January 2007 Archives

And On Another Note...


Is it still possible to buy moustache wax? Because if so, I could totally use some.

I've decided that it's high time for another post in which I make video games boring. In this case, I'd like to do so by combining my love of history with my love of games.

There is something about the orthodox history of electronic games that has nagged at me for a long time. As you know, Bob, one of the most significant events in video game history was the Great Crash of 1982. At the end of 1981 video games were a huge business, the next big entertainment medium, soon to surpass television, film, and music both in terms of sales and cultural relevance. At the dawn of 1983 video games were a joke, a fad, a novelty. In between those two points was the Great Crash of '82. Video game stocks crashed, a lot of companies went out of business, and video games became a profoundly unprofitable business to be in. Something about the story, though, doesn't smell right to me.

I don't dispute that the Crash happened; clearly there was a big change in the perceived profitability of video games over the course of 1982. What I question is the orthodox explanation of the crash.

The standard story is something like this: Once there was just Atari. They made the first arcade games, they made the first (profitable) home video game consoles. There were some competing consoles, like the Odyssey, but they never sold close to as many units as the Atari VCS. And for a long time the only people who made games for the VCS was Atari. And they were good games, which made consumers happy and made Atari very successful.

Then a gang of disgruntled Atari employees left the company and formed their own business, Activision, which developed its own games for the VCS. Activision became the first third-party developer. Since Activision consisted of some of Atari's best employees, this meant a slight drop in the quality of Atari's product, but Activision made some darn good games so consumers were still happy and all was still well.

But Pandora's Box had been opened. Now the knowledge of how to program for the VCS was not wholely contained within the Atari corporation. Soon other video game companies appeared, hundreds of them, spurred on by reports of the astronomical profits Atari was receiving. And they made shitty games. Even Atari began producing dreck. Consumers grew more and more concerned.

According to this story, the straw that broke the dromedary was E.T. Atari rushed the production of the game (It went from blackboard to finished product in 6 days) then manufactured a stupid number of them (they made more copies of the game than there were VCSs sold in the US at the time; they anticipated that everyone with a VCS would buy one, plus new users would buy VCSs just to play it). And, as anyone who has played E.T. knows, it was garbage. Angry customers returned the game in droves for refunds, Atari (allegedly) buried several million copies of the game under a mountain of cement somewhere in Nevada, and Atari's stock crashed. Consumers lost faith in video games; they'd put up with crappy games from third-party developers, but now Atari itself was producing crappy games. By the millions, consumers who had been interested in video games were interested no longer. They took their money and bought bicycles and happy meals instead.

This last bit is the part I don't buy. Yes, there were a lot of bad games for the VCS. Yes, E.T. sucked. And quite probably there was a certain degree of burn-out among consumers. But does it really make sense that a glut of bad games caused everyone to turn their backs on video games entirely? Might I direct you to the shelves of your nearest Electronics Boutique, where you will observe five unplayable turds for every one game you might consider purchasing (and that's if you have pretty undiscerning taste in games). Hollywood cranks out dozens of terrible re-treads for every decent movie it releases, but consumers don't suddenly decide that they're sick of films and stop buying movie tickets.

It strikes me that a far more plausible story focuses on the supply side of the market rather than the demand side. There were lots of articles hyping the immense profitability of video games in 1981 and early 1982. A lot of companies sprung up from nowhere to make games that year. Wall Street and the video game industry had high expectations for the profitability of video games. Then they failed to meet those expectations. The market got saturated, far more games were supplied than consumers demanded, and a bunch of companies went under. Simultaneously, Atari, the market leader, had a number of high-profile flops and found itself in severe financial difficulty.

All of this would create the impression that the bottom had fallen out of the market, when in fact the problem was one of over-supply rather than under-demand. Now the whole thing looks a lot more like the internet crash of the late-90s; a hot new technology inspired a bunch of companies to get into the business without really knowing what they were doing, the stock market went crazy as a result of the hype for these new companies, and then the whole thing came crashing down when people realized that these businesses couldn't pay their bills.

What's interesting is that the video game industry has largely internalized the conventional wisdom explanation for the Video Game Crash and acted accordingly. When Nintendo cautiously entered the home video game market in the US in 1986, it heeded the claims that Americans were utterly uninterested in video games. Thus, they called their home console the Nintendo Entertainment System, packaged it with a light gun and a robot, and designed it so that you couldn't see the cartridges while they were loaded in the system (introducing a design flaw that systematically caused systems to stop working over long periods of use, but that's another boring story). Nintendo's entire marketing effort in the US, in the early years of the NES, was designed to convey the message, "This is NOT a video game system." Along similar lines, Nintendo was fearful of the prospect of a glut similar to that experienced by Atari in 1982. Thus, anyone who wanted to produce games for the NES had to be licensed by Nintendo and all games to be published had to be strictly vetted (hence the Nintendo Seal of Quality). Moreover, Nintendo limited the number of games published for the system by establishing a hard-and-fast quota: No company could published more than 5 games per year for the NES (so you'd better make them good).

It seems funny, in retrospect, because the whole demand-side explanation of the Crash of '82 seems so implausible. Nonetheless, Nintendo's licensing system has become the model for game publisher-console manufacturer relations, and was a necessary prerequisite to Sony's loss-leader razor-and-blades business model. If I were an economist, I would love to dig into the market data of the time and see if it confirms my supply-side suspicions or if the conventional wisdom demand-side story is borne out. Since I'm not, I'll just have to content myself with looking askance every time some video game columnist casually mentions the Crash of '82 that was caused when consumers got sick of too many shitty games.

Comments are Back!


Strike up the band, as it were!

Man, this week without comments has caused me to really wonder how people with comment-less blogs do it. I've had all sorts of bloggish ideas in the last week or so (speaking of which, I just lost the game again. Nuts) but it's been hard to motivate myself to post about them when I know there's no possibility of feedback. So how do the Instapundits, Barely Legals, and Leiter Reports manage to inspire themselves to keep post volume at rate they do?

Oh, shit.


PETA Bread

I have to agree with Jill of Feministe on this: Speaking as a vegan, PETA makes me want to eat a hamburger. Out of spite.

Not Censoring

Since not everyone who reads this reads the CementHorizon front page, I should point out: The host for this blog, CementHorizon, has been experiencing a wave of comment spam, and comments have been temporarily disabled. Sorry if anyone has tried to post any comments only to have them rejected. Comments should return shortly.

