Friday, December 31, 2004

Tsunami - You Can Help

It isn't news anymore: A tsunami careered into about 12 countries, creating a staggering death toll and damages in its wake. This is a global crisis, and it will require a global effort to help the victims. Amazon.com has setup a donation page for the Red Cross. As always, cash makes the biggest impact in aid scenarios. I know you might want to collect goods and send them off, but the Red Cross, for example, does not need 10,000 pairs of underwear. And canned goods are difficult at best to get into the area. Relief programs need money and they need it now. Georg over at Running Scared shares this fantastic donation idea. If you have friends who want to help, but they do not have Internet access, perhaps you could collect money from them and then do the cyber donation for them. That could certainly make for a larger donation. Here is some general tsunami information:

Friday Pet Blogging | End-Of-the-Year Edition

It's the end of the year as we know it, and I feel fine. Well, actually, I'm numb. I have had a hard time wrapping my mind around the tsunami tragedy that is closing out the year. It is at times like this that I turn to my pets.
First up, here is a shot of Tootsie and her brother, Snuggles. I captured them at my sister's newly purchased house in my hometown. Tootsie belongs to my sister and niece, while Snuggles belongs to my parents. Oh, and the cow toy that is in Snuggle's mouth ... that belongs to Tootsie. Good thing they are so sharing.
CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE -- Snuggles plays with Tootsie's Xmas Cow. Tootsie and Snuggles. (Click for larger image)

Next we have our own boys, Milo & Otis, checking out a gift from their grandparents (on their mother's side). Toys and goodies, woo hoo!
CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE -- Milo and Otis with gifts. Milo and Otis checking out their gifts. (Click for larger image)

Milo sure loves that spot under the tree. Isn't he just the picture of contentment?
CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE -- Milo under tree. Milo naps under the tree ... again! (Click for larger image)

And because you can never have enough cat pictures (according to my lovely wife), here is one more shot of our boys. They are so devoted to each other.
CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE -- Brothers Napping. Brothers in ... Naps. (Click for larger image)

The Modulator has a compilation of today's pet posts from other bloggers. Meanwhile, the M & O Archives sports a set of links for other Milo & Otis appearances on Prophet or Madman.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Santa Stories

Well, it's Christmas Eve. Most -- not all -- of my Christian friends will be awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus. Er, well, at least their children will be. So let's have us a few links regarding dear ol' St. Nick. ;)

Santa is big business in Finland, where you can visit Santa's village. That's right. The fat man has his own village and it's situated right on the Arctic Circle in Lapland. That's kind of funny, considering that kids sit on his lap ... get it? ... Lapland ... lap ... oh, never mind. He loves children and has the patience of a saint (sorry, I couldn't resist that one), but even Santa can slip and have a bad day. That is the source of a complaint from a British family complaining that they spent a fortune to visit the aforementioned village, only to receive the brushoff from Mr. Claus. The St. Nicholas Center, dedicated to "discovering the truth about Santa Claus" -- offers this St. Nicholas Timeline. The site also offers information about the origin of Santa, the various symbols related to St. Nicholas [what is the deal with the three golden balls, anyway?], and a comparison between Santa and St. Nicholas [very interesting]. There is a subset of Christians who eschew the trappings of Christmas because of the pagan leanings of its most treasured rituals. Other folks may not realize how the syncretic Christian religion has coopted pieces of other folk's traditions. You can start with Wikipedia's Santa Claus entry and then surf on over to see what ReligiousTolerance.org has to say on the subject. There is some general information on this page, and most of it can be backed up with a little research. And for an interesting read, you can check out How Odin Became Santa Claus (Yes, I am linking it even though their URL spells "magic" by adding a "k"). I also highly recommend two books: 4000 Years of Christmas and The Magical Year.

By the way, Christmas Eve this year falls on the Fifth Day of Yuletide. Frith to all my Heathen friends.

Friday Pet Blogging | Special Holiday Edition

Happy Holidays from Prophet or Madman. Welcome to my first annual Holiday Edition of Friday Pet Blogging, featuring (of course) Milo & Otis. Have they been good little boys this year? Well, they are certainly keeping up appearances, aren't they? Something about "like angels" comes to mind when viewing today's images.

CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE -- Milo & Otis, Yuletide Napping. Here Milo & Otis are napping in what has become their favorite spot: The Yule Tree. Click for a slightly larger image.

