Friday, December 29, 2006


Blogger has introduced Post Labels and Label-specific Site Feeds. If you are not interested in Linux device drivers and are absolutely certain that you never will be, you might like to try subscribing to: Site Feed (NotTech)

If you think I'm particularly fascinating on the subject of politics, you might try:
Site Feed (Politics)

If you're in the market for videos of men getting hit in the crotch with a baseball and white men who should know better saying "Nigger" over and over, try:
Site Feed (YouTube)
(That one is going to be really low frequency.)

And if you wait up every night for a new post on device drivers, try:
Site Feed (Tech)

NOTE TO BLOGGER: It would be cool if the Site Feeds could add and subtract tags rather than just subscribing to single tags. E.g., instead of a "NotTech" tag, I could have a "ProcrastiBlog minus Tech" feed. Or "Politics plus YouTube". Or whatever.

Children of Men

Wow, that was a good picture. Towards the end, it has what may be one of the most suspenseful sequences I've ever seen in a movie: what feels like (but isn't) one long hand-held shot of Clive Owen moving step-by-step through Hell on Earth, trying not to get brained or eviscerated just long enough to make sure Humanity's Last Glimmer of Hope* isn't lost forever---a sequence which will tie your guts up in knots only to have them unravel for Spoiler-Free reasons immediately thereafter. All of which, naturally, brought to mind the wise words of William Adama:

Why are we as a people worth saving? We still commit murder because of greed and spite and jealousy, and we still visit all of our sins upon our children. We refuse to accept the responsibility for anything we've done... Sooner or later, the day comes when you can't hide from the things that you've done anymore.
Maybe people this sad, sorry, venal, and fucked-up (you know, people like us) just aren't fit to survive?

* One interesting thing about this movie is that the MacGuffin** is not Humanity's Only Salvation, but merely its Last Glimmer of Hope. This is not exactly a hopeful movie---it posits that the entire world irretrievably goes down the crapper sometime around 2008. Which is pretty ballsy pessimism and, sadly enough, seems about right.

** It occurs to me that the term MacGuffin is not applicable here as the precise nature of humanity's Last Glimmer of Hope is quite directly relevant to the plot of this motion picture. I rule this observation inadmissible on the grounds that debating what is or is not a MacGuffin is both my and Alfred Hitchcock's least favorite conversation ever.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Donner Cut

To anyone who fondly recalls Superman II as the reigning best super-powered superhero movie 1980-2002, I can heartily recommend Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut.

As you probably don't and probably shouldn't know, large portions of Superman II were shot by director Richard Donner at the same time as the original film. For some reason I don't know and refuse to find out, Donner was fired sometime after the first movie was released and Richard Lester was hired to finish the second film. This new release of the film is an attempt to reconstruct Donner's original "vision" using some original unused footage, some new effects, etc. The result is a new movie with the same basic story and a totally different, less campy, feel. About a quarter of the original movie has disappeared and another large chunk has been replaced with similar scenes that were shot by Donner then re-shot by Lester.

The main difference fans will notice is that almost everything that was corny about the Lester cut has been removed. This includes: Lois Lane and the terrorists atop the Eiffel Tower, lots of silly Lois & Clark antics, the weird part where either the Fortress of Solitude is also a House of Mirrors or Superman has the power of projecting three-dimensional images of himself around at will, and the Magic Kiss of Forgetfulness. The corny scenes where Superman-as-Clark-Kent gets beat up at a truck stop then returns to exact his revenge remain.

And the corniest thing about the first movie has been resurrected and tacked onto the second: in place of the Magic Kiss of Forgetfulness, we have Superman turning the Earth backwards to reverse time. (This makes Lois forget his secret identity, but it doesn't make the asshole at the truck stop forget he beat up Clark Kent.) According to the Special Features, Donner "envisioned" this as the end of Superman II and used it as the end of the first picture for unspecified reasons. So, you see, in the Donner "vision", these two movies don't end the same way: the real first movie (that doesn't exist) has some other unspecified ending (which is awesome) and Superman II is the one that ends with the time reversal.

Bogus ending-ology aside, I think I finally may be able to forgive Donner for having Superman reverse time. I've figured out what he's up to: he's being all Silver Age-y. This is backed up by the other major new scene in The Donner Cut---the Silver Age-iest scene in the Superman film canon (not the less Silver Age-y for being cobbled together from pre-production screen tests). Instead of discovering that Clark Kent is Superman after he stumbles into an open fireplace and emerges unscorched, Lois Lane discovers Superman's secret identity by shooting Clark Kent in the chest. Being unwounded, Clark Kent removes his glasses, broadens his shoulders, and stops acting like a douchebag, thereby revealing his true identity! But, aha!, Lois Lane reveals the gun was loaded with blanks! Superman is so gosh-danged bullet-proof that he can't even tell if he's been hit by a bullet! Yikes!

The only problem with this movie? Not Silver Age-y enough. When the real Superman wants to convince Lois Lane he's not Clark Kent he doesn't reverse time, he fakes his own death, or murders her, or fakes his own death then moves in with Jimmy Olsen, cub reporter. The important thing is that somebody actually or fakely dies. (On the subject of Jimmy Olsen, I just can't help but point out: Superman is a Freak-Out.)

[UPDATE] It should be noted, time-travel-wise, that instead of reversing time by several minutes to prevent the state of California from bonking Lois Lane on the head, as in the original movie, in Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut, Superman reverses time by several days, so that nothing in the entire movie ever actually happened*. Great Scott, you can't get Silver Age-ier than that!

* The actual ontological status of the events of the film is unclear.

[UPDATE 2] Oh, and another thing: can we get some Crisis on Infinite Earths-level brain-power brought to bear on the continuity between Supermans I-IV and Superman Returns? Is the act of coitus implied in Superman II meant to lead to the super-baby of Superman Returns? If so, are surly truckers and Superman's semen the only things on Earth powerful enough not to be affected by the Great Un-Happening of Everything in the Movie? Did Superman see the box office returns of Superman IV: The Quest for Peace and fly backwards around the Earth until Bryan Singer signed on to direct a pre/se/Earth Prime-quel?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Nigga, please

Brotha got played. (Via Ogged)

[UPDATE] Did that embed work for you? Here's the link.

[UPDATE 12/29/2006] The embed never seemed to work until I changed the Blogger template for the blog. That's odd.

[UPDATE 12/29/2006 Pt 2] Ah, Blogger's new pedantic-er Publish routine complained about an unmatched embed tag in the YouTube HTML. Maybe that was it?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Quizzes I've Taken

Over the last few days, I've established that I don't have an accent, that I love terrorists, and (via Malcolm "Blink" Gladwell) that I'm slightly racist (but less so than the average person).

I suggest taking this last quiz, because it's interesting to think about what, if anything, it really says about your unconscious attitudes. Go here, click "I wish to proceed," and choose a test. I chose "Race IAT."

Comments below are SPOILERS. Don't read unless you've taken the test or aren't going to.

I'm not entirely convinced the test uncovers hidden racial assumptions---it may be a bit of a parlor trick. I'm not sure if the test always proceeds in the same order, but when I took it it went in four phases: first I was asked to "sort" black from white faces into left and right categories; then "good" and "bad" words; then, the categories became "white OR good" and "black OR bad"; then, "black OR good" and "white OR bad". In each case where I made a mistake, I believe it was that I tried to assign a "good" word to the "white OR bad" category. This is supposed to be telling, that I was having trouble associating "good" with "black." But I'm not sure I wasn't just having difficulty adapting my hand-eye coordination to the new category scheme. I made a few mistakes at the beginning and fewer as I went on.

Anybody else who took it want to weigh in?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Netflix Queue Manager

If you have more than three movies in your Netflix queue, than you need this: drag and drop queue management that works with Firefox or IE. (We actually stumbled across this because H wanted to "shuffle" our queue, which is just ridiculous. Some people...) Why isn't this the default Netflix interface?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

My eyes, they make me angry

Part of me thinks the Blip Festival looks like a really interesting and cool event that I would like to check out. Another part of me thinks if they really wanted me to come, the wouldn't put diagonal stripes behind white text.

Air Duct-en

If you don't believe me, maybe you'll believe your lying eyes. There are limits to my faith in duct tape.

All The World Loves a Meme...

I am a pure-bred New Jersey boy with a long-standing New York disposition. Why don't I have an accent?

Also, I hate conversations of the form, "How do you say closet?" Why did I take this quiz?

