Thursday, June 25, 2009

Daily FAIL - a diet I could stay on...

Man... if this were accurate I'd be sooooooo much thinner than I am right now.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Seeing isn't always believing...

One of the reasons I love Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy website is because not only is he a brilliant astrnomer and movie buff, but he's a total geek and nerd of the highest order, which makes him OK in my book.

So, from his blog, please regard the image below:

I love optical illusions... in this image, you can see three embedded spirals... one is green, one is pinkish-orange, and one is blue... right? Wrong! In fact, the green and blue spirals are actually the same exact color! How cool is that? Don't believe me? Check out Phil's full entry for the complete explanation... it's worth it, trust me.

Apple IPOD Touch 3.0 software upgrade - I have to PAY for this???

My IPOD touch is about the best single technology gizmo I've ever owned. I didn't want an IPhone because a) I really only get Verizon where I live, and b) the IPhone sucks as an actual mobile phone. So, the Touch is a perfect compromise... I get all the fun and features of the Iphone, while still getting to pay for an actual cell phone and service... it's a win - win.

Anyhow, a couple of weeks ago Apple released a new software upgrade for the Touch, version 3.0... which is great, cause, you know, software updates are generally good things. So off I went dutifully to Itunes to download the new bytes... and that's when I got the sucker punch: Apple is actually asking people to pay for the privilege of this upgrade, to the Itune of of $9.95. What in the blazes? I have to pay for an Ipod software update? NONSENSE!

Well, I sighed and shrugged and decided that in order for them to be charging for what should rightfully be a free update, like all other ipod updates have EVER been, they must be offering some phenomenal new features. Ummm... well... not so much.

The additional functionalities afforded in the 3.0 software are as follows: Stereo bluetooth connectivity (nice, but until bluetooth headphones can offer the same hi fidelity sound as higher end connected headphones, no-one's going to be too excited about that one), peer-to-peer gaming (eh... ok), copy, cut and paste functionality with a "shake to undo" feature (should have always been there), a landscape keyboard (duh!), spotlight search (which really is only useful if you have tens of thousands of items on your ipod that you can't find by just, you know, knowing where they are), shake to shuffle (again, why was this not there to begin with?), auto wi-fi login (see comment regarding shake to shuffle), push notifications, and parental controls (ummm... ok... good luck with that last one).

So, there's the laundry list of updates (oh, you also get some additional language support). I have to say, I'm left largely unimpressed, and feeling like these are things that should have been available all along. Considering how much the Ipod Touch sells for to begin with, I think it's gauche to ask for another 10 bucks for a functionality upgrade.

I can live without most of these new features, and I think most Touch owners will be able to as well. Can you imagine if Microsoft tried to pull something like this? The MAC crusaders would be up in arms and it would make the lead on "MSNBC". I'd like to see the "I'm a PC" guy turn and kick that smug little "I'm a MAC" guy right in the gonads for this awful piece of profiteering by Apple. Thanks but no thanks.


*Update - The Cnet CRAVE blog actually has a more complete list of all the new features in the 3.0 update, including those for the IPhone, but still, what's not listed in my article pretty well qualifies as "fixes", or improvements that should have been there in the first place, not as added functionality you should be required to pay for.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Do the right thing... OR ELSE

As I tend to be liberal leaning, I am, of course, a proponent of social responsibility and community. But I also understand the importance of personal freedom. Most of us remember the series finale of "Seinfeld"... the plot revolved around the Seinfeld characters being arrested and convicted under a "good Samaritan" law, whereby people could be arrested and convicted if they did not intervene on the behalf of a stranger in distress. The episode took a direct jab at many such "Samaritan" laws that have been passed in states throughout the country. They were being mocked, and rightfully so.

Today's online edition of the Ithaca Journal (Ithaca, NY) carries an editorial about a proposed bill in NY State known as "Steven's Law", after Steven Bacon, the victim of a tragic hit and run accident in 2007. If passed, the law would carry penalties for witnesses of an accident that do not report the accident to the appropriate authorities. The penalties would include fines of up to $500... but more importantly could count as a misdemeanor on a person's criminal record.

