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Monthly Archives: January 2005

Finally, Convergence?

January 13th, 2005 - 12:45 pm

What’s the real deal behind the Apple Mini Mac? E-Week’s Tom Steinert-Threlkeld explains:

What I saw was the future of Apple Computer: A device that fits anywhere in the home and hooks up to any screen that can handle digital input.

Lots of Windows-side executives are making big noise about producing machines for the living room. They call them “media centers.” A few are on the market. Some get good reviews.

But Jobs is the first executive, in the view from here, to really give a carrot that will pull along the move to convert the living room to digits.

A 40 gig machine with 256meg of memory probably isn’t enough to replace my Gateway desktop – but at $500, it could replace my TiVo and CD and DVD players.

Only question is, can I get one with a remote control?

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Peggy Noonan (who was once a producer for Dan Rather, incidentally) in today’s WSJ:

Mr. Fineman asserts that the MSM came into existence after World War II, which is essentially true, but goes on to claim that it came into existence as the result of the fact that “a temporary moderate consensus came to govern the country.” Please. America was a political battleground in those days, fighting over everything from McCarthyism to the true nature of communism to the proper role of government to Vietnam. The MSM didn’t come into existence because of a brief period of political comity. The MSM rose because it had a monopoly. And it fell because it lost that monopoly.

All this has been said before but this can’t be said enough: The biggest improvement in the flow of information in America in our lifetimes is that no single group controls the news anymore.

Quite right, and whether in Iraq or Minnesota or even Lafayette, Lousiana, there is nothing so desperate, angry, or ugly as a monopoly that’s losing its grip.

More:

Only 20 years ago, when you were enraged at what you felt was the unfairness of a story, or a bias on the part of the storyteller, you could do this about it: nothing. You could write a letter.

When I worked at CBS a generation ago I used to receive those letters. Sometimes we read them, and sometimes we answered them, but not always. Now if you see such a report and are enraged you can do something about it: You can argue in public on a blog or on TV, you can put forth information that counters the information in the report. You can have a voice. You can change the story. You can bring down a news division. Is this improvement? Oh yes it is.

Some media organs–Newsweek, Time, the New York Times–will likely use the changing environment as license to be what they are: liberal, only more so. Interestingly they have begun to use Fox News Channel as their rationale. We used to be unbiased but then Fox came along with its conservative propaganda so now just to be fair and compete we’re going liberal.

I don’t see why anyone should mind this. A world where National Review is defined as conservative and Newsweek defined as liberal would be a better world, for it would be a more truthful one. Everyone gets labeled, tagged and defined, no one hides an agenda, the audience gets to listen, consider, weigh and allow for biases. A journalistic world where people declare where they stand is a better one.

Couldn’t have said it better myself–although I did try a couple of times.

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Power Corrupts

January 12th, 2005 - 11:19 pm

Being a staunch conservative, George Will has never seemed like a big fan of Republicans when they actually wield power. Today’s column explains why:

Just 10 years ago Washington trembled because many Republicans who had won in the cymbal-crash elections of 1994 had vowed to abolish the Education Department. Education, they said, is a quintessentially state and local responsibility. But soon Republicans in Congress and a Republican president were deepening Washington’s reach into education. In 1996 Republican appropriators gave the department a 15.7 percent increase in discretionary spending. And No Child Left Behind increased federal education spending more than any increase requested by President Bill Clinton, who was the teachers unions’ poodle. Some of that money went to Williams.

When conservatives break with their principles, they seem to become casual about breaking the law, too. Last year the then-General Accounting Office accused the Department of Health and Human Services of illegal spending when it distributed fake “news” videos that were used by 40 local stations around the country. In them the many benefits of the new Medicare prescription drug entitlement were “reported” by a fake reporter whose actual status — an employee of an HHS subcontractor — was not revealed. The English version of these “video news releases” concluded, “In Washington, I’m Karen Ryan reporting.”

This scofflaw enterprise was an appropriate coda to the lawless making of this law.

Read the whole thing.

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Human Resources

January 12th, 2005 - 11:10 pm

As you’ve probably read in the last few days, The New York Times is leaning towards making their online operation subscription-only. It works for the Wall Street Journal, so there’s probably no reason it can’t work for the NYT, too. Problem is, how to get people like myself to pay for what we’re used to getting for free?

