Gustave and a Tale of Two Candidates
Sunday, August 31, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
Pop quiz: You are a candidate for the highest office in the land. A fearsome, possible devastating Category 5 hurricane is bearing down on the Gulf Coast. This is the same area that endured an unbelievable tragedy the last time a Cat 5 wandered through, and still bears the scars of that disaster today. People are starting to prepare for the worst.

Do you:

1) Offer your support and prayers, mobilize your supporters to send aid and money to the affected area, and respectfully decide to stay away from the area, since responders are going to be just a little too fucking busy right now to escort your politician ass around the crisis center?

2) Decide to fly down there and deliver your acceptance speech from "the devastation area", while people are busy trying to either recover their lives and/or help out the people most affected?

The absolute gall of the McCain campaign is breathtaking right now. The shameless exploitation of a national disaster to make yourself look more presidential? Gross. Shame on you, Mr. McCain, for even allowing this possibility to be discussed.

Look, whenever a candidate travels, it consumes massive resources wherever they go, because they require special police escorts, take time out of local politicians' schedules, and are basically a walking security risk. The last thing you want to do is take resources away from disaster relief to serve as your personal escorts.
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The Truth About the Obama and McCain Tax Plans
Sunday, August 31, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
The Washington Post has a great editorial on why the McCain ads about Obama's tax plan are flat out lies. This is an important article for you to read, no matter who you are. If you support McCain, think about the blatant lies being told by your candidate and evaluate whether or not he's worth supporting, based on that (and the fact that Obama's plan will do more to support the poor and middle class, while cutting breaks for the rich). If you're for Obama, get educated, so that the next time someone wants to bring up the "he's an elitist and doesn't care about us" or wants to make some claim that McCain's tax plan is better for the common man, you can throw the cold, hard facts back in their face.

The facts? The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center found that the Obama plan would give households in the bottom fifth of the income distribution an average tax cut of 5.5 percent of income ($567) in 2009, while those in the middle fifth would get an average cut of 2.6 percent of income ($1,118). "Your taxes" would go up, yes -- but not if you're someone who is sweating higher gas prices. By contrast, Mr. McCain's tax plan would give those in the bottom fifth of income an average tax cut of $21 in 2009. The middle fifth would get $325 -- less than a third of the Obama cut. The wealthiest taxpayers make out terrifically.

The country can't afford the tax cuts either man is promising, although Mr. McCain's approach is by far the more costly. We don't expect either side to admit that. But neither side should get to outright lie about its opponent's positions, either.

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Sarah Palin?
Friday, August 29, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
Just a quick post to say that it is terrifying to think that the person who could be next in line to lead our country in 2009 is a 44 year old with exactly 1.5 years of experience as a governor and a few years as a local town mayor in Alaska. What the fuck?
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Kindle e-Book Reader 2.0
Tuesday, August 26, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
Sorry I've been lax on my posting. I got called away for work last week unexpectedly. My boss pretty much walked up to me Thursday morning and told me to get on a plane to Mississippi that same day. From then through the end of last Friday I ended up billing 34 hours of work. So, yeah... pretty tired and busy. To add to my pain, I dropped my laptop while packing in a hurry, and when I got to Mississippi, I found out that it was completely dead. As in, messed-up-the-motherboard dead. So, couldn't check email or blog at all.

Anyway, saw this article on Engadget about the Kindle 2.0 and its possible redesign. First, the great news, the Kindle may be available for as low as $249. The second good news, a designer from Frog Design appears to be leading the redesign (see the Engadget article for more on Frog Design's history re: the Kindle). That's good, because my first thought when I saw the Kindle 1.o was "My God, that is one UGLY device."

However, even the incredibly tantalizing price of $249 may not be enough to sway me into investing in an e-book reader. I've been thinking a lot about what I'd like in an e-book reader. I've been eye-balling the Amazon Kindle for some time now, but remain on the fence. While I love many of the features (the ability to connect wirelessly with the built-in PC card is excellent), ultimately it still falls short in too many areas for me to invest just yet.

One of the main draws for an e-book reader for me is the ability to carry around books that are normally inconvinient. A few examples:
  1. My software development library is currently 2 dozen books that are each 500-900 pages long. During the course of a work day, I may need up to 3-4 of those books. Obviously, it's a pain to have to carry those around.
  2. Travel on airplanes, which is a big no-brainer. In fact, the only time I've seen a Kindle out in the wild has been in airports. The latest hardcover is heavy and bulky, so obviously the ability to carry that content (or 4 or 5 hard covers for that matter) is great. Tossing in the ablity to have magazines, newspapers and blogs in a bonus, so kudos to them for that.
Here's what I'd like to have, if I could magically invent the next generation of e-book (and the related services that would go along with it):

Full color screen - This would enable two things: new kinds of e-books, and the ability to view photos. The current black and white format means that fully illustrated books (particularly art books or reference manuals) don't look that great. Also, having magazines is great, but trying to read a magazine in black and white is sort of brutal. I've been using a site lately called wowio.com and they've begun providing comic books in PDF format. Obviously, the ability to view a full color comic as the publisher intended would be ideal. Also, imagine being able to take your photo albums with you on the road. How great would that be?

