Saturday, December 31, 2005

the best list of the year 2006 edition

Here it is, the Lake Superior State University 2006 List of Banished Words. With abbreviated descriptions; read the whole thing in Sault Ste. Marie.

SURREAL – One part opiate of the masses, 13 parts overuse.

HUNKER DOWN – To brace oneself, in anticipation of media onslaught.

PERSON OF INTEREST – Found within the context of legal commentary, but seldom encountered at cocktail parties.

COMMUNITY OF LEARNERS – A five-dollar phrase on a nickel-errand. Not to be confused with ‘school.’

UP OR DOWN VOTE – A casualty of today’s partisanship.

BREAKING NEWS – Once it stopped presses. Now it’s a lower-intestinal condition brought about by eating dinner during newscasts.

DESIGNER BREED – “When you mate a miniature schnauzer to a toy poodle, it’s not a ‘Schnoodle,’ it’s a mongrel.”

FEMA – Dedicated to the memory of a great federal agency consigned to the ash heap of parody.

FIRST-TIME CALLER – “I am serious in asking: who in any universe gives a care?”

PASS THE SAVINGS ON TO YOU! – Marketing catch phrase that became a lost-leader long ago.

97% FAT FREE – Adventures in delusion.

AN ACCIDENT THAT DIDN’T HAVE TO HAPPEN – Best-laid mayhem.

JUNK SCIENCE – Banished from the Marketplace of Ideas.

GIT-ER-DONE – (Any of its variations) It’s overdone. [I never heard this one. Ever. Can’t say that I’m sorry.]

DAWG – No designer breed here.

TALKING POINTS – Created after PR staffers stopped attending seminars on how to put a positive ‘spin’ on their press releases.

HOLIDAY TREE – a silly name for what most folks hold as a Christmas tree, no matter your preference of religion.

They’re now accepting submissions for the 2007 list!

posted by lee on 12/31/05 at 10:00 PM

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happy new year

Well, 2005 was certainly an interesting year. Got married. Stanley got a new heart valve and a bypass. As my sister pointed out, any year that you or your beloved is saved from certain death is a good year.

Do I have resolutions for the new year? Oh, yes. Get more sleep, work less, get at least 5,000 steps per day in, play with the dog more, see more movies (we’ve been slacking off), work smarter (so I can work less), exercise and lose some weight, spend at least two weeks of our vacation without working (and take an entire month off) and, by July, be able to walk a mile without feeling like I’m going to drop dead. What else. Um. Catch up and keep up with the bookkeeping, put more into the IRA, and win the Powerball. (Well, I can hope, can’t I?) Finish redesigning our company website. And get the first floor of the house whipped into shape by April. (Or at least get the kitchen painted and the boxes out of the living room ... ) Spend less, consume less energy. Read more books. Spend more time with my photography. See the family more. (A niece’s wedding in July—so two trips to Michigan this year! Stanley is happy about that.) Take more day trips in Connecticut.

We had an interesting dinner as our last meal of 2005. Rice pilaf, broccoli, and flaming tilapia. The tilapia wasn’t supposed to be in flames—Mark Bittman is wrong—two inches from the broiler is NOT far enough away (pulled it out fast enough so it was ok). And pie soup.

Pie soup? Well, I learned something. If you use frozen strawberries in a strawberry apple pie, you need to use a thickener. It tastes really good, it’s just weird to have to eat a pie with a spoon. This is a variation on the pie I made a couple of week ago, apple cranberry with streussel topping, which was tasty but way too sour. So, this time, I decided to make the same recipe, but use strawberries instead of cranberries. And use more spice. This was the first time I’ve ever baked with frozen strawberries. Live and learn, eh? I served it up to Stanley in a bowl with a spoon, and he laughed, but ate it. At least I had some whipped cream to put on top. When I finally master this recipe (my take on it, anyway), I think I will start a new category, recipes, and make it the first entry.

