31 January 2008

Kenya still in a bad way

The post-election turmoil is still churning in Kenya. Apparently the UN is getting involved, but as we all know, that means nothing.

Essentially, ex-UN chief Kofi Annan showed up in the country three weeks after the violence started and began talking. Here's a timeline of the events over the past month:

Key phrases: "launches formal mediation," "denounces," "meet," "warns."

Didn't we learn anything from Rwanda?

There are a lot of scary parallels between the two nations:

1. Struggle for power

2. Ethnic tensions

3. Roving gangs of mobs killing men, women and children

If there isn't some kind of military intervention in Kenya soon, I fear the whole place will go up in flames.

30 January 2008

McCain wins Florida, appears to be frontrunner

So things didn't go as I hoped Monday night.

McCain won with 35% of the vote, while Romney came in second with 31%.

I don't want to turn this into a whine-fest, but I honestly cannot see what Republican voters like about the senator.

He supports amnesty for illegals, he co-sponsored a bill restricting free speech and he is against the Bush tax cuts.

So go figure. I get the feeling whoever the Dems send out is gonna win this thing come November.

And maybe we deserve it.

29 January 2008

LOST is back

After months and months of waiting (and some of us have waited more months than others), LOST makes its return to our TV's.

And I, for one, could not be more excited. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I spent most of last Saturday watching LOST episodes, mostly from season 3. There's so much to keep track of, but it's all so good.

I think the answers have to start coming now.

Anyway, here's a LOST thought in celebration of the upcoming season 4 premiere.

Flashbacks. Every episode has multiple flashbacks, all centered around one character. These flashbacks help to establish backstory for the major characters, but I recently realized they also help us to know who's lying and who's not.

Locke tells everyone he worked for a box company before the crash. There's no way we'd believe him except for the flashbacks.

Ben tells everyone he was born on the island. Thanks to the flashbacks, we know he wasn't (sorry, Amy).

And for some characters, the lack of flashbacks make them very hard to read. For example, Naomi. We don't get any flashbacks from her, so we don't know if anything she says is the truth. And now that she's dead, we most likely never will.

However, what happens in the next few hours of LOST time will verify if she was being truthful or not. What's with her telling the survivors that they found Flight 815 and "there were no survivors"? Does that mean they've accounted for the bodies of every passenger? Everyone, and especially Sayid, seems intent on ignoring that fact, but it's odd.

But I guess that's par for the course for LOST. Who the heck is Jacob? What's with women dying in childbirth? What exactly happened the day the sky turned purple? Where did Richard and the true Others come from? Why is everything on the island in English but the guns are all Russian? (Thanks to Jimmy for that one)

You've got a lot of work to do, Mr. Abrams. Get to it.

Pivotal night for Romney

Tonight is the Florida Republican primary. While Mitt leads the total vote count right now, Florida is a big state, and losing it will put him behind McCain if the Arizona senator were to win.

If Mitt wins, I'm going to go out on a limb and say he wins the nomination in September.

It's going to be tight. Right now everyone is reporting different numbers; some give McCain a slight lead, others have Romney out in front by a few percentage points. And the numbers change every few minutes.

You can watch it here.

27 January 2008

Gordon B. Hinckley, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, dies at 97

President Gordon B. Hinckley died at his home tonight, surrounded by family.

Links on cnn.com, nytimes.com, msnbc.com, deseretnews.com, foxnews.com.

While this is a sad event in the lives of church members and his family, I'm sure he's okay with this transition. He gets to be with his wife, Marjorie, again. He's mentioned many times in the past four years how much he's missed her.

"My brethren and sisters, at the outset, if you will bear with me, I wish to exercise a personal privilege. Six months ago, at the close of our conference, I stated that my beloved companion of 67 years was seriously ill. She passed away two days later. It was April 6, a significant day to all of us of this Church. I wish to thank publicly the dedicated doctors and wonderful nurses who attended her during her final illness.

My children and I were at her bedside as she slipped peacefully into eternity. As I held her hand and saw mortal life drain from her fingers, I confess I was overcome. Before I married her, she had been the girl of my dreams, to use the words of a song then popular. She was my dear companion for more than two-thirds of a century, my equal before the Lord, really my superior. And now in my old age, she has again become the girl of my dreams."

(Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Women in Our Lives,” Liahona, Nov 2004, 82–85)

He was scheduled to dedicate the Rexburg, Idaho temple next Sunday, so it will be interesting to see if the dedication is pushed back or if the new president is sustained before then.

President Hinckley's legacy will surely be strongly tied to temples. He dedicated 92 of the 124 in operation today.

Here's a timeline of events in his presidency.

He will be missed, but one of the great things about the Church is living prophets. It will move on.

Cloverfield review

I saw Cloverfield last night.

I had spent the previous seven hours watching Lost episodes, so I was all JJ Abrams geeked-out. I had pretty high expectations.

And I think the movie exceeded them. I've read a lot of comments from people who've seen the movie, and there are many who hated it. Most of the dislike comes from two sources, as far as I can tell:

1. This is not a Godzilla-type movie. The vantage point is not from a military commander in charge of destroying the monster. You don't get broad-sweeping views of the entire scene, and not everything is explained. You only know as much as the ones caught in the middle of the situation.

2. The shaky-camera filming technique. Apparently this technique makes a lot of people queasy, even to the point of throwing up, and so they can't enjoy movies like this or The Bourne Ultimatum.

In response: I liked how we didn't know everything. The point of the movie is to tell the story of the masses fleeing the monster, who normally get about ten seconds of screen time. These people don't know what's going on. They're at street level, so they don't get the wide shots of the action.

And the shaky-cam added to the realism. I completely bought the idea that this was a video recorded by a few 20-somethings. I was also impressed with how the dialogue was very real. The actors stuttered, tripped over words, became incoherent, and in general acted like people under a lot of stress.

It also helped that the actors are almost unknown. Not being able to recognize anyone meant it was easier to suspend disbelief.

Anyway, I thought it was great. There were some things that bugged me, but it made me think and entertained me. Can't ask for much more than that.

