Monday, February 26, 2007

Warning: Do Not Eat an Entire Tin of Eclipse Mints

This is an entry about mints and mint tins that takes a decidely unminty turn.

I was in Target yesterday, and in addition to some sundries, I grabbed a two-pack of Wrigley's Eclipse Mints (Winterfrost flavor).

As I've mentioned before, I like gum and tins that could be used to hold things (including gum). So I was primarily interested in the tin:

Eclipse Mint Tin

The Eclipse mints tin is about the same depth and height as the Jones Soda Company candy tin (and has a similar lid), but it's wider, which means it can fit a stick of Trident.

Anyway, since I just wanted the tin, I powered through most of the mints over the afternoon (the "smooth mouth experience and distinctly cool flavor sensation" is addicting), then went to Mexican restaurant Teocalli Tamale in Herndon for lunch.

Later on, when I was at home, I suffered some major intestinal distress. Fairly or not, I blamed the restaurant and thought I had picked up some mild, run-of-the-mill food poisoning, or maybe just had a tough time with beans and hot sauce.

It was not particularly fun.

Today, I finished off the other tin (remember, it was a 2-pack). This was followed by another period of fun.

Since I am not a complete idiot, I figured out that it was probably the mints.

I took a look at the ingredients, and the first listed ingredient is the sweetener Sorbitol, which is a sugar alcohol that the body doesn't absorb well.

(Incidentally, "sugar alcohol" sounds like it should be a lot more fun than it actually is.)

Hrm, a substitute ingredient that's used precisely because the body doesn't absorb it well. That sounds kind of familiar. Kind of like... Olestra.

Here's what the Center for Science in the Public Interest (you usually hear them rousing rabble about junk food) has to say about Sorbitol. It's in an unappealingly-titled item, "Consumer Group Petitions FDA to Require "Diarrhea" Notice on Foods that Contain Sorbitol":
"Studies over the past fifteen years have proven that sorbitol can cause gastrointestinal symptoms, ranging from mild discomfort to severe diarrhea, when adults consume between 10 and 50 grams of the additive."
According to the Wrigley product information page (which is hard to link because of the Javascript), a serving of 3 mints has 2 grams of sugar alcohol.

So a 50-mint tin has about 34 grams of Sorbitol. Which is apparently enough to ruin a good portion of your afternoon.

While the Eclipse mint tin is pretty nice, I think it would be even nicer if it had a warning that says "May cause intenstinal distress. Do not eat more than 10 per day."

I do note that the Altoids sugar-free Smalls mints also contain Sorbitol, though I don't remember if they gave me trouble, too.

This Picture Speaks to Me

This AP photo from last week's Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans speaks to me:

Free Mammogram Pic from Yahoo

It says: "Hi, I'm an unoriginal douchebag who copied a costume that I saw in an e-mail, and this is the closest I'm ever going to get to breasts -- even drunk, Bourbon Street breasts -- without having to pay."

Tattaglia's a Pimp

For some reason, I've had the phrase "Tattaglia's a pimp" stuck in my head.

I have no idea why, other than it's a line from 'The Godfather.'

So I made this:

Tattaglia's a Pimp

Sunday, February 25, 2007

1 to 2 Inches of Snow, MY ASS

I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure that this exceeds the normal parameters of "wintry mix":

Snow Photo

Why yes, I'm kind of irritated, because the sn*w kind of killed my plans today.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Need Help Fitting a Yardstick in My Wallet

I'm throwing this question out to the Webs -- I have a leftover IKEA paper ruler (it's either a really long yardstick or a really short tape measure, I haven't decided), that I want to fold down to wallet size.

Despite my childhood experience with ninja throwing stars, and my recent forays into dollar bill origami, I really don't know what I'm trying to do, or what the best source of information would be.

Here's my first attempt -- I basically wrapped it around a business card:

IKEA Paper Yardstick, wrapped around a business card
It's not very tidy. Someone can do better.

Now, the ruler is a single strip of paper, just over a yard long and 3/4" wide. The only "rules" I'm looking for are:
  • You can't rip the strip -- it has to stay a single piece.
  • It has to be standard wallet sized, so about the size of a normal business card (though it doesn't need to involve a business card.) This means it also has to stay as flat as possible.
  • It has to be relatively easy to undo.
  • Contrariwise, it should hold together pretty well (though if it's kept in a credit card slot, it should be pretty secure).
Why do I need a yardstick in my wallet? I don't really, but if it doesn't take up much room, why not? I mean, it's not like carrying a tape measure around, like certain Farkers:

I've heard of measuring contests at parties, but not like this.