Operation: Cookie Has Been Compromised

The Scene: My apartment. 1 AM. My roommate is spending the night at his girlfriend's. All of the lights are out. I am lying on my bed, snug under the covers, having just fallen asleep.


ME: What the...!?

I throw off the covers and cross the room to my door, tripping over my laptop bag in the process. I turn on the light in the hall.

ME: (Trepidatiously) Who's there?


I make my way to the front door. I peer through the spyhole. Nothing. I wait a few minutes longer. I know I heard something, but there doesn't seem to be anything out there. I lock the second lock and secure the deadbolt, just in case. I decide to head to bed, but head to the bathroom first. While conducting my business I hear movement in the hall of the building, then a door closing. I finish and walk back to the front door. Out the window I see my nextdoor neighbor looking at my door. She hestitates, then rings the doorbell.


I quickly remove the deadbolt, unlock the lock, and throw open the door, attempting to muster all the dignity I can while standing in snowflake boxer shorts.

NEIGHBOR: (In a commanding tone) Alright, turn it off.

ME: Turn what off?

NEIGHBOR: Turn off your television. It is 1 in the morning.

ME: I don't know what the hell you're talking about. I was asleep when I heard a loud knocking and came over to see what it was. My television hasn't been on for hours, see?

I open the door wider to show her the darkened living room and dormant television.

NEIGHBOR: (Uncertainly) Well... I heard SOMEONE'S TV.

ME: Well, it isn't mine!


I suppose this is all the more reason to try to make peace with the neighbor, but it's becoming really hard to want to be nice to her.

The IRS wants your money. If you're making money, the IRS wants a piece of the action. In fact, if events have occured that have resulted in your becoming materially better off in some way, the IRS wants a cut of that, too. Does your workplace offer free meals? That's taxable compensation (unless it meets some fairly stringent criteria). Did you win a doll as a door prize? That's taxable income. Did you purchase a grand piano and discover a roll of hundred dollar bills wadded under the strings? A taxable event has occurred, and the IRS wants to wet its beak. That last example, incidentally, was an actual case that went to the Supreme Court. The taxpayer lost and had to pay tax on the wad of bills.

The Internal Revenue Code defines Gross Income in Section 62(a) as "all income from whatever source derived." What's more, income need not be monetary. In Revenue Ruling 79-24 the IRS considered the case of barter or service-for-service exchanges. In one case a housepainter painted a lawyer's house in exchange for legal services, with no money changing hands. The IRS ruled that both the house-painting and the legal services were income; the painter was to be taxed on the fair market value of the services, while the lawyer was to be taxed at the fair market value of the house-painting job.

In the same ruling, the IRS considered a service-for-rent exchange. An artist gave his landlord a piece he had created in exchange for six months in the apartment rent-free. The IRS ruled that this was income for both parties. The landlord had to be taxed at the fair market value of the painting and the artist had to be taxed at the value of six month's rent.

This raises an interesting question, to which I don't know the answer: how do co-ops like Berkeley's report their taxable income? As you know, Bob, Berkeley's co-ops offer room and board to students at rates well below market in exchange for a certain amount of labor to keep the co-op running. So far as I know (and it is, confessedly, not very far) the IRS would expect the co-ops to report the labor they receive from students, assess its fair market value, and pay appropriate taxes on it.

As you've probably noticed, this would create something of a problem. Students are happy to trade labor for food and shelter, but the IRS is less enthusiastic about the barter economy. When students give their labor to the co-ops the IRS believes income has been generated and wants a cash percentage of that increase in income, even if the co-ops's bank account isn't any bigger.

It also seems like the ruling indicates that students should be paying tax on the presumed income that they receive in the form of rent below market rates. That is, it seems like the IRS expects co-op denizens to report on their 1040s the difference between the rent they pay and fair market rent as income. I doubt that this happens much, though.

Policy-wise, I suppose this favors cash transactions over non-cash transactions. Assume the extreme case of somebody who foregoes cash entirely and only trades her labor directly for the goods and services she needs. At the end of the year, the IRS expects her to pay a percentage of the value of what she's bartered for over they year, and it wants payment in cash.

I'm thinking of e-mailing this as a question to my tax professor, to confirm that my interpretation is correct and that the co-ops are, indeed, expected to pay tax on the imputed income from the services they receive. I'm not suggesting that Berkeley's co-ops are tax cheats; I'm sure they aren't. They could be paying taxes as part of the expenses that students pay rent for, or they could be organized as a tax-exempt organization, or any number of other fancy tax schemes. I'm just saying, you know, huh. It's interesting.

Capsaicin OD

Note to self: When a recipe for corn chowder calls for two seeded jalapenos, do not throw in six unseeded jalapenos because you are a self-proclaimed "HARD CORE SPICE ADDICT!" It's too spicy, even for you.

I just ate a bowl and a half of my corn chowder, which is probably 50% pureed jalapeno by volume. It is very tasty, but now my face is all tingly and I can no longer feel my nose or lips.

Vice President Cheney: Mixer of Metaphors

The defense attorney for Scooter Libby in the Valerie Plame leak trial has just released a hand-written note, composed by Vice President Dick Cheney, about a meeting the Vice President had with Libby. The note says, in part,

"not going to protect one staffer and sacrifice the guy that was asked to stick his neck in the meat grinder because of the incompetence of others."

One either sticks one's neck out (readying it for the axe) or one throws oneself into the meat grinder. Sticking one's neck into the meatgrinder is very difficult unless one either a. sticks one's head in first (in which case, having your neck in the meat grinder is the least on one's worries) b. sticks one's body in first (same difficulty as above) or c. first separates one's neck from one's head and one's body (why?). The Vice President should pick one metaphor and stick with it. This linguistic flip-flopping should not be tolerated among our political elite.

My Project for the Weekend

We have a new neighbor.

Well, not really a new neighbor. She's been here since roughly the end of last summer. But she's newer than the old neighbor who moved out before she moved in.

Our neighbor has a job. A real job. She leaves the house at 8:30 every morning and gets home sometime between 5:30 and 6:30. She gets the Wall Street Journal. She has conversations on her cell phone that involve her using the words "Marketing" and "HR" and the phrase, "I'll take care of it when I get in to the office tomorrow."

