Monday, July 31, 2006

Kitchen Musings

If you use paper coffee filters, avoid Melitta's "natural brown" ones. They don't taste as bad as they used to, when they tasted like wet paper towels smell, but they have another problem. They often tear just a little bit, which lets a few grounds through, which clogs up the entire works, which is no way at all to start your morning.*

It says on the box, "Guaranteed not to rupture." Further evidence supporting the old saying: if you have to say it, it probably isn't true. Think of Quality Construction, Speedy Service, and that old corporate slogan, Employees Are Our Most Important Resource.

Also, while at a lunch counter the other day, I was reading the back of a bottle of ketchup. Remember when Reagan got made so much fun of, for calling ketchup a vegetable? Now, far be it from me to defend the second-worst president of my lifetime, but the label on the bottle went into such paroxysms of joy about its supposed health benefits that I could only imagine the re-ramping up of the put-the-Gipper-on-Mt.-Rushmore movement.

Fortunately, I happened across Constance Casey's line on Slate, last night:

(Antioxidants and free radicals being terms tossed about by health-food-store staff that are fully understood by about six people in the world.)

It's hard to imagine myself reading, let alone enjoying, an article on gardening, but this one is good. If you like blueberries, read it.

* Here's a better way to start your day: read the Salon comics: Tom, Ruben, and Keith.

Good Sports Columnist

I just came across Dave Zirin, who writes a sports column for The Nation, among other organizations.

Here is his bio page and directory of Nation articles.

I particularly liked his thoughts on Ricky Williams possibly going to the CFL, his quick dismissal of "Faith Days," and his take on Anthony Prior's new book, The Slave Side of Sunday.

He takes on the Colorado Rockies, too. If there isn't already enough reason to loathe the owners of that organization, here's more: The Rockies have recently gone public about their faith tests for ballplayers. The PR from management is (big surprise) being accompanied by the usual throwaway platitudes intended solely to keep us non-fundies from being righteously offended.


When people are nervous that they will offend you with their beliefs, it's usually because their beliefs are offensive.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Good video mashup

Doesn't the idea of W singing U2's "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" sound weird?

Yes, it did to me, too. It's quite good, though. Have a look.

Note: The link points to Rob Moore's site, and he makes it quite clear that he is not the creator. The video was made by someone named Rx. I find that Flash vids work better than Quicktime (Rx's posted format) for my setup, so that's why I gave the derivative link first.

Plus, I've ranted about Quicktime before.

Powerful Excerpt

Tom Tomorrow has posted an excerpt from Paul Rieckhoff's new book, Chasing Ghosts. Wow, is all I can say.

In addition to buying the book, which you'll almost certainly want to do after reading the excerpt, you might enjoy watching or listening to an interview with Rieckoff, courtesy of American Microphone.

Tech notes: The AM site is a little annoying in that it has Flash on its home page. (The link I posted bypasses the first page, assuming you don't get redirected back to the real home page.) If you want to watch the interview, you'll need Flash 8 installed anyway. You probably already automatically have Flash 8 installed if you've been keeping your browser up to date.

If you're like me, you consider watching interviews between two people just sitting in chairs a fairly significant waste of bandwidth, for reasons I have ranted about elsewhere. AM, however, is nice enough to provide just the audio, via their podcast.

The podcast (link above) is hosted on the iTunes site. (It's free, don't worry.) Clicking the link will launch iTunes if you have it installed on your machine. If you don't, I'm not sure what will happen. Probably you'll get taken to a page on the iTunes site that allows you to download the program. I have it on my PC (in addition to my Mac, of course), and it runs fine. Questions? Post 'em! Also, if you have something other than iTunes for listening to podcasts, please post a comment to tell me what happened when you followed the link.

If podcasting seems like something you'd rather not get involved with right now, I'd be happy to burn you a copy of the interview onto a CD. Just ask.

TC might want to weigh in on the quality of the Paul Rieckhoff interview, whenever the USPS gets around to delivering his CD.

Something to keep in mind, come November

The AP posted a story a couple of days ago that I just came across, reporting on the increase to 135,000 of troops stationed in Iraq. Part of this increase is represented by yet another last-minute decision to keep some soldiers there past their expected tour of duty.

I smell a rat.

It wouldn't surprise me at all to learn that the Bush Administration is stuffing a bunch of troops in now, so that it can make a big splash by pulling some out in October. There's precedent for this behavior; e.g., their history of predicting wildly high budget deficits early in the year so that they can later claim economic "progress."

Don't be fooled again.

Lamont Endorsement, etc.

The NY Times's editorial page today endorsed Ned Lamont over Joe Lieberman in the upcoming Connecticut Democrat primary election.

Actually, it's more of a ringing negative assessment of Lieberman. But it's very well written and worth a read.

Other reading recommendations from the NYT:

  • An article on a megachurch's pastor speaking out against the radical right's version of Christianity. (This one is #1 on the list of most emailed articles.)

  • The always wonderful Dan Savage contributed a piece on the recent anti-gay marriage court decisions in NY and WA. Money quote:
    Basically, both courts found that marriage is like a box of Trix: It's for kids.

    In New York, the court ruled in effect that irresponsible heterosexuals often have children by accident -- we gay couples, in contrast, cannot get drunk and adopt in one night -- so the state can reserve marriage rights for heterosexuals in order to coerce them into taking care of their offspring. Without the promise of gift registries and rehearsal dinners, it seems, many more newborns in New York would be found in trash cans.

