Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Process counts....

Megan McArdle points out how much damage the effort of forcing a vote on health care did to the actual process of legislation. Her two biggest beefs are writing the bill to fit budget guidelines - this is done as thought trying to solve a puzzle game, with no consideration of what the bill will do to the actual budgets of the future. The other is an attempt to legislate what can be legislated - actually putting a clause into the bill that attempts to make it impossible (or at least difficult) to ever alter the bill in the future.

Looks like I'm NOT the only one!

Running that way.

Quote of the day

Paying lots of money to stop having sex with hot women seems an odd thing to do. From my experience he could take up playing Dungeons and Dragons and have the same result for a lot less money.

- Coyote

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Park rangers and bear hugs

I love this series, I've read from #1 to #1426 of the archived series, and am reading the dailies as they come.

Sadly, soon I'll have reached the middle, where all the archived ones have been read.
Fortunately, the dailies are still coming in.

Click on the comic and it will take you to the site and it will give you a chance to read them ALL:


Sunday, December 13, 2009


Normally, you'd find it hard to get me to go to a sports movie with a cattle prod. But with Morgan Freeman playing Nelson Mandela (reportedly, Mandela had been quoted as saying that if somebody were to play him, and he could choose the actor, he'd pick Freeman) and Clint Eastwood directing, I didn't put up much of a fight.

Touching, great performances, not a boring moment. Worth seeing, even if you didn't think the original poem "..I am the captain of my soul..." was all that.

"Captain...the French are about to kick my ass!"

I'm not a lip reader myself, but this is as convincing as it is senseless.

Props to Language Log.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Keeping it simple

Probably not the equitable way to make your point....

Coyote sarcastically points out that the ShowYourVote website, which gives you a chance to show your support a "fair and effective" climate deal at the Copenhagen summit is a rather one-sided approach to voting - there is only one way you can vote.

I commented that this appears to me to be a project by an influential (since he posts on the official Google blog) individual at Google rather than a project BY Google.

It really should have been called "Show Your Support" rather than "Show Your Vote" to avoid the absurdity.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Internet Laws

A friend of mine just fell prey to....well, actually, I didn't remember the name of the Law she stumbled into, but I remembered there was one (the only one I could recall was the frequently cited Godwin's Law, which wasn't the one I wanted), so I took a deep breath, centered my chakras, assumed the appropriate stance, and activated my google-fu:

Internet rules and laws: the top 10, from Godwin to Poe

For those too lazy to click through (just taking the first quote from each, original gives you more background):

1. Godwin’s Law "As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1."
2. Poe’s Law “Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humour, it is impossible to create a parody of fundamentalism that someone won't mistake for the real thing.”
3. Rule 34 “If it exists, there is porn of it.”
4. Skitt’s Law "any post correcting an error in another post will contain at least one error itself"
5. Scopie’s Law “In any discussion involving science or medicine, citing Whale.to as a credible source loses the argument immediately, and gets you laughed out of the room.”
6. Danth’s Law (also known as Parker’s Law) “If you have to insist that you've won an internet argument, you've probably lost badly.”
7. Pommer’s Law “A person's mind can be changed by reading information on the internet. The nature of this change will be from having no opinion to having a wrong opinion.”
8. DeMyer's Laws (2nd) “Anyone who posts an argument on the internet which is largely quotations can be very safely ignored, and is deemed to have lost the argument before it has begun.”
9. Cohen’s Law “Whoever resorts to the argument that ‘whoever resorts to the argument that... …has automatically lost the debate’ has automatically lost the debate.”
10. The Law of Exclamation "The more exclamation points used in an email (or other posting), the more likely it is a complete lie. This is also true for excessive capital letters."

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Frank Lloyd Wright or Wrong....

Cute bit on architecture and arch parody.

And then you have the mavericks....

Like the ever-so-popular-with-the-press Sheriff Arpaio of Phoenix. Yes, you've heard about him, the tough sheriff that makes sure that jail is no country club, at least for Mexicans.

Makes an orderly bureaucracy sound almost tempting!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

If you think *I* hate bureaucracy....

Penelope Trunk really takes it to the limit.