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

The Inland North
The South
The Northeast
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Emerging Atheist Majority

MY drops some, er, science:

It's only a kind of rhetorical overreach on the part of atheists -- pitting "religion" versus "not religion" as the key disagreement -- that creates the appearance of a large majority in favor of "religion." There's clearly a significant human predilection for not-supported-by-science beliefs of various sorts -- in the existence of a god or gods, astrology, fortune-telling, alien visits to earth, the healing power of crystals, etc. -- but there's no particular convergence of these beliefs on anything in particular. Meanwhile, on many of the particular question you might ask about religious subjects, atheists are going to be in the majority. Like most people on earth, atheists don't believe that Jesus Christ died for man's sins. Similarly, just like most people, atheists don't believe that Muhammed was Allah's greatest prophet or that the Hidden Imam will return. And, again, like most people atheists don't believe that you'll be reborn on earth after death in a new body.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Nancy Pelosi, Will You Marry Me?

This is exactly what I was talking about. (Via Unfogged)

Edgy Eft-ing Sound

This is kind of weird, coming two weeks after I upgraded, but my audio card just completely stopped working. At first, I thought this was one of those little Linux driver farts---I spent half the summer restarting X to get Skype working again---but a reboot didn't fix it and there were no relevant error messages to speak of. Following these directions fixed it. The key part, I think, is making sure asound.conf exists---it seems that somebody (not me) had deleted it. In fact, I can't find a Ubuntu package that wants to take credit for installing asound.conf, much less one that wants to take credit for deleting it.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Bad Eating in Italy

This is strange and a bit sad: NYU Florence students complain about bad food. I studied at NYU in Florence in 1998 and it was probably the culinary high point of my life so far. Of course, I didn't live "on campus" and I don't even recall there being a "dining hall"---we shopped at the grocery store in the neighborhood, which had good, fresh bread and good, cheap wine. It's unclear if these kids are getting a sub-standard product or if they're just little whiny carb-counters---either way I feel sorry for them...

Kids, leave the villa, walk 50 meters up the hill and go into the grocery. Tell the guy you want mozzarella e pomodoro on foccaccia. (He'll probably correct your pronunciation.) Doesn't cost more than a few bucks and I'm still craving it to this day.

Also, kids, don't be stupid: Pane e Olio is ten minutes away, Cibreo makes the best polenta and pappa in the world, and there are about ten thousand other great places whose names I forget. Go forth and get fat on good food.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Two Things That Should Have Occurred to Me

1) The plastic delivery container from the comfort-food take-out place might melt and dissolve in the microwave.

2) Chicken pot pie crust won't reheat in the microwave anyway.

P.S. Can you imagine how much work I'm getting done today?

In Non-Election News...

You know those cardboard sleeves that come with CDs these days? The kind that wrap around the jewel case and are always kind of hard to slip the CD into and out of? The ones that you end up leaving around empty and crushing under a stack of jewel cases on the shelf?

Does anyone not hate those?

I can think of exactly one thing in their favor (and it's a small thing): CDs that come in cardboard sleeves don't usually have the barcode stickers of death along their top edge. (BTW, the barcode sticker of death is pretty manageable if you just always have a knife handy.)

POSTSCRIPT: It occurs to me that I might be the only person left on the planet who still buys CDs, a possibility that is reinforced by the fact that Tower Records is closing its doors. Which leaves me with only the rather-inconvenient Virgin Megastore in terms of corporate CD buy-ery. But that's OK, because I buy almost all my CDs at Other Music, in either the In, Then, or La Decadanse sections (I can't remember which).

POSTSCRIPT (2): Which reminds me that I bought a copy of Cometbus fanzine there the other day. Can you believe that paper fanzines still exist? As there are photocopiers in the world, Aaron Cometbus will carry on...

Sorry, Lois. Sorry, Diane.

PA-6 has been called for Jim Gerlach. That gives me an 0-3 record doing GOTV at the federal level. Boo.

How is it that the Democrats can pick up almost 30 seats in the House and lose in moderate districts in PA and CT? I mean, arithmetically, is that possible?

Am I Dreaming?

It's like Christmas and Halloween are giving me a massage and the crystal meth is just kicking in... Rumsfeld resigned!?! Somebody in the vicinity of the White House is aware of and responsive to objective reality?!? Oh, brave new world!

More (bad) advice for the Democrats

First bill out of the House: Nancy Pelosi gets to kick George Bush in the balls! On national television!

A Little Schadenfreude

My favorite part of all of this is seeing Rick Santorum, that frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter posing as a U.S. Senator, get his ass handed to him.

My second favorite part is that, even if he ends up winning---which we apparently won't know for sure until December---George Allen, my bete noir, has had his presidential aspirations dashed. (If a Republican can't win by more than a few hundred votes in Virginia, he can't win the presidency. Sorry, sucker.)

Advice for the Democrats

Don't screw this up. Be the party of competence.* You've got to be more Catholic than the Pope (I'm not sure who the Pope is in this metaphor): pass a balanced budget without egregiously raising taxes, don't climb into bed with the lobbyists, and forgo earmarks for at least one election cycle. And please just sit out the culture wars: show people you can engage the real issues directly, without throwing red meat to your base.

Good luck! I love you! (For now!)

* I don't mean run as the Party of Competence (*cough* Dukakis)---just be the party of competence.

Democrats! Yay!

Can we all now admit that Karl Rove is not a genius? The Repulicans' strategy for this election was: (a) try to convince the average voter that the economy and Iraq are both fine, (b) if that fails, slime the opponent with negative ads and robocalls, and (c) if that fails, suppress and/or steal the vote. If the voters believe that your party's governing philosophy is basically sound, this can work (see: 2004); if the voters are convinced that your party's leaders are incompetent and out of touch... Bzzt.

Good for you, America!

My record on volunteering is decidedly mixed. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a candidate for New York State Senate in Westchester who I volunteered for kind of by accident, won her race by a nose. Lois Murphy in Pennsylvania's 6th is down by about 3,000 votes as of this writing but the race hasn't been called. (Presumably, they will look at the absentee ballots.) [CORRECTION: I originally mistook Lois Murphy for Patrick Murphy and reported the results for Pennsylvania's 8th district: Murphy up by about 1,500 votes. Right now it looks like the Dems will pick up the 8th and fall short on the 6th. Fingers crossed.] Diane Farrell in Connecticutt's 4th is down by about 4,000 votes with 93% of precincts reporting; the race has been called for Chris Shays. You can add these to my 2004 record working for America Coming Together in Independence, MO: John Kerry lost Missouri by about 200,000 votes. (But he did win Jackson County!)

Maybe I'm a jinx. Or maybe this GOTV stuff doesn't really work. Seeing it up close, it's hard to believe that it does: the lists are sloppy, the voters are jaded, and the numbers don't really work out. Yesterday, I probably visited 100-150 households with 200-250 voters. There were a few dozen volunteers like me, meaning we contacted a few thousand voters. If, say, 5% of them voted when they otherwise wouldn't have then we produced a few hundred extra votes in an election where nearly 200,000 votes were cast.

I don't know if the Republican's have some magical better way of doing things (maybe it looks something like this)---I know the Democratic volunteers are convinced they do. (But the Democratic volunteers are convinced that the Republicans stole the last three elections, murdered Paul Wellstone, and have better snacks.) Clearly, the Republicans turn-out machine is not so magical that it can completely subvert the popular will (which is essentially what Karl Rove was trying to convince us of, up to and including yesterday).

Weirdest voter reaction from CT-4: "We're not voting for Diane Farrell. We have friends!"

Monday, November 06, 2006

Assateague (hee)

Assateague (hee)
Originally uploaded by C+H.

Last weekend, H and I took a road trip down to Williamsburg, VA to attend Lou and Brandi's wedding (not pictured). Along the way we stopped in Virginia Beach and Assateague Island, MD (not to mention various waffle houses, Arby's, and a barbecue joint). Enjoy.

Some Notes on Canvassing

For the campaigns:
I think I heard somewhere that the "dirty secret" of political campaigns is that there's not enough work to give to the volunteers. If this isn't true, campaign staffers sure act like it is, given the disorganized pile of crap they usually dump on their fresh-faced volunteers. Now I don't want to make too much of the noble sacrifice of, you know, people like me, but I will say this: I have other things I could be doing with a sunny afternoon. I want to feel like my efforts are making an impact (even if it's not true). Get your shit together. Do not waste my time. This will benefit you in at least two ways: (a) I will get more things done for you in the time I have to give, and (b) I will want to give you more of my time in the future. Dig it.

