Thursday, January 31, 2008

Some people just don't wget it

All right, let's see what we can do to winnow down the demographic here.

  1. Do you know who Richard Stallman is?
  2. Did you hear that Richard Stallman doesn't use a web browser?
  3. Do you like Chuck Norris jokes?
  4. Are you familiar with the Unix command line?

Still here? Good! You're gonna love these.

(refs: [1], [2], [3], [4]. h/t: Hacker News)

Many Utils

Thanks to the Undercover Economist, I just learned about the Stand-up Economist. If you like geek humor as much as I do, the next five minutes of your life are going to be awesome:

More Yoram Bauman on his YouTube channel and on his web site.

More Tim Harford on his blog, his personal site, and last but certainly not least, his recent excellent diavlog with Will Wilkinson on

Stupidest Political Analysis Ever

"Captain" Ed Morrissey offers his own explanation for the flameout of the Rudy Giuliani campaign: blame the media.

First, this is the stalest of sour grapes. Second, has Ed forgotten who built up "America's Mayor" in the first place? And third, to Ed's claim that the media should have focused more on Rudy's cabal "one of the most impressive teams of advisers ever seen in a presidential campaign," I have only one word: Podhoretz.

But here's the really dumb part:

Those of us who have followed the campaign know the reasons behind the failure had nothing to do with 9/11 -- because the campaign itself mostly avoided referencing it.

Ed, meet Veracifier:

(h/t: Roy)

Sunday, January 27, 2008


Not a great speech, but it has its great moments. I gotta admit: it brought some tears to my eyes.

Yes We Can.

(h/t: Tim Dickinson)

Friday, January 25, 2008

Open Sees

If you're running out of things to read online, there's some good news. Via Jinnet, I see that The Atlantic has torn down its subscribers-only wall. You can now read their current feature pieces, browse back issues, and see a selection of content going back to 1857. (Details)

I was going to give them a shout-out on their site via the cleverly-named "Post and Riposte" feedback section, but opening up the site evidently broke that functionality for the moment. So, this post will have to do.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Today's Number

-- or --

My Two's Sense Worth

Indulging ourselves in American-style date notation and a quasi-military clock,
not to mention a flagrant disregard for leftover Y2K worries:

Shortly after half-past four this afternoon, it will be:

1/24/08 16:32

That is, the zeroth through fifth powers of 2, in order.


I bet Knuth knew this.

Friday, January 18, 2008


The king is dead.

Really nice obit in the NYT for Bobby Fischer, once a boyhood hero, and too long an embarrassment.


I apologize in advance for asking you to watch this guy ever again in your life, but please, tell me, is this video not the best way to get moderates, independents, and undecideds to vote for McCain? And isn't the primary objective (no pun intended) for assface to have yet another Republican president?

(Alternate link)

Pardon me for thinking he never says anything honest, even when he's apparently harshing on someone. It's been a long hard seven years.

[Added a few minutes later] Another wingnut bashing McCain. This time, it's Perot. (Cue horror movie music.) Hat tip: Roy, and he sure to read his take, too.

It's a conspiracy, I tell ya. The bad guys want you to think they think McCain is bad, so you'll vote for him. Don't do it.

New Republican Campaign Poster?

new-gop-campaign-posterBeen following the Berzerkistan thread in Doonesbury?

This excerpt is from today's strip, but you might want to start with Monday's. Stroll back through the archives for a couple of weeks ago or so, too.

Great stuff.

Awesome Rants

(Updated: minor wordsmithing)

Doghouse Riley, seemingly without pausing for breath, asks: Who Could Have Predicted That The Big Problem With Technology Is That It Works?

Matter of fact, he's been in rare form lately, even in comparison with the high bar he always clears, so rather than me wasting blue ink on a lot of underlined words, maybe it'd be best just to go to his home page and read them all.

The Manga Me

(Updated below)

Via Nacho Nate, I came across Face of the Future, a web site that lets you upload a picture and transform it to show how you'd look as a younger, older, Asian, Afro-Caribbean, Caucasian, etc., person, and also how various artists might portray you.

The site says it works best with a passport-style photo -- straight face, looking directly into the camera. I didn't have one of myself handy, but the manga cartoon character, adapted from my Simon lookalike shot, came out pretty well:

bjkeefe as a manga character

Have fun!


2008-01-18 20:26

Adam L takes it one step further, and funnier.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Hard Truth

You might already know that I spend a lot of time and electrons over on the forums. As I've said before, it can be pretty eye-opening at times.

A recent post really knocked me sideways, speaking as a supporter of Barack Obama and as a white liberal still prone to occasional moments of singing Kumbaya.

Go read this. And this.

And Speaking of the NYT

I don't know how long this'll last, but at the moment, the front (i.e., home) page of the NY Times pushes the boundaries of Web advertising. I can take ads on the NYT's home page, even right up at the top, but the resemblance of part of the ad to a headline gave me a moment of pause.

Well, it's one of those delightful Mac ads, so it's hard to be too much of a curmudgeon about it. It turns out to be an animated ad, in which the characters from the right-hand graphic eventually intrude into the fake banner headline. The sound is optional, and thankfully, off by default, but it's worth turning on once. Also, good on whomever for not making the ad into an endless loop.