In principal, (and of course absent the over-the-top comic delivery presented in the Seinfeld episode) it sounds like a good idea. We should all endeavour to help our fellow humans, especially when they are in real distress. However, is it the responsibility of a society to impose this morality on its citizens? While I personally have a strong internal imperative to intervene and offer help when it is needed, and to report crimes or abuses when I see them, I find the enforcement of those morals, under penalty of law, to be an affront to personal freedom.

While reporting an accident is certainly the right thing to do, and I would of course encourage anyone to do so in any circumstance, is it really right to hold someone criminally negligent for not doing so? I'm not sure I can make that argument. People have all sorts of reasons for not wanting to become involved in certain situations... is it the responsibility of society to adjudicate that decision? I have a hard time with that.

Additionally, I think an attempt to enforce such a law would be nearly impossible. The concept itself is too ambiguous and far to open to interpretation of a given incident. So, besides being socially questionable in my mind, passing a law that is almost impossible to enforce is simply irresponsible. And while I am saddened by the tragic accident that caused the death of an otherwise innocent man, and am outraged by the behavior of a thug that would drive away and leave someone to die, passing a law that punishes the witnesses, especially with a misdemeanor on their record for the simple act of refusing to get involved, seems more like anger and vengeance than justice. That's not what our system of justice is supposed to be about.

Thankfully, this bill never got through the committee, but the editorial writer of the Ithaca Journal article believes it deserves more attention. The article concludes with the line: "It's a law that could save a life". While this may be true, it's unlikely. What is far more likely is that some witness, while in no way involved with an accident, will find themselves with a criminal record for not wanting to get involved. I'm sorry, but I must whole-heartedly disagree with the editorial writer. Doing the right thing is a virtue. Forcing people to do the right thing... I'm not so sure.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Daily FAIL - If you can't...

fail owned pwned pictures

... Love the one you pork...

Mmmmm... TomTom...

Oh... I am SO getting this:

TomTom has been making celebrity voices available for download with TomTom GPS devices for some time now. If you are so inclined, you can be told where to go... err... how to get there... by such lexicons as Mr. T, Kim Cattrall, Burt Reynolds or Gary Busey... but now, you can get your directions from none other than one Homer J. Simpson.

All I can say is, "WOOHOO!"

** Oh, and rumor has it that Knight Rider's "Kitt" will be the next voice to be rolled out. Just awesome.

This is democracy?

I've made my feelings about this issue already pretty well known, so what I'm about to write should come as no surprise. This situation is deplorable and every member of the NY State Senate should be embarrassed and ashamed.

The NY Supreme Court decided, rightfully, that it had no business getting involved in the legislative branch, and dismissed the case brought to it by the democrats. The judge correctly stated that the Senate should work out its issues on its own and it had no jurisdiction in the matter.

While this is the correct decision, it is also unfortunate. Without any means to right the wrong, it now appears that corrupt power grabs orchestrated by spiteful, insanely wealthy men who simply know how to line the pockets of people with no moral compass (yeah, I'm looking at you Pedro Espada. How do you even sleep at night?) can be achieved at will, and the ability to completely shut down a critical branch of government can be wielded by those who are more concerned with political and personal gain than they are acting for the people.

The Supreme Court judge (Thomas McNamara) in this case made a wise, albeit naive, observation: "The failure of the Senate to resolve this issue in an appropriate manner will make them answerable to the electorate." This should be true, but history shows us that it likely will not. Not if the elections are held at their regular intervals.

This is where the constitution of the State of NY needs to be amended to allow a provision that prevents this sort of thing from ever happening again. At no time should the legislative branch EVER, of its own will and volition, be able to challenge the power structure established by the electorate without the electorate being involved in the process. What has happened in this case is nothing short of anarchy. The electorate has been effectively disenfranchised. The power structure established by the will of the voting populace has been replaced by the will of a rich man and a corrupt senator. How is this democracy?

