November 27, 2006
I've been watching some football in HD on my big TV this year. Since all HD broadcast options at this time in our history are about as appealing as drinking sewage for lunch, I've been doing it over the air.... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Football on TV"
November 23, 2006
It's the United Atheist Alliance that has the correct answer to the Great Question. Science damn you! $MTEntryExcerpt$>
November 16, 2006
writing this short essay on the common obsession of worrying about one's looks and, specifically, fat. It's not simply for the content of her essay, which is typically simply written, personal, direct, and to the point, but because she pointed me towards the artist "Pink" and her song "Stupid Girls" (iTunes link). The song is good. The video, however, (YouTube link, iTunes link) moves beyond the realm of "good" into "magically awesome." (Used in a sentence: "Gabriel Garcia-Marquez's novel 100 Years of Solitude is an example of the literary style known as magical awesomeness.") $MTEntryExcerpt$>
November 15, 2006
Winter in Pittsburgh can be a cold and cruel time. The weather turns gray, with a chilly wind and the occasional slushy rain. It has been this way this week in Pittsburgh, but I haven't let it beat me down... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Small Favors"
November 08, 2006
When briefed on election results, President Bush declared that the Republican Party was on a path to victory. He further chided media reports that emphasized results in House races. Tip of the hat to Rochberg for the joke... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
November 07, 2006
There is a great scene in the film High Fidelity where one of Jon Cusack's buddies comes over to see if the wants to go clubbing, and finds Cusack on the floor of his apartment surrounded by piles of records.... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "The One True Index"
November 06, 2006
When I still used to DJ regularly, I conformed to all of the college radio stereotypes. I spoke in the obligatory disinterested monotone (MP3 recording of a simulation here), played obscure bands on minor labels, and inflicted unlistenable electronic garbage upon my listeners. I was sophisticated. I was hipper than thou. I was, in short, a complete jackass. As I've gotten older, my tastes in music have both expanded and calcified. I'm willing to listen to almost anything, but there needs to be some hook, some immediate accessibility to let me in to the music. Noise and industrial soundscapes are simply not in the equation: when someone asks me to listen to something inscrutable, I ask myself: why am I wasting valuable time that could be spent listening to Tom Waits, instead? While I'm sure this might deprive me of a lot of exciting new music, all is not lost, for there is one side door I have left open: I'm an absolute sucker for covers. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Out I Never Did Figure It"
October 23, 2006
Just over five years ago today, Apple Computer invited members of the press to an event in which Apple would introduce "a breakthrough digital device". The all-knowing Mac rumor mill quickly swung into action, revealing that the device would be... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "In Soviet Cupertino, Apple Portable Music Player Owns You"
October 03, 2006
When I drive to visit my extended family, we take a route from Pennsylvania to Massachusetts that crisscrosses through upstate New York. It's not a long drive, but it is not a trivial one either, so it's important to have... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "The NPR I Want"
September 05, 2006
I've written about my need to get rid of books before. Tonight I made another pass, and achieved my short-term goal: I've taken enough books off of my shelves to free up one entire bookshelf. Which means I can move that bookshelf out of the room it is in. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Downsizing"
August 29, 2006
I've had my current road bike since I moved back to Pittsburgh in the early 90s. So, I imagine that it is almost 15 years old. In this time, I have spent a lot of time shopping for my "next... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "The Proper Road Bike"
August 26, 2006
Pittsburgh doesn't like one of my favorite bands, Me First & The Gimme Gimmes. (via Pittsblog) PS: It occurs to me after the fact that this could simply be something that sucks about baseball. Somehow I can't imagine the band getting a better reception in whatever they're calling Candlestick Park now. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
August 25, 2006
Dear Astronomers: You seem to be having some trouble making up your minds deciding which of the celestial bodies orbiting our star is a planet. I read your revised definitions where you explain that Pluto is "not a planet" but... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Revised Planetary Mnemonic Update"
August 21, 2006
Since they're changing the rules on me, I need a new mnemonic to remember the names of the planets. This one is mine and mine alone. "My Very Earnest Mother, Camille, Just Served Us Nine Pickles (Cornichons, eXactly)." (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Ceres, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, Charon, Xena) $MTEntryExcerpt$>
August 18, 2006
I found out today that my favorite record store of all time closed last month.... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "For the Record, RIP"
August 08, 2006
What we drive speaks volumes about us. But sometimes, the message that we think we're giving off isn't the message everyone hears. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "The Cars Make the Man"
August 04, 2006
For this afternoon, a short meditation on one of modern life's stupidities. I write this rant in my head every time I have to take the wheel off my bike. Here is why.... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "No Lawyer Nibs"
July 20, 2006
Yesterday Floyd Landis was cooked. 10K from the top of the last climb, he looked up the road completely helpless as the group he was riding in rode away from him. You could see in his face and his body... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Going Solo"