Well....as close as you can get to the limit without risking arrest too much, anyway.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

For those who think bureaucracy is new....

...another extract from The Inheritance of Rome:
Being a tradesman in Constantinople around 900 was by no means a straightforward process. According to the Book of the Eparch (or the Prefect), a set of official regulations from this period, merchants, shopkeepers and many artisans had to be members of a guild (systma) to operate, and had to sell their wares in specific places, the gold- and silver-dealers in the Mese, the merchants of Arab silk in the Embole, the perfumers in the Milion beside Hagia Sophia, the pork butchers in the Tauros. Ambulant sellers were banned; they would be flogged, stripped of guild membership, and expelled from the city. Sellers of silk could not make up clothes as well; leather sellers could not be tanners. Some guilds, such as the merchants of Arab silk or the linen merchants, had to do their buying collectively, with the goods then distributed among guild members according to how much money they had put in, to keep down competitive buying. Sheep butchers had to go a long way into Anatolia to buy their sheep, to keep prices down; pork butchers, by contrast, had to buy pigs in the city, and were prohibited from going out to meet the vendors; so also were fishmongers, who had to buy on shore, not on the sea. The eparch, the city governor, had to be informed if silk merchants (divided into five separate guilds) sold to foreigners, who were prohibited from buying certain grades of silk. He determined all bread prices, by which bakers had to sell, and the price of wine the innkeepers sold; and he also determined the profits that many vendors made - grocers were allowed a 16 per cent profit, but bakers only 4 per cent (with another 16 per cent for the pay of their workmen), over and above the price they paid in the state grain warehouse.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Some people might think early medieval history is dry....

Well, some parts of it actually are, although The Inheritance of Rome manages to keep the dry parts fairly short. But some parts rival The National Enquirer (or whatever is the most lurid rag on the supermarket shelves these days) in dirt:
All these different trends converged in the great querelle over Lothar II's divorce from Theutberga, in 857-69. This ought to have been simple. Lothar had married Theutberga, from the prominent aristocratic family of the 'Bosonids', in 855 but soon turned against her and sought in 857 to return to his former partner Waldrada, with whom he had had a son, Hugh. Marriage law was tightening up in the ninth century, however; Charlemagne could put away a wife, but Lothar had to have reasons. He came up with the claim that Theutberga had had anal sex with her brother Hubert, had become pregnant as a result (impossibly, of course; his supporters invoked witchcraft), and had aborted the foetus: incest, sodomy and infanticide all at once. Theutberga proved her innocence in an ordeal in 858, but Lothar staged a show trial at a council in Aachen in 860, where she was forced to confess her guilt and retire to a monastery.

His view on Christian festivals:
But people still maintained the 'wrong' attitudes; they treated the new Christian feast-days in the same ways as they had treated the old pagan ones, as opportunities to get drunk and have a good time, as Augustine complained about a local martyrial feast-day. This way of understanding the Christian calendar, through public enjoyment rather than (as Augustine proposed) psalm-singing in church, was pagan in the eyes of most of our sources, but doubtless fully Christian in the eyes of celebrants; and this double vision would long remain.

A life fit for a king:
Cri­th Gablach, the major eighth-century tract on social status, states: 'There is, too, a weekly order in the duty of a king: Sunday for drinking ale . . . ; Monday for judgement, for the adjustment of tuatha; Tuesday for playing fidchell [a board game]; Wednesday for watching deer-hounds hunting; Thursday for sexual intercourse; Friday for horse-racing; Saturday for judging cases'

On diet:
vegetarianism itself, a standard ascetic trait, was a little suspect in Spain because Priscillianists refused meat, and the 561 council of Braga required vegetarian clerics at least to cook their greens in meat broth, to show their orthodoxy.

