Sunday, December 30, 2007

A very serious, thoughtful, post that has never been made in such detail or with such care

(Updated below. Twice. Thrice.)

I was just reminded by World O' Crap of Instaputz's Marching Orders, which I am happy to obey: It's a very good idea that future use of the term Liberal Fascism will call to mind the weighty author with the lightweight mind.

Happy New Year, Jonah!


Update

2008-01-01 02:42

When I put this post up originally, we were at position 20. As of this moment: number 7! Go, bombers, go!


Update

2008-01-02 04:49

And now, number 5! Appears without scrolling! Keep up the good work!


Update

2008-01-03 19:58

As Instaputz notes: now at number 4!

View latest results.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Sometimes, Reading Widely Pays Off

Matthew Yglesias: More Fun With Antecedents.

Retroacronym of the Day: 2007-12-29

Thanks to Thousands of Monkeys, via Steve Pinker, we now know that:

AWFUL stands for Americans Who Figuratively Use Literally.

Giddy? Yup!



The Four Horsemen

(click pic to enlarge)



(Updated: typo fix)

Depending on your beliefs, this is either the Four Horsemen plotting their strategy for world domination, or the conversation you'd most like to join.

It begins by feeling a little like a meeting of a support group, but pretty soon, there's some decent debate: over agendas, priorities, whether to treat all opponents equally, and hoped-for outcomes. You might be surprised to learn that not all of them want completely to do away with religion, at least in some senses.

Dawkins, Dennet, Harris, and Hitchens, in conversation:

(h/t: George and John)

In Memoriam

1994
Netscape sunset
2007


Obituary.


(h/t: KK and PB)

Soothsayer of the Decade

Court jesters have long been credited with speaking truth when no one else dares. Too bad no one ever pays attention in time.

Case in point: this article, published by The Onion on 17 Jan 2001, three days before George W. Bush was inaugurated. Amazingly prescient.

(h/t: Echidne)

Kristol Heeling

Via Roy, I see that the HuffPo "has learned that … the New York Times is set to announce that Bill Kristol will become a weekly columnist in 2008."

My immediate reaction, like some other people in the leftosphere, is to wonder why someone who has been so wrong about so many things for so long -- and without ever acknowledging any of this -- keeps getting plush gigs. Why do we need to hear his thoroughly discredited point of view any longer? What's next, hiring a phrenologist to write for the Science section?

On second thought, however, it's probably not a bad thing for people who only have time to read one paper to see what the extremists on the other side think. Being on this higher visibility site, Kristol will be susceptible to far more scrunity. This may help drive a well-deserved stake through the heart of the neocon philosophy.

My third thought is that given his perfectly bad track record over the past decade, Kristol serves as a useful predictor: just multiply whatever he says by -1, and that'll tell you something useful.

Is This a Good Thing or a Bad Thing?

Take the Sci fi sounds quiz I received 64 credits on
The Sci Fi Sounds Quiz

How much of a Sci-Fi geek are you?
Take the Sci-Fi Movie Quiz canon s5 is

You're a major sci-fi geek! Do you speak Klingon?


(h/t: Jinnet)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Taking Snark to the Next Level

The title pretty much says it all: "The BEAST 50 Most Loathsome People in America, 2007."

I've only read 50-46 so far and I'm already alarming the cats with my nasal snorts.

(h/t: PZ)

Line of the Day: 2007-12-27

Consulting

If you're not part of the solution, there is a great deal of money to be made in prolonging the problem.

-- Demotivators, via Wolfgangus

New (to me) Word: Spatchcock

Joel Achenbach's post-Christmas post has a word I don't remember ever hearing before. Here's the context:

Food report: I spatchcocked the turkey to within an inch of its life.

Following a link from Wikipedia to the food section of the San Francisco Chronicle's web site, I discovered that this means removing the spine of the bird (in order to cook it flat on a grill, usually).

I guess spatchcocked is more euphonious than saying "I DemocraticCongressed the bird."

On an unrelated note, Princeton's online dictionary offers another definition:

(v) spatchcock (interpolate or insert (words) into a sentence or story)

I don't even have a bluff answer for why these two meanings should be associated with such an unusual-sounding word.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Cats in Sync

I know I just posted another picture of someone else's cats a few hours ago, but I happened across this one and couldn't resist. Makes me wish no one had ever said "OMG!" before.

Cats in sink

(Swiped from: TheCutest)

Krugman at Google

(Updated: minor wordsmithing)

If you're ready for a change of pace from cloying Christmas stories, you might like Paul Krugman's talk that he gave at Google two weeks ago. If you're not quite ready to give up the holiday glow, maybe you'd like to bookmark it instead.

This isn't the standard pimp-my-book talk. Instead, it's an explanation of what we call, for shorthand's sake, the "subprime crisis." It's gloomy in parts, but you won't feel like the world is coming to an end (unless you've recently been foreclosed upon, in which case, it already has, of course.) The tone is less formal than a lecture, and Krugman does have a rare gift for making complicated financial ideas comprehensible, but there is still plenty of substance. Could've been heavier on the Bush-bashing, but that's my only complaint.

The talk is about 50 minutes long, with about 20 minutes of Q&A at the end. Highly recommended.

Waiting For Santa

(click pic to enlarge)


Photo by MK of her herd. (My cats, of course, are even more adorable.)

Monday, December 24, 2007

Season's Leavings

Oscar Emmanuel Peterson
15 August 1925 – 23 December 2007


Remember what happened this time last year?

I guess the Cosmic All-Stars wanted to add a piano player. They made a fine choice, one of my all-time favorites. RIP, Mr. Peterson.

Here are a few moments from a great life:

In a quartet ...



... with a pair of bass players ...



... and one more, just to show a little speed:




Photo: AllAboutJazz.com. Videos from YouTube.com

The Nightmares Before Christmas

One of my superiors in wordplay, Mr. S., has a couple to share.

Big laffs!

Mike Kuniavsky's Magical Thinking

I just listened to a talk given by Mike Kuniavsky at the O'Reilly Media Emerging Technology Conference last March. He was pitching the idea of using magic as a metaphor and a framework for designing "ubiquitous computing" gadgets. His claim, not unique to him, is that the metaphor of the desktop is not useful when you're using something with computing power that isn't, you know, a desktop computer.

Mike's thesis is that people tend to attribute magical or at least animistic properties to their gadgets, especially as the complexity and capability of the gadgets increases. I never really thought about this idea of anthropomorphizing gadgets before, except to be impatient with people who do so. (I do confess to moments of kinship with my car after long trips without mishap.) Mike's talk changed my mind about this -- rather than dismissing what is evidently a common human behavior, it makes sense to accept it and to think about how to put it to use.

You can hear the talk by grabbing the MP3 file from ITConversations.com. It's about forty minutes long. There's a PDF file containing the slides for the talk on the same page. Ditto links to his blog and company web sites.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Shorter Star Wars

A few months ago, I wrote a long post, excerpting heavily from Jack Hitt, about the idiocy that is this nation's missile defense program. Would that I could be as succinct as Matt Yglesias. Here's his entire post, reacting to another article:

Obviously, a lot of neocon types are down in the dumps about the NIE on Iran. Not to worry, though, AEI's Charlie Szrom, writing for The Weekly Standard and citing the time-honored conservative precept that "everything strengthens the case for missile defense boondoggles" explains that the report strengthens the case for missile defense boondoggles. And, indeed, all indications are that the system would work better against non-existent Iranian nuclear missiles than against the real kind, so in that sense Szrom makes a strong case.

