Riba Rambles:
Musings of a Mental Magpie

About the author: Elisabeth in early 2007, photo by Todd Belf
Elisabeth "Lis" Riba is an infovore with an MLS. This is her place to share whatever's on her mind, on topics both personal and political. [more]
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Saturday, December 23, 2006
Ooh yeah!
Posted by Lis Riba at 12:58 PM

Ooh, yay, and with that post, the background image is now visible in my anniversary post!
Pretty d6 rings...

BTW, major kudos to whichever staffer on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me chose to follow up the story on the infant put thru the airport x-ray machine with the song "Carry on my wayward son."

Also, Charlie Pierce is offering a dollar to the first person who puts their nomination as Time's Person of the Year on their resume (like I considered Thursday). Does that make it a better or worse idea?

Radio Ga Ga
Posted by Lis Riba at 12:45 PM

Been meaning to blog this for a while.

As Dan Kennedy sums up:

Two years ago, Clear Channel rebranded two of its weak-signaled Boston-area stations, AM 1200 and 1430, as "Boston's Progressive Talk," featuring liberal hosts ...

With little promotion and a small coverage area, liberal radio has not exactly been a ratings success here. Now, Jesse Noyes reports in the Boston Herald, Clear Channel is ready to pull the plug, and is likely to turn over the two frequencies to Spanish-language programming. The move comes as Clear Channel is in the process of being acquired by new owners, including Gov. Mitt Romney's former company, Bain Capital.

And get this: Noyes says that Clear Channel is boosting the power of AM 1200 from 10,000 watts to 50,000. Gee, do you think that might have made "progressive talk" more popular?

It's obvious that Clear Channel executives never wanted liberal radio to succeed in Boston. It was just a way of killing time until they figured out what they wanted to do with the two frequencies.

As one commenter pointed out:

Clear Channel had a long record of donating huge sums to right wing causes, and when they wanted to buy some more stations last year, they knew they would get lots of opposition, so they wanted to show the FCC they were a bit more balanced; they threw progressive talk on some of their weakest signals and hoped it would seem as if they were now a more moderate company.

Well, as a friend in the b0st0n community points out, it's a done deal and the station is gone.

Cos points out there is other progressive radio in Massachusetts, but these are only brief shows, not entire stations. Others on Blue Mass Group are starting a group to Save Progressive Radio in Boston, but it feels like too little too late.

In contrast, Avedon Carol discovers:

Air America will stay in Madison

Clear Channel Radio has reversed an earlier decision after a backlash in Madison, saying it will keep its Air America affiliate on the air instead of switching the progressive talk format to sports on Jan. 1.

Citing the overwhelming negative reaction to the planned change, the nation's No. 1 operator of radio stations said it would keep The Mic 92.1 FM on the air as a progressive talk station.

The planned change to Fox Sports Radio, announced three days after the Nov. 7 election, sparked outrage in Madison. Clear Channel said the station, WXXM-FM, had struggled to attract advertisers despite high ratings and a sports format would be more profitable.

But thousands of people protested the end of their favorite station through e-mails, phone calls and a signed petition delivered this week. A rally last week drew 500 people, and politicians including Mayor Dave Cieslewicz and U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, denounced the decision.

Ian and I have an ongoing rivalry pitting Wisconsin (my childhood home) against Massachusetts.

Sorry love, but in this aspect Madison kicks Boston's ass!

Friday, December 22, 2006
Killer Queen?
Posted by Lis Riba at 8:58 PM

I just saw a note on AICN saying there are rumors that Johnny Depp may star in a forthcoming Freddie Mercury biopic.

From The Independent:

[T]he Pirates of the Caribbean star, Johnny Depp, is being lined up to play a rock star for real in a biopic of the late Queen frontman, Freddie Mercury.

Robert de Niro's company, Tribeca Productions, is said to be behind the project, which Brian May, the Queen guitarist, confirmed was in development. "Discussions are at an early stage," he said on his website.

