July 25, 2008

Self-smarted

Posted in Random Oddments at 9:27 pm by Calico Jack

Unfortunately, I know quite a few people who could be related to this guy:

And yes, I know that it’s a comedy show. My point still stands.

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June 19, 2008

Random Library Thoughts

Posted in Books, Random Oddments at 12:01 am by Calico Jack

From a phone call several days ago:

“Information desk, may I help you?”

“Yes, I think so. I’m looking for Ernest Hemingway…you know, the one about the old guy and the sea?”

“Ah, you mean…The Old Man and the Sea?”

Yeah, that’s it. My daughter has to do a book report; do you have one available?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact we have several copies of the novel checked in. Would you like me to pull one for you?”

“No, no, I want a DVD if you have it. My daughter’s tried to read the book, but it keeps putting her to sleep. I was hoping that maybe if she watched a movie instead it would be more interesting.”

“Well…in that case, there is a copy of the 1958 version starring Spencer Tracy in the system. However, I’d have to request it for you from another library.”

“Can you tell me when you’d get it in?”

“I can’t promise anything, but I would think in about a week or so — not much later than that.”

“Ah, that won’t work. She needs to do the report by Friday. How is she supposed to do well if she can’t watch the movie?”

“Perhaps that’s why they call it a “book” report. Have a nice day.”

June 9, 2008

The Big Picture

Posted in Random Oddments at 11:34 pm by Calico Jack

One of the coolest new blogs right now is being run by the Boston Globe. It’s a photoblog called The Big Picture, and every day (or thereabouts) Alan Taylor posts a few amazing images to gawk over and be amazed by. Today featured a collection of photos of Earth, taken by U.S. astronauts. They’re absolutely phenomenal, as evidenced by this one:

Click on the picture to see it in its original size, then check out The Big Picture and add it to your RSS aggregator. Photos don’t get much better than this.

June 5, 2007

The Peril of a Pirate Flag

Posted in Random Oddments at 8:49 pm by Calico Jack

From the UK’s Daily Mail:

As his sixth birthday approached, Morgan Smith’s parents thought hoisting the Jolly Roger would be the perfect way to make the pirate-mad youngster’s day.

The flag was duly run up the pole in the back garden, leaving Morgan looking forward to a party on Saturday with lots of friends wearing eyepatches and wielding toy cutlasses.

But little did the family know that out on the treacherous high seas of bureaucracy, trouble was heading their way.

Council officials branded the skull and crossbones flag “unneighbourly” and banned Morgan’s parents Richard and Sharon from flying it.

There’s more at the link, including a cool picture of Morgan doing a rather good impersonation of a swashbuckling pirate — sword and eyepatch included.

And I’d like to apologize in advance for the following. I’m so very, very sorry.

February 1, 2007

Attack of the Terrorist Lights

Posted in News, Politics, Random Oddments at 9:00 pm by Calico Jack

Last night, the entire country was abuzz with the revelation that foot-tall signs covered in blinking LEDs and batteries were hanging from overpasses and bridges in Boston — never mind that they had been up for weeks in cities all across the United States, and no one had cared until yesterday. Wil Wheaton has a pretty good summary of what happened:

1. [adult swim] has a clever viral marketing program.
2. People begin to notice the clever viral marketing program.
3. Someone wets their pants, because LEDs in an odd shape clearly mean we’re all about to die.
4. Police City Officials overreact. (Corrected. Bostonians say police acted appropriately.)
5. Media overreacts.
6. Entire city of Boston is f***** for an entire day.
7. Entire city of Boston is (understandably) pissed.
8. Media, which overreacted and labeled the viral marketing campaign a terrorist hoax, decides that [adult swim] and Turner somehow owe people of Boston an apology, and also owe city all the costs the city incurred as a result of Media-induced hysteria.