In an article about a completely-unrelated subject, Slate’s Bryan Curtis might just have the answer:

Here’s an idea: As soon as William Safire shuffles off to the Old Columnists’ Home, put [retired humor columnist Dave] Barry smack dab in the middle of the Times editorial page. Barry confessed a few years ago that he’s a raving libertarian

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Spaceblogging

January 12th, 2005 - 10:55 pm

The launch went off without a hitch yesterday, but what does “Deep Impact” do?

The idea behind Deep Impact is as simple as it is surprising: to find out the inner structure and make-up of a comet, what could be more natural than punching a hole in it? That is precisely what Deep Impact will do, by sending an impactor crashing into comet Tempel 1 at a speed of 10 kilometers (6 miles) per second – about ten times the speed of a rifle bullet.

It’s due to hit on July 4. I can’t wait.

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Car Talk

January 12th, 2005 - 10:48 pm

We really are living in a new Golden Age of auto design. I can’t remember the last time so many cars got me so hot’n'bothered just on their looks. There’s the Mercedes CLS “four-door coupe.” The new BMW 6-series. The Chrysler 300C and its HEMI-powered Dodge Magnum and Charger cousins. And have you seen the ’06 Corvette Z06? GM hasn’t made anything that good-looking in 30 years. Hell, I’m even a fan of the chiseled Cadi CTS and XLR.

(Of course, even a Golden Age still has a little lead. The less said about the new Ford Five Hundred, the better. I think they named it “Five Hundred” because they needed something starting with F and “fleet vehicle” was already taken.)

OpinionJournal’s Dale Buss explains the modern car renaissance:

With quality and functional differences among products largely having narrowed over the past decade or so, eye-catching design can be decisive. “Both consumers and the car companies are ready to see more chances taken out there,” says Chris Chapman, director of automotive design for DesignWorks USA, a unit of BMW. “People are kind of sick of the same old thing, and they’re looking for something new.”

And we’re getting it in spades, too. Just check out some of the goings-on recently in Detroit and Los Angeles. Even the Japanese are starting to make some cars that look as good as they’re made.

I’ve drooled so much, in fact, that I’ve decided to retire the Sebring convertible later this year, while it’s still young. (Four years old in May, just over 30k miles – if you’re interested in buying it, say, next July.) Got my choices narrowed down to either a 300C SRT-8, or a new-model (and not overly-Bangled) BMW 330i. What to choose, what to choose? Raw American power and in-your face looks? Or precision German engineering and understated finesse?

And to think, those are those are just two of several fine choices in the mid-range of the near-luxury market.

This really is a Golden Age.

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Required Reading

January 12th, 2005 - 10:18 pm

The indispensable Roger L Simon gets a tip of the hat for finding Norman Podhoretz’s “The War Against World War IV” in the new issue of Commentary.

It’s a long piece, so you might want to print it out for bedtime reading. But that doesn’t make it any less required.

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My Favorite Is “Pickup Andropov”

January 12th, 2005 - 4:15 pm

Here’s a great Boston Globe article about the “Car Talk” guys, Tom and Ray Magliozzi (hat tip to Los Bros Judd). Way too many great quotes to pull anywhere near a representative sample, but here’s a good one:

Ray: “One of the big chains approached us, but we didn’t want to stand in front of their store and tell people to get their cars fixed there. We couldn’t. Because they [expletive] everybody.”

Berman: “Even though they offered them [a lot] of money.”

Tom: “Offered who?”

Ray: “You didn’t get that memo?”

Tom, puzzled: “No.”

Berman: “These guys are not greedy. And the best negotiations happen when you truly don’t give a . . . ”

Tom: “Wait, back up. Offered who?”

Read the whole thing. And don’t drive like my sister.

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Last Night on Letterman

January 12th, 2005 - 1:31 pm

Top Ten Proposed Changes At CBS News

10. Stories must be corroborated by at least two really strong hunches.

9. “Evening News” pre-show staff cocktail hour is cancelled until further notice.