Closeup on Milo. Closeup: Milo

Closeup on Otis. Closeup: Otis

The Modulator has a compilation of pet posts from other bloggers. Meanwhile, the M & O Archives sports a set of links for other Milo & Otis appearances on Prophet or Madman.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Whose Holiday Is This Anyway?

This is a response to the various and recent vents in my local paper about the current holiday season. Specifically, I want to address the memes of "Keeping the Christ in Christmas" and "Jesus is the reason for the season." Before I begin, however, I must point out that I love this holiday season, and I care not one whit whether someone wishes me Seasons Greetings, Happy Holidays, Joyous Yule, or any of the countless other phrases in use. I'll take them all in the spirit intended. I'll even return a cheery Merry Christmas in kind to someone who proffers it. That's right, I'm no Scrooge who thinks that "every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart" [A Christmas Carol].

 Now, to the matter at hand.

Long before the obligatory exchange of parcels and packages came to pass, people knew how to observe the closing of the year. When the darkness of winter lay heavy upon the land, no crops grew, but the people drank, sang, loved and fought in their great halls. Their communal celebrations were a mighty affirmation of light against dark, life against death. This was the time of the Winter Solstice. Winter solstice celebrations such as Yule predate Christianity by at least two millennium (see "4000 Years of Christmas" by Earl W. Count and Alice Count). Though there are numerous references to Yule in the Icelandic sagas, there are few accounts of how Yule was actually celebrated, beyond the fact that it was a time for feasting. Many of these festive traditions survived up through the Middle Ages, but were then frowned upon when the Reformation arrived. Many of the symbols associated with the modern holiday of Christmas (such as the Yule log, Christmas trees, holly, mistletoe, the eating of ham, etc.) are apparently derived from traditional northern European Yule celebrations. When the first missionaries began converting the Germanic peoples to Christianity, they found it easier to simply provide a Christian reinterpretation for popular feasts such as Yule and allow the celebrations themselves to go on largely unchanged, rather than trying to suppress them. The Scandinavian tradition of slaughtering a pig at Christmas (see Christmas ham), and not in the autumn, is probably the most salient evidence for this. The tradition derives from the sacrifice to the god Freyr at the Yule celebrations.

Now how did this "Christian" holy day become so entrenched with pagan symbolism and ritual? In 274 A.D., the Romans designated December 25 as the birthday of the unconquered sun, being the time when the sun begins noticeably to show an increase in light, resulting in longer daylight hours. By 336 A.D., the church in Rome was adapting this festival, spiritualizing its significance as a reference to Jesus Christ and calling it the ‘Feast of the Nativity of the Sun of Righteousness.’ At first, it was kept separate from the Pagan observances -- sort of a you-do-your-thing-and-we'll-do-ours. Church officials may not have wanted new converts to be pulled back into their previous beliefs.

Attempting to Christianize and incorporate the pagan traditions of antiquity, the church in Rome adopted this midwinter holiday celebrating the birth of the sun god as one of its own observances, somewhat changing its significance, but retaining many customs of the pagan festival. So those same Church officials who had at first simply insisted on a separation of Christians and Pagans, now wanted to remove all activities that were not sanctioned as Christian or venerating Christ. And they did so by trying to change veneration of the SUN to adoration of the SON (of God). As the Roman church spread its influence religiously and militarily, this holiday of December 25 became the most popular date in Christendom to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. A special mass was established for Christ, hence, the name, ‘Christmass,’ abbreviated ‘Christmas.’

But after having written all of that, I implore you: Let's not get bogged down with the specifics of one religion over another. This season is for revelry, mirth and spiritual asylum. Become the love that is the gift of the season. Express that love to your family, friends, and -- yes -- even strangers on the street. There is room in this world for a multitude of ideas and beliefs. There is no room in this world, however, for hate, intolerance, and "holier-than-thou-ism." Let's get it together this Chrismahanukwanzakah, and get together ... in Peace. 

Recommended listening: "The Christians and the Pagans" by Dar Williams.

The Junky's Christmas

IT WAS Christmas Day and Danny the Car Wiper hit the street junksick and broke after seventy-two hours in the precinct jail. It was a clear bright day, but there was warmth in the sun. Danny shivered with an inner cold. He turned up the collar of his worn, greasy black overcoat. This beat benny wouldn't pawn for a deuce, he thought...