July 17, 2006
Tonight I helped a friend change a tire on his car. I was calm, efficient, and helpful, and we got the tire changed in under 10 minutes. The funny part about this is that I know that if it had been my car, I would have anxiously dithered around for a half hour before working up the will to fix the problem. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Wheels On Fire"
July 11, 2006
I've been laid up with a bug for the past few days. This, coupled with my recent vacation, has allowed me to catch up on my reading list. Here's what I've been reading recently. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "The Sick-In-Bed Reading List"
June 07, 2006
On my block, I'm the Bad Neighbor. Oh, I'm not terrible or anything. I'm nice to people, and polite, and I don't have my car on blocks in the front yard. Nor do I blast music at 3 in the morning, or hang out on the porch getting drunk and whistling at neighborhood girls. But I'm the Bad Neighbor for one very simple reason: my lawn is terrible, and I don't care. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "The Bad Seed"
June 01, 2006
Today during lunch we were talking about style, and one of the gang opined that if only he was incredibly rich, he'd have more style. I disagreed: you don't need money to have style. Having money doesn't give you style. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "The Beautiful People"
May 19, 2006
All fitness hobbies require appropriate accessorization. In many ways cycling is one of the most accessory-intensive activities that you can be involved in. As a public service, I will provide you with a list of things you need, and the... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "The Cycling Costume"
May 16, 2006
We were in the local Border's a couple of days ago. I guess we hadn't been there for a while, because all the books were in different places, and the store had cunningly replaced inventory with empty floorspace in order... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Da Vinci Blows"
May 08, 2006
Recently Jeff at work asked me where to go to buy a bike. As I recall, he didn't really ask what kind of bike he should buy, but being the self-absorbed dork asshole that I am, I could not help... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Road Bikes"
April 27, 2006
It was just last year, in my mid-30s, that I learned how to tie my shoes. Yes, at a time when most other men are getting ready to buy a Porsche, get a stupid little French-style beret to cover their bald spot, and maybe start visiting a tanning salon, I finally learned how to tie my shoes properly. It's not my fault, though: I blame society. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "If The Shoe Slips, Swear At It"
April 24, 2006
The little boy had been off by himself for a while while the rest of us were near the stream pretending to fish. When he came back had a net full of frogs. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Kiss That Frog"
April 10, 2006
We heard some good new music at the PSO this weekend. I can see all of you out there rolling your eyes. "New" Classical Music is assumed to be some soulless abstract exercise in collecting clever compositional tricks and throwing... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Some New Music"
April 03, 2006
It started, as it always did, with a random connection, a set of neurons in my brain that misfired in an amusing way..
Someone was talking about how someone they knew was wearing hideous pants. The word "hideous" made me think of a book by the execrable C.S. Lewis (yes, the Narnia one) called That Hideous Strength. This book is about the Asskicking Jesus. Earth is under threat from space aliens, so the Asskicking Jesus flies to Mars to beat them up until they stop.
No, really. That's what the book is about. I swear. God, I really hate C.S. Lewis.
Anyway, one thing led to another, and before I knew it, I had blurted out, as if it were the title of a book, "THOSE HIDEOUS PANTS". And we were off to the races. We changed the rules about halfway through, but it doesn't really matter. Even though we've done this before, it's still pure comedy gold.
Enjoy, and as always, feel free to add your own.$MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "You Can Never Be Too Rich, Or Have Too Many Pants"
March 13, 2006
If there are two things dorks like to do more than anything else in the world, it's tell you why their favorite widget is the best one to ever grace human existence and why your thing is just barely better... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Figure of Merit"
March 06, 2006
...And, in an amusing bit of synchronicity, my copy of the abridged version of The Count of Monte Cristo arrived in the mail today. It confirms my prejudices. Read the full version of the book, or don't read it at all. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
March 03, 2006
I was going to rant and foam at the mouth tonight about the sorry state of the current battle in the consumer electronics industry over "convergence" of entertainment devices in the living room. Unfortunately, I'm just not interested enough in... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Curious George"
March 01, 2006
Like everyone who suffered through high school English classes, I have always maintained a healthy disrespect for "the classics." What I learned from English class is that, for the most part, literature is a form of punishment, where drab and joyless works are held up as exemplars to be studied, dissected, and ultimately emulated. In college, our freshman English classes were run by disaffected Marxist TA's. They showed me that when examining a text — among grad students, even a cheeseburger is a "text" — worrying about the quality of the writing, as opposed to its political significance, was the sign of a stunted bourgeois mentality.
So it came to a shock to me when I read Treasure Island as an adult, and found that it was a thrilling, vibrant read: not simply a great story, but a well-written book. Where was this book all my life? Why subject students to The Scarlet Letter and stamp a boot into the face of their urge to read, forever, when you could give them a book they couldn't put down?
