Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Yes, it is this bad

...in a single day and night of misfortune ... the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea.

-- Plato, "Timaeus"

New Orleans and the surrounding areas are approximately 80% submerged. The refugees need to be evacuated, but according to this video interview with Mayor Ray Hagin, the city is nearly inaccessable - major roads and bridges are out. The MSN Video page shows more than you'd ever want to see.

Hundreds are feared dead all across the Mississippi Delta, and with the lack of sanitation and fresh water on top of that, much of the Gulf Coast, from New Orleans eastward to Mississippi and Alabama, is essentially a third-world country. The details are terrible. Please give if you can:

The Red Cross
Catholic Charities
The Salvation Army

(w/t to Wizbang, Dawn Eden, and Wunderkraut for some of the links)

update, 9:27, pm - it gets worse, as demonstrated by the WWL-TV bulletin: "ALL RESIDENTS ON THE EAST BANK OF ORLEANS AND JEFFERSON REMAINING IN THE METRO AREA ARE BEING TOLD TO EVACUATE AS EFFORTS TO SANDBAG THE LEVEE BREAK HAVE ENDED. THE PUMPS IN THAT AREA ARE EXPECTED TO FAIL SOON AND 9 FEET OF WATER IS EXPECTED IN THE ENTIRE EAST BANK, WITHIN THE NEXT 12-15 HOURS. Residents will probably be allowed back in town in a week, with identification only, but only to get essentials and clothing. You will then be asked to leave and not come back for one month."

The emphases are in the original. And on CNN tonight, they were talking about the few survivors (some of whom apparently remained behind to loot the city*) having to worry about crocodiles and snakes, which now have free run of the entire area via the floodwaters. It's like a Biblical plague down there.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Life Bad for You, Say Experts

A controversial new study has found that life itself is bad for one's health.

Researchers at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey expect to publish their findings in the next issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. "This is the biggest advance in human understanding of nutrition since people magically stopped dying of scurvy," said lead researcher, Dr. Pat Pfieffer.

"Think about it," Dr. Pfieffer said, "even breathing means unavoidable contact with airborne pollutants and pathogens." But he rebuffed the suggestion that holding one's breath for extended periods would lessen the risk of exposure: "Trust me, I've tried it. You just kill brain cells that way."

"That's the Catch-22 we all face, every day," said Dr. Jan Stensis, who led the review panel that approved publication of the study. "It's impossible to safely do anything good for yourself." She added that she expected the study to be widely hailed by the scientific community.

Among the team's other conclusions:
  • Even moderate exercise causes strains, sprains, and muscle pulls.
  • Too little exercise leads to weight issues.
  • Many medicines used to treat grave illness can cause serious side effects or addiction.
  • Sunlight has harmful rays, but avoiding it altogether impairs the creation of essential vitamins.

Not all the news is bad. "Stepping on cracks in the sidewalk does not appear to increase the risk of back injuries in women," Dr. Pfieffer admitted. "But those risks are high enough already, and since women live longer than men, they have a greater chance of eventually having something go horribly wrong with them."

"Food is especially dangerous," said head assistant Chris Brown. "It is more habit-forming than anyone had originally suspected." As he spoke he took large bites of an enormous jelly doughnut, brushing powdered sugar from his lab coat. "It's already too late for me, but hopefully these findings will make a big difference for the children. I'm for tough legislation." He dabbed jelly from the corners of his mouth and reached for a can of diet soda.

"The only hope is to live as little as possible," Dr. Pfieffer concluded, on his way to locking himself in a dark closet.

Life joins an ever-lengthening list of items once believed to be innocent and wholesome, including sugar, salt, alcohol, carbohydrates, caffeine, meat, dairy, and a sense of humor.

Joining the 21st Century

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog. Excelsior!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

PC Football

No, not this kind. Sluggo's been on the case since the NCAA decided that certain nicknames weren't polite enough, and that certain schools would be banned from postseason play if they didn't change things.