In the end, I'm okay with it, despite my initial reaction. Gotta pay for these free sites somehow.

Two screenshots below. Click the images to enlarge.

NYT front page ad

NYT front page ad, a little later

This Week's Poll: Voting for a Breath of Fresh Air

You might have seen this one coming, based on some of my recent rants. Your chance to play managing editor of the NYT is now available, over there in the sidebar.

NB: Unlike previous polls, you may make more than one choice this time.

Poll closes 24 Jan 2008 at 11:52 AM EST.

The results from the last poll show a tie between apathy and irrational exhuberance:

Q: How do you anticipate the New Year?

1. Same shit, different year. (30%)

1. Optimistic without qualification! (30%)

3. I'm sure it'll be fine once I stop writing 2007 on my checks. (15%)

4. Further down the spiral. (7%)

4. Gotta be better. Can't get any worse, right? (7%)

4. Could be better. Ask me when my hangover goes away. (7%)

Thanks for voting!

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

Cohen the Gregarian

(Updated: minor wordsmithing)

In all the hullaboo over a certain recent addition to the NYT's OpEd page, we might have let our attention stray from Roger Cohen. (That assumes we were paying attention in the first place, I'll grant.) I usually skip him, because when he's not doing his best to make me think, "You know, maybe John Tierney wasn't really so boring, after all …," he's making High Broderism sound like Rove-level partisan strife.

For reasons passing understanding, I took a look at today's offering. I was shocked, shocked, to see someone else in the MSM contributing to the hagiography of St. John.

All right, let's get this over with. What's your opener, Rog?

Nobody’s been right all the time on Iraq, but Senator John McCain has been less wrong than most.

Not counting, of course, all of us who were against invading in the first place.

He backed the injection last year of some 30,000 troops, a surge that has produced results. … Violent attacks were down 60 percent in December from their 2007 high …

Wait, where have I heard this before? Even the choice of statistic seems strangely familiar.

McCain was politically dead six months ago, his campaign undone by his backing of President Bush’s Iraq policy. His remarkable resurgence, which has put him in the lead among Republican candidates, according to recent polls, is one measure of the Iraq shift.

Maybe. But it's probably a better measure of how completely distasteful all the other Republicans are, even to Republicans.

But, as Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute noted, "There’s no doubt that the one Republican candidate that leaves most Democrats quaking is McCain. They’re uneasy about the breadth of his appeal."

Actually, what we're uneasy about is the breadth of his appeal to groupthink-loving columnists.

The straight-talking survivor of more than five years of Vietnamese imprisonment …

And here I used to think I'd never be more sick of any meme than "He's the kind of guy you'd like to have a beer with."

Does Bush’s fraudulent, blunder-ridden rush to war matter more than the prizing of 26 million human beings from a sadistic tyrant who modeled himself on Hitler and Stalin?

I dunno. Maybe we should ask the Iraqis.

Okay, the end of the column looms. What do you want to do now, Roger, close the sale? Or, you know, revert to your usual form?

McCain’s not my choice for president. He’s too conservative across a range of social questions, and his temperament and age raise concerns.

Yup. Always be weaseling.

The Bravest Man on the Internet

I bow down to Chez Guevara.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The First Bit of Honesty Out of This Mouth In a While

Hey, he's the one who said it ...

Jonah, the self-proclaimed

Well, almost.

Second Line of the Day: 2007-01-16

From an an otherwise serious (and interesting) article on morality:

When psychologists say “most people” they usually mean “most of the two dozen sophomores who filled out a questionnaire for beer money.”
-- Steven Pinker, Professor of Psychology

Line of the Day: 2008-01-16

I am unable to describe the pure evil that is Chuck E. Cheese. Ponder only this: Bachman-Turner Overdrive covers performed by an animatronics mouse.
-- Angry Professor

I'm not sure what this says about me, but the first thing I thought of was an earlier LOTD.

A Message to You, Rudy

Joel Achenbach has shown the good sense to spend the past week or so covering the Republican campaign in Florida. Unfortunately, this means a whole lot of following around the Troll of 9/11.

Joel has been doing some bang-up story-telling, both from Florida and elsewhere, and he's keeping a sense of humor about it:

... on my way to South Carolina to try to figure out what in tarnation is going on with the Republican Party. Giuliani, I noticed, came in 17th place, behind Bob Dole, Steve Forbes and Jack Kemp.

But never mind all that. Along with his words, Joel included some pictures, one of which I grabbed.

Rudy teh confederate

Nice Stars and Bars tie there, Rudy.

Don't think we're not watching. Just because you're desperate, that's no excuse. Remember, Abe Lincoln was a Republican, too.

And Now, For Something Completely Serious

All the glee that I was just feeling a few minutes ago kinda went away when I happened upon Adam Cohen's editorial in yesterday's NYT. But you should read it anyway, especially if you're one of those people who thinks voting doesn't matter because "they're all the same."

They're really not. Presidents get to nominate Supreme Court Justices, and there's a lot more at stake than you might think.

