Saturday, November 02, 2002

I'M A WOBBLY WAR supporter, but I still have to appreciate the sentiment behind the Buy Bush a PlayStation 2 movement. (via Buck)
WILLIAM SAFIRE CALLS "jumping the shark" "popular culture's phrase of the year," which is a sure sign that the phrase has jumped the shark.

Friday, November 01, 2002

THE NYT THIS WEEK reported on the NTSB investigation into American Airlines Flight 587, the Airbus A-300 that crashed just after takeoff in New York last November. It looks like early notions about a mechanical defect with the tail have been discounted, and the current idea is that the pilots were overusing the rudder, causing a back-and-forth motion that led to the crash. For one thing, pilots in a NASA cockpit simulator attempting to reproduce the crash said they couldn't understand why the Flight 587 pilot had been using the rudder so much.

Among the reams of documents the NTSB has collected in its investigation were two earlier letters warning about rudder overuse. The first such letter was sent to Airbus in 1997 by an American Airlines internal expert on the A-300, who complained that an American Airlines training class on recovering from upsets put too much emphasis on using the rudder, something that he called potentially hazardous. (A spokesman for the airline says that the class was still under development at the time that the manager sent his letter, and that the class had been altered to address the problem.) The second such letter was sent by Airbus to the NTSB in 1998, discussing another American Airlines A-300 that suffered an upset while flying over Florida in 1997; this letter warned about using the rudder abruptly or strongly while the plane was in upset, a condition that was not technically affecting Flight 587 before its rudder was applied.

The NTSB is also looking into whether the airline might have inadvertently trained pilots to rely on the rudder by altering its simulator software to decrease the effect of the ailerons in certain situations.

On the NTSB's Web site there is a special section devoted to the Flight 587 investigation.
I'M DEFINITELY WITH MONTYKINS on his recent complaint about Internet denizens' misuse of the hallowed word "rant".
I USED TO BE unequivocally opposed to commercial Web sites where the ordinary content links are shunted to the side so they can surround a big bandwidth-hogging Flash movie, but then I got a load of this advertisement for Lego's new Imperial Star Destroyer model set, which is said to be the biggest Lego set ever. The Flash movie is a reenactment, complete with sound effects and music, of the famous opening battle scene from Star Wars where the Star Destroyer closes in on the little rebel ship, shrugging off the ineffectual laser blasts as it looms over the hapless rebel craft and absorbs it into its gaping underside. But this time, we get to see the Star Destroyer covered with the little... uh... the little... the little interlocking Lego bumps!

I haven't bought a Lego set in a long time, but some friends who are geekier than I am tell me most of them nowadays just consist of a few specially made pieces that snap together quickly. The Star Destroyer seems to be defying this nefarious new paradigm, as it looks to me like it includes a whole lot of ordinary Lego pieces. Good!
MY MOMMA TOLD ME there'd be days like this.

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

LISTEN MISSY GIVES her rules for dating, which nicely coincides with what I told a friend on the phone tonight. ("No, you shouldn't mention your restraining order on the first date.") This has created a kerfuffle on her comments page, but I think things can be resolved by reference to the American Dating Association rules.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

READER MAIL. My long-time real-life pen-pal M.E., who figured out my identity on one visit to the page, writes:
The DC Water & Sewer Authority is installing new end-user meters
citywide. While this show of civil efficiency is amazing in itself, what's
really astonishing is item 16 in the agency's FAQ on the new meters:
16. Is this system monitoring my phone calls?
No, this equipment does not monitor phone calls.
The only reason I can come up with for this being in the FAQ is that,
well, it's a question WASA has been asked frequently. Yikes.
Number 17 is similar. Also, Number 3 indicates that WASA doesn't know that there's such a word as "maintenance."
IMDB TELLS ME that I saw "Gothic" fifteen years ago, so it's a good thing I didn't guess "Lair of the White Worm," which I suppose I didn't see.
THE NOT-QUITE-YET-LATE Warren Zevon will appear on the Late Show with David Letterman on Wednesday, October 30th at 11:30pm EST. The entire show will be dedicated to Warren and he will perform 2 songs including "Genius."

I'm not a huge Zevon fan: none of his stuff would end up in my top-twenty-CDs-on-a-desert-island lists, and my favorite Zevon album is probably the out-of-print "Hindu Love Gods" set of blues covers that he recorded with three fourths of REM. But I do have a soft spot for him, because shortly after I discovered college radio in high school, "Sentimental Hygiene" was the first tape I bought because I'd heard its music outside of the normal media channels.