  • Coordinate your efforts. Keep track of who you have called and where you have knocked and do not call or knock again for an appropriate period. Do not send two people to knock on the same door on the same day. This annoys voters and volunteers alike.

  • Clean up your data. Today, I was knocking at the doors of Democratic precinct captains who were running election day GOTV efforts, asking them to please remember to vote. They were incredulous. Yesterday, I was walking 200 yards uphill to knock on one door. This micro-targeting stuff might work, but it's hell on the volunteers. Don't send me to visit people who don't need my visit, or who have moved, or who are dead. Don't send a man on foot to do a man in a car's job.

  • Give me a route. Oddly enough, I've never been to precinct 12-1 in Lower Merrien, PA. I don't know my way around. Campaigns have caught on to MapQuest, but they need to take this one step further: map the houses I'm supposed to visit and the order I should visit them in. Give me the list of addresses in route order. (In the campaigns' favor, this requires more than the average Excel-jockeying that seems to go into their list management. A note to the entrepreneurial hacker: you should be able to get a few hundred dollars out of every political campaign in the country if you provide a tool that makes this easy. I imagine the Google Maps API would get you half-way there.)

  • Buy me lunch. You want me to meet you at 9 AM. At 11 AM you hand me a clipboard and a bottle of water and you ask me to be back by 4. What do normal people do between the hours of 11 and 4? Sack lunch! It's a no-brainer!

For the suburbs:

  • Put numbers on your damn house. Do you ever have food delivered? Would you like an ambulance to find you in case of emergency? Do you want campaign volunteers to knock on your door every weekend in October? Just put some numbers on your damn house.

  • Put the numbers in order, or something. I mean, seriously. Is this a problem? Also, streets are continuous thoroughfares: they may curve, but they may not halt and recommence in another location. If it ends and starts again somewhere else, it's a different street. Period.

Best Republican dirty trick I saw with my own eyes:
A yard sign looking exactly like a "Casey for Senate" sign, but which said instead "Casey for". Curious voters will be surprised to discover Bob Casey wants to give ice cream and nuclear weapons to Mexicans who have sworn to destroy us.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Edgy Eft-ing Swap

Major Complain the First has been addressed by the magic of the Internet. It seems the Ubuntu developers decided to change the already-cryptic Linux disk naming scheme and make it even more cryptic---my swap disk used to be /dev/sda5; it is now UUID=68c2346f-f652-429a-a974-2abac9b7ffbd. Then, to top it off, they didn't bother to update /etc/fstab or the initramfs settings.

Hibernate is back! Hurray! Suspend still doesn't work! Boo!

Broadcom, Nvidia: the ball is in your court.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Drawing for LaTeX

Is this (God help me) the figure editor I've been dreaming of? The one with a graphical interface and really nice Postscript output, suitable for inclusion in my LaTeX documents? (xfig doesn't cut it, pstricks is like programming in assembly.)

I think it might be!

POSTSCRIPT: Trouble on the make the easy things easy front: I want a box or a circle with text centered in it. How?

Monday, October 30, 2006

Edgy Eft-ing Fonts

Where did my fonts go in Emacs? Be calm, child. Somebody got pedantic with path names. Search-and-replace /usr/share/X11/fonts with /usr/share/fonts/X11 in /etc/X11/xorg.conf.

Act Now

Tired of reading snarky comments about George Bush and George Allen? Step up and do something about it!

Living, as I do, in a state where the Democratic candidates for governor and Senate are up by 48 and 36 points, respectively, and and a district where our congresswoman (Nydia Valazquez) won with 86% of the vote in 2004, it can seem like there's nothing one can do to make a difference in this world. And there's not. However...

There are lots of close races in the greater New York area that could benefit from a little old-fashioned door-knocking and phone banking. Rick Santorum, the man who can't draw a distinction between contraception and bestiality, is on the ropes just one state away. 8 of the most hotly contested House seats in the country are in New York and Connecticut, including New York's 26th, home of Tom "I think maintaining a Republican majority is more important than protecting a few kids from a sexual predator" Reynolds.

Next weekend, I am going on canvassing trips to Westchester and Pennsylvania organized by Act Now New York. You should come too. If you can't do that, you should make phone calls. If you can't do that, you should donate money.

And if for some reason you read this blog but you don't think that Republicans should be held accountable for the appalling corruption and incompetence that have been on display in Washington (and Iraq) (and New Orleans) for the last six years... I have no words. None.

Edgy Eft-ing Flash

Thinking about installing Ubuntu Linux 6.10 aka Edgy Eft? Thinking about upgrading to Firefox 2.0 on Linux (the first implies the second)? A word to the wise: Firefox 2.0 is highly incompatible with the Flash plugin. Like, your browser will crash in the blink of an eye if there's so much as a YouTube embed on a web page (and there are precious few YouTube-free web pages these days... ah, Web 2.0). Never fear! Just add


as the next-to-last line in /usr/bin/firefox (before the exec line). Makes Firefox YouTube-arific. For this and other useful Edgy tips, visit The Ubuntu Guide.

P.S. This is actually Major Complaint the Second about my Edgy upgrade. Major Complaint the First is that it has completely hosed my Suspend/Hibernate settings. I am hopeful that this will fix itself with time. Major Complaint the Third is that Broadcom and Nvidia still won't play nice, about which I am less optimistic (There is actually a potential fix for this in not-CVS, but it is entirely unclear* when it might show up in a mainstream distro.)

* Seriously unclear. As in: maybe next month and maybe never.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Diplomacy for Dummies

Matthew Yglesias on diplomacy:

Here's a trick we haven't tried vis-a-vis North Korea and Iran -- seriously offering to do things Pyongyand and/or Teheran would like us to do in exchange for them doing what we want them to do in terms of not building nuclear weapons. Similarly with regard to Russia and China. As I've been pointing out, we've been doing "everything" to get Russia and China on board with our North Korea policy except, well, setting priorities, making compromises, cutting deals and, um, conducting diplomacy. We want Moscow and Beijing to do such-and-such. Well, what do they want from Washington? Diplomacy means finding out what they want and then, if the price is worth paying, paying it.

Isn't it odd that a group of people who profess to believe that free markets are a magical elixir---second only to tax cuts---that can solve any problem facing the world (e.g., health care, Social Security, energy independence, and global warming, just to name a few) think that diplomacy should be conducted by invoking abstract ideals and threats of force and not by old-fashioned horse trading? I mean, we've got homo economicus choosing glaucoma treatments, but Russia's going to double-cross a major trading partner to do us a favor?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Ah, Dosa

After, like, two months in the wilderness, working over my disappointment with Thiru, the over-rated Sri Lankan dosa guy, and some random place on Lexington Ave, I had a really lovely, really authentic dosa at the Something Something Dosa House on Newark Ave in Jersey City.

Actually, it wasn't perfectly authentic... I decided to order a "Bangalore Masala Dosa"---an item I never once saw in Bangalore. This was a regular Masala Dosa the inside of which had been sprinkled all over with something like Bombay seasoning (an inoffensive yet inessential, mildly spicy, dry seasoning mixture).

The idlys where good. The coconut chutney was a bit blah. The jalebi was not-at-all fresh and kind of inedible. But the dosa itself---the dough and the potato curry filling---was perfect. Almost as good as Shanti Sagar (which, note, is a low bar to set in absolute terms).

Newark Ave! It's only three blocks (or so) from the Journal Square PATH station. Unlike Curry Hill, it's right in the middle of a place where actual Indians actually live (more of them there, I would guess, than anywhere else on the Eastern seaboard). And it's only fifteen minutes from Manhattan.

Jersey City is suddenly seeming like a very reasonable place to buy a gigantic house and have babies.


Kevin Drum on our war president:

I wonder how long it will take America to recover from George Bush's uniquely blinkered and self-righteous brand of ineptitude? In the past five years he's demonstrated to the world that we don't know how to win a modern guerrilla war. He's demonstrated that we don't understand even the basics of waging a propaganda war. He's demonstrated that other countries don't need to pay any attention to our threats. He's demonstrated that we're good at talking tough and sending troops into battle, but otherwise clueless about using the levers of statecraft in the service of our own interests. If he had set out to willfully and deliberately expose our weaknesses to the world and undermine our strengths, he couldn't have done more to cripple America's power and influence in the world. Beneath the bluster, he's done more to weaken our national security than any president since World War II.

