Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swine Flu: What's In A Name?

As if being the cause of a global pandemic weren't enough, it seems that the 2009 H1N1 flu, better known through its stage name, Swine Flu, just can't get any respect in some circles. A small number of fervently religious Jewish and Muslim are objecting to the use of the word "swine" in describing this particular strain of the flu. For example, Israel's Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman, a member of United Torah Judaism, said earlier this week that the name "swine flu" should not be used as it contains the name of the unkosher animal. Litzman instead suggested that authorities the virus "Mexican flu." While I understand that ultra-orthodox types like Litzman would get seriously mind fucked by having a virus dwelling in them that at one point had been in a pig, I don't understand why they think it's okay to pass the offense off to Mexicans. Personally, I'm surprised Litzman didn't suggest calling it "Palestinian Flu" instead.

Pork industry officials are also objecting to the term "swine flu" as they claim that the term makes the disease sound like a food borne illness. Pork prices have fallen over the past few days, with many nations either considering or outright banning the import of pork products from the United States and Mexico. One has to wonder if perhaps McDonald's might not take advantage of the lower prices and offer the McRib early this year.

Personally, I think that the term "swine flu" is just not sexy enough to have any sort of longevity. The term just doesn't roll of the tongue. Were I swine flu's agent, I might suggest a number of other names, such as:

  • Hamfluenza
  • Pigmonia
  • Bacon Lung
  • The Porcine Pukeys
  • Porky's Revenge
Still, that won't please the uber-religious idiots who make legitimate science take a back seat to their petty sensibilities. If we're going to be as inclusive as possible, I suppose we'll have to try to please EVERYONE and come up with a more politically correct name. This year's so-called "swine flu" influenza strain actually has genetic elements of human, avian and porcine genes. So. perhaps it is best to come up with a name that best reflects this virus' multi species origin. Might I suggest the following:

  • Frankenflu
  • ManBirdPig Virus
  • Tripletheria
  • Tribuculosis
  • Bird Flu II: Electric Boogaloo
Honestly, though, who are we kidding? The term "swine flu" isn't going anywhere, despite the attempts of corporate, religious and governmental officials to drop it. It's here to stay. The term "swine flu" has gone viral.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Jae Is Getting Married

Jae is going to be walking down the aisle soon. In celebration of his impending indenture to the bride, we all had a little get-together at a Cubs game. We recorded this little skit while waiting to check in to the rooftop seats.




Saturday, April 25, 2009

Rainbow

While out and about on Friday night, I happened to snap a picture of a rainbow.
Click the picture to see a larger version

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Watching From The Rooftops

I am not normally one to watch sporting events on television. I tend to believe that a sport is something you DO rather than something you watch. I never understood the fanaticism that often accompanies one's interest in a particular team. Still, I do love being able to actually attend a live sporting event, especially a professional baseball game. There is something about the atmosphere - a warm, sunny day, the taste of a stadium hot dog, a cold beer and the roar of the crown when the home team hits one out - that makes the entire experience worth while and worth the price of admission. So, when my younger brother, Chris called earlier in the week and invited me to a game, I jumped at the chance.

However, this would be no ordinary stadium experience. Chris booked a block of seats through the Sheffield Baseball Club which operates a number of buildings just across the street from Wrigley Field. There were 10 of us attending today, which worked out to a cost of about $85 per person. The experience was well worth the money, though. They run a great operation which includes an open bar with GOOD beer (we're talking Fat Tire, Amstel Light etc rather than Old Style and Coors) and great food. The food and beer were included in the price of admission. As you can see from the picture I took, the rooftop offered an excellent view of the game. The seating simulated typical stadium seating but, unlike typical stadium seating, the seats were comfortable and offered plenty of leg room.

Even though the Cubs lost big to the Reds today we all still had an excellent time and we'd all like to thank the folks at the Sheffield Baseball Club for running a top notch operation. Myself, I don't think I can ever watch a Cubs game in a stadium again. The Wrigley rooftop experience is the only way to go.




Wednesday, April 22, 2009

So, What Does The Bird Do When I'm Not Around?