Subscription-based all-you-can-eat libraries - There are several reasons why this is an attractive model for me. First, buying individual e-books seems a bit pricey. To build a virtual library equivalent to what I already have on my bookshelf would be cost-prohibitive. I can't justify buying an expensive e-book reader for the 1 or 2 books I may buy in a month. A lot of Americans don't buy more than 3-4 books all year, so if the Kindle wants market penetration, this model will help with that. This would also help me if I want to see a book I already own (because there's NO WAY I'm paying twice for the same content). All-you-can-eat models are great because it also allows you to take a chance on books you might not pick up otherwise.

Ability to "trade" books to other Kindle devices - without this feature, it's almost a deal-breaker for me. One of the greatest joys about reading a great book for me is the ability to turn around and lend it to my friends and family. And I also love getting books handed to me from friends who know my reading tastes as well. If I can't easily take the e-books I purchase and transfer them to my friends' computers and/or Kindles, what is the point? I envision some kind of model where an e-book has a "license" that can be transferred from device to device. That will prevent piracy, since only one Kindle or computer at a time could use the unlocked content.

So, that's what I want. Now I just have to wait and see if one or more of these desired features comes to pass in the new version of the Kindle. If any readers out there happen to own a Kindle, I'd love to hear from you about what you like/dislike about it.
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Coming Soon: the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC
Wednesday, August 20, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
In very exciting news today, it has just been announced that Rachel Maddow has just gotten her own show on MSNBC. The Carpetbagger Report has a good article up discussing why this such a good thing, but really, I think you can look at this quote from a Nation profile and get this idea pretty quickly (emphasis mine):
What's remarkable about Maddow's ascension is not its velocity--Hurricane Katrina made Anderson Cooper in less than a week--but the shifts in media it may demarcate. Maddow is one of the few left-liberal women to bust open the world of TV punditry, which has made icons of right-wing commentators like Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin. Unlike her beautiful, bilious conservative female counterparts or the cocksure boys-on-the-bus analysts, however, Maddow didn't get here by bluster and bravado but with a combination of crisp thinking and galumphing good cheer. Remarkably, this season's discovery isn't a glossy matinee idol or a smooth-talking partisan hack but a PhD Rhodes scholar lesbian policy wonk who started as a prison AIDS activist.
For those of you who watch the Keith Olbermann show on MSNBC, you may have seen Rachel subbing as host for him while he was on vacation a month ago or so. I thought she did a great job filling in. She comes across as very informed, plus she has a natural way about her that I really like - she doesn't feel like your typical smarmy TV host.

Anyway, congratulations to Rachel. I'm looking forward to enjoying the super news block of Keith Olbermann/Rachel Maddow. She starts in the 9pm slot on Sept 8th. I'm kind of bummed she won't be starting in time to discuss the upcoming Democratic and Republican conventions, but hopefully we'll see her popping up over on Olbermann's show to provide commentary.


UPDATE: Here's video of Rachel discussing her new show with Keith Olbermann
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Bush Screws the Country
Monday, August 18, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
Okay, this video is genius. You must watch it.

Warning: Not Safe For Work (NSFW)


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Fiction Friday: On Fire
Friday, August 15, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
So, I'm an amateur writer, and I've got a lot of stories just sort of sitting around on my computer. I've decided to try a new feature where I post some of my material hopefully every Friday or every other Friday. Hence: Fiction Friday.

I'd really like feedback from any regular readers out there, since I take my writing pretty seriously, but I can't improve as a writer unless I put my stuff out there to take the hits.

Here's the first piece, which is technically "published" (but since most of you won't have a copy of Hawaii Pacific University's magazine available, it's pretty much out of print). Hope you enjoy it. Again, positive or negative feedback are welcome.



On Fire

The tiles are brown and yellow, perfect little squares laid out in endless rows and columns. Julie studies them carefully, trying to find a pattern somewhere. It looks like some sort of maze but are you supposed to follow the yellow tiles, or will the brown ones reveal the secret path? It doesn’t matter which color she chooses, though, for try as she might, Julie can’t trace a continuous path. It’s a dead end every time.

She sighs and pulls her eyes away from the restroom floor. She glances at her watch. She’s been gone for almost seven minutes now. Three more minutes before her mother will hit her limit and come barging in, semi-frantic. Even though she hasn’t even used it, she stands and flushes the toilet, purely out of habit. She is a creature of habit and routine these days. Morning wake up, school, homework, free time – it’s all managed down to the minute. She doesn’t mind being on a schedule. It means that she is making optimum use of her time, plus it keeps her from forgetting important things, like her six-times-a-day doses of pills.

