Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Too much time on my hands

Some folks have entirely too much time to waste, so they do things like make fake photos for the web. Check out this quiz and see if you can spot the fakes. I scored 7 of ten on level 1 and 6 of ten on level two.

Via Howard Owens

Posted by Rich
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The Cracker Barrel Philosopher linked to this. I'm sending you there to download it. I promise it is worth the time you'll spend.

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Lord of the Rings:The Fellowship of the Ring; Expanded Version

At three hours running time already, why would you need an expanded version of TFR?

I'll tell you why:
More Galadriel
More Hobbits
More Shire
More Arwen
More Aragorn

Clocking in at just over three and a half hours, The Fellowship of the Ring is still not over long. The new material adds to the story and I watched each new segment with pleasure. They were like grace notes that, while not strictly needed in the melody, make a song breath.

The only mild annoyance is that if you don't have a multi DVD player, you have to get up off the couch to put in a second DVD.

The bonus material comes on two more DVDs and I haven't had the chance to go through all of it yet, but I will before Dec. 18th, when The Two Towers opens. I've already got my ticket.

Posted by Rich
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Star Wars:Attack of the Clones-DVD

When the First Star Wars move was released, I rode my bike down to the theater to watch it. I didn't know much about the movie, but I was a huge Trek fan, so any science fiction film had my attention.

Like many others, I came out of the theater supercharged with excitement. The world of movies had suddenly changed. It wasn't the story, which was cribbed from The Seven Samurai, among other sources. It wasn't the acting, which to my uncritical eye was fine, but nothing out of the ordinary. It wasn't the dialog, which, outside of snappy one liners and quips was awkward and forgettable. The effects were dazzling, far beyond anything we had ever seen before, but we've seen since then that effects alone cannot elevate a sub-par movie.

So why did Star Wars rise above it's mediocre plot, dialog and acting? Two factors stand out. The first is the editing. The first movie was cut together brilliantly, hiding it's many flaws, and playing to it's overwhelming strengths. We forgave the wooden acting and sappy dialog because we were never given a chance to dweel on it. The cardboard characters were put through their cliched paces with an energy and a vigor that swept us away with them, carried along by the single most important factor in the succes of Star Wars; the score.

John Williams is the man who made Star Wars what it was. His score gave life to the story, created emotional responses where none existed. It's no surprise that the soundtrack remains one of the top selling original soundtracks of all time.

Why do I include all of this in a review of the DVD for Attack of the Clones?

Because the only scene with any emotional resonance in the entire film is when Annikin looks out over the Tattoine desert while we hear the Skywalker theme, echoing the scene in Star Wars where Luke scans the desert and ponders his semingly barren future.

The rest of the movie is sound and fury, action and adventure, without soul. The romance between Amidala and Anakin is forced, with little to no chemistry. The deleted scenes, which coincidentally almost all had to do with the growing attraction between the two lovers, make this even more apparent, although Lucas claims repeatedly that these scenes were removed for reasons of pacing.

Playing on the small screen makes the movies shortcomings even more apparent. No longer overwhelmed by the visual feast, which is truly spectacular, the flaws are thrown into relief. It's telling that the advance reviews of the DVD focused on it's technical brilliance, leaving unspoken the acknowledgement that the actual content was weak. In short, while technically brilliant, this is a fairly lame movie. George Lucas wisely decided to produce Empire and Jedi, allowing others to direct and screenwrite. I can only hope he does the same for the last movie.

Posted by Rich
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Christmas decorating

Sayuncle has decorated his house.

Drive by and see it; honk when you go by so he'll know he didn't waste all that effort...

Posted by Rich
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Give the man what he wants

I just finished reading the text of the letter allegedly sent by Bin Laden.

I think the key paragraph is this one:

The Nation of Martyrdom; the Nation that desires death more than you desire life:

"Think not of those who are killed in the way of Allah as dead. Nay, they are alive with their Lord, and they are being provided for. They rejoice in what Allah has bestowed upon them from His bounty and rejoice for the sake of those who have not yet joined them, but are left behind (not yet martyred) that on them no fear shall come, nor shall they grieve. They rejoice in a grace and a bounty from Allah, and that Allah will not waste the reward of the believers." [Quran 3:169-171]

Let's give the man what he wants.