[from The Junky's Christmas; by William S. Burroughs]

I am of the opinion that the late, great writer William S. Burroughs needs no introduction. But if you are not familiar with him or his works, this Wikipedia entry should suffice. Otherwise, Google his name. What does William S. Burroughs have to do with Christmas, you ask? Well, one of his fictional works based on his own heroin addiction is the short story The Junky's Christmas, from which I have quoted as the lead for this entry. And I have just learned that an animated adaptation of this story was made back in 1993; with Francis Ford Coppola in the producer's seat, no less! The basic story is: Danny the Carwiper, a heroin addict, gets released from the holding cell on a mid-1950s Christmas morning, and spends the day trying to score. When he finally does and settles down in his cheap hotel, something unusual happens. Ah, yes ... a treasure for the entire family. Er, well, OK. It's really only for family members who are 18 or older, of course. Here is a nice little review of the special, which the writer describes as "probably the least-shown animated seasonal special in history." And, if you care to do so, you can read the full text of the story.

Back from MIAFB Status

As you might have guessed, I am attempting to make up for being MIA from the blogosphere. In case you didn't catch it, I'm pretty much just nailing a bunch of posts before I head out for a holiday visit with the folks. :)

Appointing Dan Rather's Successor

So far, it appears that Katie Couric -- co-anchor of NBC's successful Today Show -- is CBS' top choice to take over for Dan Rather. It could work. NBC mined the Today Show when they recruited Tom Brokaw to be their evening news anchor.

CNN Reviews the Year 2004

We're not even through Chrismahanukwanzakah, and already the "year-in-review" lists are getting fired up. According to CNN, the top 10 stories in 2004 (in weighted, not chronological, order) were: 1. Election 2004 2. War in Iraq 3. Terrorism 4. (tie) 9/11 Commission 4. (tie) Hurricane season 6. Yasser Arafat dies 7. Morality split 8. Ronald Reagan dies 9. Sudanese crisis 10. Red Sox win World Series You can see the list, a news junkie quiz, a reader's poll, and their special report on the Person of the Year (brace yourself -- it's GWB) at http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2004/yir/.

From the "Some Like It Hot" Department...

Here is a simple truism: Most people like their coffee hot. Wolfgang Puck, a renowned chef, is banking on that truism: He will introduce a self-heating coffee container on Jan. 2. Consumers can buy a 10-ounce container of Puck's gourmet latte at the store and heat it by just pressing a button. The container mixes calcium oxide and water, heating the coffee to 145 degrees in six minutes ... So, you cannot get it for Christmas, but it should be available during Xmas Aftermath -- an annual ritual otherwise known as "the-time-to-take-the-crap-you-received-from-your-relatives-back-to-the-store-and-exchange-it-for-something-you-actually-want-or-need".

Apples, Oranges, and Time on Hand...

OK. The fact that I have not blogged anything since last Friday is proof positive that I do not have too much time on my hands. I've been busier than a one-legged buttkicker in a room full of ... (well, you get the picture). However, a study that claims to disprove the old adage about comparing apples to oranges is proof positive that some folks do have too much free time. Enjoy! URL: http://www.people.virginia.edu/~rjh9u/apporang.html Special thanks go out to my father, who -- although he does not have too much free time -- did take the time to share this link with me. Thanks Dad!

Friday, December 17, 2004

Friday Pet Blogging | Brothers

I have so many pics of the boys, that I had to share one more today. On Tuesday of this week, I took several photos that show just how close Milo & Otis are...

CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE -- Milo & Otis, loving brothers. Milo watches over the sleeping form of his brother, Otis.

The Modulator has a compilation of pet posts from other bloggers.

Here is the complete list of Milo & Otis' appearances on Prophet or Madman: M and O Archives

Friday Pet Blogging | Oh CATmas Tree

This will be our first Yuletide season with Milo & Otis. As far as we know, this will be their first Xmas ever. So we were a bit worried about the tree. I put it up last Thursday -- with no ornamentation -- and even tied it to the bannister with a ribbon (just in event that a tree-climbing-escapade breaks out in the dining room). But there have been no problems. The tree is now decorated, and the boys just like to hang out under it. Well, Otis also likes to dive under the tree skirt from time to time, but still no problems. [Knocks on wood].

CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE -- Milo & Otis cozy up under the tree. Milo (foreground) and Otis are comfortable with the holidays.