This month I began reading The Count of Monte Cristo and am having that same feeling all over again. It is a book that is so superbly crafted, so honed, so polished, that — to borrow a phrase from Douglas Adams — every few pages I have to suppress the urge to break into spontaneous applause.$MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Late to the Party"
February 16, 2006
Firms spend millions upon millions of dollars conceiving, developing, building, marketing, and advertising their wares. They beg us to buy them. Their very existence depends on our whim and desire. And then, when victory is at hand, and when the... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "The Package"
February 15, 2006
We went to a PSO concert last weekend. This is the first show we have been to in about a year. In the past, I used my PSO experiences to show why the cultural position of Classical Music in our... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Classical Music: Not Dead Yet"
February 13, 2006
Let's talk about Valentine's Day. I'm going to take the long way around to get there. We're going to travel dangerously close to the confessional, but I promise we will eventually return to the subject of love, lust, and desire. Sit down. Make yourself comfortable. Have a piece of chocolate. As some of you may be aware, I had a catastrophic hard drive failure on my gaming PC about a month ago. It wasn't the boot disk, so the main effect was that I lost most of the games I had installed on the machine. Most of those games, it should be noted, I never actually played. I ended up reinstalling Windows, mostly to wipe the Starforce virus that the jerks who made Etherlords II infected my machine with. And after that, I began installing games. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Games Lovers Play"
February 06, 2006
First things first. Steelers win! Woohoo!! Yeeeaaaahhhh!!!. Now that that's out of the way, I think we all have to admit that this was, on balance, a sub-par performance by everyone involved. Let's catalog our collection of complaints.... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Stupor Bowl"
January 30, 2006
Broadcast HD television is a complex and confusing landscape. There are multiple delivery systems (satellite, cable, over the air) with multiple evil vendors (Comcast, DirecTV, DISH) and multiple levels of availability and service. I was ready to put off the... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "HDTV OTA SOS"
January 26, 2006
I used to like buying books. Now I like giving them away. Once upon a time — the story began — I had an empty shelf and very few books. Ah, the innocence of youth: I enjoyed buying books. I enjoyed reading them, and putting them on my shelf for all the world, or at least the part of the world that visited my apartment, to see. How clever, how sophisticated, how worldly! Look! Thomas Pynchon! This man has read Thomas Pynchon, or at least has his books on his shelf, which amounts to the same thing. But the worm turns, and with age comes wisdom. And now, I am giving many of my books away. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Criss-Cross"
January 24, 2006
I took a trip out and back to California last week and spent more time than usual reading words off paper as opposed to in their more pixelated form.... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Plane Reading"
January 12, 2006
Soon after picking up my shiny new television, my old Sony DVD player finally started to give up the ghost. I bought this player along with my first DVD, a copy of The Matrix. That movie probably sold more first... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "DVD Heaven"
January 09, 2006
There are two types of men in the world: those who buy electric razors, and those who actually need to shave. Here's what happens to me when I use an electric razor. I plug it in, and turn it on. I hold it up to my beard and move it around. Nothing happens. I move it around some more, and apply a little pressure. I can hear the tips of some of my hairs being trimmed, but nothing else happens. I rub it around my face and neck really hard. Now I still have a full beard, but in addition, my neck is all red and bumpy. I have managed to get razorburn without actually managing to shave any hair off. So for many years, I have made do with shower-shaving: I keep a Gilette Sensor (or Mach 3) in the shower, and shave there. This didn't give me a terribly good shave, but it was better than nothing. Now, I have a better way of shaving. It has just one minor problem: it's making me feel really, really gay. Not that there's anything wrong with that! $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "The Gay Blade"
January 04, 2006
Today, psu discovered that he had an extra copy of Miles Davis' seminal jazz recording Kind of Blue. So, he gave it to me. My last copy of this was a cassette tape that I lost some years ago, and I never got around to repurchasing it. But I'm one of those people who always look a gift horse in the mouth. What I should have done was just say "Thank you." But I couldn't help it. Almost instinctively, my mind started generating responses to this gift that had but a single purpose: to make psu cry. He even helped, and contributed one. Here they are: $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Kind of Blue Meanie"
January 03, 2006
Regular readers will recall that I have recently forked over a large amount of cash on a piece of A/V equipment. I gave up a small piece of my soul for a Sony television larger than my entire living room.... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "WWDDOCD (World Wide Distributed Dork OCD)"
December 23, 2005
Wrapping presents. I just wrapped a Christmas present, lumpily. I couldn't find any scotch tape, so I used surgical tape. It looks exactly as bad as you might imagine. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
December 21, 2005
To make any consumer product, thousands of decisions must be made. Inevitably, no one can get all of those decisions right. Even the best-designed gadget or toy will still have some mistakes in design or execution. Despite this, there are certain moves some companies make that go beyond bad, into the realm of the bewildering. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading ""What Were They Thinking?""
December 15, 2005
Why, you might ask, am I going to write about movies that have been out on DVD for two years? Well, new TV in hand, we sat down to watch some big movies. The biggest movies that we have are... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "FOTR, TTT:EE, OMG The Pain"
December 05, 2005
My friend Dave used to say that the exponential increase in hard disk capacity over time was sure proof that not only was the storage industry in league with the darker forces, but also that every disk platter was clearly... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Deal with the Devil"
November 17, 2005
In the distant past, around ten years ago, there was a hallowed time when the Internet both defined and demonstrated its true purpose. Back then, there were vendors on the net, like Amazon.com, from whom you could order almost anything... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "What the Internet is For"