  • Judith Warner's OpEd piece from yesterday, about parental notification and its use as a tactical tool by the anti-choice crowd. (TimesSelect access is required for the full article, sorry. Ask if you want me to email you a copy. There's a free excerpt here.)

  • Frank Rich talks about the declining media coverage of the war in Iraq. It's a little redundant to say, "Frank Rich has written something that's recommended," of course. (TimesSelect: op cit)
  • Molly Ivins's take on the same theme. (Free!)

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Sound Bite

I propose that, from now on, we refer to Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, et al, as:

The Coalition of the Shilling

Ah, crap. I just Googled that phrase and it turns out that maybe one or two, or maybe 159,000, people thought of it first.

And now, for something completely different!

Oh, wait . . .

Friday, July 28, 2006


So, I'm waiting in line with a load of empty bottles at the grocery store's redemption center. I'm behind two women who are feeding the machine that I want to use. One says to the other, "Bob isn't drinking the beer that I bought him."

I say to the quiet one, "Wow. A woman complaining that her man won't drink beer."

The complainant was not amused.

You've Come At Least A Little Ways, Baby

From the original Encyclopedia Britannica, of 1768-71:

WOMAN -- The female of man. See HOMO.

Yup, that's the complete entry.

(source) | (source of source)


Did you see Stephen Colbert interviewing Eleanor Holmes Norton? It's posted on the Daily Dish, if you missed it.

Thanks for the link, Nick!

Bad Science -- Great Rant!

I often mutter about the MSM and their inability to cover science. The volume increases when otherwise intellectual types flaunt their innumeracy, as though saying "I can't even balance my checkbook! LOL!" is something to be proud of.

Ben Goldacre agrees, only he says so much, much better.

(Thanks to Tom Coates for the link.)

Call Me a Rootster

There's a really good piece in the OpEd section of the NYTimes today. It has absolutely nothing to do with Lebanon, American politics, global warming, or any other current source of despair.

I've never heard of the author, Gary Shteyngart, but the one-liner at the bottom says his most recent book is Absurdistan. That gives you a hint about the article's tone.

Highly recommended.

Another Reason To Love Old Europe

"[C]onsumers rejected some of Wal-Mart's signature features, like ... employees required to smile and heartily greet customers"

(From a story about Wal-Mart abandoning Germany)

Rhetorical Question of the Day - 7/28/2006

Is it the conviction of our government that we should leave it to George W. Bush to set the bearings of our moral compass?
--Sir Stephen Wall, a former adviser to Tony Blair (source)

Thursday, July 27, 2006

On CFLs, Annoying Nomenclature, and Further Reasons to Hate Home Depot

My brother-in-law, Phil, is an energy consultant.

No, he does not sell overpriced sports drinks or teach you how to focus your chi through the power of crystals. Phil is a real energy consultant, advising corporations, governments, and other minor entities on how to lessen their consumption of electricity and heat.

Having recently moved into an apartment where the rent does not include utilities, I am now starting to care about such things, too. Well, electricity, anyway. I've got more than enough heat these days.

While browsing for some office supplies, I therefore thought to take a look at what they had to offer in the way of compact fluorescent light bulbs (lightbulbs?), or CFLs.

Despite their unfortunate side effect of causing spell-check dilemmas, not to mention devaluing the brand identity of the Canadian Football League, CFLs have become all the rage lately. As I'm sure you've heard preached, CFLs mean big savings over the long run. In case you haven't:


For an equal amount of light, a CFL costs about one-quarter as much to run per hour as a standard incandescent bulb. They also last about ten times longer. Over the life of the CFL, this amounts to tens of dollars saved, just for replacing one bulb. Replace the bulbs in several of the heavily used lamps in your house, and we're talking a C-note in your pocket at the end of every year.

It's also nice to contemplate the possibility of everyone buying just a few each, worldwide, and the consequent mountains of coal that wouldn't have to be dug up and burned to make all that electricity.


The price for CFLs on seemed a bit steep, so just to check, I looked next at They were asking the same, about eight bucks apiece. Having had a fair amount of scientific training, I leaped to a conclusion from these two bits of data, and fired off a quick screed to my father. We had been in a hardware store last week, and did not pay sufficient attention to a display of CFLs -- on sale for a buck apiece -- and I laid the blame mostly at his feet.

Having vented, I looked around some more, and as he more calmly replied in his email, it is of course true that CFLs can be had for considerably less. The web site, for example, lists them for three to five bucks apiece, depending on brightness, brand name, quantity ordered, and several other less comprehensible factors.

So, the first thing I learned is that Home Depot is still scamming the public. Quite apart from the evil that these big boxes represent, with their killing off of the local hardware stores, their prices across the board are not as good as their mind-numbing commercials suggest. In fact, they tend to be quite expensive for mundane things like light bulbs.

The second thing to investigate was one of the more murky specs that lists for all CFLs. Do you know the difference between otherwise identical bulbs, if one is a "2700K" and the other a "5000K?"

If you do, give yourself a nice round of applause. I didn't have a clue. The only thing I could think was that "K" meant "thousands." Since that seemed unlikely, I brushed aside the cobwebs, thought back to high school chemistry, and remembered "kelvins." Remember those? Something to do with temperature? Yeah, degrees or something, right?