I do not have a job. I am a student. The earliest class I have starts at 11:15. I have no classes on Fridays. I've been trying to wake up around 8 AM lately, but this is merely an effort on my part to get myself onto a normal person's sleep schedule. I go to bed sometime between midnight and 2 AM on weeknights. On weekends I slip into bad habits and stay up very late, sometimes as late as 7 or 8 in the morning (hence trying to get myself onto a normal person's sleep schedule).

Our television is in the living room, against the western wall. Our neighbor lives on the other side of our western wall. I don't know how her apartment is laid out, but apparently her bedroom is in the position where our living room is. She has placed her bed against her eastern wall, which is our western wall.

This has led to an unfortunate situation: at nights, when she is sleeping, there is no volume at which our television can be set that satisfies the following two conditions: 1. it is loud enough that we can hear it. 2. it is not so loud that it keeps her awake. There are, in fact, volumes that we have set it at such that we are struggling to hear dialogue, only to have our neighbor rap loudly on the wall to indicate her displeasure at the raging cacophany emerging from our apartment. On a number of occasions she has come over and rung our doorbell to give us a lecture that she is a Very Important Person with a Very Important Job and could we please turn our television off?

This has led to a certain... curtness to our relations with her. As an example, I did the laundry the other day and found myself putting my clothes in the wash while she folded her clothes. When she came in and saw me she glared, then ignored me. She finished just before I did and headed to the elevator. I was a few feet behind and she tried to close the elevator before I got into it. She failed. We got to the third floor and had difficulty opening the outer door with her hands full. I helped push the door open and she quickly brushed past, without a word, and went into her apartment.

But, of course, I can't say that my roommate and I haven't been similarly antisocial towards her.

In the interest of accomodation, I recently purchased a new television which has among its features a headphone jack. Coupling that with my headphone cord extension cable, I've resolved most of our problem with noise at night.

I'm thinking, though, that it might be nice to try to confront our sour relationship and try to improve things. In that spirit, I'm planning to bake cookies for our neighbor this weekend. My plan is to take them over, introduce myself, apologize for the noise issues, and generally try to smooth things over.

At best, this could result in friendship and better inter-apartment relations. At worst, she'll react curtly and I will be able to live happily with my cookies and the knowledge that I am the bigger person. I'm not seeing a downside right now.


As of right now, Weather Underground predicts that on Friday temperatures in New York City will reach highes of 19 degrees fahrenheit.


There's an interesting article by Lindsay Beyerstein on AlterNet about a Connecticut substitute teacher who faces up to 40 years in prison for exposing children to pornography. The teacher was convicted of four counts of "injury or risk of injury to, or impairing morals of, children."

Here's what isn't in dispute: the teacher was using a school computer. That computer began displaying lots of pop-ups for porn sites. She tried to close the pop-up windows, but more kept appearing. Somehow students saw the pop-ups. It's unclear how the monitor was positioned in relation to the class, whether it was pointed at the class, away from the class, or somewhere in between. She did try to stop one student from looking at it when he was talking to her by pushing his face away from the screen, which would tend to support the idea that it couldn't be seen by the class at large from their seats.

The trial turned around this question: Was the teacher surfing for porn at school? The prosecution maintained that she was. As evidence, they provided a police detective as an expert witness. The detective had used ComputerCOP Pro, a program used by police in forensic analysis of computers. The detective had determined that someone had been clicking on links to open the pop-ups. He testified that there was no way the pop-ups could have been opened without the user willfully clicking on links to cause them to appear. The detective's expertise was derived from a pair of two-week FBI training programs on computer crime issues, along with an orientation program for the use of ComputerCOP Pro. That orientation involved an hour of training followed by a test, generally administered over the phone.

The defense tried to argue that the teacher had not been surfing for porn. Rather, the porn pop-ups had appeared as a result of malware that had wormed its way onto the computer. The defense's case turned around the testimony of their own expert witness, Herb Horner, owner of an IT consulting firm, who had forty years of experience as a software engineer and IT consultant.

Horner had used sophisticated software to examine the computer and had determined that the system had been infected with malware. The school's IT department provided no support or protection for computers infested with malware or obscene content, its firewall license had expired, and the computer used was an antiquated Gateway running Windows 98, a configuration notably vulnerable to infection by spyware, viruses, and other such programs. The sort of malware on the computer was the sort that would open up pop-ups for porn sites regardless of the content of the site visited. Moreover, to a relatively primitive forensic program like ComputerCOP Pro, the manner that the malware used to open pop-ups would be indistinguishable from a user clicking on a link.

Horner determined that the malware had been installed on the computer several days before the incident, when the computer was not under the substitute teacher's control. He further found that the pop-ups began appearing about 45 minutes before class started, when a user (it's uncertain whether this was the substitute or a student) accessed the site hair-styles.com.

The defense's case seems to have been fairly air-tight; it explains how the appearance of the porn was not the substitute's fault and it explains the results that the prosecution's expert came up with in a manner that exonerates the defendant. At trial, however, the defense was forbidden from presenting any evidence relating to malware or similar other programs that might provide an alternative explanation for why the pop-ups appeared. Horner was permitted to testify, but his testimony was extremely limited; he was allowed to present only 2 of his 40 prepared slides, and could not discuss malware at all.

The jury never heard anything about malware and the defense could therefore offer no explanation for why the pop-ups appeared. In the absence of any case by the defense, the jury accepted the prosecution's argument that the substitute was surfing for porn. It found the teacher guilty of four counts of exposing children to pornography, each count of which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

So why did the court exclude any arguments and evidence related to malware? Because the defense attorney failed to inform the prosecution of his planned malware defense prior to trial, as required by the rules of procedure. Accordingly, because the defense failed to raise the defense before trial, it was forbidden to raise it during the trial.

This illustrates why the duty of competence is the most fundamental of the professional responsibilities. This teacher is almost certainly innocent, and the defense prepared would probably have cleared her, but the defense attorney failed to meet a deadline, or failed to prepare an adequate brief. Because her attorney screwed up on a seemingly picayune filing requirement, the teacher now faces up to forty years in prison and her professional life has been ruined.

Attorneys have to be familiar with a web of rules governing their relationship with their clients, covering confidentiality, conflicts of interest, duties to the tribunal, and so on. But the most fundamental is the duty to be competent. Making a stupid mistake like this can cost a client dearly.

Custom Soundtracks

Vaguely continuing the video games + music theme of the last post, there's a game out, which I don't own and am unlikely to own, called ExciteTruck for the Wii. It's the long-awaited second game in the Excite[vehicle] series, which heretofore was assumed to be just a single game, ExciteBike.

