Six Flags As You’ll Never See It, Piker

Before Six Flags over Mid America, in Eureka, Missouri (a suburb, now, of St. Louis) opens, the firefighters and emergency workers have their day. It’s not like they get short lines to the roller coasters, though; Six Flags lets them use the Thunder River ride to practice rescuing people from flash floods and rapids. How cool is that?

Story, courtesy of the Suburban Journals (a wholly owned subsidiary of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch designed to make you think there’s real “competition” or that they contain “news”), here.

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Mosquitoes, or French Scientists, Cash In on X2 Craze

How convenient. French scientists have determined that the mosquitoes that carry West Nile are mutants. Just at the same time that X-Men 2: X-Men United is atop the box office again. Sure, these scientists claim this is based on scientific evidence and the announcement is designed to further the understanding of the West Nile epidemic.

Furthermore, the scientists explain their trademarking of the “MassKillto” super villain suitable for t-shirts was inadvertent, and that they meant to send the comic-book style graphic to the magazine Nature.

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A Program For America

The Opinion Journal yesterday included a column that explained that Republicans are from Mars, Democrats are from Venus. Or, as the article says, Democrats want to build (presumably Utopia) while Republicans want to defend civilization, whatever its flaws, from the alternatives.

This conforms to an idea I had while I was growing up, in the Reagan/Bush years, that the Republicans made good presidents, but Democrats made a good legislature. Republicans believe in law enforcement and strong militaries, which conform to what the executive branch does, whereas Democrats embrace the social freedoms in the bill of rights, or seemed to, and would provide a good body of legislators for a shambling and mostly gridlocked Congress. A balance of thought, a balance of focus, and the balance of power. What could be better?

But I am older and wiser now. I realize politics is sports for old fat men and women who cannot compete on the field and are afraid to try it in the honest business world (and I do mean honest, not the inbred business-lobbyist-executivocomplex). It’s not about making good laws, it’s about making a leaping reverse stuff law that says a lot but does whatever someone eventually interprets it to do. It’s about scoring votes and trash talking and excessive celebration after every small victory and one side winning and the other being humiliated. Since I have grown up, I have seen how they haven’t.

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Making Your Unlivable Life Worse

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports (second item) that a man in a suburb of St. Louis became suicidal and armed himself with a sword. However, lacking a good instruction manual for killing oneself with a sword, this gentleman drew the attention of neighbors, friends, family members, or the local busybody. Said other, non-suicidal person called police, who arrived and shot the suicidal man when he brandished said sword at them.

No, they didn’t kill him. Now he’s going to prison for attempting to kill a police officer. That should fix him right up.

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When We Outlaw Buying Oreos, Only Outlaws Will Buy Oreos

The San Fransisco Chronicle reports about an ambulance proceeding lawyer who’s suing Nabisco for selling Oreos which are not good for children. His goal, other than getting his name in the paper so he can be the Erin Brokovich of food lawsuits (man breasts probably included), is to keep tran fat out of the hands of children.

Listen, bub, here’s a lesson for you. When Milwaukee started getting decorated by the young graffitos in the local youth crime organizations who used brightly-colored, aerosol-propelled paint in their unauthorized, yet profoundly authentic, murals, Milwaukee banned the sale of spray paint to people under eighteen. You had to go to the counter and show some ID for your Krylon. No kidding. This meant, of course, that those young, impassioned artistes driven to speak out in the only subversive, non-violent fashion they could needed to hang out outside the local True Value waiting for someone they could bribe to come along, or they could improvise. And many did, which meant that most of the gangland glyphs were done in permanent marker. Now, Milwaukee had to make marker possession by minors into a felony….

What’s my point? Aside from using the blogomockracy to make fun of this frivolous lawsuit? I guess none. Of course, without sugary things that are bad for you to put into their mouths, we’ll return to the dark ages of eating Elmer’s Paste and papier-mache. Is that the bright future we want for our children? I think not. Let Them Eat Tran Fatty Cake!

Thank you, that is all.

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And Six For My Pal, El Guapo

Fark pointed me to a story in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle about an economist’s study of how alcohol legislation and taxation impacts consumption and drunk driving laws. The answer is, of course, not like the legislators hoped, but they’ll take the tax money anyway.

