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  xFriday, December 05, 2003

anime link of the day

urusei yatsura (part of the UGO network) has a neat little gallery of anime and video game characters from dozens of titles. Pictured: Lum from Urusei Yatsura ("Those Obnoxious Aliens").


'the bush betrayal'

Libertarian David Boaz isn't happy with Bush's presidency, and explains why in this blistering Washington Post op-ed.
He pushed an energy bill that my colleague Jerry Taylor described as "three parts corporate welfare and one part cynical politics . . . a smorgasbord of handouts and subsidies for virtually every energy lobby in Washington."

...His more libertarian-minded voters are taken aback to discover that "compassionate conservatism" turned out to mean social conservatism -- a stepped-up drug war, restrictions on medical research, antigay policies, federal subsidies for marriage and religion -- and big-spending liberalism justified as "compassion."

...Republican strategists are likely to say that libertarians and economic conservatives have nowhere else to go. Many of the disappointed will indeed sigh a deep sigh and vote for Bush as a lesser evil.

But Karl Rove, who is fascinated by the role Mark Hanna played in building the post-1896 Republican majority, should remember one aspect of that era: In the late 19th century, the Democratic Party of Jefferson, Jackson and Cleveland was known as "the party of personal liberty." More so than the Republicans, it was committed to economic and cultural laissez-faire and opposed to Prohibition, protectionism and inflation.

I believe Boaz to be incorrect in his assertions that Americans always vote for "smaller government," which he defines as lower taxes. Although he's right to point out that the anti-tax rhetoric of the Republicans score well in polls, he neglects to mention that a number of government programs are quite popular. Sure, Republicans do well when they promise, as Bush does, Americans can have their cake and eat it too. But Americans desire neither the resulting fiscal mess nor the wholesale dissolution of popular programs that's the none-too-secret goal of the Grover Norquist crowd. That's why Republicans are practically never honest about the costs of their policies. Arnold Schwarzenegger, for example, rode a wave of discontent to the California Governor's mansion by pledging neither to raise taxes nor cut programs in order to solve the state's defecit program. It's unlikely he'll succeed.

But he's spot-on in his recognition -- even if he can't bring himself to say it -- that it's the Democrats, not the GOP, that's the party of personal liberty.

And his column rightly points out that this time around, Bush won't be able to use his fatuous little "My opponent trusts government. I trust you" line...unless he has no shame at all.

Well, come to think of it...

(via The Modulator)

Update: Avedon Carol comments: "Well, it's the Democrats if it's anyone, but I'm not sure I would go that far; it's just that the Republicans manifestly are not the party of personal liberty." Fair enough.


anti-celeb pr0n detective

Here's an interesting TechTV article about one man's efforts to debunk those fake so-called "celebrity nude" pics cluttering up the Internet.

(via FARK)


top 20 list of the week

Pandagon has a hilarious list of the 20 most Annoying Conservatives of the Year. With such a target-rich environment this year, you might be surprised who didn't make the cut.

For added entertainment, there's typically thoughtful and reasoned commentary added by visiting Freepers.


pickup artist

vampire princess miyu

The good folks at Static Multimedia have picked up my DVD review of the Japanese horror anime TV series Vampire Princess Miyu. There's a lot of good content over there, so check it out.


retro video game post of the day

Here's some great news for old-school video game aficionados. Reuters reports that Japanese game manufacturer Taito has announced it will re-release its classic arcade game Space Invaders to celebrate its 25th anniversary.

The classic arcade game centers on a fleet of invading aliens looking to take over earth, but they must first deal with a lone gunner -- the player -- holed up behind a fragile set of shields. It has been one of the most popular video games of all time since it was developed in 1978.

"There has been a rebirth of classic video games in America," said Taito spokesman Kengo Naka. "We thought it would coincide nicely with the 25th anniversary of its debut in the U.S."

Taito aims to sell 10,000 of the stand-alone game machines at $2,772 a unit.

This is groovy news indeed. Space Invaders is a classic that should still prove a challenge despite all the advances in video game technology. Its relentless pace and fiendish requirements of hand-eye coordination are sure to test the reflexes of old and new generations of gamers alike. Here's a cool fan site devoted to the game that even offers a Flash-based online version, in case you need to practice up. Here's the Coin-Op Museum's entry devoted to the game.

