Warranted Genuine Snarks
What with buying a house and all, I needed a lawnmower; so I did my standard canvassing of review sites, and I started to come away with a rather odd opinion: A whole bunch of places were recommending reel mowers. If you're not up on your lawn mower terminology (and why would you be?), a reel mower is the old-fashioned, unmotorized mower that they used to push around back before the invention of the internal combustion engine.
I was initially dismissive, but the more I thought about it, the more advantageous it seemed like it could be: Much cheaper, better for the environment, better for the lawn (or so they say), lower maintenance, fewer things to possibly go wrong, quieter, and no need to worry about that stupid oil/gas fuel mixture. So, we picked up the Scotts Classic at Home Depot, a bit nervously.
I got a chance to use it today, and I'll be damned: It cuts the lawn just as well, and just as easily, as any gas mower I've ever had. And the mowing experience is about a billion times more pleasant than it is with a loud, smelly, vibrating, dust-and-stone-blowing gas mower. All of which makes me wonder, why the heck does anyone even have a gas mower? For a standard urban lawn (relatively flat, relatively obstacle-free, and relatively small), there are no significant advantages, and lots of significant disadvantages, to a gas mower; yet the damn things are ubiquitous.
Which means that I get to be the ahead-of-the-curve, trendsetting type when it comes to lawnmowers. Sweet.
Ask and Ye Shall Receive
PNH asked for an RSS feed, and now I have one.
I'm afraid it's probably a bit clunky right now; it's a quick first pass (oh, how I love XSLT), and I'll clean it up later. Let me know if there's anything I'm doing wrong, or anything I could add to it to make it more useful.
TV Time Translation
I've been living in the Land Of Eastern Time for over a year now, and I've adjusted pretty well, except for one thing: For the life of me, I still cannot get TV schedules straight.
See, I spent 25 years of my life in Central Time, and for as long as I've watched TV, the times have always been off by an hour. I can't hear 9:00 without appending "... 8:00 Central" to it mentally, and treating it like 8:00. This isn't a conscious or rational translation; it's done in the instinctive centers of my mind. If you say to me, "It's 8:00 right now, and The West Wing comes on at 9:00," I'll say, "Quick, turn the TV on!" before it occurs to me that 8:00 and 9:00 aren't really the same thing, here.
I wonder how Easterners moving to cowland handle it? Is it easier to get used to doing a translation when you've done nothing before?
The Wall Street Journal's online edition has a story blurb which reads:
Microsoft agreed to buy rights to Unix technology from
SCO, a boost to SCO's efforts to get royalties for a predecessor to
After endless debates about whether Linux is really Unix, it's
amusing to see Unix join SGML and the B language in ignominious
Quicktime Movie Previews
So I'm looking at Apple's trailer page, trying to figure out what non-Matrix, non-LOTR movies are coming out this year, and here's the year in movies as I see it through the lens of Quicktime trailers.
The Last Samurai: The heck? It's an epic-looking movie with Tom Cruise, but I've never even heard of it. Well, it does come out in December, I s'pose. I can't tell if it looks cheesy or cool. I'm tentatively going with cheesy.
T3: This looks better than I thought it would. I figured it'd be awfully lame and pointless, but the trailer actually makes it look interesting. I'm still skeptical, but am willing to be persuaded.
Bad Boys II: This, on the other hand, still looks pointless and not all that greatly fun.
The Shape of Things: I'm watching the trailer and thinking, "Dear god, this movie is horribly misanthropic and sadistic." And then they mention Neil LaBute, and I'm all, "Ohhhhh, right." I find it amazing that LaBute was able to make a movie as fundamentally sweet as Nurse Betty when everything else he's done has been soul-numbing.
The Sea: Say what you will about independent cinema and how much better it is than derivative Hollywood stuff; but you're wrong. Most indie flicks partake of the conventions of indie film, with common themes (dark family secrets, in this incarnation) and a familiar visual style. On the basis of the trailer, this is Generic Indie Flick #304 (Icelandic version). If I flipped on my TV, and this was on, I would immediately say, "Since when do I get the Sundance Channel?" Then I would say, "I wonder what else is on."
Bruce Almighty: See, I like Jim Carrey; I just hate all those irritating gross-out flicks. But this looks not to be one, and looks pretty funny from the trailer. I think I'll see this, if I have the time. Which I won't. But I'll definitely remember to rent it on DVD, unless I forget.
The Italian Job: It looks like a fun caper movie, and as an extra plus, it has Edward Norton as the bad guy. Since I hate Edward Norton (I'm sure he's a fine actor, he just grates on me in the same way Nicolas Cage does), the prospect of seeing him killed pleases me. That said, I can't shake the feeling that this trailer gave away basically the entire plotline, along with most of the surprises. Irritating. Oh, well; it opens the end of May, anyway, and since I'll already be two movies behind by that weekend (with no prospect of seeing one until late June), I won't have any chance of seeing it until DVD, and by then I'll have forgotten the trailer.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Zombie pirates? Didn't Tim Powers write a novel with that premise? I suppose pirates are pretty cool, but I'm afraid this is going to be a Mummy-esque cliche-fest. I mean, they showed someone walking the plank. (Someone who, I might add, looks an awful lot like Kate Winslet. Creepy.) And mathematically speaking, Bruckheimer plus based-on-a-Disneyworld-ride doesn't exactly equal innovation. Still, The Mummy was good for fluffy timekilling, and I suppose this could be at least as unhorrid as that. So if I'm bored one summer weekend, it might serve a purpose. And it does have Legolas, which is nice.