October 27, 2005
Buying socks used to be easy. You'd go to the store, buy 6 pair of lightweight Smartwool hiking socks, and go home. Smartwool used to only make about three kinds of socks: thin, a bit thicker, and really thick. But,... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Choices I Don't Need"
October 20, 2005
I wanted to take a moment to put down some words about wool socks. It is often been my experience that wool socks are maligned things. "They're itchy," I am told. "They look goofy," they say. The intimation is that wearing wool socks brings with it immediate and irrevocable membership in some nebulous club that cares about recycling, saves kitchen scraps for the compost pile and is likely vegan. Plus wears socks with sandals. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Wool Socks"
October 19, 2005
If there is one inescapable fact of life in our dynamic technological society, it is that if enough people are interested in a given activity, the tools that enable that activity will change. I was thinking about this recently... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Tools of the Trade"
September 28, 2005
Bags are a problem. The modern dork has a lot of crap to carry around and protect on a daily basis. You have your laptop, cell phone, big camera, small camera, maybe a lens, a flash, Gameboy, PSP, sunglasses,... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Bagging It"
September 15, 2005
In every long running Science Fiction franchise, there is the notion of a tiny device that carries within it the capacity to store a ludicrously large amount of data by present day standards. Normally, you'll see some character pull... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Data Crystal"
September 14, 2005
It's part of my philosophy on this site to avoid the use of profanity. I'm making an exception today, as I relate an absolutely true verbal exchange I had driving in to work today. Driving through Schenley Park, I passed a guy on a bicycle. This isn't unusual. It turns out that in my country, people sometimes ride bikes, and often they ride them in parks. The guy was riding in the right hand lane, with traffic, fairly close to the curb. Just as I get past him, I hear a blaaaaaaaaaaarn of a loud horn. I look around to see if I've killed someone, and behind me is a huge Expedition-sized SUV. He's honking at the biker. There is a completely empty lane to the SUV driver's left. I keep an eye on my rear-view mirror to watch the situation develop. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Wrong of Way"
August 18, 2005
Currently eating away at my brain (in the good way) is Michael Penn's song "Walter Reed" from his new album, Mr. Hollywood Junior, 1947. An MP3 of this song is downloadable, for free, as part of the press kit for the album. Go forth and suffer as I have suffered. If you have iTunes (and who doesn't?) you can also watch the video. Michael Penn is married to Aimee Mann, and has done a lot of the production on her albums. More or less the song sounds like Aimee Mann. With a sex change. Excuse me, now I need to go listen to Hyperballad 47 times to try to get this out of my head. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
July 25, 2005
As anyone who isn't living on Mars probably knows, Lance Armstrong bowed out of bike racing this weekend with his unprecedented seventh straight in the Tour de France. Back in 1995, in the Indurain period, the long time cycling... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "The Second Lance"
July 18, 2005
The other day, someone was taunting me on our local chat system. He said something to the effect of "If Pete is so down on cliché and repitition, why does he watch the Tour de France year after year... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Go George"
July 12, 2005
If you haven't watched today's stage of the Tour, then move along.... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "How to Win a Bike Race"
July 06, 2005
It's the first week of July, which means the Tour De France has started again. The Tour, of late, has taken on a certain sameness. Lance starts, Lance stays out of trouble, Lance wins in the mountains, Lance takes... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "No Bad Days"
July 04, 2005
Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed, a long-time couple. How the hell did that happen? $MTEntryExcerpt$>
June 29, 2005
Bear with me for a few paragraphs, while I approach a review of the Disney release of Howl's Moving Castle from a very oblique direction. I'm one of the people who prefers to watch movies that are dubbed instead of subtitled, all things being equal. This is, apparently, a controversial position. I don't really understand how there can be any debate over this. If you have a movie with a superb dub, and a movie with great subtitles, the dub is the better movie. Period. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Howl's Moving Castle"
June 28, 2005
I have for the most part avoided watching pro basketball over the last few years. The main reason for this is the recent period of extended futility in which the Boston Celtics have found themselves trapped. But, I think there... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "NBA Basketball Returns"
June 20, 2005
I've actually done enough riding this year to progress past the "start gasping for air every time you come off the downhill" stage of fitness. More books than I can list here have been written about training for cycling. Certainly,... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "One Gear Higher"
June 16, 2005
The office had a trip to see the new Batman movie. The movie itself, while flawed in some ways, was for the most part enjoyable. However, the whole movie-going experience itself has become tedious in many ways.... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Going to the Movies"
June 13, 2005
Stephanie Zacharek of Salon doesn't like the new Hayao Miyazaki film, Howl's Moving Castle. I was ambiguous about seeing this film: Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke was epic, luminous, and put me to sleep, wheras the pacing of Spirited Away was just right. But Zacharek thought that Howl, based on the book by Diana Wynn Jones, was somewhat boring. Zacharek, helpfully, is always completely wrong about everything, so I'm taking that as a sign that Howl is probably pretty good, although not as good as it would have been had she thought it was a pile of unwatchable tripe. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
May 27, 2005
If you ever find yourself sitting in the F terminal of the FilthyPhiladephia International Aiport waiting for a U.S. Airways Express plane to take you back home to Pittsburgh, you know you have had a bad day. Every single person... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "The Perfect Storm"
May 24, 2005