Namco will manufacture and dstribute the games for the U.S. market via an OEM license. But there's one sign of changing times in this retro gaming story -- a play will now cost 50 cents a pop, not a quarter.

(Cross-posted at Destroy All Monsters)


cheapo dvd alert

I was in Best Busy the other day making an exchange, and I decided to grab a cheapo DVD I'd had my eye on for a while. It's a two-disc bundle of old Max Fleischer Popeye cartoons courtesy the good people at Goodtimes Entertainment for a mere six bucks. Each disc contains more than an hours' worth of cartoons. I must admit Popeye is something of a guilty pleasure of mine. I hesistated to let The Girls watch them -- in many cases, Popeye solves his problems with his fists, and that isn't an example I want to set, but on the other time he does eat his spinach, and I'd certainly like to encourage that. So I acquiesced, and The Girls seem to love them, despite their venerable age.

Some trivia from the DVD box: Mae Questel, the actress who provided the voice of Olive Oyl, was also the voice of Betty Boop, with more than 300 cartoons to her credit.

Update: This post proved a milestone of sorts for Jaquandor.


it's snowing!

The first snowfall of this winter has rolled into Indianapolis! Just as I was heading out to the car, freezing rain changed to snow, and now there's a decent snowfall with mild accumulation. The National Weather Service predicts that we may get up to two inches today. Now, of course, I wish I had worn my truly excellent boots as opposed to loafers.

I'll post pictures later this afternoon, if we get enough snow to be photogenic.

On the agenda for tonight: Fire in the fireplace and some hot cocoa.

Update: On my way out to get lunch, I observed that it's still coming down, but it isn't sticking. So there may be no snowy landscape photos after all.

  xThursday, December 04, 2003

gaming post of the day

20-sided dice

I've been remiss in not linking to this awesome find of Jaquandor's ... a glass 20-sided die (be still, my game-geek heart!).

It's nearly 2,000 years old and was used by the Romans to play a game, the details of which are lost to antiquity. It's expected to fetch a cool four grand at auction. c00L!


quote of the day

Writing in the Atlantic, Jack Beatty sums up the potential impact of a Bush victory in 2004:
Can a "miserable failure" of a president win re-election? Bush's victory would testify to a civic failure more dangerous to the American future than any policies implemented or continued during a second Bush term. A majority would have demonstrated that democratic accountability is finished. That you can fail in everything and still be re-elected president.

I would, of course, quibble with the re-elected, but still...

Pundits kicking around the RNC-inspired "[insert Democratic dandidate here] is unelectable" meme are missing the point. Bush -- that miserable failure -- is unelectable. That doesn't mean that the Democrats should be expected to coast to an easy victory; far from it. We know Bush and crew are going to fight dirty and try to lie their way to victory. But the Democrats absolutely must force Bush to defend his lousy policies, and not let (again, RNC-inspired) claims of "political hate speech" or whatever sway them.

(via Mark A. R. Kleiman)


swank site design of the week

Rowdigirl's Web site, Ginger Peachy Weblog, has a spiffy swank design. And if you don't like it, you can change it via a drop-down skin list. c00L!


sirius interviews

R. U. Sirius, co-founder and editor-in-chief of MONDO 2000 and former contributing editor at Wired magazine, is posting a series of interviews at this site. Here's a quote from his opening post:

Funkmaster George Clinton once said, “Think. It ain’t illegal yet.” And while Clinton’s intent was probably to encourage a greater diversity of political opinions and cultural lifestyle choices, it seems that today we also need to remind people (and ourselves) that it’s not a crime to think expansively about the enhancement and extension of human potentialities through science, technology and technique. While the 1990s saw a great flowering of popular interest in technological and scientific innovation; a combination of the tech market bust and some 14th Century religious ideologues armed with box cutters pushed most citizens (of the globe as well as the US) into a reactive mode. Now that we’ve had enough time to absorb these complexities, and to prepare for possible further difficulties, it is time again that some of us focus energy and attention on more promising possibilities.

