Quote of the Day

“Tanner was conserving all his strength for the trip home. He meant to walk as far as he could get and trust to the Almighty to get him the rest of the way. That morning and the morning before, he had allowed his daughter to dress him and he had conserved that much more energy. Now he sat in the chair by the window – his blue shirt buttoned at the collar, his coat on the back of the chair, and his hat on his head – waiting for her to leave. He couldn’t leave until she got out of the way. The window looked out on a brick wall and down into an alley full of New York air, the kind fit for cats and garbage. A few snow flakes drifted past the window but they were too thin and scattered for his failing vision.

The daughter was in the kitchen washing dishes. She dwaddled over everything, talking to herself. When he had first come, he had answered her, but that had not been wanted. She glowered at him as if, old fool that he was, he should still have had sense enough to not answer a woman talking to herself. She questioned herself in one voice and answered herself in another. With the energy he had conserved yesterday letting her dress him, he had written a note and pinned it in his pocket. IF FOUND DEAD SHIP EXPRESS COLLECT TO COLEMAN PARRUM, CORINTH, GEORGIA. Under this he had continued: COLEMAN SELL MY BELONGINGS AND PAY THE FREIGHT ON ME & THE UNDERTAKER. ANYTHING LEFT OVER YOU CAN KEEP. YOURS TRULY T.C. TANNER. P.S. STAY WHERE YOU ARE. DON’T LET THEM TALK YOU INTO COMING UP HERE. ITS NO KIND OF PLACE. It had taken him better part of thirty minutes to write the paper; the script was wavery but decipherable with patience. He controlled one hand by holding the other on top of it. By the time he had got it written, she was back in the apartment from getting her groceries.”

– Flannery O’Connor
“Judgment Day”

Sexy Saturday

Actually, I’m not really feelin’ “Sexy Saturday”. But I’ve had some of the pictures below on my desktop for a couple of weeks now, and it’s time to post them or get off the pot.

Here’s English actress Indira Varma. You might remember her as Niobe, wife of Lucius Vorenus, on the HBO series Rome. She’s currently got a starring role in the kick-ass Fox series Human Target; if you like action movies even a little bit, you should really check out that show!

Indira Varma

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Exporting Email Addresses from Facebook

Have you ever wanted the email addresses of all your Facebook friends? Sure, you could go to each of their profiles individually and cut and paste their email address into your favorite email app or a spreadsheet… but who wants to go to all that trouble? Wouldn’t it be cool if you could just click a few buttons and do it all at once? You can, and it’s a pretty easy (if unglamorous) process.

To start, you need to sign up for a free email account at gmx.com. GMX offers free email accounts, much like Gmail and Yahoo! Mail accounts. But unlike the “import contacts from Facebook” applets at Yahoo! Mail and other sites, the GMX webapp actually works (see “Notes” section, below).

On the GMX homepage DO NOT click the “Login with Facebook” button at the top of the page. Instead, create an account the old-fashioned way by clicking “Sign Up Now” and filling out the simple form by entering your name, date of birth, country and state, and an alternate email address.

Once that’s done, open a new browser window and login to Facebook if you haven’t done so already. Back in the GMX window, login to your new account, then click “Address Book” in the lower left corner, then click the “Import/Export” button at the top of the page and choose “Import”. A window with icons for Facebook and many email programs will pop up. Choose “Facebook” (duh!) and then click “Allow” or “Yes” for any Facebook security windows that pop up. The GMX applet will scan your profile and allow you to choose which contacts you want to import (I just clicked the “Select All” button). It will then save them all to your GMX account (this might take several minutes, so don’t panic if the page seems “stuck”).