8. Reduce “60 Minutes” to more manageable 15-20 minutes.

7. Change division name from “CBS News” to “CBS News-ish”

6. If anchor says anything inaccurate, earpiece delivers an electric shock.

5. Conclude each story with comical “Boing” sound effect.

4. Instead of boring Middle East reports, more powerball drawings.

3. To play it safe, every “exclusive” story will be about how tasty pecan pie is.

2. Not sure how, but make CBS News more like “C.S.I.”

1. Use beer, cash and hookers to lure Tom Brokaw out of retirement.

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“I Will Call Him… Mini-Mac.”

January 12th, 2005 - 4:57 am

Martini Boy emailed me asking what I thought about the mini-Mac that was announced yesterday. Full disclosure: I’ve been a Mac owner since 1989, and I worked in Apple support for a few months in 1993 (in the Apple food chain, I was somewhere below plankton, but I enjoyed my time there). I use Windows and UNIX variants at work (and at home; I have a cheap PC, too), but I definitely prefer the Mac OS over both.

Anyway, as a public service, here’s what I told Steve:

Personally, I wouldn’t buy a “mini,” but that’s because I’m an engineer and a gadget freak. I’m always wanting to rip the cover off and tinker. Jobs hates that; if he could get away with it, every Mac would be a sealed box.

There are basically three reasons to not buy a mini-Mac: 1. If you think you’ll ever want to add a PCI card (it doesn’t have any slots), 2. If you want to run two monitors (I do, but if you aren’t used to that, you probably won’t miss it), or 3. It’s underpowered by current standards.

The G4 chip in there is perfectly zippy for most tasks (I’m currently using a G4 tower with about half its clock speed, for instance). It’ll do fairly advanced video editing and compression, not as quick as a G5, but it’ll probably do everything you’ll want, with the exception of very advanced games (not an issue for me; get beyond Galaga and I lose interest).

It’s very hard to upgrade RAM–you have to take it in to an authorized repair shop–and for a bigger hard drive (a necessity–40 to 80GB? Who are you kidding, Jobs?), forget upgrading the internal, just buy an external Firewire case. Less arse-pain and money.

So, IMO, it’s not really a $500 box, it’s more like a $650-700 box once you get the bigger hard drive and at least 512MB RAM. I’d bite the bullet and buy the RAM installed ($75) up front. It’s overpriced, but the hassle factor is low. Get the smaller hard drive model (an extra 40GB is not worth $100) and plan on getting a large-capacity (200GB minimum) Firewire external from Day One. Just use the internal drive for applications and the OS, and store everything else on the external drive.

If you can handle all that…

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Right Place – Wrong Time?

January 11th, 2005 - 11:48 pm

Can’t say I know much about DoHS chief-in-waiting Michael Chertoff. NYT’s Eric Lichtblau fills in some of the blanks:

Attorney General John Ashcroft had made clear that he wanted to charge terror suspects for “spitting on the sidewalk” if needed, just as Robert F. Kennedy had done with organized crime figures in the 1960′s. For nearly two years after the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Chertoff was the Bush administration’s point man in that campaign.

Mr. Chertoff now takes on a new and equally daunting challenge as President Bush’s selection to lead the Department of Homeland Security, a federal behemoth operating 22 agencies and 180,000 employees. If confirmed by the Senate, he will give up a lifetime appointment as a federal appellate judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which he joined in 2003 after leaving the Justice Department.

In naming Mr. Chertoff to replace Tom Ridge as secretary of homeland security, Mr. Bush called him “a key leader in the war on terror” and said that after the Sept. 11 attacks, “he understood immediately that the strategy in the war on terror is to prevent attacks before they occur.”

I am and always will be an agnostic on the usefulness of terror-attack prevention. Sure, the right man at the top might make some difference, and the creation of the DoHS probably didn’t hurt. But what we need most is a streamlined bureaucracy (cough), smart agents in the field overseas (cough, cough, and thank you Bill Clinton), and luck. The first two items, even perfected, mean little when luck runs out.

And we’ve had a string of good luck running more than three years now. Yikes.

Anyway.

Unless and until we find out Chertoff has been spending his weekends date raping passed out debutantes, he looks like he’s probably the right man for the job. At least until our luck runs out.