May described Depp as "fantastic". "He would be a worthy counterpart for Freddie on screen. I don't think I can say any more right now," he added.

I'm not sure what I can say, either.

Interesting idea, certainly, but I just hope they do him justice...

Thursday, December 21, 2006
Take note (Two YouTubes, no waiting)
Posted by Lis Riba at 11:00 PM

For a little more vertical fill, two from YouTube.

Standup comedian (and former cellist) Rob Paravonian tells us what he really things about Pachelbel's Canon:

The New York Times reports on an unbleeped SNL skit, called "Special Christmas Box":

It's not quite as good a boy band parody as "Title of the song" by DaVinci's Notebook, but bonus points for Justin Timberlake's participation...

[Added later: the second video is a cool idea, but hope the recipient isn't into regifting!]

Extra credit?
Posted by Lis Riba at 10:30 PM

[Okay, I need to add enough content over the rest of the week to make my next post scroll down below my sidebar, so everyone can see the pretty picture on the right side of the blockquote...]

Radley Balko, the Agitator, observes:

Agitator pal Curtis Melvin recently added this line to his bio:

In 2006, Curtis Melvin, among others, was named Time Magazine's person of the year.

Awesome.

I agree.

Now I'm wondering whether to add a similar notice to my resume...

Entering the dozens
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:45 AM

Tonight is the twelfth anniversary of the night Ian and I finally got together as a couple, after knowing one another for a few years.

For those unfamiliar with the story, it's quite typically geeky:

Ian and I were involved in a typical fantasy roleplaying game. [So typical, in fact, it was held in somebody's parents' basement.]

There were four players, plus the GM -- and I was the only female.

[I earned my geek cred among the guys my first session when I almost tripped walking down the stairs. I quipped "Nearly failed my Dex check!" and somehow that recategorized me from "girl" to "gamer" in their mindset.]

Anyway, our characters were about to explore some wastelands, and we were staying at a border town. Last chance for supplies and civilization before facing the wilderness.

My character was a paladin with a skill in falconry, but couldn't afford even the cheapest falcon for sale. On the other hand, Ian's character was wealthy; such a purchase would have been a drop in the bucket.

We got two rooms at the inn for the four characters. As the only female in the group, I considered it my right to choose my roommate.

On the drive home (I was Ian's ride), I jokingly suggested that my character would offer to share the bed in exchange for enough gold to purchase a bird.

We chatted and flirted and joked... and rather than just dropping Ian off, continued the conversation at his apartment until the wee hours of the morning.

And from that point on, we've been a couple.

For the record, Ian wasn't comfortable letting our RL romance influence the game. Our characters should only hook up if it were in character for them. So when the game resumed, my character offered her services as a bodyguard to Ian's character in exchange for the falcon, since he wasn't playing a fighter.

And we all lived happily ever after.

Ring image from Individual Icons.

For other fancy dice, take a look at Crystal Caste's Dwarven Stones.
ThinkGeek sells a pendant for d20s, and Eclectic Elements has a whole line of dice jewelry.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Cool one I'd meant to share
Posted by Lis Riba at 10:30 PM

From Jakob Nielsen:

The way Hollywood depicts usability could fill many a blooper reel. Here are 10 of the most egregious mistakes made by moviemakers....

Does it matter that most films offer such an unrealistic depiction of usability? Mainly, no. A movie's purpose is entertainment... Still, I see two real problems with it:

  • Research funding and management expectations are subtly biased by the incessant emphasis on unrealistic UI design...
  • Users blame themselves when they can't use technology. This phenomenon is bad enough already; it's made worse by the prevalence of scenes in which people walk up to random computers and start using them immediately...

An interesting article for anyone who uses computers and watches movies.

Later update: Ian pointed me to Casey & Andy "Cinema OS", a comic strip which illustrates many of Nielsen's points. [See, sometimes pictures are better than words...]