The two men responsible for placing the signs were arrested and charged with placing a hoax device and disorderly conduct. During the arraignment, Assistant Attorney General John Grossman revealed his keen intellect to those in the courtroom:

“It’s clear the intent was to get attention by causing fear and unrest that there was a bomb in that location…The appearance of this device and its location are crucial,” Grossman said. “This device looks like a bomb.”

Ahem.

Yep, that really looks like a bomb to me.

Peter Berdovsky and Sean Stevens pleaded not guilty this morning and were released from jail…after which they held a press conference. It must be seen to be believed:

Those guys certainly are fearless, aren’t they?

I agree with Wil: most of the blame here should be placed on city officials and the media for overreacting. You can’t really fault the police for doing their job, but it shouldn’t have taken long to realize that this supposed bomb threat was nothing more than a bunch of lights hooked up to batteries. By labeling this incident a “terrorist hoax,” the media is only encouraging weak-minded people to become paralyzed, recoiling in fear at anything that could possibly harm them. Caution is wise, but a colossal overreaction such as the one in Boston yesterday is inexcusable. The greatest danger to society is crying “Wolf!” too many times. Eventually, just like car alarms, people will grow tired of acknowledging warnings and we will be too slow to react to a true crisis.

January 30, 2007

A Women’s Guide to Men

Posted in Politics, Random Oddments, Relationships at 11:34 pm by Calico Jack

One of my favorite websites to read is the website Ace of Spades. Cleverly disguised as a conservative political blog, Ace of Spades is the funniest website you’ll find, and has the best dedicated group of commenters on the net, bar none. This group of “AoS morons,” as they like to be called, wax poetic not only on political issues, but also anything and everything they want to talk about. They might have the collective intelligence of a chimpanzee, but hey — nobody’s perfect.*

The AoS Morons are famous for a few things: over-the-top flame wars, haiku challenges, and arguing over the differences between women and men. A couple of days ago, Ace issued a challenge to his readers: write headlines for an AoS women’s magazine, written by men. The women were free to respond in like…and everybody rose to the occasion, although I’m not sure that it is an entirely apt description. Six hundred comments later, there is a veritable treasure trove of punchlines to howl at. Some of these are not entirely kiddie-friendly, so I’ve put them after the jump:

Read the rest of this entry »

January 22, 2007

Birthday Bashes Boycotted

Posted in Food, Games, Personal, Random Oddments at 12:34 pm by Calico Jack

I had quite a few birthday parties growing up, and my parents always worked hard to ensure that my friends and I had a great time. Usually there were only a couple of ingredients necessary for an awesome party: friends, cake and ice cream, and occasionally some sort of activity–whether mini-golfing or going to the roller rink or rock climbing…or even just staying at home and watching a movie or playing games.

As I got older, I stopped having the formal parties with their invitations and gifts given, and instead preferred to simply have a few friends over to stay the night. Some of my fondest memories growing up are from my friends and I bringing all of our Star Wars MicroMachines together (which, let me tell you, is a gigantic collection), spending several hours dividing up hundreds and hundreds of figures and ships into miniature armies, and having a gigantic Star Wars battle that lasted well into the next morning. Such battles often ended with a few sleepy-eyed preteens valiantly defending each side’s prized Millennium Falcon playsets from the hordes of Jedi and stormtroopers who were swarming the ships. Small plastic missles flew in all directions, knocking a dozen Rebel Troopers to the ground with one blow. TIE Fighters swooped overhead to perform recon against the enemy on the other side of the living room, and dozens of dead and wounded Luke Skywalker figures were scattered everywhere (because, as we all know, Luke didn’t become powerful until the end of Return of the Jedi, so when it came time to take turns picking the figures we wanted for our army, we always chose the green lightsaber Lukes first instead of the Hoth or Dagobah ones).

Those were the some of the happiest times of my childhood — and there are a lot to choose from. Today, however, parents have turned birthday parties into competitions. What once was an excuse for children to eat lots of cake, give presents and play games has become, in many households, a lavish production costing hundreds and sometimes even thousands of dollars. The children become spoiled, and the host parents can now thumb their noses at the other parents who were unlucky enough to spend a few hundred dollars less for their children’s parties.