The Modulator has a compilation of pet posts from other bloggers.

Here is the complete list of Milo & Otis' appearances on Prophet or Madman: M and O Archives

Thursday, December 16, 2004

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like ...

Do you ever read Aaron McGruder's newspaper strip, The Boondocks? Maybe you should start. I'm serious. Even though he no longer draws it himself [profile in The New Yorker], this strip is still one of the most incisive (and often flammatory) works on the market. You will sometimes find it on the Op-Ed page, but then too many people miss it. It truly belongs on the funnies page -- even though some folks will skip it because it has too many words. Well, yesterday's entry does not have too many words. I saved a copy because I know ucomics.com makes its strips freely available for only about a week or so. So, without further ballyhoo, I bring the comic to you. Out of the mouths of children, comes wisdom. Enjoy!

CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE -- Boondocks by Aaron McGruder -- Dec 15, 2004 -- Pagan Holiday CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Na-Nee-Ya-Do-Ya-Ra

I know that the title might not make any sense to you right now, but it will. As long as you keep reading, and then check out the article I've linked in this entry, the title will make complete sense.

Sign directing visitors to the Tomb of Christ in Shingo, Japan. (via japanvisitor.blogspot.com)

OK. I'm sure most folks have at least a passing familiarity with the Jesus in India theory. Nicholas Notovitch's The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ, Shirley Maclaine's Out on a Limb, Janet Bock's The Jesus Mystery, Elizabeth Clare Prophet's The Lost Years of Jesus and Holger Kirsten's Jesus Lived in India all make (documented?) claims that Jesus traveled to India in his formative years. These, and other books like them, state that Jesus -- or St. Issa -- studied the Vedas, shared his wisdom, and performed miracles in India, Kashmir, and Tibet before returning to Palestine to begin his mission there. But this article [see update below] is the first I have heard of Jesus traveling to Japan ... and dying there. When Jesus Walked in Japan, a story currently running in The Independent, reports a completely different version of the Greatest Story Ever Told. According to local legend in the village of Shingo, a six-hour drive from Tokyo, Jesus did not die on the cross -- that was his brother Isukuri. You see, instead of dying on the cross:
Christ escaped the clutches of the Romans, fled across land carrying his brother's severed ear and a lock of hair from the Virgin Mary and settled down to life in exile in the snowy isolation of Northern Japan. Here he married a woman called Miyuko, fathered three daughters and died at the age of 106. Two wooden crosses outside the village mark the graves of the brothers from Galilee and a museum makes the case that the man we call Jesus Christ the carpenter was known around these parts as garlic farmer Daitenku Taro Jurai.

From MOBY Garden's Blog entry for Planting Garlic

So, is Jesus big (and dead) in Japan? We may never know for sure. The locals won't let researchers dig up the Tomb of Christ because, according to villager Yoshiteru Ogasawara, "It is considered a bad thing to do." Color me fascinated.

Update 2/29/2012: The Independent moved the story to this link and Religion News Blog has archived the full text of the story here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

I Had a Mr. Potato Head

When I had my tonsils removed at age 8 or 10 or something like that, I had a Mr. Potato Head to play with before and after the surgery. But now it looks like hospitals will start loading up on Game Boys and other handheld gadgets. According to a recent study, letting children play video games in the operating room before undergoing surgery can help relax them better than tranquilizers or holding a parent's hand ... Now that I think of it, my mother was there when my tonsils were removed. And it did help me relax. In fact, she actually performed most of my IV insertions and such during my hospital stay. Of course, back then, she was an ER nurse -- and, no, it's not like the TV show, which greatly annoyed her (er, the actual show annoyed her; not the fact that her job was not like the TV portrayal) -- so she was pretty well versed with those tasks. And on top of that, my surgery was actually in "her" hospital. And that is still my only surgery to date. (Ack! Need to knock on wood now ... nothing but manufactured surfaces all around me in my cubicle...). Story: Video games calm kids before surgery http://www.cnn.com/2004/HEALTH/12/09/hospitals.gaming.ap/index.html