Casey & Andy installing Cinema OS (panel 1)
Food for thought
Posted by Lis Riba at 10:00 PM

On a sweeter note...

A fine piece of journalism from Slashfood: an exposé into NOKA Chocolate, revealing their expensive prices owe more to hype than craft. A cool investigation, and informative to anybody who likes fine chocolate.

Meanwhile, if you're in the Boston area and like chocolate, head over to Harvard Square to L.A. Burdick's (on Brattle Street near ART, Google Maps).

Oh wow.

The first time I went to their cafe, I tried a small hot chocolate -- almost too rich to finish!

I discovered this place thru this review, by a guy who really likes and knows his chocolate...


Meanwhile Forbes lists ten most unusual restaurants, with a pictorial slideshow.

Some eateries drew attention for their menus, others for attributes about the establishment (such as Dinner in the Sky, which is served at a table suspended over 150 feet above the ground).

And this was before the cosplay eatery was announced!

You don't say...
Posted by Lis Riba at 9:09 PM

Okay, I don't watch Bush press conferences, because I find his speaking mannerisms cringeworthy. [Besides, this one happened while I was @ work.]

So, can somebody else confirm or refute Susie's observation?

I’m watching Bubble Boy’s press conference, and as usual, it’s clear he’s got a transmitter in his ear telling him what to say. I mean, when someone keeps interjecting “Let me finish” when no one else in the room is even speaking, it’s hard to conclude otherwise.

Phone-y business
Posted by Lis Riba at 8:36 PM

By the way, news stories like this do not help me in my efforts to convince Ian that we should get cell phones...

The U.S. Commerce Department's security office warns that "a cellular telephone can be turned into a microphone and transmitter for the purpose of listening to conversations in the vicinity of the phone." An article in the Financial Times last year said mobile providers can "remotely install a piece of software on to any handset, without the owner's knowledge, which will activate the microphone even when its owner is not making a call."

Sources and more information:

Oh, and how about this story?

A system which will enable network operators to disable the camera function inside mobile handsets has been installed by leading operators in both Europe and North America.

You know what would be neat?
Posted by Lis Riba at 8:10 PM

So many devices these days are equipped with GPS...

Wouldn't it be nice to have a version of the MBTA trip planner that would automatically populate with your current location?

Combine that with the ability to save frequently-used destination addresses, plus awareness of service outages. Default a departure time of now+5 minutes, and it would make matters much easier for people on portable devices (particularly given those cruddy keypads) trying to figure out how to get home.

Has anybody built something like this?

[Why, yes, my husband is a function bartender who works all over the Boston area. Not that he uses a cellphone or PDA...]

Related note: I see from Universal Hub that the new MBTA website is back up now. However, my old bookmarks show that http://trip.mbta.com/ loads the classic version of the trip planner, and it's still working. Just FYI.

An interstellar earworm
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:45 PM
Merry Christmas from Chiron Beta Prime

On a similar note, I've been earwormed by a really brilliant sfnal Xmas song:

Chiron Beta Prime by Jonathan Coulton

If you haven't heard it, I strongly recommend giving it a listen.

Merry Christmas
from Chiron Beta Prime,
where we're working in a mine
...for our robot overlords.
Did I say overlords?
I meant protectors.
Merry Christmas...
from Chiron Beta Prime.
On every corner there's a giant metal Santa Claus who watches over us with glowing red eyes. Did I say overlords? I meant protectors. We know it's almost Christmas from the marks we make on the wall We really hope you'll come and visit us soon.

And just recently, I discovered they have a music video!

Enjoy!

This year has been a little crazy for the Andersons.

Later update: Oh cool! Some YouTuber made a video to the song with Doctor Who clips! It's not the smoothest editing, but better than I'm capable...

sacReligious Music
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:35 PM

On an entirely different note, I've updated the mix tape I mentioned last week.

I'm now calling the collection:

Holiday Joy-Oy?-Oi!

