Journal Aug 2005

31 Aug 2005

Our thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by the hurricane and floods in the southeast US.

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Selected notes from The Al Franken Show and related stories (indicated times are Pacific) (why this is here):

Selected notes from The Randi Rhodes Show and related stories (indicated times are Pacific) (why this is here):

Other news and opinion from the day:

Other news and opinion from the past:

30 Aug 2005

I put up my set list and quick concert review for Coldplay. Nothing monumental in my description. Good concert. I wish we could have seen more, but I guess that's what we get for lawn seats.

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Selected notes from The Al Franken Show and related stories (indicated times are Pacific) (why this is here):

Selected notes from The Randi Rhodes Show and related stories (indicated times are Pacific) (why this is here):

Other news and opinion from the day:

Other news and opinion from the past:

29 Aug 2005

Maureen and I watched Coldplay on Friday, and it was excellent. But then again, what concert we've been to hasn't been excellent? I'll post the set list and review soon.

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Selected notes from The Al Franken Show and related stories (indicated times are Pacific) (why this is here):

Selected notes from The Randi Rhodes Show and related stories (indicated times are Pacific) (why this is here):

Other news and opinion from the day:

25 Aug 2005

In my ongoing attempt to find open source or otherwise freeware alternatives to commercial software, I've already found the OpenOffice.org suite (which will go to 2.0 soon) to replace the basic Microsoft Office (Word/Excel/PowerPoint), so I wanted to look for a Microsoft Project replacement, or at least a basic Gantt chart producer. Here's one: GanttProject, an open-source (GPL) basic Gantt chart producer that runs in Java. Not as easy as Microsoft Project, or feature-rich, but if Gantt charts are all you need, GanttProject works.

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Selected notes from The Al Franken Show and related stories (indicated times are Pacific) (why this is here):

Selected notes from The Randi Rhodes Show and related stories (indicated times are Pacific) (why this is here):

Other news and opinion from the day:

24 Aug 2005

Today I overheard someone a few cubes down from me say that California is pretty much a liberal state, and Berkeley is the perfect place to test a nuclear weapon. Disgusting. How much do you want to bet he identifies himself as "Christian"? Such is my life and the place where I work. "We're pilgrims in an unholy land."

Yay! I'm all caught up with DailyKos. Now I've got to work on NYT. And maybe clean up my email inbox.

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Selected notes from The Al Franken Show and related stories (indicated times are Pacific) (why this is here):

Selected notes from The Randi Rhodes Show and related stories (indicated times are Pacific) (why this is here):

Other news and opinion from the day:

Other news and opinion from the past:

23 Aug 2005

It's funny, all you need to make meatballs that taste like IKEA Swedish meatballs is the gravy, which you can buy at IKEA, and the lingonberry sauce. Everything else can be made from scratch, but you can get the meatballs there too. Perfect for those pregnancy cravings, like a friend of ours had. Anyway, we used turkey meatballs from Trader Joe's last night, and aside from the turkey taste, it was pretty much the same thing. That was pretty random, huh?

Anyway, I've been listening to more new bands courtesy of Ben, like Kaiser Chiefs, Hard-Fi, and The Bravery, all of which follow the same template of The Killers and Franz Ferdinand of "neo-new wave," as I've heard it called. I still like these two bands the best, partly because they came first, at least commercially and in the order I heard them, but also because the whole of their sound including the voices, lyrics, and instrumentation works well together while each component stands on its own. Kaiser Chiefs' Employment album is good, but I like the Hard-Fi album, Stars of CCTV better. I just started listening to The Bravery's self-titled album, and it's about the same quality as Hard-Fi's album so far. I guess the record companies found a formula that works and is signing bands that fit with that. Reminds me of alterna-rap and swing (both which I still like, but mostly by the pioneers of those). In my opinion, the best music is that which stands the test of time (think long term; Beastie Boys were out of style in the pop sense sometime after Licensed to Ill but stayed true and got recognition back with Check Your Head, where they played their own instruments).

