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Category: General

Just Imagine… Stan Lee's Watchmen

[Dr. Manhattan:] As an alienated Syn-Man who was created by gamma rays, I find myself confused by mankind.

[The Comedian:] Ha! What’s so confusing about kicking the Commies back to Red China where they belong, Blue Boy?

Just for people like me that spent more time in the eighties reading comic books than he’d like to admit: Stan Lee’s bold reimagining of Watchmen.

[Caption:] You’ve always heard that TV was bad for you, but can it be bad for the entire world? Find out in 30 when “Savage” Stan Lee and “Dashing” Dave Gibbons bring you an issue that had to be called… THIS MAN… THIS WATCHMAN!

Too rich. (Via BoingBoing.)

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School laptops

While I’m generally in favor of access to computers in school (ideally Macs), I recognize that it’s not just as simple as handing out a bunch of laptops to middle-schoolers and saying “Here you go, now learn something”; so it’s not surprising that a backlash to school laptops is being reported. Glenn Fleishmann, in particular, has been outspoken about this subject. (2007-08-28: Added references and corrected spelling of Glenn’s last name.)

I would have to place among the undesirable side-effects listed in the linked WSJ article (kids wasting their time chatting over IM or building MySpace pages) the following, cited by a parent who favors the program:

Anne Carson, a 49-year-old parent in Glen Allen, Va., says the laptop has helped her twelve-year-old son master critical professional skills like how to compile a PowerPoint presentation. “He’s really picking up on a lot of opportunities I don’t think he would have gotten without the laptop,” she says.

That’s not the sort of opportunity I’m hoping my kids will experience…

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To boldly split infinitives is fine

From [Coudal](http://69.36.40.53/archives/2006/07/common_errors_i.php) via [John Gruber]() comes this [list of common non-errors](http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/nonerrors.html) in English. The first item on the list is split infinitives, and of course they give as an example the most famous split infinitive in Modern English: *”… to boldly go where no man has gone before”* (to give it its original, non-PC reading).

I can’t be the first person to notice that this phrase is (nearly) in [iambic pentameter](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iambic_pentameter), which is the standard meter for blank verse in English. So “correcting” the grammar ruins the poetry of the phrase (such as it is), but I rarely see this pointed out. Both [William Shatner](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Shatner) and [Patrick Stewart](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_Stewart) were classically trained, so *they* must have noticed…

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Where have you gone, Benjamin Franklin?

Yesterday, as you may have heard, USA Today (of all places) broke [this story](http://www.usatoday.com/printedition/news/20060511/1a_secretstory11_dom.art.htm):

> The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.
>
> The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans — most of whom aren’t suspected of any crime.

“Wow,” I thought, “now they’ve really done it. Now they’ve gone too far. Now we’ll see some real outrage.”

Today, reading the front page of the [Washington Post](http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/12/AR2006051200375_pf.html), I learn that once again I have overestimated my fellow citizens:

> A majority of Americans initially support a controversial National Security Agency program to collect information on telephone calls made in the United States in an effort to identify and investigate potential terrorist threats, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.
>
> The new survey found that 63 percent of Americans said they found the NSA program to be an acceptable way to investigate terrorism, including 44 percent who strongly endorsed the effort. Another 35 percent said the program was unacceptable, which included 24 percent who strongly objected to it.
>
> A slightly larger majority–66 percent–said they would not be bothered if NSA collected records of personal calls they had made, the poll found.
>
> Underlying those views is the belief that the need to investigate terrorism outweighs privacy concerns. According to the poll, 65 percent of those interviewed said it was more important to investigate potential terrorist threats “even if it intrudes on privacy.”

Look, folks, privacy is not actually the issue here. (Although shouldn’t you be concerned that your government has access to a list of every phone number you’ve ever dialed?) It’s actually _against the law_ (e.g. the Telecommunications Act of 1934) for phone companies to release this kind of information without a court order. And the government can’t just invoke “national security” as an excuse to bypass the law. (Didn’t we go through all this in the 1950s?)

“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” — Benjamin Franklin

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Ketchup: the "Esperanto of cuisine"

I’m not sure exactly where I came across the reference to this article about [ketchup][] — apparently it hit the blogosphere a while back — but like many others I found it quite fascinating.

[ketchup]: http://gladwell.com/2004/2004_09_06_a_ketchup.html

The author, Malcolm Gladwell, writes periodically in [The New Yorker][] on a variety of topics and apparently makes them all equally fascinating. His articles are archived [here](http://gladwell.com/archive.html). (Bonus pick: [How caffeine created the modern world][].)