Interesting factoid from the article:

Think of it this way, Young said: If the United States’ population totaled 10 people and they had 10 beers to split among them, three people would not drink beer at all, five people would share two beers, one person would have two beers, and one would drink six beers. Most alcohol-related problems occur with that last person.

Sorry, El Guapo, but if I have six, and you have six, you’re the last person, but do not worry, for we have thrown the math off.

Still, it might prove interesting to study the relationship between government’s applied regulation through taxation and not-outright banning of “vices” because this contrasts outright bans (drug use, prostitution, and the rest of the Libertarian Party platform’s emancipation list), recently-reduced bans (gambling), bans by judicial awards (smoking). This study might prove to be the third good thing ever to come out of Montana State.

A toast to Montana, then, guardians of liberty and our northern border.

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Jennifer Garner: Some of That, Hold the Chips

As I passed through the den on my way to do battle with the ominous Dark Load of Sith in the laundry room, I passed my beautiful wife stretched out upon the sofa, whereupon she was soaking up some primetime television. “Doesn’t she have a great body?” she asked. By she, she meant Jennifer Garner, and by she, I mean my esteemed spouse, or at least we did until the pronouns began straying from their antecedents.

I cast the slightest glance at the television set, and she (Jennifer Garner she, star of television’s Alias, not Heather she) was slinking, sashaying, and I think I caught a glimpse of some provocative undulation across a room in an expensive strapless dress.

As a student of some famous tacticians, from Sun Tzu to Machiavelli, I immediately hearkened back to the immortal words of Admiral Ackbar of the Calamari, who once said, “It’s a trap!” For although we men, and by “we men” I mean some men who are not happily married like we are, honey, we men sometimes have been known to appraise the aesthetic value of women and occasionally might even think about sitting on rocks and listening to birds singing madrigals with one (and dismiss it out of hand, of course), it’s always bad to be called on it, immediately, and out of any context we can use as a defense in future discussions (not arguments, of course). I might even have frozen for a second or two, speechless, while Jennifer Garner wiggled across the screen into some clandestine meeting with either a really good guy or a really bad guy.

Unfortunately, I was not so much leering as running an algorithm to sort appropriate responses. “She’s okay,” I offered, unsure what question my wife had really asked. Of course, within every object-oriented male, when running the examineChick(object chick) method (sorry, but within Existentialist object-oriented males, all parameters are of type object), compares a woman to a static set of attributes, and the method returns a static value. For Jennifer Garner, I got back a SOME_OF_THAT response. (Contrast with my wife, who returns ALL_OF_THAT+BAG_OF_CHIPS+MEDIUM_DRINK+SMALL_SUNDAE.) Perhaps it’s the coastal body type, perhaps it’s the way the eyes crinkle, but some attributes within Jennifer Garner did not meet the specification. Sorry, Garner, now stop calling and hanging up without leaving a message.

“Look at those shoulders,” she (Heather she, not Jennifer Garner she) said. Of course, she (Heather she, not Jennifer Garner she) was comparing her (Heather her, not Jennifer Garner her) shoulders to those in the white strapless dress. Both women have subtly muscular, but distinctly feminine, shoulders. All Heather wanted was for me to appraise Jennifer Garner’s shoulders.

Unfortunately, as I indicated, guys don’t throw out a Web Service Definition Language (WSDL) document to indicate the nature of the methods available; the methods are by nature private. If only she had known she could ask if I like Jennifer Garner’s shoulders, I could have answered more quickly, without worrying about the ramifications or consquences or the dreaded marriage crash.

“They’re okay,” I repeated since it didn’t seem to get me into any trouble the last time. And before I could get into trouble, I fled into the comfortable confines of the laundry room.

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Dick Gephardt Brings Daughter Out Of Closet, Into Campaign

Dick Gephardt has announced his daughter is a lesbian and will now serve as an important tool in his campaign to woo the homosexual vote, which apparently does not vote on issues but on symbolic gestures.

Next week, it is expected that Gephardt will announce that some of his best friends are black.

Also, is it just me, or do homosexual-friendly candidates often cough up gay daughters, but not gay sons? Is this because they’re playing on the current lesbianism-as-non-threatening-and-titilating-homosexuality cultural vibe, er, more?