Florida State challenged and the NCAA 'let' them keep "Seminoles." Big whoop. They're still trying to push the ban elsewhere. Why is that?

St. Paul knew back when the home side wore this on their helmets - love of money. FSU is a football factory. The NCAA doesn't make a hell of a lot of money running a bowl with the Delware Fighting Blue Hens. (Ingrid Newkirk, call your office. I'm feeling the "Animals Are Not Ours to Mascot" website.) As a result, it's too much trouble to go after them on the principle of banning offensive stereotypes. But when it comes to the Illini, or the Fighting Sioux? Suddenly principles matter, eh?

(In a related note, Siouxsee and the Banshees will no longer be performing halftime at the Gatorade Winn-Dixie Bowl, sponsored by Jiffy Lube.)

If the NCAA thinks this fools anyone, they've been hitting the firewater a little heavy. They are crass opportunists who exploit young people for their own profit, knowing full well that most kids won't ever see dime one from their collegiate effort. They even admit it, in a series of heartwarming black-and-white ads in which the athletes remind us that 95% of them "go pro in something other than sports." Then again, the system also benefits the colleges financially, which is why FSU didn't tell the NCAA "Stuff it, we'll start our own intercollegiate organization. Anyone want to come with?"

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Your Congressmen at work!

Here in Crappy New Jersey™, we've a long history in electing Regrets-in-Waiting. As soon as we make someone governor, we either hate him (Jim Florio), endure him (Christine Todd Whitman, admittedly not a 'him'), or lose him (James McGreevey).

It's not much better on the national level. Bob Toricelli should probably be in jail, along with the eleven Monmouth county officials recently swept up by the feds. Those who hold office do a poor job of bringing our federal tax dollars back to the state. (Here are the numbers for FY '03. We're last.)

Now comes word that the intrepid folk elected to represent the interests of New Jerseyans have failed to save Fort Monmouth. Needing to convince five of nine panelists of the base's necessity, we swayed....two.

Way to come up big! And will Rush Holt be reelected despite losing the base (and the 2000 jobs) in his federal district? Hells yeah. Better the regret we know. The new guy might (horrors) try to accomplish something in office.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Choose your poison

In my youth, scientists were fond of warning that some or other basic compound had caused cancer in lab rats. Saccharine was a big one; I believe they also slapped that rap on aspartame. But it wasn't just artificial sweeteners.

Now, courtesy of the Energy Fiend, you can be your own lab rat! Find out how much of your favorite beverage it would take to deliver a fatal dosage of caffiene. (w/t to the Corner.)

In honor of Fry from Futurama, who drank 100 cups of coffee in one episode, I took the test. Either coffee is slightly weaker now, or I outweigh him a bit: my max is 105 cups. (Then again, Fry didn't die either. His bio indicates that he has an enormous capacity for caffiene.) Some others from the list, computed for my weight:

Arizona Green Tea - 281.5 bottles. I love this stuff. Note to self - moderation.
Dr Pepper - 275 cans. Your turn to buy, Muley.
Barq's root beer - 512 cans. It has bite, but not as much as...
Mello Yello - 221 cans. A blast from my past strikes back.
Peach Snapple - 357.5 bottles. Long before that, though, the preservatives get you.
Red Bull - 141 cans will give you wings that don't come off.
Espresso - 113 shots. With Sambuca? What a way to go...

update, 4:35 pm - apparently it's spelled "Fry." I think that it just doesn't look right without that "e". On the bright side, he and Leela may be the most famous couple since Mulder and Scully to go exclusively by their last names. (And five points to the first commenter who remembers the first name of Binkley from "Bloom County.")

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Carnivale XIV

Huh-ray, huh-ray, hur-ray!  Step right up!

Sloppydawg does the Carnival, stalking the posters via satellite image. It's a great roundup of the Garden State's blog world.

On September 11, the Carnival comes to the Hive, so watch this space with wide, unblinking eyes...