26 January 2008

Things I learned while watching Saturday morning cartoons today

1. Good writers do not usually work for cartoons. There are exceptions (see: Spongebob Squarepants, The Fairly Odd Parents), but for the most part, the dialogue in cartoons is awful. A gem from Batman on the CW: "Mentally download money?"

2. Mandi observed that candy is essentially drugs for kids. I imagine if there were commercials for LSD, they would closely resemble the ones for Airheads.

3. I'm glad Disney makes relatively clean shows for pre-teens and all, but they need to understand that "clean" does not equal "horrible."

4. Barbie has been updated for the 21st century. I had no idea.

5. Trix Yogurt is still around. I thought for sure it would die off soon after it was introduced in the late 90's.

6. The Spiderwick Chronicles is coming out February 15th. (Thanks to the 30,000 ads for the film for this one.)

More Mac love

I'll admit it, the Mac Air is pretty. But a recent review from Business Week finds Apple sacrificed a lot of functionality in the process of making the ultra-thin laptop.

The thing that stood out most to me was ONE USB PORT? What on earth? How will I plug in two game controllers and play Mario Kart with my wife? How will I moves songs to my iPod while using a mouse? How will I save my history paper to a flash drive while moving ringtones to my cellphone with a Bluetooth adapter?

And even that wouldn't be too bad, except for the fact that there's no CD/DVD drive, which means if you want to import a CD or watch LOST season 3 on DVD, you need to plug in an external drive.

And there's no Ethernet port, so if you need to plug into a LAN, you need to plug in a USB adapter.

And there's no port for a third-party wireless network adapter, like from Verizon or AT&T, you need yet another USB adapter.

This just solidifies my opinion that Apple often puts style before performance. Try putting a little less money into design and more into functionality, Steve.

25 January 2008

Brrrrr.... doh!

The following is an extremely harrowing tale of Brandon's battle with the elements and his own lack of intelligence. Read at your own risk.

Last night was night two of three consecutive days of working at the Post-Register. I was on my way home from Idaho Falls at 11:00 p.m. The roads were kind of snowy, and I was looking forward to some sleep.

Suddenly, the engine started to sputter. Now, the only two times I've experienced this with my car was when the battery was dying and that one time I was thiiiiiiis close to running out of gas.

The way I usually know I need to fill up is when it's been 340 miles or so since I last bought any gas. That, and the "no gas" light comes on. However, at this time the trip meter read 900-something miles, because my brother Matt had used the car over the weekend, filled up the tank, and not reset the meter.

I assumed I could make it to IF and back without filling up, despite the fact that the aforementioned "no gas" light was on.

Anyway, turns out I had run plumb out of gas. Luckily (I guess) I was about half a mile from this Shell gas station that's in the middle of nowhere on highway 20, which is the road from Idaho Falls to Rexburg. The gas station six minutes from home.

After cursing my neglectful not-filling-the-tank-ness, I decided I could probably push the car to the station, fill it up, and get home before Mandi noticed I was late. Thankfully, the temperature was a balmy 15 degrees out and not -10, as Old Man Winter was wont to bless us with as of late. I had a nice poofy coat and some gloves, but no hat.

My Corolla isn't a big car, but it's heavy enough. And seeing as to how I haven't worked out regularly since... oh... ever? it was pretty rough going.

But, despite my astounding lack of athleticism, I made it to the Shell station.

As a side note, there I was, a lone guy pushing a car, hazard lights blinking in the dark, and not a soul stopped to help. Did the passing drivers think I was taking care of it just fine on my own? Were they scared I'd kill them?

Bottom line, I got to the gas station and filled my car's tank. Exhausted and freezing, I went to get into the Dash and drive home, when I discovered I'd locked the keys inside.

I stared at the door in disbelief for a few seconds, and tried it a few more times. No luck, all four doors were locked tight.

Somehow, despite my fit of stupidity, I'd managed to not leave my cell phone inside the car.

So I swallowed my pride and called Mandi, figuring it was either that or die. The convenience store at the Shell was closed, so there wasn't really anywhere to hide from the cold. Mandi said she'd call some people and see if they would drive her over so she could give me the other car key.

Unfortunately, she wasn't able to get the first eight people she called to answer the phone. To be fair, it was about 11:30 at the time and most humans have work or school on Fridays. Finally she got hold of a friend of hers and they rescued me around 12:10.

I think my core temperature had dropped a few degrees by that point... not a pleasant experience. A mild wind had been blowing during my entire experience, and my ears were near frozen off. I also had a headache. Bad times.

Mandi was great and brought me hot chocolate, which helped a lot.

So there you go, boys and girls. Don't ignore that "no gas" light or prepare for a similar experience.

23 January 2008

Holy stink, it's cold.

I don't know how cold it is around your neck of the woods, but here in the frozen wasteland, it's incredibly, mind-numbingly, nose-hair-freezingly cold. Yesterday morning it was -18 degrees Fahrenheit, and with wind chill it was -30. This morning it was -10 at 11 a.m.

Where am I, Alaska?

At least it's been sunny.

I love me some 30 Rock

For those of you who don't know who Kenneth Parcell (from my quote of the week) is (and haven't bothered to Google it), he's a character from the TV show 30 Rock. It is not often I like a show so much I'll make sure to watch it every week, but 30 Rock is on that list.

30 Rock is named after a nickname for 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York, where NBC's main offices are. The show follows a Tina Fey, who is playing a writer for a fictional sketch comedy show that is on NBC. Essentially it's Saturday Night Live, just by a different name.

It's not the premise that makes me love the show so much, it's the characters and writing. The writing is very well done; it's tight and every line seems hand-crafted. Funny lines like the following occur frequently:

Jenna: If the president is so serious about the war on terror, why doesn't he hunt down and capture Barack Obama before he strikes again?

Dot Com: Yo, Kenneth, we need to talk now.
Kenneth: Oh, I've had this conversation before. You're marrying my mom, aren't you?

Jack: You've been avoiding me, Lemon.
Liz: How do you do that without turning around?
Jack: To be perfectly honest, the first couple of people I did that to were not you, but...here we are.

Jack: Lemon, I want to thank you. For showing me that I could have a pleasant evening with a woman my age.
Liz: I'm 12 years younger than you.
Jack: A woman your age then.

