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Stay Chrome-free

I know there's a bit of irony in using my Blogger (by Google) blog to post this...

But here, from Charles Stross via Wil Wheaton is a good reason why you should stick with your Firefox and steer clear of the fancy new Google Chrome, direct from the Chrome EULA:

11. Content licence from you

11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights that you already hold in Content that you submit, post or display on or through the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying the content, you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free and non-exclusive licence to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content that you submit, post or display on or through the Services. This licence is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services.

I'm not one to use emoticons, but sometimes, there's nothing you can do but :O

So basically, Google is saying, "Yeah, anything you do with Chrome, you retain copyright, but we get to do whatever we want with it, too." And apparently this is their EULA for GoogleDocs, too.

Yeah, I'll stick with my Firefox, thanks all the same.

In Which My Cat Presents Me With an Offering

Pictured at left is eight feet and one ton of Feline, who goes by the always-appropriate moniker "Loki." Here, he's curled up and looking as cute as can be. But within this unassuming exterior hides oh so much more.

For several weeks, the cats were fascinated by the oven. They sat and stared at the gap between oven and floor for long periods. We figured they could hear some little noise the oven was making, some noise we couldn't perceive. I'd pulled the oven out not long ago to clean out months' worth of accumulated muck, and found nothing amiss - just dust bunnies and dessicated potato cubes and onion bits.

So, last week, I arrived home from a day of listening to Democrats shout about how awesome Democrats are and how much McCain Sucks (which is, of course, true, but is also beside the point). Loki, mysteriously, was not at the back door to greet me as he usually is. It was hot and I was tired. I stripped down to my shorts and laid down on the bed to read for a few minutes and probably take a nap. After a minute or two, Loki comes in and hops up on the bed. He likes to be near us when we're home; in the kitchen with us, on the couch with us, in the bed with us. This is not unusual. I greet him without looking up from my book.

Suddenly, Loki deposits something on my bare belly. It is a small gray mouse, smaller than my thumb, and it is almost but not quite dead, and it is twitching away its last handful of breaths in this world. This was not an accident. This was Loki proudly presenting to me his contribution to the household.

Now, I'm a Manly Man. I like football, I can open pickle jars and reach high shelves, I mow the lawn and I know the names of lots of different kinds of tools. And, Manly Man that I am, I refrained from screaming like a little girl at this point. But only just.

I did, however, shout, "Oh, my God!" and roll over to let gravity take the mouse from my bare belly to the bed. Loki was perhaps a bit nonplussed at my reaction to his offering, but it didn't last. He was playing with it again in moments, tossing it and batting it and watching it continue to twitch.

I called Mle and said that I'd figured out what the cats had been staring at under the oven. By the time I was off the phone with her, the mouse had stopped twitching. Though I knew Loki would feel cheated, I didn't really want him to eat the thing, so I picked it up and tossed it out into the back yard. I rewarded him instead with effusive praise and a handful of salmon-flavored kitty treats.

Loki spent several minutes looking for the mouse even after that.

Notes from the Fringes of the Circus

Yes, the Circus came to town this week, and when I say "Circus," of course I mean "the Democratic National Convention," and when I compare the two, I do so as a proud registered Democrat and fervent supporter of the next President of the United States, Barack Obama. The oft-quoted words of Will Rogers ring as true today as ever: "I do not belong to any organized political party. I am a Democrat."

I was excited when Denver was named the host city for the 2008 DNC, thinking I might volunteer. Then I learned that the campus where I get edumacated was going to be closed down for the week of the convention. "Security reasons" are the stated cause of the closure, and it's no doubt true, as the campus is right next door to the Pepsi Center...but it also allowed the campus to make a few extra bucks by selling parking to conventioneers. Anyway, the convergence of the convention and a week free of other obligations meant that I could volunteer for sure.

For the past three days, I've been working as what they amusingly call a "Caucus Runner" at the Colorado Convention Center. It's amusing because a Caucus Runner does not run in the sense of administrating or organizing, nor in the sense of running to and fro or running errands. My job has basically been to stand there, be present in case something happens that swarms of police don't handle immediately, and to look handsome and dead sexy in my DNCC VOLUNTEER t-shirt. Standing quietly and looking good while doing it are things I've always been good at, so I suppose I'm rather well-suited to the job.

For those not in the know about just how a political convention works - which, I assume, is most of you - the big action happens, of course, at the primary site, the local sports arena (and in this year's case, for one night, the local football stadium). That's the Pepsi Center, affectionately referred to by sports columnists in the Post and the Rocky as "The Can," but mostly referred to by locals as the Pepsi Center. That's where the bigwigs make the speeches and the delegates wave signs and the TV talking heads muse about what it all means.