In one of the more irritating examples of arcane scientific precision, one is not supposed to say "degrees kelvin." One should instead speak of plain "kelvins." Even though something can be heated until it increases in temperature by one degree Celsius, one must say that it increased in temperature by one kelvin. I used to think that this rule came about because typewriters couldn't do superscripting, and so scientists embraced writing "1 K" instead of "1 °C." (There's a small matter of the scales being offset, too, but let's not go there right now. The gradations are the same.)

As it happens, my rather clever typographical hypothesis was wrong. The explanation is lexical.

The old name for the Celsius scale -- the Centigrade scale -- caused confusion among some Europeans. Swedish, German, Italian, and Spanish all have a word like "grade" which means "degree." Scientists thinking of relatively recent additions to their vocabulary like "centimeter" thought "centigrade" sounded like it might mean 1/100th of one degree, instead of 100 degrees. In the spirit of international cooperation sweeping the globe shortly after World War II, it was agreed that the sensible thing would be to rename the temperature scale after its inventor, Anders Celsius.


Old Anders probably should have thought of this in the first place, being from Sweden himself, but he was evidently a humble sort. Also, he was prone to thinking in Latin, where centi- means "hundred" and gradus means "step." He is, however, to be praised for having the subtle foresight to choose parents whose last name began with C, which resulted in the preservation of all those °Cs.


Not satisfied with the successful picking of one nit, scientists later argued that "degrees kelvin" introduced further ambiguity, for reasons passing my understanding. As I was not consulted, being busy with second grade at the time, they banished the D-word. They also agreed that while the abbreviation would be an unadorned capital K, the unit's name when spelled out should appear in all lowercase letters. I was not asked about this, either, so my new hero is the inventor of search and replace.

The whole sordid mess is described here.

What's that?

You say you like Fahrenheit better?

Sit down and be quiet, or I'll go on for fifty more pages about the superiority of SI units, the backwardness of the U.S. in failing to embrace the metric system in general, how this ties into . . . convinced? Good.

We're still wondering what kelvins might have to do with CFLs, though. What does it mean to say a bulb is "2700K" or "5000K?" I mean, the surface temperature of the sun is somewhere near 5000 °K ... sorry ... 5000 K. What might this have to do with CFLs being pitched as running cooler?

If you've peeked at this rather nice page, put up by the local government in Ft. Collins, CO, you already know.

One of the big complaints about fluorescent bulbs in the past was that they were less "warm" than incandescent bulbs. People felt that incandescents were more suggestive of candles and campfires, while fluorescent bulbs gave off light that was "cold" and harsh.

When the technology for CFLs improved, and the marketing ramped up, the suits naturally insisted that their bulbs be packaged with "warm" printed all over the box. Surprisingly, a convention has arisen to lend some precision to the perception of light emitted. This convention is called "Correlated Color Temperature," or more commonly, just "color temperature."

If we return once again to high school, physics class this time, we recall that when things are heated, they give off light. As they get hotter, the color of the light changes. Think of heating a piece of iron: first it glows red, then it turns yellow, and finally it gets blindingly white.

Thus, one can associate a characteristic temperature with the "feel" of the light, as the city fathers of Ft. Collins tabulate. 1500 K corresponds to candlelight. 2700 K, it turns out, corresponds to standard incandescent bulbs. And 5000 K harshes your mellow -- it corresponds to sunlight at midday.

Nice, huh? At least one of my guesses turned up in the right ballpark.

But hold on a minute.

Conventions are great and all, and it's a bonus that for once, there's some solid science behind the ad-speak. But an increase in temperature (more Ks) means things are getting hotter. So why is a relatively cool color called "warm light," and a hotter color called "cold?"

This makes me a little crazy, as I'm sure it does most scientists, and I'm now suspicious that they insisted on "kelvins" as revenge for these nonsensical colloquialisms.

Reading Recommendations for 7/27/2006

  • David Pogue transcribed part of an interview that he conducted with erstwhile Wonkette, Ana Marie Cox. AMC is now pontificating about blogs more than writing them (shhh ... she's gone MSM), but it's pretty good.

  • John Allen Paulos, a mathematician and a great writer (remember Innumeracy?) considers Dick Cheney's 1% doctrine and rips it to shreds. If you like that column, then you might want to bookmark the archive list and/or visit his personal site.

On the lighter side:

  • FGN has another howler that, once again, leaves you feeling, "Now, that could really work." Well, the defamation lawsuits might clog the tubes a bit.

  • I keep meaning to post a link every time a new Top 10 Conservative Idiots gets posted. By way of catch-up, here's the newest, here's a list of the recent ones, and here's a list of the older ones.


KK took a nice picture while on a recent road trip. Here's some of the text of the email message that accompanied the art:

My definition of a good picture is that it shows what I saw...

Anyway, a cloudy, misty day in Cummington at William Cullen Bryant's homestead.

The first version is the original color shot, the second is the original converted to black and white. Which do you like better?

To which I respond: I have to choose?

Blogger is having some problems with photo uploading, so I put the pictures on my web site.

W Reads Some Cliffs Notes on Shakespeare

I was going to post something about this the day I read it, but I had filled the tubes with so many discouraging thoughts about Lebanon that I held off. But it's probably worth putting out, because one should always be aware of the many ways that a president can subvert Congress's intentions.

Unable to force a repeal of the estate tax into law, W. has taken the backdoor approach of firing nearly half of the estate tax lawyers at the IRS. As David Cay Johnson reported on 7/23 in the NY Times:

Estate tax lawyers are the most productive tax law enforcement personnel at the I.R.S., according to Mr. Brown [an I.R.S. deputy commissioner]. For each hour they work, they find an average of $2,200 of taxes that people owe the government.