Another thing that makes 30 Rock great is that it picks on everyone, much like The Simpsons. I know Alec Baldwin is a flaming liberal, but when the show makes fun of crazy nutjob environmentalists and then old white conservative men, I laugh the whole time.

Their dedication is noticeable as well. When the producers, writers, etc. take the time to make costumes and write a few lines for a song named Werewolf Bar Mitzvah, all for a five-second cutaway joke, you know they care.

Look, it's just a great show and I'm sad there won't be any new episodes until this durn Writer's Strike is over. And that'll be who knows when. I'll have to console myself by watching old episodes on nbc.com.

Slacklining clips

Here are some Youtube clips of people who are way better than me at slacklining:


This article originally ran in the January 22 issue of the Scroll.

I consider myself a somewhat athletic guy. I played t-ball when I was six, and soccer when I was nine. I've scored multiple touchdowns in my in-laws' Turkey Bowl, and I've scored as many as 12 points in intramural basketball games.

So when my editor told me I was participating in and writing about a slacklining activity, I felt pretty confident.

“Wait, what's sacklining?” I asked. The description she gave me was that it is “kinda like tightrope walking; and it's SLACKlining, not sacklining.”

Feeling moderately educated, I entered the Hart Fieldhouse Friday night to try my hand at this new sport. Even before I introduced myself, I was asked to sign a waiver. That usually makes me pause. Phrases like “hypothermia,” “broken bones” and “assumption of risk” are not comforting.

But I pushed aside my fears and signed the paper. It was time to man up.

To slackline, you need a few feet of tubular webbing (much like a seatbelt strap) and some carabiners (used in rock climbing, as well). You'll also need two solid poles to attach each end of the webbing to. In the Hart, they use volleyball poles, but people frequently use trees.

There really isn't a set goal in slacklining; initially, the idea is to be able to stay on the line and move from one pole to the other. Once you're skilled at that, you can do tricks like frontflips and 180-degree turns.

The slackliners had set up three lines by the time I arrived, and people were already traversing them with confidence. Noticing the bare feet of everyone else there, I took off my shoes and socks and casually sauntered up to the red line.

I heard many suggestions: “Keep your eye on the opposite pole,” “Keep your ankles strong,” “Use your arms to balance.” It looked easy enough, though it was obvious some students with less experience couldn't take more than a few steps without falling.

I approached the line and put my right foot up on it. Immediately the line started swaying like a drunken Britney Spears. I managed to get all my weight on it, but before I could bring my left foot up, I lost my balance and fell.

Repeat this scene about 20 times over the next 45 minutes, and you have the extent of my slacklining prowess. I tried concentrating on a point on the opposite pole, but then I couldn't see where my left foot was supposed to go. But if I didn't focus on the opposite pole, I'd lose my balance almost immediately.

Slacklining is tricky.

And let me tell you, it stings when your toes get caught up in the line as you're falling off of it. I learned quickly to jump free once I lost my balance, lest I lose a pinky.

My best performance was taking one step after getting up on the line. Eventually, I came to the realization that I'm not a natural slackliner. And that's okay.

I'll always have traditional sports, like badminton.

If you're interested in slacklining, they set it up every Friday from 5-7 p.m. in the Hart Fieldhouse.

21 January 2008

BYU basketball is not very good

Similar to my earlier post, BYU basketball team not bad, the BYU basketball team kinda stinks.

Much like the Jazz, who are great at home and awful on the road, BYU is 13-5, with all five losses coming on the road.

To be fair, three of their losses were to North Carolina, Michigan State and Wake Forest. It would have been nice to win one of those games, but I guess I can't be too unhappy.

What really upset me was losing to UNLV, 70-41. The Cougars were out of that game within the first five minutes. Plaisted was awful, Tavernari was awful and even Cummard had a below-average game. If BYU plays like that on the road throughout conference play, they won't get an NCAA tourney berth.

But then Saturday came, and BYU beat Utah, 55-52. Much like in the UNLV game, Plaisted was awful (2-11 and 4 rebounds) and Tavernari was awful (0-6 from the field). But this time, Cummard had a great game, and apparently that's all it took to beat the Utes in Salt Lake. Lee had 19 points, nine rebounds and two steals.

This is the first time BYU has won consecutive games in Salt Lake against the Utes since 1984. Combine that with the football victories of 2006 and 2007, and we have some real dominance in the rivalry.

Here's hoping the UNLV game was an aberration, and BYU steps it up against San Diego State on Wednesday.

19 January 2008

Romney wins Nevada

CNN reports Mitt has won Nevada handily, with 52% of the vote.

So why is the media portraying Mitt as desperate? He's won three states so far and is destroying every Republican in the delegate count. Last I checked, that's how you win the nomination.

Romney most likely won't win South Carolina, but Nevada has 10 more votes (34-24), so it's not as though a 2nd or 3rd place finish there will sink him.

This year's primary is looking more and more like it will be a tight race all the way to the end, unlike past years where one candidate took control early and steamrolled the rest of the field to the nomination.

Should keep people's attention.

18 January 2008


Hooray for me! I finally conquered 20-year old videogame technology! A few weeks ago I posted about my rediscovery of RBI Baseball, a game for the original Nintendo Entertainment System. I've been playing that thing on and off ever since, and have been unable to win a single game against the computer.

This morning in my Journalism class I was in position to finally beat the cursed machine. I was up by one run in the bottom of the ninth, and pitching with two on and two out. The batter hit the ball deep into right field, and I ran my little fielder to catch the ball and seal the win! As the ball was coming down I am ashamed to admit I overthought it.

"If I make this catch, I'll finally be able to look my wife in the eye!" I thought.

So what happened?

My guy dropped the ball, both runners scored, and I lost.

After the initial shock, I steeled my resolve. I would beat the computer if I died trying.

Later today, in Persuasion, I found myself in a similar position. Up one run, in the bottom of the ninth, pitching with two outs and one on. The batter nailed a line drive to right field, but my shortstop made the play and threw him out at first. Woohoo!

I took a screenshot to commemorate the event.

Now to beat the computer using a non-Allstar team. :)

I don't watch American Idol

I have never watched an entire episode of American Idol. I don't think it's great TV, contrary to the opinion of millions of my fellow citizens (and non-citizens).