But during the day, leading up to all this, there's lots of smaller events going on. In the past, I'm told, this has always taken place at the area hotels, but due to the size of the event, this is happening at the Colorado Convention Center. The convention offices are all there, along with office space for interested parties like the AFL-CIO, the NAACP and all the other usual suspects. And there's the caucuses. This is basically where a bunch of people gather, make lots of speeches about how awesome the Democrats are, how awesome Barack is, and in some cases how awesome Hillary is. There's lots of applauding and back-patting and talk about how important it is to get out the vote and such.
So on Monday, I performed my important duties in the Black Caucus. Howard Dean, who is about as white as anyone can be, made some opening remarks. Wellington Webb, the former Mayor of Denver, who is definitely not white, made further opening remarks. Both were briefly interrupted by protesters, both of whom jumped up to scream about how Obama's pro-choice stance was, in fact, support of "black genocide." The police were on both of them like white on rice inside ten seconds. Webb quipped, "See, that just shows you how much things have changed. Now, when we get together for a meeting, the police are on our side." It was really moving to watch this group of people, to whom Obama's candidacy is probably most meaningful, gather and make a show of their support. Great stuff.

Monday Celebrity Sighting: Tom Brokaw, not covering the convention, just signing books, looking relaxed and as tan as George Hamilton.

Better still was my post on Tuesday, in the Women's Caucus. I'd guess it was about 1,500 people there, more than a few wearing Hillary buttons and t-shirts and such. Donna Brazile made a great speech, as did Cecile Richards, daughter of former Texas governor Ann Richards and current president of Planned Parenthood. She had my favorite line of the day: "Women voting for John McCain is like chickens voting for Colonel Sanders."

After that, I was assigned to watching a door, making sure that people went out the exit door instead of the entrance door. Not exciting, and kind of frustrating when people - usually the people with the most different kinds of credentials on their lanyards - completely ignored me and did whatever the hell they felt like, 'cuz they were important and busy or something, I guess.

Tuesday Celebrity Sighting: Rosario Dawson, who briefly addressed the Women's Caucus in support of her organization, Vota Latina, which works to register latina women to vote. Ten times hotter in real life. Also, Eva Longoria, who was there with Rosario, and Fran Drescher.

Today, I was assigned to the Asian American & Pacific Islander Caucus. Not as large or quite as interesting as the others, but still pretty cool. Maya Soetoro-Ng, Obama's sister, spoke briefly about Obama's Hawai'ian background and sympathy with Asian/Pacific Islander causes and concerns. L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa spoke as well, and was pretty darn good.

Wednesday Celebrity Sighting: Kelly Hu - Lady Deathstrike from X2 - made a brief appearance at the caucus. Like Rosario Dawson, absolutely smokin' hot.

And of course...it wouldn't be the Circus without the sideshow. Here's a bit of the scene outside the convention center:

Doesn't [Candidate] Care How He's Hurting Working Families?

In between the segments of the talking heads babbling about Michael Phelps and the lingering shots of Shawn Johnson grinning perkily and waving, you get the campaign commercials. And what is practically every campaign commercial about this year? Gas prices. Usually, it's the Republicans - smelling a wedge issue to get their base, Stupid People, into the voting booths with their usual aplomb - saying something along the lines of, "[Democratic Candidate] just doesn't care if gas prices go up to five or even six dollars a gallon - he even voted against new laws that would allow for [name of absurd and idiotic oil exploration plan that won't, in reality, lower gas prices a plugged nickel]. Doesn't [Democratic Candidate] even realize how much he's hurting working families?"

This has, somehow, unbelievably, become the number one issue in the 2008 campaign. Gas prices. American voters care more about paying less to fill their SUVs than they do about ending the war in Iraq, improving the health care system, creating real and reliable sources of renewable energy, improving public education, or anything else. The price of gasoline is more important than all of these.

This is mind-boggling, and simply proves to me that the American public is every bit as stupid as I've always suspected.

Look, y'all, John McCain can bleat "Drill here, drill now!" as much as he likes. The fact is the experts, people who actually understand the economic realities of the situation - and yes, Stupid People, like it or not, there is still such a thing as expert opinion in the world - say that drilling offshore or drilling in ANWR or drilling on top of Mount Goddamn Rushmore won't have any meaningful impact on the price at the pump. That's just the way it is.*

But let's imagine that John McCain bleats his way to the White House on the back of "Drill here, drill now!" and he gets his way and we drill here and drill now. And let's say that somehow, a miracle happens, and through some sort of magic, there's ten times as much oil as even the most optimistic predictions say. The oil flows, the price at the pump comes down, and we're all paying $1.50 a gallon again.

That's great, right?

Sure...for as long as the oil lasts.

The plain and simple fact of the matter is that there is a finite supply of petroleum in the world, and they're not making it anymore. Demand is increasing while supply dwindles. That is a fact, and it is indisputable.

So does it not make sense - given that it is inevitable that we will run out of petroleum (and therefore gasoline, Stupid People, which is made from petroleum) - that we should be thinking more about finding better ways of powering our modern industrial society, and thinking about ways we can use less gasoline than we do now, than to wring our hands and accuse the other candidate of not caring about how high gas prices are affecting working families?

Nope, nope, nope, of course not. Not when you've got a wedge issue and a huge bloc of Incredibly Stupid Voters who think that the gubmint is even capable of lowering the price of gasoline.

* - I should mention, in fairness, that certain Democrats' "plan" of releasing a portion of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is equally boneheaded and pointless, as it will have roughly the same effect - i.e., nil - on gas prices.