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Fly walks the line

Rolling north up Route 9 in Monmouth County, one doesn't bat an eye when the sign says "Shift Right Ahead." Large hunks of the roadway are being torn up there. But when the Shift Right takes you into the Wendy's parking lot it gets noticed.

They weren't treating us all to small Frosties. DUI check. The officer peeked through my open window with a flashlight. "Good evening, sir." Very professional, friendly. "Have you had any alcoholic beverages this evening?"

"No, sir." (True. Sorry guys.)

[noticing my goaltender's stick along the passenger side] "Play any hockey tonight?"

"No, sir. "

I suppose if I said yes they'd have checked me for concussions as well as booze. But I wasn't tonight's winner, so I was waved along without doing the nose-pointy thing or the dwarkcab tebahpla. (Which sounds Klingon and would definitely land me in stir.) He even gave me a receipt:

A little further on the way home I saw a car on fire on Route 18, surrounded by squad cars; one of those sights that every guy can't help but think is kinda cool. And then, after dodging all of this, one of the local roads near home had a large "Road Closed" sign and a line of orange pylons.

At this point it's two in the morning; I can't see anyone doing anything, nor any line of cones on the other end of the road. I swing the Discount Chariot right around it and head for the traffic light. When I get there, a man in a parked car honks at me. Oh, that's nice - the car is marked "Department of Highways." (Have I mentioned that men are idiots?) I roll the window and look over.

"Hey, man," he says. "Don't turn left, go straight. There's three cop cars right around the corner."

Now, that was a sound use of taxpayer funds. Thank you, sir.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Front page dissonance

The Newark Star-Ledger has been going front-page, above the fold, on the Gaza pullout. (Today's example, for your consideration.) The headline for Thursday reads, "Tears Rain Down on Gaza."

For the moment, leave aside the consideration of right or wrong and think about the coverage. In print and broadcast newsrooms far and wide across our fruited plain, you would not struggle to find people who have been longing for this moment, to "end the occupation." It looks curious, to say the least, that they seem to be selling newspapers by exploiting the very mourning and dislocation they so hoped for. (This is hardly an accident. Behold Wednesday's coverage, and Tuesday's.) It's like reading about a group endorsing a politician without being told that the politician is majority stockholder of that group.

Returning to the larger issue, there's a reason for the pullout. It's not the relative scarcity of the settlers (about 8500, to average the numbers I've seen). It's not the failure of others to emigrate to the area. It's simple binary math - yes, or no - will Israelis live there, or Palestinians? They're leaving simply because there is no third option, Israelis and Palestinians. Such a thing is so obviously impossible that it can't even be seriously suggested: imagine if someone stood up in the Knesset and said, "Hey, we're all Semites, here. There's plenty of room for our Arab and Muslim neighbors, so why dislodge the Jewish families? Why send unarmed soldiers to disrupt their lives at great personal risk to themselves? Let them stay and welcome their new neighbors!"

Ummmm... don't mind Benjamin, there - he's a little simple.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


Diptera got a present today. Since the old printer was also kaput, I went out to the grand PC Store and scouted out some stuff for the new rig.

You'd be surprised how far down the laser printers have come. They had a very good assistant manager show me a decent color model for $299, but it was a bit large for the Hive's needs. We talked Epson, the Official Printer of the Hive, and he made an interesting observation - they waste ink. Since it's already sort of pricey to begin with, this caught my attention. But he had a point. They run down sort of quickly, and it looks as though part of that is just excess dripping into the collection sponge running along the bottom of the unit.

Finally I decided that I was swapping brands. The ink thing just got me; and though the separate color ink carts were a nice touch, I realized that they weren't necessary. (It's not like I print a lot of exclusively blue things.)

Diptera is now hooked up to an HP 1315v, the new Official Printer of the Hive. Decent print speed (17 ppm, 12 for color), also scans and copies. Can I go wrong for 75 bucks?

Even nicer is the mini digital recorder; my 'too-many-stories-at-once' post led to a great kindness from a friend, who decided to get me a little happy present. Now I have an excuse for talking to myself all day. Heheheheheh.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Proving my theory

News from the wilds of the Potomac Valley: $500 jeans.