[The New Yorker]: http://www.newyorker.com/
[How caffeine created the modern world]: http://gladwell.com/2001/2001_07_30_a_java.htm

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Incredible

I finally got to see _The Incredibles_ — I took my wife for her birthday. (We had decided based on the reviews that it was probably too intense for my five-year-old daughter; as it turned out we were completely justified. Maybe when she’s eight.)

Summary: Fantastic. I can’t imagine any way it could have possibly been made any better. It’s difficult to imagine another studio who could have even made this movie. The set design alone is worthy of an Academy Award nomination — there’s a scene in which the walls of a room are decorated in minute detail, even though the room is not directly lit and the walls are barely visible. But as usual with Pixar, it’s the story that propels the picture; the technology is there to support the story and not to be the main focus.

Every Pixar film has met or surpassed the previous release, and _The Incredibles_ is no exception. It’s difficult to imagine how _Cars_ (scheduled for November 2005) will continue the streak; the early teaser is amusing but not particularly captivating.

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Autogoogling

In a previous post I suggested Googling my name might be interesting. I should have tried it myself first. 🙂

For the record, I am not a [super featherweight boxer from Queensland, Australia](http://www.boxrec.com/boxer_display.php?boxer_id=047469). (And if I were, I wouldn’t have anywhere near an 8-7-2 record.) Nor am I an [Australian tour guide](http://www2.visitvictoria.com/displayObject.cfm/ObjectID.8BAAADA6-FD2F-4C9D-ABDE7A17C28AD1EC/vvt.vhtml) looking for platypuses in the Otway Forest. (Wonder if that’s the same person.)

I am also not a descendant of [William Henry Berger](http://www.aquila.net/rayhent/whberger.htm) of Bern Twp., Pa., or the son of [Daniel Finn and Anna Addison](http://www.gbnf.com/genealogy/jenkins/html/d0034/I3909.HTM). (If you’re interested in my Finn family genealogy — hint: I’m not Irish — I’d be happy to put you in touch with my father, who’s spending his retirement tracking our family history; I believe he’s got us back to [Pepin the Short](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pippin_III).)

And finally, I’m not a [twenty-year-old from Newcastle, England](http://www.ibizaqueenvictoria.com/again/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=2099&PN=1), looking for a job in a British pub in Ibiza (scroll down). Although there are days when that does sound pleasant.

(However, I *am* the person who contributed the CLU and DCL entries to the list of programs that print “Merry Christmas” in various programming languages — posted to Usenet in 1983. Boy, am I old.)

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Please, no

Disney is reportedly going ahead with *Toy Story 3*, without Pixar’s participation.

As previously mentioned, I have a five-year-old daughter, so I’ve seen quite a few of Disney’s direct-to-video sequels, and let me tell you, almost without exception they are dreadful. (OK, I found _The Lion King 1 1/2_ amusing in places, but that was due largely to the strength of the voice cast.)

And I have generally liked the original Disney features — although, come to think of it, the last one I remember enjoying was… hmm, *Hercules*? And *that* was pretty lightweight.

Pixar’s output, on the other hand, has been not only of uniformly high quality, but has actually *improved* with every release. (I can’t wait to see _The Incredibles._)

Oh, well, they can’t make me see _Toy Story 3_; they can only force me to buy it for my children. The price of fatherhood…

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Dumb Old Dad?

Deeje points to Dad Gets the Bimbo Treatment in Verizon Ads and asks:

> I’ve noticed this [trend] as well, and it really [ticks] me off. I know there are a few dads reading this… what do you think?

Me too. It’s easy to say “So what, men have the all power anyway”; but I have an impressionable five-year-old daughter, and I want her to grow up thinking that *both* her parents are smart and deserve respect. (Probably the answer is less TV; but still…)

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Tony, Tony

Concerning the new incarnation of the Tony Kornheiser show:

* It’s only broadcast in Washington, DC, by contract (i.e. no syndication);

* It *is* available over the Internet, however, at [SportsTalk 980’s website](http://www.sportstalk980.com);

* [iRecordMusic](http://www.bitcartel.com/irecordmusic/index.html) works just fine;

* It’s apparently a *two* hour program from 9 to 11, immediately repeated from 11 to 1 (all times Eastern).
(I’d have been shocked if TK went back for four hours. At his age?)

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