In 1988, LSD was popular among some people at Carnegie Mellon. So much so that when a number of people had "bad trips," the administration released a public service announcement warning people: "The acid with the picture of the sunshine on it is bad, and has been causing bad trips. Stay away from the 'bad acid'". Then, of course, for the rest of the academic year, absolutely everyone on campus used "Whoah, bad acid!" as a catchphrase. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "...Or Anything By Tom Waits"
May 23, 2005
Today I saw the first hour and 40 minutes of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Ask the Audience"
May 18, 2005
Yes, I'm desperate for the sixth book in the Harry Potter series to be published, already. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Harry Up, Already"
May 12, 2005
Buying shoes used to be easy. You'd go to the store, try on two or three pair in your size and pick the one with the closest fit. You could also count on being able to go to the same... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "The Consumer Rule"
May 06, 2005
I don't normally just link to other weblogs without a connecting article, but I think that Red State Rabble's continuing coverage of the kangaroo court trying to re-introduce creationism in Kansas is self-explanatory, and import enough to warrant a bare link. Remember: if this sort of skullduggery succeeds in Kansas, it's likely that Pennsylvania is next. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
April 12, 2005
I flew to California yesterday for some work meetings. I found this flight to be an interesting platform on which to ponder various aspects in our social makeup.... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Flying on a Jet Plane"
April 08, 2005
It's Friday and we're all tired here, so instead of the usual thoughtful and opinion filled piece of writing, I will just present a list of questions so vexing, so complicated, confusing or just plain stupid that I've never been... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "In This Day and Age"
April 05, 2005
I've been on my bike for the first time this year. I generally ride when DST starts and stop when DST stops. While gasping for breath on the first hill of the year, I got to thinking about why I... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Lazy Cycling"
April 04, 2005
You know it's going to be a bad day when the first thing you read when you wake up is that the PA Legislature is considering a bill that reads, in part:
Section 1. The act of act of March 10, 1949 (P.L.30, No.14), known as the Public School Code of 1949, is amended by adding a section to read: Section 1516.2. Teaching Theories on the Origin of Man and Earth.--(a) In any public school instruction concerning the theories of the origin of man and the earth which includes the theory commonly known as evolution, a board of school directors may include, as a portion of such instruction, the theory of intelligent design. Upon approval of the board of school directors, any teacher may use supporting evidence deemed necessary for instruction on the theory of intelligent design.$MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "E pur, si muove"
April 01, 2005
In a world where it seems as if every web site has dumb and mostly unfunny pranks, some just plausible enough to make you do a spit-take before you've had your coffee, only Tea Leaves provides shelter from the storm. Once again it is our privilege to present a simple, modest space with no April Fool's jokes. Enjoy! $MTEntryExcerpt$>
March 29, 2005
Driving home from work on Friday night, we noticed a strange sight for Pittsburgh. A couple of dozen young people decked out in the Pierced Goth look that is prevelant among today's "non-conformist" youth were riding down Fifth Avenue connected... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Critical Mess"
February 10, 2005
One nice thing about not paying close attention to the bestseller lists is that when books come out in a series, I often don't even hear about them until all of them are out. That's what happened this year when I picked up The Golden Compass, the first book in Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials cycle. I'm naturally suspicious of any books that are part of a series, and this suspicion grows when that series is part of a marketing genre (such as sci-fi mystery, romance, and so on). Genre, by this definition, is more about satisfying the psychosexual disabilities of the reader, and therefore guaranteeing authors and publishers a target market, than it is about good writing. A series of books, furthermore, suggests a sort of literary disorder that could be cured by a brutal editor. "Are you such a poor writer," part of me wonders, "that you couldn't say what you needed to in a more elegant and concise fashion? If Gabriel Garcia-Marquez could tell the entire history of the Buendía clan in Cien Años de Solidad why do you need an extra fifteen hundred pages to tell a story that is less interesting and less emotionally moving?" This is of course unfair. One might as well complain that a play doesn't have music, or a ballet doesn't have breakdancing. The novel and the serial are essentially different media, and what is a transgression in one may be desirable in the other. I mention my distrust of the serial form only to give color and form to this discussion. In particular: when I mentioned that I was reading the series, the attitude I heard from more than one person was "Oh, yes, the first two books were great. A shame about the third one, though." This didn't fill me with hope. I pressed on, though, and finished all three books. Despite (or because of?) the warning, I liked The Amber Spyglass more than the first two books in the series. I thought it was the strongest of the three. This seems to be the minority position. The reason why is a topic worthy of discussion. Please note I will be discussing details from all the books, so if you want to avoid spoilers, read no further. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "The Amber Spyglass"
February 08, 2005
My friend Eric asked me what to do in Paris. Since I live to serve here is a list of my favorite activities. In general, I am not much of a tourist. My idea of a good time on a... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Paris Things"
February 07, 2005
Three championships in four years. Two championships in Boston in the same year. It's a good time to be a fan there right now. Too bad about the Celtics though. I guess I can finally forgive the Pats for that... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
January 27, 2005
It's been a while since the last top ten list. You know what that means. Today's topic: famous quotations that are improved if you replace one of the nouns with the word "pants." Some of the sources are obvious, some are a little more obscure. The tag of whoever suggested a particular twisted quote follows each quote in italics. Feel free to ask for attributions for the original quotes or contribute your own entries in the comments. "It is bitter -- bitter," he answered; "But I like it Because it is bitter, And because it is my pants."[peterb] Hope is the thing with trousers. [peterb] Cover her face; my pants dazzle; she died young.[agroce] $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Pants!"