I haven't seen the mourning dove in several days. The robin, however, is a constant presence and is getting much more aggressive. I managed to place a webcam near the nest and decided that I would see what the bird did while I was not looking. Below is a time lapse video that takes place over the course of an hour.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Old School Adventure Games, Right In Your Browser

Back in my nerdier days, I was a huge fan of the adventure games created by Sierra On-Line such as Leisure Suit Larry, Police Quest, Space Quest, Quest For Glory, etc. The graphics were complete crap back then, but that didn't matter because the gameplay itself was so engaging. The puzzles were challenging, the characters were endearing and the humor was off the charts funny. The adventure game genre seems to have waned quite a bit over the years, eclipsed in the hearts of gamers by first person shooters and RPGs. Me, I'm still nostalgic for those games of yesteryear, which is why I had a major nerdgasm when I stumbled upon http://sarien.net which allows you to play those old Sierra games within your browser. You can even interact with other on-line players.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Omlettes, Anyone?

I think that we can safely say that the mystery of what is going on with the birds has been solved. A brief investigation of the air conditioner this morning has shown that there are indeed two nests, a small, flat one occupied by the mourning dove, and a larger, circular one occupied by the robin. I figured it out this morning when I noticed two sets of eggs. Soon, my air conditioner will echo with the munchkin sized chirping sounds of two sets of baby birds.

The American Robin typically has between three and five eggs at a time, which take around 14 days to hatch. The robin has been leery of me so far, choosing to try to lead me away to the nest, but not seeming to give a crap if I go up to the nest. I'm told, however, that once the eggs hatch, the robin will become more aggressive in protecting the chicks.

The mourning dove usually has one or two eggs which are incubated by both the male and female at different times of day. Supposedly, when the egg hatches, the doves will be so devoted that they will lead potential predators away from the nest by faking a broken wing and then taking off real fast once the predator gets too close.

The remarkable thing about this situation is how close together the two birds are living. I have already had a number of people comment to me that it the situation is highly unusual and may deteriorate once the eggs hatch. Wonder if I can sell tickets to a potential bird fighting contest.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Violating The Maximum Occupancy Rules

Something out of the ordinary is definitely going on with the nest on my air conditioner. I had mentioned previously that I had thought that a mourning dove was the bird building the nest, only to discover a robin sitting in the nest. Still, I have been catching glimpses of the mourning dove and hearing its distinct calls through the wall, which makes me wonder exactly what is going on. My first inclination is to say that there are actually two nests on the air conditioner, one for the robin, one for the mourning dove. The center, more well formed nest was obviously made by the robin. Mourning doves, however, don't need much material to make a home; they practically just throw three sticks down and call it a nest. So, it's not impossible that the excess material next to the robin's nest is serving as a mourning dove nest. That assumes that it isn't highly unusual for two sets of birds to nest so close together without some sort of bird turf war erupting.

The snide part of me wonders if something a bit more unseemly is going on. Perhaps I'm witnessing some sort of inter-species avian love affair. Perhaps the nest belongs to a female robin who occupies the center area to lay the eggs and a male mourning dove who keeps watch sitting comfortably on the side. Their inter-species love, forbidden by the conservative elders of the avian community (their interest in chicken on turkey porn is for research purposes only) got them cast out from the tree tops, forcing them to shack up on my air conditioner. Even though they know that they could never hope to sire some gross looking yet lovable robin/dove hybrid, they chose to live in defiance of Neornithian society. Or, maybe they are part an avant-garde governmental experiment to create some sort of genetic superbird, one that can easily carry H5N1 to an unsuspecting human populace.

Whatever the situation, they are officially over the maximum occupancy limits of that air conditioner, though there's really nothing I can do about it at this point.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Wikipedia Entry For "Hulk" Defaced

For just a few hours yesterday, the Wikipedia entry for "Hulk" was defaced. I just happened to be looking up some information on Planet Hulk and found the following:

Click The Image For A Larger, More Legible Version

Looks like someone had it in for The Hulk. I guess it really isn't easy being green. It wasn't long before the entry was reverted to its proper version.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Fun With Peeps

Seems I had an excess of Marshmallow Peeps left over from the Easter holiday. Instead of throwing them out or donating them to the local homeless population, I decided to conduct a few experiments to see if certain legends about the candy confections were true. 