Julie washes her hands, despite the fact that they are perfectly clean – another habit – and makes her way out of the restroom. Another quick watch check reveals just over a minute left. She counts down the seconds in her head as she walks down the hallway. She has fifty seconds left when she rounds the corner by the radiology department. In the distance she sees her mother perched on the waiting area bench, pretending to read a magazine, but secretly staring at her watch.

Her mother looks up in what she probably imagines is a casual fashion. “You were in the bathroom awhile,” she begins.

Before she can continue, Julie reaches into her jacket pocket and whips out a Snickers. “I stopped at the vending machine and got you a candy bar, Mom,” she says, by way of explanation. Her mother nods, placated for the moment, and accepts it while commenting how thoughtful Julie is for remembering her favorite candy bar.

Julie mentally celebrates her small victory. Chocolate saves the day once again, she thinks. She always carries a Snickers in her pocket just in case her mother looks like she’s on the verge of a lecture. In fact, Julie keeps an entire case stashed under her bed, which she refers to as her secret cache of “Mom tranquilizers”. It is so much easier to ply her with chocolate than to do the endless “No, I feel fine. No really, I wasn’t getting sick. No, I’m not reacting to my meds…” song and dance. Her mother wouldn’t understand why Julie would rather sit in the bathroom for ten minutes than in the waiting area with her.

Today her mother has chosen to wear what Julie has dubbed the “Super Duper Sunburst,” a yellow skirt with matching blazer and a patterned blouse underneath. Other favored hospital outfits include “Perky Polka Dots” and “Chipper Creamsicle”. Her mother is a firm believer in the “Happy on the outside means happy on the inside” principle. Her outfits are almost aggressively cheerful, as if to say to the world, “I’m not depressed. If I were depressed, do you think I’d wear fuchsia, for God’s sake?”

Julie thinks the whole notion is ridiculous, although she is disappointed “Fire Engine” didn’t make an appearance today. She enjoys cracking “Hey, Janet, where’s the fire at?” even though her mother never laughs at it. Her mother doesn’t laugh at a lot of things she says, which is sad, because Julie is quite a witty girl. She has a great collection of “I had my mid-life crisis at age 11” quips that always gets a good response with everyone else. The first and only time she had told one to her mother, her mother had burst into tears and left the room.

Julie shifts uncomfortably at the thought. She takes a notepad out of her pocket and writes a memo to herself. Later tonight she will go over her notes and add them to her list of things to apologize for. This is another routine of hers, the daily cataloguing of regrets. She has another list dedicated to daily triumphs, and another for things she wishes she could’ve done someday. She knows her mother, herself obsessed with lists, will appreciate this when Julie is finally gone. She still needs to come up with today’s entry for the “Reasons why I’m not scared” list. It’s been harder this last year coming up with new ones for that list. Still, she fidgets with her pen and attempts to come up with something worthwhile.

* * * * *


Janet looks at her daughter and suppresses the urge to snatch her pen away just to stop her from tapping it incessantly on the bench. Julie, always writing it seemed, would just resent the action. Janet tries to guess what she’s scrawling this time. Maybe it’s a love letter to some boy. She experiences a secret thrill at that thought. Would that be so unreasonable to hope for? Janet thinks Julie is the most beautiful girl in the world, so it stands to reason that a teenage boy might see that as well. In fact, it’s almost cruel how healthy and full of life she looks. Sometimes even Janet forgets the truth of the situation.

She reaches into her purse and pulls out her day planner. Its contents are meticulously organized via a system of tabs and different color inks. Under today’s date “doctor appointment” is printed neatly in blue ink. Below that “parents group” is listed in red ink.

Janet grimaces to herself. She hates going to group therapy. All those parents sitting in a little circle, struggling to give voice to their fears – it’s so pointless. Still, the doctors think the group is a good idea and Julie seems to want her to go. So she goes, and feels selfish for not wanting to share her pain, not wanting to share her daughter’s final days with anyone else. In the pit of her stomach, Janet’s grief is a red-hot coal.

She wonders if someone in group will bring up religion again today. Janet has nothing to say on the subject. It’s a conversation she has already had. Dear God, when you take my daughter, you’ll be taking the best part of me.

She looks at Julie out of the corner of her eye. It’s like looking in a mirror. She sometimes thinks that her daughter dresses like a street punk just to have some sort of visual distinction between them. Janet doesn’t mind, especially on days like this. If jeans and a leather jacket make Julie feel stronger, make it easier to get through the day, then so be it. Janet understands the power of clothing.

The doctor comes out and calls them in. Janet places her hand lightly on Julie’s lower back and guides her into the office, which earns her a look and an annoyed sigh from Julie.

