivalent of Central Park on the first day of summer.

This doesn't apply to cable channels. Those are like private residences or clubs. You have to pay to get in.

But for broadcast channels, public decency laws apply. Sex, swearing, the whole shebang.

The first amendment covers you if you talk about something that's wrong. It even covers you if you advocate something that's wrong. But it doesn't cover you if you actually do something wrong.

And I think it's really obvious that in this case, Janet wasn't covered.

Ergo?: As for what do about Janet, I think the answer is simple. Take whatever was done to the third quarter streaker, divide it by the number of people who saw him, and then multiply it by the number of people who saw Janet.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

The Ender Movie: Linkage to The Philotic Web, who report the X2 guys are rewriting the Ender's Game movie.

Am I excited? I'm optimistically reserving judgment. But statements like this make me hopeful:

"My parents gave me the book when I was a kid, and it is the reason I fell in love with science fiction and is somewhat responsible for what I am doing for a career," Harris said. "It taught me how to create great characters within an outer space world. There are real wars and battles here, so it's not a kid movie, but what makes the story beautiful is that this adult world is seen through a kid`s eyes. I`d always wondered why it had never been made into a movie."

Update: More info, along with quotes from Card, at the production company's website.

Public Displays of Rejection: Check out Rejection Collection, which I found out about here, which I was showed by Rick Walton.

The first is a site where people complain about how they were treated by editors. The second is a review of said site, which tries to bring the wrist slitters who post there back to reality a bit. And the last is an entertaining children's book author who is extremely funny and helpful.

Monday, February 09, 2004

What Are You?: A couple of Variety articles on the new Batman movie. I'm very pleased they're getting away from the hyped-up, cartoonish Joel Schumacher Batman, and getting back to the core of the character--

A guy who dresses up in a bat suit and beats people up.

Stick It In Your Ear:While starting to update my linkage (to the right) I remembered they have the old Infocom Hitchkiker's Guide to the Galaxy game on the Douglas Adams website. Go play the hardest text adventure ever.

Try "turn on lights" to start.

This Baby Done Wet On Me: While trying to explain the title of the They Might Be Giants Album to somebody, I came across this great site about John Henry.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

The Brilliant Criminal Mind: Captured on video.

2003 Locus List: Locus magazine has posted their recommended reading list for 2003. Not only am I not on it, I've only read a couple of things on it. Two short stories, a novelette, and one Fantasy Novel.

To give you some idea, they're touting David Harwell's Year's Best 8, when I just picked up Year's Best 7 in a bargain bookstore last week.

And to think I used to be so with-it.

Why do they keep changing what "it" is?

Another Ornery Essay: The fine folks at Ornery, commies though they are, have put up another good "War Watch" piece, this one entitled, "Two Dangerous Fantasies about the War--or--Why Joe Lieberman Is the Only Choice for Democrats."

An excerpt:

It was in the campaign to win over the U.N., and only then, that the WMD situation became the main plank in the pro-war platform, and that was only because this was the only violation of U.N. resolutions that the Security Council veto-holders and the largest NATO powers seemed even remotely interested in considering.

In other words, it was not us, but France, Germany, Russia, and China that decided that the only place worth focusing our efforts was the question of WMDs.

But, as I wrote at the time and repeat now, even if not a single WMD is ever found, the campaign in Iraq was morally and legally justified by any rational standard of international law and fundamental national rights.

Personally, I think Iraq was a bad strategic choice on military grounds, but nobody could have predicted how quickly the Leftist Elite throughout the western world would insist that it had suddenly become morally wrong for a nation to defend itself without getting the permission of the U.N.

But if you give it even a moment's thought, the behavior of the U.N. is not an argument against the legitimacy of the American war against terrorism, it's an argument against the legitimacy of the United Nations as the arbiter of which wars are permissible.

I can promise you right now that if China ever invades Taiwan, the Security Council, in which China holds a veto, will not sanction American military intervention to save our ally from being swallowed up by imperialist China as ruthlessly as they swallowed Tibet.

Would that make it "wrong" for us to take military action against naked aggression by the Chinese dictatorship against a people who have made it clear they do not wish to be a part of the Chinese Communist empire?

No. This myth that we need U.N. approval or a war is "illegal" is only a temporary club designed to beat the Bush administration with.

It is certainly true that in trying to persuade the French, Germans, Russians, and Chinese to vote with us on a resolution supporting military action in Iraq, the Bush administration pulled out all the evidence they could find to support the only argument that seemed to have a hope of working with that hostile, anti-American audience: WMDs.

But it did not work with them, and we Americans, even those who hate Bush worse than the devil, should have the honesty to remember that WMDs were never the only or even the most important reason for the U.S. to topple Saddam's government.

Friday, February 06, 2004

They Might Be Documentary Fodder: Well, I finally got around to seeing "Gigantic: A Tale of Two Johns" the documentary about uber-indie band They Might Be Giants.

Overall, a pretty good film. How good? Well, it's not as insightful as, say, a New Yorker piece, nor as funny as a post "I Love the 80's" VH1 special, but more insightful than, say, an Access Hollywood piece, and funnier than a post "I Love the 80's" E! network special.