It's funny though, that a man who desires death more than life avoids it so assiduously.

Posted by Rich
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Simply Surreal

Via Tongue Tied:
Education Department officials in England are attempting to distance themselves from a booklet they launched that tells nursery schools not to play musical chairs because the game is too violent and competitive, reports the BBC.

Towards a Non-Violent Society, a pamphlet produced by the Forum on Children and Violence, argues that musical chairs only rewards the "strongest and fastest"

By all means! Let's eliminate the "Farmer in the Dell" game as well. After all, it glorifies a man who rapes the earth with agrochemicals, ripping food from the land beyond its natural ability to provide, leaving a barren dust plain in his wake. Also remember the 'cheese', who must "stand alone", suffering humiliations galore as the rest of the children dance around and laugh at him.

And of course, instead of the 'cheese' starting the next round as the farmer, thus completing the cycle and finding redemption, the teacher stops the game by ending recess early, and you're stuck with being the cheese all day, until recess the next day.

But then nobody wants to play the "Farmer in the Dell", and they call you the "stinky cheese," and chase you away, and you get mad, and vow revenge. You scheme and you plan and 10 years later, when everybody has forgotten, and you're now in high school, you leave limburger cheese in everybody's locker. Since your nickname is still 'Stinky', everybody knows you did it, so you are caught and expelled from school. Your parents die from shame and you take to the streets, where your vows of revenge are swallowed by a tide of booze and drugs as you sink into a life of despair.

But then an angel drops into your life and lifts you from the despair. You begin to function as a normal, sane human being. You get a job, and things are looking up. You have children and one day come home to find them sing "The Farmer in the Dell." The past comes rushing back as you hear the mocking voices in your head singing, "the cheese stands alone."

You snap and run screaming from the room, but you can't escape the voices in your head, singing:

"The cheese stands alone, the cheese stands alone.
Hi ho the dairy-o the cheese stands alone."

You run screaming though the streets. Children cry, dogs bark, and eventually some nice men in white coats come and pull you out of the tree, give you a shot and take you to a nice place with soft walls and hard nurses. You recover somewhat, and as therapy, they urge you to write about your experiences. They give you a computer keyboard and a blog, and then you start to write about all kinds of things......

I'm sharing too much again, aren't I?

All because of the "Farmer in the Dell."

Posted by Rich
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Vols report card

We beat Vandy!


But we kept them from scoring!


Team grade:C+
Vandy just doesn't provide decent competition for the Vols, even in a bad year. The emergence of the running game spelled doom for Vandy, and our dependable defense was more than a match for Vandy's suspect offense.

Kentucky is another story. Lorenzen will provide a stern test to UT's big play secondary. Our coverage is soft, but quick, which means we make a lot of interceptions, but also that we give up a lot of big plays. Lorenzen will have a field day, unless our defensive line can put pressure on him. Unfortunately, our defense will have all they can handle trying to contain Pinner. The combination will likely overwhelm the Vol defense, and put up 35 points.

Which brings us to our offense, which is beginning to show signs of life behind an improved offensive line, and the running of Cedric Houston. For the Vols to have a chance to win this game, they must launch several long drives, each resulting in scores, keeping Lorenzen and Pinner off of the field. Sadly, every coach in the nation knows that UT can't pass effectively, and Kentucky will stack up to stop the run, with a double team on Whitten. Look for Kentucky to end one more UT streak: KY 35 UT 24

I would so love to be wrong on this one...

Posted by Rich
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A study in sportsmanship

Sunday, Warren Sapp put Chad Clifton out of the game, and possibly the rest of the season with a vicious hit after an interception. Although the hit was clean, it was well away from the play, and probably unnecessary. After the hit, Sapp celebrated the hit, while Clifton writhed in pain on the turf, and continued to do so even as the trainers went out to take Clifton off of the field.. But this is football, and as Sapp said, it's a contact sport. There will be no penalties of fines for Sapp.

After the game, Packers coach Mike Sherman confronted Sapp, who launched into an obscenity laden tirade, shoved a Packers staffer, and challenged Sherman to "put on a jersey if you think you're so tough."