If anyone has any attempts they want to show, suggestions or links to relevant paper-folding resources, please let me know.

MySpace Spammers Don't Want Kids (and Western Australia Becomes a U.S. State)

The only friend requests I've gotten in a while to my much-neglected MySpace profile have all been from spammers of one sort or another.

I always take a look at the profiles to see what they're hawking, how they're doing it, and who's been dumb enough (or desperate enough) to friend the spammer.

This spam profile from last week was kind of a head scratcher:

MySpace Spam Profile Picture

Apparently, "Virginia" here hails from Palisades, in the U.S. state of Western Australia. Not sure how that works.

Also, perhaps we should be thankful, but I've also noticed that to a one, MySpace spammers don't want kids (at least, according to their profile details).

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentine's Day: Could Be Better, Could Be Much, Much Worse

Today had the potential to be a really bad day.

When I left the house this morning, my heat pump had stopped working again, and because of the ice, I couldn't get a repairman until Thursday.

Then, my car got stuck as I pulled out of my spot. I dug out after a few minutes and a little sand.

I also had some trouble making the turnoff from my street, so when I finally got onto the road, I stopped to fill up at the gas station (to have a full tank in case I got stuck).

I pulled back out onto the road, when I saw that my badge was missing. That was bad, since my security token is attached to it -- if I lose it, I can't really do anything. I turned into another unplowed parking lot so I could double back, and again almost got stuck.

I finally got back to the gas station. No badge. The only other possibility was that I'd lost it as I was digging out my car, so I went home. It was lying in the snow.

So I pretty much went to work to relax.

Coming home from work, I came across a stuck car; it belonged to a Papa John's driver, and he and another guy were trying to get the car out. I stopped, unfolded my shovel and brought the deli container of sand that I'd packed this morning.

We made a valiant effort, though we didn't really make much progress until two other guys came over, and the four of us muscled the car unstuck. But it felt good to help.

When I got home, I turned on the heat pump for grins. It fired up. I guess it must be union.

I decided to call things even and not try to find other singles to commiserate with. After all, the only thing dicier than having a couple of drinks and driving home is trying to do that on ice.

Tactical Ninjas, Islamic Terrorists, Zombies and Mall Shootings

I read a bunch of Web forums that focus on tactics, self-defense, military strategy, disaster preparedness/wilderness survival and other various manly he-man pursuits. It's part of my training to become a well-rounded ninja and to better face the impending zombie apocalypse.

Even in the more enlightened of these sites, the politics tend towards staunch, rock-ribbed (though it's probably more like dunlapped) Republicanism. Though the presence of socially-progressive Libertarians, gun-toting liberals and the token Democrat/European is usually tolerated.

However, on some of the other, harder-core tactical forums, if you don't conform to a certain political mentality, you're a lieberal, freedom-hating terrorist sympathizer, and your opinions, and even your membership, are not welcome.

Defining characteristics of these inhabitants include:
  • Thinking that Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh really do make a lot of sense
  • Using terms like homicide bomber, comlib (commie liberal) and Islamofascist in a sincere, non-ironic fashion
  • Having a definition of liberal that comes from a Jack Chick or John Birch Society tract
  • Abilty to read NewsMax and Free Republic without laughing, crying or vomiting
Fetishizing Fear and Gear

It's a world that's incredibly fearful, but it's a kind of fear that thrives under the guise of preparedness.

I'm all for maintaining awareness of your surroundings at all times, knowing how to defend yourself, and being prepared. And I also know that the world is a dangerous place.

However, some of these guys (and they're invariably guys) fetishize this fear by imagining themselves in scenarios that belong in a tactical Penthouse Forum ("I never thought it would happen to me..."), where a father-raping, baby-killing, meth-abusing, home-invading ex-con is hiding in every shadow.

If you don't believe me, you haven't read any discussions about the tactical use of public bathrooms. The extreme practitioners are kind of like me in high school -- avoid at all costs. My teen self parts company, though, when they say if it's an emergency, go with a buddy, use the end stall, and if you have to take a dump, take one leg completely out of your pants so your feet aren't shackled together by your pants. I'm not kidding.

There's also a fetishization of tactical gear, where the pantheon of saints includes Kydex, Cordura nylon, paracord, anodized aluminum, and stainless steel (in your choice of flat black, desert tan, or olive drab). They say they don't do it, since it's about the man and mindset, not the materiel ... but they do it anyway.

And I'm not even getting into the guns...

