Thursday, July 29, 2010

35 Movies in 2 Minutes

Let this short below be your media interlude between watching last night’s Jon Stewart and the YouTube video of the guy moonwalking in WalMart.

There are 35 movies shown here in 2 minutes … go.

35mm from Felix Meyer on Vimeo.

Like 3rd Grade Recess

We all know 3rd grade recess is a mix of bullies and nice kids.  The bullies are loud and destructive. The nice kids share their silly bands with you and teach you how to climb to the top of the monkey bars.  In the world of US politics right now, the loud bullies are the pundits on TV.  The louder and more obnoxious they are, the more people watch and the more ratings they get.  They’re not interested in civil discourse.

And there are the nice kids, quietly building the community, obeying the rules, and making the playground an enjoyable place to be.  In the world of politics, no one can hear them above the screech of the bullies.

We wonder why Congressional and Presidential confidence is only in the 30ies.  But everyone’s listening to the bullies.  Think how much confidence you’d have in your security if the nice kids were always getting beat up (I’m assuming you’re a nice kid).

Well, anyways, here’s a group of people who are hard at work building a snow fort and avoiding the bullies.  Let’s wish them success in taking down the bullies.  They have a website: and their last meeting is straight out of nice kid parties 101.  But if you’re rooting for the nice guy, and you’re tired of the bully – it’s a good watch.

And then Repeat …

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Shorpy Followup - Fuel

Think our current fight to reduce fossil fuels is a late twentieth century creation?  From Shorpy, here’s a post on the Fuel Administration circa 1919.

According to a comment on the post and Wikipedia, the Fuel Administration was a government response to a major shortage of coal in the weaning years of WWI.  The organization had broad powers to regulate prices and distribution of coal.  Garfield was appointed by Wilson to head the agency.  Beyond regulating demand, its most famous legacy is Daylight Savings Time.


I wonder given the current Tea Party context how popular a similar organization would be for conserving oil?  Even Progressives might find the concept difficult.  It speaks to how conservative the nation has shifted.

Always Something Interesting: Shorpy

Jonathan “the new guy” in development threw out this site, a blog of really high quality historical images from around the US.   Seems to be lots of exploring in this site. 

End of the Line: 1921 talks about how when the streetcars were torn out of the roads, people found all sorts of uses for the old carriages.



There’s the Marilyn Monroe colorized section.


And this node was cool too for its before and after shots.  A restaurant in 1937, this Savannah Georgia address has gone downhill since.


Monday, July 19, 2010

When Should I be Paranoid? and My SCIF is Bigger than Yours.


The Washington Post front lined their 2 year investigation into Secret America today; a look into the over 1,200 US government and 1,900 contractor counter-intelligence organizations that have grown virally since 9-11.  This video clip is an intro to the Frontline production that will come out of the investigation in October.  It presents the lead investigative reporter and a data guy from Vermont (are we all from there?). 

I’m not one to become easily spooked or impressed with random numbers, but some of the findings definitely make me want to know more.

854,000 people hold top-secret security clearance.

33 building complexes have been build or are under construction near Washington DC for secret work.  The WaPo says it’s the equivalent real estate-wise of three Pentagons. 

51 federal organizations and military commands track the money to and from terrorist networks

The US intelligence budget is $75 billion, 2 1/2 times the size prior to 9-11

The NGA will soon have the fourth largest federal building in the DC area; a $1.8 billion expansion of the CIA.

The quote of the article is this though:

Every one of these buildings has at least one of these rooms, known as a SCIF, for sensitive compartmented information facility. Some are as small as a closet; others are four times the size of a football field.

SCIF size has become a measure of status in Top Secret America, or at least in the Washington region of it. "In D.C., everyone talks SCIF, SCIF, SCIF," said Bruce Paquin, who moved to Florida from the Washington region several years ago to start a SCIF construction business. "They've got the penis envy thing going. You can't be a big boy unless you're a three-letter agency and you have a big SCIF."

Immigration Roundup


Building on a history of immigration blogging, I wanted to point out this week’s New Yorker.   William Finnegan gives a nice summary of recent immigration reform.  Turns out that while we do have an immigration problem in our country, people only care when the economy’s in the crapper.  They care so much that they don’t notice there are fewer immigrants crossing the border now than pre 9/11. Either Mexicans are just getting lazy or they didn’t hear about all the free health care we’re going to give them.

It starts by smashing john McCain and then it gets better.

A few choice quotations:

  • Yet anti-immigrant backlashes don’t always track closely with actual immigration. They track with unemployment, popular anxiety, and a fear of displacement by strangers.
  • The problem of illegal immigration isn’t a matter of violent criminals storming the walls of our peaceful towns and cities.-- According to F.B.I. statistics, the four safest big cities in the United States—San Diego, Phoenix, El Paso, and Austin—are all in border states.

