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!


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!


2008-01-02 04:49

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


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

Netscape sunset


(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


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 ...


2022-08-25 Video no longer available. Sorry.

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

Photo: Videos from

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 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:

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.)


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

This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.

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 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.


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.


(h/t: Scott Lemieux)