He's Too Young to be a Curmudgeon, Isn't He?

In my day, the presence of the word “educational” on a video game’s packaging was as ominous as “carob” in the ingredients of a candy bar. It almost always presaged some incredibly lame program called “Math Blaster!” or “Phonic Racer!” or “Super Rad Find Côte d’Ivoire on a Map Challenge!”, featuring the thinnest veneer of “game” lacquered over story problems, spelling bees, and demands that you use your Atari 2600 joystick to laboriously navigate a grid of letters and spell out the name of our 23rd president. Seeing as how my entire generation grew up to be morons, I guess the video game industry gave all that up as a lost battle, and are now sucking the joy out of video gaming with controllers that trick your child into exercising. Yes, what could make Halo 3 more engrossing than the need to constantly run on a treadmill to power it? Buy one for your child and he’s certain to get an invigorating workout, as he runs away from home as fast as possible to escape the parents who so clearly hate him.

The above is an excerpt from the proprietor of Defective Yeti, Matthew Baldwin. It's his "annual round-up of the stupidest items available for purchase on Teh Neterwebs," titled, this year, "2007 Holiday Christmas Survival Guide for Slackers Cultural Warriors." Go read the whole thing -- it's the best Christmas cheer I've seen lately.

Before I hit the bottle ...

... this used to be my act.

In my dreams.

If you want to see a live performance of a human calculator, check out Arthur Benjamin. Even if you're not a math nerd, I think you'll find it entertaining. And amazing.

About 15 minutes long, and well worth watching to the end, where he shows how he does it.

Dawkins on the Meaning of 25 December

For fans only, probably: "Happy Newton Day!"

(h/t: John and George)

Flash Security Update (and Opera, OS X, too)

Adobe has released a security update for its Flash player, which you almost certainly have if you've ever watched any video or animated image online. The update patches nine potential security holes.

To check which version of Flash you currently have installed, visit this page: http://www.adobe.com/products/flash/about/

Assuming you're not up to date, you can download the latest version by clicking on the "Player Download Center" link, right on the same page.

I just did it. The download is virtually instantaneous (over broadband), and the installation takes about ten seconds: close your browser and double-click the file that you just downloaded. You won't even have to reboot. So go do it, right now. You can then revisit Adobe's site to confirm the success of the installation.

Brian Krebs has more details, if you want them.

P.S. In the same post, Krebs also notes that Opera has released a security patch for its browser, as well. I don't use Opera, so I don't know anything more than that. I'd be interested to know if Opera has an automatic update/notification feature like Firefox, so Opera users, please drop a note in the comments. Thanks.

P.P.S. In an earlier post, Krebs reports that Apple has released a bunch of patches for Tiger (v 10.4, not Leopard - v10.5). I don't have my Mac hooked up right now, so I can't say anything about this one, but I imagine the usual Software Update procedure should handle things. NB: This one looks like it might take some time, especially if your connection isn't speedy -- one of the patches is an 80 MB fix for security holes in Java. But don't put this update off for too long. According to Krebs, there are 58 security vulnerabilities being addressed, and apparently, Software Update fails to impress upon you the seriousness of some of the Java security holes.

Happy surfing!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Land of the Free, Home of the Brave

Have you heard how tourism is supposed to ease the pressures of the recession and the falling dollar? After reading this, I can only ask, what's Plan B?

(h/t: Andrew, via Matt, via LGM.)

Censored

From Variety:

The MPAA has rejected the one-sheet for Alex Gibney's documentary "Taxi to the Dark Side," which traces the pattern of torture practice from Afghanistan's Bagram prison to Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo Bay.

We're never going to fix our problems until we start by facing them. In that spirit, here's the poster. Click to zoom.



Censored poster for 'Taxi to the Dark Side'



More details and links here. Hat tip: LGM.

I'm too sick at heart about the whole thing to say anything more.

Grab the Popcorn!

Neil J. Young posted an entertaining piece yesterday on Slate: "Southern Baptists vs. the Mormons: Mike Huckabee's and Mitt Romney's faiths have tangled before." The article focuses on the recent history of the battle between the two sects for hearts and minds.

Okay, "minds" is probably putting it generously.

Hey, Wait A Minute

From PC World:

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has won a lawsuit against the operators of TorrentSpy.com, with the judge ruling in favor of the MPAA because the Web site operators tampered with evidence.

[...]

"A substantial number of items of evidence have been destroyed," she [U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Chooljian] wrote. "Defendants were on notice that this information would be of importance in this case."

So, because the defendants destroyed evidence that were told to make available, they summarily lost the case? Hmmm. I can think of one or two other people I'd like to drag in front of Judge Chooljian.

(h/t: Network World 360)

This was going to be a Line of the Day post, but ...

... I couldn't decide which one to grab.

Want to read a piece of political analysis that will make you contemplate canceling your subscriptions to cable, newspapers, and magazines? Go to the Doghouse.

I bow down. No one else comes close to saying what I wish I could.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Need Something To Watch?

(Updated below)

One of my all-time favorite authors, Richard Rhodes, is one half of the latest diavlog over on BloggingHeads.tv. He's got a new book out, Arsenals of Folly: The Making of the Nuclear Arms Race. If it's even half as good as his last two on the topic of nuclear arms (The Making of the Atomic Bomb and Dark Sun), it'll be great.

Rhodes is talking with Joseph Cirincione, who has a new nuke book of his own out. I don't know Cirincione, but he sounds smart, and Rhodes praised his book.

The discussion mostly focuses on the "threat inflation" that characterized the Cold War. You'll be amazed at the parallels and actual connections with the current War on TerrorTM.

It's about an hour long. You can watch it as a stream, or download the video or audio-only files for later use. Highly recommended.


Update

2007-12-14 20:39

In a similar vein, you might also enjoy this (audio) interview of Bob Drogin by Moira Gunn. Drogin has a new book out about Curveball, the dubious sole source that the Bush Administration used to make its case for invading Iraq.

'Roid Rage Poll

The new poll is up, over there in the sidebar.

The results from the last one, for the question, "What did you think of Romney's religion speech?" showed a tie for first place:

1. I loved it! Romney for President! (36%)
1. Hated it, especially his anti-secular attitude (36%)
3. Didn't watch it, don't care about it (18%)
4. I liked it, but it didn't change my mind about him in general (9%)

For more unscientific Romney polling, see Doonesbury's site.

Thanks for voting!


Hate the restrictions of multiple-choice questions? Please feel free to expand upon your vote in the Comments.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Romney Speech Poll

The new poll is up, over there in the sidebar. Due to the likely decay of interest in this one, the poll closes in three days, not a week, as is usual.

Last poll results: For the question, "My biggest fear about the Democratic primaries is:," the results were:

1. Neither of these two can beat Giuliani (50%)
2. Hillary will be elected president, and the divisiveness of the country will increase (33%)
3. Hillary will be elected president, and she won't be noticeably different from George Bush (17%)
4. Barack will be elected president, and the "See, lack of experience!" card will be played ... (0%)

Thanks for voting!


