Movies by the numbers

FOLLOW ME HERE - Psychologist Professor James Cutting and his team from Cornell University, analyzed 150 high-grossing Hollywood films released from 1935 to 2005 and discovered the shot lengths in the more recent movies followed the same mathematical pattern that describes the human attention span.


So I get this catalog from Land's End today...

...funny how if you buy something from online the first thing they do is send you a bunch of snail mail...and what's in this catalog but a whole lot of women wearing longs. Only now, apparently, they're called crops. Once again the world of high fashion struggles, vainly, to keep up with me.

Speaking of which, I went to the grocery store this afternoon and got almost to the corner before I realized I wasn't wearing a hat. It's just that warm today. I haven't dug my summer hat out of its box yet (strictly speaking, I think I'm not supposed to do that until Memorial Day but I'm not all that much into strictly, never was) but maybe I should soon. Anything but go bareheaded. If the sun gets a good strike on my head the glare can be seen in outer space. I expect it - my head, in sunlight - to show up on Google Earth any day. The next thing you know, some alien astronomer will notice and send a fleet to investigate. This, we may not want.

On the other hand, if they have unlocked the secret to getting broadband as fast as they have it in France, maybe we do.


Photo: Phil Compton

There's an insignificant number?

As reported in the New York Times last week, a significant number of innocent Afghans continue to be killed by US and NATO forces...

link: McChrystal: We've Shot 'An Amazing Number' Of Innocent Afghans

In case you've forgotten, today is...

Cheese Weasel Day


Sort of shows you what the last three years have been like

WASHINGTON – The nation's economy posted its largest job gain in three years in March, while the unemployment rate remained at 9.7 percent for the third straight month.

link: Employers added most jobs in 3 years in March - Yahoo! News

The official line, of course: "The increase in payrolls is the latest sign that the economic recovery is gaining momentum and healing in the job market is beginning."

The unemployment rate around here, according to people in the know - including those who are without work but have stopped looking - is closer to 20% than 9.7. FWIW.

The AP's piece continues:

...most economists don't expect new hiring to be fast enough this year to rapidly reduce the unemployment rate.

(Emphasis emphatically mine.)

A palpable find

The World's First and Only Umbrella Cover Museum opened with firecrackers and cupcakes on Peaks Island off the coast of Maine during the summer of 1996....


(See more on our official work avoidance list, in the sidebar.)

Well, OK, there's that

If the Vatican's declaration that the Pope is a sovereign head of state protected by diplomatic immunity is true, why don't Catholic clergy have to register as foreign agents?



“It’s much more tailored to what intelligence is telling us and what the threat is telling us"...the administration official said...

The new security protocols will be built around present-day threat situations...where fragments of intelligence from various threat streams are considered.

link: Security Check System for Flights to U.S. to Be Altered - NYTimes.com

...threat streams? Really? Is it that bad now?



Exclusive: FEC inaction on enforcing election laws rises more than 600 percent

link: Exclusive: FEC inaction on enforcing election laws rises more than 600 percent | Raw Story

Inaction rises more than 600 percent? You do the math.

Or, come to think of it, never mind.

Nobody's fool

To avoid further controversy, the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi has rejected a $20,000 gift intended to underwrite an alternate prom replacing one canceled by a local school district after a lesbian student demanded that she be allowed to attend with her girlfriend.

The gift...came from the American Humanist Association, an advocacy group whose mission is to promote “good without God.”

“Although we support and understand organizations like yours, the majority of Mississippians tremble in terror at the word ‘atheist,’ ” Jennifer Carr, the fund-raiser for the A.C.L.U of Mississippi, wrote in an e-mail message to Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the humanist group.

link: Mississippi A.C.L.U. Rejects Gift for Alternate Prom - NYTimes.com

Look, I don't want to be a grump or anything...

NEW YORK – Saying low-slung pants give their wearers a bad image, a state lawmaker is making the point with some images of his own.