Marriage Rites and Wrongs

Oooh. Prophet or Madman is returning to political commentary, ever so slightly. Please note that I borrowed the title of this post from the appearance of William Raspberry's 12/13/2004 column in the Washington Post. In my local paper, The Intelligencer, the very same column appears under the title, "Of Church, State and Marriage." It's not included on their website. So here goes... When William Raspberry is right, he's right. And I've found that his arguments on so-called controversial issues can hit you square between your eyes such that you wonder how there can be any controversy at all. Yesterday, he enlisted the aid of C.S. Lewis, the British essayist and novelist who was also a brilliant Christian apologist (see here, here and maybe even here), and quoted a passage from Mere Christianity:

"I should like to distinguish two things which are very often confused," he wrote. "The Christian conception of marriage is one: the other is the quite different question -- how far Christians, if they are voters or Members of Parliament, ought to try to force their views of marriage on the rest of the community by embodying them in the divorce laws. "A great many people seem to think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for every one. I do not think that. At least I know I should be very angry if the Mohammedans [followers of Islam] tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine. . . . "There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the Church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not."

Although Lewis' subject was divorce, you can see how this same logic can be applied to today's discourse on same-sex marriages. Religious marriage, you see, is a sacrament and government has no business poking its nose into it. Raspberry expands this thought:

But marriage isn't only sacrament. It is also the basis on which we decide who may inherit in the absence of a will, who may make life-or-death decisions for loved ones, or who is eligible for the advantages of joint tax returns. And because it has these secular implications, the state has a legitimate role in determining who is married and who isn't.

The church has no interest in joint filings, and the state no interest in declarations of love or religious affiliation. To the one, marriage is a sacred rite; to the other, it is the sanctioning of a contractual relationship. The church may care whether he is a philanderer or she a gold-digger, or whether there's too great a gap in their ages. The state's interests run to the validity of the contract.

And what has any of this to do with same-sex marriage? Maybe if we can get past such churchly considerations as God's will as expressed in Leviticus, we can make peace with the bifurcation Lewis urged in his 1952 book: [Emphasis mine] Let the church handle the sacrament, the state the contract.

Perfect. Beautiful. And I don't see how the Republicans (mentioned only because it is their party that is so driven for banning same-sex unions) cannot embrace this as policy. Are they not the party who embraced laissez faire? Well, how hard can it be to move from "the government of business is not the business of government" to "the government of marriage is not the business of government"?

Yeah, I know. Probably too far to stretch.

And what of C.S. Lewis? What would he make of the stretch that William Raspberry has applied to his work? Well, Raspberry admits:

I don't know where Lewis might have stood on gay marriage. For all I know, the cleric might have opposed any marriage except between one man and one woman. He might have urged such a view on his church. But he wouldn't have urged it on the state. His fear of government intrusion into matters of faith would have kept him from doing so.

I encourage you to read the column. Here is the full URL (may require a free login): http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A60180-2004Dec12.html

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Rocket Science (Sort Of)

The site is called Atomic Rockets. In the webmaster's own words:
This site was mainly intended for science fiction authors who wanted a little scientific accuracy. But anybody who is interested can play with the toys contained within, designing their own Planet Rangers Rocketships. It is assumed that the reader has enough knowledge to know the difference between a star and a planet, and enough skill to use a pocket calculator. Computer spreadsheet and computer programming skills are a plus, spreadsheets in particular will make your life much easier.
This guy has made a fascinating site that covers such topics as Atomic Rockets, believable aliens, anti-gravity, life support, sidarms ... He has 30 pages of material and it is probalby growing. In the Preliminary Notes, he does make the following disclaimer: I am not a rocket scientist, merely an amateur that has read a lot of books. Any and all of the information on these pages may be incorrect or inaccurate. And he has read quite a few books. And all of that reading has fueled his research, of which he must have done quite a bit. His site is filled with great tips, relevant links, and cool illustrations. http://www.projectrho.com/rocket/index.html

Imaginary Friends

According to this article from Reuters Health, most middle-aged school children have imaginary friends -- and it's perfectly normal. The friend could be in the form of a person or animal. A German study noted that the friend may stick around well into the teen years. Is this truly a surprise to anyone? It isn't to me. Children, in their innocence, are much more open and sensitive than their adult contemporaries. Before they become burdened with facts, peer pressure, and video games, they are able to freely sense and connect with the world around them in ways that adults -- whose senses have been dulled and deadened by stress and "significant" responsibilities -- have long lost. I don't think I am giving anything away when I say that I myself had imaginary friends. And, yes, I do mean that in the plural. But just like most folks in Western society, the prevailing culture (through the indoctrination of public education among other things) hardened me and prejudiced my mind against the supranormal (a term I often prefer to "supernatural"). Do you see what I am getting at? Those imaginary friends probably aren't so imaginary after all. In fact, I would go so far as to say they are a part of the natural world, operating just beyond dulled senses. Can we sharpen those senses again? Can we regain that connection with the "unseen" part of the world? And what would happen if we did? URL for Reuters Article: http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=healthNews&storyID=7058363&src=rss/healthNews

Friday, December 10, 2004

Where's Newton?