Hate the restrictions of multiple-choice questions? Please feel free to expand upon your vote in the Comments.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Okay, You've Convinced Me. I'd Vote for Franken.

Reaction to the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Minnesota:

"To think of him as a United States senator almost boggles anyone's imagination," said Ron Carey, the chairman of the state’s Republican Party. "So much of what he has said is vile and offensive -- you can't even quote it."

Yeah, because calling someone who lies a liar and someone who's a big fat idiot a big fat idiot is so much worse than accusing half the citizens of this country of "treason" and being "on the side of the terrorists."

Baby, You Can't Drive My Car

File this one as entry #345975, under problems with the American legal system.

Probably you saw this story about Ryan Holle. Holle is 25 and he's serving life without possibility of parole. Why? Because five years ago, he lent his car to a friend. The friend drove off without him, picked up three other guys, and they broke into a house and ended up killing someone in the house. Under a principle of law that has been discarded by, for example, England, India, and Canada, Holle was convicted as an accomplice.

A prosecutor explained the theory to the jury at Mr. Holle’s trial in Pensacola in 2004. "No car, no crime," said the prosecutor, David Rimmer. "No car, no consequences. No car, no murder."

My question: If this thinking is to be consistent, why can't gun manufacturers be sued for crimes committed with their products?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Line of the Day: 2007-12-03

The Bush administration, worse than you can imagine even after you take account of the fact that it is worse than you can imagine.
-- Brad DeLong, via PK

A Skepchick's Response to Huckabee

(Updated: minor wordsmithing)

The MSM continues its strange love for Mike Huckabee. No news there, and considering the alternatives among the GOP candidates, maybe it's somewhat understandable. But the universal fawning and cooing over his response to the Bible question during the recent YouTube debate has been nothing short of nauseating.

Stacey gets it right, however:

Most of the candidates skirted the question with the typical “symbolism and allegory” apologies, but Huckabee, who has a degree in theology (how scary is that?) says (paraphrasing again), “The Bible cannot be understood by a finite mind because it was created by an infinite God. If you can understand every word in your Bible, your God is too small.” (this was met with applause)

Let’s just think that through. An omniscient, omnipotent, and infinite God created a book via humans and for humans, and this is the only vehicle through which they are able to experience and understand him, and he made it too complicated for them to understand. And the fact that it can’t be understood only proves how great he is.

So I guess the more senseless the scripture, the greater the god. Wow. I may need a theology degree to understand that line of thinking…

From the Dept. Of Redundancy Dept.

IDiots



(h/t: Scott Lemieux)

Friday, November 30, 2007

Picture Glitch

(Updated below)

You know how you can usually click on pictures to see bigger ones, here on this blog? That won't work for the moment. Blogger/Blogspot is having a bit of trouble right now -- if you click on the picture, you'll be offered the chance to download the picture (or open it with some other application, depending on how you've got your browser configured). They say they're working on it.

Nothing to worry about -- I'm not trying to stuff malware down your throat or anything. You're welcome to download any picture, of course, as always.

Sorry for the inconvenience. I'll try to note when this problem is resolved.


Update

2007-12-02 11:25

I've used Blogger's workaround on the most recent post with a picture, so you can click on that one to enlarge it. The rest will, for the moment, still cause a download dialog box to appear. Sorry, again, for the inconvenience.

The Sadness of King Chuck

(Updated: workaround for picture glitch)

hi-ya!

The original caption's pretty good, too.

Lines of the Day: 2007-11-30

From today's Achenblog, in a post titled "The Politics of Nastiness:"

As for Obama, who was it who came up with that great line about "he has an instinct for the capillary"?

(I think it was Glenn Reynolds.) Not that I wish Obama were meaner, and not that I care for Glenn Reynolds at all, but it's a good line.

Also from Joel:

Kucinich couldn't instill fear in a squirrel.
Romney's as authentic as a Twinkie.
... and Broder, who's seen a candidate or two in his day, described Rudy as having the personal warmth of Voldemort.

As for myself, I woke up this morning thinking we ought to call the Black Helicopter types, who support the doctor from Texas, The Appauled.

Middle East Laughs

No, really.

Apparently told at a Brookings Institution gathering by Saeb Erekat, a Palestinian negotiator, in the wake of all that didn't happen at Annapolis:

An Israeli and a Palestinian are watching a Western. In the movie, a cowboy is riding bareback on a particularly wild horse. The Israeli, being aggressive, says to the Palestinian, "I'll bet you 10 shekels he falls." The Palestinian, being impulsive, replies immediately, "I'll bet you he doesn't."

The cowboy falls, and the Palestinian forks over 10 shekels. The Israeli, feeling that famous Israeli guilt, refuses them. Then he admits, "I've seen this movie before."

The Palestinian replies, "So have I. But I thought he would learn from his mistake."

(h/t: Andrew)

IDiots Rule

The lede:

The state's director of science curriculum has resigned after being accused of creating the appearance of bias against teaching intelligent design.

Imagine that. Someone in charge of science education has a bias -- wait, appears to have a bias -- against pseudoscience. The horror!

Former Texan Nick Anthis has a good open letter that I urge you to read, with plenty of useful links. Me, I'm out of gas. The Creationist movement has sapped me of hope for the future of this country.

Found on Fark

Phil Plait [updated link] has a nice post about some wingnut swearing off Starbucks because one cup that she got had printed upon it a thought that offended her "faith."

I'm with Phil on this one:

That's her right, of course, but I wonder out loud that her faith is so shaky that it is disturbed by a paper coffee cup.

Phil finished up by pointing to a Fark thread reacting to this bit of minor hysteria, where I found this delightful image:

oppressed


Political cartooning via pie charts! How geeky cool is that?

I love the suggestion of the gobbling Pacman, too.

[Update 2011-11-18 00:21] Phil Plait link updated. Realized it was stale when checking links after this.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Hard to Believe Anyone Would Pony Up The Money to Register This Domain

I am not making this up. There's a web site out there (and I do mean out there) called Save Tucker Carlson.

The alleged proprietors have posted their phone numbers right on the home page, if you'd like to repeat to them what Jon Stewart so memorably said directly to Tucker. (The line I'm thinking about starts at 12:28, or -1:44, as the timer shows here, but it's probably worth watching the whole thing.)



(h/t: TRex)

The Real FemiNazi?

In case you haven't been browsing the rightwing blogs lately, I present the next centerfold of the American Aryan Movement:

The real feminazi

Never mind how drugged-up this probably otherwise nice young woman looks, and how I hope that explains her willingness to pose as seen. Here's my sop for bipartisanship: I think we can all agree that we'd like to see her take her shirt off.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Mozy

(Updated: minor wordsmithing)

So, my hard disk drive started making a weird noise this morning.

I do automatic backups daily to an external HDD, and I have written a couple of scripts that create archive files suitable for storage on various web mail accounts that I run whenever I think of it, but I decided to do something that I probably should have done a while ago: sign up for one of the free online backup services. I had looked into them briefly a few months ago, and based on my memory, I decided to give Mozy a try.