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Future Internet Entrepreneur Squelched by Authorities

Well, not exactly, but one young man in the Northwest R-1 school district, from which I matriculated, was busted for videotaping the girls locker room. Now, he’s going to get it.

Looks like possible punishment might fit what used to be called “hijinks.” A suspension and a slap on the juvenile wrist. Entire movie franchises were built on kids doing this sort of thing, albeit before x10 made it easy. (See also Meatballs (I-IV), Porky’s (I-III), and American Pie (I-III).) So spank the boy, send him to bed before dinner, and maybe raise him, but let’s not deny him the right to vote, lock him up, and brand him a sicko-for-life yet. Youthful “exuberance” is not a felony yet.

Maybe I am just a softy because Northwest Valley used to be Northwest High School, and I have fond memory of it. Just one, graduating.

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Suh-Weet Disclaimer

Heather’s gone off on her new bike many times on her blog, but as a certified Reel Gud Dock Righter, it’s up to me to critique the Owner’s Manual (Version 5.0).

Okay, not the whole thing. I focused on the sweet disclaimer at the front:

GENERAL WARNING: Bicycling can be a hazardous activity even under the best of circumstances. Proper maintenance of your bicycle is your responsibility and is essential to reducing the risk of injury. This Manual contains many “Warnings” and “Cautions” concerning the consequences of failure to maintain or inspect your bicycle. Many of the Warnings and Cautions say “you may lose control and fall”. [sic, Ms. Igert, I swear] Because any fall can result in serious injury or even death, we do not repeat the warning of possible injury or death whenever the risk of falling is mentioned.

As a Doc-U-Matic 3000, I generate my share of droll technical specs and manuals, but since I do software, I never get the cool caveats. Instead, I get things like “Performing this action might result in unexpected results.” or “Running this utility while your server is running can corrupt your database.” Where’s the threat of death? Where’s the danger, the intrigue?

While researching this blog entry, I saw the new Version 6.0 Owner’s Manual on the Giant Bicycle’s Web site (marketing message: “Cycling Solution Provider for everyone” which would seem to indicate everyone has a cycling problem, dilemma, or conundrum). Still, the upgraded doc says:

The combination of the safety alert symbol and the word WARNING indicates a potentially hazardous situation which, if not avoided, could result in serious injury or death.

How sexy is that? When do I get to threaten the people who ignore my reason of career existence with death for ignoring me?

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Who Needs An Intercom?

In my previous days as an experienced Estate Sale Con-E-Sur, I spent a lot of times scavanging the homes of the well-to-do who acquired their, well, to-dos in the 1950s and 1960s. One thing that struck me besides, and often beside, the ovens built into the walls at an ergonomic height, was the hard-wired intercoms within some of the ranch homes, many of which could have fit the 13 x 65 mobile home in which I spent a couple of years into their basements. What a remarkable concept, I thought. But the idea died out in the 1950s, perhaps fifty years before these homes’ owners ended their retirements. My beautiful wife and I bought a home that lacks one, and the house was built when Lyndon Johnson was president.

Never fear, IM is here! Although my wife’s office and my office hide on opposite ends of different floors of our split-level home (no coincidence), we can get the benefits of the anachronistic knob-and-speaker assemblies in the Ladue and Town and Country homes. “Honey,” she types, “I am going to bed,” and I hear her voice within my imagination more clearly than I would through fifty-year-old vacuum tubes. “I’ll be right down,” I type carefully, examining each key carefully as I peck out the response to make sure each letter is where I left it. And I go, to kiss her good night and ensure the bed is adequately feline-occupied for her slumber.

The TCP/IP packets leave not detritus, though, and somehow it’s somewhat less satisfying to think our communication leaves no residue, unlike those lines hard-wired and ostentatiously-wrought in 1954.

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Doing It in Style Guides

After a period of time at the start-up for whom I work, I’ve decided it’s time to create a style guide. With the revenue sugarplums dancing in our heads, maybe I can convince the assorted VPs of our need to hire a second technical writer eventually. A style guide would help break in, or maybe just break, the untamed new person. No longer would he or she struggle against the bridle of “Do it because I do it that way.” The style guide offers me the cover of “Do it because it’s in the style guide” (because I do it that way and put it in the style guide that way). Too much exposure to the marketers, and suddenly I am crafty.