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Air Warfare By the Numbers

January 11th, 2005 - 10:47 pm

It’s a sad state of affairs when 1/6th of the choir leaves while you’re preaching:

Surprising many observers who expected it to shine during election season, all-liberal upstart WLIB (1190 AM) — base station for Al Franken and Janeane Garofalo — actually headed south, shedding 15% of its summer audience to finish fall at 24th place in just-released ARBITRONS…

Actually, my snide remark might have been a bit unfair. After all, summer was when the election cycle was picking up – so you could expect ratings to spike, and then slide after November 2.

Or the story could be worse for Air America. Since I don’t have the raw Arbitron numbers, I don’t know when in the Fall WLIB’s numbers fell. Did they suffer their entire drop in the seven-plus weeks after the election? If so, that means the ratings crunch is even worse than it looks on the surface — because the spike should have lasted through November 2 at the very least; mid-November is more likely. From where I sit, I’d guess that WLIB’s summer numbers held through the first half of the Q4 book, meaning their day-to-day ratings could be off by as much as 30%.

Again, there’s no way to confirm my theory without looking at Arbitron’s book. But in about three months, the winter numbers should be available.

“Developing. . .”

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Decisions, Decisions

January 11th, 2005 - 10:23 pm

I’m a PC guy, and have been for 11 years. When I decided it was time to trade in the old stand-alone word processor (remember those? with the built-in daisy-wheel printers?) for a computer, I was leaning towards Macintosh. But you couldn’t fly an X-Wing on Mac in ’94, so I got myself a PC.

Today I read that there’s a new, tiny Mac for $500. I mean, tiny. Looks like it’s smaller than a hardbound book. And with a little adapter/switcher doohickey, it’s easy to set it up as a second computer, sharing the same mouse monitor and keyboard I have hooked up to the Gateway machine.

For fewer inflation-adjusted dollars than I spent on my Commodore 64 twenty years ago, I could have the Mac for music and pictures, and yet still keep the PC for my virus and spyware needs.

Then again, there’s a $50 rebate on these babies right now. . .

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New Year’s Time Waster

January 11th, 2005 - 2:56 pm

Saw this questionaire, written up by Terry Teachout, over at Pejmanesque. I don’t normally go in for these, but what the hell–2004 was a very, very good year for me:

1. What did you do in 2004 that you

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My Eyes! My Eyes!

January 11th, 2005 - 11:23 am

Actually, they’re just fine – but dilated after my annual exam. More once I can see the screen.

NOTE: Polarized sunglasses and LCD monitors don’t mix.

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Limp-Wristed Wrist Slapping?

January 10th, 2005 - 10:52 am

Joe Gandelman thinks Dan Rather got off easy.

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Power of the Pixel

January 10th, 2005 - 10:30 am

Stripping Stewardess update:

Ellen Simonetti threatens “blogophobic” companies with being blacklisted by Webloggers if they don’t warm up to the online diarists.

Simonetti left Delta Airlines after eight years because, she claims, her online “Diary of a Flight Attendant” offended management.

Also known as the “Queen of Sky,” she has continued to blog and now has posted “The International Bloggers’ Bill of Rights.” It provides that Webloggers have the “freedom to blog, freedom from persecution and retaliation because of our blogs.” About 30 Webloggers have signed on, supporting the call for employers to “establish clear-cut blogging policies.” The Rights Blog is at rights.journalspace.com.

Simonetti’s site also lists 28 companies that she claims are “blogophobic,” and have “fired, threatened, disciplined, fined or not hired people because of their blogs.”

Simonetti is probably engaging in more than a little wishful thinking, if she thinks companies can be shamed into never retaliating against employees who blog in ways that might hurt the corporation. But that doesn’t mean other methods won’t work in response. She adds that employers could be “blacklisted by bloggers everywhere.”

Yeah, that might work.

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Rather Lied, Careers Died

January 10th, 2005 - 9:35 am

So, when is CNN’s Johnathan Klein going to apologize and admit that the guys in pajamas were right, and CBS News was in the wrong? More to the point, does anybody at CNN have the guts to ask him that question?

No, of course not.

Some more dogs that won’t bark:

1. Neither Peter Jennings, nor Tom Brokaw, nor even Brian Williams will utter a peep of criticism in Rather’s direction. Ditto for Bill O’Reilly, who’ll blame the whole thing on Mary Mapes and dismiss anybody with a modem but not a TV show as being ‘nuts’ for questioning the credibility of a news anchor.