I signed up for the free account. I got 2 GB of space, along with a very nice interface program to configure the backup process. Other plans are available if you want more space, or if you're running a business, or if you think you might need some of the other premium options, but the free one seems good for the moment, for my purposes. Once I downloaded, installed, and launched the interface program, I was impressed at the guesses that Mozy made about which files should be backed up and which shouldn't. (The idea is to avoid backing up program files -- these can be reinstalled from CD or re-downloaded. What you care about is the content you've created yourself.) It was easy to tweak the choices to save space. For example, I keep every email message I get because I'm a pack rat, but I don't really need a second backup of every last funny video clip I've ever received. If my HDD and external HDD both fail, you all can send them again, if you like.

I ended up selecting about 1.1 GB worth of files for backup and started the process. It took most of the day for everything to be uploaded. (Home broadband connections, as you probably know, are much faster at downloading than uploading.) From now on, backups won't take anywhere near as long, as Mozy will in the future only back up changes to the files and folders that I've marked. I ran a second backup a couple of hours later to confirm this, and only the expected few files got uploaded. From now on, the claim is, Mozy will run automatically, on a daily basis. The frequency of backups can be adjusted, and you can force a backup whenever you'd like.

During the initial backup process, my (aging) computer was slightly sluggish. You can tweak Mozy to adjust this -- a more responsive computer at the expense of slower backing up -- but I wanted the backup to go as fast as possible, so I left that setting alone. Part of the sluggishness is due to the fact that Mozy encrypts all files before uploading. They also say they never look at your files once they're on their servers. There's no real way to be sure about this. My attitude is that I'm using a Windows machine, so it's inherently insecure, so I don't have anything sensitive on it in the first place. I'm more paranoid about losing my notes, pictures, and email than I am about someone viewing them, so I'm happy to take them at their word.

As far as I can tell, everything is where it should be on their servers. Part of the interface goodness is the addition of a "virtual folder" that lets you see what you've backed up, that you can access through Windows Explorer or whatever else you use to manage your files. (You can also access your backed-up files through the interface program, or by surfing to your Mozy account.) I just tested restoring a single file, and although it wasn't obvious what was going on, the file did get restored. Three times, in fact, by the time I got around to looking to see if the file was actually there. This is a nice feature -- an inadvertent restore won't overwrite a possibly newer file.

I won't go on and on about it. Ask me if you want some more details. The short version is: setting up the account and doing the backup seemed easy. There are only a few tiny rough edges left: the restore process could be made a little more obvious, and some of the informational messages could maybe use some dumbing down. For example, this is what you see for a few seconds when you start backing up (emph. added):

Mozy status window

I recommend you give Mozy a shot, if you don't already have a good backup system in place. And remember, a good backup plan includes off-site storage.

Oh, and by the way, my hard disk drive is no longer making funny noises. The umbrella principle works once again.

Acronym Expanded: Yahoo

The claim is, the name for the exclamatory web site came from one of pages of bookmarked links to the rest of the brand-new World Wide Web, back in April 1994. According to page 2 of PC Advisor's "The 15 most important days in web history:"

Some hobbies take on a life of their own; others change the world. In early 1994, Stanford PhD students Jerry Yang and David Filo posted a list of their favourite sites on the web. The exact date they posted the links is lost to history, but we do know the list's original name: "Jerry and David's Guide to the World Wide Web."

By April '94 it had a new tongue-in-cheek name: "Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle," …

A page on Yahoo's PR site provides verification.

If you win a bar bet with this one, I want a cut.

Gorgeous

Check out today's Astronomy Picture of the Day.

Almost looks like a planet worth saving, doesn't it?

More skeye-candy in the APOD archives, if you hadn't already figured that out.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thoughts About the Kindle

You've heard about the Kindle, right? I kind of want one. (You might remember my past lust for another one of these things.) The Kindle sounds better than the Sony Reader, but at $400, it's just a little too much for me. If I were traveling as much as I used to, maybe. I really like the feature that allows you to download new books (and other content) from any location with cell phone coverage.

Three thoughts, besides wishing it cost a little less:

  • I'd love it if you could "rent" books. Rather than $10 for a permanent copy, how about $1 for a lease of, say, two weeks? Ideally, a future version would work just like a library (read: free loans), but I wouldn't mind paying a buck for the convenience.

  • Can you use this thing on an airplane? That is, can the wireless feature be temporarily disabled, or does it only come on when you try to shop?

  • What's going to happen when someone buys one of these, loads it up with purchased ebooks, and then wants to sell it for more than $400? Sanity would say this should be no different from selling a bookcase and the books upon it. DRM lawyers, however, are not often accused of sanity.

Fun With Google Trends

(Updated: minor wordsmithing)

I'd explain this chart by saying it's all due to the fact that Jesus has less new content.

I do wonder what caused that spike in the red line in late 2005. Any guesses?

For more fun, try this one, and note the breakdowns by region and language.

Bonus question: can you come up with a term for the blue line that will make it appear above the red line? I came up with "bush," which momentarily rises above, but there are too many obvious jokes to be made at this point.

(h/t: Farhad Manjoo)

Thanks, PZ

(Updated below)

If Paul Davies's op-ed in Saturday's NYT irritated you as much as it did me, you might like PZ Myers's rebuttal.


Update

2007-11-26 20:23

Doghouse Riley starts with the same annoyance, but quickly expands his curmudgeonliness. As usual, brilliantly.

When Facts Are Partisan

In a brief piece reporting Trent Lott's planned resignation from the Senate, Adam Nossiter and David M. Herszenhorn saw fit to include this paragraph:

By resigning before the end of the year, Mr. Lott would beat the effective date for new ethics rules that double to two years the amount of time former Senators must wait before they can join a firm to lobby former colleagues. The new rule applies to those who leave office "on or after" Dec. 31.

I'm sure rightwingers who read the NYT just to complain about it will have plenty to say about this, but I think it merited inclusion.

I had a little more trouble with the lede:

Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi, who was forced to step down as majority leader in 2002 after making a remark that seemed to support segregation, announced today that he will resign by the end of the year.

This is something important in Lott's career, and deserved mention, but I wouldn't have put it in the first sentence. I would have started with something like "Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi, former Majority Leader and current second-ranking Republican, announced …" and reviewed later in the article why he lost the Majority Leader slot.

In defense of Nossiter and Herszenhorn, there was no speculation about the expected massive slump in sales of men's hair spray in the D.C. area.

(photo credit: Alex Brandon/Associated Press, my crop)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Good. The sex scandals were getting a little repetitive.

Dateline: OK!

For many, the resignation of Oral Roberts University's embattled president, Richard Roberts, seemed to be a question of when, not if, amid the financial scandal that hit the school nearly two months ago.

Roberts, facing accusations in the lawsuit that he misspent school funds to support a lavish lifestyle, resigned Friday.

[...]

The recent lawsuit, filed Oct. 2, includes allegations of a $39,000 shopping tab at one store for Richard Roberts' wife, Lindsay, a $29,411 Bahamas senior trip on the university jet for one of Roberts' daughters, and a stable of horses for the Roberts children.

The professors also alleged that Richard Roberts required students in a government class to work on 2006 Tulsa mayoral candidate Randi Miller's campaign.

Yes, that's Oral Roberts's kid. No, we are not suprised. Yes, we are amused.

(h/t: Roger Ailes)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Geography Quiz: Reflections

Looking at the comments under the recent geography quiz, I retract the blame I assigned to my mouse. I'm impressed, y'all. And embarrassed.

Continuing in the self-flagellation mode, I guess there's no sense keeping this a secret any longer:

cash advance

I've been telling myself that this result was a compliment to the clarity of my prose, but that's seeming less plausible. Ten years of college, wasted.

