Thursday, August 27, 2009

Most Useless Technology, or at least Most Ridiculously Marketed

The BBC added audio menus to its iPlayer TO HELP THE BLIND SELECT TV PROGRAMS TO WATCH. I'm still shaking my head over this one, folks. Can anyone explain what a blind person is going to do with the program once he finds it with the oh so convenient voice menu?

"The BBC is committed to high standards of accessibility across all of its sites and services, especially popular new services like BBC iPlayer which aim to deliver the benefits of emerging technologies to all our audiences.

"We're therefore delighted that the BBC is the first broadcaster in the world to include audio-described TV programmes for our blind and visually impaired audiences in its video-on-demand service."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

US Gov't: Cash for [Your Special Interest Here]

Since the Consumer Assistance to Recycle and Save Program (CARS, get it? Ha ha. How can I apply for the job of cutesy-acronym-thinker-upper at Congress?) aka Cash for Clunkers was such a resounding success (over budget twice, behind payment deadline, and canceled early because, well, we're still not sure. For the government, this is a success. Don't ask questions.) we'll soon get Cash for Refrigerators.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Killed in Juvie

A 15-year-old resident of the Tryon Residential Center detention center near Johnstown, N.Y. died in 2006 after being pinned face down on the floor and handcuffed by staff. The youth's death was ruled a homicide.

A Justice Department report also found that staff at the four centers routinely resorted to physical restraints for even minor infractions. "Anything from sneaking an extra cookie to initiating a fistfight may result in a full prone restraint with handcuffs," the report found. Staff used what the report termed "excessive force" to control behavior and the practices tended to escalate, rather that calm tensions, it said.

Restraints were used frequently, the report said, causing a high number of injuries. In 2007, staff used an average of 58 restraints a month at the Lansing Residential Center, near Ithaca, which houses girls, causing concussions, loss of teeth, and fractures, the report said. One girl suffered a spiral fracture to her left arm.

Youth, particularly at the Tryon centers, said it was common practice for staff to use what they called a "hook and trip." While staff members restrained a youth's arms behind the back, staff would trip the youth, so the youth would fall face first, resulting, in some cases, in broken teeth, the report said. (WSJ)

Reminds me of a scene from Bryce Courtenay's The Power of One. Only I thought that was something out of Africa. I had no idea it still goes on in my own backyard!

Is this stuff happening here?!

Craigslist Joins Change2Improve

We are proud to announce that Craigslist has signed up as an anchor member of Change2Improve, the program that supports stability and efficiency in business by eliminating needless or regressive change.

There are those who question the company's choice, but you can't argue with success.

"Ordinarily, a company that showed such complete disdain for the normal rules of business would be vulnerable to competition," Gary Wolf writes in Wired, "but craigslist has no serious rivals."

Check out the complete article in Wired (Why Craigslist is Such a Mess). Thanks to Kelsey Group for the tip!

We regret to inform you that our talks with the Wikimedia Foundation fell though. Recently announced changes to the Wikipedia site mean that the site will cease conformance with Change2Improve standards. We have requested they cease using the Change2Improve logo on their website.

And now, here's your made-up-quote-that-could-have-been-real of the day!

This one's by Rush Limbaugh: When I've got nothing politically important to say, I just make fun of people.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My Tivo Thinks I'm Gay 2.0

The Internet thought long and hard about where my soul mate is most likely to be found. It decided in the end that he (she?) most probably lives in a liberal state. If I don't mind relocating, she says I could do even better in Finland, Iceland, or Switzerland. Gallup wasn't there to fact check this, but I figure those countries are liberals on steroids.

P.S. I desperately want to call Liskula Cohen a skank, but I'm afraid she'll sue me. I don't even know what "skank" means, but this lady doth protest too much, methinks.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Update: I'm recovering well from my recent Safe Eyes illness

I am pleased to report that, thank God, I did not die from the nasty bout of Safe Eyes that inspired this post about the dangers of Internet blocking. Doctors say that with rest, plenty of fluids, and sufficient Internet access, the patient is expected to make a full recovery.

However, I stand by my words regarding the depth of pain these programs can cause. This weekend I was elated to find a way around the filter. I was able to reconnect with friends I had lost contact with. I felt a part of society again. It made my mother cry (because like any good mother, she thinks that's just wrong) and messed up the computer, which gave my Dad a headache...

Since the work-around is costly, I may just buy a new computer next time instead.

Kathy Cougar Griffin Brings Adorable 19 Year Old Date To Teen Choice Awards

I think I could be coming down with a case of Levi-mania. Levi Johnston went to the Teen Choice Awards as the date of 48-year-old Kathy Griffin. The 19 year old Alaskan high school hockey star and father of (at least) one also happens to be adorable.