...Here at The NeoFiles we will be exploring scientific and technological advances towards these and other objectives over the coming months in interviews and articles. However, the seriousness and immediacy of these potentially life-altering developments is perhaps best indicated by evolutions in business and culture. On the one hand, hopes are symbolized by the long-term existence of Wall Street-ready businesses dedicated to marvels like the expansion of maximum life span. On the other hand, our fears are expressed by the increasingly vocal anguish of those who see potential for disaster in these developments.

...This newsletter will explore the latest information, news, and views of those who are redefining the outer limits of human potential. It is dedicated to all novelty seekers — to those who know they are and those that suspect they might be.

(via BoingBoing)


techno-geek trivia of the day

Here's some downright spiffy news: The ubiquitous Photoshop application has its origins as a special effects tool for the original Star Wars movie, according to MacWorld's UK edition!

The Financial Times today is carrying an interview with Adobe employee 38 and Photoshop evangelist Russell Preston Brown.

The report looks at the history of Photoshop – which was developed by Thomas and John Knoll. Thomas was a programmer, while John was in charge of special effects for the first Star Wars film. Brown confirms: "Photoshop is here today because of that movie." Thomas developed software to add effects and painting tools to images at John's request.


(via BoingBoing; cross-posted at Destroy All Monsters)


top of the world

Here's a cool Quicktime VR panoramic view from the summit of Mt. Everest.

(via FARK; cross-posted at Destroy All Monsters)


milestone of the day

Late yesterday afternoon, the hit counter passed 54,000. Thanks for visiting!

  xWednesday, December 03, 2003

turkey day

Slacktivist has a great post on Bush's Iraqi Thanksgiving photo-op, riffing on Dana Milbank's excellent coverage in the Washington Post. Key point:
... it is too soon to know whether the image of Bush in his Army jacket yesterday will become a symbol of strong leadership or a symbol of unwarranted bravado.

Iraqis may be reassured that the United States will put down the insurgency and restore order in their country. Or they may take the image of Bush landing unannounced at night without lights and not venturing from a heavily fortified military installation as confirmation that the security situation in Iraq is dire indeed.

But one thing is certain. Bush's Thanksgiving Day surprise ties him, for better or worse, ever more tightly to the outcome of the Iraq struggle.

Tying Bush's political future "tightly to the outcome of the Iraq struggle" has been precisely the goal of critics of the Bush administration's policy in post-invasion Iraq. (Or, more precisely, critics of Bush's lack of any discernible consistent policy.)

His visit to Iraq yesterday accepted the terms, if not the substance, of those critics. For better or worse, as Milbank says, George W. Bush's presidency, his political future and his place in history are inextricably bound up with the long-term outcome of the invasion of Iraq.

Indeed; if nothing else, the tacit admission by the Bush campaign that it needed new footage of the President in military garb -- since his opponents are using the carrier landing against him -- represents an acknowledgement that Bush's claim to be effective on defense rests largely with American success in Iraq.


'science friction'

Writing in the Washington Monthly, Nicholas Thompson describes the disturbing hostility between the Bush Administration and the scientific community, and his unabashed attempts to politicize the scientific process.
George W. Bush embodies the modern GOP's attitude toward science. He hails from a segment of the energy industry that, when it comes to global warming, considers science an obstacle to growth. He is strongly partisan, deeply religious, and also tied to evangelical supporters. And, like Reagan, he has refused to endorse the scientific principle of evolution. During the 2000 campaign, a New York Times reporter asked whether he believed in evolution. Bush equivocated, leading the Times to write that he "believes the jury is still out."

...When required to seek input from scientists, the administration tends to actively recruit those few who will bolster the positions it already knows it wants to support, even if that means defying scientific consensus. As with Bush's inquiry into stem-cell research, when preparing important policy decisions, the White House wants scientists to give them validation, not grief. The administration has stacked hitherto apolitical scientific advisory committees, and even an ergonomics study section, which is just a research group and has no policy making role.

Bush's seeming contempt for science may be behind his disquieting tendency to pretend there's scientific dispute over issues from global warning to stem cells, when in fact a scientific consensus exists that's typically in opposition to Bush's preferred policy. Then again, it may be simply a rancid combination of bull-headedness, intellectual dishonesty and his preference to subordinate good policy to personal power politics.

(Via Tapped)


amusing flash app of the day

You know those omnipresent backdrops at Bush photo ops -- the ones with labels like "Building America's Economy," that make sure the TV audience gets the message du jour? Well, FreshLaundry lets you roll your own.