In my own defense, Althouse rates at the junior high school level.

(h/t for the scoring link: Crankyprof)

Liberal Smugness at Its Finest

My favorite way to say I told you so, up until five minutes ago, was the old bumper sticker: "Don't Blame Me. I'm From Massachusetts." Here's my new favorite, which Paul Krugman says he has on a T-shirt:

I disapproved before it was fashioable

(click pic to zoom)



I think the plot title is superfluous, so I edited it out, but if you don't recognize the data, it was "George W. Bush: Approval Ratings."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Fun Geography Quiz

Play here.

I just missed getting to level 5 on my first attempt, which I blame mostly on my mouse, and not at all on my vast knowledge.

Thanks, Jinnet. (Who claims to have gotten to level 6, but does not deign to say how many tries it took.)

Tagged!

Too long ago, I was tagged by John. Here are my answers.

4 jobs I have had:

  • Caddy
  • Chauffeur
  • Computer Programmer
  • Carpenter

4 movies I love to watch over and over:

  • Reservoir Dogs
  • Pulp Fiction
  • Jackie Brown
  • Galaxy Quest

4 places I have lived:

  • New York, NY
  • New Milford, CT
  • Narragansett, RI
  • Northampton, MA

4 TV shows I enjoy watching:

  • The Daily Show
  • The Colbert Report
  • The West Wing
  • The NBA

4 places I have been:

  • Chichen Itza
  • Stonehenge
  • Sistene Chapel
  • Joshua Tree National Park

4 Websites I visit daily:

4 favorite foods:

  • A particular Steak au Poivre
  • Tom's salad
  • Robert's pasta
  • Anything made by Maura or Clare or Belinda or Rieke or Nancy or that Nancy or that other Nancy

4 places I’d rather be:

  • In a semi-sleazy bar, arguing politics with Christopher Hitchens
  • In a semi-dusty classroom, listening to Richard Feynman talking about physics
  • In a semi-gloomy dungeon, watching Dick Cheney beg a hooded figure to stop the waterboarding
  • The Moon

Typically, when one is meme-tagged, one is supposed to tag others. I don't like to impose in this fashion, because as much as I like to get tagged, it turns out most other people don't share my enthusiasm. So, if you'd like to consider yourself tagged, please do so. Add a link in the commments, if you like, and I'll update this post to indicate that I tagged you. (Massive incentive: First four only!) This is kind of like preparing documents for the George W. Bush Presidential Library, I think.

Turkey Poll

The new poll is up (over there in the sidebar).

Last poll results: The question was: "Stephen Colbert's plan to run for president in South Carolina is:"

The winner, in a landslide, was: "A perfect commentary on the state of presidential campaigns."

Thanks for voting!


Hate the restrictions of multiple-choice questions? Please feel free to expand upon your vote in the Comments.

Glad To Know ...

... I'm not the only one who makes fun of his previous government-funded job. Here's PK, ruminating on the bad old days, same as the bad new days:

And one of my jobs was to go to international meetings, where I helped draw up communiques. These communiques were, by design, bland and uninformative — because consensus, not insight, was the goal, so anything controversial was fuzzed over.

It was, in short, extremely boring: well-dressed important-looking men sitting around tables, saying nothing.

And reading reports on the latest G20 meeting brings it all back:
G20 finance ministers and central bankers conceded that the extent of the global economic slowdown following this summer’s turmoil in financial markets is difficult to predict.
Profound, isn’t it? Equally exciting:
In their communique, the G20 said recent events have ‘emphasised the need for greater effectiveness of financial supervision and the management of financial risks as well as to increase transparency among financial institutions’.
And grown men spend their time doing this.

His blog is at least as good as his column. I hope he keeps it up once the book-pimping is done with.

Lines of the Day: 2007-11-21

From a good post arguing against Giuliani:

Republican blogs are trying to convince me that Mike Huckabee is surging even though nobody in the country can adequately describe him to a police sketch artist.
-- Eric Berlin

From the referring post:

I don't know how, in a time when the United States desperately needs unity, we wound up with the nation's two most polarizing figures as front runners in a Presidential election.
-- Matthew Baldwin

But really, all you need for today is one word, from Jon Swift: Thankstaking. Read it and weep. With laughter.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Can't Anybody Here Write a Simple Memo?

According to Yahoo's version of the AP report, Frances Townsend gave notice earlier today of her plans to resign as Homeland Security Advisor. Part of her resignation letter read:

It is with a profound sense of gratitude that I have decided to take a respite from public service.

I'd be glad to be allowed out of that White House, too, but that's probably not what she meant.

At my old office job, we used to get memos when the latest quarterly reports for the pension plan were available. They always began:

As required by law, I am pleased to notify you that ...

Communications majors, every last one of them, no doubt.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Sullivan on Obama

If you're like me, and the bloom has come off the rose a little bit, Andrew Sullivan's article on Barack Obama should help. Even if you're not like me, I encourage you to read it. It's a powerful argument for why Obama is the best choice for president.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Impossible to Take Them Seriously

Kyklops is hosting a video that I think should be the only campaign commercial the Democrats show for the next year.

Sometimes It's Better Not To Use a Logarithmic Axis

Here is a bar chart titled "2007 United States Research and Development Investments in Different Types of Energy Compared to the Cost of the War in Iraq."

You will not believe the amount of scrolling required.

(h/t: Sean)

The Republican Governing Philosophy In a Nutshell

Here's Utah State Senator Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, speaking in response to a colleague's request that a vote on a bill be delayed until possible unintended consequences were more fully explored:

We get bound up here all the time on "we don't understand this." Well, there's a lot of things we vote on that we don't understand, but I would rather stand on the principle of "let's go for it."

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys.

(h/t: Clif)

Further Proof of the Sinister Pelosi Agenda

Via Peter Sagal, here's an excerpt from Katie Mingle's acceptance speech at the Seventh Annual Third Coast International Audio Festival Awards:

When I was a kid, I used to listen to public radio when my parents played it, and I'd think, "That's so gay." Now I'm making stuff for public radio, and, I am gay.

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be documentarians.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Bridging the Yap

I know you'll find this hard to believe, but the rightwing blogosphere is just outraged, outraged about bridge players using signs. The noise level leads me to believe that the follow-on story will feature a certain New York real estate magnate suing the players for invoking his name during bidding without paying royalties.

Thank goodness there's a reasonable conservative around when you need one. Jon Swift nails it, once again.

Be sure to note the email response posted as an update. Is it possible that no one on the right knows the meaning of the word satire?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Punchline Not Required. Maybe Not Possible.

Just got back from the grocery store. Guess who's on the cover of this month's Ebony?

Cover of Ebony mag 12/2007

Turns out Copernicus was wrong ...

... the Earth apparently orbits the Moon!

Kyklops has a nice video up on his blog: Earthrise and Earthset, as imaged by the high-def camera mounted on JAXA's Kaguya lunar explorer, with a little background music added by some kind YouTuber. Short and sweet.