Maybe it's just as well Rome was replaced by 'barbarians' who know how to party:
Royal and aristocratic courts also had a different etiquette from those of the Roman world. The otium of the Roman civilian aristocracy, literary house-parties in well-upholstered rural villas, and the decorum of at least some imperial dinner parties (above, Chapter 3), was replaced by what sometimes seems a jollier culture. This was focused on eating large quantities of meat and getting drunk on wine, mead or beer, together with one's entourage, usually in a large, long hall.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Not quite ready to plunk down millions of dollars for this, but....

it's a good sign the state of the art in quantum computing is moving up fast; keep in mind we went from house-sized computers affordable only by major governments to desktops in only about thirty years - so I could very well be playing (indirectly) with ultracold beryllium islands in my lifetime (or more likely, some alternate technology that achieves the same effects).

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Quote of the Day

Jibun no toile ga ichiban, demo okusan ha hoka no okusan ga ii
(My best man learned this one in Japanese class at the U of R. I'm sure the professor is safely retired now)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Quote of the day

If the LHC had a sense of humor, they would announce that they are indeed going to try to create a man-made black hole and that the test is currently scheduled for December 21, 2012.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Quote of the day

I cannot agree with those who rank modesty among the virtues. To the logician all things should be seen exactly as they are, and to underestimate one's self is as much a departure from truth as to exaggerate one's own powers.

"Sherlock Holmes"

Monday, November 16, 2009

Recommendation: I Am A Strange Loop

This book by Hofstadter (best known for Goedel, Escher, Bach) pretty much means I don't have to write it. If you are interested in the nature of the self and the meaning of consciousness, this book is for you. You might not agree with it, but you should be aware of that point of view.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Quote of the day

Every industry or occupation that has enough political power to utilize the state will seek to control entry - Stigler

The Leonard Cohen concert

My brother Joerg encouraged me to post a review of the concert from last weekend.

It seems a bit silly to review it - as long as Leonard Cohen was there, he could pretty much just sit on the stage and grunt, and it would still be one of the high points of my life.

He didn't just sit and grunt, though, his performance was jaunty. He skipped onto the stage and trotted his way right into "Dance Me To The End of Love". This is a song that my wife Jocelyn first heard on a Madeleine Peyroux album, without knowing that it was a Leonard Cohen song. I guess that is how most people hear their Leonard Cohen songs, at least those who haven't been privileged to see him in concert.

Considering he is 75 years old, the physical approach to his performance might be a bit ostentatious - there is just NO WAY he is in as good a shape as he wants us to believe. Nevertheless, you can only fake so much, and it is clear that it is not only women who have been exceptionally kind to his old age (for non-Cohen afficionados, that is a reference to his "Because of a few songs/Wherein I spoke of their mystery/Women have been exceptionally kind to my old age").

I suppose when you are Leonard Cohen, you can pretty much pick which musicians you want to tour with, and his picks were impressive. My friend Matt (who accompanied us with his wife Colleen) commented that there were a couple of instrumentalists on stage that he'd be willing to go to a separate concert just to hear them alone. Cohen gives them due credit, introducing each at least twice, with some idiosyncratic words of praise. Javier Mas appears to take precedence, but each one gets an opportunity for the spotlight, and makes good use of it. The angelic Webb sisters even presented us (as LC put it, "on voice, harp, and gymnastics!" with synchronized cartwheels.

Having seen another performance in Canada a few months ago, I can testify these are not "cookie cutter" presentations....this time there was a song ("Darkness") I had NEVER heard before (yes, turns out it was new). "Ain't no cure for love" was launched without the narrative lead-in I heard in Canada (and that is present on the album, with a catalog of drugs taken and a mention of the study of religions, "but the cheerfulness kept breaking through") - in fact, he didn't seem to be in a chatty mood that night, but he really gave the performance his all.

At our hotel, Jocelyn met a man who was also there for the concert and was following LC to see another concert in a few days. He mentioned that next spring LC planned to tour in France. Jocelyn, a recent convert to Cohen, would be willing to travel that far!

Prescription for ME?


Thursday, November 12, 2009

RIP Lévi-Strauss

I actually missed the news of the death of the father of anthropology at the age of 100, but there is a rather nice post in memoriam for him at Language Log:
Ultimately the work of Lévi-Strauss was as seminal as the work of Freud and Chomsky. It matters little whether any of these three is correct. In fact they are probably all wrong about their views on what is universal in the human psyche. But progress in the mind is not so much finding the truth as learning to ask useful questions that bring new rigor and satisfaction to research and researchers.