Last night, Coy Detmer had the game of his career, throwing for two touchdowns while running the Eagles offense to perfection. Then in the third quarter, he dislocated his left elbow while being tackled by Chiki Okeafor. He was brought off the field on a cart, but before the cart could clear the field, he was surrounded by his teammates, and most of the 49ers, who wanted to wish him well.

Again, this is football, and it's a contact sport; injuries will happen. But do you celebrate ending a guy's year? Do you relish seeing your opponent carried off on a cart? Or do you play the game hard, but clean? Do you try to win, or try to hurt the other guy?

Warren Sapp has one answer; I like the 49ers answer better.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, November 25, 2002

Blogger’s Bash Update

OK folks, we have our final arrangements. The bash will be held on Dec 7th starting around 6PM and we will hold it at Barley's again. I'll call and let them know to expect a group between 10 and 25. If you don't know where Barley's is, the address is 200 Jackson Ave. in the Old City. Take the James White Parkway exit off of I-40. Get off on Summit Hill and turn right down the hill. Turn right on Central, and right again on Jackson. Barleys is a half a block down on your......

Hmmmm. Me thinks that this must be part of the VRWC.....

Looking forward to seeing you all.

Posted by Rich
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Thursday, November 21, 2002

Misleading header

read this article in Fox, which claims that scientists are trying to create a new life form

Interesting choice of words, but inaccurate.
The plan will begin with Mycoplasma genitalium, a tiny organism that lives in the genital tracts of people and may cause or contribute to an inflammation of the urethra. All genetic material will be removed from the organism. Scientists will synthesize an artificial string of genetic material, resembling a naturally occurring chromosome, that they hope will contain the minimum number of M. genitalium genes needed to sustain life.

The artificial chromosome will then be inserted in the hollowed-out cell, where it will be tested for its ability to survive and reproduce.

In musical terms, this is like Vanilla Ice claiming the base line from Ice Ice Baby was his because he used it differently.

Scientists in this experiment are not "creating" anything, they are producing a modified copy of an existing organism. Breeders have been doing this for generations, using selective breeding. The tools are becoming more refined; the actual effect is staying the same.

So why use the word "create?"

I see a couple of reasons. First it sounds snazzier than "modifying." Second, in the ongoing war between science and religion, both side seek to pre-empt the terminaology of the other. On one side, scientific creationism. On the other, "creating a partially man made organism."

Note to the science community; if you want to claim you have created something, start in the lab with carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen, plus sufficient quantites of the trace elements you need. Give me a call when you make something from scratch.

If I order a pizza, I don't turn around and call it cooking dinner.

That being said, the experiment itself is a pretty cool one, sure to give us lots of new insight into how the genetic information encoded in DNA is used to regulate an organism.

Posted by Rich
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Islam is a religion of peace…

it says so right here on the label. That must have been a comfort to the folks who were burned alive by a mob.
More than 50 people were stabbed, bludgeoned or burned to death and 200 were seriously injured in the violence in predominantly Muslim neighborhoods, Nigerian Red Cross President Emmanuel Ijewere told The Associated Press.

At least four churches were destroyed, he said.

Many of the bodies were taken by Red Cross workers and other volunteers to local mortuaries. Many others remained inside homes that were set afire by the demonstrators, Ijewere said.

And the cause of this ruckus?
The protests were triggered by a newspaper article suggesting Islam's founding prophet might have chosen a wife from among contestants in the Miss World beauty pageant in Nigeria

Now, for those of you who equate Islamic fundamentalism with Christian fundamentalism, let me ask you a question. We've had images of the Virgin Mary painted in cow feces; we've had books published saying Jesus was gay; we've had singers ripping up pictures of the Pope on national TV; we've seen devout Christians pilloried in our media time and again as helpless morons at best or dangerous fanatics at worst; we've seen sacrilege of almost every kind imaginable put forth as art.

Anyone been burned alive for it?

Didn't think so.

Posted by Rich
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For a bunch of guys who praise martyrdom for Allah

it seems strange that so many of the leaders are captured alive....
Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a suspected mastermind of the USS Cole bombing in October 2000, was captured in an undisclosed foreign country earlier this month and is now in U.S. custody, officials said.