Kaguya, it seems, is Japanese for Selene. Or maybe, Japanese for Heather Has Two Mommies.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Political Unendorsement of the Day: 2007-11-13

The suspension of disbelief required to support Rudy Giuliani for president is not unlike watching a porn film and thinking, "You know, maybe if I deliver pizza to that hot chick down the street when she didn't order any …"

The above is from the Rude Pundit, so you can probably imagine what happens after the ellipsis. I'm not usually a language prude (I'll cop to language scold); I just think the line is funnier as excerpted.

If you don't mind an excess of Anglo-Saxonisms, the whole thing is worth a read. I also liked the way the RP characterized Giuliani's book: "a literary combover."

Conservative Neurology

You've probably gotten this advice a few times during this millenium:

Is this user 'piscivorous'?

I finally decided to take them up on it, and found one, right on the Liberals page of Conservapedia. Click to zoom.

liberal brain

I particularly like the frontal lobe labeled "Smarter Than Thou Tumor." Not too hard to tell what the wingnuts are most worried about, is it?

They hate us because they can't understand our jokes.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Who's This? Answer.

That is a recent picture of Wayne Rogers, best known for playing Trapper John on the TV version of M*A*S*H.

The picture comes from a "where are they now" thing that Joel said he found "weirdly compelling." For me, not so much. But the picture of Rogers was kind of fun.

Congratulations to Don McArthur for getting it right.

Not Really One For The Clippings File

From Manohla Dargis's review of Lions for Lambs:

Mr. Cruise pours on his characteristic intensity and lights up the board with alternating flashes of charm, sincerity, gravity, indignation and outrage. Every mood feels phony, a total put-on …

Ouch!

Maybe not so bad. He is, after all, portraying a U.S. Senator. Here's the rest of that last sentence:

… which works well for a character delivering a self-conscious, constructed performance.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

License to Call

When the "Do Not Call" program started, certain groups were permitted to ignore the restrictions, among them, political advocacy groups.

At the time, this seemed reasonable to me. In fact, it seemed like a good thing. But I now want to propose an additional restriction: automated calls do not qualify for exemption.

I've gotten at least one robo-call every day this week. It would appear that NY Republicans have no other issue to campaign on besides the driver's license nonsense. You want to have a real person call me, fine. But no automated calls.

Who's This?

Place your guesses in the Comments, if you like. If you're sure you know, obfuscate, please. Answers in a few days.

Holy Trinity!

Probably you've seen this. But if not, enjoy. I think the announcers add a lot, which is a uncommon thing these days.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Line of the Day: 2007-11-02

(Updated below)

Doghouse Riley, moved to sentimentalism (not really) over the departure of Karen "Who?" Hughes, looks forward to nostalgia for the Bush Administration's time in office:

... a kitschy, sentimental small-town parade where all the floats are constructed of horseshit, with a couple of local disc jockeys babbling on the PA about how fresh the air seemed that morning.

Read the whole thing.

You might also like the Arab News's take on the resignation. It starts with the headline: "Karen Hughes Resigns After Failing to Improve the US’ Image Abroad," and gets harsher farther down.


Update

2007-11-03 03:23

On The Media has a nice piece on the Hughes resignation, too. Most of it is an interview with Price Floyd, the erstwhile State Department director of media affairs who served under Hughes.

New Poll: Colbert 2008!

Colbert2008!

The new poll is up (over there in the sidebar).

Results from the last one: Rudy Giuliani won in a landslide for most creepy Republican candidate. "All are equally creepy" finished second, and Mitt Romney bought himself earned a third-place finish.

Thanks for voting!

Photo credit: AP, part of a good LAT article on the campaign


Hate the restrictions of multiple-choice questions? Please feel free to expand upon your vote in the Comments.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

His Royal Cluelessness

Not a day goes by without something else happening that makes you wonder just what the hell George W. Bush was doing for the half-century before he got into the White House.

Here's today's jaw-dropper, the last sentence from a NYT story describing Bush's attempts to rehabilitate the image of his choice for the next Torturer-General:

Dana M. Perino, the press secretary, said aides to Mr. Bush had been discussing ways to make him more accessible to the press, and settled upon the Oval Office idea after Mr. Bush saw a photograph of President Dwight D. Eisenhower conducting a news conference there.

No word from the press secretary as to whether Bush actually knew who that old bald guy was. I do have my suspicions he was heard to remark, "The colors seem a little faded in that pitcher."

Evidence of Sanity Reawakening

From David Kirkpatrick's piece in last Sunday's NYT mag:

Today the president's support among evangelicals, still among his most loyal constituents, has crumbled. Once close to 90 percent, the president's approval rating among white evangelicals has fallen to a recent low below 45 percent, according to polls by the Pew Research Center. White evangelicals under 30 -- the future of the church -- were once Bush's biggest fans; now they are less supportive than their elders. And the dissatisfaction extends beyond Bush. For the first time in many years, white evangelical identification with the Republican Party has dipped below 50 percent, with the sharpest falloff again among the young, according to John C. Green, a senior fellow at Pew and an expert on religion and politics.

Welcome to the reality-based community, y'all.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Spammed

I've turned the CAPTCHA feature back on. (This is the twisty "word" you have to type in to post a comment.)

It appears that some spam bot found me -- fourteen "comments" were posted between yesterday and today. Deleting these is a laborious one-at-a-time process, and it's just too much of a pain to keep doing it.

I'll turn the CAPTCHA feature back off in a few days. Meantime, sorry for the inconvenience.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Can You Say "Statute of Limitations?"

From yet another story about yet another group of private contractors feeding at the trough blindly filled by yet another branch of the Bush Administration:

The State Department said it had improved monitoring of DynCorp, but in a letter to auditors department officials said that it would still take "three to five years" to reconcile fully the payments made to the company during the first two years of the training contract, beginning in February 2004.

Not to worry. We're only talking about a billion dollars that no one can account for. So nice when the grown-ups are in charge, isn't it?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

This seems counterintuitive

In an article on profiling in today's NYT, the following assertion is made:

Passengers with frequent-flier memberships are more often suspected of having malicious travel plans than those who don't participate, according to Professor Schauer.

There is no explanation given as to why this might be.

Not that I'm willing to reveal my secret identity as a master crimestopper or anything, but this is opposite to what I'd think. Absent any other information, I'd be more suspicious of someone who didn't want the frequent flier miles, because I'd think such a person (a) didn't have plans for a life long enough to use them and (b) wanted to stay out of a database.

Your speculations?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Bipoller

(Updated below)

The second poll is up (over there in the sidebar).

Results from the last one: The majority thinks this blog's font is readable. No one voted for a change to sans-serif, so I guess all those young hot shot web designers don't know all demographics. I guess I'll stop fretting about this.

Coming in second was "Never mind the font. When's the content getting an upgrade?" I'll take it under advisement.

Thanks for voting!


Update

2007-10-22 13:55

Clare noted that multiple-choice answers are sometimes too limited, so please feel free to expand on the thoughts underlying your vote in the Comments here. (You should see a new link to this post in the sidebar under the poll that points you here, as well.)

Republicans Gone Wild, Part (*** integer overflow ***)

Via Tom Tomorrow, we hear of yet another Gross Old Pedophile. The Green Bay Press-Gazette seems to be the primary source:

The chairman of the Republican Party in Brown County faces criminal charges for allegedly fondling a 16-year-old Ethan House runaway and providing the boy with beer and marijuana late last year.

Donald Fleischman, 37, of Allouez, was charged last month with two counts of child enticement, two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a child and a single charge of exposing himself to a child.