Our first major event of 2006 will be on Thursday, when we get the new fridge we FINALLY ordered. The old one is, let’s see, maybe 35 years old? Maybe older? It will be interesting to see how much of an impact a new fridge will have on our electric bill. I suspect it will pay for itself in a couple of years. Especially since CL&P got a 22% rate increase (17% in January, the rest kicks in March 2006). Whatever happened to competition for electricity? We didn’t get anything fancy or expensive because we don’t have the room for anything fancy or expensive. I would have to sacrifice too much cupboard space for a big fridge. So we got a $400 Hotpoint from Home Depot, 15.7 cubic feet, about the same size we have now.

See what a boring couple we are: we watched a movie, ate dinner in, watched the ball drop and kissed, turned on Coldplay on the telly, I’m blogging and Stanley is reading Salon. The dog is done cowering since the fireworks are over. And I’m quite content with my life.

Now off to throw the towels into the dryer ...

posted by lee on 12/31/05 at 09:10 PM

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

ruins and a good photographer

Stanley sent me a link to Opacity, where “Mr. Mott” has posted a couple of thousand photos of urban ruins. The Buffalo Central Terminal is particularly interesting, and so are the various insane asylums and prisons. There is a lot to see here and I don’t dare investigate the urban ruins ring because I do have to get some work done today.

posted by lee on 12/28/05 at 10:45 AM

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well now, that’s a relief

Christmas was fun—besides a burr grinder, Stanley gave me a Kodak Duaflex III camera and I managed to find film for it (am waiting for it to arrive) and Maureen, Jeff, Kate, and Ben gave us a dvd recorder. Everybody seemed pleased with what they received.

Maureen was getting dinner ready when Dad called. Dad and Mom are down in Panama City Beach for the winter. Dad said he had to take Mom to hospital because she woke him up Christmas morning and told him she was having chest pains. So he bundled her into the car immediately and got her to Bay Medical, their local hospital which, fortunately, is a very good one. Her electrocardiogram was a bit abnormal and her blood pressure was off the charts, so they admitted her. Since it was a holiday on Sunday and on Monday, nothing was done until Tuesday, where they gave her a chemical stress test since she couldn’t handle the treadmill stress test (her hip hurts too much).

She got the results this morning, which showed no heart damage, and they discharged her. I’m relieved there was no heart damage, but would really like to know the diagnosis for the chest pain, which lasted more than two days. I wasn’t surprised that it wasn’t the heart, but suspect the extraordinary stress she’s been under the last month or so triggered something. Dad’s carotid artery roto-rootering and then the packing up and driving down to Florida from Michigan after his docs gave him the all-clear didn’t give Mom much of a chance to de-stress. I know with me the stress creeps up on me and knocks me on the ass after the crisis has passed—I would imagine it’s probably the same deal for Mom.

She’s home (at their condo) now—I hope she can de-stress. Maybe sit in the Florida sunshine and just let the worries slip away.

posted by lee on 12/28/05 at 10:28 AM

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Friday, December 23, 2005

traffic, oh my

It took us longer to find a parking spot at Best Buy this afternoon than it took us to go in and find the items we were looking for, stand in line to pay, and then leave.

And we noticed that people are certainly abiding by the no cellphone while driving law that went into effect in October. Not.

Other than a lot of rude drivers (all these self-important twits around here driving SUVs too big to handle or that idiot in the beamer with his ragtop down—that guy must have a really SMALL dick), shopping wasn’t too godawful this year. We did all of it (the stuff we don’t do online, anyway) in Norwalk and Westport, mostly Westport. In the stores themselves, clerks were mostly pleasant despite being tired except for the pushy jerks at Brookstone.

But we’re ready—got everything done, the dog is bathed and smelling like good soap and all fluffy—will pack, watch Jeopardy, then head for Natick this evening. We got good sandwiches from Wild Oats to eat on the road, made some good trail mix, coffee, we’re all set. Hope the trek won’t take too much longer than it usually does (about 2.5 hours), but traffic on the highways doesn’t look too bad—much heavier earlier today.