But my brother Matt sent me this Youtube clip of an audition by some guy wearing a pimp suit and told me I had to post it, so here you go:

After some clicking around Youtube, I found this clip, which is, in my opinion, three million times better than the original:

Like I said, kids are awesome.

17 January 2008

Apple programmers are kinda bad

So Apple has started renting movies off iTunes. You've got 24 hours after making your purchase to watch the movie, then it expires.

Well apparently whoever wrote this piece of programming forgot about the oldest trick in the hacking book... you can set your computer clock ahead a couple years and keep the movies as long as you want.

Excellent work there, guys.

I'm sure they'll close this loophole with the first update, but the fact that it even exists at all is pretty embarrassing.

Wait, where do I live?

I was just watching the Cavs/Spurs game (sidenote: Is there some kind of contract that requires rematches between the previous seasons' Finals opponents to be broadcast on national TV? Because I have no interest in watching the Spurs and Cavs play; in case you forgot, NBA, the Spurs demolished Cleveland in four games last June. If anything, the Spurs are better and the Cavs are worse now. Boring TV. I'm waiting for the Suns/Lakers game that comes on next), and a Dunkin' Donuts commercial came on.

What the heck? Now look, I lived in Massachusetts for four years when I was a kid, and one of the fonder memories I have of that time in my life is Dunkin' Donuts. Mmmm... powdered doughnut holes.

But I live in Idaho. A quick check of Google Maps shows there are no Dunkin' Donuts stores closer than Denver, and there's only that one in Colorado. I found millions in Chicago. The store doesn't exist in the western United States.

It's weird for a regional company to spend advertising money on cable TV. Maybe they're planning on pushing westward, much like the pioneers of yesteryear.

I'd support that. We need a good doughnut shop here. Though it would probably take about fifty years for them to make it to Rexburg. Shoot, Wendy's showed up only 10 years ago.

16 January 2008

Kids are awesome

The weather here in the Frozen Wasteland has taken a turn for the frozener. Yesterday it was -9 degrees Fahrenheit around 10 a.m., and the high was 12 degrees. Right now it's 9 degrees.

Yesterday I was walking from the Ricks building to the Spori building, which is pretty much the farthest distance you can walk without leaving campus. Everyone was bundled up and grumpily trudging along, hoping their nose hairs wouldn't freeze and cause too much damage.

To make matters worse, the sun was merrily shining in the blue sky, giving the appearance that it was a nice day. I felt betrayed.

Then I noticed I was walking towards two boys, probably seven or eight years old, following who seemed to be their mothers. As I looked closer, I was interested to find that they were having the time of their lives.

The kids were jumping through the piles of snow left as the school plows the sidewalks, whooping and hollering as they conquered each mountain they came across.

They didn't have any more protection against the cold than I did. They had somewhere to be, like I did. But they were having a great time, while I was mentally whining.

Even more interesting, I don't think they chose to have a great time. They simply did.

Kids seem to have a "enjoy life whenever possible" switch in their heads that is rarely in the off position. Somehow, as we get older, we lose that. Maybe it's the stress of added responsibility, as we try to juggle work, school, family and other obligations. Maybe society expects us to be solemn. Maybe we're just too tired or heavy or cynical to find that much fun in life.

Regardless of the why's, I think a big reason we have kids is to help remind us of how great life is. Every time they experience something new, it's like we're experiencing it for the first time with them.

Kids are awesome.

15 January 2008

Mitt wins Michigan

The major news networks have all called the Michigan primary for Romney. Most reports show Mitt winning 39% of the vote, and McCain taking second place with 30%.

Some interesting facts about the numbers, courtesy of a poster at Cougarboard.com:

  1. Romney will likely beat McCain by the same total number of votes that McCain got in his only victory.
  2. Romney will beat Mike Huckabee by more votes than all of Huckabee's votes from all states combined.
  3. Huckabee won 34% of the vote in Iowa, McCain won 37% of the vote in New Hampshire, Romney gets 39% of the vote in Michigan. It's not likely that anyone else will get close to 39% at least until Super Tuesday.
Now, most everyone expected a Romney win in Michigan. Shoot, his dad was governor there in the 60's. Anything less than a resounding victory, which this was, would have been a disappointment.

Taking second in Iowa and New Hampshire while winning Michigan seems to indicate Romney is resonating with voters across the board.

And honestly, the only thing people have against Mitt is his faith and a label of "flip-flopper."

Someone outline where the "flip-flopping" label comes from. I'm serious, I have yet to hear a valid argument that solidifies this claim, yet everyone and their dog is throwing it out.

Should be a bumpy ride from here to September.

14 January 2008

Early entry for the 2008 Darwin Awards

Courtesy of my uncle Craig.

Weird how these things usually involve alcohol.

13 January 2008

Today's comic strips are horrible

I started getting the Post Register yesterday, and for the first time in a long time, I'm reading a physical newspaper every day.

Along with this, again for the first time in a long time, I'm reading the comic pages. I hesitate to call them the "funny pages," as they are rarely funny and often make my head hurt with their sheer lack of hilarity.

The older I get, the more I realize how difficult it must be to write good comic strips on a consistent basis. The vast majority of them I read are flat-out horrible. For example, here is today's Garfield.

An entire Sunday strip devoted to a pun of some kind. And it's a completely contrived pun, as it makes use of extremely rare names (if they exist at all), instead of actual words. As much as I hate puns, I hate fake ones even more. This is like something my 11-year old brother Josh would come up with. Jim Davis, you stink.

And this sort of thing happens all the time. I read many comics that are throw-away jokes forced into comic-strip format. Because apparently, if you draw someone telling someone else a stupid joke, it's funnier?

I think the main reason for the general lack of quality in comic strips today is due to the aforementioned difficulty of pumping out high-quality work every single day for years on end. Bill Watterson once mentioned how he sometimes felt like he was putting out "garbage" to feed the "monsters" of deadlines.

To combat this, he took long sabbaticals; but eventually Watterson gave up writing the strip altogether, preferring to not work at all if it was impossible to keep Calvin and Hobbes up to his standards.

Certain comic strip writers, who will remain unnamed, might want to take note.