The story reports that the Wisconsin Republican Party's communications director says Fleischman has resigned, but that they couldn't confirm this with Fleischman's own people.

Granted, Fleischman has yet to be convicted. But I'm adding to the buzz on this story because I'm a shameless partisan hack who mainlines schadenfreude because there's a stench of cover-up about this whole thing.

Is the Publish or Perish Grind Wearing You Down?

From Mark Trodden, via Julianne, the best motivational statement I've heard in years:

Once you have tenure, it's all edible panties, firearms, and blow.

I was going to title this post "So You Think Your Prof's a Stiff?," but …

A Small But Pleasing Victory

Phil Plait notes an update to the Sen. David Vitter story that I mentioned last month. Vitter had snuck an earmark into a Federal appropriations bill that would have given $100,000 to a Louisiana group that wants public schools to teach creationism as science. Now, thanks to reaction from the reality-based community, it ain't gonna happen.

Plait gives partial credit, and rightly so, I think, to the blogosphere for bringing Vitter's tactics to light. Whether or not my tiny contribution helped, I'm proud to have been part of the protest.

Phil's source for the news is this piece in the Times-Picayune, which is worth a look if you want to see some clumsy backpedaling by Vitter.

On a related note, in an earlier post, Phil links to a great editorial in the Calgary Herald, titled "Schools should put faith in science." Evidently, Canada is starting to suffer wingnut infestation as well.

Most Obviously Untrue Introductory Clause Ever

From a NYT story about a Rudy Giuliani speech:

Mr. Giuliani spoke with a tone of humility …

Let's see how the sentence continues.

… saying at one point: "I come to you today as I would if I were your president …"

Yup.

Line of the Day:2007-10-20

Last year, Hollywood producer Joseph Medawar was convicted of conning investors out of $5.5 million for a bogus TV show on the Department of Homeland Security called D.H.S.: The Series. Medawar spent the money but never produced anything, which makes it the most realistic portrayal of DHS yet.
-- Bruce Reed

Friday, October 19, 2007

Huckabee Hound

It's been a while since I've indulged in fisking David Brooks. Lately, he's been showing signs of coming to his senses, at least on some issues. He occasionally borders on sounding sane these days, both in his column and on his point-counterpoint gig on PBS's News Hour. Sure, he still coughs up one of his patented sociology-as-seen-from-suburbia navel gazers from time to time, but I can forgive overlook these. Coming up with a column twice a week isn't as easy as blogging when the mood strikes.

But then there's this, from out of nowhere, a love letter to Mike Huckabee.

Let's pick it up in the middle of the lede.

But it’s quickly clear that Huckabee is as good a campaigner as anybody running for president this year.

And by "anybody," I mean "anybody in the GOP." And by "quickly," I mean "it only took me a year to come up with this."

I get that a not-completely-unhinged guy like Brooks has to be appalled at the front runners in the Republican Party. Giuliani wants to start World War Whatever. Hard as is to conceive of the possibility, Romney is both creepier and less trustworthy. And Thompson? (Long pause for laughter, or a collective under-the-breath "OMFG," depending on the audience.)

But really. The standard for bars has never been lower.

And before too long it becomes easy to come up with reasons why he might have a realistic shot at winning the Republican nomination:

First, Republican voters here and in Iowa are restless. That means that there will be sharp movements during the last 30 days toward whoever seems fresh and hot.

Shorter version: I have no idea how any of this is going to play out.

... Huckabee is the most normal person running for president ...

Bars, low, very. (op. cit.)

... he is part of the new generation of evangelical leaders.

Did he raise his hand when asked, "Who here doesn't believe in evolution?"

Yes he did. So, define "new."

... though you wouldn’t know it from the past few years, the white working class is the backbone of the G.O.P. Huckabee is most in tune with these voters.

Redacted: I don't actually have any statistics to back this up, but the assertions sound good, don't they? (And wait'll you hear 'em said live on TV!)

He tells audiences that the only soap his family could afford was the rough Lava soap, and that he was in college before he realized showering didn’t have to hurt.

Yup. And Alberto Gonzales sold crap from the trunk of his car. Or his father did. No matter. The key is, a heart-warming personal story guarantees exemplary public service.

He condemns "immoral" C.E.O. salaries ...

Which won't ever happen again if he moves out of the second tier and starts having to ask for real money.

... and on global trade he sounds like a Democrat: "There’s no free trade without fair trade."

He's the bold candidate for all people! He dares to makes vague statements when he's in single digits in the polls!

... he’s a former governor. He talks about issues in a down-to-earth way that other candidates can’t match. For example, he’s got a riff on childhood obesity that rivets the attention of his audiences.

One point to Mr. Brooks for not saying that I/you/he/we would like to have a beer with him. But other than that, the NYT Sunday magazine already puffed him on this suitable-for-Oprah-fans weight loss story. What else you got?

... he’s a collaborative conservative.

What brand does that make me think of ... ? Wait! I've got it! It's two, two, two brands in one! "Compassionate conservative" PLUS "Uniter, not a divider!" And both of those worked out really, really well!

He also criticizes the Bush administration for its arrogance.

He is so far ahead of the curve on this one, isn't he? After all, 24% of the country has yet to achieve this insight.

He is a solid conservative who is both temperamentally and substantively different from the conservatives who have led the country over the past few years.

He's got the old values, but he's all new? Maybe Brooks will clarify?

Too late! Word limit looming! Final graf just ahead!

He’s rising in the polls, especially in Iowa. His popularity with the press corps suggests he could catch a free media wave that would put him in the top tier.

And by "press corps," I mean "me." And by "free," I mean "I work cheap, don't I?" And by "suggests," I mean, "Don't hold me to any of this. Please."

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Version 2007: Round 1

Andrew notes that WingNutDaily has fired the first salvo in this year's culture war.

I respond thus:


(click pic to zoom)

It Is But To Dream

From John Cole, via Andrew Sullivan, two questions we'd like asked of all Republicans running for president:

• Would you have sex with a man to stop a terrorist attack?
• If you had a time machine, would you travel back in time and abort Bin Laden?

On a related note, I saw this comment from The Exterminator over at John's place:

Wouldn't it be great if they discovered that the alleged gayness-gene and the so-called god-gene were mutually dependent …?

_____


I have no idea where that title came from. There is precisely one Google result returned for this exact phrase. Maybe reincarnation is true?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Best Blogger Portrait Evah

Agent Zero

Agent Zero, aka Gilbert Arenas

I'm posting this mostly as a reminder to self, now that roundball is returning. And because I like the picture, of course.

I look at AGENT ZERO: THE BLOG FILE every now and again. It's a bit heavy on the self-promotion (News flash: pro atheletes have big egos! And endorsement contracts!) but a lot of it feels tongue-in-cheek. There's gossip, trash talking, and laughs to be had, and occasionally, some real diary moments (e.g., "The Gary Payton Story").

If you're into inside baseball basketball, check it out. Although it's hosted on the official NBA site, it's not excessively sanitized.

T-shirt of the Day: 2007-10-17

bad grammar makes me [sic]

No, really. I was only looking at the words.

More models here. Of shirts, I mean.

Dennet on Darwin

screen grab of Daniel Dennet

(Updated: title typo)

Via John, the Evolutionary Middleman, I came across a video of Daniel Dennet giving a talk titled "Darwin's Dangerous Idea."