2. The Columbia Journalism Review (“America’s Premier Media Monitor”) will not issue a retraction of Corey Pein’s ridiculous attempt to acquit Rather, Mapes, CBS News, et al.

3. No major “news” publication or program (with the possible exception of Fox News) will ask the question, “Why were three women in lower level positions cut loose at CBS, but the network news president–Andrew Hayward–and Dan Rather allowed to skate?”

4. The word “blog” will not be uttered on CBS News tonight, or anytime this week, particularly not in context of this disgrace.

UPDATE: Looks like I was wrong on #4. John Hinderaker of Powerline was interviewed by CBS today. I didn’t see the CBS Evening News, but Brit Hume also had a long interview with “Hindrocket” on Fox News’ Special Report tonight. If CBS even mentioned Hinderaker and/or Powerline (if Hinderaker was interviewed today, I imagine they did), they deserve ample credit for doing so.

UPDATE UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds just absolutely eviscerated Rather and CBS on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show. I won’t even try to paraphrase it; hopefully Glenn will write up the same thing at one outlet or another of his online empire. Grab the Hewitt playback if you get the chance. Hinderaker is up next.

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Four Were Fired

January 10th, 2005 - 8:59 am

RatherBiased has the complete CBS “Oops We Screwed Up” report available for download in PDF format.

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Not a Paid Advertisement

January 10th, 2005 - 12:20 am

Way back in 1981, Dad decided what every twelve-year-old boy needed for Christmas was a Nikon camera. OK, maybe not every boy

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Who Said That?

January 9th, 2005 - 11:25 pm

Pajamahadeen was chosen as one of the American Dialect Society’s words of the year.

What I can’t remember is, which blogger coined it?

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Hitting Back

January 8th, 2005 - 1:24 pm

VDH:

In the first days of the disaster, a Norwegian U.N. bureaucrat snidely implied that the United States was “stingy” even though private companies in the United States, well apart from American individuals, foundations, and the government, each year alone give more aggregate foreign aid than does his entire tiny country. Apparently the crime against America is not that it gives too little to those who need it, but that it gives too little to those who wish to administer it all.

Ouch.

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Required Reading

January 7th, 2005 - 12:42 pm

The MSM wonders why hardly anyone trusts them anymore? Required reading from the Captain’s Quarters.

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Air Walls?

January 7th, 2005 - 12:16 pm

A Small Victory – fisking the future!

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Friday Catblogging

January 7th, 2005 - 11:48 am

We have a loaner cat and, as you can see, he’s a welcome (if temporary) addition to the brood.

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A Fisking

January 7th, 2005 - 12:29 am

Paul Krugman:

I’ve been thinking of writing a political novel. It will be a bad novel because there won’t be any nuance: the villains won’t just espouse an ideology I disagree with – they’ll be hypocrites, cranks and scoundrels.

Later, we’ll hold a contest to see who can tell between a Paul Krugman novel and the column he writes for the New York Times. Meanwhile

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How I Spent My Christmas Vacation

January 6th, 2005 - 11:35 pm

An Itinerary of a Very Prodigal Terrorist

Dec. 30: Abbas, appearing in Jenin, is hoisted on the shoulders of Zakaria Zbeida, a notorious and wanted al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terrorist. Abbas declares that he will protect all terrorists from Israel.

Dec. 31: Abbas reiterates his undying loyalty to Arafat’s maximalist demands: complete Israeli withdrawal to the 1949 armistice lines, Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital and — the red-flag deal-breaker — the “right of return,” which would send the millions of Palestinians abroad not to their own country of Palestine but to Israel in order to destroy it demographically.

Jan. 1: Abbas declares that he will never crack down on Palestinian terrorism.

Jan. 4: Abbas calls Israel “the Zionist enemy.” That phrase is so odious that only Hezbollah and Iran and others openly dedicated to the extermination of Israel use it.

That’s from Krauthammer, reporting on the activities of Palestinian presidential “peace” candidate Mahmoud Abbas. Read the whole thing, natch.