Like 9/11-Truthers, Only Better-Armed

Now, getting into political discussions with these people is useless. It's like trying to discuss politics with my Dad (sorry, Dad). They see the world not just as black and white (which would be manageable) but as part of an apocalyptic conflict between good and evil that's driven by the fervent belief that their own wacked-out religion is superior to everyone else's (but most especially Islam.)

In this world, moderates, and even advocates of realpolitik, are, at best, useful idiots.

Their hypocrisy is rampant, they consume information only from trusted resources, and they refuse to accept information that runs contrary to their worldview.

So they're like 9/11-truthers, only better-armed.

Holding a special place in their hearts is Islam (and not just radical Islam), which seems to have taken over where Communism left off. Just do a search-and-replace on Communism and Islam, right down to the the "fighting them over there so we're not fighting them over here" rhetoric, the sentiment that the politicians/media are losing the war, and the omnipresent threat of the domino effect.

Plus, throw in the Crusades and a dash of "GLASS PARKING LOT."

I'm no apologist for radical Islam. It can't be ignored that most of the world's active terrorist groups are associated with radical Islam, and no other terrorist ideology has embraced suicide bombing as readily (save for the Tamil Tigers, I guess -- remember folks, just because you're brown, doesn't mean you're Muslim).

"No greater love" is one thing, but as I said to Chuckie a while back, when your religion is being used as a justification for suicide attacks, maybe it's time for a hard reboot for your belief system.

Why is this? The denizens of these boards will say that Islam is inherently prone to this (they would probably just say "evil") and consider the part to be the whole.

These supertroopers forget that Christianity basically had a 1,300-year head start, a schism, a Reformation, a whole bunch of religious wars, and its own history of expansionism and ethnic cleansing, before we finally had a couple of hundred or so years of secularism that's helped to moderate things to the point where religious wackos look like wackos.

Chuck Norris and the WOLVERINES!!!

Anyway, many of these board denizens are insane, but the forums do provide some useful information for gearheads and mall ninjas. I stay out of anything resembling a political discussion, though when they see something like the Salt Lake City mall shooting (which was stopped by an armed, off-duty cop), they have a collective orgasm, since their online existence is validated.

Plus, some see that the mall shooter was originally from Bosnia, and they get all twitchy, looking to blame Islam and jump on the front lines of the impending Muslim invasion, to better set up their Invasion U.S.A. fantasies (which are moderately less implausible, though infinitely less amusing, than their zombie outbreak scenarios).

I've even seen a few folks try to characterize the 2002 Beltway Sniper Shootings as domestic Islamic terrorism ("OMG, his last name was Muhammed!"), when if you actually know anything about the case, it's kind of obvious that it was domestic crazy terrorism (viz. his utopian vision for Crazy Black Boystown in Canada).

(These are the same folks who go nutso if you point out that if you use that same criteria, then Tim McVeigh and Eric Rudolph are Christian terrorists. Also, suggest that maybe some Iraqis see themselves as the WOLVERINES!! side of Red Dawn and their heads might explode.)

Anyway, I will continue reading the useful sites and keeping my mouth shut (as I said, it's pointless to argue, and I prefer to not get banned because I like having my saved preferences), since it's a window into the mindset of a completely different reality and you can usually find good information on knives, flashlights and deals on ammunition.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Perils of Standardized Keyboard Commands

In Google Docs, Control+S saves your current document. For most of us, even in the era of Autosave, hitting Control+S is an automatic and compulsive behavior, ingrained by decades of using Microsoft Word and a few traumatic document losses.

However, in Blogger, Control+S saves your current document by publishing it live. This is almost always not what I intend to happen.

This has caused problems for me in the past, and will continue to do so in the future.

Frozen Water Is Going to Fall From the Sky. And We're All Gonna Die.

However, the two events will hopefully be unrelated.

I have a lot of catchup blogging to do, mostly from the We Media Miami conference that I attended last week. In Miami.

You know, when I left, it was 80 degrees. In Miami. That being where I was. Miami, that is.

It's kind of an odd place. When you look at a pretty girl, she will, many times, smile back at you. It's unsettling.

Also, the weatherwomyn on channel 7 is named Elita Loresca. She is kind of hot and has an enormous grasp of meteorological phenomena:

Channel 7 Weatherwoman Elita Loresca

I don't remember what the forecast was. It was probably in the 70s and sunny. Because it was Miami. Also, evidently, I like to take pictures of large-breasted women on the TV.

In case you didn't think Ms. Loresca was also a serious weather forecaster, she did a photo shoot for FMH.

