Thursday, May 28, 2009

Movin' on up....

Finally got the blog overhaul done - but have moved sites completely.

Here's the new address:

Please update your links / bookmarks / favorites / feed reader / blogroll and what-have-you.

Thanks for continuing to read!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

C.R.A.P. Sunday - Time's a-wastin'

Catch-up Rants And Platitudes - #8 - Time waster edition

I have been very productive, in unmeasurable and insignificant ways.

Not much to report on the volunteering-side ... putting in my time, hopefully it has been beneficial, kinda hard to measure at this point. The good news - have a lead on a clinical opportunity - will have to see how that plays out.

Blew the rest of my time this past week on mostly really useless stuff. Take, for example, my goodreads page. This is a really cool site where you can build up your history of all the books you have read in the past, rate them, review them (if so moved), and develop a list of books to read in the future. It has a lot of options for "shelves" of books - you can create any categories to group your books that you choose. I selected to create lists of books that were read multiple times, or for reference, or so long ago that I cannot recall much about them. Others have lists based on what year they read the book, or based on the genre. Since most of my reads tend to fall into science fiction (ie, Dune), horror (ie, Stephen King), or fantasy (ie, The Wheel of Time series) - and many of those fully overlap (ie, King's The Dark Tower series) - I didn't bother separating by genre.

Wasted most of my time after entering my books by A) attempting to fill in "when" I read them (very loosely guessed), and then B) changing the image of the covers to more closely represent the image of the book I am most familiar with. Very cool that it has these features, but I would expect to be able to enter some of that info in "batches," instead of one by one.

Typed up a few reviews too - for the titles that jumped out at me as needed some commentary. I will try to go back and comment on some others later, and of course then every book I add in the future I will try to get a little blurb out on. You may have to be a registered user to read reviews - but check it out and see if ya like it.


Along those same lines is the movie review site, Rotten Tomatoes. Check out the links in the sidebar. I had only one review up so far, but was inspired to drop another one after seeing the movie below. Click inside the movie poster to go to my review. And then let me know what you thought of it - either here in the comments or on that site.


This swine flu is getting raging amounts of coverage now. I guess people needed a break from North Korea, Iran, and torture. I'm still betting that in retrospect it will be a bit of an overblown response. Just use common sense - with prompt treatment for those getting sick, chance of recovery is pretty high. And it just serves as a reminder for the usual transmission-prevention techniques - don't sneeze on people, and wash your hands frequently. Keep sick kids that can't manage these conventions away from their peers until they are healthy.


The first official defector from the Republican Party, Arlen Specter, drew quite a stir. If the Minnesota race is ever decided and Al Franken finally gets seated, that will push the Dems in the Senate to that critical 60th vote. Assuming he and the other Dems vote along party lines for any given item in question. Specter basically switched to help ensure his re-election, given that he would have better chances in the Democratic primary than Republican. I would have been happier to see this as a form of protest against "the party of NO" and the Republicans' other apparent roadblocks to passing worthwhile legislation. And instead of trying to change his party from within, he basically switched sides and then reminded everyone that he still may not vote with the majority. That's fine - I would expect ANY politician to vote based on the merits of bill and the input of their constituents - but Specter's move seems more personally-motivated than party-related.

Da Blog

The other wasted time today [after a visit with my nephews, sis & her in-laws, and folks - this wasn't the wasted part, although I did feel a little buzzed after my two mega-martinis (thanks, Dad!)] was playing with the sidebar here (on the right) and making "widgets" work for "goodreads" and "rotten tomatoes." For those not in the know, "widgets" are groupings of text that form the coding behind interactive components of the website. On the goodreads widget you can flip through some book covers from my list of recently-read books, and in the Rotten Tomatoes one you can search for a movie or celebrity.

These are basically test-runs... when I *finally* do the major template overhaul, I will include other related links and make this more functional and attractive.

And then I will promptly ignore the blogosphere for just long enough to make all these efforts obsolete.