By the way, I have a very subjective formula of my own for a major label album, which my friends know of. The best albums in my collection tend to be ones designed such that the first single or radio-played song, whether it comes out before or after the album, appears as a song other than the first (pretty common) or last track (rare), but like track 2 or 3 (or about 1/4 to 1/3 of the way through the album). The best song, which may or may not be a single, would be somewhere in the middle or middle of the second half. On top of that, the first and last songs should be solid and function as the sales pitch and closer songs, respectively, i.e. a song that reels you in and a song that leaves you with a feeling of the end of the album while still wanting more. It sounds complicated, but it's really simple. I've just noticed over the years that generally albums I can listen to over and over have these characteristics in common.

Here is a small list of some examples of the type of great albums (in my opinion) that I think fit my subjective formula are (wow, that's a lot of qualifiers). You can also get a glimpse of the variety of music I listen to.

Fiona Apple - Tidal,
Coolio - Gansta's Paradise,
Erasure - I Say I Say I Say,
Erasure - Cowboy,
Evanescence - Fallen,
Franz Ferdinand - 2004 self-titled album,
frente - marvin the album,
frou frou - details,
Gin Blossom - New Miserable Experience,
Green Day - dookie,
Green Day - nimrod,
Natalie Imbruglia - White Lilies Island,
Chris Isaak - Forever Blue,
Jewel - Spirit,
The Killers - Hot Fuss,
Live - throwing copper,
Kylie Minogue - fever,
Matchbox 20 - yourself or someone like you,
Moby - hotel,
Jason Mraz - Waiting for My Rocket to Come,
New Order - Technique,
No Doubt - Tragic Kingdom,
nine inch nails - the downward spiral,
nine inch nails - The Fragile,
olive - extra virgin,
Brad Paisley - Who Needs Pictures,
Portishead - Dummy,
Seal - 1994 self-titled album,
Spin Doctors - Pocket Full of Kryptonite,
The Smashing Pumpkins - siamese dream,
The SUNDAYS - reading, writing, and arithmetic,
Tears for Fears - Elemental
Third Eye Blind - 1997 self-titled album,
TLC - crazysexycool,
U2 - The Joshua Tree,
weezer - the blue album (the self-titled 1994 album), and
just about every Radiohead and Coldplay album ever made (so far).

Likewise, here is a small list of counterexamples, great albums that don't follow the formula (usually meaning that the first single appears as the first track).

Audioslave - 2002 self-titled album,
Boyz II Men - cooleyhighharmony,
Michelle Branch - the spirit room,
Bush - sixteen stone,
Dave Matthews Band - crash,
Depeche Mode - Songs of Faith and Devotion (and its live counterpart),
Depeche Mode - Exciter,
Dido - no angel,
Dixie Chicks - Wide Open Spaces,
Erasure - the innocents,
Erasure - Chorus,
Green Day - american idiot,
Norah Jones - come away with me,
Keane - Hopes and Fears,
John Mayer - Room for Squares,
Sarah McLachlan - surfacing,
Sarah McLachlan - afterglow,
Moby - Everything Is Wrong,
New Order - Republic,
New Order - Get Ready,
nine inch nails - pretty hate machine,
No Doubt - Return of Saturn,
Pet Shop Boys - Nightlife,
Pet Shop Boys - Very,
Santana - Supernatural,
Soundgarden - Superunknown,
Spacehog - Resident Alien (from which I partially took my web name),
Squirrel Nut Zippers - Hot,
Toad the Wet Sprocket - Fear
The Tony Rich Project - Words, and
U2 - Achtung Baby.

I don't know if anyone else, especially a music critic, makes similar guidelines. I've never actually written this down until now. This and other similar quirks of my philosophies will be compiled in a forthcoming section of the website, resident alian's guide to life.