Photo: Huffington Post

He did a recent interview and photo shoot with GQ. Another photo shoot with Vanity Fair; he's making the rounds. But he seems so genuine, not like the fake people you see so often making that circuit. It's refreshing, and it's hooking me a little.

Johnston said he felt the Palins were sending mixed messages as to whether they wanted him to be part of their family.

Paul Sancya/AP

"I know that her parents didn't want us together ... so they probably put a little pressure on her," he said. "But at the same time, they told us they wanted us to get married when they found out Bristol was pregnant. ... I don't know what the deal was."

Johnston says he had been in love with Bristol and that their three-year relationship started to fall apart almost immediately after the Republican National Convention. As for a potential reconciliation, "Nah, I don't think that's gonna happen," he said.

Look at him taking care of the baby!

PHOTO: Levi Johnston Strips Down for GQ
Photo credit: Ture Lillegraven/GQ

Check out this video of Levi looking like a lost puppy in Hollywood.

P.S. That video's hosted through Brightcove. It's not YouTube, but it's not bad. Much smoother than a lot of the other video platforms out there in the inter-webs. (Firefox! How many times must I tell you not to insert hyphens into the middle of words...)

P.P.S. I hate the wording of the title of this post. It's an experiment. The original title went something like what's in the first line, but it

, , , , , ,

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Cute Boy Models Vivienne Westwood Pendants (And Nothing Else)

Photography: Bella Howard; Styling: Anna Trevelyan; Hair: Alexia Brownsell; Make-up: Thomas de Kluyver; Models: Sid Ellidson at Models 1. From DazedDigital

So Why Am I Telling You This? Shh, Just Look At The Pictures

The small African country of Gabon is preparing for its first real democratic election in decades following the death of President Omar Bongo, who led the country for 41 years. 23 candidates are slated to be on the ballot, including the late President's son, Defense Minister Ali Ben Bongo. Some candidates have been calling for a delay of the August 30 election date citing irregularities in voter registration records.

Gabon, which is about 200 times the size of Manhattan but roughly equivalent in population, became independent from France in 1960 and has since retained close ties with its former colonial rulers. Gabon's capital city is Libreville. Tho country produces 273,000 barrels of oil a day, which makes up more than a third of the nation's economy and helped finance Mr. Bongo's purchase of dozens of luxury properties in France.

Something to think about: If the U.S. weans itself off fossil fuels, the petro-dollars dry up and all the good people of Gabon wallow in extreme poverty. All the eco-friendly do-gooder greenies might as well call for Gabonese genocide. Just kidding. Well, half kidding.

The Guardian did a stunning photographic retrospective on Bongo (whose name, for me, summons notions of a certain blue Muppet with a long hook nose. If you're a bit older, it may remind you of a certain Ronald Reagan movie, too.)

Omar Bongo obituary: President Omar Bongo, Visits the Elysee 1970
Bongo in Paris, 1970. (Photograph: Christian Simonpietri/Corbis)

Omar Bongo obituary: President Omar Bongo 1975
Bongo at a conference in Lima, Peru, 1975. (Photograph: Diego Goldberg/Corbis)

Omar Bongo obituary: Mobutu Sese Seko and Omar Bongo 1979
Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire and Bongo share a joke during the sixth
Franco-African summit in Kigali, Rwanda, 1979. (Photograph: Richard

Omar Bongo obituary: President Jacques Chirac and President Omar Bongo 1995
With Jacques Chirac in 1995. (Philippe Wojazer/Reuters)

File:Omar Bongo with George Bush May 26 2004-02.jpg
Bongo at the White House, 2004. (White House file photo)

Omar Bongo obituary: President Omar Bongo Paris 2006
Bongo in Paris, 2006. (Photograph: Oliver Weiken/EPA)

AFP Photo

Well Craig over at Puntabulous had someone come in and give a talk about Iceland, so I thought, "Why not Gabon? It's bigger than Iceland and even has a President who takes a good picture."

Oh, this just in: Violent clashes have broken out in Gabon between police and several thousand demonstrators calling for presidential candidate Ali Ben Bongo to resign from the cabinet as defence minister...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pinchos Lipschutz Says Obama's Wrong, U.S. Health Care Is Fine The Way It Is

"Lately, Yated Ne'eman editor-in-chief Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz has been repeatedly attacking Obama's health reform push."

"Okay, so what? I mean, he attacks everything Obama says or does."

"I know, right? But one line he keeps using is that we have 'the finest health care system in the world.' It's not true."