"Sometimes people see me holding up a Newton and they wonder about me."

John's Newton in an Anniversary shot

That's a quote from John Charlton, an engineer in Detroit who has combined his love of the Newton handheld with his love of photography. Charlton is devoted to this project almost to the point of mania: has taken shots of Newtons all around the world -- from Disney World in Florida to Newton, a small town in South Wales. You can see some of his work in a special virtual gallery of Newton photos: the Newtons Around the World gallery at the Newted Community website. Personally, I love the Newton Grave, St. Dogbert of the Cross, and Newton in Hell photos. Full Story: Wired News -- The Picture of Devotion

Friday Pet Blogging | Behind (Staircase) Bars

Milo and Otis give their very best "prison" looks. Escape from Cat-ratraz anyone?

Milo & Otis in the Milo (left) and Otis (right) make with the tough-guy inmate look.

You can really tell that Milo is the more patient of the two. His expression seems to be one of, "Yeah, I'm behind bars right now, but just you wait...Oh? You think you're tough? We'll see who's tough when you try to come upstairs."

Otis' expression is one of someone who knows that the slightest thing will break his tough-guy facade. He is letting Milo do all the talking.

The Modulator has a compilation of pet posts from other bloggers.

Here is the complete list of Milo & Otis' appearances on Prophet or Madman: M and O Archives

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Happy Chrismahanukwanzakah

I found this on the web today and thought it was pretty funny: http://www.chrismahanukwanzakah.com/ [Requires Flash and speakers or headphones]

Hot Laptops and (Potential) Fatherhood

How would you like to have been on this research team? Research conducted by Stony Brook University Hospital, in New York, has found that the heat from a laptop could damage fertility. And they came to this conclusion by measuring -- get this -- scrotal temperature before and after laptop use. This was one of the top health stories on Google News this morning. The top links cited under this happy little banner were: But the absolute best headline for this story was in the number three slot: Priceless. And I just realized something: When you are a scientist who can get funding to conduct research on scrotal temperature, what can't you do? You don't get clout like that overnight, no sir. It really speaks volumes about your standing in the scientific community.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

A Hard Day's Chord

From Guitar Player Magazine by way of MonkeyFilter: The opening chord to A Hard Day's Night is one of the most memorable in rock history. . . and it has been hailed as the greatest chord in rock and roll. But what exactly was that mysterious chord? . . . Dr. Jason I. Brown, Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, delved into the mystery. Using a type of mathematics called Fourier Transforms, he shows how to reconstruct the original frequencies from a list of numbers -- and that the two most common transcriptions for this chord are wrong. Turns out, there is a little piano in that transcendent chord voicing. Read the full article: A Hard Day's Mystery. [http://www.guitarplayer.com/archive/0105/0105_IO2.htm]

Merry ... Mosh-mas

Tis the season for strange-yet-oddly-compelling audio/video escapades on the 'net. Do ya...
  • like punk music?
  • have an affinity for the mosh pit?
  • feel the love for jolly ol' St. Nick?

Well, then SANTAMOSH is for you!

[Requires Flash and speakers or headphones]

Return of the Crue (Umlauts Optional)

The original members of 1980s glam metal band Motley Crue, announced yesterday that they will begin a world reunion tour in 2005. On one hand, there must be folks who are thinking, "This is not a promising start to the new year." On the other hand, anyone who would welcome this kind of news must be saying, "You know your band has become lame when your concert supporter is VH1." Just doing my bit to make your day a little more surreal...

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Recently, on WIRED NEWS...