Quote of the day

The only way that has ever been discovered to have a lot of people cooperate together voluntarily is through the free market. And that's why it's so essential to preserving individual freedom. -Milton Friedman

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My first comment spam!

Most bloggers consider this sort of thing an annoyance. OK, it really IS an annoyance of sorts. But since it is my first, it's kind of interesting.

Even if I HAVE no use for Viagra.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Vegan or Carnivore?

It is still funny.


A job saved is....what?

It's no great secret that I'm not very impressed by most government programs, and the latest ones have been among the least impressive, struggling to save a dime by burning a dollar. You can always try to make it look good by fudging up some numbers, like here in the "jobs saved" category.

Obama seems to be following quite capably in Bush's footsteps.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Quote of the day

", when preceded by itself in quotes, is unprovable.", when preceded by itself in quotes, is unprovable.

(A Quine)

Quote of the day - quoting myself

A girl should have a hot ass and a cool head.
- me, to a girl who was runnin a fever (no, I did not personally check the temperature of either end)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Before my time?

As long as I'm exhuming old writings, might as well put up a bit of prose...back from high school. You can see that well before Obama, I was concerned about energy independence (of course, since this was not long after the oil embargo, so was everybody else in the USA at the time).

Smelly feet

Smelly feet are one of the few resources in the United States that are as yet unexploited.

The essence of smelly feet should be collected, concentrated, and bottled. In the bottled state, the scent would be a formidable non-lethal self-defense - we would be as safe in our persons as the skunk is. Crime in our cities would be quickly extinguished. Naturally, the scent would have to be used judiciously, or the law-abiding citizens might flee into the country as well.

Because some of the gases released by our feet are flammable, if those gases can be captured, they might provide a new fuel source. Wouldn't it be worth exploring whether our foot odor could make us independent of the Arabs?

So harness foot odor for a better world!

On more mature reflection, the energy content of stinky feet is probably inadequate for our nation's needs. Also, the scent might not be "non-lethal", judging by my wife's after a long day at work in pantyhose.

Last Testament

That's really all the poems that I ever put on the web before. The others would probably be best forgotten, as far as art is concerned. But they might provide some insight into a young man's pouting and pretensions, so I'll inflict them on you anyway.

This next can be said to have been written before its time...mostly because "emo" really wasn't in style yet. Nevertheless, as maudlin as it is, I'm happy with the way it flows.

Last Testament

As the coffin slowly lowers
Do not weep to see me part --
The gentle hands of death assuage
The ruins of my heart.

You never wept to see me go
Those days I strived to win your hand;
And then, as now, I would not leave
Without some faint command.

At MY command I flee today
To beg the shadows' grace
My only music, light, or warmth
Are visions of your face:

Let my death now not torment you
Nor my passing draw your sighs
For the darkness that enfolds me
Frames the brilliance of your eyes.

That is my pride....

One of my favorite works isn't an original work at all - I translated a poem by Hermann Hesse from the German. My translation managed to preserve not only the meaning, but also the meter and the rhyme scheme. I haven't been able to do that with a German poem since!


That is my sorrow, that I learned to play
In all too many painted masques, to sway
But all too well the truth as seen
By others and myself. No gentle feeling
Stirs in me, no music reeling
Whose ways and ends are not routine.

I must call that my lament
Myself to know my innermost intent
Foreknowing every pulse's toll
That not a nightmare's admonition
No joy's nor grieving's precognition
Still manages to touch my soul.

Hermann Hesse (trans. J. Fiederer)

Monday, October 26, 2009


This one was Professor Ramsey's favorite. He had criticized one of my short stories as having too many adjectives. It irritated me - I had been trying for a Lovecraftian style, so this was no accident. I asked him, "Well, what parts of speech do you like?" He answered "I've always been rather fond of prepositions."

I wrote this for him...he loved it, and encouraged me to publish it, but I never did.


under before


from before

around before

to before


on after


at before


in after

through after

of after


over during, during, during, during

Been gone for a while! Time for some poems....

A couple of friends of mine have never seen any of my old poems, and I haven't put them in this blog yet (although I did on Myspace), so let's start with "Puzzle".