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The New Tenant

It took quite a few attempts, but I finally managed to get a picture of the bird who is squatting on my air conditioner. I was obviously wrong about the bird being a mourning dove, even though I had seen one hanging out on there two days ago and had heard its distinctive call. It appears that the freeloading bird is an American Robin.

I still haven't been able to get close enough to get a decent picture of the bird. Whenever I take a step past the wall of my house, the bird takes off in what appears to be an attempt to lead me away from the nest. The picture to the left was the result of several attempts. I managed to take this by approaching from the neighbor's yard and shooting on full zoom.

Friday, April 10, 2009

I Have A House Guest. (Sort Of)

My home office is meant to be a sanctuary. I intended it to be my Fortress of Solitiude, though, too often, it seems more like a Fortress of Disquietude, especially when the pets are milling about. Yesterday afternoon while settling down after work, my usually docile cat began to show a lot of interest in the wall air conditioning unit that covers up what was once the only window in my office. Normally, if its not obscured by my home made green screen, I keep a number of goofy knick knacks on the unit. At first, I figured that the cat had decided that my modest collection of hand carved Hawaiian tikis were too blasphemous to be displayed so prominently. Then, I heard a loud bird call and realzied what was happening.


A quick inspection of the outside revealed a freeloader. I found a mourning dove sitting atop the air conditioner. It wouldn't let me even get anywhere close to it before it flew off. I did, however, manage to get a picture of the beginnings of its nest. This particular shot was taken at about 6:30 pm last night, after three attempts to get close enough to the bird to take its picture. Since there wasn't much material there, I had wondered if perhaps the little freeloader was just hanging out there temporarily, not intending to make a more permanent stay. Maybe my air conditioner had become a mere rest stop for members of the zenaida macroura species.

It rained quite heavily last night. Surely, I figured, if indeed some bird was intending to take up residence on the air conditioner, the storm would have destroyed any progress that had been made. At about 7:15 this morning, after seeing the cat fussing about once again, I snuck outside with the camera. I didn't see a bird, but obviously, someone had been very busy this morning. This nest had been assembled faster than an Ikea book shelf and appeared much sturdier as well. I suppose it won't be long before I'll be hearing the munchkin sized peeps of hungry dove chicks. I've decided that they can live there rent free, so long as they don't mind me listening to The Wonder Stuff while I'm working.

The cat, however, may have other plans.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Beatles Remastered Coming 09/09/09

Apple Corps LTD and EMI Music announced today that the entire Beatles catalog has been remastered for re-release on September 9, 2009, which coincides with the release of "The Beatles: Rock Band" video game. Each of the CDs will be packaged with replicated art from the original UK releases along with expanded booklets containing original and newly written liner notes and rare photos. For a limited period, each CD will also be embedded with a brief documentary film about the album. According to the official Beatles website, "The collection comprises all 12 Beatles albums in stereo, with track listings and artwork as originally released in the UK, and Magical Mystery Tour, which became part of The Beatles' core catalogue when the CDs were first released in 1987. In addition, the collections Past Masters Vol. I and II are now combined as one title, for a total of 14 titles over 16 discs. This will mark the first time that the first four Beatles albums will be available in stereo in their entirety on compact disc".

Great. This means that I'm going to have to buy The White Album again.

Negotiations to bring their catalog to digital downloading services such as iTunes and AmazonMP3 are still ongoing. I don't really care so much about that, though. I'll buy the CDs and rip them to my iPod. What we need is for the brain trusts over at EMI and Apple Corps to officially re-release the Hollywood Bowl concert along with The Kinfauns White Album Demos and The Complete Decca Auditions.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Little Star Trek Movie

With the release of J.J. Abram's Star Trek reboot illuminant, the folks over at Goanimate.com have released some flash animation tools that allow you to put the classic crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise into a number of potentially funny situations. Here's what I came up with.


GoAnimate.com: The Scuffle With Scotty


Like it? Create your own at GoAnimate.com. It's free and fun!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Drill A Hole All The Way To China? Lies! LIES, I tell you!

This has been covered by so many blogs and websites already that I feel so unoriginal talking about it.