My State

First, nice post Grant.  Read that article a few days ago and was as equally impressed.  There’s two underlying wants driving Politico’s original article: 1) for someone, somewhere to start liking Obama like they did during the campaign and 2) for Obama to become Josiah Bartlett (or Roosevelt).  In the meantime, people need to just be happy because anything less than those two things will be disappointing.  Which is why this weekend was so cool.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Jason Linkins explains why Politco is full of it

This is a great response to the Politico article Keith sent out last week. There's no doubt that the Dems could look better in polls right now but the MSM seem to be taking this a bit too far. With the well capped (for now) and unemployment benefits extended next week, thinks are not as bad as Politico says it is.

Location:Exchange St,Portland,United States

Thursday, July 15, 2010

68% of Americans think too much money is spent on foreign aid and 59% want it cut.


Substitute foreign aid for unemployment benefits and The West Wing for real life.

In one of the episodes I talk about a lot, the staff is down one vote on Foreign aid which prompts everyone to start looking at polls.  Josh Lyman, the deputy chief of staff remarks "Of course foreign aid polls badly, the people it's helping aren't the ones answering the phones...."

Now cut to real life and this HuffPo article:

“In a Bloomberg survey, 70 percent of voters said reducing unemployment is more important than reducing the deficit. But only 47 percent said Congress should reauthorize extended benefits, which in some states provided the unemployed with up to 99 weeks of checks.”

So here, when the people receiving aid are answering the phones, the poll still makes no sense. Sure, you can make the argument that these respondents don’t see the connection between extending unemployment benefits and reducing unemployment but then you have to ask why that was not addressed in the poll.

You can see similar polls on immigration where most Americans are opposed to amnesty but also support a path to legal citizenship. Should polls come with a glossary?

Good Stuff

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Irish Movie recommendations from a French Canadian

Changing it up a bit.  Here’s two Irish movies I recommend. 

The first stars Brendan Gleeson, who I argue is a brilliant actor (any comments?).  It’s dark and not at all action-packed but the performances and the story are great.  A kid grows up in a Boston Irish family, plays ball, works at a Italian restaurant, basic stuff here.  Plus you have to respect movies where the lead watches Red Sox games.


The second has better action and takes place in Ireland.  The story of a kid who straddles the Protestant-Catholic line during the war.  Side character Ben Kingsley is very cool in a role where you completely forget he was Ghandi.  If you enjoyed The Commitments but need something more meaty like Three Kings, you’ll like this film.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

When Rational Thought Goes out the Window


Read this article.

Whenever we build or repair roads, all logic breaks down.  Road is king, sacrosanct.  Think about a discussion involving spending $7 million on a trolley; the deficit hawks would be burning down City Hall.  But, oh, roads, PAVE, BABY, PAVE.

Here’s why I hate roads.  If the DOT can close the section of road for a year and it doesn’t make an impact, why are we rebuilding the bridge at all?  Sure, I love this section for one trip every 2 years where I cut from Home Depot to Falmouth but does everyone need this road?  Sounds like they don’t.

In truth, the argument for keeping this road is that traffic going from points south to the Midcoast can go around Portland.  This is good.  But since the road will be closed for a year, keeping traffic out of Portland must not be important to the DOT.

Either it is important or it isn’t important.  We’ll never know.  In the world of trains, when passenger counts get low railroad companies close routes and lines go unmaintained.  Then a decision is made whether to keep the line or not.  This never happens with roads.  When was the last time a public entity said, “the numbers on this road are too low so we’re going to close it.” Hah.  We don’t use logic when making road decisions.  How many other businesses make right decisions 100% of the time?  Since no road ever gets removed, that’s what we’re saying with roads.   Anyways, when you keep paving, budgets grow, people keep building in the exurbs, traffic keeps going up.  And that’s when rational thought goes out the window all in the name of the highway, our American temple.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Cool Trends in Web Stuff

HTML 5 is the new standard markup under development for web pages.  Based on some play areas demonstrated on this site, the HTML 5 should bring some cool new things to the web. 

For casual readers who just want to play, go here and here.  Don’t forget to draw on the screen and “pick up” the Google logo and play with it.

 image  image

It’s not out there yet, but according to this site there’s only 4,193 days to go:

For deeper readers, HTML is the base language of web pages.  When companies build browsers, they use these standards to determine how to render things on the screen.  So Mozilla, Chrome, IE all read the standards and they all read "<a>” and say, I need to create a link.

Since the base HTML was released, there’s been lots of add-ons to make it more appealing and interactive.  CSS was added to give richer web pages and to simplify the coding.  You could specify a layout and then every page would use the same layout without having to specify the font for each paragraph.  JavaScript is the latest tool in basic interactivity.  It adds a layer to a standard HTML web page which can do interactive things.  If a menu pops, or something moves, chances are its done in JavaScript.  Ajax and Javascript combined help you so you don’t have to refresh all the time.  And then there’s the true plugins to web pages, which move you out of the rhelm of the HTML world: Java Applets, Flash, and now Silverlight.

Java applets are the oldest form of the out-of-HTML interactivity but they’re pretty sparse now.  Most people are use to Flash, which sits in a webpage but isn’t HTML.  The latest entry is Silverlight which sits in a browser like HTML and Flash, but is neither.  Combining a programming world and a rich graphical world, Silverlight is a plugin too.