ExciteTruck was a launch title for the Wii, which means that it's long on showing off the technical capabilities of the system and short on lasting gameplay value. It's a fairly simple monster truck rally game. There are a number of tracks, you pick one, pick your truck, and race around in circles for a while until someone is declared the winner. The main innovation in the game is that you don't stear with the direction pad or a control stick. Rather, you hold the Wii remote -


- horizontally, with the buttons facing towards you and hands gripping both sides of it. You then steer your truck by rotating the Wii remote clockwise and counter-clockwise, mimicing the motion of turning a steering wheel.

But that's not what I'm interested in. ExciteTruck, like most video games, has a soundtrack. Also like most video games, ExciteTruck's soundtrack is bad. ExciteTruck's soundtrack consists entirely of metal tracks by 80s hair metal tribute bands. Perhaps realizing how terrible the music they had put into the game was, the makers of ExciteTruck did something interesting: They let players create their own soundtrack.

The Wii has a port for an SD memory card, which is a fairly common memory card used mostly by digital cameras. ExciteTruck allows you to load MP3s from your personal collection onto an SD card, plug the card into the Wii, and use those MP3s as the game's soundtrack in place of the music the game provides. This isn't incredibly innovative; some PC games (though surprisingly few) have had this feature for years, and it's entirely possible that some other console, like the XBox, had games that let you do this sort of thing. Still, it isn't nearly as prevalent yet as it probably ought to be.

The idea of custom soundtracks for video games raises a lot of interesting possibilities. I tend to be more tolerant of video game soundtracks than the average player, but I also know people who out-right cannot play video games with the music on. Not only does this let people who dislike game music participate in the full multimedia gaming experience, it potentially unlocks a new level of fun tinkering for people who enjoy fiddling with things like I do. It adds a new game-outside-the-game that challenges the player to play the game, get the feel for it, and attempt to match music from her collection to the game experience. There are some games (and here I am thinking of ExciteTruck) where the game of creating the perfect soundtrack would probably provide more enjoyment than the game in itself.

Which is all well and good, but, as a practical matter, even if I this feature were to become commonplace I would probably wind up sticking to the games's original soundtracks. I actually tend to like video game music, which is why I have a bunch of free MP3s of video game music remixes and tributes on my harddrive. And which also means that, if I were to create a custom video game soundtrack, it would be likely to consist mostly of music from other video games.


I have been playing a lot of Elite Beat Agents lately. Or, rather, I was playing a lot of Elite Beat Agents a couple of weeks ago, when I was averaging about 10-12 hours per day on it; I've fallen off quite a bit since school started again.

Elite Beat Agents is a rhythm game for the Nintendo DS. It's a cheerleading game. You play as the members of an elite government task force of men who cheer for ordinary people in their times of need, thereby inspiring them to success.

The gameplay mostly consists of poking the DS's touch screen in time to various songs. Bubbles show up on the bottom screen along with a circle that slowly shrinks around the bubble. You have to poke the bubble at the moment when the circle overlaps with its outer edge.

The game will also throw sliders at you; these you have to poke in a manner similar to the bubbles, but after you do so you keep your stylus on the screen. A ball appears at the end that you poked and moves to the other end of the slider; you have to keep your stylus on the ball until it reaches the end.

Finally, the game sometimes drops everything and shows a giant wheel. These are spinners. When these show up, you have to touch your stylus to the screen and spin like mad to fill up a gauge in the background.

While all of this is going on you have to deal with the Elite Meter at the top of the screen. This starts full and steadily drains as you play. Every time you successfully poke a bubble it recharges a little; the closer you poke the bubble to the exact moment when the circle and bubble overlap, the more the meter refills. If your meter drops below the half-way point the Agents, who heretofore have been dancing in the background on the touch screen, bend over, exhausted, to catch their breaths until you can get the meter back over half full. If the meter ever empties, you immediately lose and have to start the song over.

This might not sound super-compelling, but believe me that it is. With the exception of the early introductory levels the poking of bubbles corresponds to either the beat of the song or the lyrics being sung, and the better you know the song in question the better you'll do. The game does a good job of very slowly ramping up the difficulty. The first song, played on easy, is very easy. The last song, played on Extra Hard, is unbelievably hard. Each song in the middle is a gradual step up, which means you're never at a point where the game suddenly goes from fun to frustrating.

Each song is accompanied by a story of some person in need whom the agents are cheering to victory. This ranges from a babysitter attempting to impress her football-player boyfriend to a washed-up baseball star, now working as a janitor at an amusement park, who has to defeat a giant fire-breathing golem who begins rampaging through the park. The stories are hilarious and at certain points in each song the action pauses and you get a cut-scene of the person's progress, which will be positive if you end the section in the top half of the Elite Meter and negative if you end it in the bottom half.

The oft-commented-upon weakness of the game is that the soundtrack may leave something to be desired. The songs were chosen with the goal of collecting music that most people would be familiar enough to that they could tap out the beat without much difficulty. This means that about half of the songs are recent top-40 hits and the other half are ear worms that you probably wish you weren't as familiar with as you are.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing, though. There's a certain stockholm syndrome that sets in as you play the game. On the more challenging levels you will find yourself having to replay songs dozens of times to successfully clear them. While you can get through on simple memorization of where the bubbles show up and when to hit them, that tends to be a brute-force struggle. The easiest way to do it is to get into the music, to know where the beats come in the song, and, yes, to sing along when necessary. The true path to EBA victory is not just to know the songs, but to love them.

The downside to all of this is that now, two weeks after I mostly put the game down, the songs still periodically find their way into my brain. I actually enjoy them now. I'm thinking of buying some, maybe all, of them on iTunes.

Here's an example of the gameplay from a video on YouTube. This is La La by Ashlee Simpson, played on Hard mode. The opening story is not included, sadly, because it's a replay. Ordinarily in the game you would actually be poking those bubbles with the stylus to make them explode.

So now, thanks to Elite Beat Agents, I'm seriously considering purchasing the following songs:

Walkie Talkie Man - Steriogram
Makes No Difference - Sum 41
Sk8erboi - Avril Lavigne
I Was Born to Love You - Queen
Rock This Town - Stray Cats
Highway Star - Deep Purple
Y.M.C.A. - The Village People
September - Earth, Wind and Fire
Canned Heat - Jamiroquai
Material Girl - Madonna
La La - Ashlee Simpson
You're the Inspiration - Chicago
Let's Dance! - David Bowie
The Anthem - Good Charlotte
Without a Fight - Hoobastank
Jumpin' Jack Flash - The Rolling Stones



I've been reading Douglas Coupland's Microserfs, a novel about programmers working for Microsoft and various high-tech start-ups in Silicon Valley in the mid-90s. Considering it was written during the late-90s pre-tech bust, I'm way out of date on this. Still, a fun read.