Any suggestions on readability, formatting, content, or other items to be on the lookout for are welcomed!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

C.R.A.P. Sunday - Movie Madness

Catch-up Rants And Platitudes - #7 - Movie Madness edition

Rotten Tomatoes logoStill haven't quite finished up with the major overhaul of this blog, but I have finally set myself up another little corner of cyberspace to start building up a set of movie reviews. After a little searching, I finally settled on Rotten Tomatoes, which looks like it should be easy for anyone to surf through, even without registering as a member.

I'm a big movie fan, and I've found many "hidden gems" via suggestions from friends and acquaintances, some via blogs. I've been hedging on doing movie reviews at this site, because I wanted a more dedicated approach, with easy-to-follow ratings and quick links to more info. Found that at Rotten Tomatoes, although I am still just trying out the site - there seem to be a few bugs, but for now you can click here to get to my journal page. You can also check out other (literally random) movies I have rated, and lists of movies I plan to check out soon. So far I have only reviewed one recently watched movie, Burn After Reading - which I enjoyed but only rated at 6/10. Read the review to see why and let me know what you think. As I review more I'll drop notes here. If you are a member of Rotten Tomatoes, lemme know and we can link up.


As I promised earlier, here finally is part of that clip from the 2006 Mike Judge movie Idiocracy that I made reference to.

The intro is great - talking about the dumbing-down of society. The more I pay attention to the news, the more worried I am that it is coming true. The clip below runs less than 2 minutes (despite the title) - this truncated clip is unfortunately all I could find. At least it gives you the flavor of the concept. In the film it goes on a bit longer and really magnifies the impact of the situation.

I wouldn't rave about the movie - there are a lot of stupid parts - but it does have some interesting things to say about the direction of our society, and it is entertaining at that juvenile level.

Consider this next clip a bonus - it's very short, but has a special place in my heart for reasons I haven't quite figured out. Maybe it is better seen in context....


I have been giving myself a little break from keeping up with the news - other things going on. I'm sure I'll have a slew of C.R.A.P. to talk about later this week.


One of those things going on has been some volunteer work. I finally got off my ass and started working with a couple of groups now that the job hunt has slowed down to an unbearable crawl. Ugh. Anyway, as things develop there I'll write more.


In between some of these "April showers" we have finally gotten some stretches of sun in Chicagoland. Been LONG overdue. We're still getting 40-degree fluctuations in temperature each day, but it's much better than trudging through six inches of snow or wading through the humid air in August.

I'm out for now. Get out there and enjoy the weather while ya can!!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Read me, Meme me ...but I hate memes!

Blogging is a cool way to develop a personal soapbox - I think that's what drew me in to creating on my own blog. A lot of other people use blogs as creative outlets, and forums for posting pictures and family info for relatives and friends. For those who develop friendships in the blogosphere, blogs can become a way to learn more about each other. I guess that's why "memes" have become so popular. [For the uninitiated, here's what Wikipedia has to say about the origin of meme - for internet purposes, basically it's a replicated unit of information.]

Memes have exploded all over the 'net, in social networking sites (ie, Facebook's "25 things about me" and the countless other quizzes and lists) as well as on blogs and such. In theory they can be interesting, revealing, and stimulating of further discussion. However, they have suffered the usual curse of the internet, gone "viral" - meaning that they are passed along so frequently they are as bad as these programs designed to attack your computer. They have evolved into the next generation of the "chain letter" - and are very often as poorly thought-out and repetitious.

The meme below about reading habits is supposedly from the BBC. However, if you look carefully, you'll notice repeated elements (such as The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, #36, appearing separately from its collected volume, The Chronicles of Narnia, #33), as well as an apparently random order, and some authors represented by multiple works (Dickens, Austen) whereas others are totally lacking (L. Frank Baum - The Wizard of Oz, Stephen King, The Brothers Grimm - you get my point). Plus some items are collected works, and others are short children's novellas - should they have equal weight? Who determines which authors are "classics" / worthwhile? These lists are often thrown together from very dubious sources, sometimes passed off as coming from "authorities" (ie, the BBC), and very lazily thrown together without thought toward organization.