In my opinion, three things need to happen. First, the damned Senate needs to get back into session and start passing some of the local and state budgets that are in jeopardy otherwise. Democrats: you made your case and you lost. You were duped. You were swindled and cheated. Now get over it and get back to work. The taxpayers of NY are not paying you to stand outside the chamber pouting. Republicans: stop claiming some high ground victory for the State of NY. What you did was repugnant and with any luck will be made illegal in the future. You have turned your back on the will of the electorate of the state you purport to represent in an obvious power grab. You are nothing more than schoolyard bullies with a rich uncle (Gallisano). But, you got away with it. And so it goes. So quit grandstanding and find some common ground with the Democrats and get the hell back to work. Like yesterday.

Second, I believe the elected Senate has utterly failed its first responsibility to the voters of the State of NY. I call for the immediate dissolution of the senate at the end of the current session and for complete elections to be run this fall for new representation. Let the voters decide this dispute, and let them do it in a hurry. It's the only democratic thing to do.

Third, I demand, as a voter, that a provision or amendment be put in to the legislative branch bylaws, or the NY State Constitution , or whatever governing body is required, that at no time may the legislative branch be allowed to cast off its leadership and replace it ad-hoc without a referendum put to the people. The saddest part in all of this is that these Senators are acting alone, not out of the best interests of their constituents, but out of their own greed and political desire, and the voters had to stand by and watch, powerless to do anything about it. This is not democracy, and it needs to be fixed. What took place on the floor of the NY State Senate may not be technically illegal, but for the sake of the voters of the State of NY, it damn well should be.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Daily FAIL - honest dishonesty.

We all know someone who would write a note like this, don't we?

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Movie Review - Up!

It's been 14 years since we were first introduced to the wonderful Pixar Studios' production of "Toy Story". I remember seeing that movie and thinking that animated movies would never be the same. I also remember thinking that "Toy Story" would be tough to top. I was so naive.

Since that summer of 1995, Pixar has treated us with spectacular movie experiences just about every year or two. This is a production company that has never known failure. Ever. Every movie they have thrown up onto the big screen has been wildly successful, and that is no accident. The biggest thing Pixar movies have going for them is the sheer breadth of their appeal. The movies, from Toy Story on, have made a concerted effort to not target any specific group; age, ethnic or otherwise. These movies are, quite literally, for everyone from age 3 to 103. Every single production gives you something to enjoy, no matter your demographic. The visuals appeal to both very young and very old alike... the stories are most often both child-like in their innocence, yet mature in their message. The characters are well developed and likable... even the villains. They are cast well, and the animators have an uncanny knack for representing accuracy in delivery: the characters so often just look like the actors playing them even if they don't really look like them. For example, Mr. Incredible looks nothing like Craig T. Nelson, and yet he so much does... it's an uncanny talent that is unique in animated films to Pixar movies, as far as I am concerned.

However, despite all the praise and acclaim I've just heaped upon the folks at Pixar, I've also noticed another peculiar phenomenon concerning their movies. For whatever reason, immediately following "Toy Story 2", each time I would hear of an upcoming Pixar release, I would treat it with relative disinterest. I had loved every movie they had produced up to that point, but the new movies, as they would be teased, just never seemed to capture my attention. Even the wonderful "Finding Nemo", which I think is the high-water mark for Pixar movies to date, was greeted with a barely registering "Eh..." when I first saw the trailer. And that stayed with me right up until the release of the movie. I was blown away when I saw "Nemo", of course. And that movie served to solidify Pixar movies as "must-see" movie events, for me anyhow.

And yet, when "The Incredibles" was released, again I was struck with a weird sense of disinterest. I saw it and loved it, too. The same pattern has continued with each subsequent release up to "Ratatouille". Once I saw that movie, I vowed that whatever it was inside me that wanted to undersell Pixar movies, I was going to bury it deep down and be damn-well excited when the next movie came out. I was wary with "Wall-E", but remained excited... and I was rewarded with one of the best movie's I've seen in years.