(via Atrios)


sci-fi post of the day

Wired has an interesting and lengthy article on sci-fi author Philip K. Dick, noting the author's posthumous success with movie adaptations of his works, from Blade Runner to Total Recall to Minority Report to the new John Woo film Paycheck.

Dick's anxious surrealism all but defines contemporary Hollywood science fiction and spills over into other kinds of movies as well. His influence is pervasive in The Matrix and its sequels, which present the world we know as nothing more than an information grid; Dick articulated the concept in a 1977 speech in which he posited the existence of multiple realities overlapping the "matrix world" that most of us experience. Vanilla Sky, with its dizzying shifts between fantasy and fact, likewise ventures into a Dickian warp zone, as does Dark City, The Thirteenth Floor, and David Cronenberg's eXistenZ. Memento reprises Dick's memory obsession by focusing on a man whose attempts to avenge his wife's murder are complicated by his inability to remember anything. In The Truman Show, Jim Carrey discovers the life he's living is an illusion, an idea Dick developed in his 1959 novel Time Out of Joint. Next year, Carrey and Kate Winslet will play a couple who have their memories of each other erased in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Memory, paranoia, alternate realities: Dick's themes are everywhere.

At a time when most 20th-century science fiction writers seem hopelessly dated, Dick gives us a vision of the future that captures the feel of our time. He didn't really care about robots or space travel, though they sometimes turn up in his stories. He wrote about ordinary Joes caught in a web of corporate domination and ubiquitous electronic media, of memory implants and mood dispensers and counterfeit worlds. This strikes a nerve. "People cannot put their finger anymore on what is real and what is not real," observes Paul Verhoeven, the one-time Dutch mathematician who directed Total Recall. "What we find in Dick is an absence of truth and an ambiguous interpretation of reality. Dreams that turn out to be reality, reality that turns out to be a dream. This can only sell when people recognize it, and they can only recognize it when they see it in their own lives."

Like the babbling psychics who predict future crimes in Minority Report, Dick was a precog. Lurking within his amphetamine-fueled fictions are truths that have only to be found and decoded. In a 1978 essay he wrote: "We live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups. I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudorealities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives. I distrust their power. It is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing."

Wired's article paints Dick as one of the first cyberpunk authors, long before the movement coalesced around such luminaries as William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Pat Cadigan and Greg Bear. In turn, the film Blade Runner profoundly influenced this later generation of authors with its dark vision of corporate dystopia.

Fortunately for PKD fans, probate questions with his estate -- the author died in near-obscurity and without a will -- have apparently been settled, and more of his work is in development for the silver screen. Of course, as the article discusses, Dick's work is often, ah, adapted for the screen -- often muddying themes in the original story. Witness, for example, the famous differences between the theatrical release and director's cut of Blade Runner -- the two films, although only slightly different, tell vastly different stories with entirely different implications for the protagonist.

Musashi and I have already expressed reservations about John Woo's upcoming adaptation of Paycheck. As much as we're fans of both PKD and John Woo, it'll be interesting to see how the two artists' visions manage to gel.

Update: The official Philip K. Dick Web site, which will feature some of the author's unpublished fiction, has just launched (hat tip: Wirehed).

(Cross-posted at Destroy All Monsters)


japanese idol gallery of the day

Here's some safe-for-work cheesecake: a brief slideshow from a recent idol competition held Nov. 26 in Tokyo. A Japanese agency has placed photos of the five girls, who range in age from 14 to 21, on an Internet site, and asked investors to pay for the cost of promoting the winner as a new modeling sensation.

(Cross-posted at Destroy All Monsters)


italy to host virtual beauty pageant

virtual model

Italy is hosting a new beauty pageant, but there's a catch: The competitors are simply collections of pixels.

"Miss Digital World" is the first beauty contest reserved for the likes of videogame heroine Lara Croft, computer-cloned actresses from the "Matrix" films and new beauties tweaked to perfection with 3D graphics.

Digital artists, advertising agencies and videogame programmers from around the world have been asked to send a computer design of their perfect woman to, complete with date of birth and body measurements.

"Every age has its ideal of beauty, and every age produces its visual incarnation of that ideal from the Venus de Milo in ancient Greece to Marilyn Monroe in the 1960s," Franz Cerami, the creator of the competition, said.