Wasted some time getting Ginger’s entry on Dogster up: http://www.dogster.com/?238239 (it was fun!)

posted by lee on 12/23/05 at 02:55 PM

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

tv time

We’re tv junkies. We have a tv in our bedroom, the guest room, our living room, and our office. We have just about everything cable has to offer except the porn channels (though we’d dump the forty or fifty sports channels in a heartbeat if we could). We’re faithful viewers of many shows (though it’s getting harder and harder to figure out when they’re on these days) even when a show has jumped the shark (except for Nightline. The new format, frankly, sucks the substance right out of it, so we don’t pay attention to it much any more except when Martin Bashir is on).

So, we decided a while ago, when the tv in the living room finally went, we’d get a bigger one. That tv is one I bought more than a dozen years ago, and the picture was starting to get a little weird, so we knew it was just a matter of time.

By bigger, we initially discussed a 36-inch tv. But we saw one, and decided it was too big and decided to get a 32-inch one instead to replace the 25-inch Zenith.

The Zenith finally died. Off we went to Circuit City, where Stanley scoped out a 32-inch Magnavox on sale for $268 plus tax. Not a hi-definition tv or a flat panel or any of those fancy new formats. Nope, you don’t get enough bang for your buck to justify the cost of those tvs and I think the picture on most of them isn’t very good. We’ll wait a few years for one of those, when the price hits the sanitysphere and the quality improves considerably.

We wanted the Magnavox because they have a sound feature that keeps the commercials, particularly the local commercials, at the same volume as the show. It irritates me to no end when the commercials blare out at the decibel levels found on a runway during take-off, particularly since the tv volume is already loud because I’m so deaf.

The Magnavox is so BIG. We’re overwhelmed by the size of it. We live in a 200-year-old house with small rooms, and the telly now dominates the east side of the house. It’s amazing what just seven diagonal inches adds to the size of the screen. We agree that we should’ve gone with the 27-inch screen—that would’ve been plenty. But it was so much trouble setting up this tv that we’ll keep it. Though we agree that we have to figure out some way to, I don’t know, ameliorate the impact of its size somehow. Maybe if we lower it or something, or move things around a bit—I don’t know.

I really LIKE having such a big screen—it will be great when we watch DVDs. But it’s so big ... it didn’t seem so big in the store.

posted by lee on 12/21/05 at 07:59 AM

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

google earth

Spent a while downloading and then zooming around Google Earth. It’s pretty amazing—seeing places I know from above.

But I wonder how old the data is? I know some of it has to be more than two years out of date since the house I grew up in still shows a big elm tree in front—but the tree came down maybe ten years ago. Seeing my sister’s house in Natick, MA was cool—but I can’t see ours since Fairfield County is this green blob—no buildings are visible. I wonder why. It’s pretty disappointing not to be able to discern our house in the blob. I can see the houses of most of my relatives, but not my house or my parents’ house.

image
This is my sister’s house in Natick, MA. See how clearly you can see the house! [click to enlarge]

image
And this is the view of our house in Norwalk. A green blob. You can’t even see the school next door, which is a fairly large building. [click to enlarge]

The other weird thing is some of the data is wrong. The house I grew up in, in Southgate, MI (now the mall capitol of southeastern Michigan), is shown two doors up from where it actually is (the target is over the wrong house—the Franklins lived there when I was growing up!) My youngest sister’s house, in Dearborn Heights, MI, looks wrong. She lives in a small house, with a small garage behind it but the image shows some big buildings there. I forget what her cross street is—will have to ask her to see if it’s even showing the correct corner lot.

So, an interesting start, but disappointing (and useless for seeing where you need to go) for those of us who live in Blob Land. Google directions, the last time I checked (like two months ago) leave a LOT to be desired (like accuracy), at least here in Fairfield County, so maybe when they update the imagery they’ll also update the directions. Or vice versa. When it’s working properly, I’ll start thinking about integrating it into the websites we manage, at least the ones with storefronts.