Since I don't remember much before 1987 or so, I can't comment on the quality of comics before that time. Was Blondie ever consistently funny? How about B.C.?

But thanks to the magic of "classic Peanuts," I know Charlie Brown and his gang were never funny.

If I understand correctly, the message of this strip is "skiing down a hill that is two feet high is no fun."


If there's some deep commentary on life here, I don't see it. Help me out.

Now, not all comics are bad. I love Get Fuzzy, Dilbert, Fox Trot and Frazz. Frazz somehow manages to capture the spirit and artistic style of Watterson; I can't decide if it's Bill writing from behind a pseudonym or an incredibly talented fan who is responsible for it. I've never seen it in newspapers, so I'm unsure how widely-published it is, but trust me, Frazz is great.

Dilbert writer Scott Adams has an endless supply of material to work from, as cubicle-dwellers e-mail him stories of real-life Dilbert situations every day. He'll be fine for a long time. Fox Trot's writer, Bill Amend, cut back to doing only Sunday strips, realizing, as Watterson did, that writing brilliant strips every day is nearly impossible.

And Get Fuzzy is just great. It's relatively new, so we'll see how long it can go. The magic of Get Fuzzy is that there can be funny stuff in panel two; not every strip sets up a punchline at the very end.

I credit a lot of my cynicism regarding comic strips to the Comics Curmudgeon, a blog where some guy in Baltimore mocks the comics on a daily basis. He's very funny and is able to add a lot of hilarity to strips by pointing out things I'd normally miss. He does use some colorful language on occasion, so visit at your own risk.

Nice one, Daily Herald

Excellent work, the Daily Herald.

For one, you're the Provo/Orem area newspaper. It's not like this is some AP writer who misspelled Trent Plaisted's name in the headline. You guys cover BYU sports every single day.

For two, Plaisted is BYU's star center. He's quite possibly the most recognizable name on the team. This isn't Nick Martineau we're talking about. Dick Vitale spent a large chunk of time praising Trent while broadcasting the BYU/North Carolina game back in November.

For three, this article has been on the Herald's website for several hours now. Mistakes in the print version of your paper can't be corrected; web errors can.

In conclusion, I think I just scratched the Herald off my list of papers I could possibly work for after graduation.

Your loss, guys.

11 January 2008

Grow up, people

Rant alert:

I am sick and tired of parents who believe they're still in high school.

Now, any person who wants to remain a kid can do so. They can work their minimum-wage job, lay around the house watching American Idol and buy lottery tickets to their heart's content.

See: Billy Madison.

But once someone becomes a parent, it's time to grow up. I'm tired of hearing about mothers who leave their kids in the car while they go to a nightclub. I'm tired of reading stories about kids who starve to death in their own homes because their dad didn't feed them.

I'm expecting my first in March, and I can't imagine what it would take to neglect your own children.

On a similar but less serious note, I'm tired of parents who dress and act like they're in high school. If you've got a four-year old, but if people think you're seventeen, that's not a compliment, dear.

Parents who won't parent also drive me nuts. Third-generation hippies who think any attempt at discipline is tantamount to murder are not doing anyone any favors.

Okay, that's all I've got. I figured I should get all this "knowing everything about parenting" rant out while I still could.

10 January 2008

Hi, my name is Brandon, and I'm a Lost addict

Ah, Lost. I only watched one episode during its first three seasons, and though I thought it was really good, I didn't want to get into the whole thing. My sister Amy has been hugely into the show for a long time, and is constantly harping about how great it is, but I didn't want to get stuck with 3 million questions and no answers, so I stayed away.

Last summer I found myself with a solid six-week break from school. So I decided, what the heck, I'll see what all the fuss is about. I started a free month-long trial with Netflix and ordered the first half of Season 1.

I think it took about three episodes to hook me and Mandi. We ended up watching every single episode of seasons 1-3 between August 1st and 31st. That's 69, 42-minute episodes over 30 days.

That's a lot of absorb in such a short amount of time. I spent the next two weeks combing the internet for theory sites and reading about things I'd missed, like The Lost Experience. Then I sadly resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn't be able to see any new episodes for at least three months and moved on with my life.

Well that time has come! Season 4 starts January 31! Okay, so it's three weeks away, but still.

Here's a promo for it:

And in case you've forgotten what happened in Seasons 1-3, here's an excellent (and hilarious) eight-minute recap:

Can't wait.

Kenya conflict still raging

As I blogged about last week, Kenya is in turmoil after a disputed presidential election.

The president and opposition leaders initially agreed to sit down to talks mediated by Ghanaian president John Kufor, but it turns out Raila Odinga, main opponent to president Mwai Kibaki's election, refused to meet face-to-face.

In the meantime, the body count is up to 600 and around 250,000 Kenyans are feared displaced as a result of the violence.

Odinga reportedly will meet with Kibaki if there is an international mediator, such as UN president Kofi Annan, but no plans have been set for this to happen.

This conflict must be resolved soon, or the violence will only escalate.

Don't taunt identity thieves

A few months ago I started hearing radio ads for Lifelock, a company that purports to be so adept at protecting your identity from theft that the CEO, one Todd David, gave his own Social Security number out over the air.

At the time, I remember being impressed with his bravado, but also thinking, "What an idiot. This can't end well."

And it didn't. Reportedly a Texas man was able to get a $500 payday loan using Davis' Social Security number in 2006.


In more recent news, Jeremy Clarkson, host of a tech T.V. show on the BBC, ridiculed people who were concerned that the British government had lost CD's containing personal information on 25 million people.

Writing in the Times, he claimed that "All you'll be able to do with [the account numbers] is put money into my account. Not take it out. Honestly, I've never known such a [fuss] about nothing."

The following week, he changed his tune after learning that an identity thief with a sense of humor had used the details to create an automatic bank transfer to the charity Diabetes UK.

"I opened my bank statement this morning to find out that someone has set up a direct debit which automatically takes £500 from my account," he said. "The bank cannot find out who did this because of the Data Protection Act and they cannot stop it from happening again."

Identity theft is a real concern. I don't shred my bank statements as often as I should, but this not something to toy around with.

09 January 2008

College football offseason is upon us

Originally printed in the January 8th issue of the Scroll student newspaper.