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Touching Sensitive Areas

OK, so I’ve been wallowing in my own bile about this for a couple of days here at the house. I’ve written this piece in my head a couple dozen times already. I tried to go the erudite way, mimicking William F. Buckley. I tried to go the sarcastic way, mimicking P.J. O’Rourke. I even thought about being as crude as possible, in hopes of making my point simply and clearly. And, in a way, that’s where I’m going with this. So let me say this, as simply as possible, and in bold text so you just can’t miss the point:

Nowhere in the United States Constitution will you find words “except in airports”. Just because someone buys a plane ticket, that doesn’t give the United States government the right to strip search them electronically or put their hands in inappropriate places.

Airport security has always been a joke, but that joke isn’t fucking funny anymore. Sure, it was kind of amusing when TSA banned lighters but not matches, or pocket knives but not knitting needles. It was funny when a TSA agent made the parents of a small child empty a plastic doll that had a liquid reservoir inside (so the doll could “pee”) because it might or might not have held more than 3 ounces of fluid. It was even funny when Adam Savage of Mythbusters had a TSA agent totally miss two 12″ razor blades he’d accidentally left in his bag:


But there’s nothing funny about what’s going on today. TSA’s agents and policies have always been arbitrary and capricious. What’s accepted at one airport is not accepted at another, and agents even sometimes argue amongst themselves about what’s acceptable or not. And God help the weary traveler who should get the TSA agent in a foul mood that day, lest that rent-a-cop with a badge decide to take his anger out on someone who doesn’t take their shoes off fast enough or walk though the metal detector right on cue. Just don’t cause too much trouble for the TSA agent citizen, or you might find yourself on a list. Or maybe you’ll get lucky and get the TSA agent in a “joking mood” who plants a white powder on you, pretends it’s drugs and threatens you with arrest. They’re a laugh a minute those TSA agents, especially when they use the cover of a fake childrens’ book – My First Cavity Search – as the wallpaper of their computers or when Philadelphia TSA agents give the “extra special search” to a woman in a Dallas Cowboys jersey:


But what’s worse, the laws surrounding air travel have been kept unconstitutionally secretive. Sure, the TSA happily and publicly posts lists of whatever items are banned on planes this week… but have you ever wondered what law(s) give the TSA the right to ban such items in the first place? Or ask for your identification? Or what questions a TSA agent might ask that you are legally required to answer?

Continue reading “Touching Sensitive Areas”

Oddball History Facts

– Thomas Jefferson was incredibly sloppy in many ways. His clothes were usually out of style, too small, and often threadbare. Instead of sitting properly in a chair, he was known for throwing his legs over one arm and reclining comfortably. His office and study often had massive piles of books and papers lying about in huge stacks. In other ways, though, Jefferson was amazingly meticulous. He recorded the weather and temperature every day of his adult life, and he faithfully recorded every penny he ever spent. His notes were so voluminous that Jefferson even felt the need to create a 650 page index of them! But his most amazing precision was saved for architecture. On his plans for Monticello, his home in Virginia, he specified a measurement of 1.8991666 inches. Even today, with the best computer-guided saws, it’s extremely difficult to cut any piece of wood to a millionth of an inch. Why Jefferson bothered is a mystery to this day.

– Worcestershire sauce was created by accident. Sort of. As the story goes, an English aristocrat returned from overseas with a burning desire to recreate a particular sauce he’d had in India. He approached two noted apothecaries, John Wheeley Lea and William Henry Perrins of Worcester, to see if they could reproduce the sauce. Based on the man’s description, Lea and Perrins mixed malt vinegar, molasses, sugar, salt, anchovies, tamarind extract, onions, garlic, cloves, soy sauce, lemons, pickles, peppers and other ingredients in a barrel. By all accounts, the new sauce was positively awful. However, instead of throwing the foul mixture away, the apothecaries decided to keep it for reasons unknown, and so the barrel was rolled into a basement corner. The barrel was rediscovered a couple of years later, and the men tasted the sauce again on a whim. Aging was the key, as the sauce had turned from awful to delicious.