Coupland has an interesting recurring conceit; when he first introduces us to a character, he gives us that character's dream board for Jeopardy. I liked the idea enough to do it for myself:

Molten Boron's Ideal Jeopardy Board:

Video Game History, 1975-The Present
Quotes from the Collected Works of Matt Groening
Gregory of Tours's History of the Franks
The Life and Times of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
U.S. Presidents
Lyrics to Rush Songs
The Collected Works of Arthur C. Clarke

What would be on your board?

There's an interesting article in the New York Times right now: Equal Cheers for Boys and Girls Draw Some Boos. The story concerns the fallout from a recent ruling by the New York State Education Department interpreting Title IX to require that women's sports receive the same cheerleading support that men's sports receive. The story follows the typical pattern for Title IX stories: Things used to be great, then nosy feminists got involved and sued everyone, and now everything's gone topsy-turvy and nobody's happy.

The story is this: It used to be that the cheerleading squads in New York State high schools only cheered men's sports. Then the mother of a girl who plays high school basketball sued the school district alleging Title IX violations, since it's only fair that cheerleaders be present at women's sporting events as well. The New York State Education Department agreed. Now, schools are required to provide equal cheerleading support to men's and women's sports; if the cheer squad cheers at a men's basketball game, they have to cheer at a women's basketball game. Given that this doubles the number of games that require cheerleading, the schools have responded by cutting in half the number of men's games at which cheerleaders are present. Thus, now cheerleaders cheer at all the men's and women's basketball home games and none of the away games, where they once cheered at all of the men's home and away games and no women's games whatsoever.

The tone of the article is that this is an utterly untenable state of affairs. The author can barely rustle up one quote in support of the scheme, from the woman who sued in the first place. That's a shame, because there appears to be a whole second level to the story that the author only hints at. Most of the two-and-a-half page of the story is spent discussing the loss of away-game cheerleading. This, it is argued, is a huge loss for the cheerleaders. Away-games are exciting and give them an opportunity to see how other cheer squads operate (since every school in the district has cut away games, cheer squad now no longer run into each other). The away-game issue appears to be the major argument for why the Education Department's ruling has so thoroughly destroyed the world of high school cheerleading.

This is interesting, because the away-game issue is pretty clearly easy to solve within the parameters set by the ruling. The ruling only states that cheer support has to be given equally to men's and women's sports; it says nothing about that support having to be given at home-games. The school could just as easily have cheerleaders at nothing but away-games. Or they could arrange it so that half of their games in a season are away games and half home games, while still making it so that half are for men's basketball and the other half for women's basketball. I realize that this would require slightly more effort than just scheduling them in for only home games, but it still shouldn't take somebody with an calendar and the two teams's schedules more than about half an hour to arrange.

What I think has actually happened here is that the schools found a way to save on their cheerleading budgets while blaming feminists and Title IX. It's a lot cheaper to send the cheerleaders to 16 home games than it is to send them to 8 home games and 8 away games. Note the mention in the article of the school that cut its cheerleading squad entirely due to budget constraints in 2002, then only now reinstituted it. The article manages to frame this as the squad being devastated because lousy feminists will only let them chear at home games. If, indeed, the students at the school actually have been convinced that the Title IX ruling is responsible for the school cutting away games, rather than a miserly school board, I have to give the school credit for doing a masterful PR job.

The article also mentions a fairly useless anecdote about one time when a school's cheerleaders cheered at a women's basketball game (because the men's game was cancelled) and the women's basketball players found it disruptive and didn't appreciate it. Well, yeah, of course they did. If you're used to playing without cheerleading and then, without warning, you have cheerleaders, of course you'll find it distracting. As the article mentions at the very end, now that cheerleaders are a regular part of home games the women's basketball players have gotten used to it and are enjoying their presence more.

What's hinted at in the article, but never discussed in full, is that a lot of the cheerleaders don't like the new rule because they just plain aren't interested in cheering on girls. I don't know a huge amount about the debate over the place of cheerleading in the modern high school, but the general sense I get is that there's a struggle between those who think that it's a sexist throwback and demeaning to women and those who feel that it's a genuine sport with athletic merit. Within the context of that discussion, I would argue that if one's desire to engage in an activity significantly declines when one discovers that one's audience will be members of the same sex, then that would constitute evidence in favor of the "sexist throwback" school of thought.

I'm pretty much 100% supportive of the Title IX ruling. When I was in high school I was on the Speech and Debate Team and the Academic League. We had home meets and away meets. We represented the school in intra-league, state-wide, and nation-wide competitions. I believe in my four years at high school, the extent of the school's support for both teams was one (1) poorly-made banner in a back corner of the school, wishing us luck at a speech tournament. The poster 1. wished us luck at a tournament that had already occurred, 2. got the location of the tournament wrong, and 3. managed to misspell "Speech and Debate." We paid for our own buses and judges, and where most coaches received a stipend from the school for their services ours coached us gratis. I found it immensely disheartening to represent a school that took pains to remind us constantly that they really didn't care one way or another how we performed because we weren't the basketball team of the football team. Obviously sending the cheer squad to Academic League meets would have been inappropriate, but the clear message at my high school was that they really cared about athletics and didn't much care about academics.

Along those lines, setting the system up so that the official cheer squad only cheers at men's basketball games, when there's no real reason why they couldn't cheer at women's basketball games, is pretty clearly saying that the school considers men's sports importants and women's sports unimportant. Given the goal of Title IX of forcing federally funded schools to provide the same support and recognition to female athletes that they provide to male athletes, I think it's entirely appropriate that cheerleaders either be provided equally to men's and women's sports or not be provided at all.

And when all you have is a deep fryer, everything looks like it needs to be deep-fried.

I got a deep fryer for Christmas and have been excited by the prospect of using it to deep fry some things. Unfortunately, I did an uncommonly good job of clearing out my food stores before I left on vacation, so my stock of easily-fryable items is perilously low. Nonetheless, I remain undeterred; I have a well-documented history of bringing bad cooking ideas to life, and this deep fryer promises to open an entire exciting new vector for terrible, terrible food-making decisions.