Another college football season has come and gone. And the weird thing is, I'm fine with that. During the months of June, July and August, I can barely contain myself; I'm so excited about football coming up again the days crawl by. It's kind of like when I was eight and couldn't wait for Christmas. Then the season actually begins and I'm beside myself. There are several games every Saturday, and lately, there are games nearly every Thursday and Friday as well. It's a football fan's heaven.

And yet, as the weeks pass, by and I've watched 391 football games in ninety days, I begin to tire of them. I tire of watching teams from the Big 10 call fifty running plays in the same game. I tire of watching games where the combined score of the teams is 18. I tire of listening to commentators say “he showed a lot of heart right there,” eight times a broadcast.

Even during this season, the Season of Upsets, the season where no team was safe from getting beaten by what was supposed to be an inferior bunch of kids from a small school. The Season of Upsets was kicked off when #5 ranked Michigan was beaten by Madison High's J.V. team. At the time, I figured that might have just been a fluke. But as the weeks rolled on, there were more and more shocking wins to read about, if you weren't luck enough to watch them live. Stanford beat #2 USC. Pittsburgh beat #2 West Virginia. Arkansas beat #1 LSU on the road.

If ever there were a season to grab my interest permanently, it was this one. But I discovered that the Law of Moderation is unbreakable. Too much or too little of anything is bad. Too much ice cream makes you sick. Too little studying makes you flunk out of school. Too much video game playing makes your eyes melt in their sockets.

And too much college football makes you apathetic towards it. Even when my Cougars beat UCLA 17-16 in the Las Vegas Bowl to finish their season at 11-2, I wasn't as excited as I figured I would be. Part of that is probably because it took a miracle beyond my ability to comprehend for BYU to win that game, but regardless, my thoughts about the win more closely resemble “meh” than “yahoo!”

After watching LSU positively thump Ohio State and win the BCS Championship, despite losing two games this year, I'm even more disinterested. The college football system needs a playoff. It's that simple. After every season there's controversy about how the winner was chosen. People complain about the computers having too much say. People complain about how biased coaches and writers have too much say. People complain that a deserving Hawaii team was shafted out of a spot in the championship game. Okay, maybe not so much for that last one.

And yet I've never heard any real reasons why a playoff can't happen. Concerns voiced about player-athletes missing classes ring hollow. Nevertheless, know I'll probably never see a playoff in my lifetime.

So endure, football fans. Endure the next nine months of college football-less weekends and find comfort that next fall will contain another glut of games for you to gorge on instead of studying for that Biology midterm.

I'll be watching with you.

08 January 2008

Jim Gaffigan is a funny, funny man.

I love Jim Gaffigan. I'm not normally a fan of standup, but this guy is hilarious.

07 January 2008

Way to represent, Ohio State. Again.

After losing last year's BCS Championship to Florida 41-14, the Ohio State Buckeyes once again embarrassed themselves on national television. Getting crushed by LSU 38-24 can't do much for your fanbase, guys.

I admit after Ohio State went up early with that fantastic touchdown run by Chris Wells I doubted whether my prediction of a Tiger rout would be correct. But once LSU managed to hold the Buckeyes to a field goal on their next drive, I knew Ohio State was in trouble.

LSU scored 31 straight after that, and the game was over. Their offensive line was blowing the Buckeyes' D-line off the block and the LSU corners were blanketing their receivers. Tough to win when that's going on. I'd kill for BYU to have even one of LSU's corners. The Cougars haven't had a true shutdown cornerback since 1996, when they had two. But I digress.

The story here is that Ohio State shouldn't go to the BCS Championship game next year. I don't care how good they are, they are clearly outclasses by superior SEC teams. Unlike most fans of midmajor teams, I believe in the talent disparity between BCS and non-BCS schools is real. BYU would have been destroyed by Ohio State this year. Same goes for Georgia or USC.

So thanks again, BCS, for giving us another horrible "championship" game. Writers and computers should not decide who the two best teams in college football are. Give us a playoff or give us death. More on this in a later post.

Finally, I leave you with a thought from Cougarboard.com.

"Central Africans must think OSU owns the NCAA.

Yet another shipment of championship apparel shall arrive later this week."


The election process needs work

This is the first presidential election I've really followed from start to finish. In 2004 I didn't care about the caucuses, mainly because I was a Bush supporter and I wasn't interested in who the Democrats put out to run against him.

My newfound understanding that Iowa and New Hampshire have a huge say in who each party nominates for the presidency does not make me happy. Why do states that have populations of 3 and 1.5 million, respectively, get to decide who will be president for a country of 350 million people?

Is it because their caucuses are early? Shoot, Wyoming had a caucus yesterday and no one made a big deal about it. Sure, they've only got 500,000 people in their state (and they're outnumbered by the sheep), but Wyoming's three electoral votes count as much as anyone else's.

Why can't we hold a nationwide primary? In today's electronic age, votes can be gathered and counted in every precinct in the nation and then digitally transmitted to a central location and immediately tallied. It would take a single day. Let everyone choose their two favorite candidates from a party of their choosing, and then the candidates who received the most votes would be who we vote for in the general election.

This idea most likely has plenty of holes in it, but I'd prefer it to the current system.

This is just freaky

Woman chooses full-size cake version of herself for wedding.

Link to article.

Talk about narcissistic.

Not to mention vaguely frightening.

06 January 2008

A "gigantic perception lag" regarding news from Iraq

It's become common knowledge that things are horrible in Iraq. Car bombings occur multiple times a day, women and children and kidnapped and murdered, and American soldiers are constantly dying from IED's.

Or at least that's the view we're shown.

An independent journalist just returned from a visit to Fallujah, widely known as a major center for violence and mayhem in Iraq for the past four years. What does he report?
There hasn't been a single firefight in this city for months. The Marines at Camp Fallujah haven't been shot at with a rocket or mortar since April. Not one Marine from the 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment has even been wounded since they rotated into the city two months ago. The only shots the Marines have fired have been practice rounds on the range.
In my opinion, that's great news. But does the pacification of the most infamous city in Iraq make the nightly news? Not that I've seen. Reports of chaos from Iraq draw more ratings. No one is interested in stories like this.
There's a gigantic perception lag in America these days. The Iraq of the popular imagination and the Iraq of the real world are not the same country. It wouldn't be quite right to say Fallujah is safe. You do not want to come here on holiday. But I'm a lot safer here as an American than any terrorist or insurgent would be.
This journalist reports that the Iraqi military and police control the city. There are only 250 Marines in the city of 350,000. As First Lt. Barry Edwards puts it, "[The insurgents] avoid Fallujah now like it's the plague. ... They're afraid of the Iraqis."