Definitely worth watching. And the DVD is worth the price of admission, with lots of bonus features with concert footage and early videos and even a couple of Easter eggs, one of which explains who the bald headed guy from all their early stage shows was.

Some disappointments made the film obviously less than all-encompassing--there's no mention at all of the Tiny Toons appearances, and no mention made of September 11th, even though their album was released that day. They even cheat, by showing the line outside before the release and saying it's "September 10th," as if they really, really wanted to avoid bringing it up.

It was a big deal to me, because I didn't get the album that day because after work I just sat around watching the news, and then my wife went into the hospital two days later for a heart problem, and then my baby was born by Saturday. I bought the album the next Monday, along with a Sesame Street album for my new daughter. I took her home that night, while my wife stayed in the hospital. We listened to both all the way through a couple of times that night.

I still like to sing "It's So Loud In Here" when I'm trying to put her to sleep.

But enough weird anecdotal asides. They made that choice for an obvious reason--they were trying to keep the piece fun. And it is fun. And so are the extras. If you're a fan, check it out.

Or better yet, buy it here and make me money.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Just Where Have You Been, Young Man?: Tim shows us the "What states have you visited" doohickie, and laments that he's never been to, among other states, Kansas.

Having been to Kansas, I can say you've missed nothing. Kansas is known for one thing and one thing only. A little girl who left and found someplace better.

Here's mine:

I used the same criteria Tim did, not counting Airports as having been "in a state." However, this only would have added Florida and Georgia, on my way to and from Brazil.

I can't remember whether I've ever been to Wyoming or not, which is sad, because my sister lives there.

More Depressed the Easier Life Gets: So I'm listening to John and Ken on KFI radio, a couple of fellas I find obnoxious but usually agree with, while I'm waiting for the news to come on.

And John starts talking about a book he's reading that sounds great. It's called The Progress Paradox, and it's about the way that, despite the fact that we're far better off as a people than we were fifty or even a hundred years ago, we're less satisfied with life, and, in general, less happy.

John, the "tirader" of the pair, launched into a tirade about how lame everybody is for wanting to get free health care, to the point that grocery workers are losing their homes and letting their children go hungry because they don't want to pay an extra five bucks somewhere or other in their health plan. They'll pay hundreds of dollars for vacations, scores of dollars to get cable each month, but to keep themselves healthy, they won't shell out a dime.

I didn't stick around to hear John's explanation of why, (it was probably something really insightful like, "People are just stupid) nor do I know the author of the book's.

But I know mine, and I will be more than happy to share it with the four of you who, according to sitemeter, read this blog.

The answer is, the more technology and progress allow us to control our environment, the less people want to feel responsible for anything they weren't able to control. A farmer seventy-five years ago would have felt more personal responsibility if say, a fire burned up all of his crops. Today, a farmer on the same property would want someone else to pay for it. Since it was not his own action that led to the event, he is not responsible for the event, ergo, he should not have to pay it.

This is why people don't want to pay for their health care. The vacation to Hawaii, the cable, all of those were choices the person made, and so they're willing to shell out money for them. But an illness? A natural disaster? Why should they have to take responsibility for those things? It wasn't their fault!

In other words, people believe they have the right to be protected from any damage they did not cause themselves.

I even have to qualify that, by revising the last sentence to be that they didn't intentionally cause themselves. In other words, if they slip and fall and break their arm, they shouldn't have to pay for it. I didn't mean to!

They only apply this logic to themselves. Since somebody has to be responsible, the people who owned the sidewalk they were walking on in the rain must be at fault. Never mind that they didn't mean to. It's somebody's fault and it's not mine, therefore it's yours.

So why does this make them unhappy?

Because their desire to cast responsibility on others progresses into the sphere of happiness. They feel they are unhappy about something, and the thing they're unhappy about isn't their fault, ergo they are no more responsible for trying to make themselves happy than they are to pay for their broken arm. Somebody, their boss, the government, their spouse, needs to stop doing all the things that are making them unhappy. Or do more stuff to make them happy. Or something, because whatever the world is doing isn't making them happy.

This causes lots of people to pursue political or other agendas designed to force the government, or employers, or others to provide more happiness. Which, of course, is impossible.

Not to sound like Dr. Phil, but the only person who can make you happy is you.

And the government, your employer, me, none of us caused the flood or the fire or the broken arm either. And if you come to me, one on one, and let me know you need help, I'll probably be more than happy to do it. But don't transfer responsibility to us, because you don't think it ever belonged to you.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Good Eats and Legolas: Because of his latest rant, a lot of Alton Brown fans are doing searches for Orlando Bloom and Alton Brown and finding me. So I thought I'd help y'all find what you're looking for.

Here's an explanation of what he's talking about.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Thunderbird Crash: Awesome pic here. More info on it here.

Democrats Make It Simple: Oh, now I understand.

Rejection Letters: Children's book author Ellen Jackson had a contest for the worst rejection letter and the worst submission. The winner in the latter category is a poem that was written in anchovies on a pizza.

I honestly don't see why that was a bad idea.

I am going to submit my novella "Beautiful Hands" to Realms of Fantasy using Alpha Bits cereal.