Here are a couple of stories I read last night and this morning... Blogs May Be a Wealth Hazard:
What do a flight attendant in Texas, a temporary employee in Washington and a web designer in Utah have in common? They were all fired for posting content on their blogs that their companies disapproved of. The rise of blogging over the past few years has, inevitably, given way to another phenomenon, as companies are forced to confront employees' easy access to ranting and raving about work in public online forums like Blogger and LiveJournal. [Read Story]
Who's Recycling Techno Trash?
No current figures exist for how much e-junk is recycled, but industry experts believe it's a sliver of the total. People don't know where to take their used electronics, and toxic components are a mounting problem. [Read Story]

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Login

While many online newspaper readers are used to the idea of registering to read free content online, some news buffs are supporting and creating sites that help them beat the system with fake or shared login information that helps keep their personal information under wraps. [Read Story]
Spyware on My Machine? So What?

Not all web surfers think spyware is a problem. Some say the snoopy software is a fair trade-off for free applications, even with the intrusion into their computers and lives. "Typically the assumption has been that spyware sneaks onto computers, or users are unaware of what they have agreed to install," said Gregg Mastoras, a senior security analyst at antivirus vendor Sophos. "But some people actually do knowingly install adware because they want to use a particular application that comes bundled with it. Some just aren't particularly concerned by adware's presence on their computers." [Read Story]

That last story bugs me. How can people not care about spyware? I must have half a dozen different apps that I use just for scrubbing cookies and detecting/deleting spyware. I know, I know ... there are folks who feel that the only people who are doing something shady need to worry about spyware and privacy. Well, if you don't think spyware is a problem, then you should check out Marketscore, which is mentioned in the article and is a program that "routes all of a user's web traffic through Marketscore's own servers, where it is then analyzed to 'create research reports on internet trends and e-commerce activities.'"

Yeah, that means logins and passwords, are routed through Marketscore's servers, too. Real nice.

Long Time No Blog | Fencing Chronicles

I haven't posted anything new since Friday afternoon, and for that I apologize. You see, I had a fairly full weekend with:
  1. Running the light board for the Friday and Saturday evening performances of Thumbs (new play by Rupert Holmes) over in Souderton.
  2. A full day of class on Saturday: 9am to 4:30pm.
  3. Taking advantage of the unexpectedly warm Sunday (70 degrees!). I pruned the tree in my front yard, and then labored to install my new fence sections in my backyard.
  4. Spending any down time with my lovely wife.

Number 3 on this list -- and not number 4, folks (shame of you for thinking that!) -- was the killer.

Some of you may have already learned this lesson, but home improvement projects are never quite as simple as I hope or even estimate ... both in effort expended and time consumed. Oh, and I really should never assume I can replace/modify/repair just half (or some other portion) of something. In this case, I thought I could tear down the decaying and broken fence sections, but re-use the existing fence posts with little or no trouble.

Little .... or no ... trouble. Sigh.

A previous homeowner -- I don't know if this would be the one just prior to me, or one a bit further back -- had established what I will call a two-tone fence that stretched approximately 500 feet from the end of my house to a shorter wire fence that finishes off the property line. I say this was a two-tone fence because about half of it was privacy fencing of the stockade variety, about 6 feet tall, and the rest was a lattice style fence that was about 5 feet in height. The lattice fencing was in a terrible state after this last winter: the wind had actually blown some of it apart, forcing me to brace those sections haphazardly with scrap wood. Serviceable, but not attractive. And on the stockade fencing, well, some stockades were in better shape than others.

Bear in mind that my ultimate fencing goal is to have the entire backyard fenced in so that I can eventually get a racing greyhound. But I can't afford that right now because I had to replace the front concrete steps and sidewalk -- they were just melting away and could no longer be patched. So I got the bright idea that I could drop one or two hundred on fence panels and install them myself -- right on those aforementioned fence posts that were already in place. However, I quickly learned that the posts were not spaced for standard fence sections. Both the stockade and lattice fencing that the previous homeowner had installed were custom jobs. The distance between posts was not in any way set for a standard "off-the-shelf" fence section.

No problem, I thought, I can simply trim any section that is too long. I can even save trimmed stockades for later replacement of broken ones. (Note: Much easier said than done).

Oh, and then there was the "starter" beam which was secured to my house. It had been notched so that the crossbeams of the old stockade fence would fit right in flush with the beam. Well, guess what: The cross beams on my new sections would not fit those nice, custom cutouts. And on top of that, but those posts I wanted to re-use ... I didn't really notice it until I actually had to attach the new sections, but they kind of zig-zag!

I love old houses, but I do have one constant complaint: nothing is square.