This was written back in college thinking about Lynn, a girl in my Physics class, who was a sophomore when I was a freshman. She worked as a "Programming Assistant", helping other students with their programming problems. If I hit an especially difficult snag, I would ask her...she'd just say that if it was difficult for me than she certainly couldn't help, she was there for less advanced students - but maybe I could help her with the crossword puzzle she was doing!


always interrupted by those who come for help

your attention analysis and bottomless eyes

that drain their efforts of their errors


your concentration dissolves in the arch of your neck

your body edging forward to examine closer

your velvet blue jeans frame the motion of your thighs

and then your pencil beacons their mistakes


that crossword puzzle something I can do with you

seeking words the papers want also finding how I want

to meet your eyes again and chill your thigh with feather hand

and count your hair with my caresses introduce allseeing tongues

and feel the head accumulate between us join us


why do I not touch I know you will not curse

or start at me and backhand my devotion

what stops me but the threat of gentle explanation

syrup dipped rejection loving you are not enough

please understand I do not wish to hurt you


I find the words not that I need but satisfy

the vacant squares you fill with what I say

but my silence is unknown unheard unfilled

and more come needing your assistance


aside again I watch your lips glide from your teeth

I need your guidance so much more than they

but no right to demand it's not your job


Sunday, October 18, 2009


Courtesy of (i.e.,l Hat Tip) Marginal Revolution, some rules for writing well.

The bit about rewriting is key for serious styling - any of my poetry (when I still wrote poetry) went through at least half a dozen rewrites, sometimes 2 or 3 times that.

For blogging, of course, my standards are a bit lower. Sorry, but there is a different between writing for the moment and writing for the (I should be so lucky) ages.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Stupid criminal tricks....

The oddest part about this story of the burglar who logged into his Facebook account from his victim's computer and left himself logged on is that there is some controversy about whether the victim violated the burglar's privacy by checking his own computer.

Customer Service....

I think even the girls who worked for ADT have not gotten this strange a call.

Anyway, strange calls from customers is a great concept for a blog.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Quote of the day

The difference between you and me is you drink tea and eat tofu. I drink whiskey and make people eat their teeth.
- Overheard

Acronyms Sometimes Suck

OK, there are plenty more....I guess the Wisconsin Tourism Federation, for example, decided to change their name.

HT the perfectly innocuous initialism MR.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Explaining the dating scene


At least that's the way I remember it....

(as always, click on the comic to go to the source)

The other side of the story....

Sometimes things just look SO BAD you figure there has to be another side.

Let's see - that cop who was caught on video beating up a special needs student for violating dress code, arrested for raping a woman at knife point, shooting his ex-wife's husband 24 times in front of their children....

Ah, yes, that shooting was ruled self-defense. I would have thought 12 times should have been enough, but I wasn't there.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Poor nurses....

Long hours, often strenuous work - and now, what really should be one of the PERQS of the job is apparently illegal.

Who knew? Does that mean those videos I used to watch are inaccurate somehow?

By the way, that dude had one unusual sense of timing!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

That wild man Prawo Jazdy...

...or rather, the Garda (Irish police force) was honored with an Ig Noble award for literature for the speeding tickets they made out in that name.

Prawo Jazdy is Polish for "Driver's License", and lest we make too much fun of the cops, I would have done the same thing. We can't all know Polish. A picture of a Polish drivers license is available at my HT Language Log.

The origins of ass bombing....

Scott Adams is the only one so far with a theory that makes sense.

The details of the relevant incident are here.

Down the drain....

Looks like the investment we made as taxpayers in Chrysler is a bust.

Not that we had much choice in the matter, as long as we were voting Democrat or Republican, anyway - both sides seemed quite willing to have the end happen on the other guy's watch, and happy to spend our money in the process.

Really gives me sympathy for people who'd rather just start a country from scratch.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Sunday, October 04, 2009

In the old days, girls would just ask if you had a light.....

Who the hell carries around a Samson phone charger?

Spooky smooches

I DO love this comic series, and since Halloween approaches...(click the image to get to the page that has the whole shebang)


Saturday, October 03, 2009

Literature lovers.....

