Archive for December, 2007

The Thinker

Review: The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Viewers at The Internet Movie Database have voted (as of today) the movie The Shawshank Redemption (1994) as their second favorite, coming in right after The Godfather. Viewers gave it a rating of 9.1 out of 10 stars with over 297,000 votes cast. My sister also gave the movie a top rating of five Netflix stars so I also Netflixed it and watched it over my languid holiday recess.

While I am not sure I would put the movie in my all time top ten films, it is a great film. It is curious though that it did not make a bigger splash at the box office. Perhaps the competition overwhelmed it. It was nominated for seven academy awards, including Best Picture. However, it was beaten by two other worthy cinematic juggernauts that year, principally Forrest Gump, but also Pulp Fiction. So the movie ended up with many nominations but no actual Academy Awards. Moreover, its box office take was mediocre. It was also saddled with a title that was uninspiring and a bleak story that takes place almost entirely within a prison.

Hollywood’s judgments though do not always reflect history’s judgments. Gone with the Wind won Best Picture in 1940. While lavish, its acting left much to be desired. Mention movies of 1939 and only one is indelibly imprinted on our brain: The Wizard of Oz. At the 1986 Academy Awards, The Color Purple was obviously the people’s choice, but Robert Redford’s Out of Africa won instead. Who today remembers Out of Africa? If you have seen The Color Purple, however, you cannot possibly forget it. In 1995, Hollywood can be forgiven for voting the irresistible Forrest Gump over The Shawshank Redemption. Yet among IMDB viewers, Forrest Gump pulls a relatively anemic 8.4 out of 10 stars.

As you can infer from its title, The Shawshank Redemption is a movie about redemption. Mainly it is about the ability of a human being to keep hope alive where hope should be impossible. An incredibly youthful looking Tim Robbins plays Andy Dufresne, who was wrongly convicted for murdering his cheating wife and her lover. Andy is sentenced to two life sentences to be carried out at the depressing Shawshank Prison in Maine. The movie covers a span of about twenty years, beginning with Andy’s imprisonment in the late 1940s. Apparently, prison life back then was at least as wretched as it is today, with periodic gang rapes generally overlooked by the warden and its guards, who were also inclined toward needless brutality. It is a world entirely removed from Andy’s experience as a banker. Moreover, he is a mental giant among a prison full of pygmies. With no possibility of parole and seemingly no possibility of escape, it is hard to imagine how anyone would escape utter despair. Shawshank Prison is an incredibly bleak and hellish place that seems to have been around in perpetuity.

Andy happens to be assigned to a cell next to “Red” Redding, a long time convict played by Morgan Freeman. Red excels at facilitating the smuggling of items from outside the prison. Red, a convicted murderer himself, seems to have softened from more than two decades in prison. He finds himself unexpectedly liking Andy. Most baffling of all to Red is Andy’s dogged sense of hope where no hope exists. In time, Andy will manufacture his own sense of hope. He assumes the role of prison librarian. By sending weekly letters to the legislature, he eventually gets an allocation of new books for the prison library. When his talent for bookkeeping is discovered, he starts helping the guards do their taxes. He eventually comes to the attention of Warden Norton, chillingly played by Bob Gunton. He also tutors convicts, allowing many to earn their GEDs. Still, there is no possibility of parole for Andy, so his actions, though they keep his mind engaged, cannot earn him release.

Shawshank Prison is depicted as a place where time stands still. Decades pass in a sense of utter hopelessness and helplessness. Yet still, Andy hangs on to an unreasonable hope that he will not always be a prisoner. Instead, he becomes increasingly a victim of his own success. He is caught up in the financial schemes of Warden Norton, who uses prisoners to do public works projects for rates that underbid the salaried competition. Since Andy knows too much, it becomes important to make sure that he stays incommunicado with the rest of the world. Yet throughout his long imprisonment, Andy maintains his innocence.

I will let you discover how Andy manages to redeem himself by renting the movie. I can say that The Shawshank Redemption is my favorite kind of movie: relentlessly character driven and embraced by a powerful human story that speaks for itself. It needs no fancy special effects to make it appear better than it is. Both Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman give remarkable and memorable performances. Nonetheless, the prison is full of character actors so flawlessly rendered that the story feels entirely authentic. The movie is based on a novella by Stephen King and is directed by Frank Darabont. Darabont also directed The Green Mile (1999) starring Tom Hanks, which like The Shawshank Redemption was also nominated for Best Picture. (It lost to American Beauty.)

The depicted prison violence is quite graphic, so the movie deserved its R rating. Still, this genre has been plumbed periodically before, from movies like The Great Escape to Papillion. Neither of these movies though is quite as good or as moving as The Shawshank Redemption. Providing you can stomach the violence as compensation for a terrific story and a satisfying ending, you will find the movie memorable. I can think of movies I have seen that I thought were even better (Children of Men comes to mind), but few movies achieve this lofty level. Being a picky rater, very few movies that I rate merit a 3.5 or above. The Shawshank Redemption has earned my 3.5 rating.

I did find a few inconsistencies. If you have seen the movie, keep reading. If you have not, read no further as it contains spoilers.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
The Thinker

Wrong Target

Somehow, I could sense that Benazir Bhutto would not survive the year. Maybe subconsciously she had a death wish. Martyrs often live larger in death than they did in life. On October 18th, when the exiled former Pakistani Prime Minister triumphantly returned to Pakistan after years of exile, 145 of her supporters died from targeted suicide attacks during her welcome home rally. Yet she was not deterred and either fearlessly or recklessly continued campaigning to win power again. Today we learn of her assassination, which quickly escalated into yet another mass murder triggered by a fanatical suicide bomber probably linked to al Qaeda. At least twenty others were killed in today’s attack.

From our distant perspective ten thousand miles away, her assassination is more sad evidence that Pakistan and Afghanistan, not Iraq, should have been our real front in the war on terrorism. Sadly, it has all the right ingredients to be its front line. It is a sometimes democratic nation still without firm roots in democracy. It has known as much totalitarianism as democracy. It is a country that now has to grapple with whether it will be secular or theocratic. The Pakistani military rarely fights outside its borders. Instead, it spends much of its time unsuccessfully containing an emerging a civil war.

Unlike either Iraq or Iran, Pakistan has nukes. Their nuclear weapons are outside of our ability to control them. Should Islamic extremists gain control of Pakistan, they could be leveraged against us. To preclude that possibility, we may end up having to support its many totalitarian regimes. Democracy is a nice idea, but keeping nuclear arms from being used against us requires sane people in command. Dictators believe foremost in clinging to power, so they are unlikely to do anything too rash. This was why I was not surprised that we found no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq after we invaded.

Its old news, but we took our eye off the real target. Instead, President Bush squandered the last five years chasing an illusionary Axis of Evil. By invading Iraq, he unbottled its repressed sectarian forces and put our troops in the crossfire. Troops that might have gone into Afghanistan where our real enemies lied went instead into Iraq to try to contain a bloody sectarian civil war. Meanwhile, since we elected to distract ourselves, al Qaeda’s leadership moved into the relative safety of lawless northwestern Pakistan. The area may be lawless, but Pakistan still considers it part of its territory, so it prohibited us from actually sending in our forces to engage al Qaeda there. There is irony that our greatest enemy found relative sanctuary and new strength from our erstwhile ally. That new strength was on display yesterday with Bhutto’s assassination.

According to the latest National Intelligence Estimate, Iran ended its nuclear weapons program in 2003. Despite having access to this intelligence, our administration chose instead to rattle sabers with Iran and thus inflame our diplomatic row with its leaders. Fortunately, with the release of this NIE we can at least rule out a preemptive war with Iran. You would think Bush and Cheney might have learned something from the Iraq debacle, but apparently not.

The irony is that if we really want to solve the war on terrorism, we need Iran’s assistance. It appears that it is reducing the number of arms smuggled into Iraq. Iran also helped us early in the war by lending its support to forces that undermined the Taliban. Iran is overwhelming Shi’ite. Al Qaeda is a force of Sunni extremism. Iran may be a quasi-democratic theocracy, but the last thing its rulers want is to be surrounded by states associated with al Qaeda. That was in part why they were providing arms to Shi’ite militiamen in Iraq; they saw it in their own self-interest.

Iraq may appear to be our quagmire, but it is unlikely that our national security would be undermined if we left. The people who live there might have to fight a protracted civil war, but they consider our presence counterproductive. Surveys of Iraqis consistently show they want us out.

It is hard to see though what we can now do in Pakistan to defeat Islamic extremism. A few surgical strikes against the leaders of al Qaeda might be effective but it might also inflame anti-American passions and thus prove counterproductive. Following the Vietnam model and placing hundreds of thousands of our troops there will not solve our problem either for the same reason the British lost the Revolutionary War: there is too much terrain to occupy. It is ruinously expensive to occupy any territory indefinitely, as we are finding out in Iraq. Just as Vietnam endured a civil war, so Pakistan is grappling with what looks like its own internal war. Foremost, we would like to ensure that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons never get into the wrong hands. However, it is unlikely that the Pakistani government will trust them to our safekeeping.

Thanks to Bush Administration bungling, our short-term options are now bleak. We may have to support Musharraf even though he is likely to continue to give democracy the short shrift. We would do so on the assumption that a dictatorship is preferable to wholesale anarchy. We can also keep pushing for democracy but it is tacitly understood that we will only be cheering for it from the sidelines and will not do anything meaningful to allow it to flourish. As we have learned in Iraq and Palestine, we have to be careful what we wish for. A democratic government in Pakistan may not be aligned with our national interests. However, it is likely that an enduring democratic government in Pakistan would promote long-term peace in the region.

As I have mentioned in other entries this war on terror cannot not won on the battlefield. It is a generational war that fades into gradual irrelevance by uplifting lives. The real causes of Islamic terrorism are not religious, but are a result of the persistent and pervasive feelings of hopelessness and the miserable living conditions within much of the Islamic world. To some extent, these conditions are fed by not embracing Western capitalistic values. (Note that few people in prosperous Qatar want to see the regime replaced.) Until governments there change to embrace the needs of the people, radical clerics will find they have a ready audience.

The United States must look long term. It is in our interest to quietly facilitate and fund as much humanitarian aid for the disenfranchised as possible in the Islamic world. This does not mean giving billions to Halliburton, but it does mean working discreetly with non-governmental organizations in the region and funding organizations like the Red Crescent to ensure they have the capital to change conditions on the ground. We also need to make our foreign aid conditional on meeting benchmarks for improving the living standards of people in a country. This conflict is about how Islam will fit into the 21st century. Right now, we are being used as proxies to inflame the conflict. We must change the dynamic and Pakistan is likely its front.

 
The Thinker

Have yourself a Bob Rivers Christmas

Let’s face it. For most of us, Christ was taken out of Christmas a long time ago. This includes even many devoted Christians. It is only when watching A Charlie Brown Christmas that most of us give any thought at all to the true meaning of Christmas. Across the globe the Christmas contagion is spreading. This includes many non-Christian countries where Christmas has nothing to do with Jesus. Instead, Christmas is personified by the harmless and benevolent presence of Santa Claus, in all his myriad cultural manifestations. In Tokyo or Beijing, you would have to look hard for a Christian church but Santas, Christmas trees and rampant holiday shopping abounds. Rather than celebrating Jesus’ birth, today Christmas is tangentially about a generic feeling of spreading good cheer. Mostly it is about buying and getting stuff. The world would sink into a depression were there were no Christmas economy.

Like most of you, I saw unwelcome signs of Christmas way back in September, when an aisle stocked with popular Christmas toys and artificial Christmas trees first appeared in our local BJs. Most retailers will refrain from playing Christmas music until Black Friday, but many are sneaking in Christmas songs starting in early November. It is obvious to me that capitalism is our state religion and mammon is our state god. The devout among us may hustle to church once a week or more, but given our super-sized houses and the SUVs lined up in our driveways, is there really any doubt about where are real values lie? Give all your possession to the poor and follow Jesus? That stuff is so dated. Today it is laughable and suitable only for Salvation Army volunteers and cloistered monks and nuns.

Given the hollowness that seems to be at the root of our modern Christmas, it is no wonder so many people like my wife would be happy to skip Christmas altogether. Yet like all of us, each year she is caught in its vortex. Denial does not work for long and only adds to the pain. This year she also threw a vertebra. She is still popping the pain pills and running to chiropractors. This meant that I have carried an extra amount of the Christmas madness this year. Increasingly I, like her, ask myself why I am doing this.

I am doing it in part because we always do it, and my neighbors do it, everyone except the Jews and the Muslims seem to do it (and many of the Jews do it just for the fun or to blend in) and because it is expected. In addition, there is this tradition in our house called The Christmas Dinner. My relatives from the immediate area descend on our house. There they revel in our Christmas tree, eat our highly caloric and fattening food and after a few hours shuffle back to their houses and their clean kitchens. Meanwhile, my feeling of good cheer is manifest in my dishpan hands.

Aside from writing checks to charities, which I do routinely near the end of the year, I did accomplish one small little act in spirit of a Dickensian Christmas. A couple weeks back I read how neighborhood food banks were running dry. People were going hungry at a time when food banks are normally overrun with food. The likely culprit is the higher cost of food, fed by our ravenous desire for energy. Instead of filling USDA warehouses, much of our grain crop is instead going into producing ethanol and bio-diesel fuels. I took the news article as my belated personal call to action. I went to the BJs and loaded the back of my car with nearly $200 in food. Only, I could find no place to readily donate the food. I did not particularly want to drive into Washington DC to donate it. I ended up waiting a few days and donating it to Reston Interfaith. The news reports were sadly accurate. I was hoping that more like me would feel called to buy food for the poor. Yet I arrived to find that their pantry nearly bare. My donations went right into food baskets for the hungry.

So what is Christmas really about these days? We need to face the truth. Christmas has become a reason to buy stuff for people we know, much of which they neither particularly need nor want. This giving is often done at the expense of the poor who need things like food to avoid hunger or money to live in some place bigger than a cardboard box. Perhaps due to this incongruity, as my daughter and I assembled our Christmas tree this year, instead of putting Bing Crosby on the stereo system, we put on Bob Rivers‘ CD of Chipmunks Roasting on an Open Fire instead.

Bob Rivers is a radio personality on KZOK in Seattle, Washington. This present, thoughtfully given to us some years back by my irreverent and atheist brother Tom, is the perfect rejoinder to our overly commercialized Christmas season. It is actually one of a number of Bob Rivers’ irreverent Christmas CDs. You can order these CDs from his web site. Finally, you can laugh along to new lyrics to those Christmas carols so burned into your brain you wish you could purge them but cannot.

Given the recently released Chipmunks movie, Chipmunks Roasting on an Open Fire is especially relevant this year. I do not know about you, but I hate those damned animated chipmunks. I hated them even when I was a small child. They were even more annoying than that prancing and singing purple dinosaur I had to endure when my daughter was growing up and whose name I loathe to repeat. Few images conjure up more delight in me than having those three chipmunks dripping in barbeque sauce over a hot hibachi. Yet, as delightful as this song is, the most apropos for the season was actually Christmas Money (sung to the tune of Money, That’s What I Want), which hilariously summarizes the mindless greed of the holidays. On the Bob Rivers’ web site, you can listen to samples from this CD.

Chipmunks Roasting on an Open Fire is bawdy, hilarious, irreverent and helps put our whole strange modern manifestation of Christmas season into its proper place. Bob Rivers must have good connections in the Seattle area because he gets some amazing imitators for famous singers. For example, he highlights a singer who imitates Karen Carpenter so well that it is as if she is still alive. Other songs ring surprisingly true. Homeless for the Holidays, for example, captures quite well the true feelings many of us have toward the homeless, given how we tend to ignore them except for during the holiday season. Decorations, sung to a Beach Boys’ Good Vibrations song, parodies our excessiveness with Christmas lights. Pokemon (sung to the tune of Tidings of Comfort and Joy) hilariously makes fun at the craziness of getting your kid that impossible to find toy for Christmas.

Every song is hilarious. Of course, you cannot get these songs for free, at least not legally. However, if you shell out $13.98 on Bob River’s web site you can get it as well as purchase many of his other likely hilarious musical parodies.

It is wrong to be evil during the Christmas season, but in my mind, it is okay to be a bit naughty. Next year, let loose the phoniness and sanctimoniousness of the season. Fill yourself with irreverent holiday mirth instead by listening to Chipmunks Roasting on an Open Fire.

 
The Thinker

Confessions of a CPU and memory hog

I have heard of diners who eat so much at all-you-can-eat restaurants that the management throws them out. All you can eat apparently means as much as the restaurant thinks you should eat. Eat too much and they are losing money. Therefore, certain patrons find their butts unexpectedly on the cement sidewalk in front of the restaurant.

While I have never been thrown out of a restaurant for consuming too much at the buffet bar, I have been driving my web host a bit batty lately. This is because my blog is getting more popular. I have noticed unexpected downtimes. In particular, my MySQL database (which drives all the content you see here) has been churning through CPU cycles on the server, even though my tables are not huge and my content is well optimized. At least that is what my web host is claiming. They sent me this ominous email a week or so back:

Recently your account potomactavern.org has been causing high load on the server. This is a serious problem as it degrades server performance for all of our clients who share and are hosted on the same server. High loads contribute to problems such as delayed e-mail and slow site loading times; you may have periodically experienced some of these issues.

This blog is hosted under my potomactavern.org web space. Anyhow, I was pointed to this web page that told me how to go on a resource diet. So I have been using its guidance and have been playing with Apache web server and MySQL database server settings trying to minimize usage. Yet, this seemed to cause more downtime. Reducing the number of processes that MySQL can use, for example, makes response time slower. It also seemed to cause MySQL to crash, which generated more support tickets.

Nonetheless, I thought I had taken appropriate actions. I even emailed the person who sent me the warning, asking him if what I had done was okay. I never heard from him so I assumed my usage was now acceptable. Over the course of several days, I noticed that the number of hits I was taking was declining precipitously. Instead of 500 page views a day, I was getting 150. Lately, it has been more like 100.

When this happened a year ago, it was because Google had found too many broken links, so it dropped me from its search index. This time though when I went into my Google Adsense account to see what was up, it reported a HTTP 403 error. This means that my server was refusing to serve any content to Google. This seemed very odd, so I filed a support ticket. They told me to fix my robots.txt file. This file tells search engines what they may access on the site. Only I did not have a robots.txt file for this blog. So what was going on?

More emails later, I learned that since this blog exists in a directory under my potomactavern.org domain, any rules affecting the potomactavern.org domain would affect it too. Moreover, under the potomactavern.org domain there was an .htaccess file. This is a hidden file used by the Apache web server to say who is authorized to access the site. The file contained a statement that told Google (and only Google) to go away. This was confirmed by looking at my SiteMeter referrals log. I still saw referrals from Google, but they were rare. I do not know who added this statement to the file, but I have no memory of adding it. I quickly removed the command and Google reported it could read my blog again. However, it will likely be some time before it fully indexes this blog again. In addition, there is no way to know whether the site will get as much traffic as it has gotten recently.

So apparently, I have sinned, but it was a sin of omission. If this was their way to limit my CPU usage, then I wish they had the courtesy to tell me.

I have learned there are some drawbacks to becoming more popular. I am learning a little lesson in the realities of web hosting that most people do not know. The amount of bandwidth and disk space you are given is merely marketing. In most cases, they mean nothing. In my case, I can store up to 2.5 gigabytes of data on the server. In addition, every month I can use a half a terabyte of bandwidth. Even with the extra traffic, it is a rare month that I use 5% of my bandwidth. So apparently, what really matters to a web host is how much CPU and memory on the server that you are using. If you are using” too much”, you are abusing the server. Note that this web host like most set the criteria for what they consider to be a “reasonable” number of domains that can exist on one server. The exact criteria though tend to be obfuscated. We can assume though that they want to put a lot of domains on the same server. This way they have to buy and maintain fewer servers. They expect your usage will be minimal. You, of course, are thinking, “Gosh, what a deal! $5.95 a month for hosting and I have terabytes of bandwidth! I better sign up!”

Since I have a virtual private server, I share this server with others but I also control exactly which applications are installed and how they are used. If I want to (and generally I do not) I can tweak settings in MySQL and the Apache web server to give myself more memory and CPU. In my case, I used the default settings. The defaults were apparently set too high for the number of domains actually placed on this server. For this, I pay $16.95 a month. If I want, I can elect to pay about $60 a month to be on one of their servers with no more than twenty domains.

I certainly understand that if I truly am a CPU hog that I should pay for a higher class of service. Still, I am puzzled by how I could be one. 500 browser page views a day, even if you add the usage consumed by search engines and feeds should not cause that much of a performance problem. (I also now cache my blog entries so static content is served unless the last request was more than an hour ago.) While I have a couple other domains other than this blog, they do not get nearly as much traffic. Yes, I know that serving the graphics and such on web pages also consumes CPU and bandwidth. In addition, generating content from MySQL on the fly uses CPU cycles too. While I do not run a hosting center for a living, I still find it puzzling that my traffic would use that many resources. With microprocessor on the servers capable of hundreds of millions of instructions per second, I should be a blip on their radar. Yet I am not.

Naturally, this problem manifested itself as soon as I sent in my money to renew my web hosting for another year. This means I can cross my fingers, upgrade my service (hoping that I will not meet the murky criteria for being a CPU hog again) or find another host. Regardless, I am unlikely to get my money back. To compensate I will move my forum to my friend Jim Goldbloom’s web space. This way, these issues will not impact the small number of regular users on my forum.

What I find annoying is that web hosts generally provide no clear and up front criteria for what high usage looks like. In my naiveté, I think that CPU and memory usage should be metered. If I am one of twenty hosts on a machine, then logically I should be able to claim 5% of the memory, 5% of the CPU utilization and 5% of the disk space at any one time. Actually, if I am not using the remainder, I am fine with someone else using it, but I sure want my 5% when I need it. It seems reasonable and fair to me. Moreover, I should have a tool that shows me my usage and compares it to the total available and the actual number of other domains the machine is hosting. As best I can tell, there are no such tools and I doubt this is accidental.

Web hosts of course need to make a profit. They do so I suspect in part through obfuscation of these sorts of details. As in the all you can eat buffet, there is only so much CPU available and memory available; they are finite resources. You are entitled to your share of it, but they will not tell you what the share is, only when you have used too much of it. As a result, people like me are left wondering what the heck they are supposed to do. How am I supposed to know if any web host can support my traffic for X dollars per month?

If anyone knows of a web host that guarantees a percentage of the CPU for virtual private server hosting please leave me a comment. Even a chat with a technician at LiquidWeb, which hosts my friend Jim Goldbloom’s web space, got me nowhere. They tell me that information is proprietary.

Meanwhile, I am feeling very paranoid. I am monitoring my resources, checking my web logs and wondering if I am being good or bad, but having no way of knowing. I am also wondering whether my content will denied to Google or other search engines again without my knowledge or consent. Whatever, web hosting strikes me as a lot of smoke and mirrors. Customers deserve clear criteria for acceptable usage.

 
The Thinker

Interview with a cat

Our current cat Arthur is sweet, a bit dumb but quite lovable. He was obviously traumatized at an early age. Brought home from a shelter, even after having been with us more than a year, he remains skittish. If we rise from our chair, he moves immediately toward safety. He would make a good military planner; he always has an exit strategy. I have been working to coax him into be a lap kitty like my late lamented cat Sprite. Perhaps he will chill out in time. I occasionally put him on my lap but he quakes with nervousness. If I scratch him lightly while he is on my lap, he will hang around for a few minutes. Eventually his panic button takes over and he jumps off my lap. Only once has he actually sat on my lap and only very nervously.

My wife knew I missed having a lap kitty since Sprite went to his well-deserved feline reward. Since she has friends into animal rescue, she pitched the idea of another cat to me. I was amenable to the right cat. Through her friends, she learned of Tuxi, a 4-year-old female cat who is very much the lap kitty type. If you have a lap, she will be there. Tuxi is a large cat, with short charcoal black fur and white paws. Her markings make her look like she is wearing a tuxedo. From her modest girth, she obviously eats too much. She apparently spent many of her early years outside. This might explain her attraction to laps: they are warm and frequently the outdoors is cold.

Things looked promising at first. We kept Tuxi confined to the TV room with a litter box, water and plenty of food. We lavished attention on her. Tuxi though quickly wanted out of the room and that was a problem. She whined and complained when we were not there. When finally given the opportunity to get outside the room she bounded around our rooms putting her nose literally into places where they did not belong, like the blinds. She was not intimidated by our nearness or heights.

Arthur watched her curiously and looked desperately like he wanted her to be his friend. However, Tuxi wanted nothing to do with him. She hissed whenever he came near. One evening she mysteriously escaped from her room. She spent the night and the subsequent day under the living room couch howling, often at ear piercing volumes, refusing to go use her litter box or even be moved. From the smell, we knew she had peed on the carpet under the couch. When Arthur plaintively approached she would hiss some more and growl until we could feel tremors in the floorboards. Her yowls reached all corners of the house. She refused to shut up until 4 a.m.

She has scratched me once when I needed to get up. However, when I sit down, she is on my lap in an instant. If I need to get up before she has received her quota of lap time, she can hiss and bite. Her bite though does not leave an impression.

What to do with a desperately affectionate kitty obviously carrying the baggage of a less than stellar kittenhood? It is hard to say no, but she is just not working out. Her loud yowls are even louder than our former cat Squeaky’s. Yet I realize Tuxi is just being herself. She is a product of her environment. She would work out right in the right home, just not here.

Maybe we need to leave well enough alone. Arthur may not be much of a lap kitty and he often seems bored, since he does not quite understand the concept of play. Nevertheless, he is generally quiet, friendly and predictable. The most evil thing he has done was pee in our vents after we first got him. That cost several hundred dollars in duct cleaning, which we needed to do anyhow. Since then he has been amazingly sweet and innocent. He may never get over his skittishness but that is okay. Our bonding time will be on the bed when I am under the covers. There he languidly stretches out on his back and allows me to scratch his tummy. He purrs obscenely as I (generally unsuccessfully) read a book.

I hope Tuxi finds a home worthy of her. It will need to be a place where she is the only cat. She will want access to the great outdoors. She will want plentiful access to laps. She will need a home where her loud yowls will go unnoticed. I think she will find such a place in time. It breaks my heart that our home is not the place.

If you can offer her such a place, never abuse a cat and live in Northern Virginia, send me some email. (Please put Occam’s Razor in the subject line to bypass my spam filter.) She may still be up for adoption. She has had all her shots, is neutered and has tested negative for feline leukemia. She is a delight to have on your lap. In the right home, she would be a terrific cat.

 
The Thinker

Reveling in the Winter Solstice

Somehow, I managed to live in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area for 29 years without learning of The Washington Revels. The Washington Revels is one of nine similar revels organizations across the United States. In some ways, these organizations resemble Renaissance Festivals. Both do their part to reunite us with our past. They help us reconnect with an increasingly distant time when we lived in smaller communities and felt deeply connected to the earth and each other through myth, ceremony, song and dance.

The Washington Revels main events are an annual series of holiday shows staged at Lisner Auditorium in Washington D.C. Each show is different from the previous year’s show but they all have a common theme: celebrating the holiday season and the solstice the way distant generations of ours celebrated it. Each show strives to be not so much theater as an embracing communal experience. The audience is not entirely a passive. You may find yourself dancing in the aisles with the group.

This year’s show was oriented around Elizabethan England. It was staged to take place in the town of Norwich. The town is a destination for Will Kemp, one of William Shakespeare’s comedic actors who as a stunt over nine days danced from London to Norwich. To celebrate his success, Queen Elizabeth deigns to pay the village a special visit. This show was loosely organized into two acts but was rife with song (over fifty were squeezed in) and dance. Each song and dance is authentic, and most are authentic to the Elizabethan period.

The town of Norwich was depicted as a very busy but very musical place where every townie is something of a character. The stage of Lisner Auditorium was literally overflowing with cast, some of whom were perched on the steps leading up to the stage. It is doubtful that there was a paid actor in the whole troupe. While the dancing of the children sometimes left a bit to be desired (they are children after all), all were overflowing with holiday merriment and utter sincerity. Even Scrooge would have had a hard time leaving a Washington Revel performance without a skip to his step.

The show at times felt inspired by Norman Rockwell. There were a few understated saucy musical numbers, but overall wholesomeness, good cheer and mild buffoonery were the order of the day. This is the way it must be. Revels organizations do not exist to entertain so much as they exist to wake us out of our cynical 21st century slumber. If you have a teenager whose idea of fun is playing Nintendo games, you need to haul them to a performance. Given the chance, our common humanity can be much more engaging and delightful than electronic games. Attending a Revels performance is a bit like those clapping and singing games you enjoyed with your elementary school classmates. If you remember the elemental fun you felt back then, you should feel the same way by the end of a Revels show.

In this show, as in all the Revels shows, audience participation is par for the course. Expect to sing along in a few traditional holiday carols. If you feel so moved dance in the aisles when the show moves off the stage. Also, expect to be entertained, delighted and charmed. Few such amateur groups come so close to having their performances feel so professional. The Revels may be working solely for good cheer, but their hearts and minds are fully engaged in spreading merriment. You should feel the contagion.

I imagine that Renaissance England was not quite the merry place depicted here. For one thing, they had the Spanish Armada to worry about. Of course, this solstice celebration is idealized. Likely life in Elizabethan England was a lot less fun: dirtier, smellier, harsher, sicker and bawdier. Perhaps they made up for their chancier lives with more careless revelry and festive celebrations tied along seasonal events.

I am grateful to the Revels for pulling me out of my own holiday stupor. Before the program, I was making lists in my head of Christmas presents I needed to buy. By the end of the show, I felt a little like Charlie Brown discovering the true meaning of Christmas. I knew all along what the seasons was supposed to be. Thanks to the Revels, I felt it this year. So if you do not feel any holiday spirit this year, or even if you do, reserve your tickets now for one of next year’s performances. The Washington Revels are the perfect antidote to the bizarre Madison Avenue concoction we now call the Holiday Season. I just wish I had had a cup of eggnog to lift at the end of the show.

 
The Thinker

Review: The Golden Compass

Betting that our love for science fiction and fantasy movies is not yet satiated, Hollywood has been digging deeper into its pockets to purchase related film rights. Gone are movies on the A list like The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and the Harry Potter series. While fans of The Golden Compass and the two other books that make up the His Dark Materials trilogy written by Philip Pullman would probably protest that these books should be on the A list too, clearly they are not, as evidenced by their weaker book sales.

Nonetheless, these books have a substantial following, particularly among thoughtful adolescents. Perhaps in part because reaching this target market is crucial to Hollywood’s balance sheets, New Line Cinema took on controversy by sponsoring the production of the first book in the series, The Golden Compass. Making this movie is somewhat risky because its author is an atheist and freethinker. His unorthodox ideas are unlikely to play well in Peoria. Such adult content might be appropriate if the target audience were not impressionable adolescents. Consequently, to market the movie it became important to tone down this aspect of the book so it would give Christians minimal offense.

I have not read the book so I only know through press reports that the movie was toned down for mass consumption. I have heard that Pullman’s atheism leeches more distinctly into the later books. In the movie of The Golden Compass, this tension is framed more as one between a perceived benevolent world government called The Magisterium (which apparently is actually a church in the book) and various resistant but persecuted groups consisting of clans, gyptians, witches and armored polar bears.

Any scholar of Roman Catholicism though will not be fooled. In Latin, magisterium refers the teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church. Consequently, I am left to infer that Pullman was alluding to the Roman Catholic Church as it might be in the 21st century had the Protestant Reformation never occurred. In The Golden Compass, the Magisterium seems rather benign and secular but its goal is to remove all doubt and thus keep its leaders in control of the world. Where is this world? Why it is right here, sort of. It is our world in an alternate universe where things have played out a bit differently. In this reality, many people have pets that talk and who, in fact, are living embodiments of conjoined spirits. They are way cooler than Harry Potter’s pet owl Hedwig.

Lyra Belacqua (Dakota Blue Richards) is a spunky girl who has the unfortunate predisposition to orient by her own internal compass. She lives under custodial care at Oxford University, one of the few places on this alternate Earth where some measure of freethinking is still permitted. Not all is well with the children of this world. The rebellious kind mysteriously disappear, taken by Gobblers, who send them to what appears to be a benign reeducation camp above the Arctic Circle. Like in the movie Logan’s Run, once you reach a certain level of enlightenment you are never seen again. In fact, you are murdered by the state.

Also above the Arctic Circle is a mysterious entity called dust, which, it is rumored, provides a portal into other alternate universes. The existence of dust is a closely guarded secret about which Lyra happens to learn. Lyra also inherits a mysterious one of its kind golden compass, which has the unusual property of letting her discern the truth. It is not a good thing to learn about dust because the Gobblers are likely to come after you. One does not expect a Gobbler to appear in the shapely form of Nichole Kidman, who plays Marisa Colter, a member of the Magisterium who comes to visit Oxford. There she quickly takes Lyra under her wing and promises to show her the mysterious Arctic. Thus begins Lyra’s perilous adventure. Fortunately for freethinkers everywhere, Lyra is a unusually spunky and perceptive girl who also has unknown friends who help set her free from Miss Colter’s clutches. With their help, Lyra embarks on her quest to rescue children taken by the Gobblers from their desolate Arctic prison. She will need considerable help for this uphill task, including an armored bear named Iorek voiced by Sir Ian McKellan.

The movie is well realized and reasonably engaging. Its computer-generated imagery is so seamless it is now impossible to distinguish between animated polar bears and the real thing. There is none of the jerkiness in Iorek that we saw in Gollum in the Lord of the Rings movies. One of the prime criteria for directing movies these days must be the ability to meld live action and CGI. Director Chris Weitz manages to pull it off very well.

Is the movie satisfying? While satisfaction is likely in the eye of the beholder, those who have read the book (such as my wife and daughter) will likely rank the movie as more satisfying than those like me coming at the movie cold. While generally well acted and directed this was one movie that could have been twenty minutes longer than its running length. I needed a bit more time to time to feel vested in this alternate universe. Instead, we quickly move from plot point to plot point with no chance to catch our breaths. At times, the director seems overly anxious to show us the next coolly rendered bit of CGI. Instead, with so much eye candy and plot it becomes hard to absorb both at the same time.

The film is preachy in a secular sort of way. By the end of the movie, it is abundantly clear that this movie is really about authority vs. the right of unfettered thought and that authority is really bad and freethinking is really good. Lyra may be a spunky young girl but she has a missionary zeal to spread the gospel of freethinking. Sensing that there are other parallel universes out there ruled by other evil Magisteriums, she makes it her crusade to use dust to liberate human thought across the universe. Well, it’s nice to set big goals. If this movie is financially successful enough, we will find out in the next two movies whether she succeeds.

If your are simply wondering whether the movie is worth your time and money the answer is probably yes, unless you are one of these types so wrapped up in your own faith that any allusion to free thought is offensive. It is a well-done movie, but unless the follow on movies are much better, you will not be elevating it to the same level as Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.

I rate The Golden Compass 3.1 on my 4.0 scale.

 
The Thinker

The Blog Turns Six

It was exactly five years ago today, on December 13, 2002 that I penned this short blog post. Thus began my blogging adventure. Back then, I had little idea why I wanted to blog or where Occam’s Razor would go. In fact, I had no idea whether I would even keep the blog. I did know that my friend Lisa already had her blog. She seemed to be having fun with it and it looked like the cool new thing to do. In addition, since I work in the IT field, it seemed like a good way to understand and emerging technology. Therefore, rather haltingly at first, I began scribing my little posts and wondered if I would be both its writer and its sole reader.

It took a few months for the blog to get its moorings. Eventually I discovered that in many ways my blog would be the anti-blog. Those few blogs that existed in 2002 tended to consist of short posts. They contained frequent misspellings and were often rife with grammatical mistakes. Moreover, blog posts were more likely typed streams of consciousness optimized for the web than examples of structured thought. I could see their usefulness in allowing the common person to share his thoughts with those outside of his regular communities. I could also see their advantage as a way to promote the timely sharing of new information. Even then, I was not sure, given that blogs were likely to expand exponentially whether my little blog would garner any attention at all. I was just one tree in a very big forest. Fortunately, I was one of the first planted trees. I hoped that in time it might make a difference.

I got the writing bug in my youth. I let my interest lapse due to the painful necessity of being both a parent and breadwinner. Blogging allowed me to reengage my inner writer. Yet I found it hard to write blog posts that were mere streams of consciousness. Soon, I found myself editing my posts. Eventually one edit would not suffice. I wanted them polished. Soon I had discovered a pattern that worked for me. Each post would be an essay on a particular topic. I would take the time to write something thoughtful and well crafted. Moreover, I would endeavor to offer perspectives or insights that I felt was largely lacking in other blogs.

Once I finally got around to metering my blog in 2004, I was happy to get thirty page views a day, and giddy when I hit fifty a day. As the years rolled by, I kept raising my expectations. Over time, my blog’s traffic did pick up. By the standards of the more popular blogs, mine was a speck of sand on the beach. Over the years, as more of my content became searchable, my traffic picked up in a generally linear fashion. Fifty page views seemed lame. I wanted a hundred page views. It was not until this October that I caught some lucky breaks. The editor of Washington Monthly noticed my post on their blog and mentioned it on their site. In one day, I had more than one thousand page views. Moreover, for reasons I do not wholly understand, moving my blog out of Movable Type and into WordPress doubled my traffic. A recent posting on YouPorn also has driven a lot of new traffic this way. Lately I have come to expect between 400 and 500 page views per day.

Yet it was just a year ago that my blog was deep in the doldrums after being mysteriously and unceremoniously yanked from Google’s search engine. I had no clear idea who to petition. Eventually though I solved that problem. The following SiteMeter chart gives you some idea of how bad things were. Last December I eked out a mere 1078 page views. Now I can sometimes generate this traffic in two days. Throughout 2007, I saw a steady progression in my traffic. October became something of a turning point. November was a record month with almost 14,000 page views and over 10,000 visits. Any animosity I might have felt toward Google a year ago has vanished. It continues to bring in the majority of my new traffic.

Occam’s Razor SiteMeter Statistics Dec 2006-Nov 2007

So here I am five years and 757 posts later. I have published nearly 850,000 carefully edited words these last five years. How large is that? To use one metric, the English version of Tolstoy’s War and Peace is approximately 560,000 words. I expect by the time this blog reaches its seventh birthday that I will have passed one million words. How many bloggers can truthfully say they have published so much original content? My guess is I am one of a hundred or less.

Whether this blog means anything is hard to say. It obviously means a lot to me, given the amount of time I spend writing and editing posts. I only know when a post was well received when the reader leaves a laudatory comment. While certain posts (principally on topics like pornography) regularly bring in about a quarter of my traffic, the bulk of my readers are reading other posts. Some posts that I am particularly proud of (which can be found in my Best of Occam’s Razor category) may only average one page view a day. Still, multiply that over the life of this blog. I can conclude that many of my best blog posts are read thousands of times. The typical author sells only a few thousand copies of his book. Yet I can get as many readers from a single blog post. At this point, it is likely that some of my blog posts have been read over a hundred thousand times.

When I was young, I aspired to be a published writer. It seemed like it would be much more fun than being a hard hat or an office drone and it appealed to my sense of vanity. I still have that aspiration. Yet in many ways, my blog has validated the concept that an author can be self-published wholly online. Sadly, it does not pay the light bills. Aside from marginal Google Adsense revenue, I get no royalties. Yet at least I have the satisfaction that I am being read. While I am unlikely to ever generate the volume of a highly trafficked blog, by writing quality posts about enduring topics I have found a way to exist below the radar of the popular blogs yet feel like the blog is succeeding in its mission.

With the blog at age six, it is harder to find novel topics. However, I still take considerable satisfaction from blogging. I will endeavor to maintain my standards and your interests in the years ahead. Happy reading!

 
The Thinker

Google hits another home run with Google Analytics

At least a few of the best things in life are actually free. For web site owners like me who want useful statistics on our visitors but do not want to pay for it (in either money, time or advertising) there is a slick solution: Google Analytics.

Until Google Analytics, I had mediocre statistical solutions. I monitor my site with the free versions of SiteMeter and StatCounter. However, both services offer only limited free features. Both allow you to see detailed information on your last hundred page views only. If you want more information, you need to take out your charge card.

On the too much information side, my web server of course logs every hit for all of my sites. My web host like most provides access to free Awstats reports. It does a nice job of summarizing the data in my web logs. However, the information tends to be about a day old. Moreover, since it logs everything it provides statistics that, while valid, are not always terribly meaningful. For example, I get many hits on my RSS and Atom feed links. Most of these are just machines polling my server at periodic intervals. It does not necessarily mean that someone is actually reading my content. In addition, I am too lazy to try to figure out how to tune my Apache web server and Awstats configuration files to split my three domains into separate reports. However, the price of Awstats cannot be beat, and it does give me a picture of the total volume of traffic my site is getting.

What I really care about are those who are actively reading content. SiteMeter provided a close approximation. I could look at its statistics, add in a weighting factor for my newsfeed hits and get an overall picture. Still, without paying for it I had no way to ask questions such as, “Which entry was most popular last month?” and “What search words bring the most people to my site?”

Enter Google Analytics, Google’s free web site statistics package. Finally, I have a convenient way to dig down and see the relevant information I am looking for without having to pay for it or maintain it. I also have a way to get detailed statistics beyond the last one hundred page views. Google provides it as a free service to all but the largest web sites. It is designed to work with your Google Adwords account. However, you do not need to have a Google Adwords account to use Google Analytics.

While not a perfect package, it is slick. First, its drawbacks. It is not as easy to add the metering code to your web pages as it is with SiteMeter or StatCounter. You will need to dig through your web site’s templates and add the appropriate code in the HTML headers and ask it to validate each site. Second, by default you do not get up to the minute information. Google Analytics defaults to showing you statistics through the previous day. Current information is there but you have to change your date range. Third, it cannot track your non-browser related hits. This is good and bad because much of it you would want to ignore anyhow (search engine robots come to mine). Others, like relevant hits on your newfeeds, would be useful. Fourth, it would be nice if it had an API (application programming interface). I suspect this will come soon. With an API, Sitemeter-like features such as counters that appear on your web pages could be implemented. (Some WordPress plug-in authors have already done some clever things.)

With these downsides though, look at what you get. First, there is no money or advertising. Second, it has a super-slick user interface built on top of Flash technology. It allows easy customization of your Google Analytics reports simply by dragging and dropping widgets. You can customize your dashboard to show your relevant statistics. You can also drill down to get relevant statistics easily, either by clicking on the link or by placing your mouse cursor over the relevant items on the graphics. Mouse-over dialog boxes tell you much relevant information without even needing to click. Move easily from one domain to another by selecting the domain from the selection list. Change the date criteria easily by opening up the date control and highlighting the dates you want.

Google Analytics provides a wealth of analytical information. Some of it, while relevant, can be hard to understand. What is a bounce rate anyhow? Convenient links provide more details. Data is organized into four major areas: visitor information, traffic content, sources and goals. The goals area is most useful if you are using their Google Adwords service. With it, you fine-tune your Google Adwords campaigns to help you bring in more traffic. This is where Google makes its money. If by offering you free analytics it can persuade you to open a Google Adwords account, or use it more frequently or effectively, it is good for their bottom line as well as yours.

I wish Google Analytics had a mode that allowed the public to see my statistics too. If it did, it would more resemble SiteMeter and StatCounter’s features. Perhaps this will come in some future version.

I have a feeling that Google Analytic’s free service is worrying SiteMeter, StatCounter and similar services. I got a recent notice from SiteMeter saying they will be rolling out an upgraded statistics package soon. With Google nipping at its heels, I would not be surprised if it offered expanded free services.

If you have been using SiteMeter and similar services, I think you owe it to yourself to add Google Analytics metering too.

 
The Thinker

Sampling the Pod Porn Universe

The public has been sending me a consistent message: we want more porn posts! Looking through my SiteMeter statistics today, the message is clear. Today 45 of my last 100 page views have been for posts I made about porn, even though porn represents only one percent of my post subjects.

I should be grateful for the porn enthusiasts out there. Perhaps some of them will bookmark my site to read posts about all the other topics on which I write. It used to be I averaged 150 page views a day. Thanks to a few popular posts on porn and to moving my blog to WordPress, I have been averaging 450 page views per day. Typically twenty to thirty percent of my page views are on porn related topics. What is curious is that while a couple posts get the majority of the hits, the one entry I wrote about porn that I like the best hardly gets any hits at all. Go figure.

While I made a promise to myself not be become an adult oriented blog, I am vain enough to want my page view counts to keep rising. Consequently, I wondered if I had one yet more post in me on pornography. I finally found one: Pod Porn.

I was late coming to the podcast craze but I eventually did pick up the habit. I find that when I exercise at my local Gold’s Gym, an MP3 player full of podcasts is an easy way to engage the mind while going through the drudgery of aerobics and lifting weights. Mostly I fill my MP3 player with shows from national public radio, C-SPAN or technical podcasts from Infoworld. For the last month or so, though I have been supplementing my regular podcasts with pod porn.

Yes, of course there is podcast porn out there. A simple Google search took me to this directory where I found podcasts not just on pornography, but on sex, sexuality, relationships and all sorts of adult content you will not hear on the radio. I had two basic questions. First, are any of these podcasts any good? Second, are any of them even arousing? Bravely I loaded my MP3 player and headed to the gym, hoping that not embarrass myself while exercising. (Frankly, the many attractive women in spandex exercise my imagination far more than any pod porn.)

Fortunately getting aroused from pod porn was not a problem. At age eighteen, any woman under age 40 walking by not in a burka had a 50% chance of raising an erection. The real problem with Pod Porn (and I only include the auditory kind in my sampling) is that porn is more enjoyable if you are viewing it or reading it. In real life, men frequently hit the fast forward button when watching porn. I was even more inclined to hit the next selection button with pod porn than I ever was with ordinary pornography.

So here are quick reviews of some of the sexually oriented podcasts I have listened to over the last month or so. This is about a third of the total, and represent some of my more recent samplings, as I forgot to archive the earlier podcasts.

  • Adult DVD Empire does podcasts! In this interview, porn star Annette Schwarz (and truly, I have no idea who she is) is interviewed shortly after a big porn shoot here in the states and before returning toGermany. I have no idea who she is but I did learn that her friends back inGermany would be cooking her potato pancakes to celebrate her return. Moreover, I was surprised and a little nauseous to learn she enjoys more than Visine in her eyes.
  • In another Adult DVD Empire podcast, porn star Claudia Downs tells us she was raised in Hazard,Kentucky. In a breath of honesty from a porn star, we learn she is doing porn for the money. Apparently, opportunity and high paying jobs do not abound in Hazard,Kentucky so like Jed Clampett she moved toCalifornia. However, she still claims she is kinky in real life too. Apparently, porn will not be her last career. In fact, she wants to earn enough money to go back toKentucky to study to be a physical therapist. Oh, and she is interviewed just off the set of having extreme multiple partner sex. I hope she showered first.
  • In Fetish Flame 29, a woman named Flash “the Kinky Mom” is interviewed in “The Red Room”. Flash is a divorced mother with two teenage children who are aware that their mother is into strange things but (she says) don’t really know just how strange. Her favorite publication is Penthouse Forum Variations. Flash likes to hang out in adult novelty stores and do things like try on their latex body suits. We learn vital things like to use the lube they provide when you try on body suits. (TMI!)
  • In Fetish Flame 36, Natasha explains how hypnosis can allow people to become more submissive with their partners. Frankly, all that discussion about hypnosis just made me want to go to sleep.
  • In (where else) San Francisco106.9 FM has a late night Sex with Emily Show. In this podcast we learn about how a 36 year old woman had sex with a 22 year old and how good it was for her. We also learn how men in their mid to late 20s have a natural talent for giving women oral sex.
  • Pod Wanker apparently thinks its podcasts are good enough to get your plumbing moving. I beg to disagree. I listened to this podcast and it sounds like bad phone sex, not that I would know phone sex because I have never tried it. If I were getting charged $3.99 a minute for this incestuous fantasy, I would be demanding a refund.
  • In this podcast, a guy who sounds a lot like Forest Gump, only stupider, describes a presumably fictitious group sex party. I confess I did not make it past the one-minute mark. His voice grated me. Frankly, I cannot imagine that this podcast would arouse anyone, including its author. It was simply dreadful.
  • Violet Blue hosts Open Source Sex. She is enthusiastic about porn and Web 2.0 communities. She also writes a column for the San Francisco Gate. In this podcast, we get to hear her brief talk at an O’Reilly forum (yes, the same people who publish those technical books). She talks about how difficult it is to police adult content on social networking sites. Aside from her natural enthusiasm, there is nothing the least bit arousing about this podcast.
  • Finally, although I am not gay, I did try this podcast from The Gay Trucker. I loved the naughty song at the beginning of the podcast. The Gay Trucker took a call from the Bill, the Gay Construction Worker. I learned a few things I did not particularly want to know, such as gay truckers are checking my package when they cruise by me on the highway in their elevated cabs. I also learned that if you are a gay trucker there are protocols for using the CB channels to find other gay truckers. Apparently, it involves triple clicks with your microphone. Also, Flying J truck stops have the best place to pick up other gay truckers. It may help to grab your crotch, but be discreet because most truckers are rednecks. I also learned about the strategic value of off ramps to chat with fellow gay truckers. This podcast was actually the most educational of the bunch as well as occasionally humorous. I learned a heap of things I never knew about truckers and gays. Moreover, it was well produced and insightful.

So will I be listening to more pod porn? Probably not. Frankly, I find podcasts on politics and information technology far more interesting. Nonetheless, my casual introduction to this world suggests that there is plenty of mediocrity in pod porn, not to mention advertising, and little of it is titillating. In the pod-casting universe, I suspect it represents a significant minority. If you have a particular kink, you may find porn podcasts to your liking. For us ordinary libidinous folks, I suggest Howard Stern.

 

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