[S]ix years ago, . . . the I.R.S. said that 85 percent of large taxable gifts it audited shortchanged the government. The I.R.S. said then that it would hire three more lawyers just to audit taxable gifts of $1 million or more.

Where did the MBA president learn that firing employees who generate $2200/hr in revenues makes economic sense?

Noam Scheiber, whose post on The Plank originally called Johnson's article to my attention, put it this way:

I guess the argument for ignoring Congress on things like NSA eavesdropping and treatment of detainees is that the president has the authority as commander-in-chief to prosecute the war on terror however he sees fit. Well, what's the argument for ignoring Congress when it comes to tax policy? It's looking more and more like the administration thinks it can do whatever it wants, on whatever issue it wants. Not that this should surprise anyone.

An editorial in today's NY Times points out another subterfuge:

The underlying fact of the matter is that the I.R.S. hasn't released the data that would allow researchers -- and the public -- to verify whether cutting back on estate-tax audits represents sound tax enforcement. A research organization at Syracuse University, called Trac, used to routinely request and receive comprehensive I.R.S. audit figures -- by size of the estate, the number of hours spent and the amount of extra recommended tax.

Researchers analyzed the data and posted it on the organization's Web site, so the public had a continuing sense of the I.R.S's fairness, efficiency and effectiveness. But in 2004, the I.R.S. stopped giving Trac the data. In 2006, a federal court ordered the agency to provide the requested records. But the information released since then has not been comprehensive. If the I.R.S. wants to avoid suspicion that its actions are politically motivated, it should release all the data that researchers need to evaluate its actions.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Firefox Now Available

Recommended security update, it sez here. But wait, there's more! Included with this update are

changes for the Frisian locale (fy-NL)

(Whaaaaa . . .?)

I don't even have a bluff answer. Details here, if you want them.

From the Firefox menu bar: Help > Check for Updates. You know the drill.

P.S. This time, the patch update worked on my Macs; i.e., I didn't have to re-download the whole program, as with the last couple security updates. The patch was about 1.7 MB for Mac, less than half that for PC. Haven't done the Linux box yet.

Nothing for Thunderbird, as I write. I'll have to check tomorrow.

He's Not Just a Good Cartoonist

Have a look at Tom Tomorrow's post titled "Reality check."

In it, he shreds some pro-Lieberman spin from a guy who sounds like a paid employee of the Joe-at-any-cost campaign. (Let's hope low paid, or at least not taxpayer paid.)

Oh, you don't know his cartoons? Enjoy this pertinent example, or just go right to the TMW archives on Working For Change's web site.

Pay Attention

Once upon a time, my mother told me that her parents initially refused to have a television in their house, because "they were afraid it would be able to watch them." We chuckled at the fears of the old folk.

Now who's laughing?

According to a story in today's NY Times, TiVo is starting a research division to analyze its users' commercial watching behavior. You probably know that your TiVo already regularly phones home as part of its "service," so it can record additional programs based on your personal recording history. TiVo will now track which ads you watch and which ones you skip, and look to sell that data.

Does it get worse? Yes.

For now, TiVo will not be able to tell advertisers anything about the demographics of the audience it measures. The privacy policy of the service allows it to gather data about viewing habits, but not any personal information. Mr. Juenger [TiVo's VP for audience research] said TiVo hoped to find a way to change that by the end of the year.

Given the coziness of the media giants and the past couple of administrations, I give it two years before pushing fast forward gets you listed as an enemy of America.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Unspinnable Numbers

Opening sentence from an editorial in today's NY Times:

Over 212 years, 42 presidents issued "signing statements" objecting to a grand total of 600 provisions of new laws. George W. Bush has done that more than 800 times in just over five and a half years in office.


Did you know that you can access your Gmail account from your regular email program? You can download your incoming mail, via POP, and/or use Gmail to send mail, via SMTP.

I just found this out a couple of weeks ago while traveling, and I decided to post the settings here for future reference. In case someone gives me a new laptop, say.

If you want more details, including help for your specific mail program, see Gmail's FAQs on the topic. Feel free to ask me a question in the comments, too.

Here are the settings:


   Type: POP3
   Username: (not just username)
   Port: 995
   Secure Connection: SSL


   Type: SMTP
   Username: (as above)
   Port: 587
   Secure Connection: TLS

NB: Your Gmail account must be enabled for POP access. Do this as follows:

  • Log onto your Gmail account, through the the Web interface
  • Click the "Settings" link at the top of the page
  • Click the "Fowarding and Pop" tab
  • Adjust settings to taste (there's specific help right there)
  • When done, click "Save Changes"

Monday, July 24, 2006

Do You Follow the Dotted Line?

I just put up a page on my web site, about one way to present abbreviations and their definitions.

Here's an example: YMMV, depending on your browser.

If you let your mouse hover above the "ymmv" text, the pointer should change shape and a tooltip should pop up, containing the expansion of the abbreviation.

If you use Internet Explorer, you probably won't see anything special. Read Note 4 for more details.

Here's the idea: I want to make the abbreviation stand out, to indicate that more information is available. I want it to be distinct from a link, since the information is available without a visit to another page. I do love me some obscure abbreviations and acronyms, and I know that's a little annoying to the less geeky, so I like to provide the translation.

Assuming you don't use IE, what do you think of the appearance? I've tried other approaches in earlier posts, but they involved links, plain underlines, or parenthetical remarks (which I already overuse).