So along came the teasers for the latest Pixar production: "Up". And I have to admit... based on the title and the few teasers and trailers I saw, I was once again, struck with a sense of being underwhelmed. This movie just looked boring to me. Clearly I had learned nothing from the prior success of Pixar's films. Pixar has made a habit of being understated with the promotion of its movies, and I think it has served to make the experience all that much more enjoyable when you see them. The same is exactly true for "Up". Before I get to reviewing the movie, for those that have not seen it, I can't recommend it highly enough. Take your kids, your significant other, or your grandmother. Each of them will be rewarded with a wonderful movie experience, and all for different, yet similar reasons. Ok, so on to the review.


From this point on, I will likely talk about parts of the movie that might give away the story or plot. Don't read any further if you haven't seen the movie or don't want to spoil it.

As has been Pixar's way over the last few of its films, this movie opens with a quiet, fairly dialog-free scene that is meant to set the stage for the rest of the movie. This has been a recipe for success for many of Pixar's movies... only in "Up", it's the quintessential scene of the entire movie. "Up" starts right off by pulling at your heart strings, and telling a beautiful story without ever saying a word. We learn all about our main character in the first few minutes of the film in a profound and meaningful way... and the man never speaks a word.

"Up", despite its complete lack of a love interest throughout most of the movie, is in fact a love story. It's a love story in the abstract... one in which a quiet man feels the meaning in his life disappear with the passing of the love of his life. He has seemingly had a good, long life with his beloved, and yet now, near the end of his days, feels the weight of a promise made, heretofore unfulfilled. The promise made between two young adventurers to someday visit the lost world of their long-gone childhood hero.

And the audience is immediately invested in the story. So much so that once Carl Fredricksen (voice by Ed Asner) decides it's time to fulfil that promise to his deceased wife, no-one really questions the outrageous method he uses to get to South America: by using enough helium filled balloons attached to andirons in his fire-place to lift his entire house off its foundation and fly the air currents south. It's preposterous. And completely ok. It is sweet and naive and fun and it would be heinous of a movie-goer to even question the probability of it. If that's your reaction then this movie probably isn't for you. In fact you should probably avoid Pixar movies altogether, as talking cars and monsters in the closet probably would make you just as irritable.

This movie of course has several interesting and well thought-out subplots. A young boy, Russel, looking to acquire badges for his scout sash becomes an unwitting stowaway on the flying home. Russel is an innocent, naive, but good hearted little boy who comes from an apparently broken home and is in desperate need of a father-figure. Carl, being single-minded in his purpose of getting his house, who he has now personified as his late wife,Ellie, to the lost world in South America, sees Russel as an inconvenience and an annoyance. And it is here that the movie begins to shape its message.

The rest of the movie is framed around forming relationships and letting those relationships take you in places you never expected. Carl, poor soul, feels incomplete since his wife passed away. He feels that he is missing something, and he believes with every fiber of his being that he has but one last task to complete to make his life complete. He made a promise to Ellie, and he meant to keep it, or risk living out his life feeling like he had disappointed her.

But it is during the very adventure of trying to fulfil this promise that he learns that his life was full and wonderful, and what he was missing now was not the fulfillment of a promise made in his youth, but the living of a life the way he had lived it before Ellie died... with hope and love and kinship towards someone who means something special to you. Carl needed Russel in his life (and Doug, of course... the dog they find along the way), and similarly Russel needed Carl. And in her wisdom, Ellie knew this all along. And in the "adventure book" she had kept, a book that Carl had not looked through since they were kids, Ellie left her own legacy to Carl, with pictures and mementos of the real adventure she had lived. She had long since given up the childhood fantasies she once carried in favor of an adventure far more meaningful and satisfying, and now she was urging Carl to do the same. And in becoming a part of Russel's life, he did just that, and in that way, did fulfil his promise.