"Miss Digital World is the search for a contemporary ideal of beauty, seen through virtual reality," he told Reuters.

Designers will program their contestants to parade along a virtual catwalk, and there'll be a virtual presenter and virtual guests who will help create the atmosphere of a beauty contest.

Like many of their real-world counterparts, digital contestants will be disqualified if they've participated in any pornographic activity...sorry, Virtual Valerie.

(Cross-posted at Destroy All Monsters)


football post of the day

I rarely never write about football, but this morning I spotted an interesting story: For the first time in a generation, the football helmet is set to receive an upgrade, incorporating advanced materials and shock-absorbing technologies that protect Army paratroopers. Fittingly, the helmets will make their public debut at the upcoming Army-Navy game.
Litchfield-based Schutt [] has high hopes for its new DNA helmet, which replaces traditional foam cushioning with shock-absorbing pads also used in paratrooper helmets and on decks of military boats to soften the blow of riding at high speeds in rough water.

A few players with both Army and Navy have worn the new model in a season-long test.

The DNA's SKYDEX pads absorb shock using rows of twin hemispheres that are similar to two halves of a ball being squeezed together, said Larry Maddux, Schutt's research director. He said the pads absorb shock better than a much thicker layer of foam, leaving room for traditional padding to make the helmet comfortable.


  xTuesday, December 02, 2003

so much for that

Over Thanksgiving, I missed this excellent Washington Post op-ed by David Ignatius that pretty much buries the Weekly Standard's feeble attempt to provide post-hoc justification for the Iraq war by citing, ah, uncomfirmed intelligence of a supposed connection between Iraq and al Qaeda.

Seriously, anyone can tell the claims were the bunk. As I've said repeatedly, a genuine link between Saddam's government and al Qaeda would have been genuine causus belli. The fact that the Bush Administration has consistently failed to make that no-brainer of a case -- save for a few lame claims of "bulletproof" evidence that was somehow never forthcoming -- indicates that the Administration knows the claim is total bull, and it won't stand up to the scrutiny of those more intellectually honest than the gang at the Standard.

Alas, anyone familiar with the operation of the Mighty Wurlitzer knows that it doesn't really matter that the lying liars are caught in their lies. What matters is that the "news" of the so-called Iraq-al Qaeda connection is splashed over every newspaper and talk radio program in the nation and forms the inaccurate impression it was meant to (Saddam was behind 9/11!). Corrections come later, if at all, and are buried on the back pages.

(via Mark A. R. Kleiman)


bush administration dishonesty watch

The White House apparently engaged in a little, ah, creative license when it regaled reporters with tales on how Bush's recent Thanksgiving jaunt to Iraq was nearly called off when a British Airways pilot recognized Air Force One.

British Airways begs to differ:
Honor Verrier, a spokeswoman for British Airways in North America, said two BA aircraft were in the area at the time and neither radioed the president's plane to ask if it was Air Force One.

"We have spoken to the British Airways captains who were in the area at the time and neither made comments to Air Force One nor did they hear any other aircraft make the statement over the radio," Verrier said in response to a question from Reuters.

The White House had no immediate comment on the discrepancy.

(via Atrios, who comments, "There really isn't anything these people won't lie about." It certainly appears so. )

Update: The White House has clarified its position, identifying the time and place the ID was supposed to have occurred and stipulating that the radio conversation occurred between the British Airways plane and London air traffic control.

The sighting occurred Thursday morning, just after daybreak, off the western coast of England, said White House communications director Dan Bartlett. If it had led to public disclosure of Bush's trip, the mission would have been scrapped, Bartlett said.

He said the pilot of the British Airways plane radioed the tower in London and reported the apparent sighting of Air Force One. The tower, apparently relying on phony flight-plan information filed to protect Air Force One's identity, radioed back that it was a Gulfstream Five, a much smaller plane.

Bartlett said he had left the wrong impression Thursday that the conversation had taken place between the British Airways pilot and the pilot of Air Force One, Col. Mark Tillman.

British Airways spokesman Jeff Angel said the airline has hundreds of planes in the air in the United Kingdom and around London and none of their pilots had come forward indicating they made the comments or overheard them. "We are not going to be asking every single one of our pilots" about the exchange, he said.