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How I Spent My Christmas Vacation

January 6th, 2005 - 11:06 pm

A Photo Essay by a Very Prodigal Blogger

Because my wife loves me very much and understands sometimes I need to spend 15 hours in the basement doing “cool” things, she got me a Lego Star Destroyer for Christmas.

Please note the empty wine bottle, provided for scale. If you click for the full-size image, you might be able to read the part count — 3,104 pieces of Lego in one big box.

OK, make that five boxes. Inside the big box are four smaller boxes – not one of which was actually small. Stuck in between was the product manual. So far as I know, the Star Destroyer kit is the only Lego manual to be spiral bound. Otherwise, there’s not a chance any of the 225 pages would lay flat enough to read.

After getting all 3,104 bits organized (sort of) into manageable piles, I celebrated having finished the first page (or 1/225th of the process) by taking a picture.

If you don’t know, Legos are square-ish bricks. They don’t easily form the sharp angles of an Imperial Star Destroyer. So you first build a frame for the angled bits to hang from, hinged. 22 pages later, I’d finished the first part of the frame.

I was only slightly depressed when, after finishing Page 22, I noticed the big “X 2″ at the bottom. Yes, I had to go back to Page 1 and do it all over again for the bottom half of the cruiser.

Here they are hooked together, along with the built-in display stand. Purists might say the stand detracts from the realism of a made-up starship built out of bumpy plastic bits — but without the stand, the model would fall apart as you put it together. It gets heavy.

That done, you build the four angled panels which form the ship’s hull, starting on the lower port side. Coke can and Cheet-Ohs bag provided for scale. Also note, I’m building this before putting away all the Christmas wrap boxes, despite certain promises made to my bride.

The above shot is of interest only to Lego fans and other would-be engineers. Getting that last hull panel on would be impossible, if it snapped together in the usual Lego way. Instead, the outside edges still go click, but the centerlines are held to the frame by magnets. Those are the yellow and black bits in the center of the shot. Excuse the lack of focus, but it was getting late and I had forgotten all about shooting for depth-of-field.

Almost forgot – the engine assembly is pretty cool, too.

Three of four hull panels finished, and I was about out of steam for the night. Then again, it was 2am and I’d been at it for 10 hours.

One hour later, I called it quits for the night. With nothing save the superstructure left to assemble, I called it a good day’s work.

The next morning, my thumbs felt like they’d been used for pincushions. But work still went pretty quickly. The next four shots show the progress of building the superstructure, one layer (and about 200 pieces) at a time.

Finally, two beauty shots of the finished product. On the last one, another Coke can is there for scale. Altogether, it’s 37 inches long and took about 15 hours to build. And that’s for a guy who plows through Lego sets with all the unrushed grace of a teenage boy losing his virginity.

And that’s how I spent my Christmas vacation.

NOTE: Pictures courtesy of the Nikon D70 digital SLR – another gift from a bride who loves me far more than I deserve. She might have outdone me this one Christmas, but it’ll never happen again.

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Email Is Like Cocaine

January 6th, 2005 - 3:23 pm

I haven’t bothered to post anything about the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Nick Coleman and his bizarre diatribe directed at the Powerline guys last week. Coleman was thoroughly dissected and discredited, and there didn’t seem to be any point in piling on. But after reading Coleman’s recent nasty email to NRO’s Jim Geraghty (incidentally, Jim, I love the blog, but “TKS” is a stupid name), I was reminded of an old Bill Cosby routine:

I said to a guy, “Tell me, what is it about cocaine that makes it so wonderful,” and he said, “Well, it intensifies your personality.”

I said, “Yes, but what if you’re an asshole?”

Email tends to work the same way. Kind of makes you glad for Coleman that he does have editors–based on this and other ugly emails, his ability to self-edit appears to be lacking.

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The Blogfaddah Is A Crock

January 6th, 2005 - 11:07 am

No, not really. But he’s talking about Crock Pots, and in the interest of getting the most information out there (especially about the “dumbest s**t”), we got a Rival 38601 Crock Pot as a wedding gift last year. That particular model turned out to be a lemon. Let’s just say it’s not a “slow-cooker,” and we have the crispy lamb bits (not recommended) to prove it.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not an anti-Crock-ite; we’re going to get a replacement this weekend. But avoid the 38601, unless you’re really fond of burned food…

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