In typical Pixar fashion, "Up" is ripe with humor, from the comically tense early interactions between Carl and Russel, to the strange dogs that live on the lost plateau in South America that wear collars that allow them to speak their thoughts (the funniest bit in the movie involves the "alpha dog" and the effect of a somewhat broken collar). Pixar knows how to push all the right buttons, and "Up" is no exception. I found myself at various times equally amused, entertained, and thought-provoked.

So once again, Pixar has managed to give us a portrait of life, to be enjoyed and cherished, in a 90 minute snapshot. Enjoy it and embrace it, as I did... and hope, as I do, that the next Pixar offering lives up to the impossibly high standards they continue to set for themselves.

Daily FAIL - I don't remember ordering this...

At that price, she couldn't have been all that good anyhow...

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NY Senate update - Monserrate returns to Dems, Espada still in love with himself

The sit-com otherwise known as the NY State Senate continues to amuse and confuse...

One of the two dissident democrats, Hiram Monserrate, who helped the republicans stage a coup of the State Senate leadership last week has returned to the democratic caucus, and pledged full support for the job which he was voted in to do in the first place.

So now we have a nice 31-31 logjam of dems vs. republican votes in the Senate, even though one of the 31 republican votes actually belongs to the odious Pedro Espada, who somehow still purports to be a democrat. This man has quickly become one of the most vile, contemptuous figures in the history of NY State politics. And to solidify this position, here's what he said regarding Monserrate returning to the democratic caucus: "While Senator Monserrate will be returning to the democratic conference, he assured me that he continues to support my historic election as Temporary President of the New York State Senate". (emphasis mine)

What an ego on this guy. He loves saying his title out loud, and does it every time he gets the chance. And frankly I doubt that Sen. Monserrate said anything of the kind.

"Historic" indeed... to quote a classic: "You keep using the word... I do not think it means what you think it means."

Thursday, June 11, 2009

NY State Senate carnival continues

As I wrote about yesterday, the situation in the NY Senate continues to be a complete farce. And it shows no signs of getting better.

Today, Senate republicans, led by the downright deplorable Pedro Espada, tried to convene a session, only to find that the democrats had locked away any relevant bills and withheld the official stenographer.  After 30 fruitless and comical minutes, the re-thug-licans gave up and went home.

In addition, one of the dissenters responsible for the coup, Hiram Monserrate, is apparently having second thoughts and stated that he would not vote for any bill this re-thug-lican coalition brings up, and then left the chamber, leaving the repubs without the 32 vote majority they thought they had rightfully bribed for.  And in the background calliope music plays on... 

Listen closely, Pedro Espada and senate republicans:  What you are doing is embarrassing, transparent, contrived, petty, boorish, and a disservice to the citizens of New York State.  The problem is, our Governor seems to think his place in all this is to stand by quietly and disapprove from the sidelines.

Not me.  I'm fed up.  Our NY State senate has failed its citizens utterly and completely, and I am calling for a complete dissolution of the Senate, with new elections across the board in every district across the state.  Get rid of them all.  Every damn one.  The ones that have shown leadership and positive movement should, and likely will, be re-elected.  The records and behavior of people like Pedro Espada should be brought to light, front and center, and they should lose the right to continue to mis-represent the people who voted them in.

Anything less than a complete dissolution of this senate is unacceptable in light of the despicable activities of the last week.

Daily FAIL - We're back from church... let the beatings commence.

I wonder how many christian fundies will read this and have no idea what's wrong with it?

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Pour some HFCS on me!

Being a man of slightly large girth (that's code for 'fat guy'), I'm well aware of what high calorie diets do to a person.  And in making a sincere attempt at losing weight, as I'm prone to try and do about every 3 months, I know that cutting back on certain foods and reducing a certain amount of sugar in my diet will help me achieve weight loss, along with regular exercise.