Actually, this scenario has more credibility with me. One thing that struck me as odd about the pilot-to-Air-Force-One scenario was that aircraft aren't really equipped to talk to one another, unless they're on a prearranged frequency used by airports for approach and departure.

Still, while the incident may not have been made up out of whole cloth, it seems that the Bush Administration embellished a possible real incident to make the events a bit more dramatic. Isn't this kind of "little lie" exactly what GOP spinmeisters accused Gore of telling during the 2000 campaign? Although most of Gores so-called lies proved to be nothing of the sort, the basic point is valid: If the Administration can't resist fibbing about little things to make them sound better, why should we trust a word they say?


black box voting update

Wired informs me that Diebold Election Systems has backed off of legal challenges to critics of its electronic voting machines.
The documents [published on] pointed to security flaws with Diebold's computerized voting machines and suggested the company knew about those flaws long before it sold machines to several states, including California, Maryland and Georgia.

...The company claimed copyright infringement under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA, a law designed to guard against the improper use of creative works. Diebold said the documents revealed proprietary information about the workings of its e-voting system that would benefit its competitors.

...In a conference call with U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel and a lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is representing the Online Policy Group and the students, Diebold said it would send letters to the ISPs retracting demands that they take down the documents.

Diebold spokesman David Bear said no one should interpret the move as a sign that the DMCA did not apply in this case. "We've simply chosen not to pursue copyright infringement in this matter," he said.

...Wendy Seltzer, staff attorney for the Electronic Freedom Foundation, said publication of the Diebold documents was an important ingredient in the growing public debate about electronic voting systems and the companies that manufacture them.

"We're pleased that Diebold has retreated and the public is now free to continue its interrupted conversation over the accuracy of electronic voting machines," she said.


By coincidence, Paul Krugman has a [typically shrill, of course] column in today's NYT wondering aloud why the protecting integrity of America's voting systems, which should be a non-partisan issue, seem to break down along party lines.
What we do know about Diebold does not inspire confidence. The details are technical, but they add up to a picture of a company that was, at the very least, extremely sloppy about security, and may have been trying to cover up product defects.

Early this year Bev Harris, who is writing a book on voting machines, found Diebold software — which the company refuses to make available for public inspection, on the grounds that it's proprietary — on an unprotected server, where anyone could download it. (The software was in a folder titled "") The server was used by employees of Diebold Election Systems to update software on its machines. This in itself was an incredible breach of security, offering someone who wanted to hack into the machines both the information and the opportunity to do so.

An analysis of Diebold software by researchers at Johns Hopkins and Rice Universities found it both unreliable and subject to abuse. A later report commissioned by the state of Maryland apparently reached similar conclusions. (It's hard to be sure because the state released only a heavily redacted version.)

...Why isn't this front-page news? In October, a British newspaper, The Independent, ran a hair-raising investigative report on U.S. touch-screen voting. But while the mainstream press has reported the basics, the Diebold affair has been treated as a technology or business story — not as a potential political scandal.


jpop gallery of the day

utada hikaru

Toshiba-EMI's official gallery of jpop singer Hikaru Utada. The Japanese version has additional pictures.


return to the shaolin temple

Slate is carrying an interesting online diary by Matthew Polly, a writer, Princeton graduate and Rhodes scholar, on his return to China's Shaolin Temple -- birthplace of kung fu and Zen buddhism -- ten years after traveling there to study martial arts.

The Shaolin Temple is located in the Song Mountain range in Henan province, a centrally located agricultural state. The nearest transportation hub is the capital, Zheng Zhou, which is a three-hour cab ride away from Shaolin. The government has built an international airport outside the city limits, a dramatic improvement on the airstrip without a fence that was Zheng Zhou's previous excuse for an airport. The problem is a roundtrip ticket to Beijing was $800 on, but the roundtrip to Zheng Zhou was $2,000, which is curious because you can buy a same day, one-way ticket from Beijing to Zheng Zhou for $90.

I was originally planning to walk up one floor, buy a ticket, and go immediately, but I've been traveling for 20 hours and am seriously jet-lagged. So I decide to stay in Beijing for a couple of days before going to Shaolin. No one should travel through Beijing without setting aside at least a day and a half to see the three essential attractions: the Great Wall (it's, well, great), the Forbidden City (it's good to be the king, even better to be the emperor), and Tiananmen Square (in memory of the democracy activists).