If you haven't figured it out by now, I'm a bit anal.

Regardless, sometimes the content of memes IS worthwhile, whether to share info or to generate discussion. I chose to complete the meme below for both reasons. Although my complaints above demonstrate that I find it a poor example, I won't bother "cleaning it up" because part of the purpose of these memes is to see how your "progress" compares to your friends. Plus that is more work than I was looking for. I like being lazy too. I will take a little initiative - see the part in brackets below. Also - I refuse to "tag" anyone ... if you wanna "play" feel free, and please comment below with your results (and a link to yours, if you are posting anywhere).

READING MEME (follow-up to this entry, which spawned from this one)

The BBC believes most people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here. How do your reading habits stack up?

Instructions: Copy the list, and put an 'x' after those you have read, count 'em up, compare tallies. [My contribution - books marked "X-s" = read for school, many (but not all!) I would have avoided otherwise. "X-t" = book on tape. Also - see the bottom for other recommendations.]

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen (X-s)
2 The Lord of the Rings (X-t) (not sure if I would have had the patience to READ it!)
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte ()
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling (X) (all 7!)
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee (X-s)

6 The Bible - () (not enough to include as "read" - either testament)
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Brontë ()
8 Nineteen Eighty-Four - George Orwell (X-s)
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman ()
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens () (read an excerpt only)

11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott ()
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy ()
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller ()
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare () (many works, but by no means all!)
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier ()

16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien (X-t)
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk ()
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger (X)
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger ()
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot ()

21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell ()
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald (X-s)
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens ()
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy ()
25 The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams (X) (and all the sequels)

26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh ()
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky (X)
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck (X-s)
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll (X-s)
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame ()

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy ()
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens () (I tried - ugh!)
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis ()
34 Emma - Jane Austen ()
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen ()

36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis ()
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini ()
38 Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres ()
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden ()
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne ()

41 Animal Farm - George Orwell (X-s)
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown ()
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez ()
44 A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving ()
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins ()

46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery ()
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy ()
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood ()
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding (X-s)
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan ()

51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel ()
52 Dune - Frank Herbert (X)
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons ()
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen ()
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth ()

56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon ()
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens (X-s)
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley (X-s)
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon ()
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez ()

61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck ()
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov ()
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt ()
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold ()
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas ()

66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac ()
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy ()
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding ()
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie ()
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville ()

71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens ()
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker (X)
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett ()
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson ()
75 Ulysses - James Joyce ()

76 The Inferno – Dante (X)
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome ()
78 Germinal - Emile Zola ()
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray ()
80 Possession - AS Byat ()

81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens ()
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell ()
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker ()
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro ()
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert (X-s)

86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry ()
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White ()
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom ()
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (X)
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton ()

91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad (X-s)
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery ()
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks ()
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams ()
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole ()

96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute ()
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas ()
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare (X-s)
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl (X)
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo ()

[For readability, I took the liberty of grouping them by 5's.]

Here's my tally: 24 - not bad, if the "average is 6"!

That's actually pretty conservative, considering I probably read additional Jane Austen and Dickens works, as well as MANY more Shakespeare plays not listed above. Quite surprising to see what is left off this list. It would be better represented by AUTHOR, maybe with a tally for how many different authors you have read, and then a separate tally for total # of works. That would shrink the list of 100 above down by at least 14.

