Archives » December, 2004

December 31, 2004

White New Year’s

We didn’t get it for Christmas, but at least we got it before the end of the year.

It will probably be gone before the sun sets, but it’s nice while it lasts!

December 27, 2004

Radio Free Suburbia

Last week we found that one of our neighbors was running a pirate radio station out of their garage, playing nothing but Christmas music. We were driving around the rich part of the neighborhood looking at Christmas lights. (We live in a cluster of houses in the middle of the desert, ten minutes out of town. There are two kinds of houses here: those built over 20 years ago, and those built less than five years ago. The new houses are your standard sprawling McMansions, and easily sell for twice what the older houses do. Just take a guess which houses put up better Christmas displays!) Anyway, we were driving around when we saw a placard in the front yard of one of the houses:

“Enjoy Our Light Display Set to Music: tune to 100.5!” So we turned on 100.5, and sure enough over the speakers came a bunch of Christmas music, mixed in with a little PSA saying, “This year we have a barrel in our driveway for donations to the food bank.” It’s pretty cool to see pirate radio being pumped out of rural suburbia, even if it’s just playing holiday tunes. Will the radio station keep running after this week? Probably not. But this stuff is getting easier for everyone, as this shows. It sounded like they just had a playlist set up on their computer, and fed the output into some kind of FM transmitter. It’s so great that you can do it out of your living room like that. Although the FM part of it is becoming outdated. Maybe next year they’ll put their Christmas songs in a podcast!!

If you’re really interested in seeing the lights, we took 20 minutes of video. Right-click here to grab it. Watch out — it’s 52MB!

Essential 50

The Essential 50: The Most Important Video Games Ever Made.

December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas Everyone

I want to let you in on a little secret. Atheists don’t hate Christmas. Well, maybe some big-city militant atheists do. But most of us average, honest, hard-working atheists love it. We love the family, the togetherness, the trees, the presents, Santa Claus, and all the thousands of other little secular things that have come to define the holiday. After all, Christmas was originally a pagan winter fesitival before the Christians horned in on it, so I have no problem sharing as long as everyone behaves. The problem is, people seem to be behaving less and less every year. Maybe we’ve got blogs to thank for that; as more people blog, more people are able to fight about petty little things. And this year it seems like the cries of “Keep Christ in Christmas” and “Keep Christ out of Christmas” have just been growing so loud that there’s nothing but chaos out there. And I want to add a single voice to the din, one that simply yells, “STOP IT!!!” I don’t see what anyone has to fight about. We celebrate Christmas just like any Christian family does, except with a lot less Jesus. Just look for yourself: this is what Christmas looks like in a moderately liberal atheist household.

Pretty familiar, isn’t it? So have a Merry Chistmas everyone, and let’s all try to get along a little better next year.

December 21, 2004

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

There aren’t too many movies that I get excited about months and months in advance. In fact I haven’t even been out to see a movie for the longest time, since we’re raising our son Sam without babysitters for the first couple of years. Most everything that’s come out recently hasn’t been worth a trip out to the multiplex anyway, and I’ve been more than happy to wait until they come out on DVD. If I see them at all.

But one project I’ve been following, not just for months but for years, is the new adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It seems like every big director and every big star has been attached to this project in the last decade, with one of the most prominent rumors being that Tim Burton would direct and Marilyn Manson would star as Willy Wonka. That mercifully turned out to be just as false as the other rumors, at least the Marilyn Manson part, but the thought of Tim Burton directing stuck with me, even as he came out with stinkers like Planet of the Apes. And in the end he actually did get the job, proving that even the rumormongers guess right sometimes.

The first thing Tim Burton did was hire Johnny Depp to play Mr. Willy Wonka, something I don’t even think the rumormongers saw coming. The second thing he did was to throw out all the previous scripts that had been written and bring in his own screenwriter, John August. And I heard that John August had never seen the first movie, the Gene Wilder one, so he asked Tim Burton if he should watch it before writing the sceenplay. Tim Burton told him, “Absolutely not.” This is a not a remake of the original film, this is something new based on the same book. Now I like the first film (unlike some people), but I know that it was a pretty big departure from the book. Tim Burton’s movie should stick a little closer to the off-kilter tone of the book, but we’ll have to wait to see just how much of himself he puts into it.

And wait we had to. At the point Tim Burton was announced as director, the release date was still two years away, so it was going to be a long wait. When filming started last summer, I thought that it wouldn’t be long until pictures of the sets and the costumes started to find their way onto the internet. I didn’t know that it would be another half-year before we’d get to see anything, and that the first glimpses of the art direction on this movie would come from an official trailer.

But that’s the way it worked out. Last week I got an early Christmas present when the first 55-second teaser for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was released. You can find it at Yahoo Movies, and also at a new official site. In some ways it’s everything I imagined, and yet it’s also completely different. Tim Burton’s stamp is most definitely on this movie, unlike Planet of the Freaking Apes, which it seems was phoned in by just about everybody involved. This movie goes back to the Beetle Juice/Nightmare Before Christmas era of creating a madcap world and taking the audience on a ride through it. But my words can never take the place of pictures, so let’s dissect some of the imagery, shall we? Click through to see screencaps from the trailer.

Read more on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Web Design World Boston

At FTPOnline: video from Web Design World 2004, held in Boston a couple of weeks ago. The keynote was from Jeffrey Zeldman, although the “video” is nothing more than the slides he put up on the screen. There’s no actual video of him up on the stage. I haven’t watched the other videos, but they might be just the same. Plus the files are streaming, so you’re going to be tethered to your desk. I’ve gotten spoiled listening to so many podcasts recently; when I run into audio like this I want to be able to throw it on a CD and take it in the car with me. Can’t do that with streaming audio. And can’t do it at all with video. Yet.

December 18, 2004

Sunset of the Day

December 15, 2004

International Hotel

Last Sunday the local paper ran a little article looking back at the International Hotel in Virginia City, which burned to the ground 90 years ago this month. The International Hotel was a true gem, the most luxurious hotel in Nevada at the time. It also had the first elevator in Nevada (although not the first west of the Mississippi, as some folks have said.)

The International is one of those buildings that would be great to still have around, like the Fourth Ward School and St Mary’s in the Mountains. Unfortunately, the International went the way of so many of VC’s other old buildings, and burnt right down to the ground in 1914. Nothing was ever rebuilt in the spot, and the land is now home to a lovely parking lot.

December 10, 2004

A Very Merry Ormsby

It’s that time of the month again, time to see what’s going on at the Ormsby House.. This time there’s scaffolding coming down and a brand new hotel tower to enjoy, but there’s also still a lot of holes in the building. They’ve got to get things patched up so they can start rebuilding the inside!

The November update is now live. Two pages and 15 photos. OneTwo.

December 7, 2004

E-mail Takes Flight

Last month, the Mozilla Firefox browser finally hit version 1.0 and came out of its “beta” stage. Now this month its fraternal twin, Mozilla Thunderbird, has done the same. Thunderbird is the e-mail program that’s designed to go hand-in-hand with Firefox, so it makes sense they should both have their first official releases so close together.

There’s not a huge difference between Thunderbird 0.9 and 1.0, at least not that I can notice yet. But I’m sure there’s plenty going on behind the scenes that will make it better to use. I just hope they refined the spam filter; I’m still getting junk mail slipping through to the Inbox every day. I wonder if Thunderbird has a SpamBayes extension?

There’s a download link on the Thunderbird main page, or you can go right to the FTP folder and find the right file for you.