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Selected notes from The Al Franken Show and related stories (indicated times are Pacific) (why this is here):

Selected notes from The Randi Rhodes Show and related stories (indicated times are Pacific) (why this is here):

Other news and opinion from the day:

Other news and opinion from the past:

22 Aug 2005

Yesterday, we were in Claremont for my mother-in-law's birthday, so we went to Our Lady of the Assumption (OLA). The presiding priest that day had a good sermon on creationism and evolution and ID. While I disagree with a small point that extreme arguers for evolution are atheists (because people of faith can strongly justify evolutionary theory), he makes the excellent point that faith and science are not mutually exclusive for a person, but they are mutually exclusive in their scope. The cool thing is that he calls out "intelligent design" as a bad idea. I think the basic premise of intelligent design of God or a Creator being behind evolution may be valid for true Christians, but it's not science, and instituting it in public institutions or labeling it as science is a bad idea. Other priests I've heard at OLA are similarly enlightened. I'm glad my in-laws' church is so progressive. Now if they would just see Bush as an anti-abortion, anti-truth, pro-war puppet, not a truly pro-life, war-as-a-last-resort, thinking Christian....

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Selected notes from The Al Franken Show and related stories (indicated times are Pacific) (why this is here):

Selected notes from The Randi Rhodes Show and related stories (indicated times are Pacific) (why this is here):

Other news and opinion from the day:

Other news and opinion from the past:

18 Aug 2005

A little bit of catch-up. I'm coming close to the present. I've got references to science and health at the bottom, with some pop culture references.

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Selected notes from The Al Franken Show and related stories (indicated times are Pacific) (why this is here):

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17 Aug 2005

Catching up is sweet...but it's not done yet.

I'm posting this relatively close to my last post. I'm behind on posts too. Like I said, I'm catching up. So if you missed my short essay on the HHGG radio series, which now covers all five books (and then some) and want to read it, it's yesterday's post.

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Selected notes from The Al Franken Show and related stories (indicated times are Pacific) (why this is here):

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16 Aug 2005

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is an interesting franchise. Here is what I've learned since my last journal entry on the HHGG movie and what I've read/heard/seen before the movie, partially due to Wikipedia, and partially due to listening to the new Phases of the radio series (sorry, some spoilers contained within for those who haven't read all of the books!):

It started out as a radio show by Douglas Adams, who was working on Doctor Who. Eventually the two "seasons" or Phases of the series found their way into two novels, the first two of five, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which mostly follows the first 4 episodes (or "Fits" as he calls them, after a term for part of a poem) of the first series ("Primary Phase"), and The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, which mostly follows the last 2 episodes of the first series, with most of the material in the second series ("Secondary Phase") appearing in the middle of that book. How does that work, especially considering Arthur needs to end up in prehistoric Earth before the start of the third book? I'll explain soon.

My first experience came with the text adventure on the IBM PC, of which we had a copy and a clone, respectively. I eventually bought the game when I saw a "Gold Edition" with built-in hints at Waldenbooks. Before that, though, I bought the two audio cassette tapes of the stories, which featured a banjo-leaded theme that I later found out (this year) was a version of the Eagles' "Journey of the Sorceror." Another version of this is featured in the movie. It's only in listening to a copy of the Primary and Secondary Phases (episodes 1-6 and 7-12, respectively) and in reading the Wikipedia articles that I found out that my two cassette tapes are transfers of the LP albums and follow the books more than the radio series. At the beginning of the Secondary Phase radio series, Arthur is already stuck on prehistoric Earth and escapes and has subsequent adventures with Ford and Zaphod. In the Restaurant book, Zaphod has some of these adventures with Trillian, which don't include the Nutrimat/bird creature/Arthur statue/Lintilla subplot that includes Ford and Arthur. I found out about the third radio series ("Tertiary Phase") earlier this year and bought that from Barnes&Noble.com. Upon listening to the beginning of that, I had assumed that my Restaurant cassette corresponded in full to the Secondary Phase radio series since Arthur starts out on prehistoric Earth as he does in the third book, Life, the Universe, and Everything. It wasn't until I went back and heard the Primary and Secondary Phases that I understood where (a) the material I thought was present in the Restaurant book but missing in the Restaurant cassette went -- the Secondary Phase and then some, and (b) the Secondary Phase material fits into the whole Hitchhiker's universe. It wasn't until reading the Wikipedia article on the Tertiary Phase that I caught that the whole of the Secondary Phase was dismissed by Trillian as a "psychotic episode" during the beginning of the Tertiary Phase, thus restoring Arthur and Ford to prehistoric Earth, where he was at the end of the Primary Phase but not (obviously) at the end of the Secondary Phase. Thus, when I first heard the Tertiary Phase, it seemed seemless to me since I assumed my cassettes represented the entire radio series so far without knowledge of the material in the Secondary Phase. The gist of the Secondary Phase material that doesn't appear anywhere else (so far; it may be included in a possible sequel to the movie) is the introduction of the Lintillas, which are clones whose voices are similar to the voice of the Bird in the radio series corresponding to the fifth book (and are actually played by the same actress).