What authors should be included? How about the following (which I have read):
  1. L. Frank Baum - The Wizard of Oz (and 13 sequels, read 1 so far)
  2. Nathaniel Hawthorne - The Scarlet Letter
  3. Homer - The Odyssey
  4. Jack London - White Fang
  5. Mary Shelley - Frankenstein
  6. Edgar Allen Poe - The Raven (and many other works)
  7. Mark Twain - A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (and others)
  8. Arthur Miller - Death of a Salesman
  9. Stephen King - The Shining (among MANY others)
  10. Gregory Maguire - Wicked
  11. Robert Jordan - The Wheel of Time series (thru book 7 so far, I think)
  12. Thomas Harris - The Hannibal Lecter books (first 3 so far)
  13. Jim Butcher - The Dresden Files (just two so far, but newly-discovered)
  14. Esther Forbes - Johnny Tremain

Ok, I guess the last few are a bit weak. Especially if this really WAS a British-generated list originally [I'm guessing works about the American Revolution (#14) are not too popular!] Here are several other authors that should be on there (although I haven't read 'em all yet):
  • John Milton - Paradise Lost
  • Ayn Rand - Atlas Shrugged
  • Stephen Hawking - A Brief History of Time
  • Arthur C. Clarke - 2001
  • Robert A. Heinlein - Stranger in a Strange Land (I "grokked" via book on tape)
  • others in the SciFi genre, like Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov
  • what about ancient philosophers? Socrates, Aristotle, Plato
  • other famous authors - Graham Greene, Henry Miller, Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • And who can ignore all those classics by Dr. Seuss?!?

To each their own - so many more I could list.

At some point I will set up an account at Good Reads, which is supposed to be a good place for sharing book reviews and keeping track of your "to read" and "already read" lists. Any other recommendations out there?

How did you score on the reading meme?

Picture ripped from google images.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Jon Stewart is a GOD

I'm kicking back on the sofa, folding some laundry & watching TV, and trying to stifle my laughter as I keep distracting my wife from her work on the computer.

I can't help it. I'm starting to think that The Daily Show should be required viewing.

Jon Stewart had a particularly good segment tonight (April 7, 2009 - go check out the web page and view the first half of the show if you haven't seen it). He was making a good example of the hypocrisy of the conservatives (or should I say "ultra-conservatives"? maybe just the neocons?). He was showing clips from pundits and politicians expressing their "terror" at the "tyranny" of Obama's presidency, how it's an erosion of our rights and the Declaration of Independence.


And (of course) he points out the criminal actions that occurred during the Bush presidency, and the nose-dive the US took in the international arena under his leadership. Contrast that with the reception that Obama got at the G20 conference, and the shared vision we are now working toward with respect to nuclear (pronounced correctly!) disarmament and the components of Obama's campaign platform.

The most poignant comparison was how - during the last eight years - anyone criticizing Bush or his policies was "unamerican." But now, not only do we have the conservatives flinging around "socialist," "tyrant," and other epithets while they criticize his policies ... we also have idiotic hate-mongers like Rush Limbaugh voicing his hopes that Obama's policies fail - even at the cost of recovery from the economic crisis. Hypocrisy at its best.

I can't help but think of what the Dixie Chicks went through after their criticism of Bush and the Iraq war in 2003 (if you missed that or need a refresher, check out their wikipedia entry. What was "high treason" then is par for the course now?

Only because their guy didn't win in '08.

I know, I know, there was a war on then, and we all get little blinders on when there are polarizing issues. But be rational - at least try to see the other side's story without automatically demonizing it. America is all about protecting freedoms - you know, like free speech? The venom that Limbaugh and some of these pundits get paid to spew - that is protected as well. I'm just glad Stewart and his colleagues (like Stephen Colbert and Rachel Maddow) are around to assemble the clips and expose the bullshit for what it is - 'cause I sure don't have the patience for all that. But at least I have hope.

Addendum 4/8/09:
Now that it is available, here is the clip I am referring to. [If you are NOT a fan, please hold tight until at least the middle - it picks up a bit more there and gets to the point(s) I was commenting on.] The rest of the episode can be seen (either as full episode, or as clips) by going to The Daily Show and clicking on "full episodes" or "videos" and selecting the appropriate date.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Baracknophobia - Obey
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

Pictures lifted from Wikipedia. Clip from The Daily Show website.