But, I'm also a skeptic. So every time I start hearing the wails from the masses (or Oprah watchers) that food item X is bad for you, will cause unsightly blemishes or will just plain kill you, or that you should only eat products that are made a certain way (don't even get me started on the "organic foods" over-hype)... well, I raise an eyebrow and usually refrain from being another one of Oprah's mindless lemmings. (Side note:  at this point, with all the crack-pot woo that Oprah promotes anymore, including dreck like "The Secret" and dangerous nutjobs like Jenny McCarthy, I pretty much take the default position that anything she promotes at this point is made of stupid.)

This brings me to the modern kerfuffle over HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup), a common food sweetener found in many, many products.  If one were to listen to the talk lately surrounding HFCS, one would think it was the root of every health problem facing the world today... from obesity to cancer to acne to foot fungus, HFCS is the bane of the food additives world.  Just dastardly, nasty stuff.  Even self-appointed Public Watchdog No. 1, Michael Moore, declared that elimination of HFCS should be President Obama's no. 3 priority (according to his book, "Mike's Election Guide").  Ok, yeah... it's hysterical to see a guy of Moore's... ummm... stature talking about reducing HFCS as such a priority... but leaving that aside, with all the problems facing Obama as he entered the office of the President... HFCS is no. 3 on the agenda?  Really?  That's bat-shit crazy even for Michael Moore.  (Please don't get me wrong... I appreciate Moore's work in opening up eyes on some very sensitive issues, but let's face it... the man has a penchant for being absurdly hyperbolic.)

So, exactly how dangerous is this HFCS scourge? Is it really any worse than any other substance of the same caloric value?  Are the cereal companies in league with Big Pharma to keep people sick using HFCS? (Don't laugh... this has really been proposed.) 

The short answer is "no".  Actually, the much longer answer is also "no", but I won't go into that here.  There's a much more in depth article on the HFCS misconception at skeptoid.  I highly recommend reading it.  In that article you will learn how HFCS is chemically similar to table sugar, how HFCS has been mis-characterized and wrongly attributed to health problems, even by so-called experts like Oprah's regular, Dr. Oz (See?  What did I tell you about Oprah... just being on her show makes otherwise intelligent people salivate under her bountiful financial umbrella and embrace loony fringe theories just to keep the cash cow appeased).  This article also points to peer-reviewed studies that show no substantially different metabolic effects between HFCS and plain old sucrose. 

Does HFCS lead to obesity?  Absolutely.  If you take in too much of it and don't burn off the calories you take in... but it will do so at no higher a rate than other sugars like glucose and sucrose, in whatever form they take.  In general, high calorie intake without burning those calories off is what leads to obesity, regardless of the source of those calories.  So, if you want to lose weight, eat healthier food in general... don't overeat (that's my biggest problem) and exercise regularly. 

But don't buy into the hysteria that HFCS is one of the top health concerns in the country.  That's just irresponsible finger-pointing.  So read the article I linked to if you want to learn more about this.  It's really worth the read.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


"Smilin Bob" from the Cialis commercials has nothin' on E.T.

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NY Senate apparently watching too much professional wrestling

I'm a resident of NY State, and currently I have to whisper that with a fairly high degree of embarrassment. NY State politics has always been, shall we say, a little on the dysfunctional side, but what has gone on in the last week in the NY State senate is nothing short of comical.

Watching the behavior of the two "democratic" senators,Pedro Espada and Hiram Monserrate (both from the 5 boroughs... big surprise), made me feel like I was watching one of those goofy, staged WWE wrestling events, where one of the participants switches allegiances in mid-match and attacks his own partner. It's contrived, silly, and only works because everybody knows it's fake.

Apparently, Espada and Monserrate think shit like this is actually acceptable behavior on the floor of the NY Senate. In what can only be described as a spiteful coup, the two senators backed a proposal by bullying republicans who seem to think that the will of the voters is really just secondary when it comes to control of Senate leadership. These goobers LOST their elections and thereby lost their ability to control the Senate, but being the corrupt little weasels that they are, saw an opportunity to go around the voters by making back-door deals with Monserrate, and ESPECIALLY Espada, who was immediately named Senate President by the republican leadership. Does anyone really believe that particular action wasn't the gravy that convinced Espada to turn like Brutus? Of course it was.