“I know where it is, Mom,” Julie says.

Janet guiltily removes her hand and lets it drop to her side. The remark stings, but she forces herself to smile and reply, “Of course you do, dear.”

They take their usual positions, Julie in the chair on the right, Janet in the chair on the left, the doctor standing in front of them with his collection of charts and test results. Janet carefully dictates the doctor’s every word, even if she doesn’t quite know what all the terms mean. She will look them up later when she gets home.

“Maybe as long as 21,” she writes, carefully underlining the phrase two times. Again, she looks at her daughter and forces a smile that she does not feel inside.

If you had told her ten years ago that Julie might die when she was 21, Janet would’ve been ecstatic, overjoyed at the prospect of an additional 6 years. Now, she finds little comfort in that fact. It’s not enough. She feels greedy just thinking that. She thinks about the other parents whose children slip away even sooner than they expect. She is lucky to have this time.

Janet finishes writing and thanks the doctor. He hands her a list of new dietary recommendations and a prescription renewing Julie’s medicines. He smiles at her and she feigns gratefulness that he has delivered such good news to her. She hurries Julie out of the office.

They drive to Janet’s group meeting in silence. Julie fiddles with the radio non-stop the entire time. Janet is too busy planning tomorrow’s schedule in her head to argue with her about it right now.

Julie practically bolts out of the car before it’s even come to a stop. “See you in a couple of hours, Mom,” she calls over her shoulder. Janet sighs and watches the retreating back of her daughter. It’s like this a lot lately. There’s always somewhere Julie wants to be, and that somewhere seems to be anywhere Janet is not. Julie is so busy living in the moment that she’s almost reckless. It’s times like this that Janet remembers just how young her daughter is, too young to truly understand the value of time.

Janet knows that time comes with a price and that price is constant vigilance. So while her daughter runs towards the future with such abandon, Janet will watch like a hawk. She will monitor Julie’s vital signs and she will plan the schedule for next week. She will carefully place aside the proper doses of pills for each day. She will write out a menu and then she will plan her grocery shopping around it. She will do all these things and more, so that Julie never has to.

Janet’s love is a thunderstorm in her chest.

* * * * *

Julie checks her watch and quickens her step. She carefully estimates how long it will take her to stop at the store before she heads over to the library. It’s time to replenish the Snickers supply under her bed again.

She reflects about what the doctor said today. 21 is a good number to strive for, she thinks. It’s more than she thought was possible. She has reached the bonus round of life and she is grateful for that much.

She seriously contemplates the idea of college for the first time. Her mother won’t like that idea. Julie thinks that college will be good for both of them. She considers living in-residence at a local university. It will help her ease slowly out of her mother’s day-to-day life. Her mother needs to get used to Julie not being there. It will be better that way. But that will be a fight for another night.

Tonight is group night, and Julie knows her mother will be cranky enough without adding any more stress to the situation. Julie is glad her mother goes to her meetings, albeit reluctantly. Even though her mother doesn’t know it now, she will need that group someday. Julie knows, because she has already been to that place in her life. She is just waiting for her mother to catch up. She hopes it happens before she is gone.

She walks into the supermarket and heads to the candy aisle. She buys a box of Snickers, small enough so that it will fit in her backpack without causing her mother to be suspicious. The last time she had been too overt about her candy purchasing, and her subsequent evasive behavior had inadvertently spawned a full room search, for what her mother probably imagined were drugs. Julie had barely had time to hide the candy stash. Still, that round had gone to her, which still amuses her to no end. It are these small moments of subversion that give her the most pleasure in life.

She pauses at the magazine rack and scans the covers. She settles on the latest Seventeen magazine. On the front of the magazine is some rock idol with spiky purple hair. Julie takes a moment and considers taking that look for herself. She imagines what the fireworks would be like at home when her mother sees her for the first time and weighs that against how awesome she’s sure that she’ll look. She decides that since her hair might fall out anyway if things get worse, that it might not be an issue for long. She takes out her notepad and writes “Manic Panic shocking purple dye” in neat letters, underlining it carefully. She pays for the magazine and the candy and heads off to her next destination.

Julie allows herself a small smile. She is 16 and she is still alive. It is enough for now. Tomorrow she will deal with a new round of anxieties and fears. But today, for this one moment at least, she has all the time in the world.

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It's Not Easy Being Green
Wednesday, August 13, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
Watching the Olympics, I can't help but be shocked at the level of pollution present in Beijing, even after the Chinese took such radical measures to try and curb the problem. And part of me is sort of glad that their weird little stop-gap measures didn't work out as planned, because it certainly implied that they were going to go right back to their polluting ways as soon as the Olympics were over.