Monday, April 06, 2009

C.R.A.P. Sunday - Mega Monday edition

Catch-up Rants And Platitudes - #6 - procrastination

In honor of my favorite pastime, I'm dropping a late entry here. It's been a while since I did any serious blogging - although I've had the best of intentions, of course. Once I get some things together this site will get a mega-makeover, and I'll be posting a little more frequently, with shorter (theoretically, more focused) entries. Or so I say now.... In the meantime, here are a bunch of items I have been meaning to share for a while.

Let's start with some fun. Anticipating all that upcoming Easter candy? Don't think you should eat it all? *Here* is something fun to do with leftover candy (found the link to the youtube clip in this weekend's edition of the Red Eye). If you are partial to peeps, check out Peep Research or Peeps in a library.

Blago - They have finally brought charges against the former governor of Illinois. I'm glad things are moving along finally. Where was he, by the way, when this was announced? Disney World - that seems appropriate. His appointee Burris, who didn't have the foresight to decline the appointment, or the integrity to step down once his apparent complicity was exposed (see prior entries here and here), is still occupying the Senate. Governor Quinn has thankfully turned his attention to more pressing issues once it was obvious there would be no "easy way" - we'll let the 2010 election straighten it out. I just hope we can find a respectable candidate to get behind.

Blago sure does have the wrath of the Illinois congress chasing him though - they already passed a bill to prevent him from EVER holding public office again in Illinois (see in a previous post here), and now they are passing legislation to prohibit him from making any profit on book deals. I don't know how legal that is, to redirect a potential earning stream back into the state treasury. It's not like putting a lien on his salary for child support or to repay some defined criminal or civil damages. After the trial, that might be a different story.

A victory for gay rights - for any who haven't already heard, the Iowa Supreme Court struck down the law banning gay marriage. Here is an article from the Sun Times, which goes on to explain how it could be 2-4 years before there is even a chance of repealing it. In a previous post, I posed the question of how people can feel justified in depriving ANY subset of the population from rights under the law. I am not homosexual myself, but am sickened by the hypocrisy of the USA setting itself as an "example" for the world, and then denying rights (whether it be gay marriage, or fair treatment of prisoners or "enemy combatants") selectively. For now it's only Iowa, Connecticut, and Massachusetts that are "enlightened" enough to have welcomed gay marriage. California had it briefly, until "prop 8" banned it again. Of course, having "yes on 8" as the movement to BAN marriage could easily have confused voters - I wonder how a re-vote would turn out if it lacked that inverted terminology (i.e, say "yes" for "yes to gay marriage").

Drew Peterson - More from the white-trash role model couple, apparently Christina Raines has now moved OUT again, but they intend to remain friends. I'm not even gonna bother with them anymore - just looking forward to some charges finally being raised against this schmuck. Click on their labels (right column) if you wanna read about their Springer-escapades. By way of refresher, he's a suspect in the death of wife #3 and the disappearance of wife #4 (Stacy). Raines was on-again off-again wife #5-to-be.

Gun violence, health care, and the death penalty - all too long to write about here, stay tuned for some upcoming posts.

Movie and Book reviews - I decided against using this blog for cheering and jeering for mass entertainment. I would like to direct friends to reviews on a "movie review" site - any suggestions out there? Hopefully one that is searchable by author of reviews as well as movies.... (I haven't looked yet - and not sure how soon I'd start writing anyway)

Techno-poke - No, this is not a new Facebook application (not that I know of, at least). Apparently, some computer programmer from Finland (?) that lost part of a finger in a motorcycle accident fashioned a prosthesis for himself that includes a USB drive. That could give a whole new meaning to "giving your boss the finger." And it would be a lot harder to claim you left your presentation on your other prosthesis.... (pic lifted from the BBC news page)

Ok - lemme know if you're still reading and what you wanna see more of!
Hugs n kisses,