January 14, 2005
Although I've documented how I hate California, I make something of an exception for San Francisco. My wife and I have travelled there periodically for the last fifteen years, and now it's become a pleasure to go and visit old... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "San Francisco"
January 12, 2005
Well, the Holiday Season is over, so let's get back to reality. Last week I gave you a sickeningly positive look at things that make my life bright. Here is the flip side.... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "10 Little Balls of Hate"
December 30, 2004
I have a reputation, perhaps deserved, of being generally grumpy and hateful. In the spirit of the Holiday Season, I thought I would try and dispel this notion by listing many things that I like, in no particular order.... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "10 Things I Like"
December 27, 2004
Today, I cancelled my satellite TV service. I have no more broadcast or cable TV. I hate saying that, since I've met so many people who get so in-your-face about not watching TV. You know the type. All you have to do is mention that, say, you saw the football game last night, and wasn't that a great interception, and these people will literally pounce from half a room away, rushing over to inform you, for the eighty-sixth goddamn time, they they wouldn't know, because they don't watch TV. They're too busy reading books and doing macrame and yoga and running their own business selling homemade homeopathic herbal tea. For me, the decision isn't really being driven by some sense of cultural superiority, but simple economics. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Signal To Noise"
December 02, 2004
Dear NPR, Your recent series of radio stories entitled "Digital Generations" is clearly the most ignorant, juvenile, cliched and simply lazy reporting that you have done all year, and that includes the coverage of the election. Where to start.... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Generational Digital Stupidity"
November 17, 2004
There was a discussion on our local chat system a while back about the genesis of the frenzy over Halo 2. Pete suggested that the pre-release hype for a game such as Halo has its origins in the hard-wired obsessive... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "The Latent Object"
November 05, 2004
You'd think that having an iPod would be an endless parade of musical bliss. And, mostly, it is. But the one worm in the apple is that now that you have 5,000 songs in the library, and you have to rate them.$MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "iTunes OCD"
November 03, 2004
November 02, 2004
Today's the day. Place your bets, make your choice, and vote. Four years ago, the cant among the hipper-than-thou was that it didn't matter whether Bush or Gore was elected, because they were both corporate drones with indistinguishable policies. Today, it is clear to everyone: it matters whether Bush or Kerry wins this election. It matters a lot. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
October 29, 2004
Here's a photo of a 1949 political billboard from Pittsburgh. The photo, courtesy of the Pittsburgh Courier Archives, is by Charles "Teeny" Harris, who took over 80,000 pictures depicting black life in Pittsburgh. The billboard is by the Republican party, which I guess hasn't changed much in fifty years. I originally saw this on Orcinus, who credits d. eaton with pointing it out to him. I think this image serves as a cogent and simple reminder that the political appeals to fear -- by either party -- are not some sort of new technique. They're not a unique outlier of a type that has never been seen before. They are part of the grand and sordid tradition of American politics. In a very real way, the terrorists of September 11th are the best friends of those in power in the US; they've provided a new set of images for our leaders to use to try to keep us scared and docile. If those images weren't here, our leaders would use other images -- whether it's Democrats talking about my Social Security being taken away, or Republicans talking about how protecting the environment from being poisoned will somehow make me lose my job. The only question I really want to know the answer to is: how do they sleep at night? $MTEntryExcerpt$>
October 27, 2004
My first Red Sox World Series experience was in 1975 against the Reds. My dad didn't let me stay up for game 6 and Carlton Fisk's home run. Of course, they lost game 7.... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Red Sox Win"
October 26, 2004
Continue reading "Strange and Norrell"
October 22, 2004
This morning on the way in to work I made the mistake of tuning in to NPR. Steve Inskeep was interviewing Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) about partisanship. In so doing, Frist made the point that the Democrats have blocked 10 Federal Circuit Court nominees from consideration and that, and I quote, "the blocking of 10 justices, has never been done in the history of this country." My mouth dropped open, because this is a lie. It's not a little lie. It's not even a big lie. This goes past "big" clear into "pathological" territory. This is a lie that says "I'm lying, I know I'm lying, and I think the people listening to me are such complete morons that I'm willing to try to deceive them in such a completely obvious way." $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Stop Hurting America"
October 21, 2004
The Red Sox are in the World Series. That's pretty cool.... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
October 16, 2004
If, like me, you're not in the habit of watching CNN, you probably missed the Daily Show's Jon Stewart lay a righteous smackdown on Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala. I did. Sure, you can read the transcript, but that doesn't really do it justice. For the full-on effect, if you have a fast internet connection, you'll want to watch the video Jon Stewart, I salute you. On the one hand, it's depressing that it takes a comedy show host to raise this issue and not, say, a journalist. On the other hand, I guess mocking the powerful has always been the right of jesters and fools. Jon Stewart is a superb fool. And I don't mean that as an insult. Enjoy! $MTEntryExcerpt$>
October 12, 2004
The bad part about buying books in Canada is that they are often from Great Britain. This sounds wrong, intuitively. For me, at least, mentioning "books" and "England" in the same sentence conjures up an image of a sober, thoughtful... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Something Rotten"
October 11, 2004
Since I spent so much time raving about the Carnegie Library recently, it's only fair that I indicate what I've actually been reading. What follows is a laundry list with some brief comments on each item. The hyperlinks in each item will take you to Amazon, in case your local library isn't as good as mine. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "What I'm Reading (Library Version)"
October 04, 2004
On Sunday, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh -- one of the greatest libraries I know of, outside of the New York Public Library -- opened for the first time after completing their extensive renovations. It was a magnificent celebration. There were tours, there were children listening to stories and singing songs, there was free pizza. There were books, and music, videos, and people everywhere. The place was completely packed. In a strange way, that was the best part of the opening. Not just that the library exists, but that lots of people care. In a world where we're constantly bombarded with messages about how Americans are uneducated and ignorant, it's wonderful to look around and see that this convenient stereotype is not, in fact, universal. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Libraries"
September 30, 2004
I admit it: I didn't watch the candidate's debate tonight for two reasons: (1) My mind is already made up. (2) Contemplating the sick feeling I will get in the pit of my stomach when I wake up the day after Election Day and read about who wonI admit it: I didn't watch the candidate's debate tonight. I had two reasons: (1) My mind is already made up. (2) Contemplating the sick feeling I will get in the pit of my stomach when I wake up the day after Election Day and read about who won makes me break out in hives. I get enough existential dread when I think about being forced to program in Tcl without adding politics to the mix. So, I ask those of you who watched, who won? Did it change your mind? Do you think it changed anyone's mind? What surprised you, if anything? Add your comments below. makes me break out in hives. I get enough existential dread when I think about being forced to program in Tcl without adding politics to the mix. So, I ask those of you who watched: who won? Did it change your mind? Do you think it changed anyone's mind? What surprised you, if anything? Add your comments below. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
September 27, 2004
What time is it?
