Friday, February 26, 2010

Uh, yeah sure, Maybe.

Once long ago, I got a fortune from a fortune cookie that said "You are the Greatest Person in the World." And really, who could disagree with that? So I taped it over my desk at work.

Then about a year later, I got another fortune at the same restaurant that said "Your stupidity is your greatest problem." I was taken aback, of course, but it's hard to argue with that one either. So I taped it up right under the other one.

I thought they made a nice kind of balanced presentation.

The other day, the boys and I had Chinese food and we got this as a fortune:

This one was a bit harder to make sense of. So I am taking a wait-and-see position.

Say it with splotches

The more observant of my blog readers will notice a strange addition to my blog layout today - a weird little box that looks like a mutant crossword puzzle in the lower right corner.

I am told this is something called a QR code. It is kind of a custom bar code in which you can embed information to be decoded by your cell phone or other bit of smart gadgetry. Actually, I've known about this kind of thing for a long time - people were talking about early versions even back in the early '90s - but it never occurred to me to try it until today, when I read a piece by legendary journalism recruiter Joe Grimm, suggesting that sticking something like this on a business card or resume would be a nifty way to make potential employers think you're way cool and tech savvy.

Use a Two-Dimensional Bar Code to Brand Yourself as an Innovative Journalist

So I tinkered with the technology and, sure enough, it works.

The mysterious set of blotches on the blog will lead you to my website:


This is what it looks like:


In order to understand the code, you need a little piece of software for your cell phone, which connects with your built-in camera. There are lots of them out there, but the one I found that works with my Blackberry - and seemingly many other devices - is called NeoReader.

But the nifty thing is that you can encode damned near anything in these little doodads. Again, there are lots of sites that do this, but I am kind of fond of the one, called Kaywa.

For example, here is my email address:


But the really excellent part is that you can encode long blocks of text, making it possible to send secret messages to people. For example:


This is the first paragraph of the Gettysburg Address (though my Cell Phone had a hard time deciphering this much text).

Or this:


This will tell the viewer "You are a complete idiot."

The possibilities here are simply limitless.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sgt. Witch

Former Congressman Bob Barr (who turned out to be one of the funniest members of Congress in my time there) is concerned that the Air Force Academy is going a little too far in accommodating the religious needs of "pagans." He writes today in his Atlanta Journal Constitution blog:

The US Air Force, at no less a prestigious location than the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, has taken the notion of religious tolerance to a new level, in creating an outdoor worship area for pagans. The site, apparently sacred to pagans, consists of an inner and an outer circle of large stones. I’m sorry, but this truly is hilarious. Don’t get me wrong, if someone “has little or no religion and delights in sensual pleasures and material goods,” which is the definition of a “pagan,” then I say live and let live.

But I have to tell you, if I were in the Air Force and was being commanded by an officer who practices hedonism as a religion (another part of the definition of “pagan”), and who dances around a circle of stones in the woods carrying a lighted candle, I would be more than a little worried about following him into battle.

Funny thing is, this is not an entirely new idea. The immortal Jean Shepherd (whose wisdom about Beer I referenced earlier) had something to say about his days in the army, when he listed himself as a "druid." Here is a long segment from his Army routine from his radio show in 1967. The audio is a little choppy in spots, but if you have a few minutes, it is worth a listen, if only because he ranges far and wide as usual and has some tangential observations that hold true even today. The Druid bit is about 10 minutes in.

11/18/1967 Army-Druid

Shepherd reports that when he was inducted, the dog tag maker insisted that he declare a religion. Not being a religious guy, Shepherd said "druid."

I thought I was being funny, but he said 'OK, I've never seen that one.' Cachunk. And for 3 1/2 years I carried a dog tag with a D on it.

The only problem, he said, was that there were no official religious holidays for Druids. Other guys in his unit, a Signal Corps radar company, got Christmas or Passover off, but not Shepherd, who spend every holiday on KP duty as a result. At least until one day, when his commanding officer called him in.

'Shepherd,' he said, 'I understand you're a Druid.' I said Yes. 'Well, I read in a book that Druids are about to celebrate Great Oak Tree Day.' I said Yes - I'm glad you care ... it's a seven-day holiday, you know. And they celebrate it in New York. It's the only temple we've got in the U.S. It's in Central Park, right by the Ice Skating Rink, in a hole in the ground.

His story of how he thereafter became a Druid chaplain is priceless.

To this day, he says, "I'm the only registered Druid" in the Department of Defense records. "You ought to see the mail I get."

On every Nov. 17, I get phone calls. All day long at the station I get calls from one member or another of Company K ... They say will you please give me the sacrament over the phone?

Incidentally, if you make it past the long Army segment, there is a WOR newscast included that is fascinating to hear, including stories about the Vietnam War and a long segment on sports, including a score of the Baltimore Bullets game and news about O.J. Simpson's standout play in a USC football game that propelled them to the Rose Bowl.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Literary criticism at its finest

Wonkette on Richard Cohen's column today on the Administration's terrorism policy:

Why bother picking this apart? One criticism should suffice: many of the words that Richard typed here should not have been typed. He could strengthen his argument by deleting many of these words and replacing them with nothing. After he types his first draft, he should go back to the beginning, and delete the first word. Then the second word. The third word, fourth, etc. Eventually he will have deleted each individual word in his first draft, and no words will remain. Then he’ll have an argument!

Oh, God, how I wish I had written that paragraph.