As the properly acephalous Language Logs points out, you expect coordinated phrases to COORDINATE.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Arts and Farts

Well....another scholarly analysis of things rarely treated in a scholarly manner.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Quote of the day

Just when you get old enough to know how important it is to read those nutritional labels, your eyes can't read them anymore.
- Bob Lounsberry (maybe not the exact words, heard it on the radio)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Quote of the day

"Hot as a synonym for sexy is less common from people who've been on fire."
- Oglaf

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Does anybody care about the Nobel Prize for Literature

Apparently, they do - as shown by the betting line pointed out by MR.

Apparently, Amos Oz is the top contender, currently. Maybe I should read something of his, just in case!

(Although many worthy authors are honored, others are completely ignored. 'There is the view that the Nobel literature prize often goes to someone whose political stance is found to be sympathetic at a given moment,' said Alan Jenkins, deputy editor of the Times Literary Supplement. )

Friday, September 25, 2009

Quote of the day

It's comforting to imagine that violence and paranoia belong only to the far left and right, and that we can protect ourselves from their effects by quarantining the extremists and vigilantly expelling anyone who seems to be bringing their ideas into the mainstream. But the center has its own varieties of violence and paranoia. And it's far more dangerous than anyone on the fringe,even the armed fringe, will ever be.
- Jesse Walker, Reason magazine

Fearing That Hideous Strength

Chicago Boyz has David Foster analyzing an interesting response from C.S.Lewis to Haldane's criticism of his non-marxist ways.

It contains bits which I've often seen quoted:
I am a democrat because I believe that no man or group of
men is good enough to be trusted with uncontrolled power over
others. And the higher the pretensions of such power, the more
dangerous I think it both to the rulers and to the subjects. Hence
Theocracy is the worst of all governments. If we must have a
tyrant a robber baron is far better than an inquisitor. The baron’s
cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity at some point be sated;
and since he dimly knows he is doing wrong he may possibly
repent. But the inquisitor who mistakes his own cruelty and lust of
power and fear for the voice of Heaven will torment us infinitely
because he torments us with the approval of his own conscience
and his better impulses appear to him as temptations.
And since
Theocracy is the worst, the nearer any government approaches to
Theocracy the worse it will be. A metaphysic, held by the rulers
with the force of a religion, is a bad sign. It forbids them, like the
inquisitor, to admit any grain of truth or good in their opponents,
it abrogates the ordinary rules of morality, and it gives a seemingly
high, super-personal sanction to all the very ordinary human
passions by which, like other men, the rulers will frequently be
actuated. In a word, it forbids wholesome doubt. A political
programme can never in reality be more than probably right. We
never know all the facts about the present and we can only guess
the future. To attach to a party programme -— whose highest real
claim is to reasonable prudence -— the sort of assent which we
should reserve for demonstrable theorems, is a kind of

The scientific approach: a classification system for girls

Apparently, there are supposed to be only three. One wonders whether the author had limited exposure or whether things are really that simple. None of the types actually seem suited for him.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Frying the Holy Grail

is too goofy NOT to link.

You might want to look up "British push bottles up the German rear" in the comments as well.

Everybody should do well...

...at the science quiz linked by the Bad Astronomer.

Of course I got them all right, none of the questions are obscure, although I did have some doubts about one of the questions. But it's interesting how many people miss quite a few, taking it will let you see the statistics.

Hopefully none of my Scrabble opponents read my blog....

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Annals of Unfortunate Surnames

I was reading Shakespeare's "King John", and came across a rather strangely named character: Bigot. Immediately I wondered whether maybe bigotry was named after a Frenchman the way Chauvinism was!

Well, it's not. The French surname Bigot, while unfortunate, does not appear directly related to the term "bigot", which is thought to be related to either the Germanic "Bei Gott!" (by God) or "visigoth" (there is an attested case of "Bigoth" used for "Visigoth").

Monday, September 21, 2009

This could have been from The Onion....

....but it is from the Volokh Conspiracy, a respected law blog.

The headline says it all.