I think Iraq is settling down. Just as in Japan and Germany in the aftermath of World War II, there were major problems in Iraq for years. But with some patience, I believe Iraq will stabilize and become a contributing member of the world society, just like Germany and Japan have.

And like it or not, that will be seen as a success for the Bush presidency. Those who so desperately attempt to paint the war as a complete and utter failure will do their best to push Iraq into the shadows.

I don't see the Iraq war as a mistake. Saddam acted for all the world as if he had weapons of mass destruction. Every intelligence organization on earth believed he did, but it was difficult to ascertain the truth as Hussein wouldn't allow weapons inspectors to do their jobs. It's also difficult to say he didn't have any WMD's whatsoever. A lot could have happened in the few weeks the invasion was building up. Weapons could have easily been shipped to neighboring cities or buried in the thousands of square miles of desert within Iraq's borders.

Regardless, Iraq will soon become a more stable nation than it was ten years ago, and the Iraqi people will have better lives. While attainment of this goal is not worthy of invading a county, in my opinion, it's a fine outcome considering what we found in Iraq after the military entered.

Good call, Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan is a very talented director. His short resume includes three movies I love: Batman Begins, Memento, and The Prestige. He'll also be directing The Dark Knight, sequel to Batman Begins that comes out this summer.

I was flipping channels tonight and came across Batman, which is probably the first of the modern-day comic book superhero movies. It struck me how silly Batman can be. At his most basic level, the character is a guy in a cape who knows all sorts of fighting moves and drives a weird-looking car.

It was a genius decision by Nolan to focus on the "why"'s of the hero. Batman in Batman Begins is far more understandable and less mockable than he is in Batman because you know where he's coming from and what his motivations are.

The main villain in The Dark Knight is the Joker, same as in Batman. It will be interesting to compare Nicholson's interpretation of the bad guy with Heath Ledger's. The Joker is scary because he's almost entirely irrational. He's all about violence and mayhem, but there's no goal in any of it, so it's impossible to bargain with him, and it's almost impossible to understand him.

He's a good foil to Batman, who is all about rational thinking and action. He tries to outsmart his opponents as well as be able to outmuscle them when he needs to.

Needless to say, I'm excited for Dark Knight. They got rid of the lightweight of Batman Begins, Katie Holmes and replaced her with a more solid actress in Maggie Gyllenhaall. Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman are all back, so it will be difficult for this movie to be too bad.

04 January 2008

Chris Bosh is awesome

Love this video Chris Bosh made to persuade fans to vote for him in the 2008 NBA All-Star Ballot.

Fantastic. "Ain't that right, Bubba?"

03 January 2008

Huckabee, Obama winners in Iowa

Mike Huckabee was the big winner in the Iowa caucus tonight, gaining 37 percent of the vote compared to 25 percent for Romney.


Someone please tell me what Huckabee has going for him, other than the fact that Romney is a Mormon, because as far as I can tell, that's been the Huckster's entire campaign.

Someone please tell me the evangelicals in Iowa didn't come out in force for Huckabee because it would stop a Mormon from winning.

Because I've gone through a lot of effort to choose my candidate based on important things like, oh I don't know, issues and stuff. If there are thousands of people going to the polls and picking a guy because he talks like they do and fights against the demon-man with good hair, I've lost a lot of faith in humanity.

A survey taken in Iowa reports the following:

More than one-third of Republican caucus-goers said it matters a great deal to them that a candidate share their religious beliefs, and 56 percent of that section of the electorate backed Huckabee versus only 11 percent for Romney.

Given a choice among four personal attributes, 45 percent of Republican caucus-goers said it was most important that a candidate "shares my values," and nearly half of those supported Huckabee. One-third said it was most important that a candidate "says what he believes"; Huckabee won among 33 percent of them, 21 percent supported Fred Thompson, and Sen. John McCain, Romney and Rep. Ron Paul each won about 15 percent.

McCain and Romney each won a little more than one-third of voters who said the top priority was that a candidate "has the right experience." Only 7 percent said the most important attribute was a candidate's electability, and half of those backed Romney.

There are people who don't care about a candidate's electability? Do these people realize that this means they're choosing a candidate they think would lose to Clinton or Edwards or Obama?

Apparently not. Morons.

I also can't help notice how the media has been giving Huckabee favorable coverage as of late. I was listening to an ABC news update on the radio last week; they covered a slam he made on Mitt. They had the audio, and it went something like this:

Huck: "I'm not a flip-flopper like Romney, (something funny)."

Media members: (hearty laughter)


Good grief. It's as if certain left-leaning individuals in the news reporting business know Huckabee is unelectable, and that if he is chosen as the Republican nominee, that leaves it wide open for whoever comes from the Democratic side.

Speaking of the Democratic side, Obama beat out the rest of the field, including Mrs. Clinton. I'm fine with this outcome. Hillary makes me squirm... the thought of her as president is not a good one. I'd much rather have Obama win this thing than anyone else from the left. He's inexperienced, but there's worse things.

But seriously, someone challenge me on this Huckabee thing. I'm being irrational and need to come out of it.

02 January 2008

This is why the Jazz traded for Korver

The Jazz beat Kyle Korver's old team, the Sixers, tonight 110-107. While that's not exactly an impressive margin of victory over a 14-18 Eastern Conference team, it's another step in the right direction. After beating a hot Trailblazers team on Monday, the Jazz look to be back on track.

Deron Williams dished out 20 assists. Andrei swatted three shots. Boozer went for 22 and nine. But what was really important was the play of Korver. He scored 14 points on 3-4 shooting from the field, including 2-2 from the 3-point line and 6-7 from the free throw line. This is exactly what Utah needs from him. What is even more important is that five of those makes came in the last 27 seconds of the game. In a three-point victory, that's huge.