Scout's Honor (C)

Perhaps this is the rose-colored glasses talking, but I seem to recall that Scout badges were awarded for things like learning how to tie knots and picking up litter in the park and not for protecting the interests of economic elites. Wha' happen? (Via Kevin Drum)

Saturday, October 21, 2006

BSG Episode 3.4: "Exodus (Part 2)"

This post is all about the SPOILERS.

Seems like every plot development of Season 2 has been washed away: the Pegasus is gone, Laura Roslyn is president once again, the Cylon/human baby is a Cylon/human baby, and New Caprica is the new Old Caprica. Everybody's back on the Galactica, in search of a place called... wait a sec, nobody's talking about Earth anymore. Whatever happened to the Arrow of Apollo?

Random thoughts:

  • I don't like how Tigh handled that situation. If there's one thing I learned from Army of Shadows, it's that traitors want to be killed, and publicly. I expected to either see Old Testament Saul wring Ellen's neck with his bare hands (which is what she deserved, after all, for being so damn annoying for so damn long) or for him to say, "I know what needs to be done, but I can't do it myself" (see: Christopher Moltisanti in re Adrianna La Cerva).

  • Shorter Gaeta to Baltar: "All logic and emotion [ed: ah, heck, this is the Sci Fi Channel... all Spock and McCoy] are telling me to shoot you in the face, but somewhere I hear some writer's screaming, 'Don't do it! He's a principal and a fan favorite!'..." Although, I have to say I admire how the writers have made my sympathize with Baltar who is, in his own selfish and fundamentally flawed way, trying to do what he thinks is best (at least since after he handed a nuke over to the Cylon infiltrator...).

  • Starbuck: I told you so! I told you so! I told you so! Still, and yet, if the Cylons had just thought to change the brat's name, Starbuck could have said, "I'm sorry lady, you've got the wrong kid." (Is the moppet a mute?)

  • Will D'Anna (stupid sci fi name) be transformed by her love into an annoying simp?

  • Don't you think Adama seemed a little overly chipper to be back on the run in the far reaches of outer space? See you later, 'stache!

  • We didn't pull out of Iraq; Iraq pulled out of us!

NOTE: The episode number is accurate. The two-hour season premiere officially counted as two episodes.

"Go Fuck Yourself" is the new "Is The New"

If you read the light news in New York, you must have come across this obnoxious phrase. As in: "South Bronx is the new Williamsburg" and "Tuesday is the new Thursday." Today, the New York Times brings us "40 is the new 30." The units are dollars; the product is entrees; the construction is, like, so over.

"Is the new" rests on the following unacceptable pretensions: (a) some class of people who are relevant to your life are sick of "the old" whatever; (b) the whole world is hungry for "the new" one. But guess what? I hate Williamsburg and I don't need a new one; Thursday is just fine---a little better than Tuesday, actually; and if I can afford a restaurant that charges me thirty or forty bucks for an entree, I should just shut the fuck up and stop complaining.

[UPDATE] It's the "Quotation of the Day"! I think the New York Times editors are trying to incite a Communist revolution (reliable leftists that they are).

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Perils of Working from Home

Do ergonomics experts recommend typing with a cat draped across your wrists? If not, why not?

Saturday, October 07, 2006

New Iraq-ica

So, let me see: the Cylons were drawn to New Caprica by evidence of nuclear weaponry; the decided to invade and occupy in order to help improve the humans way of life; are surprised by a committed and fierce resistance, getting trapped in a cycle of increasing violence and repression; recruit and train native police who are put to use as death squads, while the insurgency decides to experiment with suicide bombings targetting "collaborators"...

Nope, doesn't sound familiar at all.

The situation for the humans of the 12 Colonies continues to be bleak. Can Starbuck be stupid enough to actually fall for that cloying little moppet? (I thought she was working up the courage to snap the kid's neck when the "accident" happened.) Will Apollo go low-carb or low-fat? Will Adama shave off that damn moustache? How will Roslin manage to survive a Centurion firing squad? (Or will BG suddenly become a show where major characters can die? (Billy doesn't count. Billy was lame.)) What is the game plan here, Cylons? And, hey, Caprica Six, are you sure that sweaty, small little man is the object of your transcendent love?

[UPDATE 10/8/2006] Expert commentary here and here. A chat with the creators and cast here.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Battlestar Galactica

Go forth and watch it. I beg you. 9 PM EST on the Sci Fi Channel. Check your local listings. If you don't believe me, there's a fairly convincing case towards the end of this post, written by a real honest-to-god professional.

Don't let the channel scare you: there's almost no science in this fiction, really none in the "if we reverse the polarity of the positrons we can inhibit the valence of their gamma ray field!" vein. Yes, it is set in space. But here's what it's really about: a human race on the brink of extinction, making hard choices, and being scared out of their fucking minds. Go watch! Good good good!

[UPDATE 10/6/2006] There's an official primer. Season 2 marathon all day today on Sci Fi. "The Story So Far" airs at 5 PM. All previous seasons are available on DVD.

You have no excuse! Only your milquetoast aversion to high quality television!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Decemberists' "The Crane Wife"

I've only listened to it once, so a grain of salt, but I think The Decemberists' "The Crane Wife" might be the best album that ever was or ever will be. They've brought back some of the crunch of "The Tain" and skipped the musical-theater preciousness of "The Mariner's Revenge Song" (which I liked! But still!).

Note to Stephen: this is twee. Pooping back and forth is quirky. (And may get you ejected from the House GOP caucus. After, you know, five or ten years.)

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Notes on a Broken iPod

  1. The Genius Bar is a good thing: free face-to-face troubleshooting for any Apple product. Note, however: (a) you need an appointment, which you can get online, (b) you apparently need to sign in even if you have an appointment, which is not at all clear when you arrive, and (c) there is a separate Genius Bar just for iPods, which is past the regular Genius Bar, and which really, really isn't clear when you arrive.

  2. It actually can be cost effective to repair an iPod. Portatronics replaced my batter and my clickwheel in under 10 minutes. The charge was, IIRC, $30 for labor, $20 for a the wheel, and $50 for the battery. Which means as long as my hard drive doesn't die (knock wood), I've got an essentially new 30GB iPod for about $100. Apple wanted to sell me a 5GB Nano for $120.

  3. Trying to get your iPod working with Linux is not worth the effort.* The filesystem is liable to get corrupted if you look at it funny and gtkPod is laughably unusable.

* For those of you who are non-technical or who are tired of the Linux posts: I have my reasons!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

John Hodgman on Comedy

From an interview with Radar:

Comedy may be an exaggeration of the truth, but it always resonates, sometimes painfully, in the body's truth-recognizing mechanism (a small chamber-and-membrane structure in the skull) or else it does not produce laughter. Often, it is a truth that we do not wish to hear, or that we have been trained to be embarrassed by—comedy breaks taboos. What is unique about our life today is that The Daily Show is breaking a taboo simply by making plain, truthful, obvious observations about our existing government, its bankruptcy of competence and vision when faced with the basic jobs with which it is tasked.

Friday, September 22, 2006

IRQ, PCI, Linux, Broadcom, Nvidia

(If the title looks like gibberish, move along.)

Oh, woe. Woe. Woe!

The setup: a Dell Inspiron 6400, an nVidia GeForce Go 7300, a built-in Broadcom BCM4401 wireless chip, and Ubuntu Dapper 6.06 with the latest kernel patches (2.6.15-27-686 SMP PREEMPT).

The only way I've gotten the Broadcom to work is with a custom-compiled version of ndiswrapper and bcmwl5.inf. The free driver that's shipped with the kernel could but doesn't support the particular variant of the wireless chip that I have (code no 4311). (Support has been checked into CVS and will eventually trickle down to peons like me.)

I currently have the graphics card running under a proprietary driver (nvidia-glx) that was installed by Automatix. Previously, I was running a stock driver that caused the display to die on Suspend. (Now, the display only occassionally dies on Suspend.)

Since I installed the graphics driver several days ago, my PC has started periodically crashing, hard. Since this morning, my PC has started crashing hard and often. (It occurs to me that the hardware has gotten itself stuck in some crash-erific state and that possibly a solution is to somehow reset the hardware. However, this strategy, should it succeed, would still leave me facing intermittent crashes in the future.)