Are you as confused as I am? Bottom line: my cassettes correspond only to the Primary Phase of the radio series. The events in the Hitchhiker's book more or less correspond to the first cassette and episodes 1-4 of the radio series. The events in the Restaurant book more or less correspond to the second cassette (with the exception of the Frogstar/Zarniwoop subplot) and leave Ford and Arthur on prehistoric Earth. That book also corresponds roughly to, in book order, episode 5, episodes 7-12, and episode 6 of the radio series, with the exception of the Nutrimat/bird creature/Arthur statue/Lintilla subplot I mentioned earlier that doesn't appear at all in the book. The Tertiary Phase corresponds to the Life book (third in the "trilogy"), and it was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in Sep-Oct 2004 as episodes 13-18, with most of the original cast of the Primary and Secondary Phases. The Quandary Phase corresponds to So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish book (fourth in the "trilogy"), and was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in May this year as episodes 19-22. English actress Jane Horrocks, the voice of Babs in Chicken Run, plays Fenchurch. Because the fifth book, Mostly Harmless, wasn't my particular favorite, I was concerned that the Quandary Phase ended with Fenchurch disappearing in the hyperspace jump, which happens in Harmless, since before the broadcast I was hoping to "end" the series in my mind with the Quandary Phase, and I wasn't particularly looking forward to the Quintessential Phase. After hearing that ending, though, I had to finish the series, and I do actually find the Quintessential Phase satisfying. The Quintessential Phase, of course, corresponds to the Harmless book, and was broadcast immediately after the Quandary Phase on BBC Radio 4, ending in June, as episodes 23-26. It's through the webcasts from the HHGG subsite on the BBC Radio 4 website that I was able to listen to these.

So, I can't wait till the Quandary and Quintessential Phases are released here in the US (starting Dec 2005), since they're currently only available in the UK. Of course, I can just buy them on Amazon.co.uk, so I'm torn. Also, the Primary and Secondary Phases are only available in the UK. They already have a box set of the entire series, but I own the Tertiary Phase on CD already. I highly recommend the radio series in full, because it really gives the characters life and soul as they were originally conceived. Then I'd recommend the books, then the movie. Either way, you're in the company of a great mind in the late Douglas Adams.

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Selected notes from The Al Franken Show and related stories (indicated times are Pacific) (why this is here):

Selected notes from The Randi Rhodes Show and related stories (indicated times are Pacific) (why this is here):

Other news and opinion from the day:

Other news and opinion from the past:

15 Aug 2005

We are the reality-based community (also known as the fact-based community). This is why it takes me so long to do entries. I like to check the stories I hear with what appears in print, or at least, follow the links or addresses mentioned on Air America, on blogs, etc.

In order to be part of the reality-based community, we must not be afraid to speak out against people we normally respect but do something we don't. Democrats must speak out against other Democrats who are doing the wrong thing just as Republicans must speak out against other Republicans who are doing the wrong thing. These politicians who are not afraid of their own party, who speak out for what is right, and who speak for the people they serve deserve to stay in office, regardless of their party. Of course now, just for the sake of checks and balances, it doesn't hurt to vote Dem now. It's a different world now, not just because of 9/11, but because we have one-party rule. And yet, that party can't get all of their legislation past because of people in their own party who really do think things through. But they do get some undesirable things passed like the bankruptcy bill (pro-credit card companies) and people approved like the undiplomatic bully John Bolton (by bypassing the standard route with a recess appointment), so our desperate measure is strategic voting. Once a balance of power is restored, we can return to supporting candidates of either party who really do their job well serving the people.