Somebody 'Bout Ready To Lose His Membership Card

David Brooks, blogging -- wait, David Brooks blogging? -- after teh Big Night in Michigan (Willard: 39%, St. John: 30%, The Huckster: 15%, RuPaul: 6%, UnDeadFred: 4%, Mayor 9/11: 3%, Duncan Somebody: a factor of seven below "Uncommitted," if you're keeping score at home):

First, it was a good night for the Democrats and a bad night for the Republicans.


Meanwhile, the Republican prospects in the fall just got even dimmer.


This thing will only get uglier.


[Various Romney quotes, anecdotes, and paraphrases go here]


This is how the British Tory party used to speak in the 1970s.

That unholy cackle and gurgle you just heard was me cracking a beer.

(Do)J Gall Petty

You might remember that Talking Points Memo broke the story that eventually came to be known as the US Attorneys firing scandal.

Yes, yes. Brush away the cobwebs. I know there have been so many other jaw-droppers since that it's hard to keep them all in mind.

But elephants never forget, right?

In what has to be seen as the most pathetic act of revenge ever, the Department of Justice has removed TPM from its email distribution list for its press releases and refuses to add them back, "explaining:"

As you may realize we have a lot of requests to be put on our media lists and we simply are not able to put everyone on the list.
Of course, there's always the chance that this isn't revenge. It could well be incompetence. Email is hard!

(h/t: John Cole. Image swiped from Reona Kumagai (updated link). Apologies to Teen Talk Barbie.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

What's in a Name?

Looks like McCain has attracted his own set of Swiftboaters. Good for his campaign for responding so quickly, starting with:

Today, a shadowy political organization calling itself "Vietnam Veterans Against McCain" launched a vicious attack on John McCain in an attempt to impugn his character in the closing days of the South Carolina Republican Primary. [Further denials, denunciations, yada yada …]

I might have been more inclined to pay attention had the spokesman's name not been Swindle.

Monday, January 14, 2008

You Had A Whole Week And That's All You Got?

When news first broke that Wingnut Welfare Queen Bill Kristol had scored a regular gig on the OpEd page of the NY Times, my reaction was a common one among those of us in the reality-based community: I don't mind another conservative getting the gig, but why this one? Why can't it be someone who might actually have something intelligent to say?

Apparently, some combination of the big stage and a possible sudden awareness of his own track record has cowed Kristol into avoiding making any more grand predictions. He's now content to phone in some cheerleading. Last week's column was a piece of Huckabee puffery, notable only for a misattributed quote. And this week's?

Hold on tight ... Yes, it's ...

The Return of the Son of the Revenge of The Surge is Working!TM

Kristol's effort (and I believe that sets a new record for generosity) consists of adding a paragraph or two to the beginning and end of a dusty piece of spin that's been uttered a million times already. Probably even by him.

It's also been debunked the same number of times. Kristol's basis for claiming success for The Surge is a small handful of statistics showing decreasing violence, according to carefully chosen boundaries:

Attacks per week on American troops are now down about 60 percent from June. Civilian deaths are down approximately 75 percent from a year ago. December 2007 saw the second-lowest number of U.S. troops killed in action since March 2003.

Leaving aside the slipperiness of picking different comparison dates for each metric to hold up against today, not to mention that 2007 was, overall, the worst year yet for US troops, the thing that really annoys me is that Kristol always leaves the larger points unaddressed. I am getting tired of typing this rebuttal out over and over again, so, since Bill Kristol can get paid for cutting and pasting his own words, I'm going to do the same thing for free. Here's an excerpt from something I originally posted elsewhere:

The main thing that motivates me to retort when I hear the simplistic phrase "the surge is working!" is just that: it's simplistic. Most people who utter it fail to acknowledge several key points:

o The violence is down, but only in comparison to when it was at its worst.

o Ethnic cleansing has to be recognized as a partial explanation for the decline of the sectarian aspects of the violence.

o Part of the reason that some groups aren't attacking us, or being blatant about attacking other groups, is that we're bribing them not to. Part of the bribery consists of weapons, and some of the rest -- cash -- is probably being spent on weapons. This does not seem likely to enhance future prospects for reduced violence.

o There aren't a whole lot of reasons to believe that the effects of the surge will last once the required troop draw-downs begin.

o The original purpose of the surge was largely to provide breathing space that would allow the national government to assume control. If anything, the national government seems even farther from that than it did when the surge began.

o Life in Iraq is still, overall, miserable. Electricity is a sometime thing, clean drinking water is unavailable in many areas, unemployment is near 50%, and the one source of revenue -- oil -- is not secure from sabotage and has not been settled as to its distribution. Additionally, many of the best and brightest have fled.

I'll grant that each of these points is subject to some debate, but I think it would be completely unrealistic to deny that all of them have some substance, at least.

The simplicity of the trope has a further problem: it carries the implication that the overall situation is now a success; i.e., invading Iraq was the right thing to do and well worth the effort. The reality of the situation is: Iraq is now one of the least stable countries in the world, especially once the US presence is removed, and the US has paid dearly to achieve this unhappy state of affairs. We've got thousands of our own dead, tens of thousands wounded, and run up a trillion dollar tab on our China-funded credit card. Parts of our military are exhausted, our image in many places around the world is in tatters, and we've aggravated the problem of anti-American terrorists.