No, they're not large enough to pull onto Abe's statue at the Lincoln Memorial. They're tres chic. They were designed by a former doctor, and promptly priced so that actual doctors can't afford 'em. And why?

There are nearly 30 brands here at B Scene: jeans with small pockets and big pockets and specially angled pockets, jeans with close-together pockets that make a wide butt narrower, jeans with no yoke to make a butt extra round. There are rhinestoned and embroidered pockets to call attention to your butt, and plain pockets to make your butt disappear.

That's right, guys. They admit it. They want us to look at their butts. Oh, but heaven help us if they catch us doing it!

Folks - men are idiots; women are insane. If that sounds harsh, read further.

[while looking at terrycloth tube tops:] ("Isn't this the material you make towels with?" asks a young man, and the young woman he's with calls him an idiot.)

Q.E.D. Not that the parents are much better.

They start young at Ilana's store. Martha Ein often shops with her teenage daughters, who are permitted to spend no more than $200 per pair, though "sometimes they twist my arm."
"I don't have that many," says her 16-year-old, Lili, considering her denim collection. "Probably like 15."

Way to draw the line, Mom! (I suppose that's the only moral thing to do with the eeeevil tax cuts.) The perfect capstone is the article's teaser for tomorrow's follow-up: "Tomorrow: Distressing moments."

Too late.

(w/t - the Coalition of the Swilling)

Friday, August 12, 2005


Mike Cameron will have surgery to set the broken bones in his face, following the collision yesterday in San Diego.

I hope he makes a full recovery, and not just because he's a favorite player. In the meantime, I owe an explanation to everyone I confused yesterday. Understand - I had no idea that the game was a re-broadcast. The Mets were in San Diego. I didn't think twice about the sunshine and wasn't really paying attention until Cameron and Beltran smashed into each other. Believe me, it was bad: worse than anything from tonight's Jets-Lions football game. So I dashed online, and promptly broke a four-hour news story.

However, I did get something a little right, something that the broadcasters missed - Cameron is a center fielder playing out of position. Every bit of his training says "Go for everything I can reach." So he didn't think twice about diving for the ball at the same time Beltran did. The last time such a thing happened to the Mets, it was also two center fielders playing at the same time, Mookie Wilson out of position in left and Lenny Dykstra in center.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Oh, man...

One of the problems with having two centerfielders is that both of them are hardwired to get anything they can reach. About ten minutes ago, the Mets' Mike Cameron and Carlos Beltran headed out for a short flare in right-center. Each dove for the ball and piled into each other head-first.

I haven't seen something this bad since Mookie Wilson and Lenny Dykstra (also both CFs by trade) ran into each other and clonked noggins back in '87. This is worse. This is the sort of collision that the NFL would ban. Fox Sports showed one replay; Fran Healy instantly said "OK, that's enough of that."

San Diego's fans are being classy and cheering as Beltran slowly walks off the field. Willie Randolph ran out immediately and is still beside Cameron. They have the cart out for him right now and are strapping him to the board. He was moving on his own, however, so there's hope that this will turn out well in the end.

WOW - ESPN.com is already reporting that Cameron has broken facial bones. It would be more impressive if they weren't already calling the game a 2-1 San Diego win.

OOOHHHHHH - and it would be most impressive of all if I realized that this was a REPLAY of the game. Since they're in San Diego I thought all that sunshine was normal.

Click on through to the other side

Cartoonist Chris Muir is using his excellent platform for cancer awareness. Go to the page and "Clik4Cathy," either here or using the button on his site.

In brief, cancer ablation eliminates growths by extremes of heat or cold. (It's not all that farfetched - think of a doctor freezing off a wart.) This particular site talks about using Radio Frequency Ablation, generating the heat via microwaves.