Right now I have potatoes and onions lying around, but those wells have already been pretty thoroughly tapped in terms of frying. I have some serrano chili peppers, and I know frying jalapenos is pretty common (or was a few years ago; I haven't heard of fried jalapenos as much lately) but those are generally combined with some sort of cream cheese filling. I have beans, but I'm not sure that frying beans actually involves a deep-fryer. I've tortilla chips, but those are already fried. I've got a few suspect cucumbers in the refrigerator, though one of them felt a bit too squishy for comfort and I'm worried the others may turn on me, as well. Plus cucumbers are a bit liquid for frying. What else have I got? Some sticks of Earth Balance non-dairy buttery substance, half a jar of dijon mustard, a carton of apple cider... Right now the best bet seems like the jar of mustard, but that seems like it would be more like a proof of concept or a performance art piece than an act of cooking ("Why did you deep-fry a jar of mustard?" "Because I had a deep fryer and a jar of mustard. Duh.")

Now I'm getting more desperate. I could deep-fry my flip-flops. Or my pants. Or a lightbulb! It would bathe any room in delicious, artery-clogging goodness!

At this point, I think I'll just have to go out and buy something that can be fried. Suggestions?

Fun Tax Law Fact of the Day

A significant portion of today's tax class was spent on Section 67 of the Tax Code, the 2-Percent Floor on Miscellaneous Itemized Deductions. Pursuant to that discussion, we learned that all deductions applied to Adjusted Gross Income are placed into two categories. These deductions are either classified as "Miscellaneous Itemized Deductions" or else they are classified as "Other Itemized Deductions."

This discussion proved revelatory. I plan to employ this binary classification scheme throughout my life from now on. Everything in the universe shall hereby be classified as either Miscellaneous or Other. For example, my computer mouse is Miscellaneous, as are my earmuffs, but my laptop is Other. My Wii is clearly Other, but my television is Miscellaneous. My left glove is Miscellaneous but, interestingly, my right glove is Other. I could go on like this for days!

Stop Being Helpful!


Today I was in the drug store and picked up a sack of Pringles Select potato chips. These are fancy new chips that Pringles is marketing. I read the ingredients for two varieties, first Sundried Tomato and then Teriyaki Barbeque. Both of them had ingredient lists that looked fine until the very end, "Natural Flavors (includes milk products)".

Most products, particularly highly processed snack foods, contain the catch-all "natural flavors." Pringles, however, has decided to start helpfully informing the reader when "natural flavors" includes milk products. In theory, this is very nice and convenient for me. In theory, whenever I see "natural flavors" on an ingredients list I should call up the company's customer service line and ask whether that includes whey, casseine, or any other milk or animal products. In practice, though, I tend to fudge on this. If it says natural flavors I generally just go ahead and eat it, since I can plausibly deny the presence of animal products. So in practice this means that I would have just eaten the Pringles chips if they hadn't told me that their natural flavors included milk products and I would have been very happy. Now, though, knowing that they do contain milk products, I can't eat them.

It is nice, though, that Pringles has started being mindful of those whose dietary restrictions preclude consumption of dairy products. At the same time, it would have been nicer if, rather than helpfully informing everyone that their chips contain less than 1% Natural Flavors, of which a small portion are milk products, they would have just stopped putting the sprinkling of whey/skim milk powder/whatever the hell in.

I haven't looked at the ingredients for standard Barbeque Pringles yet, but I'm a little scared that they may have started pointing out the milk products in them, as well. In the mean time, I settled for a bag of barbeque Lays, which may or may not contain milk, but which at least don't say that they do on the package.

School starts for me at 11:15 tomorrow morning. My winter vacation officially has left than half a day left to live. In light of that, I feel it is appropriate to solemnize its passing by recounting its rather inauspicious start.

I was booked on a flight to San Diego out of Newark Liberty International Airport that was scheduled to depart at 7:45. The flight was to occur on December 21st, also the day of my last final, Evidence. The Evidence final went from 10 AM to 1 PM. The Evidence Final also occurred at the end of a vicious gauntlet of five finals, each more harrowing than the last, with breaks of two days between them at most, half a day or less at the least.

In the confusion of finals I made a number of crucial errors the avoidance of which would have made my trip to Newark Liberty far more pleasant. First, I failed to schedule a shuttle ahead of time. In my haughty self-confidence I had decided that $20 was far too much to pay for a trip to the airport when I could get there via public transportation for a mere $7. By the time I began to think that perhaps a shuttle would be worth the price it was too late to call one. Second, I failed to buudget my time to include an allocation to pack and prepare for my trip before my final. While this may have been for the best with respect to my grades, it proved unfortunate when it came time to get ready to leave for the airport. Third, and this is a more general error in judgment, I got very, very little sleep during the final period in general and the night before my evidence exam in particular. By the time my exam was finished I was exhausted and left to pack my bags and get myself to the airport on two hours sleep and the lingering effect of the stimulants I had taken for my ADD that morning.

This may help to explain the frustration I felt and the general lack of clarity in my thinking during the episode that followed.

I arrived home around 2 PM. I had spent half an hour in semi-coherent conversation with fellow law students on such engaging topics as how great it was to be done with school for the semester and exactly how much of a bitch the prior exam had been ("Quite a bit of one, actually" was the general consensus). I arrived home and promptly collapsed onto the couch, where I engaged myself for the next hour and 15 minutes playing through the first Metal Slug game on my Wii. This proved to be the first notable error of my trip home.

I finished and did a mental calculation of how much time it would take to reach Newark Liberty. My flight was to depart at 7:45. It was to start boarding at 7:15. Figure I want to be at the gate no later than that. Add 30 minutes to be on the safe side, so 6:45. Thirty minutes to go through security, 6:15. No need to check bags, and I'd already checked in on-line. I'd be taking a bus from the Port Authority Bus Terminal, but that couldn't take more than half an hour, so 5:45. Fifteen minutes to get from the subway to the ticket office to the bus at the Port Authority, 5:30. And half an hour to take the subway down to 42nd Street, so I should depart at 5:00. Beautiful, I had an hour and forty-five minutes to wrap my Christmas presents for the family, pack, and do some light cleaning before I left. I did so, but kept thinking of little things that needed doing before I left or items to add to my pack. Then I would decide that items needed taking out of my pack in order to accomodate stuff I would be bringing back from San Diego. Then I realized that, really, how could I live without that item, and I'm sure one more bafmodad wouldn't hurt. I left the house, reasonably assured that I had thought of everything, around 5:10.