You're probably aware that we have an election coming up. I am deeply worried that the incessant parroting of "the surge is working!" will result in an under-informed voting public making bad choices as a result. For the sake of national security and pride in our country, we need a big change in the way we do business with the rest of the world. If everyone who chortles "the surge is working!" would also be honest enough to add "in the sense that we've averted a complete catastrophe and now have only an unmitigated disaster to clean up," I'd be a lot more comfortable. Just saying the first part prolongs the impression in the voting public's mind that everything is an either/or choice.

Back to my original point: If all Bill Kristol is going to do with his space on the NYT's OpEd page is put up recycled crap that is easily disputed using more recycled crap, what's the point of him having this gig?

Shorter GOP

I'm going to go out on a limb here, and speculate that not everyone had the cast-iron stomach and big bottle of Xanax required chance to watch the Fox News South Carolina Republican Debate. Bemoan your loss no longer. It's TPM's Veracifier to the rescue!

Here's everything you might have missed:

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Pain and The Salve

You know how the right likes to say that our side is so crazed with Political Correctness that we no longer tolerate any jokes at all?

There's an uncomfortable grain of truth to this. My favorite Reasonable Conservative describes a recent outcry provoked by an ad that he created to promote lesser-known bloggers. His artwork for the ad blended a reference to this year's stupidest book with an old Internet favorite: cats who look like Hitler.

I was sure it would be very popular with the readers of the Daily Kos, who are renowned for their great senses of humor and their remarkable ability to laugh at themselves. Unfortunately, I was mistaken.

Ouch. The truth hurts.

On the other hand, the thing about stereotypes is that they invariably apply just as well to those who invoke them. In the same post, he also details recent reactions from equally humor-challenged libertarians and conservatives.

Warning: Do not attempt to drink coffee while reading.

Whenever I get discouraged by the never-ending battle against humorlessness, I'm rejuvenated by the realization that we have a superhero on our side. Read Jon Swift. Every day. Even if he doesn't post that often.

Lines of the Day (Tie!): 2008-01-13

Roy on Rudy:

Meanwhile Giuliani keeps appearing in commercials and debates, which may explain his precipitous slide in the polls …

Doghouse on early Fred fans:

 … people jumped on a bandwagon without bothering to check the hay for pitchforks …

Open Sez Me!

I've decided to try turning off the CAPTCHA again. That is, you won't have to go through the hassle of typing that twisty "word" in order to post a comment.

Last time I tried this, comment spam became a problem within a week, but what the hell. I'll give it another shot. It may be insanity to keep trying the same thing while expecting a different outcome, but recently, I've come across two rational-sounding motivations: one in text form, and another in video.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

New Record Set in (Intentionally) Missing the Point

Surely you've heard the line: "But apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the theater?"

I think Matt Yglesias, musing upon James Pinkerton's joining up with Campaign Huckabee, might have come up with one even more horrific:

Advocacy of genocide as a counterinsurgency strategy aside, …

Friday, January 11, 2008

I'd call it dirty pool. But it's tempting.

Kos's Dems For Mitt Poster Via Instaputz, I just heard about Kos's suggestion that Michigan Democrats take advantage of their open primary by voting for Willard "Mitt" Romney.

The thinking goes like this:

First part: the Democratic primary is meaningless this year, because the party leaders took away the state's delegates as punishment for moving up the day of its primary. Hillary Clinton, Kos says, is the only Democrat listed.

Second part: if Romney loses Michigan, he drops out, so it's better to keep him in the race for the purposes of prolonging the dissension in the Republican Party. It also makes the rest of the viable Republican candidates have to spend more money and it increases the amount of negative ads they'll air about each other.

I don't know if I believe that Romney will drop out if he loses in Michigan, especially if he comes in second. With the amount of money, ego, and lust for power he's demonstrated already, I wouldn't bet on it.

I'm also a little troubled by Kos's argument that Democrats should do this because Republicans in Michigan have a history of similar tactics; e.g., voting as Democrats for George Wallace in 1972. Without getting all high and mighty about it, I can't help but recalling one of Mom's earliest commandments: Two wrongs don't make a right.

But, it's fun to think about, and besides, I do like that poster.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ya Think?

Officials said that while there had been no accusations of wrongdoing on the part of Mr. Christie or Mr. Ashcroft, aides to Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey were concerned about the appearance of favoritism.

Whatever could raise such concerns?

When the top federal prosecutor in New Jersey needed to find an outside lawyer to monitor a large corporation willing to settle criminal charges out of court last fall, he turned to former Attorney General John Ashcroft, his onetime boss. With no public notice and no bidding, the company awarded Mr. Ashcroft an 18-month contract worth $28 million to $52 million.