"RFA is especially appropriate for patients who cannot tolerate surgery," according to the site. This got me thinking about young Tylor Lauck - if you've been following this story from Trevor Romain's blog, or from the frequent mentions over at the Dawn Patrol, you know that this 14-year old boy has great spirit trapped in a frail form. His doctors have certainly considered all the most plausible treatments, but... It would be good to mention this option out loud somewhere, even on (say) lunch hour.

How do the experts do it?

Beats me. Let me tell you how the hacks do it.

The Fly's brain doesn't work sequentially. It skips about from idea to idea. Sometimes the ideas don't bother to run in order, either: it means that I'm forever taking dictation (as it were) without being told in which order to put the pages. It's up to me to take time to stop writing new stuff and organize the stuff I already have, to make sure that bits of entirely different stories get properly sorted. Certain ideas have even been taken out of one class (lasers v. non-lasers) and put into the other as I discover that they work better that way.

I also have a file I update and back up regularly, with hunks of many of my stories as best as I remember them. I was forced to start the thing because, after making a list, I have no fewer than 25 stories still in progress.

This is how you, gentle visitors, get a blog post about my supposed creativity instead of something that's actually creative.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Bugged fly

Saturday night I spent "with the guys," as the saying goes, for an evening of food, poker, and good-natured jesting.

Alas, I was not jestworthy. Big Joe said it best: "What the hell happened? You're like Dark Side Mike." Luckily, such fearsome weapons only reside in games, or this sort of scene would probably go on more often than we like, especially on the highway:

Now, everybody that's left had BETTER start being nicer!
But it did get me thinking. Leave aside the psychotic or the criminal mind, and settle down for a moment with the 'normal' folk - what makes an average fly start to growl? Why, when frustrated, will one reply with unreasonable anger?

After a good long talk with myself I concluded that it wasn't the inconvenience. It wasn't loss of time or even of money. Fear was a strong contender, but I eventually decided that it wasn't a cause itself, but a concurring result of the thing I sought: in other words, the event that scares is the same thing that infuriates. Besides, we've all been in situations where we've gotten very mad and only later, when anger faded, did we find that we were frightened.

Finally I concluded that anger was a byproduct of self-esteem. Not being taken seriously is one of the great causes of anger - the feeling that one doesn't matter. It comes on the road when the thoughtless or careless cut you off; further, when they only notice you so far as to flip you off. It comes when your ideas are dismissed without a fair hearing. It comes with casual unfairness or indifference. But worst of all is the sneaking suspicion that, deep down, those who have wronged you are correct to do it - that you don't merit common courtesy or any note of regard, that at bottom you're only getting what you deserve.

Maybe nobody else knows this feeling. God bless them; one great sign of mental health is the ability to forget such things and laugh. The rest of us? Oh, for five minutes' peace from that nagging voice within that agrees with the world!

Our antidote is not more self-esteem. That just leads to two big problems - first, that one will not bother to actually accomplish anything (because you're fine the way you are), and second, that one will start to deal out the behavior that caused so much trouble coming in (because nobody else has been similarly enlightened). These are obviously false - if you really were fine the way you were, you wouldn't have been so offended in the first place; and if it was wrong to suffer such hurt, why (now that you're a better person) would you be so cruel in exchange?

I'm convinced that self-worth is the real secret, of which esteem is a knockoff, a phantom designed to keep us busy jotting up brownie points and grievances while real work goes undone. Knowing who one really is cures all that. Insults rarely reach the core of that person, because they have the necessary tool, truth, to see through any slight; one is beloved of God, redeemed by Christ, moved by the Spirit, and therefore of eternal worth to the One who judges the soul. Misfortunes aren't taken personally; one is a sinner, needing constant grace and correction, and therefore not meriting any such particular notice from the cosmos. God loves, so we can be confident and happy; God chastises, so we don't grow proud. As little lights in His great light, we can shine without fear of casting shadows on others. Self-esteem hoards to try to cover emptiness, but self-worth gives from fullness, never fearing to run out, because the source of that fullness isn't the person at all, but the Father.