But it is so FUN to fly over the country!

posted by lee on 12/20/05 at 02:37 PM

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Sunday, December 18, 2005

expression engine

Every time I start to catch up with all the ExpressionEngine installations we maintain, pMachine goes and announces an upgrade. Yay! Damn them! Yay! Shit I have work to do ...

This time, though, they offer a FREE core installation, which is making me really happy as I can use that instead of the old pMachine installations on the couple of sites where folks just want a nice, easy to use, and very simple blog. pMachine is a little on the complicated side and doesn’t work very well for this purpose, really; you can tell the company applies what they learn about what works and what doesn’t.

And I was going to spend most of Monday finishing the xmas shopping. Hmm.

posted by lee on 12/18/05 at 09:28 PM

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Saturday, December 17, 2005

cigarette burns

We’ve been watching the Masters of Horror series of 13 (of course) movies on Showtime. The latest episode is directed by John Carpenter, titled Cigarette Burns.

imageDefinitely on the creepy side, but derivative as hell. A cross between The Ninth Gate (that Johnny Depp movie where Depp’s character is supposed to track down a demonic book for some rich old fart, and terrible things happen along the way, you know, that overrated Polanski film) and The Ring (where watching a video means you’re gonna die—and the Japanese version, Ringu, which is even better, or scarier, whatever).

Well, in this MofH installment, a movie expert is hired by a rich old fart to find a movie that was shown only once and was allegedly destroyed by “the government” because the audience when berserk and several were murdered after watching it, though there’s a rumor that a copy of it still exists. Even those just looking for the film are subject to its spell ... the rich old fart all has an angel (or devil?) chained up in the gallery. Part of the horror of the movie was watching the angel (or devil) get its wings hacked off, something about the horror of evil. I won’t say too much, except that I kept expecting the lead, who is not Johnny Depp, to pull out a sword and start swashbuckling—why not throw in a third movie ripoff? And there were some definite gaps in the plot there ... it’s interesting to watch. But confusing more than scary.

Dario Argento’s contribution, Jenifer, is my favorite so far. It’s about an incubus succubus, sort of, the whole horror of no good deed goes unpunished. I like Deer Woman, directed by John Landis (well written and funny) and Homecoming, by Joe Dante. Chocolate is the worst so far—way too slow and not very interesting.

There’s one thing I’ve noticed so far—there must be a rule that each installment should show at least one boob shot. Whether or not it’s relevant to the story. Makes me laugh—can’t disappoint the boys now, can we? Are there any women who direct horror movies? I mean decent ones. There aren’t that many women directors, so probably not. Will have to ask Stanley—this is just the sort of thing he’d know (he creamed me at Jeopardy Friday night. I must acknowledge. Guess that heart valve replacement really does allow more oxygen to get to his brain.)

posted by lee on 12/17/05 at 11:37 PM

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Sunday, December 11, 2005

good night, and good luck

We finally got a chance to go see Good Night, and Good Luck last night. It is superb.

imageI have to admit, I was a little leery of this movie, mainly because I was worried that the confluence of George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh would lead to a godawful mess like K Street, the short-lived series they did for HBO. But the reviews for GN&GL are great, and I just wanted to see it.

It took just 50 years for the kind of crap McCarthy pulled to cycle through again. GN&GL a straightforward presentation of a slice of our history during the McCarthy era, and how a group of journalists, led by Edward R. Murrow, decided “enough is enough.”  Nobody acted in the role of McCarthy—Clooney used real footage of McCarthy spewing his poison, which was, I think, the most effective way to do it. The movie slaps you in the face with the parallels to what is happening now, but the slaps are not delivered by the actors—they’re delivered by McCarthy himself, and toward the end, by President Eisenhower.

It took Katrina for some journalists in the country to start waking up, to start saying “enough is enough.” I hope the rest see this movie and are, finally, shamed into doing their jobs.

posted by lee on 12/11/05 at 11:18 AM

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