Espada already has a track record of shady politics. He's racked up over $60,000 in fines for ill-begotten campaign funds, has fines for failure to file reports to the state Board of Elections 41 times, and doesn't even live in the district he represents.  This guy is dirtier than the floor of a chicken coop, and the republicans knew exactly who to target when they decided that a simple matter of lost elections was merely a technicality. Since when do NY State voters and their will mean a damn thing to republicans? Losing an election, to them, merely means they need to get more creative in their attempts to strong-arm the political landscape, and shows once again that ethics and voter representation are secondary to their agenda.

The disturbing part about all of this is that the NY Senate Republicans aren't even being coy about the level of corruption they are displaying. They are simply abusing a flawed system to assert power and completely ignore the will of the voters. Democracy in NY State is officially on hiatus, and I for one am disgusted. The voters of the Bronx have been disenfranchised. Pedro Espada, you were hired by the voters of the Bronx to represent their best interests. However it is clear that the only interests you are representing are your own. My only warning to you is this: voters remember behavior like this, and while your despicable actions may be a short term gain, I promise you they will be a long term loss.

Yup... just like watching a pro wrestling match, I know two things about what's going on with the NY Senate... the outcome is fixed and the two main participants are puppets... and puppets are puppets because they are paid to be... enter Tom Galisano.

Galisano, as many of you recall, is the upstate billionaire owner of the Buffalo Sabres and failed (3 time) NY Gubernatorial candidate.  Galisano spent a great deal of money helping the Dems win control of the Senate on the November elections. Once that was accomplished, the Dems appointed Malcolm Smith, a democrat from Queens (another borough... you'd think NY City was the only place in NY that matters) as majority leader.  Galisano hoped that Smith would help him push his agenda, seeing as he was so helpful to the Dems in their campaign.  This didn't happen... apparently Smith was too busy, you know, actually representing his constituents, to bow to Galisano's will and be at his beck and call.  Outraged, Galisano secretly came up with the ploy to oust the Dems from power and find people he could manipulate (see the aforementioned "puppets") to put in power.

The thing is, Galisano is not an officially voted in representative of any government agency in NY.  He should have no part, no say in any of this whatsoever.  All that he is, is rich.  Extraordinarily rich... and as a result, powerful enough to significantly tip the balance of NY politics.  It is corruption at its very basic and worst level... and it's alive and well on the floor of the NY Senate.  And you thought 'The Sopranos' was a work of fiction... 

UPDATE:  Jim Dwyer has a great article about the despicable, corrupt Espada and how this whole thing came to pass in today's NY Times.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Daily FAIL - Inaugural.

The world is full of stupid.  You know it, I know it... and so do the folks at Failblog.

So, as a tribute to epic stupidity, captured for our amusement, I will post some of my favorite FAILs here on a semi-regular basis.  I know the post says "Daily"... but come on... there's no way I'm doing this every day.  Deal with it.

For your inaugural daily fail I offer you TWO!  That's right, TWO epic fails.  Enjoy!

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Monday, June 8, 2009

Use ITunes to manage any MP3 player

I'm a HUGE fan of ITunes.  For my money, I think it's the best music download / MP3 management application available.  I'm not a fan of Rhapsody, and I frankly hate the Napster (and others) subscription model for the same reason I hate NetFlix:  Namely, after I watch all the movies (or download all the music) I've bee looking to watch, I end up paying a monthly fee and frankly barely using the service any further.  I'm much more the type of person who would rather just pay for what I want and not feel like I have to download stuff to make it worth the subscription price.  Add that to the "Genius" feature that has found me countless hours of new music, and it's simply my personal favorite music download site.

At any rate, lots of people use ITunes, but I get the same comment from many people:  I can't use ITunes because it doesn't work with my Zune, or my Sansa, or my IPOD Touch rip-off from China...