And it consists of the following tracks (publically available MP3s thru the links):

  1. The Hebrew Hammer theme song
  2. Hannukah in Santa Monica by Tom Lehrer
  3. I Have a Little Dreidel by Barenaked Ladies
  4. Dreidel medley from South Park
  5. Chanukah Song by Adam Sandler
  6. Give the Jew Girl Toys by Sarah Silverman
  7. Christmas Wrapping by the Waitresses
  8. Father Christmas by the Kinks
  9. Christmas Celebration by Weezer
  10. Merry Frickin Christmas by Frickin A
       [Still no luck finding the Red Sox victory version.]
  11. Yellin' at the Christmas Tree by Billy Idol
  12. Won't Be Home for Christmas by Blink 182
  13. Chiron Beta Prime by Jonathan Coulton
  14. Podsafe Christmas Song by Jonathan Coulton
  15. Linus and Lucy by the Vince Guaraldi Trio
  16. Dreidl Bells by DJ Flack

Because so many people have asked for a copy, I've packed all the MP3s together into a zip file and shipped the lot to SendSpace.

Over 45 minutes of music in 56 megs.

Just go to http://www.sendspace.com/file/d148v1. The download link is below the big banner ads.

Let me know what you think.

Requiescat In Pace
Posted by Lis Riba at 11:58 AM

On Monday, our upstairs neighbor and tenant passed away. She'd been ill for several years, but still... she was part of this house before we bought it.

In fact, I think her apartment -- filled with cats and posters for anime on the walls -- helped us see the house as a potential home.

This is her obituary from The Melrose Free Press:

Anna M. Mancini

Anna M. Mancini, 50, died December 18, 2006, at Melrose-Wakefield Hospital.

She was born in Caracas, Venezuela, came to the United States at the age of 9 and lived in the North End of Boston. Miss Mancini graduated from Julie Billiard Central High School in the North End, attended the University of Massachusetts and received her teacher certification from the Massachusetts Department of Education.

She had worked as a travel agent for over 20 years and had been a Spanish teacher the past six years, working at the Melrose Middle School.

Miss Mancini embraced life; she loved dancing, cooking, traveling, music, the opera and theater. She was very spiritual and had been a faithful member of the Melrose Unitarian Universalist Church for the past 10 years.

She was the devoted mother of Samantha A. Amerault of Melrose; beloved daughter of Josefa (Abano) Mancini of the North End and the late Cesare Mancini; former wife of David Amerault of Melrose; sister of Maura Mancini of Chelsea, Lila Mancini of Boston, Frank Mancini of New York and Emma Mancini-Leslie of Salem; aunt of Desiree Dorato of East Boston, Vanessa Terrelli of Haverhill, Alicia Leslie of Salem, and Colin and Cameron Currie, both of Winchester.

Visiting hours will be held Thursday, December 21, 9-11 a.m. at the Melrose Unitarian Universalist Church, 70 W. Emerson St., Melrose, followed by the funeral service at 11 a.m. Relatives and friends are invited. Burial will be in Wyoming Cemetery, Melrose. Arrangements are by the Gately Funeral Home of Melrose.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, 10 Brookline Place West, 6th Floor, Brookline, MA 02445.

To sign the guest book, visit www.gatelyfh.com.

Here's a direct link to the funeral home guestbook, if you wish to leave a message of condolence for the family.

The Boston Globe, which only printed a brief death notice, links to the Legacy.com guestbook.

Possibly stupid question, but...
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:05 AM

Did I lend you my DVD of The Hebrew Hammer? I can't find it anywhere around the house, and have a vague memory that I may have loaned it out to someone.

[Don't bother answering if you don't live in the greater Boston area... unless of course, you happen to be the one who has it.]

Thanks!

Monday, December 18, 2006
Ravens like a writing-desk...
Posted by Lis Riba at 8:14 PM

So, as a decoration for my cube at work, I bought a Golden Snitch which came with a palm-sized sticker book.