Here's the thing: the nVidia driver and ndiswrapper share IRQ 169. Here's the log of the crash:

Sep 22 11:33:25 localhost kernel: [17179867.804000] [__report_bad_irq+42/160] __report_bad_irq+0x2a/0xa0
Sep 22 11:33:25 localhost kernel: [17179867.804000] [handle_IRQ_event+61/112] handle_IRQ_event+0x3d/0x70
Sep 22 11:33:25 localhost kernel: [17179867.804000] [note_interrupt+135/240] note_interrupt+0x87/0xf0
Sep 22 11:33:25 localhost kernel: [17179867.804000] [__do_IRQ+253/272] __do_IRQ+0xfd/0x110
Sep 22 11:33:25 localhost kernel: [17179867.804000] [do_IRQ+25/48] do_IRQ+0x19/0x30
Sep 22 11:33:25 localhost kernel: [17179867.804000] [common_interrupt+26/32] common_interrupt+0x1a/0x20

This invariably happens after I bring up the wireless connection.

Egads! What to do?! Live without Suspend? Live without Wireless? Can you call that living?

SIDE NOTE: "Aha!" I thought, "I have an old, reliable Orinoco card. Let's try that!" But... is it possible my laptop doesn't have PC Card slot? What gives? What is this PC Card-shaped slot that the card won't slide into? What is its purpose other than to make me angry?

P.S. I have heard complaints about similar problems from students running other Linux versions/distros.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Magnolia Bakery Cupcakes

Not, in fact, crazy delicious. Sort of inedible, really. You could do better at your average PTA bakesale.

Note that, contra Ittai, the problem here is not with pouring cake batter into a cup. The batter itself lacks moist goodness and would be unacceptable in cake or cup form.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

You know what's cheap in India?

Everything. You know what's particularly, surprisingly cheap? CDs. New, popular, major label CDs cost Rs 149 (about $3). Right before I left, I went to Planet M and bought 3 CDs and a DVD* for about $15.

Yesterday, I went to Other Music and spent $50 on 4 CDs. (And 3 of them were on sale!) Boo!

* Are you curious? No? Well I don't care. They were: Asian Flava Vol 2 (a compilation of Indian hip-hop, which I developed an inexplicable fondness for), the soundtrack to Omkara (because the main single off that (the name of which I do not know because I don't understand Hindi) makes me want to shake my booty like I just don't care), Himesh Reshaminiya (because I like his beard), and the DVD of The Killer (which H and I almost went to see in Shimla, before we decided to spend the evening frantically trying (and largely failing) to make train reservations).

[UPDATE 9/17/2006] The booty-shaking track from Omkara is "Beedi". Go forth and get funky.

NYU Sandwiches

After my cry for help last week, I've visited three new (to me) sandwich places in the NYU area.

  • bite is in that weird flattish building at Lafayette and Bleeker (the one that used to be a clothing store of some kind, I think, but I'm showing my age, because apparently it's been bite for several years now). It is a good replacement for Pamela's: it has the same kind of up-scale fancy cheese, fancy meat sandwiches, some of which are pressed and toasted. I had the fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, and sun-dried tomato panini and I had no complaints. It's a little pricey though: $7 for the sandwich and a lemonade, plus I went halvsies on a $2 brownie.

  • BB Sandwich Bar (W 3rd between MacDougal and 6th) serves exactly one thing: a cheese steak sandwich. It comes on a kaiser roll, with white American cheese, onions, and some kind of ketchup/chili sauce. It is $4.50 for regular people and $2.75 for NYU people. It is very yummy. (They also have cupcakes, which I didn't try and which Ittai said he had never tried because he, "doesn't like cupcakes." Jackass.)

  • 'wichcraft (8th Street between Mercer and Broadway) is Top Chef Tom Colicchio's foray into "fast food." I got turned onto this place by the NYU paper, which adorably thinks the "East Village" is between 5th Avenue and Broadway. I had the bacon, lettuce, and heirloom tomato sandwich, which cost an absurd $10 (it comes with aioli, not mayo, you cretins). Honestly, it was about as good as a BLT is going to get outside of a fine dining restaurant. But, even so, the tomato was a little mushy. Come on, guys, for ten bucks you can toss out a few mushy tomatoes! The "cheap" side of the menu is a $5 PB&J and grilled gruyere for $5.50. You can also get oatmeal, granola, or grits for $4.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Changing file extensions in bash

for f in *.old; do mv "$f" "${f%%\.old}.new"; done

The quotes take care of possible spaces in the filename.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

It's Like 9/11 All Over Again

LonelyGirl15 is totally fake. Via Ms. Heffernen.

It's odd: in the last week, as the noose tightened, the videos got much more plot-ty and contrived. The first roughly 15 videos had only the barest whiff of plot, which is what made them so intriguing. I think they were trying to seriously advance the story before the Internets tracked them down...

Big Apple Takedown: A WWE Novel


Monday, September 11, 2006

I Was Out Ahead on George Allen

Searching for "soccer" in my previous posts turns up this post, pre-macaca, describing George Allen as "deeply odd and odious." I am so fucking smart!

BTW, see here for why Mr. Allen totally knew what he was saying was racist (though his audience probably didn't). Hint: He's part French!

Quesadilla, Red Hook style

Quesadilla, Red Hook style
Originally uploaded by C+H.

Let's keep it a secret between you and me and the readers of the New York Times, there's some really great cheap Latin food available down by the Red Hook soccer fields. Tacos, pupusas, quesadillas so big they'll break off your arm. Last year when we went, we were the only white people around. Now, there's white people everywhere... If you've got a Fairway and some nice pupusas, you've got yourself a neighborhood.

[UPDATE 9/11/2006] Food is available every Saturday and Sunday during soccer season. You should go soon, because the season ends in a few weeks.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

ATM: Success

My Indian Citibank ATM card worked at the local Citibank branch. It did not work at the deli ATM or at some other random bank (Commerce Bank, I think). This is good because, without my knowledge (due to the closure of my company email account), I got a final payroll deposit of several hundred dollars.

Friday, September 08, 2006

N.Y. Dosas

I had my first post-India dosa today and... it met expectations. Which expectations were to be disappointed.

You may ask yourself: why would someone just two weeks back from India buy a dosa in New York anyway? And I would answer: because the dosa guy is one of the only interesting places to get a "fast" lunch near NYU.* The other top contenders are Two Boots and Mamoun's.** (Now that I think about it, I haven't been to Two Boots or Mamoun's yet. Somehow today I had the overpowering urge for a dosa. (Damn you, id!))

On the upside, I noticed that the dosa guy also offers uttapam and puttu, which I know I like, but have not had often enough to be a snob about (yet).

People of the world: NYU lunch joints. Recommend. A satisfying lunch has to be purchasable for $5 or less*** and it has to be fast take-out.**** Within five minutes of Warren Weaver Hall is preferred. (Joe's and Two Boots have me covered for pizza slices. Falafel, schwarma, and South Indian are also covered. (Duh.) If I start going to Chipotle on a regular basis, Hilleary will divorce me.)

* This will seem absurd to some. Having haunted the NYU area for 11 years, I am ridiculously jaded.

** Pamela's merits an honorable mention (primarily and inexplicably for the peanut butter and apple butter sandwich), but they closed over the summer...

*** Private to Tobi: that's like five billion Rupees.

**** Fellow NYU grad students seem to think sitting down for an hour at lunch is reasonable. They are wrong.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Invitation to Waste an Hour (Or More)

Is lonelygirl15 real? Is she suspiciously attractive, entertaining, and well lit? You decide! Watch her videos. Watch her boyfriend's videos. Wonder and marvel! The New York Times summarizes the case, for and against.

[UPDATE] The New York Times' Virginia Hefferman is completely and totally obsessed to to the point where she's starting to freak me out. Sort of a lot, actually.

[UPDATE 2] Freak out!

One of the interesting side stories here---besides the well known rip-remix-burn subculture on YouTube (e.g., the P. Monkey press conference, I am the very model...)---is the idea of "response videos" which work like blog trackbacks. You've got gohepcat, The Mirrored Cowboy; guys trying to hit on her; girls trying to hit on him; and people who just want to help. It's a scene, man.

[UPDATE 9/12/2006] Aw, man.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Laundering Money

For the benefit of future foreign MSRI employees and other Americans in possession of a Citibank Suvidha account:

1) It is possible to transfer your Rupees to a US bank, see below.
2) I have not been able to use my Citibank India ATM card in the US, but I haven't actually tried very hard. It is not a PIN issue, as I can check my balance---it just won't let me take out cash.