"What do you mean it's not true! In Canada, they have to wait months to see a doctor! And now they want to go killing Grandma? I don't want any death squads taking away my health insurance... They just want a government takeover of healthcare... They're Robin Hoods who want to tax the rich and give it to the lazy!"

"Calm down, no one's hiring death squads or killing grannys. Take a deep breath. Canadians live longer than Americans and are more satisfied with their health care system. The French achieve better health outcomes, single-payer and all, and they do it for a lot less than we spend, too. (France spends 11% GDP on health care vs. 16% here in the U.S. - and our GDP is higher to start with.) Even in socialized Israel, life expectancy is more than 2 years longer than it is for Americans. Out health care system is not so hot.

"What he really means is that the United States has the best health care technology. It is home to some of the best doctors. It sports facilities capable of carrying out the most cutting-edge procedures. It invests in some of the most aggressive life-sustaining treatments. It is the site of some of the most advanced medical research. However, it is not the best health care system. All those things stand as an indictment: Why isn't that spending translating into better outcomes?

"The system is broken. The components may be there, but the system isn't working as it should. When politicians discuss comparative effectiveness, they aren't actually saying 'let's pull the plug on grandma because we decided it's too expensive to let her live.' They are saying, 'Gee, we've got all these great medical technologies, let's find out which ones I should use.' Because under the current "fine system", they just throw one thing after another at an illness and just hope one of them works. That's why you can have the greatest medical capabilities and terrible outcomes.

Comparative effectiveness is more like saying, "Let's figure out which drugs are good for melanoma and which are good for melioidosis. Let's stop wasting money doing the equivalent of trying to treat cancer with antibiotics. Let's be efficient about care. And if Grandma wants to maybe try clindamycin to help reduce her blood pressure because the statins she takes aren't cutting it - yes, the healthcare system's going to have to say no. Not because it wants to kill her. Not because that treatment is too expensive. Not because she's not worth it. But because it doesn't work.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Poster Presidency: Obama Years

You asked for this:

Then you got this:

President Obama made up as the Heath Ledger-era Joker, with the word

And now this:

Forget health reform, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran. Forget the recession. Dressing up the President in funny posters is more fun!

Topman Straw Trilby

Isn't this Trilby awesome?

This Paul Smith Jacket is cool too:


Weekend - Sex = Monday + Horny

I went to the gym last night, but then met a cute guy and hung out with him. Tons of fun. Now I don't feel bad for going away over the weekend :) By the time I went back to get my stuff, the gym was closed. Guess I'll go back and get it tonight.

I cut up some mushrooms and onions and roasted them in the oven, lay down for 20 minutes to rest while I wait for them to be ready. Wake up 2 hours later to my phone ringing, hear something about the oven, remember, and find charcoal with bits of mushroom and onion mixed in. I salvaged what I could and went to back sleep. Ate my supper for breakfast.

I've been going to a chiropractor for a couple months now. I thought about blogging each appointment, but never got around to it. It started when the love of my life said he goes to a chiropractor and it's like getting a massage, only insurance pays. Since then I realized that I'm paying top dollar for health insurance and not getting my money's worth, I might as well use such health services, and I wanted to try it out. It's kinda cool.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Taliban Now Winning: Afghanitnam

"The Taliban have gained the upper hand in Afghanistan, the top American commander there said, forcing the U.S. to change its strategy in the eight-year-old conflict by increasing the number of troops in heavily populated areas like the volatile southern city of Kandahar, the insurgency's spiritual home.

The militants are mounting sophisticated attacks that combine roadside bombs with ambushes by small teams of heavily armed militants, causing significant numbers of U.S. fatalities, he said.

"How many people do you bring in before the Afghans say, 'You're acting like the Russians'?" said one senior military official, referring to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. "That's the big debate going on in the headquarters right now."

The U.S. is working to persuade Helmand's farmers to replace their poppy fields with wheat and fruit. Pretty crazy stuff. If poppies pay better, what farmer want to plant wheat? Then again, people do need to eat...

If you haven't yet read Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns read it now! It has never been more relevant than right now.

Oh, and Amazon, next time I search for a book - link me to the PAPERBACK, NOT the KINDLE version. You know I don't have a Kindle.

Weekend Trip, Cute Story, Search Wars

My parents were going away for the weekend, and I had a choice: Go with them or stay home and have the house to myself. For the first time in a good while, I decided to go with them. So I didn't get laid this weekend, (though there was some eye candy tanning by the pool, and another cute boy working at the pizza shop). But it was a nice weekend. Good to spend some time with the family. Relaxing atmosphere.