Around 5:15, I passed the library at the end of the block and remembered that I had checked out some CDs that would be due in the middle of break. Crap! Well, I had made a generous calculation of the time required to get to Newark Liberty, plus there was that extra half-hour of slack time. I ran back to the apartment, got the CDs, turned them in at the library, and was on my way by, I'd guess, 5:25.

The subway ride was uneventful. The Port Authority was not. I arrived about 5:45, a bit behind schedule. I found my way to the New Jersey Transit ticket counter and asked for a round-trip ticket to Newark Liberty. With a grunt the counter worker dispensed two slips of paper with the baffling notation "Interstate 4 Zone Ride 107-PABT Thank You." I tried to ask a question but was told I needed to get out of the way for the next customer. I wandered off in search of a directory, hoping that it would direct me to the New Jersey Transit buses.

It did not. The Port Authority keeps its bus stops in four geographically distinct locations identified only by number. While a given stop is only used by a single bus company, that isn't really the concern of the Port Authority or its directories. The Directory will lead you to one of three Duane Reade drug stores or the Wetzel's Pretzelry, but busses aren't really a priority. I began scouting the different embarkation areas. All four came up blank.

At this point I almost paniced, then reminded myself that panic was unlikely to solve anything. It was then that I noticed a sign reading "Buses to Airport." I followed it to a magical zone not on the directory, where I found a sign pointing to New Jersey Transit buses. I eventually found a staircase labeled 107. "Ah-ha!" I thought. "That's what I'm looking for."

I went upstairs and found a stop labeled 103, one labeled 107L, and a third labeled 107X. No buses, though. I began to get worried. Where was 107 PABT? Well, maybe I could ask the driver when one of the buses arrived. First came the 107L, but I decided that that couldn't be what I was looking for; L stands for Limited, so it must be limited stops. I was drawn to the 107X that arrived just behind it. I waited in line, boarded the bus, and asked just as I was about to insert my ticket "This goes to the airport, right?"

"Nope, this is the Express bus. You want the Local, right behind us."

("Whoops" I thought.)

I made my way as carefully as one can with a backpack and a large black piece of luggage back through the line of annoyed bus passengers behind me. I ran back to the 107L and sat down. It was about 6:15. Surely I would be fine.

The bus sat there. Eventually a rider went up and asked the driver when the bus would be leaving. Not until 6:30, came the answer. No big deal. It shouldn't take too long to get there, not long to get through security, and it wasn't strictly necessary that I arrive right when they began boarding, so long as I got there before they pushed back from the gate. I re-adjusted by goal from "Arrive before they start boarding" to "arrive before they take off at 7:45."

As we began driving and then stopped, thirty seconds later, when confronted by a wall of cars, I suddenly recalled that driving into New Jersey from Manhattan during rush hour on a work day was not the speediest mode of transportation ever devised. This might delay me further. As time wore on my drowsiness overtook me and I very nearly fell asleep. This may, perhaps, explain what happened next.

We were driving down the New Jersey Turnpike, not making any stops. We began passing signs that said "Newark Liberty Exit - 2 miles," "Newark Liberty Exit - 1 Mile," "Newark Liberty - Next Exit." We took the off-ramp. It deposited us at the outskirts of the airport, at the very edge of a large parking lot. We passed a dark, desultory bus stop on the right. A sign loomed above us: "Right Lane - Terminal A. Middle Lane - Terminal B. Left Lane - U Turn to New Jersey Turnpike." Alright, I thought to myself, pay attention now. Look for which terminal services Continental and get off at that stop. The bus abruptly veered left. We got into the left lane and looped around back onto the on-ramp.

"Oh shit!" I thought to myself.

"Oh shit!" I exclaimed, much to the chagrin of my Bible-reading seatmate. The woman in front of me turned around and asked if I had wanted to get off at the airport. Yes, I replied, and asked her where the next stop was as we pulled unto the highway.

"Just get off at the next stop and take the bus going in the other direction."

This made sense. I thanked her, hit the Stop Request button, and waited until we got off the freeway again. I got up and stumbled off of the bus.

I found myself standing about 100 yards from the highway off-ramp under a broken street light. There wasn't an intersection in sight. I was surrounded by warehouses. The streets were paved with broken glass bottles. There was no bus stop on the other side of the street. There were no cabs in sight. There were no pay phones. The sun had set an hour ago and the night was pitch black. At this point, I stopped caring about whether I would make my plane and started caring about whether I would survive the night.

It is also more or less at this point that I decided that panicing was my best possible option, given that none of my other choices seemed to offer any better prospect of success. I started running like in the direction the bus had gone. I stopped when I reached a bridge that I couldn't see over, and decided I would really prefer to see whatever it was I was walking towards. I fell to my knees and shouted for help. It was not forthcoming. I held my head and told myself to calm down. I got up, looked around, and finally noticed the bus stop in the other direction about 50 yards from where I had been dropped off. I crossed the street and waited. Nothing came.

Up until now I was alone, which I decided was a blessing. That ended when I heard a group of young men approaching on foot from the off-ramp. My nerves got the better of me and I decided to walk in the opposite direction. As I did so I got a better angle on the warehouse to my left. It seemed to have an awfully large parking lot for so small a facility. Then I realized that it wasn't a warehouse at all, but a private parking lot servicing the airport. The warehouse-like facility with loading docks was the garage used to service the shuttles.

I ran around the barbed-wire fence that enclosed the lot, into the building, and approached the counter.

"Please can you help me?! I got off at the wrong stop on the bus and I need to get to the airport fast to catch my plane and I'll pay for the service but I just need to get to the airport!"

"Don't worry, you can take the shuttle. It's free!"

"Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

Outside a shuttle was getting ready to depart. The driver tried to keep me out; wait for the next one.

"I can't wait! My plane leaves in, like, 5 minutes and I need to get to the airport now and I can stand please let me on!"

He grudgingly aceded.

The clock in the shuttle said it was 7:20. By 7:25 I was at the airport. 20 minutes to get to my plane. I steeled myself to be that asshole who cuts to the front of the security line because he's late for his plane, but it wasn't necessary. There was no line to show ID and boarding passes, and I had only to get straight into the screening line and begin stripping myself of metal objects. I picked the shortest one, behind a family of three asian people.

Unfortunately, the family I was behind had a less-than-fluent understanding of the English language. They didn't seem to know what could and could not be taken on the flight or through the metal detectors. I took command of the situation by silently alternating between hyperventilating and spasming nervously. I couldn't switch to another line, they were already filling up. I couldn't get in front of the family, because their bags were already in the machine and couldn't be gotten out without causing more delay. I eventually made my way through, tastefully ignoring the snide remark by the woman behind me that I was holding up the line.

It was now 7:40.

Newark's Terminal C, where my flight departed from, has a hub-and-spokes design, with the security check at the hub and the gates on three spokes. I was at the right-most security check on the hub. My flight departed from Gate C135, the gate at the tip of the left-most spoke.

I ran until I was too exhausted to run, slowed to a walk while heaving for air, then summoned the energy for another burst of running. I pushed past people standing on the moving walk way, I narrowly dodged small children wandering in Brownian Motion paths. At last I reached Gate 135, featuring a Flight departing for... San Juan, Puerto Rico. I looked at my ticket. 7:45, San Diego, Gate C135. I ran up to the attendant at the gate. This time I did ignore the line. At this point I was both excited and out of breath. I said something to the effect of:

"I'mterriblysorryforcuttinginlinebutI'msupposed *HEAVE!* tobeonaflighttosandiegoandit'ssupposedtoleavefromherebutit'snothereand *HEAVE!* diditalreadyleaveandPLEASEHELPME!"

"Calm down, there's no rush. Let me check for you."

I noted on the screen that it was now 7:45. I considered telling her that I begged to differ on the question of whether there was a rush or not, but decided against it.

"Your gate has been changed. You're flying out of Gate C90"


"Calm down! There's no hurry! It's at the end of the right-most spoke. But don't worry, your flight's been delayed. It doesn't leave until 7:55."

"Thank you!" I shouted as I began jogging back the way I'd come.

"There's plenty of time! Don't run!"

I arrived just as the last passengers were boarding. I got at the end of the line and heaved a sign of relief. My nerves were still tightly balled. Just ahead of me a woman was boarding the plane with her young daughter. She was saying to her, in a grating Minnewegian accent, "Are you exciiiiiiiteeeeed? We're gonna get on the plaaaaaaaaane! It's gonna be fuuuuuuuunnnnn!"

I very nearly shouted to her, "If you don't stop talking RIGHT NOW I will PUNCH you in the FUCKING FACE!" I decided, though, that getting thrown off the flight for threatening another passenger would probably not be a wise course of action.

I found my seat and sat down. The woman next to me was rather chagrined that I had chosen to show up at the last minute, depriving her of the opportunity to stretch out into my seat. I didn't care. I sat back and waited for take-off.

It was a long wait. I have mentioned Newark Liberty's hub-and-spokes design. Gate C90 is at the end of the right-most spoke, on the inside. Apparently another plane, as it was taxiing out of the interstice between the rightmost and middle spoke, broke its landing gear. It was stuck on the tarmac, preventing any entrance or exit for planes in that area.

Once the flight was in the air the trip was largely uneventful. I had the opportunity to watch Pirates of the Caribbean 2 (Mini-review: Not as good as I had been led to believe it would be, though I'm willing to allow that the roar of the engines made me miss some of the dialogue, and that, having not seen the first film, I was perhaps not as familiar with the characters and situations as I ought to have been to fully appreciate it) and to re-watch The Devil Wears Prada (Mini-review: This film starts out very promisingly, with a montage of shots of attractive young women donning fashionable underpants. It begins to lose its way, however, as it stops showing underpants and becomes over-concerned with the occupants of said underpants. Once dialogue entered the film it became a lost cause. The screenwriter should have known his limits, or perhaps the limits of the source material, and stuck to underpants.) Miraculously, I stayed awake the entire time.

Fortunately, the trip to the airport was pretty much the lowpoint of the break. At this point, I have flown out of Neward twice and twice have been put in fear for my life because of the journey. I submit to you that this is strong circumstantial evidence that Newark Liberty Airport is not to be trusted, and that people should avoid travelling to it whenever possible.



When our car pulled up to the curb at the airport yesterday evening I was excited to see the curbside bag check. I had already checked in on-line and would have felt silly standing in line again, so this would be a perfect way to quickly check my luggage and be on my way. As I prepared to get in line my dad advised me to tip the baggage handler. After some discussion we decided that $3 was the perfect amount to tip him.

We were apparently wrong, because both of my bags got lost in transit. At this stage the airline doesn't really know where they are, but they hope to get some idea within the next 24 hours.

Wide Load

My class schedule for this semester is not exactly falling into place right now. As it stands now, thanks to Columbia's baffling course registration system, I am registered for 7 credits (12-15 is the required range) and sitting on 14 wait lists. This is after the initial computerized registration process. I can't actually add or drop classes, nor is there any waitlist movement, until the first day of class. This, I submit to you, is dumb.

I'm currently enrolled in Federal Income Taxation, which meats from 11:15-12:20 on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. I'm also taking Financial Statement Analysis, which meets Mondays from 2:10 until 5:50. And I'm high on the waitlist for Criminal Adjudication, which I should be able to get into, and which meets Mondays from 6 PM to 9 PM. So I'm in or will be in 10 hours of class per week, of which 7 occur on Monday. Interestingly, one of the seminars I'm waitlisted for meets for 2 hours Tuesday mornings; if I wind up taking that and Criminal Adjudication, I'll meet the 12 credit minimum (okay because of the 15 credits I took last Fall) and I'll have 7 hours of class on Monday, 3 hours on Tuesday, 1 hour on Wednesday, 1 on Thursday, and nothing on Friday. I'm not sure what to think about that, other than that it generates a rather pleasing curve when graphed.



For years a peculiar line of dialogue has periodically invaded my brain. It's infuriating because it seems very familiar, but I can't recall where I've heard it. The line goes something like this:

"I've seen the future, and you're not in it!"

I would imagine the context is something like a goofy science fiction movie, probably involving time travel, and that the quote is uttered at some climactic confrontation. But I can't figure out where exactly it's from. Google has been no help; the exact phrase comes up blank, and a standard search gets a lot of hits but nothing I'm looking for. Is this line familiar to anyone else? Is it possible I made it up myself years ago on one of my flights of fancy and have since mis-remembered it as coming from a movie?

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