To transfer your money to the US, you need to:

a) Have your passport, visa, and pay slips that have been signed and sealed by the company. In my case, I brought every single pay slip and they were stamped and signed by HR.

a) Go to the Citibank Suvidha office in the Prestige Meridien building on MG Road. This is not the regular Citibank branch office out front, but a special office which is reached by walking around the building to the left, up a staircase, and past a Cafe Coffee Day. You will be asked to sign in. You need to talk to, IIRC, Shamila at the second desk on the left.

b) Fill out a form requesting "Remission for the Maintenence of Family". Do not ask to close your account. This will cause a controversy. For the amount you will write something like "X Rupees in USD" to signify the conversion of your Rupee balance to US dollars. I believe there is a fee of Rs 1200 for the transfer.

c) Be careful when you sign the forms. The most commonly heard phrase in the Suvidha office is "signature mismatch". (Do you actually know how to sign your own name? You'll get to find out!)

D) Et voila. Your money will appear in your US bank account within a week.

[UPDATE 9/9/2006] ATM card works in U.S. Citibank ATMs. Has not worked as yet in non-Citibank ATMs.

Monday, September 04, 2006

The Thrilling Conclusion to the Mystery of the Stolen Whiskey!

On August 21, 2006, the company purchased me a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red Label* which I promptly turned over to Jonathan, who had gifted me the stolen whiskey. By some twisted Indian logic, this event was precipitated by my mentor's threat to buy me a bottle of whiskey himself by the end of the day if the company wouldn't. Thus endeth the Story of the Whiskey.

* Let's ignore the difference between Tennessee and Scotland and call it even.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Back in NY

So, yes, I am back in NY. I arrived back last Sunday. It is surprisingly not-weird to be here. It feels just like... being home.

I dropped off the face of the blogging Earth two weeks ago because (a) I had an enormous amount of work to do before I left Bangalore, (b) I've been just totally disoriented since I got back, and (c) NYU handed me a new laptop on Monday and I've spent all of my computer fiddling time since then trying to get wireless and "suspend to RAM" (i.e., sleep) working under Linux* (not responding to email, catching up on blogs, or getting any real work done).

I've actually got a bunch of things stacked up that I need to blog about, including: an end to the Saga of the Whiskey, the final lessons of India, the irritating trip home amid the Liquid Explosives Scare of '06, the Ballad of the Lost Bag, and "closeted gay friends: what's the deal?" Stay tuned.

* Anybody? Tips? The PC's a Dell Inspiron 6400, the wireless card's a Broadcom 1390, which I finally got working with a custom-compiled ndiswrapper**. Suspend to RAM seems hopeless.***

** NDIS!! Oh, how I loathe you!

*** As a result of my summer employment, I am feeling marginally more inclined to fuck it and just run Windows XP. The thing is, I spent an inordinate amount of my summer trying to get Cygwin and MSVC to play nice together and I long for a nice, reasonable command shell and a compiler to go with it.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

20:12 IST, 19 August 2006

There's this project on Flickr to have lots of people submit photos they took at exactly 2:42pm GMT, 19 August 2006. At the appointed hour (as ajudged by my insanely accurate timepiece), Carolyn and I were stuck in traffic coming back from Koramangala. I'm not sure what the exact rules are wrt sub-minute accuracy and what-not, but I now have three candidate pictures for submission. Let's take a vote!

The auto driver next to us (not our auto driver!), who thought we were two completely insane tourists:
20:12 IST (Auto driver)

Carloyn, centered and washed out by the flash, with a hint of another auto driver giving us the skunk eye:
20:12 IST (Carolyn)

Carolyn, off-kilter and trying to simultaneously take a picture of me:
20:12 IST (Carolyn, reflexivity)

Vote in comments.

Day Report

Vijay invited us to visit his Dad's business, which is AFAIK to train pilots, build specialty aircraft, and sell aviation novelties.
I didn't even realize it was Vijay's family business until we were already there and he said, "Do you want anything? Just take it."

Vijay and His Dad (in Plaque Form)

After a while I got bored and decided to just annoy Deb.


Later, we went to Cunningham Rd and had a disappointing meal.

Disappointing appetizers

What a day!

High Quality Women

This is classic. And more here. Via Becks.

May I suggest a conservative over-approximation for Ms. Mackey Paisley Passey that avoids the arrogance charge? "I do not accept romantic propositions that I receive from strangers via email or blog comments. Thanks but no thanks." Wasn't that easy?

[UPDATE 8/20/2006] As Ms. Wei points out in comments there's more fun here. Executive summary: ugly people beat their girlfriends and poor people are immoral. You go girl!

The Taj Mahal is Deviationist

Sitting in front of the Taj Mahal (which, for my American readers, was built by the Muslim Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his wife, incorporates verses of the Qu'ran into its design, and has an on-site mosque), I remember asking Hilleary what Osama bin Laden would think of it. The pinnacle of Muslim civilization's accomplishments or an impious despot's folly?

She said she had no idea and that predicting Osama bin Laden's thought patterns is not an activity that interests her.

I think this helps answer my question. (Although, it is not clear how legitimate this threat is or how well it ties in with the Islamo-whatsist world-view.)

1 Bottle Whiskey == 0 Bottles Beer

Gilbird just handed me a bill of Rs 120 for 2 bottles of beer. So they weren't intended as repayment for the Jack Daniel's.

I spoke with Lepakshi on the phone and asked why I had received the beer. He said I received it because I had asked for it. But I hadn't. Gilbird says he was pulled away from his other work to go on an emergency beer run on my behalf.

This is all very strange, no? But I like beer. I even told Gilbird I am willing to pay for it (it's a fair price and I am glad to drink it), but he refused to take the money. He wants to get to the bottom of this. Good luck, man! I give up!

[UPDATE 9/4/2006] I paid for the beer before I left (at least I tried to). And Gilbird quit.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Liquid explosives

Not so easy to mix up. Via Kevin Drum.

Bonus happy talk about terrorism from John Rogers:

Who the hell am I supposed to be scared of? Joseph Padilla, dirty bomber who didn't actually know how to build a bomb, had no allies or supplies, and against whom the government case is so weak they're now shuffling him from court to court to avoid the public embarassment of a trial? The fuckwits who were going to take down the Brooklyn Bridge with blowtorches? Richard Reid, the Zeppo of suicide bombers? The great Canadian plot that had organized over the internet, was penetrated by the Mounties on day one, and we were told had a TRUCK FULL OF EXPLOSIVES ... which they had bought from the Mounties in a sting operation but hey let's skip right over that. Or how about the "compound" of Christian cultists in Florida who were planning on blowing up the Sears Tower with ... kung fu?

John Mark Karr

I have never been particularly interested in the the JonBenet Ramsey murder, partly because I just don't get into this sort of tabloid-y stuff and partly because the whole gestalt was just so Ick-Ick-Icky. But the story of this guy who claims to have murdered her is just really interesting. The dude looks exactly like a child murderer is supposed to look. He says he was “with JonBenet when she died.” He was picked up in Thailand, to which he had traveled in order to quasi-legally fuck children.

This is a tabloid story, people. Not Kate and Chris. Get real!

[UPDATE] His wife says he was in Alabama. Could this face tell a lie?


Josh Marshall flunks rhetoric, but captures my heart...

Is there anyone in the country who can say honestly, in their heart of hearts, that when that moment of fear hit them after the recent reports out of London, they said to themselves, "God, I'm glad we're in Iraq"?


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Pity the poor mangosteen

Either (1) the mangosteens I bought the other day were not the best of the batch, (2) those damn ants got in there and ruined them, or (3) they don't take well to refrigeration (although it stuns and/or kills the ants). Mangosteen, my exalted queen! Why have you forsaken me?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Little kids being nuts

Just the thing to take your mind off the end of the world.


My hand has healed to the point where I can make use of it in most normal situations. There's still some swelling, which pushes my knuckle out of whack, and it still hurts if pressed, squeezed, or twisted.

Which brings me to handshaking. I suppose I am a bit of a handshaking pedant, feeling that a handshake which is neither too limp nor too firm (the Goldilocks shake) is an essential aspect of good character. The predicament of having a fractured hand without a cast puts me in something of a characterological double bind.