No one for the Jazz has been hitting late-game free throws so far this season. Derek Fisher, as much as I dislike his play, was that guy for Utah last season. But after he left for L.A., there hasn't been that go-t0 guy in late-game situations. Looks like Korver fills that need nicely.

As a career 88% free-throw shooter, his late-game clutchness isn't a fluke.

I'm excited. The Korver trade has paid off already.

01 January 2008

Tuesday Morning Quarterback continues vendetta against Patriots

I'm not a big fan of Greg Easterbrook. For those of you who don't know, Easterbrook writes a column named Tuesday Morning Quarterback for ESPN every week during the NFL season. It's a rambling, ranting series of thoughts about the past weekend's football games; his writing style is disjointed and sometimes difficult to read.

This seasons he's taken to attacking the Patriots every chance he gets. It's difficult to tell if he's being facetious or not, but either way, it gets annoying. He tagged the Pats/Colts game in October as "Good vs. Evil." He wrote

Argument for the New England Patriots as scoundrels in the service of that which is baleful: Dishonesty, cheating, arrogance, hubris, endless complaining even in success. The Patriots have three Super Bowl rings, but that jewelry is tarnished by their cheating scandal. They run up the score to humiliate opponents -- more on that below -- thus mocking sportsmanship.

Give me a break. I haven't been a fan of the Patriots' running up the score, but in the NFL, you're getting paid millions to play the game. I suppose it's kinda mean to run up the score, but I'm sure the linebackers on the wrong end of a blowout can cry himself to sleep on his giant pile of money.

And regarding the scandal... it happened. New England was punished. Get over it.

For all I don't like about Easterbrook, he's good with numbers. He makes a list of Interesting Stats of the Week that are insightful and, at the risk of being redundant, interesting.

This week he brings up the fact that quarterbacks who led the NFL in passing yards during the regular season are 0-42 in the Superbowl.

Wow. I'm guessing this stat is closely related to the "if you can't run or play defense, you can't win in the playoffs," idea. Easterbrook attributes it to how defensive backs are more willing to play all-out when there's no tomorrow, and it's easier to blow a coverage in the regular season.

Easterbrook is so desperate to see the Pats lose he's clinging to this like it's the last slice of pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving.

Anyway, we'll have to see. I don't know that the Patriots have passed so much because they can't run, but more because they haven't wanted to. I think Brady set out to break the passing touchdown record from the beginning, and ending with 4800 passing yards, 50 touchdowns and only eight picks would indicate he reached his goal.

Of course, if the Patriots don't win the Superbowl, the season will be ultimately meaningless, in my opinion. Beating most everyone down in the regular season is nice and all, but it's all about the rings.

Kenya church burned, 50 reported killed

The Associated Press reports over 50 people, including women and children, were killed in Kenya earlier today as part of wider riots and protests against recent presidential election results.

We didn't cover Kenya much in my African History class last semester, but the situation reminds me a lot of the Congo in the 90's. The dominant tribe in the country is resented for having the political power. The minority resorts to violence to resolve things. In both cases women and children are killed along with the men.

It's a horrible, horrible situation and it seems all too common in Africa. In the Congo's case, the ethnic tensions were artificially bred through Belgian interference. Belgian colonizers sorted the Africans by skin color, nose shape, and other factors. The ones with lighter skin and a certain nose type were declared genetically superior and given high positions in society and government.

I don't know if the ethnic hatreds here are directly the result of European colonization, but everywhere in Africa, state lines were drawn with no regard to ethnicity. In countries like Chad, hundreds of different tribes were had a square drawn around them and were declared a nation. To expect everyone to get along is naive at best.

But then when the colonial powers established a regime of corruption, exploitation and manipulation, they only helped make sure things stayed that way when they finally left.

Not all of these atrocities can be blamed on colonialism. African countries have full autonomy, and some of them have truly evil men leading them.

Every time I start to think the continent is progressing and moving beyond this type of thing, we see another outbreak of violence. On one hand, it's hard to understand why these Kenyans are resorting to such actions in the face of what they view as a rigged election. Liberals were sure angry at the results of the 2000 presidential election, but they didn't kill any conservatives. On the other hand, I imagine it must be frustrating to see corruption in your government and feel like there's nothing you can do.

Hopefully after the Rwandan genocide of 1994, we've learned learned what happens when other nations ignore situations like this, and intervene in Kenya before the situation gets completely out of hand.

Today's bowl games

Some interesting matchups in college football today, at least from my perspective.

First there's Florida and Michigan in the Citrus Bowl. These are two teams I normally root against. I hate teams that earn respect merely for having great programs in the past, like Michigan. There's no reason they should have been ranked #5 in preseason polls, other than they had been great in the past. Their loss to Appalachian State was sheer awesomeness.

Then there's Florida. I'm definitely not a fan of Urban Meyer. Even though I dislike the Utah Utes, it was low how Meyer constantly said he'd stay at their school for a long time and then bailed the first chance he got.

After weighing my options, I decided I'd root for Michigan. And in what turned out to be a very good game, the Wolverines came out on top. Watch for another top-ten preseason ranking for them in 2008. Florida finished with four losses on the year... I have to wonder if Meyer will start getting heat from the administration. They've got a pretty high standard for their coaches down there.

The other game I've watched some of so far was Texas Tech vs. Virginia. Virginia started out the season by getting punked at Wyoming. They went on to go 9-3 in the regular season, so it seems they didn't suffer too much from such an embarrassment.

After jumping to a 21-7 lead, it looked like the Red Raiders were done. Down 28-14 in the fourth quarter, Texas Tech scored 17 in that quarter to win the game. Lesson learned? Never count Texas Tech out. Their offense is always good and always good for a quick score or two.

Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell, the latest in the line of proficient QB's to come from the school, threw for 400 yards and three touchdowns. On the season, Harrell has passed for 5200 yards and 45 touchdowns. And that's pretty average down in Lubbock.

Since USC is creaming Illinois, the next game of interest will be Hawaii and Georgia. I think the Bulldogs will win pretty handily, but Hawaii's offense can't be counted out.