I'd like to register a protest, though: There was one of those stupid "You think that hurts? Try wearing a corset!" lines in it, and I'm getting really sick of modern, spunky heroines in historical works. I call this "Sidesaddle Syndrome", for all the women in historicals who refuse to ride sidesaddle. Damn it, it's possible to have a strong heroine in period stuff without making her totally anachronistic.
Underworld: The Matrix crossed with Interview With a Vampire. Wow, this looks really stylistically derivative. Despite myself, though, I also think it looks kinda cool -- like a more steampunk Blade. I'll keep me eye open for reviews, I reckon.
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life: Isn't there a limit to how many subtitles a movie can have? There should be. So anyway, I actually saw the first Tomb Raider movie. I'm not proud of that, but as fluff goes, it mostly didn't suck too bad, considering. That's not exactly high praise, though, and I can't imagine why anyone thought I'd want to see another one. The trailer does not inspire me.
Veronica Guerin: Okay, it's got Cate Blanchett, and it's named after somebody I've never heard of, so I'm thinking, "Fuck, art film." I'm dreading even sitting through the preview; but I click through, in the name of science, and see: A Jerry Bruckheimer Production and A Film By Joel Schumacher. Um. Okay, not so much on the arthouse, then. Now I'm dreading watching the preview for a totally different reason. Okay, into the breach! "Based on a True Story"; oh, fuck. I've never seen a good movie that had those words on it (except for Fargo, where they were ironic). Okay, it looks terrible. But I like the trailer music -- what's it from?
Spellbound: Okay, it's a documentary. It's a documentary about spelling bees. And yet... the trailer was compelling. I'd probably enjoy seeing this, but I will never ever ever see it. I know myself too well to imagine otherwise. I'm never going to go to Blockbuster and go, "Oh, what was that one documentary I wanted to watch?"
The Guys: A tearjerker drama about 9-11. Too soon.
Pokemon Heroes: Okay, I don't even know why I watched this. I have to admit, though, that I find Pikachu hilarious, for two reasons. First, I used to play Super Smash Bros on the N64 a lot, and getting beat up by Pikachu always pissed me off. Second, I used to have an officemate who had a talking Pikachu doll in his office. And it talked a lot. I hated that fucking doll so bad. Really, now that I think about it, both of those are reasons that I find Pikachu annoying, not reasons that I find him hilarious. So I guess it must just be his cute little smile that wins my heart.
Freaky Friday: Okay, wow. I totally thought the parent-and-kid-switching-bodies genre was over in the 80s. Is Judge Reinhold in this movie anywhere? No? He should be. Oddly enough, I have a major soft spot for this little subgenre. I want to see this movie, even though I'm sure it's predictable and horrid. (Also, it's being very clearly marketed as a chick flick, in an interesting twist on the generally male-centric genre. Although I'm fairly sure this is a remake, so it can't be that novel.)
Together: Okay, this is the other indie movie, the "quirky family comes to realize that what really matters is blah blah blah" (Asian version). Looks better than the Icelandic one, anyway.
Okay, I almost just clicked on "Rugrats Go Wild". I think that's my cue to be done now.
A Browser for Grandma
I have the sneaking suspicion that the intersection of a) the set of people who read this blog, and b) the set of people who don't know that Mozilla Firebird 0.6 was released, may be the empty set. Nevertheless, I feel like I've got to mention it here.
Firebird 0.6 is still only pre-alpha software, and there are a few rough edges to it; but it's a lot more solid than you'd think from the version number. Already, even at this early stage of development, it's the browser I'd install on my grandma's computer. If you're on Windows, and you haven't tweaked your Mozilla installation to within an inch of its life, this is the browser you want to be using.
Unless you're one of those weird Opera cultists, I guess.
Somehow, It's Completely Different
Of course, it all started with DOOM 3. The lights dimmed and once more crowds were awed with footage. Whereas last year we got a taste of what's to come, this year we got a gulp. DOOM 3's darkened, flickering corridors were now populated with 36 flavors of horror. Along with zombies, we had zombies with chainsaws [emphasis in original].
Kids These Days
Back in 1995, the folks at the College Board decided to rescale the SAT, in order to force the mean score back to 500. Irritatingly, this meant that it was impossible to compare scores across the 1995 barrier, thereby preventing valuable trash-talking between me and my younger sisters.
But it turns out that they have a conversion chart available. Interesting. It looks like I pick up an extra 80 points, which would have given me plenty of gloat-ammo, back in the day.
These days, of course, my college performance can't reasonably be predicted by abstract numbers, inasmuch as it's rather fixed on the ol' transcript. Based on the differential between my SAT scores and my actual college grades, and the reason for that differential, I propose that the College Board should add a new "Waking up before 11:30 AM in order to get to morning classes" section.