Now - blogging it is easy. Living it takes a whole life. Shall we agree to remind each other who we are from time to time, to make it simpler?

More tomorrow, but for now...

Busy writing non-blog content today.
Added a site meter, courtesy of Site Meter (funny how that works out).
"Supercross: the Movie" will not make my list.
The Carnival is very good this week.
For fun, I smashed many Stormtroopers.

Y'all might want to head in the OTHER direction...
Poor saps never knew what hit them.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Grammatica! Grammatica!

No, that's not a cheer for the former placekicking brothers Bill and Martin. (Bill once blew out a knee celebrating a field goal in the first quarter.) That's a defiant chant for an uprising: a plea for clean writing, sound spelling, and proper punctuation. In short, I want to take back English.

Friend Joel
wrote it this morning:
"You and I speak English" has the advantage that it can be altered consistently to "I speak English." "You and me speak English" cannot boast such consistency; the phrase "me speak English" is still generally only spoken by those who don't.
Oh, but there are so many other phrases for them to choose from! Just today, food shopping, I was told that "Brand X Dinner's are half price." I fought the rational urge to rip out the sign and stomp on it; I still fight the irrational urge to boycott the brand. After all, they didn't write the copy.

Why do such things drive me cuckoo? Why does "ax" for "ask" make me grimace, and why do I lose sleep when I type "irony" when I mean "coincidence"? Well, because it's important. Once I had a conversation with a college freshman at Rutgers that was grossly one-sided... the student could not keep up with me. I'm no great intellectual myself; it's not a matter of her brainpower, since RU is a good school that doesn't usually admit blatant incompetents. (Well, maybe some of the professors, but I digress.) She was there because she was diligent enough to pull down the grades and do well on the tests - but I swear she couldn't string together three sentences with a guided tour. I grew convinced that she had the thoughts in her head, but had never been given the tools to get them out into the world.

Folks, that makes this bug angry. What's more, this student is not alone. Words are the medium of exchange in the marketplace of ideas; every day we run into native-speaking people who have been set free to wander around with no idea how to make change. Not surprisingly, they get ripped off. They have trouble handling the ideas that are offered and have the devil's own time giving ideas back; they have them but they can't bring them into the light of day, and the ideas never get fair hearing. They get swindled into mouthing lies or believing sweet-sounding folly: not from lack of a mind, but from lack of tools for the mind to use. This lack will hold her back, professionally and personally, and ought to be remedied.

Realistically, I'm not expecting measured treatises from the mailman or dissertations from the waitress. It's not a matter of everyone sounding like a Victorian novel of manners. It's just getting as much out of each person as can be given. Not everyone makes the effort, and that's sad enough, but those that do ought to have the maximum effect for their effort, and clear speaking is a huge step forward there.

Doth not Lileks bleatless spiel?

Luckily for us all, James Lileks has paid gigs like Newhouse; his latest gave me a lunchtime chuckle I wished to share. Cue the Imperial March!

[programming note - more stuff later, on grammar. When I've calmed down I'll get to the Islanders losing Adrian Aucoin to Chicago.]

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Palmiero busted in drug scandal

Major League Baseball announced today that Baltimore Orioles slugger Rafael Palmiero has violated the new substance abuse policy and will be suspended ten games.

Palmiero, a Viagra spokesman, tested positive for Cialis.

"We consider this a serious violation," commissioner Bud Selig said. "This calls into question every billboard in baseball and cannot be tolerated."

The Orioles, meanwhile, tried to stand behind their teammate. "The team's been struggling," said manager Lee Mazzilli. "He was the only member who wasn't slumping. Sure, we're going to miss that." But second baseman Brian Roberts was overheard in the background shouting, "Great, way to overshadow my career year! Stupid !$%^#%^&*(! He was never that good anyway!"

The first baseman had angrily denied taking any performance enhancers before Congress in March, and in a statement filed this morning, said that the competitor's product must have been in his bloodstream accidentally. "My secretary gave it to me, you know?"