Well, those people are wrong.  You CAN sync your non-fruit-based MP3 player using ITunes... all you need is a little software help.  CNET makes a great, and better yet free, little tool called "ITunes Agent".  You can download it here.  This great little app will add an icon in your System Tray (bottom right of your screen) when you launch ITunes.  

To sync your non-IPOD device, first connect your MP3 device to your PC, then right-click on the "ITunes Agent" icon in the system tray and click "Preferences".  Then click "New".  

BIG IMPORTANT WARNING:  Just like the first time you sync up a new IPOD to ITunes, you will get a warning that the first time you sync up your device to ITunes, all your data on your device will first be erased, then the ITunes data will be added to it.  So... ya know... keep that in mind before you do this and wipe out your MP3 player and then try to blame me.

Anyhow, I assume you're OK with this process, since you wanted to sync up your MP3 device with ITunes in the first place.  So go ahead and fill out the fields for the new device as needed, then click "save".  Once that's done, right-click on the ITunes Agent and click "Synchronise devices"... and that's it.

So, please feel free to enjoy all the wonderfulness of ITunes on your Zen or Walkman MP3 with this great little utility.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Music Review: Miranda Lee Richards - Light of X

I spent the other night watching an episode of "Bones", when a suddenly haunting and melodious song began playing in the background during the final scene of the episode.  As I often do when watching TV, I was paying more attention to the music then what was going on in the episode.  Not that the program was all that bad.. it wasn't.  Bones is a terrific show.  But the song had me captivated.

So I put my most excellent Google-fu skills to work, and in about 5 minutes I had found the song, and more importantly, the artist.  And so another ten bucks was donated to the great Empire of the Forbidden Fruit as I downloaded the album from Itunes.

The artist, as you've guessed by now, is Miranda Lee Richards. Richards has an interesting background.  She grew up in San Francisco as the daughter of underground-comic book creator Ted Richards, who created "the 40 year old hippie" of cult comic book fame.  And her first real exposure to music was as a result of her best friend dating Kirk Hammett, the Metallica guitarist, who taught her to play some songs on the guitar.  She picked it up quickly and began writing shortly thereafter.

Fast forward to present day, where Richards now lives in LA and has already produced one acclaimed album, "The Herethereafter", and released "Light of X" in early 2009.

"Light of X" is a soulful, sweet and beautiful sounding effort that doesn't over-produce itself for the sake of being more marketable.  It is both ethereal and folksy, and harkens to the bluesy, guitar-laden tones put forth by groups like Cowboy Junkies and Mazzy Star.

The album has its own slow, calm pace.  None of the songs get too upbeat, and many of them have a feel of sadness and longing.  But to call the album "depressing" or "maudlin" does not do the songs justice.  This is a soft, deep, and meaningful album that allows the listener to 'feel' the music rather than just hear it.  The lyrics are generally heartfelt and uplifting, and Richards' airy, whispy vocal quality works well in this light; in other words, these are songs you'd want to hear sung by a voice like Richards'.

That's not to say there aren't some flaws... the album stagnates in places and some of the songs seem seem almost forgettable.  After starting off strong with "Breathless" and "Lifeboat" (the song featured on the "Bones" episode), both excellent songs with meaningful lyrics and catchy hooks, the fairly plain and forgettable "Savorin your smile" follows.  The album continues this way, with a couple of purely excellent songs interrupted with a mediocre and almost contrived effort.  This can be forgiven, however, in the modern day 10-song per album format we've become accustomed to.  How often have you bought an album where all the songs were choice?

Songs like 'Hideaway' and 'Early November', with their simple, melodious sound are more than enough to make up for the few weak tracks, like 'Hidden Treasure'.  And the album does take a more upbeat turn with the fun 'Pictures of You', and I can guarantee you that you will be hearing 'Here by the Window' on an episode of "House" at some point.  

"Light of X" conveys the perfect mood for heart-tugging drama, and I wouldn't be surprised to see its songs popping up in the background of some of TV's best shows.  Heck... that's what I would do if I were in charge of such things.