It's good to hear, however, that Christie keeps up his GOP cred with his steadfast refusal to join the reality-based community:

Mr. Christie has disputed accusations raised by Democratic lawmakers in New Jersey that it was a conflict of interest for him to direct large, no-bid contracts to former colleagues and friends …

The whole story.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

'Roid Rage Redirected

For the second year in a row, Mark McGwire received the support of less than a quarter of those voting on his admission into the Baseball Hall of Fame, according to Jack Curry's piece in the NYT. (A candidate must get at least three-quarters approval in a single year to be enshrined.)

I'm a little surprised by this, although given the mood provoked over the past few years by the Sultan of Surliness and the recent release of the Mitchell Report, maybe I shouldn't be.

I'm also a little put off by the new holier-than-thou attitude displayed by the voters, all of whom are members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. The use of performance-enhancing drugs was an open secret when McGwire was playing, based on mea culpas I've heard from sportswriters over the past few years. McGwire was everybody's hero back in 1998, when he and Sammy Sosa rejuvenated fan interest in the game with their twin pursuit of the single-season home run record. I find the current attitude displayed by the writers more than a little hypocritical, or perhaps more precisely, craven. It's as though they didn't have the guts to speak out against popular sentiment back then, and they still have yet to find some.

Well, the MSM as stenographers is hardly a new phenomenon, I suppose.


In better news, Rich Gossage was elected.

I'll never forget those happy days back in 1978, when he was all but untouchable. He had the characteristic that we used to call "pleasingly wild" -- even from the cheap seats in the upper deck of Yankee Stadium, you could see the skittishness of the batters.

In the game I remember best, it was late summer, and we were just starting to believe that catching the Red Sox was possible. He came in during the top of the ninth in a must-win game (they were all must-win games, back then), Yanks up by one, bases loaded, nobody out.

Strike one. Strike two. Strike three.

Strike one. Strike two. Strike three.

Strike one. Strike two. Ball one. Ball two. Strike three. Game over.

Whenever someone makes one of those inane calculations about how much some supposedly overpaid superstar makes per pitch, those are the ones I remember.

Congratulations, Goose.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Line of the Day: 2007-01-07

Bill Kristol's debut column appeared on the NYT OpEd page today, if you haven't already heard.

The Kristol appointment is a New York Times plot to make Maureen Dowd look profound.
-- Roy Edroso

[ADDED] SNORT: I read the column this morning. Katherine evidently got to it later -- as she notes in the comments over at the Doghouse, the NYT already has had to post a correction at the bottom of the piece.

I hate to point to ads, but ...

... there's a pretty funny one posted over at Chez Guevara. Takes a bit long (where "long" means "one minute") to get to the point, but it's worth the wait.

This vid, on the same site, is also quite good.

New (to me) Word: Googlegänger

Googlegänger: Person with your name who shows up when you google yourself.

This was one of the nominees (PDF) for the American Dialect Society's 2007 Word of the Year. I like it! (Probably because I have a huge problem in this regard, with only an unsatisfactory workaround.)

The winner, btw, was subprime. Snooze.

(h/t: Mike Nizza)

A Moving Post

The Artist Formerly Known As Shit has relocated and is in the process of selecting a new moniker. I have updated my blogroll, and you should change your bookmarks and feed reader settings, to reflect the exciting news:

Shit Sandwich is now Very Poor!

All of the old Shit existing fine content seems to have been ported from the old site to the new, including the comments. I bow down to Technical Monkey.

I cannot tell you how happy I am to be able to put to rest the act of referring to a friend as Shit.

Short and Sweet

Joel has a post up on the Achenblog that's as fine an example of a reporter capturing a mood without getting caught up in it as I've ever seen. It should be page 1 of any textbook used in Writing 101, not to mention J-school.

Be sure to scroll past the apparent end of the post for a special guest appearance by another guy who has a way with the keyboard.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

That Train Don't Run No Mo

You know, I've believed for years now that the so-called "Straight Talk Express" is a crock put forth by journalists who love their exclusive time alone with John McCain. I haven't bothered listening to him much since at least …

That Awful, Awful Hug

The Hug.

So, I'm not sure why I did this, but I just watched The Sainted One on Meet The Press.

Boy, was that painful. I just can't believe anyone thinks there's anything real about this guy. He contradicted his own self as shown on videotape. He backpedaled furiously when he wasn't flat-out ignoring the questions. He had a really creepy nervous laugh that leaked out every time he was lying. He mentioned Ronald Reagan … let's see, I lost count at around 47,000 …  many times. He called Tim Russert "my friend" just about as often.

The worst part of the whole thing is that I expect a politician fighting for his life to say whatever he has to say. But he's not even good at it. He sounded like a babbling old pickpocket being grilled by a slightly younger cop. Ick, ick, ick.

If you've been bad and want to punish yourself, you can watch it here.

Further Efforts by the Stealth Theocracy Movement

Passing a Congressional Resolution regarding Christmas wasn't enough for the wingnuts. Now they want to rewrite history to match their specious claims about the origins of my country.

If you haven't heard about House Resolution 888, you can read the official text on A thorough debunking of the resolution's assertions is available on Talk To Action.

Be afraid. Be angry. If your Representative serves on the House Oversight Committee, please urge him or her to vote against it. I'll be watching this one and posting updates as I come across them.

