Friday, February 24, 2006

Trogdor

Trogdor, the code name for Google's online web page editor application, has just been launched. The service, called Google Pages, is not letting any more users in right now due to heavy demand. Techies seem to be pleased by the slick WYSIWYG page designer interface. Valleywag seems to think that the emperor has no clothes. I haven't been able to try it out yet, but if all Google Pages turns out to be is a Web 2.0 version of GeoCities then it seems like a waste of time to me.

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Fine Print

I definitely feel for this guy, who rented a car from Enterprise to drive from Seattle to LA and got hit with a $1000 penalty for not driving the car back to Seattle. The rental contract did state that the car had to be returned to the same place where it was picked up and I thought that it was common knowledge that you are almost never allowed to do one-way car rentals, but I still feel for this guy. Assuming he's telling the truth, nearly every employee in the Seattle office knew that he was doing a one-way road trip to LA, but no one even bothered to mention that it was not allowed. I suppose it is possible that everyone in the Seattle office was new and unaware of this policy and/or too stupid to know that it's not physically possible to drive from LA to Seattle in one day, but doubt it.

Even though I've never gotten hosed by Enterprise, I've never enjoyed renting cars from them either. I've rented cars from them in at least three states (Texas, New York, and Nevada) and their employees have always seemed to rub me the wrong way. Almost all of them have had a stereotypical used-car salesman kind of personality. The other thing that really bugs me about Enterprise is that whole "we'll pick you up" tagline they've had in their advertisements for years. They have only picked me up once, and it was because the place I was being picked up from was about a mile from their facility. Basically, they'll only pick you up if you're within walking distance of their nearest office.

For future reference, the only rental car company that has ever let me do a one-way rental is Hertz. I've also heard that a lot of companies will let you do one-way rentals if they need to move vehicles from one geographic region to another. For example, rental car companies generally need to move vehicles down south during the winter and back up north in the spring time, so if you're traveling in those directions at that time of year, you may be able to snag a one-way trip.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Pinchy Would've Wanted It This Way


MDS and his wife were gracious enough to give us a lobster gram for our wedding, and we finally enjoyed it last night. Even though I had never prepared lobster before, I decided to forgo the traditional boil them in a pot method and try my hand at one of my favorite Chinese dishes, Cantonese style lobsters. The trick to this dish is that you have to kill the lobsters and crack them without removing the meat from the shell before cooking. Michelle has watched her Mom do this before and she wanted no part of it. I was a bit apprehensive about it myself, but I decided to give it a shot. I'm pretty sure that the lobsters died a quick and relatively painless death at my hands, but there appears to be a lobster equivalent of rigor mortis, because I saw movement in their legs even after I had torn off their claws and tails and split open their bodies.



Eating and cooking shellfish is about as close as most of us are going to get to the actual process of turning live animals into food. I know of a lot of people don't like to eat fish and shellfish because of this, but I think it's good to get up close and personal with your food every once in a while. It doesn't hurt that the stuff tastes so good, of course.



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Gun Show

I really wanted to see Lord of War when it came out last year, but by the time I got around to seeing it, it had already left the theaters. I finally caught it on DVD this past weekend and I was very impressed. For starters, casting Nicolas Cage as an international arms dealer was a stroke of genius. He played the part of the Yuri Orlov, an amoral Ukranian-American arms dealer, with the same wit and humor that you expect from any character being portrayed by Nicholas Cage. It may be that Cage is not a very good actor and he can only play one personality type. I don't agree with this assessment, but even if it is true, it works to advantage of the movie because it makes it very difficult to root against Cage's character. By getting the audience to side with the gun runner, the movie forces the audience to examine the moral questions raised by the film instead of having the answers dictated to them directly.

The other thing that I really liked about the movie was the time period in which it took place. The story begins in the final days of the Cold War and ends right around 9/11. I don't watch a lot of movies, so I may be way off, but it seems to me that there are not a lot of geopolitical thrillers that take place in the post-Cold War/pre-9/11 interregnum. It's a lot easier to make a thriller when you can draw a neat line between good guys and bad guys. In reality, that line is probably never as clean as we hope it is, but it's a lot easier to draw that line when the audience already has some preconceived notions about the players on the screen before the movie starts. It's harder to say who the bad guys are in this movie. If Orlov is a bad guy for running guns, what does that make the warlords he sells them to?

Lord of War thankfully refuses to tie up all of the loose ends into a neat little conclusion. I think that people will come out of this movie with different conclusions based on the way that they see the world. My conclusion was basically that man's inhumanity towards man knows few limits. Ultimately, there is nothing much we can do about it, but it wouldn't hurt to try once in a while.

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Friday, February 10, 2006

Starr Report

Michelle noticed a not-so-subtle dig on Paris Hilton in today's installment of Brenda Starr. I chuckled a little bit, and any time a comic strip makes me chuckle, it's big news, so I thought I should present it for your viewing pleasure. If you ask me, London Hyatt is comedic gold, but Madrid Marriot is taking the joke a little bit too far.