My strategy at first was to simply offer my hand and pray that my shaking partner was not one of those confounded knuckle grinders. This usually did not turn out well.

Then I tried offering my left hand. This is awkward.

Another course is to hold up my hand and declare, "I am injured," thereby excusing myself from the shake. This is lame.

Putting my comfort ahead of my reputation, I have stumbled across a foolproof strategy. As the hands come together, I conspire to make sure that only my fingers end up in the other party's palm. The result is the ultimate in a weak handshake---the action is essentially equivalent to offering up my hand to be kissed.

Well, it has proven to be an effective anti-knuckle-crunching prophylactic. And nobody has kicked my ass yet.

Photo by liz_dalton via Flickr.


I'm sitting in bed, eating a mangosteen*, when I look down and my bowl is absolutely crawling with ants. "Huh. That's fast work," I thought. "Where did those ants come from?" Then I looked at my hand. And the fruit. Which were both covered in ants. Ack!

This might explain why only 2 of the 6 fruits in that batch were edible.

* Yes, mangosteen**. Which is not a kind of mango.

** Wikipedia says, "Mangosteen juice is a dye which can be almost impossible to remove from fabric (the reason why they are banned from some hotels in countries where they are available)." My bedsheets can attest to this fact.

Monday, August 14, 2006


Gilbird came over tonight with two bottles of beer, sent courtesy of Lepakshi. Thanks, Lepakshi! 40 more bottles like that and we'll be in the ballpark!

* I apologize for this unimaginative, generic title. This could have been the title of every single post I've done in the last 3 months...

[UPDATE 8/19/2006] Beer actually sent courtesy of my line of credit.

Jack Daniel's

On July 4, 2006, Jonathan gave me the present of 1 liter of Jack Daniel's Tennessee whiskey. Unlike some brands of liquor, which are franchised to Indian distillers and sold for Rs 400-500, Jack Daniel's is imported from the US and costs more than Rs 3000.

Over the course of the next few weeks, no more than 5 shots of whiskey were poured. When we left for Delhi and points North on July 21, 2006, the bottle was more than 3/4 full.

When we arrived back in Bangalore on August 3, 2006, as I briefly mentioned, the whiskey was almost entirely gone. And to the extent that the contents had been diluted in the fashion of a homeopathic remedy, it was just plain gone.

The only people who had been in the guest house in those two weeks were two other MSR employees (who are moderate of habit and, in fact, teetotallers) and the household help.

Since I hadn't actually paid for the whiskey, I felt awkard about complaining. But at the same time, the housekeepers absolutely should not be drinking my liquor. So I complained to the appropriate persons in the lab.

Two days later, on August 7, 2006, I was informed that the culprit had been identified, had confessed, and would be made to pay. "Tomorrow."

Six days later, on August 13, 2006, the new housekeeper, Gilbird, informed me that the accused had "left the state" and was now denying that he ever drank the whiskey. "He cleaned the toilet and made the bed only. On his mother he swears."

Today, August 14, 2006, Gilbird, his manager Lepakshi, and the accused housecleaner knocked on my door at 10:00 AM. (Was the accused extradicted or had he given himself up? I don't know.) Lepakshi told me this was the boy who stole my whiskey, but he claims now to not have stolen it (and again with the toilet and the bed and the mother), and what did I want to say about that?


[UPDATE 8/15/2006] Two bottles of beer appear.

[UPDATE 8/19/2006] And are billed to my account. Word is that a resolution is pending... "Tomorrow"?

[UPDATE 9/4/2006] A bottle of Johnnie Walker appears. Close enough.

Shivanasamudra & Somnathpur

New photo set.

Day Trippin'

The good parts:

A really good breakfast at Kamat's on Mysore Road. Maybe the best meal I've had since Haridwar.

The falls:
The Falls

The temple:
Somnathpur temple, side

The hysterical laughing on the car ride home.

The bad parts:

The potholes:

The Qualis:
The Qualis

The 3 or 4 hours driving over potholes in the Qualis.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

What is your good name, sir?

I really don't understand where this question comes from. I guess it's a clumsy translation of the local formalities. My answer is always "Christopher" (which inevitably comes back as "Mr. Christopher"), since "Chris" can easily become "Krishna" and "Conway" is just a waste of everybody's time. People here know the name "Christopher" the same way Americans know... Um... Are there any Indian names that Americans know? "Vijay"? "Ravi"? (Stupid Americans.)

Sunday, August 06, 2006

I'm Sick

Damn it. Felt on the verge of something all day yesterday and today I've woken up with a wicked sore throat.

Funny thing is I've been taking Cipro for unrelated stomach problems*, so either this is a viral infection or I've been breeding super-bacteria in my throat.

Another funny thing is that I'm realizing Hilleary was kind of lucky to get sick while we were traveling, because we could just call room service and ask for lemon or ginger tea. Whereas I'm about to go to the supermarket to go buy lemons and ginger and assemble a tea myself in the guest house kitchen. I think there's a knife in there somewhere...

I'm also going to the pharmacist to see if he will sell me anything like the Halls Defense lozenges that H and I swear by at times like these and to replenish my stock of ibuprofen, the only over-the-counter medication that I don't have a 200 or 300% overstock of**.

* It's a sign of the times that, after two days of the shits, I am only declaring myself sick now that my throat is sore.

** I have a gross oversupply of diarrhea and gas medicine, which I haven't taken at all, and Benedryl and loratadine, which I have taken only rarely. I don't have any cold medicine (e.g., Dayquil, Nyquil), which is now on Hilleary's "don't leave home without it" list. I went to the pharmacist in Jodhpur with a list of the active ingredients in Dayquil, which led to some rummaging in the back and the production of two dusty bottles of "expectorant". When we went to the hospital, H was prescribed 6 different medicines at once, which were (I have the receipt right here): Zifi LBX, Dilosyn, Zyrtec D, Sporlac, Flexon, and Pantop-D. Dayquil, people! It's good stuff!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Airport Blues

Hilleary reports that, after we spent twenty minutes going from the curb to the terminal entrance and parted, it took her another two hours to reach her departure gate. (I'm not sure how bad the queues were inside the terminal or how much line-cutting this figure incorporates, but H can get pretty feisty when she's stressed out.) World Class Airport!

More trip pictures

H left a bunch of good pictures out of her batch yesterday, so I've uploaded some more. Here are the new ones all in one place, or you can find them in context in the previously linked sets, below.

Chandra done gone

Chandra the houseboy has been replaced with a... houseman? (Gilbird, I think. Is that a name?) Inviting friends over to watch our TV has been replaced with scheduling a time to mop the floors and make the bed. He didn't just leave lunch on the table; he started to set a place for me (before I told him not to bother). Then he made me sign for my lunch. Then he cleaned my room and bathroom and asked me to check it to make sure I was satisfied. Five years of hotel experience, he claims.

This is a little much.

P.S. I assume that Gilbird (??? that can't be right...) is not responsible for the liter of Jack Daniel's whiskey that disappeared while we were away, replaced with 50 ml of a 2 parts water/1 part Jack Daniel's mixture.

The wife done gone

Hilleary, departing
Originally uploaded by C+H.

My God, those six weeks went by fast.

H left last night for America via a stunning assortment of other intermediary destinations. The scene at the airport was absurd: a crowd of hundreds of people waiting to get through the front door of the terminal. Note: this was not the line to check in or to get through security. It took us at least twenty minutes---maneuvering through a typically chaotic Indian "queue"---to get from the curb to the terminal entrance, where I had to say goodbye, because (if I recall the sign correctly (meant to get a picture, but I got all discombobulated bidding farewell)), "Visitor entrance prohibited. Inconvenience caused is regretted."

(BTW, according to our driver, the back-up was totally normal and not the result of, e.g., enhanced security measures. Just a typical evening at the Worst Airport Ever*.)

And so, for me, 12 weeks down, 3 weeks to go. I'm going to miss Hilleary, but after spending 6 weeks apart in May and June, I feel like the next 3 will go by in the blink of an eye. Then again, considering I have no plans whatsoever for the rest of the month except to work until my eyes bleed, I may be unpleasantly surprised.

* It's not really the airport's fault, I should note. The airport (and the buses and the roads and the trains, etc) of Bangalore were designed for a city like Palm Springs (the Bangalore of 25 years ago), not for a city like San Jose (the Bangalore of today). The infrastructure of the city is lagging about 10 years behind its economy.