Just Add A Space

Random thought while reading commentary on last night's debates: Imagine the squirming by the Republican candidates if after every time one of them said the word mandate, we in the peanut gallery responded, "Heh. You said Man Date."

The War on Irony Heats Up

Q: What is the trait you most deplore in others?

A: Not being authentic.

Not so bad, until you learn that the answer is from Karl Rove.

P.S. Free dartboard!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Digitize This

This week's On The Media closed with a segment that had me rolling my eyes at the start. The story was about "lifeblogging" -- an effort to record to disk every bit of minutiae that passes in front of your eyes, through your hands, or out of your bowels. Okay, they didn't really say that last part, but I got my suspicions.

They started with a researcher at Microsoft whom I've heard about before, Gordon Bell. He wears a camera around his neck that takes a picture every minute, and he offloads the images to his computer every day. He also stores all electronic communication, records much what he hears, and scans everything he can, preferring, say, an image of a gift coffee cup or other bit of memorabilia to the physical item itself.

By now, I'm thinking, okay, not only am I paranoid about the idea that everything about everybody is going to be recorded everywhere (hello, Big Brother!), I'm also getting impatient with Bell's apparent neglect of my belief that some things are meant to be held. Tactility seems to stimulate a different part of my brain than does vision, more ruminative and free-associative at times, more vivid and recall-provoking at others. I have a small collection of thank-you mugs from local NPR stations from several of the places I've lived, and drinking out of one can send me on a trip back to L.A. or Northampton. I'm not saying touch is better. I'm saying it's different and that it adds to whatever visual stimulus offers.

Plus, there's that whole other bit about gathering and storing the data in the first place. Few things are more annoying than going on a trip or to a party and feeling the pressure to document every bit of it. If you have the same kind of obsessive-compulsive tendencies that I do, you find yourself struggling between worrying about preserving good memories and doing anything to provoke them in the first place.

And then there's the inescapable fact that Sturgeon's Law always applies. Who needs to remember everything? Who wants to? It's like Pepys on steroids and crack at the same time.

Finally, there's the idea that too much of a good thing can rob individual things of their importance. Let's let Travis McGee grouse about this for a bit (click to enlarge):

T. McGee on Pix

However, the OTM segment ended by talking about an offshoot of this idea. Recent research indicates that you can wear a camera like Bell's, flash through all the pictures at the end of your day -- really quickly, the whole day reviewed in a minute or two -- and greatly boost your ability to remember the events of the day. This appears especially helpful to people suffering some forms of short-term memory loss.

So, kinda cool. Good for Gordon Bell and his research.

You can listen to the segment here (about fourteen minutes) or the whole show here (about an hour).

Yet Another Love Note to the Internet

Echidne put up a fun post yesterday, asking readers to list the books they reach for when they need some "comfort reading." Lots of suggestions came in. If you need some ideas or want to contribute, head on over.

On a seemingly unrelated note, Kyklops put up one in an ever-increasing series of fine pictures. I didn't see what it was, as you'll note from my comments there, and he didn't understand what I was talking about, which led me to search for a visual aid. Whereupon I discovered that a great piece of comfort reading is available online, in all its original glory.

The title has an unfortunate tone to it these days, given the Current Occupant, but I think you can get past that. Whether revisiting a fond memory from childhood, or reading it for the first time, have fun.

My New Favorite Blog Tagline

"This is the Voice of Moderation. I wouldn't go so far as to say we've actually SEIZED the radio station . . . "
-- Obsidian Wings

Probably you already noticed this, if you followed the link in the previous post, but I thought it was funny enough to note explicitly.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Shared Closing Thoughts

If you're up for a long read that has its moments of provoking sadness, this is pretty good: Andy Olmsted's final blog post.

I didn't know him. Sounds like I missed one of the good guys.

(h/t: Strangely appropriately: Sadly, No!)

The Resident Curmudgeon Notes A Positive Side to the Latest Malware Attacks

Brian Krebs has a nice post up that summarizes the recent jump in the number of infected PCs. The short version: the popular new transmission vector is (fake) e-greeting cards. Don't open any of these, even if you think you know the sender.

Good. I always hated those things. I haven't opened one in years. Now I have plausible deniability.

Oh, and is there anything left that doesn't have a Wikipedia entry? (This is not a complaint. Just sayin'.)

"... the best 60 seconds you will see on the web today ..."

(Updated: added one link, changed another)

... says Jinnet.

I don't know if I'd go that far, but it's pretty damn cool. If you loved the game Mousetrap as a kid or like any sort of Goldberg Variations (Rube, I mean), it's definitely worth a minute of your time. As Jinnet advises, turn your sound on and be a little patient -- it'll look like you're at the wrong place until things start happening.

What's that you say? Skip the commercial and gimme the link already?

Okay, here it is.

The General's Report

I'm not a participant in Second Life. I think the concept is sort of interesting, and have, ever since I read Snow Crash (thanks, bdp!), but the two times I've visited the site with the idea of signing up, something kicks in and says, "Can you imagine anything more eye-gougingly boring?" The thought of creating an avatar reminds me of those flat dolls with press-on clothing and accessories my sisters used to have. Dealing with people acting out fantasies behind a cloak of anonymity -- well, it's tiresome enough in text-only forums.