If you're already comfortable reading over things like PEBKAC, does the dotted underlining annoy you? Assume that I won't overuse it.

Constructive criticism is welcome from all, as always. Nonconstructive criticism may provoke return flaming. Deconstructive criticism may initiate a non-terminating series of incomprehensible rejoinders.


Headline of the Day -- 7/24/2006

Waste Not, Crunch Not
Activism doesn't have to smell like patchouli

To my mind, the headline is the best part, but YMMV.

Here's the whole story.

That's Weird

A moment ago, I typed "Baghdad" into Google's text search box, as a quick and dirty way to check the spelling.

The third link returned pointed to a site called, a sort of online newspaper of space related news, it looks like. The word "Baghdad" is not mentioned anywhere in the bit of context that Google displays under the link, nor anywhere on page being linked to. It's not even buried inside a comment within the page's HTML source.

What do you think is going on? Does that happen to you, if you Google "Baghdad?"

Maybe I should call Ted Stevens, and tell him that the Internets have a leaky tube.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Mideast. Or WWIII. Or Something.

I was listening to On The Media today, and there was a guest on, I think the editor of a Jewish newspaper published here in the US, who said that there has been a noticeable lack of commentary coming from the left-wing blogs concerning the current unpleasantness in Israel and Lebanon.

Which made me think: Dude, all I can say to you is that we don't have any answers. And, for once, we really don't have any opinions that we want to put forth. The Billy Kristols of the world want to start shooting, like yesterday. Apart from being sane enough to point out the idiocy of that stance . . . we got nothing.

We, I think, might be ducking the issue because we have typically liberal on-the-one-hand-but-on-the-other conundrums swirling in our brains: We like Jews. We remember the Holocaust, even if we were born after it happened. We acknowledge that there is some basis for viewing the creation of the modern state of Israel as somewhat of an invasion. We think the Jews have more than every right to defend themselves from a bunch of Middle Agers who are bent on destroying them. We don't like Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. We have a grudging respect for Israel's ferocity in defending what they perceive as theirs. Ditto, the displaced Palestinians. We wish the extremists and the fanatics weren't so much in power, on either side. We wish we, the United States, weren't so beholden to the Arabs on oil, so that our government could have a smidgen of credibility when it tries to get involved in this mess.

There's nothing that's easy to say on this matter.

Speaking as a godless America-hater secularist, I fantasize about offering either side a chunk of the US to have as their own country (Wyoming is not so crowded, right?), but I realize that both sides have this irrational religious attachment to their "holy land."

So, I think I proved my point. Which is: Who wants to read crap like this?


That's at least part of why the lefty blogosphere hasn't said so much.


I wish I could say "Billy Kristol" was mine. It isn't. I forget where I first heard that. Slate or Salon, I think. Do a Google "site:" search, if you're curious.

It's not "condundra." I thought it was. But check out this page. Absolutely wonderful! No one, but no one, brings the snark like the Brits.

As long as we're updating . . .

. . . there are some new quotes added to my collection.

(Newer ones are at the bottom, if you've visited that page before.)

FGN Update

I mentioned yesterday that I'd stumbled across a pretty funny site. Here is a hey-wait-that-could-actually-work idea that I just noticed.

Kinder, Gentler?

Back before fundamentalist Christians took complete control of the federal government, the worst aspect of religiosity that I had to contemplate was Catholic guilt.

Like this, for example.

Thanks to MK for the original (via snail mail, long ago) and to KK, for, um, asking me to resurrect it.

Not only are they traitors . . .

. . . they have bad editing in the email department.

I've long been amused at the autoreply that is returned when I send an email to someone on the NY Times's staff. In part, it reads:

Your message is very important to us. We care about the views of our readers. Please do not reply to this message.

Or something very close to that.

I got an (unprovoked) email from them recently, asking me to participate in a survey about their magazine. In order to prevent easy skewing of the survey, a unique identifier came along with the message, and was indicated as:

Your personal PIN # is: C38XT7

I could expand that acronym for you, but I guess the original line is really all the news that's fit fit to print print.

What Do You Make of This?

From Harper's Index of June 2006:

Percentage change since 1990 in the number of Americans who describe themselves as "nonreligious": +106

Friday, July 21, 2006

Not Exactly Breaking News

If you're like me and refuse to pay for cable, then you don't get to watch The Daily Show all that often. Thus, you overload the tubes (which is not a truck that you can just dump stuff on) and thereby prevent the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee from getting his internets.

Thanks to KK, I knew to take a look for TDS's Resident Expert, John Hodgman, explaining the ramifications of the Net Neutrality bill. I found it on YouTube. Great stuff!

I had looked for this clip yesterday, and saw the Resident Expert explaining a couple of other topics. I didn't realize until watching the Net Neutrality video today that I had seen Hodgman somewhere before: on a series of commercials, which also featured the actor who played Brandon from "Galaxy Quest."

I grow ever more firmly convinced that there really are only about 1000 unique people on this planet.

Oh, and if you missed TDS last week, here's Jon dissecting Ted Stevens's original speech.

Random Link

While surfing, I came across the Fake Gay News site. If you like The Onion, you'll probably like this one, too.

Also like The Onion, the headlines are usually 95% of what's funny about the "stories" -- it's hard to keep a joke going when you give the punchline first, I suppose. But for a quick laugh, have a look.

Good Line

In a recent post on TNR's The Plank, Ryan Lizza was talking about the possibility of the Democrats holding a caucus in between the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary. One of the candidate states is Nevada.