Anyways, that was the primer for people who need primers.  Back to playing my HTML 5 games.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Zumwalt and the Merrimack

Have an extra $6 billion and don’t know what to do with it? Today, the Pentagon awarded Bath Iron Works another Zumwalt-class destroyer.  The original plan was to build 32 of these guys, which are designed to have a low radar profile, operate with a small crew, and lob missiles at land targets.  So far, the 2010 budget calls for three – and the first one is being built at BIW already. 

The radar signature on this guy is like a fishing boat, which will be important with all of the enemy fishing fleets we need to sneak up on.  And the guns are really powerful, which is what I would expect for $6 billion.  Other than that, it’s main noteworthy feature is its tumblehome style hull originally introduced to steel ships by the French during the Russo-Japanese War.

So here it is kids … the new Zumwalt.

File:Uss Zumwalt.jpg

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Cornhole, a History

I Googled Cornhole, a popular game in these parts and I discovered this site – it’s not drop dead hilarious but it has a couple of gems.  If nothing else, you’ll waste a good 10 minutes.


Anyways, back to Cornhole.  From Wikipedia:

The true history of the game is mostly unknown,[5] though stories abound. One story claims that the game was first played during the 14th century in Germany, then rediscovered in Kentucky within the last century.[5] Despite debate about whether the game was actually created in the Kentucky farmland, Champaign, IL or the West Side of Cincinnati,[6] some sources credit the invention to western Cincinnati,[7] but by whom or when is unknown. Popularity of the game began to increase in the late 1990's in Cincinnati area universities, particularly Miami University where cornhole became a mainstay at parties and as a casual drinking game. Helped along by the advent of commercial cornhole bags and boards under the trademark Baggo, cornhole is now a popular game in and around the Midwest and Rust Belt states.

The key score of this research project is the new terminology I learned while wikipedia-ing Cornhole.  While the lexicon of throwing beanie bags at a wooden box included such lame ones as “cornfusion” (when players can’t agree on the scoring), my personal favorites are “dirty bag” (a bag that it is hanging off the board touching the ground) and the various fractions of “Galbraith” (all four bags in the hole).  The complete list:

By the way, the governing body of Cornhole is the American Cornhole Association of course.  This man is their President.

King George III of Uruguay

Two hundred and thirty four years ago our fore fathers declared their independence from … ummm, Uruguay?  France?  the Czech Republic?

Well 20% of the country isn’t sure

People like me work at the Pentagon. Scared yet?

This almost makes me feel better after The Last Airbender completely failed to entertain.  Where can a man suffering from a Peter Pan complex go for refuge?  The Department of Defense.  Up next will be an invisible plane.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Hipster Fashion Cycle

Nuf’ said.


Obama Anak Menteng

This summer’s big blockbuster won’t be Eclipse or The Last Airbender, but a little indy film adaptation of a book by Indonesian author Damien Dematra on Obama’s childhood in Indonesia (1967-1971).   

Love the poster.

Obama Anak Menteng cover.jpg

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Frighteningly Funny


Laugh-out loud comedy is wonderful. I’ve often said there are three undeniably funny concepts: monkeys, fat babies and people falling down. These are cross-cultural, universally accepted gags that require no context or language skills. You see the fat baby, hopefully eating something, and you laugh out loud, with gusto even. Watch a person slip and fall on a game show. It starts in your gut and explodes up your windpipe, hopefully pushing a liquid.

Then there is the laughter that stays in your head. This tends to be sparked by clever witticisms and delicious puns. Unlike the universally appreciated fat, baby monkey, this silent laughter usually requires a lot of context and shared culture. The Daily Show’s rifts on politicians probably aren’t as funny to the Germans as they are to us.

John Oliver’s Terrifying Times gives the best of both worlds. While the notion of an inflatable barbeque requires a context of consumerism to really appreciate, a three-balled president is universally hysterical. Plus, we all know how bloody alluring the English accent can be.

As proof of the universality, here’s the whole thing on a Japanese website. 42 minutes well spent.

What to send to people who think Obama has not done enough


Hasn’t fixed unemployment.  Hasn't fixed the oil spill.  Hasn't closed Gitmo.  This will be reiterated more and more leading up to the mid-terms.  And while she is easily identified as a poster child for the left, Rachel Maddow had a nice summary of what’s got done in the less than two years of this administration.  She begins with a great comparison to one of O’s predecessors.  Watch this a few times so you have something on hand when you hear complaints that he hasn't done anything besides raise the deficit.


I’ve never really followed the story of Woot! but it has a huge following (including Paul in the cubicle next door) and it was purchased by Amazon today. The kicker is the CEO letter to the employees explaining the deal, which is hilarious.


Tag, You’re It

Last week capped off the Glastonbury Festival, the largest music festival in Europe celebrating its 40th anniversary.

(from – more pictures here)

But in what may be a first for social media, everyone that attended the concert is tagging themselves in a giant Facebook Connect project.  Go HERE to see the project.


It’s fairly clear that the guy in the middle with the hipster hat and glasses is John Belushi, someone should tag that guy.