Nonetheless, I sometimes hear a story about Second Life that makes me wish I could just jump in. Case in point: Gen. JC Christian's report of his infiltration of the Second Life Republican Headquarters. Absolutely hilarious. Screen shots included.

Frightening Thought of the Day: 2007-01-04

[Note to self: How long does the Chuck Norris gimmick go on? Until he's Secretary of Defense???]
-- Joel Achenbach

Can't Help Myself. Must Post.

In case you didn't see it on TV:

Give him a minute or so to get going. It's a good speech.

(h/t: Ben Wasserstein)

D1d Th1s G3t Through?

Apropos of nothing, I just remembered something I saw while skimming through my blog feeds yesterday. In a post railing against a government plan to filter Internet traffic (being pitched as an effort to  … this'll come as a shock … Protect The ChildrenTM), one of the examples of the unintended side-effects of a proposed filter was the blocking of an innocuous comment on some forum somewhere.

After some head-scratching, it was discovered that the comment text included the word socialist.

This, apparently, is how the filter saw the word: soCIALISt.

To channel Fred Thompson for a moment, can I get a round of applause? For not describing the programming mistake as a boner? Or for wondering what this means about the prospects of erecting a national health care program?

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Nice Withdrawal Notice from Chris Dodd

Just got the following by email:

Dear Brendan,

I count the past year of campaigning for the presidency as one of the most rewarding in a career of public service.

Unfortunately, I am withdrawing from that campaign tonight.

But there is no reason to hang our heads this evening -- only the opportunity to look towards a continuation of the work we started last January: ending the Iraq War, restoring the Constitution, and putting a Democrat in the White House.

I know a lot of you came to this email list through a shared desire to return our nation to one that respects the rule of law, and I want to make one thing clear to all of you:

The fight to restore the Constitution and stop retroactive immunity does not end with my Presidential campaign. FISA will come back in a few weeks and my pledge to filibuster ANY bill that includes retroactive immunity remains operative.

You've been an invaluable ally in the battle, and I'll need you to stick by my side despite tonight's caucus results.

So, one more time, thank you for all of your efforts throughout the course of this entire Presidential campaign.

We made a real difference in shaping the debate, and we'll continue to do so in the coming days, weeks and years.

I'll never forget you, and what we've fought for, together, over the past year.

Chris Dodd

Okay, I really don't think it came to me alone, and it's not like he was my first choice for president. But I do admire Sen. Dodd's lone voice on the FISA issues, and so I'm reprinting his email here, since he probably won't be getting a lot of attention for the next few weeks. More info on the FISA fight is available on his campaign site, although that may not last for long. Check his Senate home page if the campaign site goes dark.

Yeah, It's Only Iowa, But ...

... I thought I might be happy somewhere down the road that I grabbed a screenshot of this page from the NY Times. Click image to enlarge.


Note that the Democrat vote totals are for projected delegates, while the Republican totals are for actual voters. The Democratic Party doesn't release voter counts, apparently.

Unrelated factoid: The page where I grabbed the image from also has a nice Flash thing that lets you display the results by county. When you let your mouse hover above a county, a little window pops up to show the county name and results for that county. Consequently, I now know that Des Moines is not in Des Moines County. Des Moines is in Polk County, in the center of the state, and Des Moines County is on the southeastern border of the state. I'm pretty sure it's not a mistake on the NYT's part. Wikipedia agrees, for example.

Who else knew that, before right now?

News Flash: Son of God Accused of Over-Engineering!

Or something like that.

(Captured by d of LGM.)

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Murder Used To Be My Favorite ...

... collective noun, that is, not least because I once won 5 Shit Sandwich points for knowing this about crows.

Now I'm not so sure. Consider the following scenario. There's a blog named "Good Math, Bad Math," it's hosted on, and upon it is posed the question:

What's the collective noun for a bunch of geeks?

1.07 x 102 answers so far. Big laffs!

Here. I'll explain why this is funny ...

Run away! Run away!

Thinking About Tomorrow

(Tomorrow being the day of the Iowa caucus, if you're late to this post.)

I'm one of many people who think there's a lot wrong with starting the presidential primaries in two small, non-representative states. There is something good to be said about the opportunity for "retail politics," I think -- much as I dislike Mike Huckabee, he's an example of a less well-funded hopeful being able to compete, at least at the starting line. Nonetheless, the way these things get magnified by their coverage, the "momentum" factor grows all out of proportion to the number of people who get to vote this early. As a result, a ridiculously small group prunes the list of candidates from which the rest of us are left to choose.

But I didn't think it was as bad as this story about the exclusivity of the Iowa caucus suggests:

In 2000, the last year in which both parties held caucuses, 59,000 Democrats and 87,000 Republicans voted, in a state with 2.9 million people. In 2004, when the Republicans did not caucus, 124,000 people turned out for the Democratic caucuses.

Would that my vote counted that much.

Ah, well. Maybe someday.

In the meantime, here's a message from Pat Condell that I'd like to pass along to all of my Iowa readers registered to vote in the Republican caucus.