Instead, they've been forced to face the fact that there is no easy solution to their pollution problem. I had found myself wondering if some one there might actually wake up and say, "Embarrassment on the international stage aside, perhaps we ought to be alarmed from a health/environment perspective that we can't see more than a few blocks down the street due to the massive amounts of crud in the air."

So, will China make honest steps towards long term environmentally sound policies? I'm not sure, but articles like this give me hope: China Builds a Bright Green Metropolis.
Dongtan's master plan — hundreds of pages of maps, schematics, and data — has almost nothing to say about architectural style. Instead, it outlines the world's first green city, every block engineered in response to China's environmental crisis. It's like the source code for an urban operating system. "We're not focused on the form," Gutierrez explains. "We're focused on the performance of the form." He and his team imagine a city powered by local, renewable energy, with superefficient buildings clustered in dense, walkable neighborhoods; a recycling scheme that repurposes 90 percent of all waste; a network of high tech organic farms; and a ban on any vehicle that emits CO2.
Now, reading the article, planning for Dongtan started in 2005, so you can't really say that the smog during the Olympics had anything to do with. However, I wonder if the Olympics will spur the Chinese to invest in more radical initiatives like Dongtan. Dongtan may someday serve as a model for future mega-cities that want to be environmentally sound.

Speaking of the environment, guess who doesn't want to support environmentally friendly energy policies? If you said "John McCain", then you're right.

It was only five days earlier, on July 30, that the Senate was voting for the eighth time in the past year on a broad, vitally important bill — S. 3335 — that would have extended the investment tax credits for installing solar energy and the production tax credits for building wind turbines and other energy-efficiency systems.

Both the wind and solar industries depend on these credits — which expire in December — to scale their businesses and become competitive with coal, oil and natural gas. Unlike offshore drilling, these credits could have an immediate impact on America’s energy profile.

Senator McCain did not show up for the crucial vote on July 30, and the renewable energy bill was defeated for the eighth time. In fact, John McCain has a perfect record on this renewable energy legislation. He has missed all eight votes over the last year — which effectively counts as a no vote each time. Once, he was even in the Senate and wouldn’t leave his office to vote.

Nice. Great job, McCain. I suppose he's more interested in putting together clips trying to link Britney and Paris to Barack Obama, than he is in presenting a coherent, environmentally responsible energy plan, eh?


Lastly, Joe Lieberman is a giant asshole douchebag fuckwad, and I cannot wait for him to get his comeuppance after this election season is over.
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Nerd Alert!
Monday, August 11, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
Today was a great day. I spent a nice chunk of my morning working on a Perl script to process this file we've been having trouble with. The basic gist was - we had an LDIF file that was a zillion lines long, and at the end of each block of text in the file, there were these offending lines of text that were breaking our importer program. My little script read the LDIF file, stripped out the bad lines of text, and wrote the results to a new LDIF file.

Now, I know this is going to sound boring to non-tech people, and probably really easy to tech people, but it was still really satisfying for me. This sort of thing was why I got into computer science in the first place. It's awesome to create something, and then see it in action. I could watch my script run, and then watch the new LDIF get processed, saving us a ton of manual work. My current job doesn't really afford me a lot of opportunities to be a hardcore coder (writing code every day) anymore, so I relish these moments.

This was also my first experience really working with Perl. I had dabbled before, but doing exercises out of a book isn't the same thing as using Perl to solve a real world problem. It's a fun language - very cool stuff.
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Does Getting Favre Make the Jets Contenders Now?
Thursday, August 07, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
So, our long national nightmare is over. Brett Favre has been traded by the Packers to the Jets. The terms of the deal are interesting - the draft pick that the Packers will receive next year will depend on how Favre performs. If he takes less than 50% of the snaps this season, the Packers get a 4th round pick. If he plays 70% and the Jets make the playoffs, the Packers get a 2nd round pick. If they somehow miraculously win the Super Bowl, the Packers walk away with a sweet ass 1st round pick (which of course would be the 32nd pick overall).

ESPN has several articles up anointing the Jets as instant playoff contenders. I'm a bit more skeptical about that. Let's break this down and see if that holds up.

First, let's consider how the playoff system works. There are four divisions, so the four divisional winners plus two wildcard teams will go to the AFC playoffs. The Jets play in the AFC East division. Let's be honest here, the Patriots are going to win that division again, hands down. So, the Jets won't make the playoffs by winning the division.

So, that leaves the Jets with attempting to win one of the two wildcard spots, rewarded to the non-divisional winners with the best record. The likely contender for one of those spots has to be the Jacksonville Jags, who went 11-5 last year. Even if the Jags succeed in winning their division, you'd have to think that the Colts would then be one of the wild card teams.

Now, two other AFC teams, the Titans and Browns, last year contended for the other wild card spot, both of them going 10-6 (the Titans winning via tie-breaker). So, let's go ahead and assume that you'd need at least a 10-6 record to make the playoffs in the AFC this season as well.