As great as those sites are, what I'm really excited about is a chance to talk with a Beijing cabbie. In China's (to put it politely) heavily edited media environment, Beijing cabbies are the country's opinion-makers. If the gradual liberalization does not reverse course, one day they will all have their own talk-radio programs.

Regular readers know that kung fu and Zen buddhism are among my favorite interests, so Polly's reflections prove a fascinating read. There's also a handy primer giving advice for Westerners interested in their own pilgrimage to lear kung fu from the Shaolin masters. Thankfully, the tasks don't seem as rigorous as the ones Gordon Liu faced.

(Cross-posted at Destroy All Monsters)


kaus on dean's 'gaffe'

Also on Day to Day, blogger Mickey Kaus weighed in with an audio post on a supposed gaffe made by Howard Dean on Hardball last night. I didn't see the show, but asked whether he would prefer Osama bin Laden to be tried by a military tribunal or the World Court, Dean said something to the effect that he didn't care, as long as bin Laden was brought to justice.

I agree with Kaus that his statement is hardly a gaffe -- and I emphasize that I'm relying on Kaus's version of what Dean said -- but I do think that Dean erred in not making his point more clear: If we want bin Laden brought to justice, we need Bush out of the White House. Bush, having vowed to get bin Laden "dead or alive," hardly mentions the man's name any more, and it's evident that his obsession with Iraq has shifted the focus of his limited attention away from al Qaeda. For all of Bush's tough talk, his conduct of the so-called war on terror in general and pursuit of al Qaeda in particular are highly questionable. Ultimately, it is indeed less important where bin Laden is tried than whether we bring him to justice in the first place.

Dean, it seems to me, missed a golden opportunity to hammer that point home.

For the record, if the US does capture bin Laden, I would have no problem with his detention as an enemy combatant, his thorough interrogation, and his eventual trial, conviction, and punishment by a military tribunal.

Update: Tapped has more.


dahlia lithwick on d2d

Slate's superb Supreme Court correspondent Dahlia Lithwick spoke with NPR's Day to Day on cases before the Supreme Court. She sounds as brilliant on radio as she does in print.


busy morning

Please stand by...posting to begin this afternoon.

  xMonday, December 01, 2003

japanese culture post of the day

Japanese-American blogger/techie Joi Ito reports that Japanese love hotels are fostering a unique brand loyalty by offering a useful service: They allow regular customers to keep personal items in a locker on the premesis.

As most of you know, Japanese homes are very small so even married couples often go to "love hotels" to make love. Churn was high and customer retention was traditionally very low because most couples like to experiment with all of the interesting features in the variety of hotels. Recently some love hotels started providing rental lockers, which at first sounds a bit counter-intuitive. Married couples found it convenient to store adult toys and other things that they didn't want their children to find in these lockers. These lockers created a relationship between the customer and the hotel and dramatically increased customer retention. Now these lockers are used to store all sorts of "Not Safe For Home" things.


(via BoingBoing; cross-posted at Destroy All Monsters)


drum post of the day

An awesome virtual drum kit, complete with several preset drum patterns.

(via FARK)


guitar post of the day

gibson les paul

Gibson, manufacturers of the classic Les Paul rock guitar, has come back from near-bankruptcy to enjoy booming sales. c00L!

(via FARK)


milestone of the day

Despite a total lack of fresh posting, some time over my Thanksgiving hiatus, the hit counter passed 53,000 and is now more than halfway to 54K. Thanks for visiting!


back from hiatus

Not me, just yet, I'm afraid, but Jaquandor has ended his holiday hiatus with a series of lengthy posts, including his thoughts on canonical literature, a discussion of Hans Zimmer's soundtrack compositions, a recounting of his encounter with an easily offended person, and this recent reading list, in which it transpires that he and I have both read (reread, in my case) The Postman Always Rings Twice.


home at last

We arrived home late last night after some 15 hours on the road. We had a wonderful time in New Orleans over Thnaksgiving. The Girls were very good, even in the long car trip.

I'm spending this morning getting re-established; posting will begin as soon as possible.

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