Brooklyn residents awoke Thursday to the sight of two "Stop the Sag" billboards — and more were on the way, organizers said. The signs show two men in jeans low enough to display their underwear. The billboards were bankrolled by state Sen. Eric Adams, who also made an online video to send his message: "You can raise your level of respect if you raise your pants."

link: NY politician takes up cause: Sagging pants - Yahoo! News

...(moi?) but really?

No joke!

The sun did come out today. Not much, but enough. And it's supposed to warm up to 70 (it's got a long way to go from here), and to 80 on the weekend. So maybe it's time to put away the long johns and the big down parka after all.

(Or maybe not. This is New England, after all, and if the Canadians loose control of their weather again any time soon we could still have a few chilly days. But who knows.)

Ride's Over

Photo: Phil Compton


The down side of ebookery

“There’s something about having a beautiful book that looks intellectually weighty and yummy,” said Ms. Wiles, who recalled that when she was rereading “Anna Karenina” recently, she liked that people could see the cover on the subway. “You feel kind of proud to be reading it.” With a Kindle or Nook, she said, “people would never know.”

link: In E-Book Era, You Can’t Even Judge a Cover - NYTimes.com

And hundreds of dust jacket creative directors thrown out of work.

Who knew?

A wind-driven deluge broke rainfall records across the Northeast on Tuesday, flooding roads and basements almost as quickly as it snapped umbrellas inside out, and compounding the lingering damage from a storm two weeks ago.

Officials mobilized National Guard soldiers in hard-hit areas of Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

link: Northeast Storm Brings Heavy Rain and Stops Traffic - NYTimes.com

It rained for a few days. OK, maybe more than just a few - whatever, it was enough to get depressing. The duck puddle, dried up a week ago, is bigger than ever now. And yeah, it was windy, but not enough to blow my umbrella inside-out.

The National Guard?

Oh well. The good news is, it now looks like we might get some sun a day earlier than predicted - hooray, today!

Obama: Drill Baby Drill

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is proposing to open vast expanses of water along the Atlantic coastline, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the north coast of Alaska to oil and natural gas drilling, much of it for the first time, officials said Tuesday.

link: Obama to Open Offshore Areas to Oil Drilling for First Time - NYTimes.com

You coulda had a V-8. Or Sarah Palin.


Of course

My weather widget predicts this incessant cold rain will finally - finally - end and we'll have sunny skies and mid-70's temps beginning on April 1.

Who could possibly doubt that?

Books. Everywhere.

I've spent a big part of the last few days researching electronic books. It's an ugly scene - a veritable tower, as one wag helpfully pointed out, of eBabel - a hodge-podge of incompatible file formats and DRM solutions. It is also extremely promising.

All this is prompted, of course, by the impending arrival of Apple's new iPad and it's accompanying book store. The iPad, of course, does lots of things - some reviewers call it Apple's take on the netbook market - but my own interest is in its potential as a book reader.

While I expect the iPad to be a hugely successful product, Apple's entry into the book selling field is a mixed blessing, IMO. On the down side, at least judging by what seems known so far, it will have the effect of raising, not lowering ebook prices - not much, perhaps, but every little bit counts. On the up side, rumor has it Apple's new bookstore will have a section for self-published documents, and thus do for the book world what podcasting did for, well, whatever. Time will tell.

Self-publishing is already a trend on the network, and there are a number of sites that offer collections of self-published work. Too, Google and Guttenberg, among others, offer enormous collections of "classic" books - books, that is, which have passed into the public domain or, in other words, were published before geezers like me where born - free. So all that stuff you didn't get around to reading in school is now there for the taking (as well as stuff you did get around to but might want to read again).

Electronic book readers - most of them, including Kindle, nook, and Sony's readers (these are the three that set the standards) - employ an "electronic ink" technology to produce a reading surface much like paper (unlike a backlit screen, easy to read in bright light). Several - the larger Kindle, for example - are about the same size and sell for the same price as the lowest-priced iPad. Many - the smaller Kindle, the nook, at least two of the Sony devices - sell for about half that price and approximate a mass-market paperback in size. Amazon, Barnes & Nobel, and other big online book sellers - and many public libraries - have ebooks available, but here's where the DRM kicks in and things can get muddy.