– The first written record in the English language of someone drinking tea comes from the famous diary of Samuel Pepys. Pepys mentions that he drank tea for the first time on September 25, 1660. Oddly, he doesn’t say anything else about it, including whether or not he enjoyed it. What’s interesting about this whole thing is that Pepys’ comments were mentioned in an 1812 book by Scottish historian David Macpherson called History of the European Commerce with India. The thing is, although Pepys’ diaries were available for viewing at Oxford University at the time, no one ever had before. And the reason for that was because the diaries were written in an obscure form of shorthand that had fallen out of use. Pepys’ diaries were, for all intents and purposes, written in an unknown language. They were not translated into standard English until 1822. How Macpherson managed to find and translate a single line of text out of six volumes of Pepy’s diary is unknown.

– The first music ever broadcast over radio was probably “Ombra mai fù”, an aria from Georg Friedrich Händel’s opera Xerxes. I say “probably” because many people in many places were experimenting with radio at the time. However, the airing of “Ombra mai fù”, on December 24, 1906, is the first musical broadcast we know of for certain.

The McGurk Effect

The McGurk effect is an illusion that proves that what we hear is directly affected by what we see. It seems counter-intuitive that the sense of hearing can be affected by our vision, but it’s true. Check out this short clip from the BBC show Horizon to see how it works:


What makes the McGurk effect so especially interesting is that the illusion always works, even after the subject knows how it works. Most optical illusions, by contrast, seem to not work once the subject understands how it works. But the McGurk effect appears to be a fundamental part of the human mind.

Read more about it at Wikipedia here.

Food Network Geography Fail!

Like me, Lisa thinks Food Network is all kinds of ridiculous. But she still watches an episode of something here and there if the dishes mentioned in the program guide interest her. She also sometimes DVRs stuff she thinks I might like.

She recently recorded an episode of Meat and Potatoes (what the hell is this show and where did it come from?). I was watching the intro, and noticed a huge geography fail in it. Towards the end of the credits, a bunch of steak knives fly into a map of the US, and names of the cities appear underneath them, presumably to show you where the show has been. The only problem is that the knife for “Atlanta, Georgia” lands in northwestern Alabama:

fn geo fail 008
(click to embiggen)

I emailed this to the folks over at FoodNetworkHumor.com and they ran it! So now I’m an INTERNET SUPER STAR… although I don’t like how they said I was “one of the only 7 people in America” who watches the show. I don’t “watch” the show.. Lisa thought I might like this particular episode based on what the program guide said. I’m not a regular viewer of the show.

Quote of the Day

“The only way that I could figure they could improve upon Coca-Cola, one of life’s most delightful elixirs, which studies prove will heal the sick and occasionally raise the dead, is to put rum or bourbon in it.”

– Lewis Grizzard

Thanks to my friend Rich for this quote!

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-11-14

  • It was close, but I'll take the W! #
  • BREAKING: Mystery missile launched from Google headquarters; Skynet becomes self-aware! #
  • Thanks and God Bless, Vets! #
  • Boooo! AMC cancels "Rubicon": http://tinyurl.com/2bx5m32 #
  • Now getting Sepinwall's RSS feed, whichis pure awesomeness! Why oh why did I waste so much time with the new (lame) @TVSquad? #
  • Anyone gonna be in the area of 49 & 485 on Saturday? Lisa's working, and I'd like to try Aloha Hawaiian BBQ for lunch. #
  • @TikiDarling Too bad "The IT Crowd" is a Channel 4 show, not BBC. #
  • SWEET! Go Falcons! Steeler fans everywhere thank you! #
  • Madonna's "Like a Virgin" album came out on this date… 26 YEARS AGO! I'm not old! I'm not old! I'm not old! #
  • Wade Philips: Fired. Marvin Lewis: Still employed. Ponder. #
  • Just saw a '64 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud in Belmont. Unusual. #
  • A reminder: Lisa has to work tomorrow, so if anyone would like to meet for lunch at Aloha Hawaiian BBQ on S. Tryon I'm game! #
  • A beautiful day, the sunroof open, cranking old Cardigans tunes… nice! #
  • Oh joy… another Panthers game on TV tomorrow! #

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