I got a ride back with a family I didn't know. They were determined to avoid traffic at all costs. So they avoided NYS Route 17 and drove through Pennsylvania, taking something like U.S Route 209 to U.S. Route 206 to NJ Route 15, etc. It seemed absurd, but if they had done it right Google says it should only add about 3 miles and 25 minutes. If it avoided potentially hours of traffic on the 17 it could have been a smart move. However, all that fails to account for the difficulty of driving on dark, winding, country roads in the fog and heavy rain, making wrong turns and generally not knowing where you're going. In the end, the trip took a "respectable" four hours or


Crazy question: Why is West Milford, PA east of Milford, PA?


My grandfather told a cute story, a "chassidishe ma'aseh": There was a Rebbe (Grand Rabbi) who had a custom to toss apples into the crowd of his followers who would gather at the close of the Festival of Tabernacles. The men would eagerly grab for the apples, as there was a tradition that anyone who catches one would be assured a year of wealth. Over the years, the crowd grew and men would fight and push to get the blessed apples. The Rebbe's assistants warned their master that the situation was becoming out of control and with all the shoving, people might get hurt. The Rebbe sent a message to the people, "There should be no more pushing to catch the apples."

The next year, the pushing was even worse. Now, as each man shoved his neighbor out of the way, he would taunt him, "Have you not heard the words of the Holy Rebbe? He said not to push, and still you push for the apples!" The Rebbe's assistants returned to him with the news. The Rebbe responded by issuing a stern warning, "Whoever pushes to catch the apples will be cursed with five years of poverty."

The next year, there was no pushing. The crowd was smaller than usual, and everyone who came stood rigid, afraid to push for fear of the Rebbe's curse. As the Rebbe began tossing the apples, however, one frail elderly man ran frantically through the crowd grabbing as many apples as he could. After the event, people came over to the old man, incredulous. "Is it not foolish to risk five years of poverty for the chance of a single year of wealth?" they asked.

"Ah, but where else can I receive the Holy Rebbe's guarantee that I'll live out the next five years!" responded the old man, a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his lips.


In other news, Microsoft's much-touted Bing search engine, well, sucks. Just as a random example: I was searching for information about the world's largest green-energy project, DESERTEC. So I typed Desrtec [sic] into Bing (actually into the Firefox search box, which happened to be set to Bing at the time). What I got was this page asking if I perhaps meant to search for Bachelorette News or maybe Shooting in Pittsburgh or Vanessa Hudgens Nude. Google's first result was Even spelled correctly, Bing gave the $500 Billion pan-European consortium's plan one link, and then listed results for "Deserted".

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Sushi, Birthday Cake, and a Side of Death

I am really tired. I woke up with a headache. I don't know why. I got a good night's sleep, about 5 hours - not less than usual, maybe a bit more. Headache's cleared up but still dazed tired. Mystery.

In the car on the ride to work this morning, I was treated to a lecture about how we're all going to die. I knew that. But it's somewhat morbid to think about too much. This guy was adamant that we should think about it a lot. Okay.

Last night I went over to my aunt's house. She heard I was feeling blue last week and invited me over. She made sushi for supper because she knew I like it, but she used vegetables instead of fish. I really only like the fish part, could care less about seaweed and rice. So what are you supposed to do when someone goes out of their way to be nice to you and do something for you but you totally don't appreciate it? Not only do I not appreciate the dish, but I'd much rather prepare my own food and choose what I want to eat. I hate having to eat food I don't like.

Then for dessert she brought out a birthday cake. Okay, cool. My birthday's coming up. Again, I could do without the cake because it's so unhealthy, and if you're getting me a cake at least get a kind I like... So again, are you trying to do me a favor? I appreciate that you want to--but you're clueless about my tastes. Or maybe you are doing it for yourself. In that case, don't think you're doing me any favors, don't act like I owe you anything. But it was nice of you to think of celebrating my birthday.

Then she got out a camera to take a picture of me blowing out the candle or something. I didn't want the picture, covered my face and asked for no pictures. But they persisted. I left the room. Lied down on the couch, and almost cried to myself. All I wanted was to be left alone. After a minute I came back, they agreed to put away the camera, and I cut the cake...

After the kids went to bed, I went with my aunt to the gym. Had a good workout, then showered and changed and emerged from the locker room feeling good -- to find an exasperated aunt upset at how long I had kept her waiting. I was so pissed and deeply hurt that she would hurry me out of the gym. DOES SHE NOT KNOW THAT I LIVE FOR THIS?!?! Idiot. I ONLY agreed to come to your house because you mentioned that I'd be able to go to the gym. I only got off antidepressants because working out took their place. I'm sorry to keep you waiting, but that's me. I need this. If you don't understand, don't invite me over. I didn't ask to come. I appreciate your offer and invitation, but I'm not flipping my life upside down over it! You might see this as overreacting, and maybe it is, but for some reason it touched me deeply. I was very pained and hurt that she complained I kept her waiting. I think I felt betrayed. I was led to believe she invited me because she cared about me and then to discover that she doesn't begin to understand.