Still, there's a variety of software available for both computers and mobile devices (iPhone, Blackberry) that allow reading of all these books on backlit screens (like, of course, the iPad's) as well as on the stand-alone devices.

And more. Wireless on some readers, Wi-Fi on some, some play audio files or even check email. There's a lot going on.

But whatever it is, it's big - surprisingly big, to me - and sure to grow. The convenience, not to mention incredible coolness, of being able to carry a few dozen books around in your pocket just in case you get stuck in line at the bank and have a few minutes to read is just way, way too much to pass up.

Bruce Campbell, where are you?

Walking around with a Wi-Fi-enabled iPhone in a big city where there is Wi-Fi might be a good idea, but around here, not so much. True, there is a growing number of personal or business hotspots, all locked, but the number of public, open nodes - the library, a couple of coffee shops, a restaurant or two - remains pretty stable at just a few. And in that case, leaving a phone's (or a laptop's) Wi-Fi on just wastes juice.

So I spend a lot of attention, if not a lot of time, managing my phone's network activities - turning Wi-Fi off when I leave the house, that kind of thing. But sometimes it becomes sort of an afterthought, as when I leave my house and walk east I remember to turn the Wi-Fi off just about when I get to the end of the block. And that's where I notice there is a Wi-Fi hotspot named Bruce_Campbell_is_God.

I'm just thinking, Bruce, if you're out there somewhere, you might want to figure out who lives in the corner house.


It's happened

I've long maintained that no matter how exotic or expensive a technology is it will eventually become a Cracker Jack prize or something equivalent (my corollary, to give credit where due, to Moore's Law). So it came as no surprise when I received spam by snail today promising, if I would only "switch to Verizon," a free netbook.

I don't need a netbook and nothing was said about what, exactly, needs be switched to Verizon to obtain one. Nothing was said, at least, on the outside of the envelope - it never occurred to me to look inside. (Ooops.) But I already use Verizon DSL and I don't want them getting their hands on anything else.
I won't mind it, though, when I find a coupon for an industrial-grade hard drive on the back of a Wheeties box (Breakfast of Terrabytes). That would be very cool.

Same rage, same incoherence...


Wait a minute here

WASHINGTON — Senior lawyers in the Obama administration are deeply divided over some of the counterterrorism powers they inherited from former President George W. Bush, according to interviews and a review of legal briefs.

link: Legal Memo - Obama Team Is Divided on Tactics Against Terrorism - NYTimes.com



Prow Eyes

Photo: Phil Compton

The fun just never ends

The show put on [at a big Tea Party rally in Searchlight, Nevada] by a group called the Tea Party Express included Tea Party country songs and Tea Party rappers...

link: Palin Rallies Tea Party Crowd in Nevada - NYTimes.com

And that's all the excitement I need today, right there.

Well you have to draw the line somewhere, don't you?

Seventy percent of those who identify as Tea Partiers -- a platform that strongly decries government intervention in public life -- want an interventionist government to create jobs, and only about one in three believe Medicaid and Medicare are "socialist" programs, according to a new Bloomberg poll.

link: Poll: ‘Anti-socialist’ Tea Party activists want government to create jobs | Raw Story

National Socialism remembered

How curious that a mob fond of likening President Obama to Hitler knows so little about history that it doesn’t recognize its own small-scale mimicry of Kristallnacht. The weapon of choice for vigilante violence at Congressional offices has been a brick hurled through a window. So far.

link: Op-Ed Columnist - The Rage Is Not About Health Care - NYTimes.com

These are the guys who think the Nazis were a bunch of libsymp weenies because they called their party National Socialist.

Let's just ban everything and be done with it

By Julie Wernau | A coalition of health professionals, parents and corporate accountability advocates is calling for Ronald McDonald to retire as a spokesman for the nation's largest restaurant chain, saying he has too much influence on kids.

link: Watchdog group wants Ronald McDonald to retire - Chicago Breaking Business

Oh wait. Am I sounding a little grumpy this morning?