The Saudi native is the highest-ranking Al Qaeda operative captured since last March, when the CIA, FBI and Pakistani authorities captured Usama bin Laden's operations chief, Abu Zubaydah, in Faisalabad, Pakistan.

U.S. officials had recently said a senior Al Qaeda leader had been caught, but they declined to identify him. On Sunday, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said the captured terrorist was providing information to his interrogators.

And then they sing like little birdies.

How does Allah reward hypocrisy?

Posted by Rich
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You read it here first!

Remember when I (jokingly) predicted that Jeffords would ask to be a republican again?

Well, I was right!
Despite denials by his staff, Vermont Sen. Jim Jeffords did approach several colleagues in the Republican Senate Caucus about returning to the fold. According to several Republican Senate leadership sources, Jeffords himself floated the idea to Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee and to Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe in the aftermath of the Republicans' regaining control of the Senate.

"It wasn't a half-joking conversation," says a Senate leadership staffer. "The senators thought it serious enough to go to their caucus leaders and raise the issue. At that point it became a joke."

You made your choices, sir. Now you get to live with them.

Posted by Rich
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If this doesn’t scare you,

you weren't paying attention. The gov't wants to monitor every single purchase made by every single American.
Aldridge said the database, which he called another "tool" in the war on terror, would look for telltale signs of suspicious consumer behavior.

Examples he cited were: sudden and large cash withdrawals, one-way air or rail travel, rental car transactions and purchases of firearms, chemicals or agents that could be used to produce biological or chemical weapons.

It would also combine consumer information with visa records, passports, arrest records or reports of suspicious activity given to law enforcement or intelligence services.

Now, in order to combine the two information sets, there must be a wat to correlate them. In other words, your name will be associated with every transaction. Think about that for a second. Every purchase will have to have your name on it, and will be stored in a data base somewhere.

Scared yet?

Then think about this. How are they going to get your name on cash transactions? We're getting to the point where you will have to show ID to buy a pack of gum, unless you use a credit card. Can a national ID card be too far behind?

How is it that the right to privacy allows a woman to abort her unborn child, but doesn't allow me to spend my money without reporting to the feds?

This cannot be allowed.

I can't wait to see what SKB has to say. We disagree in a lot of areas, but I'm betting we're together on this one....

UPDATE: I just sent the following to Senators Frist, Thompson, and Senator elect Alexander, as well as to the Knoxville News Sentinel.


The Pentagon wants to monitor every single purchase made by every single American. They say that they need this information to combat terrorists. I fail to see how tracking my purchases at WalMart is the key to defeating Al Qaida.

The report goes on to say that consumer information will be added to passport, arrest, visa, and other information. Now, in order to combine the two information sets, there must be a way to correlate them. In other words, my name will be associated with every transaction I make, and that information will be stored in a giant database somewhere, accessible to God only knows whom. That information will be analyzed, looking for “suspicious activity” like large cash withdrawals, car rentals, etc. So, if I decide to take a trip to Washington DC, and rent a car to carry my family, and pay with cash because I don’t have a credit card, I might be a terrorist?

I don’t think so, yet a software algorithm just might reach that conclusion, and my life would be open to increased scrutiny, and a complete violation of my rights against unreasonable searches. How is it that the right to privacy allows a woman to abort her unborn child, but doesn't allow me to buy a pack of gum without reporting to the feds?

I haven’t even begun to talk about the abuses possible through the expansion of this system. As an example, it was expressly forbidden to use the Social Security number as an ID number, but last time I checked, it was required to get a driver’s license; to join the military, where it became your serial number; it is used to identify your credit worthiness; many companies use it as your employee number. In short, it has become a de facto national ID. Now imagine the parallel for this new system. The IRS will instantly be interested in this system to investigate tax fraud; tracking and analyzing cash transactions would be an excellent weapon for them. Imagine the uses local law enforcement would have for this system, tracking stolen merchandise and so on.

There are many possible noble uses for this information, I’m not arguing that, but it goes against the grain of everything we stand for as Americans. It is a massive intrusion on our rights as enumerated by the US Constitution.

It cannot be allowed.

I urge you to act now to stop this rape of our fundamental rights, before we lose the very thing we are fighting to protect.

Our freedom.

Posted by Rich
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