Well, for all my grunting and complaining, I now have three out of the five sections installed. What with trimming, digging (for leveling purposes), and drilling, what I thought would take about two hours took several and the job lasted right up to dusk. I gave up when it was just too dark to continue.

I will admit that the new fence is looking good (at least from my side), but it might have been better to just suck it up and pay for a professional installation. (Actually, I think I just needed better planning -- including time to dig new fence posts at the proper intervals). Anyway, that's why I didn't post over the weekend. And I was too busy on Monday to post as well.

Friday, December 03, 2004

WTF? -- Missouri Pulls Video Games from Prison

OK. Now here is something that will either make you smack your forehead or cause your blood to boil; maybe both:
Missouri's most violent criminals can no longer play video games that simulate murders, carjackings and the killing of police officers, a decision reached after prison officials were told about the content. "We didn't closely review these," Dave Dormire, superintendent of the Jefferson City Correctional Center, told The Kansas City Star. "We were told these games had more like cartoon violence." [USA Today]
I have a question ... Why the heck were they even playing video games in the first place?! Now, maybe I'm just slow, but didn't they forfeit the right to participate in leisure activities like this once they were incarcerated for their crime(s)? Mind you, I'm not saying I would happily go to prison if I knew I would have access to an X-Box -- I don't even play video games -- but this just seems like it would be a no-brainer. Hey, I'd like to submit an idea to the Jefferson City Correctional staff: How about crochet as a recreational activity for your inmates? It worked in Demolition Man (OK, that was just a lousy movie, so there is no proof that crochet would actually work, but it was funny). At the very least, those folks should be doing yoga or something to keep them calm and in shape. The rationale for the clam part is fairly evident; the reason for keeping them fit: well, you don't want a bunch of video-game addicted fatties on the state dole, right? http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/2004-12-02-mizzou-prison-games_x.htm

Friday Pet Blogging | Demon-Eyez!

Don't you just hate it when you encounter a demonized cat on your way downstairs?

Milo sports a demonic stare -- click for larger image Milo says: None shall pass!

It's almost as bad as encountering one on the way to the bathroom:

Otis with demonic eyes -- click for larger image Otis has the eyes, but can't quite pull off the demeanor.

Are they not the cutest demons ever?

I mentioned in my previous post (about Tootsie & Snuggles) that The Modulator has a compilation of pet posts from other bloggers. And here is the updated list of Prophet or Madman's previous Pet Blog posts for more Milo & Otis:

Friday Pet Blogging | Tootsie & Snuggles

Time to switch things up a bit. I visited my parents over the Thanksgiving holiday and finally met their new puppies ... Tootsie and Snuggles!

Tootsie and Snuggles -- click for larger image Tootsie (sitting): What are we doing today, bro? Snuggles (standing): Same thing we do everyday, sis. Chew things and run around!

Go ahead and click the pic for a larger view. This is a rare inaction shot. Tootsie (short for Tootsie Rool) is the smaller pup sitting in the background. Snugglepuppy -- or just Snuggles, for short -- is standing in the foreground. They are both from the same litter. Tootsie actually belongs to my sister and her daughter, who came up with the names, but she gets to visit her brother on a regular basis. In fact, Snuggles goes through a form of withdrawal when he doesn't see his little sister on a regular basis!

Don't forget to check The Modulator for today's compilation of pet posts from other bloggers (as well as links to archived compilations).

And to all those Milo & Otis fans out there -- don't worry! I have more pics of the boys and I will have them up later today (at least, I hope I have them up later today).

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Knowledge@Wharton: The Efficiency of Gift Giving...

... Is It Really Better to Give than to Receive?
Now that the holiday season is in full throttle - and panic has set in among those who fret over finding the right gifts for family members, friends and perhaps even co-workers - it's worth considering a not particularly festive question: Just how efficient is gift giving? And what do the recipients of consumer purchases actually think about the gifts they get? Joel Waldfogel, professor of business and public policy at Wharton, sheds some light on this question in a new paper titled, "Does Consumer Irrationality Trump Consumer Sovereignty?"
Read the full article: http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/1088.cfm

Quotable: ... democracy lies just under ...

"Americans are convinced that democracy lies just under the weight of a dictatorship, ready to open up and flower when the boulder of oppression is rolled away. But the reality is that when you overthrow a dictatorship, not democracy but anarchy lies at the ready."
Benjamin Barber, author of Jihad vs. McWorld, as quoted in Mo (September 2004)