Despite the hurt, it's good it happened because we had a good conversation about it afterward. This type of thing was related to the reason I had felt down last week. I hate feeling like a burden to people, and it bothers me when they complain about me burdening them. But sometimes I can't help it. For me to be me, other people suffer at times. I try to minimize it, but it seems that its impossible to completely avoid. That's why I had written "the world would be better off without me." And she became concerned...

I thought about how much my parents are pained by my lifestyle. I don't want to hurt them. Would they be happier if I were gone? I think they're happier to have me, even as I am, but maybe not. Maybe my whole life is a heavy weight on their shoulders.

My aunt mentioned that Jewish parents sit shiva (mourn) for a child who marries a Gentile. Would my parents really mourn as if I died if I married a non-Jew? If I thought I could find happiness with another person, would they mourn as if I died? It's surreal. What if it was a boy? Jewish boy, non-Jewish boy, I don't know if it makes any difference. If they would mourn my happiness, they obviously don't care too much about me. But could it really be that my parents don't care about me? From everything they say and do it would seem they care a whole lot about me. But perhaps they care about some idealized conceptualization of me, not the real me--with all my flaws.

Another thing that came out of the discussion is how selfish I am. You and I knew that already. My aunt helpfully suggested I could pitch in more around the house, take out the garbage, wash the dishes, help the kids with homework. She's right, I could do more. Maybe that would give me more satisfaction of being a part of the family... tbc

Let me know what you think. I could use some advice. But if you're just going to trash me and bash me I'ma cut you bitch! I'll be happy to ignore it.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Information is the Answer

This effort to regulate alcohol-caffeine beverages is a little silly, considering the ease with which people can and do get an alcohol-caffeine bump without them by simply chasing a beer with a coke, downing a vodka and Red Bull, or simply going out for a coffee following a night of drinking.

The National Association of Attorneys General’s panel on youth access to alcohol said in a letter to the FTC that “a critical goal of our committee is to encourage and obtain direct federal involvement in the removal of these dangerous products.”

What they should do is make alcoholic beverage makers list ingredients, calories, and level of alcohol in their drinks. It's really annoying buying a beer and not knowing how much alcohol or how many calories it contains.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Personal Details

I had a good trip to Atlantic City. I borrowed a car and just drove, without a clear destination in mind. I stopped in a couple of places on the way, at a random campgrounds, some Jersey Shore beaches (Long Beach Island, Asbury Park). Eventually I ended up in AC. I gave myself a walking tour of the place including casinos, bars, beaches, and shops. Then I met a cute guy and some friends of his who invited me over to their hotel. I didn't play any slots or do any gambling. But I did go to the casino with one of the guys and watch him play out $20. The whole slots thing seemed so silly, but it was fun to spend some time together. Watching him enjoy the experience made it special.

This week was J's 20th birthday. Lots of people were away for the summer, but we had a little window-fogging celebration in the back seat, for what it's worth. I didn't actually mean for it to happen that way. We were just hanging out, and then I offered him a ride, and then, yeah.

I'm trying to figure out what, if anything, to do for my birthday - coming up soon.

Administration Backpedals on Tax Promise - Obama's Finally Acting Presidential

"...let me perfectly clear... if your family earns less than $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes increased a single dime.  I repeat: not one single dime...  Finally, because we're also suffering from a deficit of trust, I am committed to restoring a sense of honesty and accountability to our budget." --Remarks of President Barack Obama to Joint Session of Congress, February 24, 2009.

Well, ObamaCare changes all of that. It must be paid for, after all.

See PoliticalFuzz on new taxes proposed or imposed by the administration since that statement, and Geithner and Summers saying no guarantees re the tax issue. Times they are a'changin, they say.

Kathleen Lyday (Or Somebody Else) Letter

There has been a letter to the President circulating through the interwebs, mostly as an email chain. It raises some interesting points, but the tone is largely too hysterical to facilitate purposeful discussion. One point it raises, however, was so blatantly contradicted by the facts as to call into question some of the other figures in the note.

"I understand the average House aide got a 17% bonus.  I took a 5% cut in my pay to save jobs with my employer. You haven't said anything about that.  Who authorized that?  I surely didn't!" -Kathleen Lyday

"For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies.

It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break; the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours.

It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate." -Barack Obama

See here for full text of the letter.