Lizza wrote:

You can't hold a ballroom event anywhere in the state without having all attendees walk through a casino.

To which a commenter with the handle andersonblog responded:

It's part of our plan to entice Bill Bennett to switch parties.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

I Meta Blog

Jack Shafer of Slate has a nice summary of the results of a Pew survey of bloggers.

Money quote:

The 10 highest reports of blog traffic came from males, a gender well-known to exaggerate size when given the opportunity.

Of course, his overall dubiousness concerning blogging doesn't stop him from loving when I link to him, as a service to my millions of readers.

Astute Political Observation of the Day -- 7/19/2006

Okay, so she said it yesterday:

As near as can be figured out, the Republican "game plan" is to do absolutely nothing between now and November. This doesn't improve anyone's opinion of the Republican Congress, but has the happy effect of dragging the Democrats down with them.
--Molly Ivins (source)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

My Thoughts Get Spanked

A while back, I posted a brief rant about the decline of newspapers, in which I blamed the stock market's control and longed for a return to private ownership. I argued that our flavor of capitalism features an obsession with the next fiscal quarter, and . . . well, no need to reiterate the whole thing when you could just go read it.

Anyway, I'm listening to the most recent On The Media, and what should I come across, but this piece (sound | transcript)?

OTM's blurb:

Fortune Magazine editor-at-large Justin Fox tells Bob that the whole affair [about the recent mass resignations at the Santa Barbara News-Press --ed.] is a reminder that the publicly-held model is, more often than not, simply better for journalism.


Well . . . Forbes, right? A magazine with the motto "Capitalist Tool."

Oh, wait. That guy is from Fortune.

I'll shut up now.

Moron (as in "oxy-")

While on my recent roadtrip, I was in a parking lot, about to go into a drugstore to get my daily dose of traitorous, America-hating, terrorist-loving media.

I saw a guy in a T-shirt featuring a big American flag and some slogan so banal that it escapes memory. He got into his pickup truck.

A Toyota Tacoma.

News Flash: Smart Person Discovered In Alabama!

Okay, so I'm a Northeastern snob. But all kidding aside, it's great to come across a site like, and even better to find out that the site originates from someplace other than SF or NYC.

Apparently, the site is run by a 15 year old girl named Ava Lowery, and from a quick look around, I am impressed, to say the least.

Start with her Flash video "WWJD." For a lighter, yet equally devastating bit, look at "The 32 %." Or just go to the home page and explore for yourself.

(The videos took about a minute to load, and then played smoothly, over my sloooooow DSL connection (256 Kbps), so even dial-uppers should be able to watch them.)

You'll doubtless be unsurprised to hear that the WWJD video has provoked death threats from Bush supporters.

Which leads me to another sweeping generalization about the subpar intelligence of a particular group . . .

Thanks to Rick Downes's Xnews newsletter for the tip

Nice Slide Show

While you're on Slate's site (see my previous post), have a look at the slide show titled "Gimme Nature."

After launching the show, click the picture itself to advance to the next one (this wasn't so intuitive to me, anyway.)


I was going to avoid any mention of W's latest live mike gaffe. I don't care about people swearing, I don't think it's a big deal when elected officials do it, and I live for the day when the FCC's obsession over the Seven Deadly Words goes the way of insistence that married TV couples have twin beds.

But John Dickerson said it much better, in his column in Slate:

His candor yesterday isn't the problem--the lack of candor every other day is.

Read the whole thing.

Today's Paranoia (7/18/2006)

I see by the paper that the US and other western nations are beginning evacuations of their nationals from Lebanon. The US, in particular, has sent naval vessels, including at least one troopship holding 2200 Marines.

I envision a suicide boat attack by Hezbollah on one of the ships, or worse, on one of the passenger ships that have been positioned nearby. Nothing W would like better, I'm afraid. Ditto Syria and Iran.

I see by the paper that the House ran a vote to make banning gay marriage part of the Constitution. This was an obvious waste of time, since the House Republican leadership had to know it was going to fail (which it did, by 49 votes). It was also moot, since the Senate has already failed to pass the measure.

I envision yet another election dominated by homophobia. The media buys into it, because they love to cover a single-issue fight. Coverage of candidates' stances on other issues is relegated to page A23 in most newspapers, and does not make TV news much at all.

I see by the paper that the Senate has passed a bill to expand federal support for stem cell research. This measure is expected to provoke W's first veto, and the story that I read surmises that Congress will be unable to muster a bicameral two-thirds majority to override the veto.

I envision Karl Rove at work here (again) -- encouraging Congress to pass something like this. W gets to toss a bone to James Dobson and his ilk, and claim that this veto shows him to be a "strong leader" with "convictions." The possibly vulnerable members of Congress get to claim a new gloss of moderation when campaigning this fall ("hey, I voted for it"). The apparent distancing of themselves from W works, the Reps retain control of both houses, the distancing is revealed to be an empty pose, and we have to suffer two more years of one-party rule.

Monday, July 17, 2006

They're Back


Just got back from a road trip, and I'm happy to hear that the crew of the Discovery made it home safely, too.

Say what you want about the dubiousness of that entire program, and I could say plenty about it myself, it's good to see the beast land in one piece.

BTW, there's no truth to the rumor that when your President heard about the return, he said, "Shuttle? Why'd they take one of those? I always take a limo, myself."

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Building Bridges?

(2008-07-29: Link to remix updated)

Last Saturday, I called attention to Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and his recent truly wacked-out speech.