So We Did That
As of 11:28 this morning, Ms. Bethany Willick and Mr. Michael Kozlowski are officially... well, they're still Ms. Bethany Willick and Mr. Michael Kozlowski. But they're married, in a romantic court ceremony.
Cynics are Chumps
Self-proclaimed cynics -- the sort of people who proclaim smugly that they know how the world works, and other people are naive fools -- know two great truths about politics:
- Politicians lie.
- When you get widely disparate facts, the truth is somewhere in the middle, because everyone gives you biased data.
In a world where cynics are rare, these might be useful views. In the world we live in, where everyone styles themself a cynic, these are views that allow people to be manipulated by whoever is willing to be the most dishonest. If you've got predictable and simplistic views, and politicians know what those views are, you can be gamed easily.
Let's say that a tax cut will cost $100 billion. Opponents of the tax cut honestly say this; but proponents of the tax cut, knowing that people are working under the assumptions of simplistic cynicism, go for broke: They say it'll actually bring in revenue of $100 billion. They'll try to wrap their number up in obscure reasoning whose truth can't be ascertained by the general public. All these clever cynics then split the difference between the estimates, and figure that the tax cut would really be a break-even proposition.
And let's say eventually it comes out that the chicanery is exposed: It becomes obvious that the $100 billion in revenue was a ridiculous number, and that the people promulgating it knew that all along. What then? Why, then the clever cynics nod knowingly and act coolly unsurprised: Politicians lie, everyone knows that; that's why you can't believe their numbers.
The end result is that in debates where the facts are too abstruse for most people (which includes most issues of economic and foreign policy), the middle-splitting cynics will consistently favor the guy who lies the most. And when the lies are exposed, that same cynicism will shield the lying politician from retribution or disapproval. In short, the simple-minded cynics have created a system where the best winning strategy is to lie frequently and to lie big.
Coolest Character Ever
Unicode character 0x2603 SNOWMAN:
The TV is chattering idly in the background, when I hear it say something about flowers that "come in an attractive Linux vase." It takes a few seconds for my brain to hear this, but when I do, I start wondering why they'd bother to network a flower vase -- so it can email you when it's low on water?
With my curiosity piqued, I turn the full attention of my brain to the quandary, whereupon it comes to a simple conclusion: A Lenox vase.
Ari Fleischer would make a lousy Sith Lord
So I'm watching Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Fifty Foot
Woman From SPAAAAACE! with Unmistakable Boy (if I might steal and
modify an affectation from Jim Henley), and Senator Palpatine
is giving a horribly insincere speech about his deep fondness for
"He's a bad guy," I tell UnBoy.
(His three-year-old cosmology, you see, divides people into two
classes: good guys and bad guys. The purpose of good guys is to
fight the bad guys and win. The purpose of bad guys is less clear;
possibly, they just exist so that good guys have somebody to
"No he's not! He's a good guy!"
"He just wants people to think he's a good guy, but really he's
a bad guy."
"No! He's a good guy!"
Which just goes to show that, no matter how evil you are, you really can fool some of the people some of the time. But then, we knew that.
Enemy of the Good
Tim Bray, one of the creators of XML, has said:
At the end of the day XML's main technical contribution
may turn out to have been that it dragged Unicode into the
(Bray also has a great primer on Unicode; go read it if you're not quite sure what/why/how Unicode is.)
And Unicode is pretty cool: Putting the backward R (or, as it's really called, CYRILLIC CAPITAL LETTER YA) into the title of the last entry was trivial, and will work properly in any sensible browser. (For some value of properly, anyway -- Lynx, attempting to display a Cyrillic character on an ASCII terminal actually renders that character as "YA".) Universal Unicode is sensible, logical, and easy.
The problem is with fonts. Using the immensely cool BrowserCam, I was able to see how my page looks in multiple browsers across a number of platforms. The Я looks great on Windows, but on Mac and Linux browsers, it looks too big, too small, or just plain weird. On Linux, this isn't a problem, because everything looks weird (font handling might be the biggest obstacle to Linux on the desktop; it's just such an ugly operating system); but on the Mac, it looks glaringly out of place.
Obviously, the only conclusion we can draw is that, since it's slightly flawed, Unicode is a complete failure and we should all go back to using random character sets.
Or possibly that there's still some room for improvement in Unicode-using applications -- but then we would miss out on all the shit-kicking fun of pointless outrage.
Weddings Я Us
It's been said that "planning the average wedding takes organisational skills that would put a military campaign to shame." If so, I think I'm ready to lead our forces into whatever country we decide to invade next month, because planning our wedding has been a cakewalk:
Me: Hi, I'd like to set up an appointment for a wedding.
Clerk: Okay, do you have a day in mind?
Me: How about next Wednesday?
Clerk: Sorry, we're all booked up that day. We do have an opening at 11:30 on Thursday, though.
Me: That'll work. The last name is Kozlowski, K-O-Z...
It's moderately disturbing that it's easier to schedule a wedding than car maintenance, but I'm not complaining. At least, not until the next time I need my car serviced.