Food Meme!

I like food, and I like easy blog posts, so here's a bit from the food blog Very Good Taste.

The rules are pretty standard:
A. List of 100 items
B. Bold items you've eaten
C. Cross out items you'd never consider eating

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros - I make a rather good version of huevos at home. Come visit, I'll cook them for you.
4. Steak tartare - I like rare beef, but raw is a bit much, thanks.
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding - I would try it, though I doubt I'd wolf it down.
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari - C'mon, who hasn't eaten calamari?
12. Pho - Denver has a pretty large Vietnamese immigrant population, and several very good pho places.
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans - Another favorite and a personal specialty, either New Orleans-style red beans or Caribbean-style black beans.
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper - I like spicy, but that's just crazy.
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava - One of Mle's very favorite desserts, and therefore one of mine.
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar - Well, I didn't eat the cigar, I used it in the recommended manner.
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O - I'm assuming this means that college-party staple, Jell-O shooters
39. Gumbo - Yet another personal specialty, as Leah and Simon may recall.
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects - Skewered and deep fried at a night market in Beijing. Beetles are sour, Grasshoppers taste a little like chicken.
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin - I don't think I've ever had sea urchin, but I've had sea urchin roe. Does this count?
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips - I've had them, and learned that there's just no reason to eat fake chocolate.
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe - Um, I've had absinthe. Is that the same thing?
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie - Me and every Marvel and DC superhero in the 1970s.
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse - Not unless I were starving to death.
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam - Dirty little secret: I actually like Spam.
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake - Rattlesnake, to be precise.

The Science of Magic

Great stuff from the New York Times about what magic - both stage and close-up - can teach scientists about cognition and perception. Check it out.

Diarrhea of the Mouth

My Dad always used to say about the Monday Night Football broadcast team - whether it was Howard Cosell and Don Meredith or Frank Gifford and the always-inane Dan Fouts - that they had diarrhea of the mouth.

I think NBC has discovered the all-time greatest, most chronic cases and put them together in a booth in Beijing. Of course, they did this in Sydney and Athens, too. I'm talking about the Olympic Gymnastics commentators, Al Trautwig, Tim Dagget and Elfi Schlegel ("Elfi?" Seriously?). This may be the worst team assembled to cover any sport in the history of televised sports.

Dagget and Schlegel are the analysts, both former gymnasts. Where they consistently and utterly fail as broadcasters is that it doesn't seem to occur to them that 95% of the population of the United States actually watches and cares about gymnastics only once every four years at best. They never offer any real insight, or really explain what's going on. I'd like to know what I'm supposed to be looking for as I watch the routines. The only real idea I have about whether a given gymnast has done well or not is the always-crucial sticking of the landing. All we ever get from Dagget and Elfi is, "Now here comes a big move...oh! Incredible!" or "Now, that was a mistake, and that's going to cost him!" Unless the mistake is completely obvious to the untrained observer, there's no way to know what the mistake was. Dagget and Elfi know, and the judges know, and the gymnasts know...but us laymen out here in TV land, we have no clue. All we know is that whatever happened, according to Dagget and Elfi, it was a mistake, and it's going to cost him. Great. Rather than educating or explaining, they assume that we're on the same level of knowledge as them. When I watch football, I don't need the commentators to explain what "holding" is or what makes an illegal forward pass or why the team is celebrating because they just carried the ball into the end zone. But I've spent four months of every year since I was 10 watching football. I've probably seen hundreds of football games in my life. I spend two weeks every four years being moderately interested in gymnastics, and having someone explain the rules to me at those times would be nice.

Of course, Dagget and Elfi are Al Goddamn Michaels compared to Big Al Trautwig. The guy just can't stand more than a nanosecond of silence. Anytime Dagget and Elfi aren't saying, "Oh, that was amazing! You can see why he's considered one of the greats!", Trautwig is just babbling, filling the silences without any consideration of the meaning or intelligence of his comments. No filter between brain and mouth. Just babbling. Not really commenting on anything, not making any real conversation with anyone, not saying anything meaningful, just filling the silence. Babbling.

Last night, as the final Chinese gymnast was dismounting the high bar and the celebration of China's gold medal was beginning, Trautwig burst out with, "There's a new China Syndrome and it's China Gold!" Uh...wait, what? Al, what in the name of JESUS H. TAPDANCING CHRIST does that even mean? Were you just trying desperately to come up with a familiar phrase with the word "China" in it? And you came up with "China Syndrome?" An American phrase referring to a severe meltdown at a nuclear power plant? "There's a new China Syndrome and it's China Gold!" You couldn't just say, "The crowd is going crazy as the Chinese team celebrates their gold medal triumph"? Not the most exciting turn of phrase, to be sure, but it has the virtues of making sense and actually meaning something, so it would be a start.

I know that ever since 1980, Olympic broadcasters have been trying to come up with something as memorable and iconic as Michaels' "Do you believe in miracles? YES!" But Al, "There's a new China Syndrome and it's China Gold!" ain't it.