Some parents are standing up and refusing to get caught up in this tsunami of materialism. From Yahoo News:

Birthdays Without Pressure is taking aim at the oneupsmanship that drives moms and dads to throw parties that will really, really impress the kids and the other parents, too.

“We feel there’s a kind of cultural runaway going on right now around the birthday parties of kids,” said William Doherty, a University of Minnesota professor of family social science who had a hand in organizing the group, launched publicly earlier this month.

Birthdays Without Pressure has started a Web site and launched a media campaign.

Among its suggestions for more modest, stress-free party planning: Hold gift-free parties, with a note on the invitation that says any presents will be donated to charity; eliminate theme parties and gift bags for the guests; instead of organizing elaborate activities, let kids play outside or hold a treasure hunt; and invite children only, not their parents as well.

I don’t agree with all of the suggestions listed. I often had gift-free parties; but as a seven- or eight-year-old, I wouldn’t want to see my friends give me gifts and know that I promptly had to give them away. And small gift bags are always nice thank-yous for the more formal parties…just don’t go over the top. Still, it is nice to see some parents who realize that these contests (because that is what they are, honestly) miss the whole point of having a birthday party for their children–to celebrate the passing of another year in their lives.

Let them eat cake. It’s all they need to have a great time.

January 18, 2007

Karma

Posted in Random Oddments at 10:02 pm by Calico Jack

I’ll be the first one to admit that I suffer from a rather loose interpretation of speed limit laws. As a friend once told me, “They’re speed suggestions, not limits.” Perhaps it’s because I’m always in a hurry to get somewhere, but my definition of speeding doesn’t really kick in until one is about ten miles an hour over the posted limit. Having said that, let me also say that I have never been in an accident, and I have never gotten a ticket. I don’t tailgate behind cars, I always use my turn signal, I slow down drastically when there are adverse weather conditions, and I pay attention to both the road and the other cars around me. I just happen to mostly pass cars instead of being the one passed.

Today I was almost in an accident, and it had nothing to do at all with how fast I was going. I was driving on the interstate in the left lane, following an Oldsmobile whose driver was comfortably traveling the same speed I was (about seventy-five miles an hour.) We were both in the left lane because we were coming up on a semi truck which (big surprise) was moving quite a bit more slowly than we were. I glanced at my rear-view mirror and saw a thirty-something guy coming up behind me at a rather alarming speed.

That’s the car he was driving–a Mercedes CL550. They start around $100,000 and only go up from there. It’s a luxury car which also packs quite a horsepower punch, and the driver was taking good advantage of his automobile. He came racing up to me, then had to slam on his brakes to avoid rear-ending me, even though I was ten miles an hour over the limit already. When I didn’t move out of my lane (since I was still coming up on the semi), he flashed his lights at me a couple of times and moved to within a few feet of my bumper.

But this genius decided not to wait for the Oldsmobile and me to maneuver around the truck and go back in the right-hand lane. Instead, he swerved sharply to the right, gunned the engine, and blew past me going at least ninety or ninety-five miles an hour. Just before he rear-ended the semi, he careened to the left, barely missing the semi’s rear bumper and forcing the driver of the Oldsmobile to jam on his brakes. There must have been less than a foot or two of room between the Mercedes and the Oldsmobile when the Mercedes pulled in front; I don’t think I’ve ever seen two cars be so close to hitting each other. I had to jam on my brakes too, and I barely managed to avoid hitting the Oldsmobile in front of me. The Mercedes just zoomed off into the distance, weaving in and out of traffic until he was lost to sight.

This happens more often than it should, but today was a little bit special. Ten minutes later, traffic started backing up because there were two flashing highway patrol cars parked on the right side of the interstate. When I came closer, I was only going about thirty miles an hour, and I saw that they had pulled over the Mercedes. The officers, hands on their pistols, were approaching the car from both sides, and they didn’t look very happy. As I passed the officer, we made eye contact and I just grinned at him. The driver of the Mercedes was literally pounding his steering wheel with his fists, yelling into dead air. I hope he has a huge fine to pay.