Since I swiped John's link, I'll swipe part of his pitch, too:

Even those who are steeped in evolutionary theory will be enlightened by some of his unique insights. Fair warning -- it is over an hour long and by the end you will wish it was two!

I completely agree. It started out seeming a little basic to me, but I know Dennet -- he's a philosopher by profession, so he likes to lay a firm foundation for his ideas. He's a fine speaker, with a gentle voice and a good sense of humor, so I wasn't suffering, and, within a few minutes, I was hooked.

This isn't just a straight lecture on natural selection. Part of Dennet's purpose is to analyze why some people find Darwin's ideas so hard to accept, and to rebut their arguments against evolution. Then he takes another step, going beyond purely anatomical characteristics, and examines how the growth of human ideas, beliefs, and languages can be explained by the same evolutionary mechanisms.

Highly recommended. Watch it here.

Latest Keef

Nah, he's not a relative. But I wished I shared his comic gene-ius.

The latest. The archives.

Displays

As you might recall, I had a monitor die on me recently. It wasn't a catastrophe; I had an almost identical one that I had bought used via Craigslist last year (a bargain, of many sorts), so it was only a matter of getting another carton out of storage. Unfortunately, starting a couple of days ago, I'm seeing flakiness in this one, too. I'd be paranoid about an electrical problem if it weren't for the fact that the computer itself, along with several peripherals, draws from the same outlet, and they've all been fine. My new hypothesis: The Gateway EV-700 engineers had designed obsolescence nailed more precisely than I had previously thought possible.

Then, I get two emails from regular correspondents, one day apart. In the spirit of sharing the pain, let's hear next from TC.

I've been down with the computer for a day. The off/on button on my monitor bit the dust and froze in the off position, so I couldn't get on to do anything. I called around this morning to try and get it repaired and nobody wants to work on monitors especially a small job like putting in a new switch where they won't make 300 dollars. Strictly PC in Morro Bay told me that it's $ 75 to check it out and then there would be the charge on top of that for the repair and really he didn't want to fool with it and suggested that I buy a new one. Star computer in Morro Bay told me that the parts are impossible to get and recommended that I buy a new one. Too bad Midstate Electronics isn't around to do small repairs.

So I went to Best Buy and bought a new floor sample with a $ 30 discount. The sales guy said I'll get you some cords for it because the floor samples use some that are wired into the wall. He went in back and came back with the cords. When I got home I tried to set it up and the monitor cable won't work because the plug is on the reverse way for the monitor so you can't plug it into the monitor. The cord comes out of the side of the plug instead of the back and the cord runs into the monitor so you can't plug it in. So I have to drive 60 miles to SLO again tomorrow to try and get the correct cord. 120 miles round trip each time today and tomorrow, so it's going to cost me 6 gallons of gas to get it going. 6 gallons times $ 3.17, and I break even on the savings if you don't count the hassle and time for anything. My jinx with computers continues. God doesn't want me to have one or at least to enjoy it. Sheesh.

I love the "explanations" we all reach for when we're beset by electronic gremlins. TC is as much of an atheist as I am.

KK isn't, but here, his mind goes to an earlier god, who, evidently, is a food nazi.

This morning when I got up I blew out the USB ports (with pressurized air) in the front of the PC - transferred the keyboard from the laptop (see below) to the PC there. It worked. I did the same in the back -didn't work. Back to the front -didn't work …

Then I remembered your "leave it in." Five or ten minutes later, it worked. Into the back - didn't work. Five or ten minutes later (I should have timed it) it worked.

Thank goodness, 'cause I've just returned from Mike the Computer Guy's shop. My lap top began to act funny when I was at the condo with Dan and Carol a few weeks ago. Freezing, restarting by itself -wouldn't shut off sometimes, etc. Finally I took out the battery and put it back in. It coughed a few times and then seemed to work just fine for the two or three days left.

But after seeming fine for the first few days with Jill and Keith, it started the same old thing. Battery out and in then work for a few hours, then have to force off. On AC or battery - usually I got it rolling, but brought it home to have it checked out. It worked last night, and some this morning, but I guess it was mad at my lunch selection and refused to do more than hum when I "started" it.

So, electronically: My Nikon is back with Nikon for the third time.

I have three watches. One, my old Seiko, at random times loses five or six minutes. I bought (On Overstock.com) a Pulsar. It now does the same thing. Dan gave me a watch last month, one of those four buttons, each of which, when pressed in exactly the right order, sets the time and alarms, date changes, etc. Tunes the TV. Too complicated to use except as watch. It too began to lose five minute chunks. None of them do so when they are not on my wrist.

My PC keyboard has cowed me.

My laptop is in the shop.

I'm afraid to buy an electric toothbrush.

Monday, October 15, 2007

I give it 48 hours before O'Reilly blames it on the KOSsacks

The unwashed teeming masses that infest teh Internets scored another victory last week. No, no, I'm not talking about the poll results. I'm just loving the fit of pique they provoked in another clueless suit.

Tim Grieve has the details.

And Now, A Message of Christian Love From Pat Robertson

Actually, it'd be funny if the underlying story weren't so sad.

(h/t: Clif)

Toward An Understanding of their Angst

Have you caught wind of the outrage being expressed in certain quarters, about Al Gore winning the Nobel Peace Prize?

I'll admit that there might be a little something to the claim that the Nobel Committee is motivated by politics. My sense is that they tend to recognize people who have done something about a problem that they think merits more attention. But the level of vitriol being expressed everywhere from the WSJ opinion pages to the dank cellars of the rightosphere is truly astounding. Why should this be?

Paul Krugman has as good a list of explanations as any.

One thing PK doesn't mention which has crossed my mind: the right fears Al Gore stepping into the race for president. I no longer think that Gore is going to do this, absent a meltdown by the leading Democratic contenders. But it would be pretty funny if the Republicans' efforts to smear Hillary over the past year were suddenly for naught.

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Tangential note: As I look at PK's column at this moment, the first, second, third, and fifth-most emailed articles from the NYT come from people who used to be locked behind the TimesSelect wall. I hope that's working out for the company; you know the columnists themselves have to love it.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Poll Dancing

Blogger/Blogspot offered me a new widget and I accepted. If you look over on the sidebar, you should see a poll. Vote early and often!

The mechanics of this new gee-whiz-imo seem a little clunky -- it appears to slow page loading a tiny bit, and I've noticed some minor weirdnesses in how it behaves after playing around with it for a short while. But, it could be fun. More importantly, it could be a small step up the Coolness Chart, something that I climb in the forlorn hopes of someday catching Mr. Sandwich.

Please let me know if you experience any problems.

One More From TPM

If you like the Daily Show, you might also like this: "TPMtv: John McCain vs. The Video Tape."

It's not as immediately funny as the work of Jon Stewart et al, but it's as devastating as anything they've ever produced. It never fails to amaze me how often Republicans will just flat out lie contradict themselves, when you'd think they'd be aware that yesterday's assertions were also recorded.

Don't worry about the monkey at the start of the video. It's just part of the set-up.

Need Another Reason To Hate Willard?

Your moment of Romney, ably shredded by Steve Benen and friends.

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(Willard?)

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Couple other good ones from today's TPM: a LOL @ Condi and some cackling at the MSM.

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