Other things:
  • Been playing around with the new camera. I like it. Still getting used to it.

  • The Best DC Blog: Don't understand it. Don't much care to. I am kind of surprised about the number of votes I got, considering I know of only one person who tried to stuff the ballot box, and I didn't even vote for myself. But thanks.

  • I got an extremely long and very animated comment from someone who was apparently paranoid schizophrenic tonight. (Well, I got it tonight -- I can only assume this person is a paranoid schizophrenic all the time. Dangling modifiers are fun.) I deleted it, but I will cherish the memory.

  • My heat pump gave me a scare on Sunday. Maybe it was karmic payback because I made fun of custom-decorated heat pumps recently. I am hoping some preventative maintenance will help things out.

  • Brought 50 Dunkin Donuts Munchkins to the office today. Couldn't hardly give them away. It was very odd. I ate a lot of them.
Finally, in case you missed it, here's this Sunday's Candorville. It's bittersweet and describe kind of how I feel about this entry, and others like it:

Darrin Bell's Candorville, 2/11/07

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Cold Weather and My Gag Reflex

Since I'm not much of a heat sink, I find that the cold affects me in odd and annoying ways.

For example, after I drink a 32 ounce soda or other cold beverage, I'll start shivering -- even in relatively warm weather.

More annoyingly, when I go from a warm place to a cold place (including getting out of a warm and toasty-comfy bed in the morning), I'll get a really strong urge to cough.

And it's not the kind of polite, scratchy-throat kind of cough. More like hacking up a lung, "Is he going to hurl?" kind of cough. Almost a soul coughing , if you will.

Strictly speaking, I guess it's not a gag reflex. It's more like photic sneezing, only triggered by a drop in temperature.

It's still pretty annoying, and another reason why I dislike winter.

Surge vs. Escalation: Chuck Schumer vs. Frank Luntz for Linguistic Domination

Listening to Chuck Schumer's appearance on the Diane Rehm show this morning, it seems that the Democrats have been reading Frank Luntz's book -- in every mention of the new (well, new-ish) strategy of Our Dear Leader George W. Bush, Defender of the Faith, President of the United States and the Chief Decider of the Big Steaming Mess in Iraq, he referred to it as the "escalation" (RealAudio here).

Actually, I think he slipped and called it the "surge" once.

This was interesting to me, since I had been listening to Frank Luntz's appearance on the show the week before (RealAudio here).

Luntz, one of the architects of the Contract With America, and more recently, progenitor of the terms "Death Tax" and "Global Climate Change," is an evil genius when it comes to the use of language, with equal parts of evil and genius. (The title of his new book is "Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear.")

Of course, most of the rationalizations behind his rebranding efforts are contorted and intellectually dishonest, but damn, the phraseology is effective.

I think his achievements in the fields of linguistic doubletalk, newspeak and euphemism are only surpassed by that unknown and unsung Hasbro marketing guy who came up with the term "action figure" for dolls for boys. (Dolls. They're DOLLS. Dolls with guns, maybe, but they're dolls. Genius!)

Luntz hates the term "surge," preferring something more bloodless like "restructuring" or "reassessment", so perhaps it's a false dichotomy. But he should be flattered. Or something.

I notice that the use of the term escalation was also in full effect in an ad that was run locally during the Super Bowl; it features vets against the surge/escalation, it's run by, and it's on YouTube -- the ending is a little shocking:

Yes, the injured vet is indicating "on the other hand" -- the pro-surge/escalation viewpoint -- by gesturing with his stump.

Makes waving the bloody shirt pale in comparison.

Crazy Astronaut Bitches Gone Wild

Re: psycho astronaut love triangles -- there doesn't seem to be much more that can be said at this point (where we know nothing but the most lurid headlines), except that to the old saying, "You can't fuck the crazy out of her," one must now add, "and shooting her into space don't help none, neither."

The downside to all this, of course, is the ammunition this gives to the still-mostly-specious arguments against women in combat and the military in general (and any non-domestic profession, for that matter.)

While I am of the belief that women are crazy (and men are stupid, and people in general are worthless), and while I also believe that inherent gender differences do make a difference in some professions (primarily, the ability to move heavy things under duress), this does seem to be an unfair and unrepresentative example.

I am also curious as to see what the lantern-jawed, flat-topped sailor fella in this triangle has to say about this.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Performance Anxiety and the Fujifilm FinePix F30

I just got my new FujiFilm FinePix F30 digital camera this week. (The place I got it from shipped from Edison, NJ, so even with free ground shipping, it was basically next-day. The 1GB xD card came USPS a day later, from California.)