Katie Leung as Cho Chang

Here are the stickers it contained:

  1. Hogwarts insignia
  2. Gryffindor shield
  3. Harry Potter (a Gryffindor)
  4. Hufflepuff shield
  5. Cedric Diggory (a Hufflepuff)
  6. Slytherin shield
  7. Draco Malfoy (a Slytherin)
  8. Ravenclaw shield

And that's it.

What, they couldn't think of a single Ravenclaw student?

Oh, logically I understand. Eight stickers, and by making one the Hogwarts insignia they didn't have enough room for an image from every house, but I still feel somewhat slighted...

Oy to the world
Posted by Lis Riba at 8:08 PM

From this morning's Boston Globe:

Inclusivity and mirth, not to be confused with frankincense and myrrh, are two reasons why Festivus has gone from sitcom gag to alt-holiday happening over the past few years, at a pace even faster than Michael Richards's career has imploded.

In the original "Seinfeld" rendering, broadcast Dec. 18, 1997, Festivus was invented by Frank Costanza (played by Jerry Stiller) as a "holiday for the rest of us." Having waged a department store tug-of-war with a fellow shopper, Frank went bah, humbug on Christmas and began his own holiday tradition. Its rituals came to include an aluminum pole in place of a tree, a public listing of all your relatives' disappointing habits, and a wrestling match with the head of household, not deemed over until someone cried "Uncle."

Festivus was just one plotline in the episode, but it grabbed viewers' imaginations with surprising force. Like another famous "Seinfeld" chapter, the "Soup Nazi" episode, it was loosely based on real life ("Seinfeld" writer Daniel O'Keefe grew up in a household where Festivus was conceived and celebrated) and, thanks to the power of pop culture, quickly morphed into a case of life imitating art.

Much as "Seinfeld" thrives in syndication heaven today, so does Festivus and its expanding pool of celebrants. Behind its popularity, devotees say, are its absence of presents, accent on idiocy, and refreshing lack of familial psychodrama. Festivus may have its own quirky rituals, they note, but none involving theology, batteries, reindeer, political correctness, or parental guilt.

I think another advantage is that it's not tied into any specific religious or cultural tradition. It's not a Christmas party, which could potentially upset any nonChristians. It's not a generic Holiday party, which could offend the conservative Christianists. Festivus is its own invented thing, rather goofy and hard to take too seriously.

My office is having its second annual Festivus party.

I've never actually seen the episode, so much of what I know about the traditions I learned from Wikipedia.

Sunday, December 17, 2006
Seasonal instafilk
Posted by Lis Riba at 10:45 PM

May ABBA forgive me, but this keeps coming to mind every night when it's time to light the candles:

Chanukkiyah, here we go again,
My my, how can I resist you?

If anyone wishes to pick this up and run with it, be my guest.

Sanity, Baby
Posted by Lis Riba at 11:20 AM

So, yesterday morning I pulled together a little holiday mix CD for the drive over to my in-laws.

Many of these songs are not child-safe.

  • The Hebrew Hammer theme song
  • "Hannukah in Santa Monica" by Tom Lehrer
  • "Chanukah Song" by Adam Sandler
  • "Give the Jew Girl Toys" by Sarah Silverman
  • "Christmas Wrapping" by the Waitresses
  • "Father Christmas" by the Kinks
  • "Christmas Celebration" by Weezer
  • "Merry Merry Merry Frickin Christmas" by Frickin A
       [I really wanted the Red Sox victory version, but couldn't find a copy.]
  • "Won't Be Home for Christmas" by Blink 182
  • Chiron Beta Prime by Jonathan Coulton
  • Podsafe Christmas Song by Jonathan Coulton
  • "Linus and Lucy" by the Vince Guaraldi Trio

Ian suggested the addition of Tom Lehrer's "Christmas Carol" but I still have room on a CD for plenty more music of this sort.

I'm looking for sarcastic, cynical and hopefully somewhat humorous, rocking holiday songs.

Any suggestions?

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