Thanks to PZ for introducing me to Pat.

Blogroll Updated

(Updated: fixed broken link)

I forgot to mention, a couple of days ago, that I added Litterblog to the blogroll over there in the navbar. Adam L, the proprietor of that site, is someone I met on the forums for We disagree on a fair number of issues, but usually manage to keep it civil.

That's one of the nice things about unlike most sites, the forums are not overwhelmingly one-sided (the dreaded echo chamber), nor are they dominated by personal vitriol. If you like debating politics, philosophy, and science, with an occasional dollop of pop culture, it's the best place online to do this that I've found to date.

Anyway, thanks to Adam for dropping his identity mask a little bit (and for adding me to his blogroll!). Now run right over to his site and explain to him why white text on a black background is proof positive that he longs to go back to the Reagan era in every way possible.

Fish Wars: Update

Following a link from John Evo, I came to some grumbling by The Exterminator about symbols proposed for atheism. I sympathize (without completely agreeing) with The Exterminator's main point -- we don' need no stinkin' badges -- but this one is at least visually appealing:

the new atheist symbol?

At the source of that picture, I noticed some variations, one of which made me snicker:

fishy A, by Patrick Quigley


Promo poster from the 1931 movie 'M'

What? A thousand posts? Already?

Thanks for reading and commenting.

(photo source)

Tube Time

(Updated below)

John Evo has posted a couple of videos over on his site that you might like. The first is the BBC documentary, "A War on Science," and the second is the PBS/Nova documentary, "Judgment Day."

The Beeb's show is about an hour long, and takes a more general look at the anti-science movement. The Nova show is a two-hour documentary on the Dover trial concerning the teaching of creationism intelligent design in the classroom. Both are quite good. Thanks for finding these and posting them, John.

Further reading: During "Judgment Day," you'll hear discussion of a document produced by the Discovery Institute called "The Wedge Document." To save you some searching, here are links to copies of that document, in two flavors: 10 page PDF and the same content in HTML.

Reading this thing makes for some chilling moments. Here's an excerpt, the Goals section:


Governing Goals

  • To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies.

  • To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and hurnan beings are created by God.

Five Year Goals

  • To see intelligent design theory as an accepted alternative in the sciences and scientific research being done from the perspective of design theory.

  • To see the beginning of the influence of design theory in spheres other than natural science.

  • To see major new debates in education, life issues, legal and personal responsibility pushed to the front of the national agenda.

Twenty Year Goals

  • To see intelligent design theory as the dominant perspective in science.

  • To see design theory application in specific fields, including molecular biology, biochemistry, paleontology, physics and cosmology in the natural sciences, psychology, ethics, politics, theology and philosophy in the humanities; to see its innuence in the fine arts.

  • To see design theory permeate our religious, cultural, moral and political life.

And some say I'm paranoid to believe that there are people bent on turning my country into a theocracy.


2008-01-02 04:32

Afterthought: I never really get why people who believe in God feel so threatened by the theory of evolution. It has always seemed to me that if you want to believe in a Creator, even if you view humans as the pinnacle of this creation, it's far more impressive to think of this Creator as having the understated elegance to set up a system with a few simple rules that would lead to what we see today. You got your Big Bang, a handful of physical constants, your chemical soup, and your natural selection. Boom! A universe full of wonders! What else do you need? What's the problem?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

History in Two Minutes

Need last year distilled to its essence? Tom Tomorrow's got you covered with his "Incomplete, Subjective, and Altogether Inadequate Year in Review:" Part the First and Part the Second.

Woof. And I Mean That.

If you aren't already familiar with Tbogg's one-man efforts to balance teh Internet's love for cat blogging, this should get you started.

Many more here, on his old site.

Happy New Year!

And what better way to start off than with a new poll? (Look over there in the sidebar.)

Here are the results from the last one:

The question: Based on what we know of the Mitchell report, what's the best way to handle the problem of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball?

The answers:

1. Agree that what's done is done, but insist on a real drug policy from now on: (57%)

2. Boot every named player out of the game for life: (29%)

3. Ignore it and let those boneheads shoot up whatever they want: (14%)

Thanks for voting!

For the record, I'm with the majority on this one. (I don't cast a vote in the polls I create, if you were wondering.)

Don Cornelius

And as this gentleman might have said: May your new year bring you love …  peace …  and soul!

(Remember who used to say that? Bonus points if you're under 40.)

(Photo swiped from here.)

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

Stop the P.C. Madness!

Bette sans cigarette

Jinnet pointed out this image, one of the new stamps to be issued in 2008, and asked, "Doesn't it look as if a cigarette has been Photoshopped out of her hand?"

I agree. In fact, it's strikes me as an almost embarrassingly crude attempt to deny historical realities. I mean, really, how many kids are going to take up smoking because they see someone holding a cigarette ON A STAMP?

If the USPS went to the trouble of editing the image, I would have liked to have seen an effort at cleverness. Why not, say, put a love letter between her first two fingers instead?

Bette avec cigarette

Besides, as Fabulon shows, it's not like Ms. Davis wasn't unrepentant to the very end.