It's all charged up and ready to go, but I haven't taken a picture with it yet. I guess it's because of performance anxiety, since I do want to make sure I use the right mode and settings -- they have a few that actually seem useful and that I might use, like Anti-Blur mode, which bumps up the shutter speed, or Museum Mode, which goes flashless and turns off the self-timer lamp.

Anyway, here are my first, non-picture taking impressions -- they will be annoyingly Canon-centric since, this is my first non-Canon digital camera:
  • Size: It's a little bigger than my SD200 (the one that I killed/just died). In fact, it's about as big as my old S200. Of course, it's still in the deck-of-cards realm, so that's okay, though it's not as pocketable for me anymore (small pockets)
  • Screen: It's nice and big, crisp and bright. It better be, since it doesn't have an optical viewfinder. I knew this going in, but it will make trying to take candids in dark places a bit harder.
  • Menus: The setup menu is different from what I'm used to, but it's pretty easy to navigate. I like how the ISO settings get their own button (which is shared with the lesser-used image quality and color settings)
  • Controls: Pretty straightforward. The proof will be in the pudding, since switching between different modes and adjusting the settings is what I got the silly thing for.
  • Accessories: I've got an xD card reader on the way, because I don't like carrying extra cords. So the separate power cord is annoying -- I much prefer the Canon-style battery charger, rather than having to carry a mini-power brick with extra cordage. Oh, and the manual is a little too wide to fit into the pocket I have reserved for it in my laptop bag.
I will try breaking it tonight. After a few drinks, I won't be fretting about modes and such.

Lastly, you might have thought I would have used my camera hiatus to upload my backlog of photos. You'd be wrong.

Boston Sucks, But Boston Mooninite Terror Victimization Apologists Suck More

More follow-on from this week's Mooninite terror attack dry-run.

Thursday night, I was listening to CBC radio show As It Happens; they were talking with Boston Globe columnist Brian McGrory, who was at the press conference/farce/performance art by The Mooninite Two, Peter Berdovsky and Sean Stevens.

McGrory was somewhat peeved, since the two clowns weren't sufficiently contrite at their press conference to soothe ruffled feathers caused by the ridiculous overreaction of the Bostonian homeland security apparatus.

However, he put this up in Bostonians' defense -- that Boston is particularly sensitive to terror concerns because of what happened on September 11th.

Come again?

Here it is at the 6:29 mark [Real Audio]:
"Before you make fun of us, you've got to remember that two planes on September 11th took off from Boston and we are particularly sensitive about these kinds of things."
Ah, I see -- because two of the 9/11 flights took off from Logan (and one of them was essentially a terrorist lay-over), Boston has been particularly victimized by terror and should get special consideration.

Generally speaking, he seemed to be a reasonable with most of his other points, but he falls off the deep end again with this homer howler (7:50):
"It's a really tough call on whether somebody overreacts or underreacts. Obviously, Boston is the only city that reacted like this, but Boston also has a tough history with terrorism in America."
Unless Boston had some spate of domestic terror in the 60s or 70s that I'm overlooking (or maybe he's counting the Big Dig as terrorism) I would suggest that McGrory and the rest of Boston just take their lumps on this one, instead of trying to play the "9/11 affected us particularly hard" card.

In other words, shut up, you sound like a douchebag:

Michael Cherrito saying Stop talking, okay, slick? in Michael Mann's Heat

Thursday, February 01, 2007

My Blog Month -- What My January Entries Say About Me

I don't have a "who am I/what's this all about" entry, and my profile is pretty bare, so I highlight entries I like in my sidebar.

I was going through my January entries for new links, when I started wondering: What kind of story am I'm telling about myself to someone who only saw my January postings?

Except for stupid sci-fi/HTML jokes, I have a sense of humor (or I think I do).

I chew a lot of gum, and I like flashlights and other types of gadgets, since I have a lot of them on on my keychain.

One of the TV shows I watch is '24', and I've been watching it for a while. I don't go to movies too often (though I have a lot of DVDs), but fancy myself somewhat knowledgeable about film.

I think and write a lot about blogging. I even talk about it, though I need some practice, even if I don't have a Philly accent.

I go out in Arlington pretty regularly, and I talk about my local goings-on (including the state of area strip clubs) and participate in the DC blog scene.

I'm most likely a Duke fan.

I carry my camera around a lot, and I take a lot of photos. Some of them don't even suck.

So that was my January.