I don't know if you listened to the whole thing, and I sure wouldn't blame you if you didn't. Kinda makes your brain feel like it's being stirred with a hot fork.

Thankfully, relief has arrived. Check out The Bold Headed Broadcast's techno remix of the speech. Who knew randomly rearranging words could so improve clarity?

The post (on TNR's The Plank) where I first saw the remix link likens Stevens's speech to the Dean Scream.

We can only hope.

More On The Gray Traitor

In the spirit of yesterday's thought for the day, be sure to have a look at Ruben Bolling's cartoon, "In a Terrorist Safe House," on Salon.

If you wait a few days, the strip will likely also be posted here.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Watch This!

There's a short clip from a recent Daily Show posted on Salon.

As the Salon people said:

Another clip to file under "Thank the Sweet Lord Jesus For Jon Stewart": In the first minute of last night's "The Daily Show," Stewart managed to sum up these crazy, mixed up times in such a breathtakingly concise and devastating manner, it left us laughing until we cried.

Sigh. When is a la carte cable going to be offered? I crave me some JS.

[Update 2006-07-13 08:03 EDT] It occurred to me that the clip posted on Salon doubtless resides on YouTube, so I went there to find the URL, as a courtesy to those of you who mystifyingly have not yet signed up for Salon. I didn't find it, exactly; a quick search on "Jon Stewart" at YouTube reveals lots of tempting-looking results. Time sink, but what a nice sink! Have fun.

New Factoid (To Me, Anyway)

Trivia question: Thinking of extinct British sports cars, what did MG stand for?

Okay, the answer's not that exciting: Morris Garages, at least, originally.

The exciting part is, I learned this in an article titled "Chinese Company Intends to Build MG's in Oklahoma."

Sounds like one of the good parts of globalization to me.

I'll leave my annoyance at the dubious use of the apostrophe in the title for another time.

Net Neutrality Update

You can see where your Senators stand on the issue of Net Neutrality by clicking on your state at the map provided by This page will also give you the phone numbers for the individual senators.

Should you wish to call them.

You should.

More thoughts from me on NN here and here.

Thought for the Day - 7/12/2006

(Click image to increase size)

(This cartoon is by Bob Englehart of The Hartford Courant, and it came to me from Nick Cagle)

Nice Name!

Barack Obama just sent me an email (okay, it probably went to a couple of other people, too) asking me to contribute to the senatorial campaign of a Democrat from Rhode Island.

I have no idea where this guy stands on anything, but just looking at his last name makes me think headline writers could have all sorts of fun if he got elected.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Another Maxim

King Kaufman gave a maxim in his column today, similar to the ones I listed earlier:

Don't let anything you care about get compared to the Pro Bowl.

Budget Talking Points

For when you next get trapped by a Republican, who wants to talk about how the Bush tax cuts have "stimulated" the economy, because recent tax revenues are up and the budget deficit is (slightly) down:

On Mr. Bush's watch, triple-digit budget surpluses have turned into annual triple-digit budget deficits. There's no information in the midsession report to alter that utterly dispiriting fact. Yes, the report is expected to project that this year's deficit will be somewhat less gargantuan than last year's -- probably somewhere between $280 billion and $300 billion, versus a $318 billion shortfall in 2005. That's not much to crow about.


Earlier this year, the administration conveniently projected a highly inflated deficit of $423 billion. With that as a starting point, the actual results can be spun to look as if they're worth cheering.


The Treasury is expected to take in about $250 billion more in 2006 than in 2005 ... Devoid of context, the number looks impressive. ... In fact, it is $100 billion less than the $2.5 trillion revenue estimate the administration touted when it set out in 2001 to sell its policy of never-ending tax cuts. Even with this year's bigger haul, real revenue growth during the Bush years will be abysmal, averaging about 0.3 percent per capita, versus an average of nearly 10 percent in all previous post-World War II business cycles.

Read the whole thing.

[Update 2006-07-11 15:24 EDT] More counterspin at Think Progress and Salon.

Zit Update

According to an article in today's NY Times, the latest thinking on acne is that most dietary choices do not cause acne: "... chocolate and greasy foods were not [associated with outbreaks]."

So much for Mom telling you to lay off the M&Ms and french fries.

I once heard a plausible explanation for this apparent correlation -- you touch your face with your greasy fingers, pores get blocked, blackhead city.

But the real money quote from this story calls attention to two truly evil substances, foisted onto abused children nationwide: "Skim milk had the greatest effect. ... cottage cheese [was] also associated with outbreaks."

Told ya.

Yet Another One for the "Duh" Files

The headline:

Mushroom Drug Produces Mystical Experience

Am I the only one who remembers what I learned in college?

More "duh" entries here and here.

Monday, July 10, 2006


In case you didn't already know, you can be automatically notified when new posts appear on this blog. In response to a question from Clare a while ago, I looked into some easy ways to receive such notification. (If you look over in the right-hand column, you'll see a new button, which gives you a clue as to which solution I thought was best.)

If you want to read my notes concerning this small amount of research, click here.

If you already know about RSS and Atom and subscribing to blog feeds and all that, I'd be happy for your input on what I wrote. Put your thoughts in the Comments. Thanks!

Hawking Lectures

There is a collection of Stephen Hawking's lectures online, at

I just read the first one, and it's quite good. Hawking is unusually gifted at putting hard physics concepts into intelligible language.