While nothing is certain in the upcoming season (who knew the previously 13-3 Ravens would plummet to such lows in a single year?), I'm going to assume that ESPN's power rankings are fairly accurate. So, how does Favre change the picture?

I think that while Favre will help them, he's still got to deal with learning a new offense. The Jet have a much better line than last year, plus he will have two talented receivers (Cotchery and Coles) to throw to, so that helps make the case that he'll perform well. However, before we get too excited and declare the Jets a Top 10 offense, let's remember that Thomas Jones averaged a poor 3.6 years a carry last year. Those bad years Favre had, his #1 complaint was a lack of a serious running game. Let's be generous and bump the Jets up 3 spots in the power rankings, on the assumption that Favre will make them better, but not super.

Let's look at the 2008 schedule for the Jets and see if 10-6 is a feasible goal to shoot for. They can't lose more than 6, so I'll focus on that number. There are some games on the schedule where you can safely say the Jets will probably lose (yes, yes, "any given Sunday" and all, but let's be honest here). They won't beat the Patriots either time, so that's 2. They won't beat the Chargers, so that's 3. Seattle is tough at home, so that's 4.

Now, here are the games where the other team is probably better, and the Jets will have to steal a victory: Arizona, Tennessee, Buffalo (twice). That's 4 games, of which they'll have to split the difference and win at least 2. This is also assuming they win all the games they're supposed to: Miami (twice), Kansas City, Denver, Cincinnati, San Fran, and so forth.

So, here's the X factors:
  • Favre must play like 2007 Brett, not 05-06 Brett. The man is 38, he's exhausted from this whole ordeal, and he doesn't know the offense. He has just 3 weeks to figure it out. His teammates will need to adjust to his style as well.
  • The Jets defense has to be pretty good. Brett may improve the offense, but you let a team like Cincy burn you (and believe me, that high octane offense can put massive numbers up), and you're in trouble
  • The line needs to really deliver this season, both in protecting Brett and opening holes for Jones
  • Thomas Jones needs to show that it was his line (and not his own lack of talent) that has been the problem with his running
  • Must get lucky and either steal a game they have no business winning, and/or win two of the tossups.
Overall, I'm not too enthusiastic about the Jets' prospects. The AFC is a strong conference with a lot of good teams. Remember that the Bills may surprise a lot of people and end up spoiling the Jets' chances. They are predicted to be a much stronger team than last year, with a pretty good defense. I'm predicting 1-20 odds right now for the Jets making the playoffs, even if Favre ends up playing better than I think he will.

In the meantime, Chad Pennington has been cut loose. You have to think that the ideal place for him to land would be Chicago. They're a strong team, and his assets as a QB would fit well with what they need. This is assuming, of course, that the Bears cease pushing the fantasy that Kyle Orton or Rex Grossman can be the starting QB they need. Barring that, I see Pennington heading off to Miami, Atlanta or Minnesota, though not necessarily to start.
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Slim Shady Bitchslapped My Fat Princess
Tuesday, August 05, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
I had been considering posting about the upcoming Sony game Fat Princess, but had been procrastinating on it so long I had pretty much dismissed the idea. Today, however, my friend (hi, Mike!) randomly came up to me unprompted and asked if I would blog about it. So, here goes.

Joystiq.com has the basic gist of the game:
It's a multiplayer "capture the flag" game, except that the flag is a princess who is more difficult to carry back to base the more the opposing team feeds her cake, which magically grows in the forest around the castle.

The action takes place in a colorful fantasy land where opposing teams need to reach the other's base, grab their princess and get back to the castle. The princess will lose the weight if she's not constantly fed, so if a team focuses on just combat instead of feeding the princess, the opposing team will have an easier time carrying her away once they inevitably infiltrate the castle.
The internet exploded for a few days, with most sites choosing headlines such as "Feminists Cry Foul Fat Princess". One blogger at Shakesville went so far as to say, "Anyway, congrats on your awesome new game, Sony. I'm positively thrilled to see such unyielding dedication to creating a new generation of fat-hating, heteronormative assholes." Salon's Broadsheet was similarly unimpressed.

My first reaction when I heard about the game was "Wow, that hilarious. I would like to play that game. The screenshots look cute." My first reaction to the headlines were, "Since when did all feminists get together and collectively decide that this game was worthy of scorn?" I mean, yes, when a site called Feminist Gamers posts a blog, I can see why the mainstream press pretty much picked up on that and ran with the headlines above.

Still, I'm reminded of the South Park episode where Stan's father lets a racial slur slip, and then goes to Jesse Jackson to beg for forgiveness. The punchline comes, of course, when Stan's African American friend Token (heh) refuses to forgive the father. Stan protests, "But Jesse Jackson said it was okay!" and Token shouts back, "Jesse Jackson isn't the King of Black people!" That's kind of where I am right now. I am a feminist, I wear the label with pride, and it always sort of bothers me when I see a headline telling me how I'm supposed to feel as a feminist, or that suggests that all feminists are uniform in their opinion of such things.