Tags: Comics Brenda Starr Paris Hilton

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Gamble On

For starters, here are some thoughts about the NHL betting scandal that is getting ready to pop. First of all, I like how all of the articles that mention Janet Jones (Wayne Gretzky's wife) have felt the need to mention her profession (actress); some have even given her the hyphenated title of actress-wife. This information seems superfluous to me. If she was famous for her acting, it wouldn't be necessary to remind everyone of her profession. Since she is famous for being married to Wayne Gretzky (and for gambling, apparently), let's just call her Wayne's wife and leave it at that.

When Gretzky was traded from the Oilers to the Kings on 8/8/88, at least part of the reason was so Janet could focus on her acting career. Alan Alda can say all he wants about being a sensitive guy, but the greatest hockey player in NHL history leaving the greatest hockey dynasty of the 1980's so his wife could get a couple of bit parts in some crappy movies has to be one of the biggest sensitive guy moves of all-time. Of course, there were other factors that brought Gretzky to L.A., such as money, cash, and Bruce McNall's baseball card collection. Speaking of Bruce, I wouldn't be surprised if he's part of Operation: Slapshot, assuming he's not dead or in jail right now.

One final thought regarding yesterday's post, why do media outlets keep going out of their way to describe the Danish political cartoons as caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad? Would there be riots in the Muslim world right now if the paper had drawn caricatures of Muhammad Ali? Muhsin Mohammed? If the cartoons had featured drawings of Vishnu that some Hindus found offensive, perhaps some explanation would be warranted since I don't think most Americans are all that knowledgeable about Hinduism, but I think almost anyone who is aware of Islam is also aware of Mohammed.

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Intoonfadah

I'm not usually one to write letters to the editor, but I felt the need to express my contempt for this editorial about the fallout from the Danish political cartoons from today's Post-Standard. Here's the text of my letter:

Your editorial addressing the furor over the Danish political cartoons was severely misguided. The European newspapers that printed these cartoons were not attempting to inflame extremism, as you have suggested. They were attempting to make a statement about efforts on the part of Islamic fundamentalists to force European societies into forsaking freedoms that are incompatible with their fundamentalist world view. As the rioters have shown us, freedom of expression and freedom of conscience, values that are essential to modern democratic societies, have no place in their world. To suggest that anyone should have to forsake or even temper these freedoms in order to appease radical fundamentalists is both irresponsible and dangerous.


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Friday, February 03, 2006

Super Sunday

I'm not making any predictions for the big game, but I am going to pull for the Seahawks because I think they have the coolest logo in all of pro sports.



As I have noted before, I'm a big admirer of the art of the indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest and I find it really cool and even a little bit subversive that the Seahawks managed to incorporate it into their logo.

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Happy Setsubun

Today, people in Japan are celebrating Setsubun by consuming long, fat rolls of sushi in a single gulp. According to this short write-up of the holiday, you are supposed to face in a certain direction while eating your sushi to ensure good luck for the coming year. I don't know if this a more urban and eastern take on Groundhog Day or what. I think Setsubun has a more universal appeal than Groundhog Day, but I have to disagree with the writer's sentiments that this holiday is going to be going global in the not-too-distant future. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to chug a sushi roll every Feb 3rd, but I don't see it happening.

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Thursday, February 02, 2006

Design Flaw

I have become something of a design geek over the past few years. It all started when I worked with a couple of very talented user interface designers at previous jobs. At first, I thought they were cranks because they couldn't shut up about making things that already seemed pretty easy even easier, but after a while, I began to understand what they were saying. Software is way too complicated, and most high-tech gadgets aren't far behind. Once your eyes have been opened to the unnecessary complexities foisted upon us by our modern day gadgets and appliances, you start seeing the world a little differently.

Yesterday, I got into the same elevator that I ride every day at work and it suddenly dawned on me that I have never seen an elevator where the floor numbers are actually on the buttons. You always have to find the floor number, then find the button next to that number. I've always felt that finding the right button in a n elevator was unnecessarily complex, but I was never sure why I felt that way. My point is not that it's hard to operate an elevator, my point is that it and hundreds of other tasks that we all have to do on a daily basis could be a little bit easier.

Speaking of design, if you're ever looking for an excellent but lesser-known museum in New York City, check out the Cooper-Hewitt. It's a museum dedicated to (you guessed it) design housed in an Andrew Carnegie mansion.

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Moment of Clarity

Like many people, I often have trouble deciphering song lyrics. Every once in a while, when I hear a song that I have misunderstood for years and years, I suddenly hear a previously misunderstood verse with complete clarity. It happened to me last night. After a very long day at work, I was rocking out to my favorite nighttime radio program when Alice cued up Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water". One of my favorite things about Nights with Alice Cooper, besides Alice's witty banter, is all of the deep cuts he plays. "Smoke on the Water" is anything but a deep cut, so I was kind of bummed, but that soon changed when I, for the first time in my life, correctly heard the second line of the song as: "On the Lake Geneva shoreline". I still would like to know if the lyrics to the song are based on a true story. Did Deep Purple ever go to Switzerland for a recording session with Frank Zappa that ended in an unfortunate string of arsons? Perhaps Alice clued in the listeners later on, but my drive ended before the end of the song.

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