venti skim no-foam vault
Continue reading "Loans and Lattes"
September 10, 2004
In a press conference today, NASA Director Sean O'Keefe announced the preliminary findings of the Genesis space probe. Genesis, which succesfully engaged on a 3-year mission to explore the solar winds before crashing to Earth when a parachute failed to open, was salvaged from the Utah desert and moved to the clean room facilities of the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California.
"Thanks to the hard work of the recovery team," said O'Keefe, "we have completed the processing and analysis of approximately 98% of the samples, and can now announce our preliminary results: the 'solar wind' that is blowing from our Sun is composed primarily of dirt."$MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading ""Genesis" Probe Yields New Science"
August 17, 2004
- Tooku (far away, Japanese)
- Chiacchiarare (to chit-chat, to gossip, Italian)
- Batcheat (chit-chat, Hindi)
- Decimate (kill every tenth soldier, Latin)
- Hamartia (sin, human frailty, Greek)
- Quay (wharf, Canadian)
- Zdorovie (health, Russian)
Continue reading "Favorite Words"
August 16, 2004
If you're in the USA, and want to see how Olympics coverage should be done, consider grabbing this video of the BBC's coverage of the opening ceremonies in three parts. You'll need a Bittorrent client like Azureus to download these, and probably also the DivX video codec. The movie files are quite large -- about 700 Mb per part -- but worth it. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Olympics Without NBC"
August 13, 2004
AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! Björk is singing, but I can't hear the song if you are talking during it, you idiots. Shut up, shut up, shut up, shut up, shut up. I hate you. Is there anyone, anywhere, who has thought that NBC's Olympics coverage for the past 20 years has been anything less than uniformly terrible? Who are these people? Why haven't they been fired yet? What can I do to hasten the process? These aren't rhetorical questions. Have you ever met anyone who said "Wow! What a great job NBC did covering the Olympics, ignoring most of the non-American athletes and not covering most of the events!" I didn't think so. Me neither. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
August 07, 2004
According to amazon.com, the English version of the second part of Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis comes out at the end of this month. I may not be able to wait.
- The preorder page at Amazon is making me salivate.
- If you haven't read the first part of Persepolis, just stop what you're doing right now and go buy it. Really. It's that good.
July 31, 2004
With the race over, this is obviously a good time to write the second part of my little stage racing primer. This part focuses primarily on tactics and strategy. Each rider and team goes into the Tour with different goals... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Tour de France Primer, part 2"
July 27, 2004
Here is what happens to me on a regular basis when trying to access the various "extras" on a DVD release: - Put DVD into player. - Watch the FBI warning for 5 minutes while the controls on the player... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "DVD Menus: A Desperate Plea"
July 23, 2004
Continue reading "Latter Days"
July 22, 2004
Now that we're more than two weeks into this year's race, I thought I'd write a short primer on the basics of what is going on in the race so you all can keep it in mind for next year.... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "The Tour De France, a Primer"
July 17, 2004
I hate California. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "California and Me, a Short Interlude"
June 23, 2004
Continue reading "Signs"
June 22, 2004
Continue reading "Idlewild"
June 12, 2004
Watching the third Harry Potter movie is a bit like watching someone drive an aging, souped up car: when they improve the engine, it just makes how the car's suspension creaks through the corners more obvious.