January 8, 2007

College life

Posted in Random Oddments at 1:56 pm by Calico Jack

One of the “joys” of attending a state university is the diversity of people to encounter — not only in terms of race or socio-economic background or political viewpoints, but also intelligence. Or, as is commonly seen, the lack thereof. I was washing my hands in the men’s restroom and messing around with my hair (allow me a moment of vanity), when two freshmen entered and proceeded to have an intriguing conversation. How did I know they were freshmen? Several things gave them away, including their exaggerated swaggering (honestly, nobody cares how cool you think you are, and the odds of you being redshirts for the football team are pretty much nonexistent.) They also dressed like cheap knockoffs of pimps — not uncommon in today’s “everybody welcome!” collegiate attitude, but the kicker was their freshmen orientation T-shirts barely visible underneath the dazzling displays of fool’s-gold chains (never was a term more appropriate) and crystal-studded jewelry. Perhaps they thought that proudly revealing their allegiance to their university made them cooler. This same university is forcing the rest of the incoming class of 2010 to endure their presence for the next…well, if by some chance a miracle happens and they end up graduating, four years. I, on the other hand, must only bear with them for another couple of semesters, a thought which brings me endless joy.

Now you might be saying to yourself, “How can he possibly be so judgmental based only on appearance?” And I would agree with you, had I not heard a conversation which cemented their lowly status in my mind, the gist of which went like this:

Pimp-in-training: “Yo, [expletive deleted], what up with that [expletive deleted] class we just had? The [expletive deleted] professor don’t know none of that [expletive deleted] he’s was talkin about.”

Future dropout: “[expletive deleted], I know, man! I just wanna drop out and [expletive deleted] this [expletive deleted]. This whole [expletive deleted] is a waste of my [expletive deleted] time.”

Pimp-in-training: “You should get rid of your [expletive deleted] orientation class. That [expletive deleted] ain’t worth nothing.”

Future dropout: “Yeah, but that [expletive deleted] prof has a mighty fine [expletive deleted] [expletive deleted] on her. I’d like to [whole string of expletives deleted for my fingers’ sake], you know?”

Pimp-in-training: “[expletive deleted] yeah! That [expletive deleted] would be a [expletive deleted] once I had five minutes with her. [expletive deleted], man, I could teach that [expletive deleted] course.”

Future dropout: “Man, we all could teach that [expletive deleted]. Y’all don’t realize just how lucky the [expletive deleted] ladies are going to be this year.”

Finis.

I sincerely hope for the [expletive deleted] ladies’ sake, that they come to realize what fine specimens of manhood they have been blessed to share a campus with, and act accordingly. Oh, the joys of a state university…

December 24, 2006

Dinosaurs!

Posted in News, Random Oddments at 9:15 pm by Calico Jack

This gets my inner dino-geek going:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Scientists in Spain have found the fossilized remains of one of the largest animals ever to walk the Earth, a gargantuan plant-eating dinosaur up to 125 feet long and weighing as much as seven elephants.

Turiasaurus riodevensis, named for the region and village in Spain where it was found, lived about 145 million years ago and was a sauropod, that familiar kind of dinosaur with a long neck, long tail and massive body that walked on four stout legs…

Alcala said Turiasaurus weighed between 40 and 48 metric tonnes and was between 118 and 125 feet long — longer than an NBA basketball court. By comparison, Tyrannosaurus rex was about 45 feet long and six tonnes.

The humerus, the bone in the front leg that extends from shoulder to elbow, was as big as a full-grown man.

Turiasaurus rivals the size of the largest known dinosaurs, all sauropods, and its remains were more complete than those of many of them. These include the African giant Paralititan, Seismosaurus in North America and Argentinosaurus and Puertasaurus in South America.

Is it embarrassing to admit that I’m familiar with each and every one of the dinosaurs mentioned?

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