Friday, August 04, 2006

On having returned

New photo sets:
Shimla and Chandigarh
Delhi, Rajasthan, and Agra

Quoth Hilleary

Originally uploaded by C+H.

"We take pictures of goats eating garbage. And they take pictures of us."

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Visiting the Hospital (Again)

Consulting with the doctor

Receiving IV antibiotics

Jodhpur is Awesome

A five hundred year old city sitting in the desert with a fort looming overhead. And somebody got the bright idea to paint half the buildings powder blue. And everybody flies kites.

On the Brighter Side

In the middle of our Day of Woe, Hilleary lost her passport. After tearing the hotel room apart, we traced our steps back to an Internet cafe where we had been trying to change our train reservations at least five hours before. The proprietor produced the passport with a flourish the moment we stepped through the door.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

On New Delhi

It's pretty unnerving to walk around seeing so many white faces. This was understandable in a small resort village like Mamallapuram, but seems preposterous in a city the size of New Delhi. At breakfast, there were three copies of the Lonely Planet guide on two adjacent tables. Of course, we were staying along the Main Bazaar near the New Delhi train station, which is tourist central.

[UPDATE 8/5/2006] See?

Lost Day

Friday turned into a convalescence day. On the train back from Haridwar Thursday night, I had the shits, the shakes, and the dry heaves. I took a hit of Cipro and slept off the worst of it on the train. When we arrived in Delhi, we realized we had made a rookie's mistake: we scheduled our trip to Agra for Friday, the day that the Taj Mahal is closed. This casts our itinerary into disarray. Jaiselmer had to be sacrificed. Then Hilleary took ill with a cough and flu-like symptoms. Sprinkle in some hotel nonsense that I won't even get into and we spent most of our time skulking around the Main Bazaar in New Delhi, still not seeing a damn thing worth seeing in that stinking town...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Everywhere we go, people* ask if they can take a** picture with us. What's up with this? We're not in Papua, New Guinea, or even in the less-travelled parts of India. There are always other white people around. Is it because I'm tall? Or because H is particularly pretty? Or do Indian boys collect pictures of white people*** the way American boys collect trading cards?

* Mostly teenage boys. But just yesterday (for the first time) we were asked by what appeared to be a couple of young married women.

** They always ask if they can take "a picture" but they usually take six, with every combination of people present.

*** Or just white women? They usually seem creepily more interested in H than me.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Qs on Haridwar, Ganges, Pilgrims...

Indian experts, please weigh in. We will append more questions as necessary...

[C] What's the deal with bathing in the Ganges anyway?

[C] Does the Ganges form a kind of cloak of invisibility around the bare-breasted women who are bathing in it? Women who would never wear a skirt above the ankle or a sleeve above the shoulder on a non-Ganges-bathing day? Am I not actually seeing the naked breasts I think I'm seeing?

[H] Pilgrimages: substitute for a family vacation, or something altogether different? Do you take the whole family for a quick dip in the river, say a prayer, and then on to the amusement park? Or do parents and kids and all spend large chunks of time pilgraming together? Do you get pilgramage time off work?

[C] Might you take a quick bath on your way home from work, or is the Ganges a special-occasion-only bath?

Loud and Shrill

You would think it is a fundamental matter of human physiology that we are repelled by loud and shrill noises, and not a matter of cultural conditioning. Not so.

I'm not referring to the sounds of Indian pop music, which can be somewhat shrill to the untrained ear. I am referring to the sounds of that same music when played at top volume through a cheap hand-held cassette player on a train or a bus. I am referring to the man who, lacking a hand-held cassette player, decided to play monophonic ring tones on his mobile for six hours on the train. I am referring to the prevalance of the SOS ring tone on mobiles through the country ("bipbipbip BEEP BEEP BEEP bipbipbip"). I am referring to bus drivers who spend more than 50% of the time leaning on their (LOUD) horns*. None of this seems to faze the common India. Whereas H and I sit next to one another in various phases of homocidal mania.

* They spend an equal proportion of their time passing other cars, buses, pedestrians, and domesticated animals on the left, right, and middle sides of the road.

Indian Trains

The only thing worse than the Indian train reservation website is... the reservation booth at any train station in India. There is no such thing as an orderly queue at the train station.

H and I had a pretty bad day trying to deal with the trains yesterday, which I guess climaxed at the ticket window in Chandigarh where I put my arm over the shoulder of a man who had shamelessly cut in front of me, shoved the reservation slip through the window*, and exclaimed, "Look at me with my long arms! I guess I'm in front of you! How about that? I'm number one!" and then laughed maniacally.

I'm not proud of it. Much.

* This is the only factor which determines who is helped and when in the train station line. It doesn't matter when you joined the line, where you are standing, or even how loud you shout and how hard you shove... All that matters is whether your reservation slip and cash are within the most convenient reach of the clerk.

Himalayas 1, Us 0

The bottom line is: you can't "do" the Himalayas in 3-4 days. So we retreated after 2 mostly-pleasant days in Shimla, took the toy train down the hills in the unreserved car with a thousand Punjabi Boy Scouts and their alcoholic Sikh scoutmaster, and spontaneously jumped off the Delhi train in Chandigarh...

Question of the day: "How do you make chapati where you are from?"

Sunday, July 23, 2006


Who knew there would be rain and fog in the mountains during monsoon season? Cooling our heels here in Shimla for another 24 hours before we try moving to Kalpa, another 1,000 meters up, because we slept in and missed the bus. Enjoying curry and pooris for breakfast and samosas for lunch. Walked up a very steep hill yesterday to see nothing but fog and monkeys. Walked down with a nice boy who wanted nothing from us and even paid our bus fare.

And I am not blogging Hillearys freak out on the train. (Ask me over a beer sometime.)

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Points North

Blogging will be light-to-nonexistent for the next two weeks as we set off for points North: Delhi, Shimla, Jaipur, Agra... The usual suspects mostly. We'll check in at odd Internet cafes along the way, but we may still be keeping the world safe for freedom and the tubes may be narrow. A happy, sweltering July to you all.

Virtually Singapore

Adding to H's previous post, one perplexing detail is I have been able to access the blog from work all week. This is because, through some routing trickery or other, MSR connects to the Internet via Singapore. So, if you want to plan a terrorist attack in India using a blog, join MSR*. If you want to chew gum** and surf the Internet at the same time, stick with Airtel.

* This is very, very obviously a joke. I have no desire to see the Indian version of Guantanamo.

** OK, that was supposed to be a lame throw-away Singapore chewing gum ban reference, but this is too weird not to point out: there is an exception to the Singapore law for "therapeutic" gum. There is also a proposal to allow the importation of small quantities for personal use!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


This is weird. We haven't been able to read anything on Blogspot or Typepad on the internet connection in our apartment for a couple of days, although we could post just fine. We thought it was just a strange and irritating glitch. But apparently it's because Indian ISPs have been instructed by the government to Block Blogs. You know, to fight terror! Um, okay.

Help, help, we're being repressed!

(If you're in India and having this problem, go here.)

Update: It was just a misunderstanding, says the Indian consulate in NY! ISPs were told to block Some blogs, and instead blocked All blogs. To be fixed soon, they say. So dumb, the entire thing.

Exit Tobi, Enter Pain

Last night was Tobi's last in Bangalore. He's off to Delhi to stand outside the Pakistani embassy for four days in the rain*. A bunch of us went out to Opus to bid him farewell. Tobi is a lot of fun; I will miss him.


When we left Opus, we went back to the office and set up some drums on the roof. Then we jammed.

Jamming on the roof

After jamming a while, we started playing with the kickboxing equipment. I put on some boxing gloves and hit this punching bag about as hard as I could.

Punching Bag*

Turns out the punching bag is filled with sand and has been sitting on the roof for months. So it's filled with wet sand. Which might as well be concrete. My hand hurt.

It hurt really bad actually. But I could move my fingers and everything, so I figured I was OK. But when I went to work this morning and tried to type, I couldn't really do anything without wanting to cry. Prasad recommended a doctor.

The Doctor Examines the Patient

Who recommended an X-ray.

Right Hand X-Ray, Oblique

It seems I may have a hairline fracture near my wrist. She prescribed an Ace bandage and some Extra Strength Tylenol. The total cost for my visit, X-ray, bandage and all, was Rs 620 (about US $14).

The Hand, The Bandage

Now I'm all better. Except I can't use my damn hand.

* By choice. He wants to travel through Pakistan**.

** Also by choice.