Continue reading "Greetings from Azkaban Park, New Jersey"
June 09, 2004
Ding, Dong! The Witch is Dead! $MTEntryExcerpt$>
May 31, 2004
Events have conspired this week to bring up a topic that I find sort of near and dear to my heart and yet simultaneously deeply depressing. That topic is the state of "classical" music in our modern times. Growing up,... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Classic Music is Dead (or at least Terminal)"
May 26, 2004
This story makes me angry. It's about vegans who feed their cats vegan diets. Cats, you see, are obligate carnivores. Feeding them a diet without meat is abuse. I can understand people who don't eat animal products because they think it is cruel or exploitative, even though I don't share that belief. But I have nothing but contempt for people who have ethical objections to eating any animal product, but delight in torturing their pet. Apparently, for these people "vegan" means "against animal cruelty where the cruelty is fast enough that I notice it." If your cat goes blind over a 3 year period because you were abusing it, though, that's fantastic. I'm so enraged I can hardly see straight. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
May 24, 2004
A number of people have commented on my mockery of "Cousin Lovin' Poetry," responding with detailed and impassioned screeds about how I don't understand genetics, how the Bible thinks that people who have sex with their cousins are morally superior to those that don't, how in Saudi Arabia cousin-lovin' is the norm, how Europeans are so much more sophisticated than Americans about this issue, et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseum. The lack of perspective on this is hilarious. One poster says:
There are no contemporary studies that indicate cousins have children with significantly higher than normal birth defects.And then, two paragraphs later, says:
Fact: Children of non-related couples have a 2-3% risk of birth defects, as opposed to first cousins having a 4-6% risk.On my planet, a 1 to 4% additional risk is pretty significant. But I don't want to get bogged down in the genetics argument. It is, frankly, a sideshow. Let me be perfectly clear: my main concern is not that you will create a child with genetic defects by marrying your cousin, but that by breeding you might pass on your condition that results in your having a complete lack of any sense of humor. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Cousin-Lovin' Haiku"
May 06, 2004
Jack Chick has a new tract, and I am once again nearly speechless: $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Losing My Religion"
April 30, 2004
Continue reading "Ten Little Ladybugs"
April 28, 2004
One of the more egregiously out of print books, in America at least, is Nick Cave's And the Ass Saw the Angel. Elise introduced me to this book ages ago, lending me a copy of her precious (Imported! British! Naked lady on the cover!) paperback. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "And the Ass Saw the Angel"
April 22, 2004
Why this picture? Why now? Mostly because of this woman who was fired for sharing a picture like it. Photo courtesy of The Memory Hole and the Freedom of Information Act. Link courtesy John Scalzi. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
April 15, 2004
It has been a long time since I've experienced a web site that filled me with such elation and glee as does Winged Sandals, a Shockwaveriffic introduction to Greek mythology for kids. It has really enjoyable, accessible movies that everyone can enjoy, some neat activities (I like the trading cards), and a wonderful searching "Who's Who," which while not comprehensive is well designed. The art style is Samurai Jack meets Pocketskeleton. The load times are substantial, but worth the wait: do the Flash version if you can. I am, as it were, a mythology geek, and love diving in to the legends, tales, and fables of just about any culture. There is something exciting to me about reading fables and myths; the archetypes that underlie consciousness are distilled and pickled in myths, and they can take your breath away when you taste them. True, a superb author, such as Italo Calvino or Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, can channel those archetypes to create a novel story that nonetheless feels like it came from the deepest recesses of cultural memory. But there are only so many Salman Rushdies (or J. K. Rowlings) in the world, and so I return to the oldest tales whenever the mood strikes me, which is often. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Dawn Comes Early, With Rosy Fingers"
April 13, 2004
Our President is still painfully stupid. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
April 09, 2004
Should you, perchance, use a particular popular internet utility to look for information on "jews," the most prominently displayed entry turns out to be somewhat, let us say, antisemitic. That doesn't strike me as the most useful introduction to a topic. I think the wikipedia entry on the Jewish religion is somewhat more informative and less inflammatory, as is the amusingly named jewfaq entry on who is a jew? $MTEntryExcerpt$>
March 12, 2004
February 17, 2004
Please, Ralph, don't run for President. (Requires Flash) $MTEntryExcerpt$>
PZ over at Pharyngula links to the second part of Edward Feser's inchoate screed:
"Whatever bland official statement of purpose might appear in the introduction to a modern university's college catalog, its true raison d'etre is in practice nothing other than to destroy utterly whatever allegiance a young person might have to traditional conceptions in morality, religion, politics and culture, to "do dirt" on the faith of his fathers, on his country, and on what most human beings have historically understood to be the imperatives of decency. It is, in short, to propagate Leftism. "I commented on the forums there something along the lines of "Wow, Feser sure is a nutbar." Someone else took me to task for not refuting his freakish diatribe point by point and otherwise treating him as a serious scholar. So part of me wants to respond to that innocent soul in more detail. But I think the epithet "nutbar" is about all the response Feser deserves. I'm not particularly trying to convince anyone of the "wrongness" of his position, because Feser doesn't actually present any actual arguments in his two pages of urine-stained crayon scriblings. Sometimes -- and surprisingly, I think Feser would agree with this point! -- it's important to stand up and use common sense and say out loud that the Emperor has no clothes (or, in this case, that the creepy homeless guy talking to himself in the subway doesn't seem to have all of his faculties). The issue isn't disagreeing with the premise of the article, the issue is that the article doesn't present anything at all. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Rant: Feser is a Nutbar"
February 11, 2004
So I've been following this "PCRM reveals that Atkins was fat when he died!" trainwreck for a while now, and I have a few comments. I think it is a great example of how ideology is more important to interest groups than facts. I think it is a great example of how invalid reasoning is used by interest groups to arrive at conclusions not supported by the evidence they cite. And, most importantly of all, I think it is a great example of how the people need to be protected from the medical community. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Physicians for the Unethical Misuse of Patient Information"
February 05, 2004
Lawrence Lessig has made some righteously angry observations about Ralph Nader who, in typically arrogant fashion, is going around saying stupid and wrongheaded things. Some other folks, notably Aaron Swartz are saying that Lessig is somehow "forgetting about the First... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Saying "Nader is a Fucktard" is not Censorship"
February 02, 2004
Rajeev Advani posts his notes on the debate between Christopher Hitchens, Mark Danner, Samantha Power, and David Frum on the topic (of course) of "Iraq and Beyond." Thanks to Rajeev for preserving his view of the record. Update: Part two... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
January 30, 2004
Scalzi identifies an initiative of the Georgia Department of Education to eliminate the word "evolution" from the curriculum as being stupid. And he's right. He has a bit to say about Creationists, and describes them as "willfully ignorant" rather than... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "And on the Seventh Day, He Bitchslapped them: A Manifesto in Rant Form"