That's not much more than fifteen years ago, and it's amazing what one remembers and forgets; Lileks has been writing about this, so the ephemeral nature of memory is on my mind. A hundred years from now, will someone be fascinated by the 1980s, with its clunky 64K computers and fear of nuclear holocaust? I quiz myself. Was it the Tulane or UNO radio station? Don't remember. What was the name of the DJ you took out on a date? Was it Ursula? Don't remember. How in the heck did a 1510-SAT-scoring geek on the wrong side of the Mississippi River and just out of high school ever finagle a date with her? Again, don't remember, though one suspects it must have been through mutual friends or friends of friends. What movie did you see? That Ken Russell flick about Shelley and Byron. Can you tell me anything about the movie, including its name or any of its actors? No. Wait, I remember that it was rated R. Also, that I was vaguely confused between Ken Russell and Kurt Russell. Where did you have lunch? Easy: the Camellia Grill, often misspelled "Camelia" with one L, as I did before Google corrected me. What did you have for lunch? Don't remember. What did she have for lunch? The "Cannibal Special" -- a quarter pound raw hamburger mixed with a raw egg and chopped raw onion.

The health department doesn't let them serve that any more. Google finds only three web pages on the Web discussing the Camellia Grill Cannibal Special, and one of them is a fetish story about women with bald scalps. Consider this site number four, and only slightly less tasteful.
TODAY'S BANGKOK POST HAS an analysis by the deputy editor-in-chief of the Arab News, talking about the need to go beyond condemning terrorism by asking why terrorism happens. But his point is not what you're probably thinking:
A journalist visiting Saudi Arabia asked me recently why five out of six students he interviewed at King Saud University still believe that al-Qaeda was not responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in America last year.

Dealing with this question is increasingly frustrating for me, because I have run out of plausible explanations.

I used to believe that denial of Saudi complicity in the attacks reflected our distress with what happened on that dark day. I hoped that we would have the courage to overcome our perceived humiliation and start looking deep into our national psyche, asking the big question: ``Why did 15 of our young men attack America in so brutal a way?''
The author concludes by saying that Americans have done serious soul-searching about extremist elements in our own country, and that Saudis need to do the same in order to keep their children from growing up to be extremists like Mohamed Atta and company. What he doesn't note, of course, is that it's going to take a lot more than navel-gazing to put an end to Saudi support for violent extremism around the world.
TWO CAN PLAY AT THE divestment petition game, thanks to our good buddy War Liberal Mac.

Monday, October 28, 2002

THIS THEORY about the tragedy in Bali is something I'd like to dismiss out of hand, but can't. (And I'd challenge anyone who's ever lived for any decent amount of time in SE Asia to be able to, either.)
TROLLING AGAIN? Max (Combo Boy?), if you were serious about the genetic brother-and-sisterhood (though I'm sure they'd only be interested in the brotherhood part) of Jews and Arabs, that's yesterday's news. Or, more like, two years ago's news. (And if you were trolling...well, I knew that.)

Sunday, October 27, 2002

"THANK YOU FOR SMOKING"'s Nick Naylor pops up as a minor character in Christopher Buckley's new novel, "No Way to Treat a First Lady," which I read in two sittings today waiting for the Metro (it's bad enough they shut down all the roads for a marathon so I can't drive in, but then they run the trains less frequently as if to remind me that normal people don't spend so many hours in the office on a Sunday) and watching the seventh game of the World Series. Thumbs up. Buckley's gotten just as formulaic as, say, John Grisham, but it's an entertaining formula. Part of the fun is the roman à clef guessing of who's who (e.g., doesn't Sandy Clintrick's name sound a lot like Jamie Gorelick, an actual deputy attorney general?) Not perfect, of course: as every other novel with a trial sequence does, this one gets the hearsay rule wrong, and a deputy attorney general would never try a case like this. But a pleasant diversion.
THE HAGANAH BLOG HAS photos of the two scumbags who pulled off the Karkur Junction bus bombing. As has previously been the case, these two guys don't quite seem to fit the lefty romantic's stereotype of Palestinians as third worlders in dirt hovels who have never had a clean change of clothes or a nice haircut in their lives.

MAX POWER BREAKS in to Combustible Boy's entry to add: Geez. It perhaps explains why I get stopped on so many airplanes, but it's disturbing how many terrorists have resemblances to me. That photo of the bozo on the right could have been from my high school yearbook, except I wouldn't be caught dead in that sweater. It goes to show how idiotic Arabic hatred for Jews is; we probably have a common ancestor some eighty or ninety generations back, a few hundred less than European dignitaries ready to shrug off the desired Islamic bloodbath.