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Selected notes from The Al Franken Show and related stories (indicated times are Pacific) (why this is here):

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12 Aug 2005

Slow catch-up, but I'll get back to the present soon. Lots of DailyKos catch-up to be done too.

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Selected notes from The Al Franken Show and related stories (indicated times are Pacific) (why this is here):

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Other news and opinion from the past:

11 Aug 2005

No general comment. Usual catch-up.

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10 Aug 2005

Why does the so-called Christian Right, as Moby puts it, like creation but not the icky details that go into it, like sex and evolution? While I may personally believe, as intelligent design supporters do, that God may actually be behind creation and things that seem random, intelligent design is not science and should never be treated as such. Especially in public schools. I believe in evolution, which works through random processes. Whether God is behind it or not is a philosophical question, but it belongs outside of science. This is why science and faith can coexist. Science requires proof and repeatability. Faith requires no proof, so it is independent of science.

Who's to say that a Creator is definitely behind evolution? Not a scientist. And evolution is not "just a theory." Scientific theories like those of evolution and gravity and relativity are based on empirical evidence (read: fact) and shows repeatability and predictability. Evolution is reliable, sound science that can predict following generations. Yes, I took genetics and molecular biology in college. That's how I know. There's no way to know for sure what is behind it all. And that's why such an "origin" is beyond science; it is (with our current technology) beyond measure. All our science and engineering comes from what we observe, but it's all an approximation of some underlying principle(s) that we haven't discovered (yet).

But the fact that I do believe in God and in some kind of universal justice is a personal matter, which everyone has a right to accept or not. God is not measurable with scientific means. God is measured by our faith and our responsibility to take care of each other (including "the least of us," which Jesus taught) and our environment (creation, if you believe that), and we should use our brains (which I believe God gave us for a reason) to discover both fact (observable evidence) and truth (abstract ideals that help guide us).

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Selected notes from The Al Franken Show and related stories (indicated times are Pacific) (why this is here):

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Other news and opinion from the past:

09 Aug 2005

Now I'm sacrificing reading DailyKos (always accessible) for catching up the NYT editorials (accessible for a week after publication).

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Selected notes from The Al Franken Show and related stories (indicated times are Pacific) (why this is here):

Selected notes from The Randi Rhodes Show and related stories (indicated times are Pacific) (why this is here):

Other news and opinion from the day:

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08 Aug 2005

I'm playing catch-up again.

It's incredible that Peter Jennings died. He still looked really young. His broadcast was the one I watched when the planes hit the WTC while I was in Connecticut before Maureen's first year at Yale. I've always remembered him being professional and serious but not too serious, and a well-rounded journalist.

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Selected notes from The Al Franken Show and related stories (indicated times are Pacific) (why this is here):

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Other news and opinion from the past:

04 Aug 2005

I was never a history buff in school, and all of it seemed quite beyond my grasp while I was learning both world and US history. On top of that, politics was completely beyond my understanding, and I only had my parents' political opinions as a reference. Now that I understand that the personal is political and how important it is to "bring balance to the Force" in this country (and not in the Fox sense of balance, but REAL balance), all of my previous history lessons are coming back to me (slowly) and showing how relevant they really are.

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Selected notes from The Al Franken Show and related stories (indicated times are Pacific) (why this is here):

Selected notes from The Randi Rhodes Show and related stories (indicated times are Pacific) (why this is here):

Other news and opinion from the day:

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03 Aug 2005

It's all below. I'd say I'm doing a better job of keeping the list small, especially when I've had to do some catch-up.

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Selected notes from The Al Franken Show and related stories (indicated times are Pacific) (why this is here):

Selected notes from The Randi Rhodes Show and related stories (indicated times are Pacific) (why this is here):

Other news and opinion from the day:

Other news and opinion from the past:

01 Aug 2005

I haven't yet personally commented on Star Wars Episode III, which I think was great, or the recent Hitchhiker's radio series covering the last three books, which I also think was great. I have linked to reviews and info on them, though. I currently am still catching up with other things, so those commentaries will come soon. Just a reminder to myself.

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Selected notes from The Al Franken Show and related stories (indicated times are Pacific) (why this is here):

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