Here's the thing that amuses me about the game: the very idea of it is a parody of the whole "Fairy Princess" notion in the first place. One could argue that the classic trope of the princess as this object to be rescued by men is a silly one in the first place, and the subversive nature of the game is explicitly making her the equivalent of an object (the "flag", for those familiar with this style of game). So what's the issue here? Are they upset that the game can certain be spun to be a slight or insult towards fat people in general? If so, is that a feminist issue, per se? Would those same sites be up in arms if it were called Fat Prince (leaving aside the fact that the very fact that such a game is unlikely is part of the point)? I mean, what's more offensive: seeing a princess portrayed as a fat person, or the notion that all princesses are to be skinny, beautiful girls who are white 99% of the time?

Kotaku has a fantastic article debating the issue (click the link and go read it in its entirety), but I think they get to the heart of the issue here when they say "But what's wrong with a fat princess?":

So what's the alternative for the princess? Should she not be fat, because thin girls are cute and funny while fat ones are not? Would it have been better to make her a typical, idealized female? Or must we be so sensitive that we are no longer allowed to rescue the princess, as we have done in our fairy tales for centuries, at all?

........



I hate when we as an audience dismiss debates on issues in video games by saying "it's just a game." But I don't think that the things we see in games are necessarily reflections on ourselves or about us; the fat princess is not a spokesperson for all women, or even all fat women, and I'm most curious about the critics who chose to see her as a statement on themselves or their role as women in the real world.

Ultimately, though, wouldn't removing the fat girl, or the issue of obesity, from the game because they bring too many issues into play be precisely the wrong message to send to women?

Here's where I always struggle as a liberal feminist in today's world. On one hand, yeah, I get the issue and I understand the intellectual reasons why certain things are "offensive." On the other hand, there's a certain part of me that is sort of like, "Eh, let's just go extract the stick out of our collective asses, put down our dog-eared copies of The Feminine Mystique, and just enjoy a bit of naughty humor."

This brings me to the next item I had on my "need to blog about this" list - a little gem of a movie I found recently called Bitch Slap. Oh yeah, you read that right. Stop reading this post, go to the site I linked and watch the trailer. I'll wait, it's okay.

......

Okay, welcome back. Now having watched the trailer as I instructed, I'm sure you noticed the same things I did: boobies, explosions, boobies, chicks fighting, some familiar faces from the Xena and Hercules TV series, and finally...more boobies. Now, on one level, as a feminist I see that trailer and think, "Wow, this looks trashy. It's like a 12 year old boy's fantasy. Gross." On a different level, I see it and think, "Boobs, stuff exploding and girls kicking ass? I love it. I MUST see it." Thus, my dilemma. Do I reject this movie as an exploitative piece of trash, or do I just give in to my snickering 12 year old boy inside and just see it and enjoy it for what it is?

Obviously, this film is an homage to both the classic Russ Meyer film Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and to the Grindhouse films of Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. The filmmakers are clearly in on the joke.
(from Afterellen.com)
Gruendemann and Jacobson have called the project a “feminist, thinking-man's” exploitation film with a mysterious female narrator who “comments periodically on the folly of humanity, the plight of the human condition and the vagaries of life and love through quoting the likes of Dostoevsky, T.S. Eliot, Sun Tzu and even Buddha.
Gotcha. Should I feel guilty for laughing hysterically at the trailer to this movie and then deciding I'm going to go pay money to see it? If the filmmakers fail to reach the levels of Rodriguez or Tarantino in terms of their execution, does that make this a failed project? Does it excuse a movie's excesses if the filmmakers are well aware of the social stereotypes and images they're playing with, if they wink at the audience and assume we're all in on the joke? Applying this to the first topic, does the fact that a woman was the lead art designer on Fat Princess make it better? Does the fact that I, both as a woman and a person who would qualify as "heavy", think the game is funny and the movie looks great somehow make it okay for ignore the more troubling aspects of both works?

This of course segways into my final thought, which has been gnawing at me for some time: how much are we allowed to enjoy what many fellow liberals would describe as "offensive"? I am thinking specifically of the rapper Eminem in this case. How do I reconcile my distaste for some of his topics with the fact that he's an amazing rapper? Can I sing along to lyrics like "Fuck you too, bitch, call the cops! I'm gonna kill you and those loud ass barking dogs!" (from Dr. Dre's single "Forget About Dre") and conveniently ignore the troubling emotion behind them? Can I appreciate the brilliance behind his lyrics, with their wickedly clever phrasing and rhythms, and reject the sentiment?