The site makes it seem as though you'll have to read PDF or Postscript files, but the HTML is available, too. Just click the titles of the respective lectures.

Two complaints: the site uses frames, and there are an awful lot of incorrectly added commas, at least in the first lecture. These annoyances do not overly detract from the quality of the content, though.

Thanks for the link, JoshuaE!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

PC Speech Breaks Species Boundary

According to an insert in the bag of cat food that just poured out, my cats will no longer be eating "Senior" food. When I buy the next bag, I'm to look for "Mature Adult" food.

Saturday, July 08, 2006


Mother Of all Bumper Stickers

Saw this bumper sticker mentioned on Dive Into Mark:

Sorry I missed church, I was busy practicing witchcraft and becoming a lesbian.

To which I would add, "And reading the New York Times."

Your amendments? Put 'em in the Comments!

DownTime. SlowTime. I Call It . . .

So, I'm downloading yet another update for "Quick"Time. Once again, like the last forty-eleven upgrades performed through Apple's Software Update since I installed OS X on this Mac, it's about 50 MB. It's amazing to me that something that has been so tightly integrated into Apple since forever cannot be upgraded in a more streamlined patch fashion.

Never were quote marks more appropriate.

More QFP

KK has posted some QFP pix on Kodak's EasyShare Gallery. It looks like you have to sign in, but you don't. Just click the picture to start the slideshow.

You already saw Jinnet's pix on Flickr, right?

Mind From Nowhere

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) recently spouted his "thinking" about Net Neutrality, a topic which I have discussed before. Stevens is against NN; i.e., he is shilling for the big telcos, perhaps as a break from his main job of buying useless bridges with hurricane relief funds.

Here's a sample of his understanding of the World Wide Web and electronic communications in general (source):

"Just the other day," he said, "an Internet was sent by my staff at 10 o'clock in the morning on Friday and I got it yesterday. Why? Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the Internet commercially."

An Internet?

Doesn't it make you feel good that someone with such deep understanding is the chair of the committee making these decisions?

For a truly bizarre experience, listen to the whole thing.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Reason Number 67,491 Not To Watch TV

From Alessandra Stanley's review of a recent appearance on the boob tube by the Boob-In-Chief:
Two kinds of celebrities go on "Larry King Live" on CNN: those with something to sell and those with something to hide.

. . .

"Larry King Live" is the first stop in any damage control operation -- a chance to explain oneself to the least contentious journalist in the land.

[Update: 7/07/2006 19:42 EDT] Bob Garfield had a nice commentary about this bit of nonsense during this week's On The Media. (Transcripts and audio both available.)

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Be Afraid

Yup. That's a cross in her right hand. Not a torch. And yes, those are the Ten Commandments under her left arm. The name of the church who consecrated this statue? World Overcomers.

Anyone in Congress up for a law preventing desecration of the Statue of Liberty?

Didn't think so.

Photo credit: Rollin Riggs for The NY Times

He May Not Read Polls . . .

. . . but I think it should tell him something when the only people at his birthday party were those who could be ordered to attend.

(Photo credit: Jason Reed/Reuters, via The New York Times)

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


Jinnet has posted some QFP photos on her Flickr site.

Good stuff! Thanks, Jinnet.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

HH, again

Heather Havrilesky has her latest column up on Salon, just in time for Independence Day.

When was the last time that you read a piece of TV criticism that started by quoting Thomas Jefferson, and then had lines like these?

Indeed, the "unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion" is all well and good, as long as we agree with that reasoning and those opinions. If we don't, then the parties in question should have no more rights than a stray dog with a biting problem. And once such a dog is deemed dangerous, let's face it, it requires the presence of a greedy, arrogant overlord to police its every move henceforth. Luckily, we're just the nation for the job!

I'm proud of us, aren't you, chickens? We've evolved from headstrong, scrappy rebels burdened by unnecessary ideals to greedy, arrogant overlords unfettered by the shackles of conscience in just a little more than two centuries! That's some serious overachieving if you ask me. Where would all of those nasty, biting dogs of the Middle East be without the shining example of freedom and independence we set for them? Who could possibly lead them to the promised land of reason and freedom, besides us, with our sophisticated navigational systems and our many drive-thrus serving up freedom fries 24 hours a day?

Go read the whole piece.

No Dog In This Fight

Did you know that there is some apparent controversy about Oprah Winfrey's unwillingness to have hip hop artists on her show?

David Marchese has a nice brief summary on Salon.

Now you know. And so do I. And I am happy to hear, at long last, about a raging debate in this bitterly divided nation that I don't care about. Not even one little bit.

Just When You Thought . . .

. . . you had heard all the funny URLs . . .

Now, just because I find no end of amusement in looking at people's cat pictures, there's no reason for you to have a look . . .

Thanks, BDP!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Burn On

A few days ago, I posted my thoughts about the flag burning nonsense.

Yesterday, Frank Rich had his say. (The link points to a location behind the TimesSelect wall. Sorry.) He pretty much said what I said, but way better, using considerably fewer words:

"Old Glory lost today," Bill Frist declaimed last week when his second attempt to rewrite the Constitution in a single month went the way of his happy prognosis for Terri Schiavo. Of course it isn't Old Glory that lost when the flag-burning amendment flamed out. The flag always survives the politicians who wrap themselves in it.

The rest of his piece talks about the W administration's latest attempts at distracting the voters, including painting the NYTimes as the enemy of national security and trumpeting the arrest of "terrorists" in Miami.

A must read. Let me know if you want me to email you a copy.