So, instead of relying upon guidance from previous employers, which meant falling into the “Do it because it’s in the style guide” (because I do it that way because all of my previous employers did it that way, so I put it in the style guide that way) trap, I struck out to research style guides, delving into the obscure and Byzantine style guides developed by true geniuses in their fields.

Some of the results startled me.

Ever had to look over a press release devised by your marketing department? Or worse, have you seen them in print and wondered what fluke or computer virus introduced random capitalization into their text? It’s no fluke. Here’s the exact rule, courtesy of the Emily Dickinson Style Guide for Prose Writers:

4.5 proper Capitalization in sentences or Fragments

When Writing, use Judiciously your friend the Capital Letter to add emphasis to Common nouns, adjectives, and verbs to discriminate and add Emphasis to Key Concepts.

Before I discovered this, I had suspected I uncovered an instance of someone hacking apart a sentence devised with the camelBackNotationMethod, favored by developers for method and attribute names. Little did I know it was codified! Forget the bold and italics offered by modern convenience when you have the Capital letter.

Sometimes, unfortunately often when proofreading my own work, I come across that sentence that features not only a dangling modifier, but a dangling everything. You know, the sort of

I usually expect the writer has been deflected from his or her duty, whether a subject matter expert had to actually write some software, a salesman had to actually cold-call a potential client, or an overworked technical writer actually had to play defense in the important mid-morning foosball game. I understand how hard it can be to pick up where you left off, if you can even remember that you left off in the first place. So I often excused the offender with a pointed bit of Nogglesque humor that has alienated me from peers everywhere. That is, however, until I encountered the Official Manual of William Carlos Williams Style:

Sentences and pro
per breaks
So much depends
upon the brea
king point of your sentences and lines.

ious use of improper grammatic
al constructions lends
itself to
greater reader comprehension as
the greater reader paus
es to ponder
the interface.

As you can see, people who prefer this style guide want their sentences to wander off down the misty street like the end of a noir movie. This style empowers the end reader with more questions than answers, and formulating questions starts the learning process. A bit heady for me personally, but the style exists, and resides in 10 point Helvetica somewhere.

I even found the software developer’s favorite guide, the Elements of Riboflavin Style. The popular Riboflavin Style of writing is that to include the verb “to be” two times each to be clearer. Before this, I assumed it was weak writing, but now I know that the Riboflavin Style is officially sanctioned and that it leads to a healthy manual metabolism and mucous membranes in the gizzard.

My research yielded a harvest more fruity than my wildest imaginings. Essentially, I can carve my own foibles, such as overuse of the word “Judicious” just because it sounds like a combination of Judicial and Delicious, into the style guide. Once I compose it, I can rest assured the style guide will stand, a HumaBrian Stone for the masses, or for the technical writer or intern I can acquire. The style guide will exist not just for now, but for all time, or at least until half way through my farewell luncheon, or until someone has a better idea.

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The Marvel Universe, Online, Almost Officially

Oh, bay bee! I don’t know if you all remember the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe or the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Update ’89, but they were encyclopedias of the almost all characters that had appeared in Marvel comic books since the beginning of time.

Looks like the Marvel Directory, a fan site with some claimed support from Marvel, has brought the whole thing online. I am weeping happy geek tears.

Which reminds me: I forgot to look for Stan Lee in X-Men 2. Sorry, honey, but guess where we have to go this weekend?

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Ted Nugent Says…Something Naughty!

The AP wire is atwitter after Ted Nugent apparently said, how delicately they put it:

the words “g—-” and “n—–” on live radio

Do you suspect the words are not goof and niggardly? Instead, I reckon, he might have used the words gook and nigger. (Let the insensitivity shine through! Brian J. typed the words without hyphens or cute, non alphanumeric cartoon-swearword characters.) I don’t know what he used, because the news accounts are very clipped, not offering much context but instead focusing on the act of using the prohibited words.

What we do have for context is this:

Rick Lewis and Michael Floorwax, morning talk show hosts on KRFX-FM, said that during an interview Monday, Nugent said one of the members of a group called the Funk Brothers years ago complimented his guitar playing by using a racist term for blacks.

Would that be these Funk Brothers? If so, a majority of them appear to be black. If one of them said Ted Nugent was his nigga, or something along those lines, odds lean toward a black man calling Ted Nugent the N-word. In which case, it wasn’t used in the sense of a racial slur. And Ted Nugent reporting the word use is a not a racial slur, either.

Sorry. I understand these “special” words have magickal significance to aggrieved covens of the afflicted, but they are just words. Perhaps Ted Nugent was using them to draw attention to the fact that they’re just collections of glyphs on the page or voiced velar stops, alveolar coronals and other articulations and not anything more. Actus reus without mens rea. As our society fundamentally shifts from criminal intent to strict liability template, it’s no longer necessary to mean harm with words, just speaking the words is the offense.

We’ll probably never know how Ted Nugent meant to use the words or how he really used the words. It’s not like the inflammatory news article presents the context or a transcript. Don’t bother going to the the Web site of the radio station 103.5 The Fox, or the dee jays with whom the Nuge was communicating, Lewis and Floorwax. Instead of information about this heinous crime, you’d just see the “sunken treasure chests” contest in which one woman with small breasts will win free breast augmentation! At least these holders of the moral high ground took the opportunity of this new-found celebrity to remove the photo of one of the morning show participants vomiting into a trash can after smelling rancid dog feces as part of some morning hijinks. Some marketing flack must have known the attention the Web site was about to receive. Any publicity is good publicity, especially when you’re enlightened defenders of feelings AND you don’t have puking interns on the Web site.

Ted Nugent’s Web site probably won’t glorify this “scandal” with a response. I cannot say I blame him. The whole thing smacks of a publicity stunt by a couple of drive-time losers with declining marketing share, deciding to pillory an outspoken conservative figure for fun and ratings.

Unfortunately, it will probably work.

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Ted Nugent Trivia!

And another thing, why does the AP article bear this line:

Nugent is past president of the National Rifle Association and is known for his outspokenness.

No kidding! I think it would be more relevant, considering that he was on the phone with a rock and roll music station, apparently discussing rock and roll music, to mention:

  • Nugent is a former member of the Damn Yankees, who charted with the song “High Enough”, which sounds like a Rave song, but given Nugent’s eternally anti-drug stance is not about drug usage.
  • Nugent’s solo career was built on musical hits designed composed to celebrate the human condition, particularly Procreative Drills, featuring several colloquial representations of male and female genitalia in the titles.
  • Nugent is the founder of Ted Nugent Kamp for Kids, an organization designed to train kids in safe hunting.
  • Nugent is the founder of Hunters for the Hungry an organization dedicated to providing meat harvested in hunts to homeless shelters.

Oh, but no. Nugent is the past president of the National Rifle Association.

I guess the point is a free-association of racial slurs, and those who would use them to denigrate (author insensitivity alert!) other races, with the National Rifle Association, whose stance on the Second Amendment runs counter to that of the author of the piece, the Associated Press in general, and “enlightened” people everywhere. The sooner those louts are tarred with the same pot of pitch, the better to round them up and pelt them with animal entrials–no, wait, they might like that.

And let’s not let the facts step in front of an onrushing good Nexis-Lexis search phrase. Nugent’s own biography does not list him as a former president, but he does sit on the board of directors at the NRA.

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Fact Checking The Onion

Doh! In this week’s issue, The Onion misquotes Alex Rogan, the main character of The Last Starfighter. The Onion’s take is this:

Continued Bush: “Or, as Alex says to [his girlfriend] Maggie, ‘Don’t you see this is it? This is our big chance. It’s like, whatever this is, when it comes, you’ve got to grab on with both hands and hold tight.'”

But he really says: “It’s like what Otis says….” Earlier in the movie, Otis, wizened and wisened resident within the trailer park, did give him that very advice.

Oh, sure, maybe the writer can claim that the joke is that it was Bush, the “pretender president,” who made another one of his characteristic blunders. But I think the writer was playing slops with the cult culture of geeks and banked number four off of the eight ball, a bumper, and the thirteen ball without dropping it in the side pocket.

You Onion guys used to have geek cred when you were in Madison, but since you’ve gone to New York, you’ve gotten taken in by the glamour of the east coast and you ain’t down with us here in the heartland no more.

(The doctors say I can overcome my dementia trivia with a prescription, but I declined.)

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