If you live in the Western Hemisphere, you are more than likely aware of the myth that if you dig a hole in the ground deep enough, you'll wind up in China. These days, people are more apt to say that the economy is sinking so fast that it's going to dig a hole to China. I have no idea how that myth may have gotten started. Maybe kids back in the old days were so hard up for entertainment that they dug holes as a hobby and a set of parents came up with the myth as a form of encouragement. For that matter, I wonder if they had something similar in China. Maybe Chinese children were told that if they dug a hole deep enough, they'd end up in New Jersey.

Not that it really matters, because the deeper you dig, the higher temperatures and pressures you encounter. Not to mention the quirky gravity effects that would occur if you managed to reach the Earth's core. The deepest hole ever dug was only about 7.5 miles deep and took nearly 25 years to dig. Known as The Kola Superdeep Borehole (which sounds like a decently plotted porn title), it only penetrated into a fraction of the Earth's continental crust which ranges from 12 to 50 miles deep. Consequently, the Earth had to keep asking "Is it inside me yet?".

Anyway, suppose you COULD successfully drill a hole through the Earth's crust. Where would you end up? China? Not unless you were digging somewhere around Chile or Argentina. If you're digging in the continental United States, make sure to take along some diving gear, because you'll end up in the Indian Ocean. How do I know? There are a number of sites that can find the antipode of any point on the globe. The most user friendly version I have seen can be found at: http://map.talleye.com/bighole.php#mapAnchor

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

LEGO: System Administrators Review

LEGO's video game franchise is thriving. LEGO System Administrators is the sixth entry in the tried and true video game franchise, which, since its inception, has not done much evolving. There is a reason why this sort of gameplay has been repeated throughout the LEGO titles; it's accessible and enjoyable. That's not to say that previous titles have been without their flaws. They suffer from nonsensical puzzles, difficult movement and an insipid AI. In LEGO System Administrators, however, those faults are spun into the gameplay in such a way that they actually better imitate the overall experience of being a system administrator (albeit a LEGO one).

LEGO System Administrators is unique from past titles in the building blocks' franchise in that it isn't based off a movie or a comic-book. This is an original tale. That gives the game a lot of latitude, since there's no need to follow a well-known plot. What we have here is a very basic tale of intellectual, socially aloof, heavily medicated, unapologetically flatulent system administrators who have to address trouble tickets while balancing client requests and dealing with the demands of intransigent management. All the while maintaining 99% service uptime. That's really all there is to it, and, let's face it, it doesn't need all that much more depth. If you're playing LEGO System Administrators, it's because you want to smash LEGO versions of virus-infected desktop computers and pick up LEGO-ized Paxil pills. A story is about as necessary as a project requirements document or a TPS report.

There are dozens of characters for you to play through while you tackle the six acts. The first three acts put you in control of the system administrators, where you're eventually allowed to switch between Derek (the wise but stoic senior admin), Jake (the constantly tardy Microsoft purist), Norm (the seething cauldron of rage), Kato (the trendy Apple slacker) and Bud (the eager intern) and many others. Each character has a special ability and a weakness. For example, Norm has an uncanny ability to write visual basic scripts, but can be a real douchebag if the rest of the office doesn't want to go where he wants to for lunch.

The second half of the adventure puts you on the side of management. You'll get to see the flip side of each act and learn how the management team sets up their individual, often conflicting master plans without regard to employee morale, compensation or workload. Each manager has their own special powers, making each of them unique. Hugh has the power to purchase an unlimited amount of new, complex, expensive equipment. Leonard can publish a newsletter where he takes credit for your work and blames you for his mistakes. Frank can instantly squash your promotion and send you back to the data center where you'll be watching a monochrome screen and loading tapes.

While much of LEGO System Administrators is about maintaining your sanity while keeping your servers online, there are some refreshing breaks. Just about every act has one vendor level. In these levels, you navigate through various greedy vendors in an attempt to get you and your fellow administrators a free lunch. While these levels are brief and the lunches are alcohol-free, they provide a welcome change of pace. Just be aware of the LEGO ethics officer, constantly on the alert to make sure you don't go over the allowed gift spending limit.

LEGO System Administrators is good fun, but it's really just the same thing we've seen before, except without the exciting characters, thrilling action sequences and fiscal responsibility. It doesn't do much to advance the franchise. It's just another day at the office.

Virtual Sink's Rating: