Friday, September 19, 2014

Oh, you must read this article by E. O. Wilson

Hard not to blockquote every last word of Masters of Earth, Alone in the Universe, but here's a taste:

Human beings are not wicked by nature. We have enough intelligence, goodwill, generosity and enterprise to turn Earth into a paradise both for ourselves and for the biosphere that gave us birth. We can plausibly accomplish that goal, at least be well on the way, by the end of the present century. The problem holding everything up thus far is that Homo sapiens is an innately dysfunctional species.

Chances are, if you visit this blog regularly, that you will find yourself saying, "Yes, I know that" many times during your reading. Read it anyway. He says what you know succinctly and well. And maybe, just maybe, you'll think of someone to pass it on to, who may not yet get the big picture Wilson paints.

(h/t: David Dobbs, who linked to part 1)

Line of the Day: 2014-09-19

Lanny Davis talking about ‘integrity’ is like listening to Bristol Palin lecture on abstinence.
    -- TBogg

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Line of the Day: 2014-09-16

What say you about the multiverse?

It’s hard enough to have a theory for one universe.
    -- Peter Higgs

We (if I may be so presumptuous as to include myself with a hero's hero) are being flippant, of course. It's a good article, though. Overbye is worth more than whatever they're paying him, as I hope you already know.

Can you imagine? Never mind fluoridation, this would make chem trails fall right off the radar.

old ad for what is now called 7-UP
The Uncola

In which it is argued that we should consider adding lithium to drinking water, because, among other things, it might decrease suicide, homicide, and rape (at least among Texans, so who can say?), a fun fact that I had never heard:

Lithium drinks were in huge demand for their reputed health-giving properties, so much so that the element was added to commercial drinks. 7-Up was originally called Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda and contained lithium citrate right up until 1950. In fact, it’s been suggested that the 7 in 7-Up refers to the atomic mass of the lithium. (Maybe the “Up” referred to mood?)

Not as sexy as marching powder in Coca Cola, but still, better living through chemistry, amirite?

(pic. source: Bipolar Planet, you are doubtless shocked, shocked to learn. Many other great pix at the link.)

Monday, September 15, 2014

What could possibly go wrong?

Seen on Ars:

Engineers from Stanford and Berkeley Universities have figured out how to make radios the size of an ant, which have been created specifically to serve as controllers and sensors in the Internet of Things.

The radios are fitted onto tiny silicon chips, and cost only pennies to make thanks to their diminutive size. They are designed to compute, execute, and relay demands, and they are very energy efficient to the point of being self-sufficient. This is due to the fact that they can harvest power from the incoming electromagnetic signal so they do not require batteries, meaning there is no particular lifetime associated with the devices.

Emphasis mine.

[Added] Related.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Ah, jeez

Is it me, or is the Overton Window getting as narrow as it was pre-Iraq invasion?

[Added] Next thing (via @edroso) that I saw after clicking publish. Don't know whether to be comforted that I'm not the only one thinking these things, or distraught that I'm not the only one thinking these things.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Blast to the past

The latest spam comment on this blog just got blocked. From this post.

Does rickrolling seems really long ago to you?

A larger mystery: why spam comments appear on posts from five years ago, and not on the latest ones. (This is usual, and regular if not particularly frequent.) Do the spammers think they'll have a better chance with the old posts of sneaking in unnoticed? But if so, why would they think anyone would ever see them?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The magical free market sparkle pony gives you the bestest cheapest cell phone service!!!1!

Or, you know, not:

“Over the next decade,” Mr. Meinrath said, “U.S. consumers may overpay by over a quarter of a trillion dollars for worse levels of service than customers in other countries receive.”


Line of the Day: 2014-08-24

Over the course of my work I have come to the realization that it is very difficult to endanger or kill large numbers of people except with a claim to virtue.
     -- Robert Jay Lipton

The piece from which I swiped that is ... I dunno. Either meh, or too much of a 101-level course when I'm looking for 102. It's about shifting attitudes regarding climate change, if you're interested.

But I did like that line.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What's black and white and read all over?

From a piece by Clay Shirky about the decline of printed newspapers:

... and black newsroom humor long ago re-labelled the Obituary column ‘Subscriber Countdown.’

(h/t: David Dobbs)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The first thing we do, let's kill all the humans

Not really, obvs, but cheese and rice, sometimes a blurb will make your knee jerk.

Salmon, once nearly extinct on part of the Columbia River, are recovering, to the delight of birds. As a result, those charged with protecting the fish have a new plan: shoot the birds.

(story link)

On the upside, he's now got more time to go on the down-low


(h/t: KK, via email and the FB)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Statistically improbable phrase of the day

... I started hanging out at a local pigeon supply store.

Also, is a “pigeon mumbler” like a horse whisperer?

Also, too, would you consider this gentrification? And if so, with all the negativity that that connotes?

John Gotti’s old Mafia headquarters became a pet-grooming center.

Based on the article, that's a book I'd like to read.

Um ... yeah. Well, I certainly aspire ...

Sometimes, throwaway lines make you (me) think. Here's one, from the start (about 4:50) of a Google Talks interview thing with an erstwhile Tibetan monk who seems now to be in the business of ... talking to small crowds of people like the Googlers, which is not a bad thing, something he says one of his teachers told him:

... unless you can improve on silence, it's better not to say anything at all.

I can hear everyone I work with nodding with cocked eyebrows, of course, but that's not the important part.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Nerd food

This isn't for everybody, but I hugely enjoyed it, and I think some of you will, too:

The never-ending conundrums of classical physics
Even today, scientists still try to solve sprinkler brain teasers from the 19th century.

I remember having a discussion with several other bright undergrads, our TA, and one of the physics profs about the sprinkler problem (we were all reading Feynman at the time), and we came to ... no conclusion. (I managed to end the discussion by speculating that the sprinkler would move chaotically, which, while incorrect, at least had the advantage of being a proposal no one else had made.)

I also remember the feeling I had at about the same time -- a few weeks into my Intro to Modern Physics course -- that the message of the course was everything you have previously learned about physics is wrong.

As with most things, it turned out to be not quite that simple.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

John McWhorter: "Txtng is killing language. JK!!!"

I thought this fifteen-minute TED talk was great. I especially liked the bit about the earliest of the language scolds.

I agree with McWhorter's general argument, and have since reading Lewis Thomas (e.g.), but he made a number of points I hadn't thought of, and I liked the little tastes of professional linguistic discussion he added.

(h/t: Jack, via email)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Congratulations, Mr. Jeter.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

If there were ever a number you'd think no one would underestimate ...

“I didn’t know there were that many lesbians in San Francisco,” said Tracey Kaplan, 26, a vendor manager for Google Enterprises who was in attendance.

In the same story, how's this for a name for someone representing the progressive side of the issue?

“We’re starting some good conversations,” said Ms. Neaderthal ...

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Welp, we might as well try a little psywar

During a bank robbery ...

Once inside, the robbers cracked one of the two vaults and stole the $290k. The other vault, the Post reported, contained more money.

That'd be the Post's "unnamed source," which I'd wager was from the police. Or the bank.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Line of the Day: 2014-07-08

Anyone got a Thomas Aquinas facepalm gif?
    -- Roy Edroso

Monday, June 16, 2014

Thought balloon



Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Guest artist

A sequence of comic strips: one | two | three | four | five.

Back story.

(h/t: John McQuaid)

Monday, June 09, 2014

Such a good new word!


First seen on the Raw Story Tumblr, h/t TBogg.

Google says about 44,900 results at this moment. Google Trends says, "Not enough search volume to show graphs."


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Lines of the Day: 2014-05-28

A couple of passages from a great and horrifying book I just finished, Patrick McGuinness's The Last Hundred Days, a novel set in Romania at the end of the Ceaușescu regime.

... I grew to hate, and it energised me. But I couldn’t make a life out of it, or not a life that was my own. So I discovered forgiveness, and the secret malice of it: people forgive not out of grandeur of spirit but as a way of freeing themselves. The forgiver always floats free, the forgiven slides a little further down the soft shute to hell. Maybe that’s why so many religions use forgiveness as a secret weapon.


‘Ah, Monsieur Midwinter? Gilbert, isn’t it?’ Ozeray loomed up between us and closed his fingers around Wintersmith’s hand.

‘Er… Wintersmith, Giles.’ The Belgian had him in a diplomatic half-nelson.

‘Ah yes, quite so. I could not help overhearing your wise analysis. I remember when I was just beginning my diplomatic career.’ Ozeray paused and closed his eyes, inviting us to join him in a prehistory where diplomats and dinosaurs roamed the same mirrored banqueting halls, ‘my mentor, Baron Henri Nivarlais, – a great diplomat – oversaw fifty years of the most radical change the world has known without batting an eyelid – the Baron, he said to me: “Young man, in diplomacy there are two kinds of problem: small ones and large ones. The small ones will go away by themselves, and the large ones you will not be able to do anything about. The biggest challenges in your career will come from the temptation to act. The test of your mettle will be how nobly you surmount it.” Very fine advice, Mr Midwinter, do you agree?’

Monday, May 26, 2014

On this Memorial Day, I would like everyone in the blogosphere to ...

... spend a few moments reflecting on Doghouse Riley.

I've never come close to being able to write a proper send-off (see Roy (and pretty much all of his commenters) for something I endorse), so I can only offer a quick search around this place for a few of the things that struck me, over the years.

Mr. Riley had some words about Memorial Day, from time to time, if you'd rather start there.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Line of the Day: 2014-05-18

And an especially apt name.

“Americans,” Mr. Worthy said, “have a right to know what’s going on in the world in their name.”

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Anyone have Dennis Lehane's email address?

Also, please forge the From: field to read "Jeff Bezos."

(text source: Moonlight Mile)

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Line of the Day: 2014-05-06

Oh, sorry — I forgot that I wasn’t writing jokes for the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
    -- Paul Krugman

Thursday, April 24, 2014

A somewhat alarming piece of litter

When fully zoomed in, at least.