Eminem is an interesting artist, in that he too, winks at the audience and plays the part of the comic rap clown. "I'm just joking," he seems to say, while venting venom full force. He fantasizes about murdering his ex in the song "Kim", delivering the lyrics in a first person voice addressed directly to her, but then can turn around and tenderly address his daughter in "Mockingbird." He invents an alternate persona called Slim Shady, who represents his dark id, and then uses this character as a vehicle to lash out at his ex, his mother, his rivals (both real and imagined), and anyone else who crosses his path.

I could probably do a week's worth of posts on all the things that I find genius about Eminem, and then another week on all the things about him that I find problematic and disturbing. Rhapsody's Sam Chennault says the following about The Marshall Matters LP : "This is volatile, obscene and great art." That's probably the closest way to sum up my own feelings on that.

This isn't my most coherent post ever, but it's mostly due to the fact that there's just no easy angle to come at these things from. I'd like to hear comments from any lurkers out there - how do you deal with problematic art?
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Acai #1 Superfood!
Monday, August 04, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
So I did get around to whipping up a response to the Weird Tales flash fiction contest I posted a few days ago. Basically the goal was to write flash fiction story (under 500 words) based on the headline of a piece of spam email you received. I like exercises like this, because even when the end product is so-so, it gets your brain churning and makes you commit to a tight deadline and structure.

The headline I chose was "Acai #1 Superfood in the World." I hope you enjoy this little trifle.




Acai paced nervously around the locker room. He was struck by feeling of being present at a historic moment in time, one that his children and grandchildren would someday learn about in school. But how would history remember him – as the number one superfood in the world, or as just another pretender to the throne?

He was a long way from his home country of Brazil, and suddenly he ached to be back there, cavorting in the rainforest with his brother fruits, far away from the pressures of the UFFC. Here in Berlin he felt strange, out of place. The other foods regarded him with wary, unfriendly looks. It was to be expected – he was a dark horse contender, largely unknown on the circuit until very recently. His stunning defeat of Papaya in the quarterfinals had catapulted him into the limelight and earned him both the adoration of the fans and the animosity of several new foes. Several major companies – Jamba Juice and Tropicana among them – were already courting him, dangling lucrative endorsements in front of him. But all of the promise of future fame and fortune hinged on Acai winning the biggest fight of his life.

The door swung open – Sully, his trainer, stood there. “It’s time, kid.”

He exhaled and made his way out, beginning that long walk down the tunnel. Already he could hear the crowd chanting in the distance and the announcer’s voice booming, “Ladies and gentlemen, hold onto your stems! Ultimate Fruit Fighting Championship presents 5 rounds of action. The winner of tonight’s final will be the undisputed Superfood Champion of the world!”

Acai emerged from the darkness of the tunnel into the blazing lights of the arena. The crowd roared its approval as his name was announced. His nerves flared up, and he struggled mentally to press down his doubts and fears. He had prepared for this fight. His skin was firm and shone a deep purple. His left hook was strong. He was ready for this.


He entered the octagon and stared at his opponent across the ring. Spirulina, four time champion, sneered at him. Acai knew that this would be a tricky fight – the green algae was a notoriously slippery opponent, dodging his opponents’ attacks with seeming ease.

The introductions began, but Acai remained focused on his opponent and barely heard the announcer. The bell rung, and he headed across the octagon cautiously.

Spirulina initiated a vicious offense almost immediately. Acai was rocked by a salvo of attacks – Spirulina lowered total cholesterol; increased HDL cholesterol; lowered triglycerides; and lowered systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Acai fought back with reduced blood cholesterol levels, increase in energy levels and treating gastrointestinal problems.

Both fighters were bloody. The crowd roared. Acai could barely stand, but then, suddenly, he saw his opening. He swung with all his might: may help inhibit proliferation of cancer. Spirulina hit the canvas with a massive thud. The crowd went wild. Acai lifted his fists in triumph. Sweet nutritious victory!
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On An Completely Unserious Note
Friday, August 01, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
It's Friday, so all of today's comments will be about trivial amusing things. Here's how my sick mind works:

I see the following headline "Cougar on the Loose at the University of Maryland" and immediately picture Demi Moore and/or Julie Christie trolling for dates with the young studs of UM.

I see this picture of an art project labeled "piranha plant" and instantly start singing "Feed Me Seymooooooouuuuur"....



The Onion AV Club is reviewing one of my favorite cult films of all time, Showgirls, over at its New Cult Canon column. I love this movie. I love that Paul Verhoeven made one of the most hilarious films of all time... and doesn't even realize it. Genius. Gina Gershon is especially awesome (and in fact, provides the only decent acting performance in the whole cast). And nothing will be more epic than the infamous "thrashing wounded dolphin" sex scene (can't link here to the scene, as it's NSFW, but believe me... it's amazing).
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