Founder of Jedi Religion Claims to be Victim of Religious Discrimination

(for those lacking all nerd cred, Jedi is the religion featured in Star Wars, now the fourth most common religion in the UK, if you believe their census - and they just might be taking the mickey)

A couple of links from MR

A couple of compelling links, offered without comment from MR today:

1) A New York Times op-ed listing the last words of people about to be executed.

A couple of samples:
Kick the tires and light the fire. I am going home.
I have come here today to die, not make speeches.
I wish I could die more than once to tell you how sorry I am.
I appreciate the hospitality that you guys have shown me and the respect, and the last meal was really good.

2) The dangers involved in killing all the pigs. (yes, they did this in Egypt in a brain-damaged effort to avoid swine flu)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Quote of the Day

“All of life’s problems can be solved with two things — duct tape and WD40. If it moves and it shouldn’t, you need duct tape. And if it doesn’t move and it should, you need WD40.”
-- Any man

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Quote of the day

Another says, “And then they floated away on what I can only refer to as a cloud of bizarre midair sex.” I assume that, at this point, I was no longer talking about the ducks.
- From Woo in Review

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Frank Lloyd Wright

Today we traveled to Buffalo to see the Martin complex. It included the Barton house (sort of a beta test for Wright design, the first house he built in Buffalo - and satisfied the customer even though it went well more than 100% over budget), the Martin house, the Gardener's house, and the carriage house (yes, even the glorified garage was part of the tour).

The guy in front was our tour guide (docent), who did a great job and was well informed.

It gave me a chance to try the panoramic setting on my cellphone:

Not bad for a cellphone photo.

As good a job as they did at the Martin complex, our overall experience was marred because we also had tickets to see the Graycliff buildings, which we had booked online - but were informed that we wouldn't be able to make it there unless we cut short our tour at the Martin - apparently the two are unrelated except by being booked through the same interface. We can return some other week, Buffalo is not a long trip, but this would have been VERY upsetting for somebody who came from, say, Taiwan!

Last week there was also an example of BAD architecture:

The way that extension protrudes from its main building like a tumor (right in Rochester, near Park Avenue) struck as as preposterous.

Quote of the day

"Women might be able to fake orgasms. But men can fake whole relationships."
--Sharon Stone

Friday, September 04, 2009

Here's a topic on which I DEFINITELY agree with Paul McCartney

There have been proposals in various countries (and I believe a successful one in Australia) to cut off people's internet access if there is even an (or at least several) accusation that they have been downloading illegally. No conviction, no trial, enough to just say so. Various artists, including McCartney, are speaking out against these efforts by the record companies.

Down by law

Coyote points at a rather extreme case of a town run only for the benefit of its lawmen....leading not only to the town moving toward being a ghost town ("saw its last business close its doors a few weeks ago", although perhaps things went the other way, with the "law" feeding on the remnants after the economy went south), but to an unarmed man shot for protesting a traffic ticket.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Making Love, or Current Reading

This was another pick from economist Tyler Cowen, who said:
My god this book is sick and I feel bad even telling you about it. It's exactly what the title promises and it has no business being discussed on a family-oriented economics blog. The language is explicit and the content is disgusting. It's also brilliant, funny, and unique. How often do I see a new approach to what a book can be? Once you get past the language and topic, it's actually about narcissism, why empathy is scarce, how we form self-images, how men classify and remember their pasts, and why management fad books are absurd.

Another rather cute review is Susie Bright's, who asks "Who is Adrian Colesberry and Why Do I Want to Make Love To Him?"

Definition of the week - Pulfrich Effect

OK, we haven't had one of these in ages. The only reason we do now is that it is just so deliciously obscure. This is an optical illusion that simulates back and forth movement based on side to side movement, with the appropriate goofy glasses.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Quote of the day

"Never be afraid to try something new. Remember amateurs built the ark. Professionals built the Titanic."

- Frank Pepper

Saturday, August 29, 2009

This is sad....

It looks like a man might have been executed for a crime that never really was....

The guy has a point....

... and I do believe the government should stay out of religions issues.

But it seems to me he is not quite honest when he says
"Muslims are allowed to marry a lot of times while Hindus aren't allowed to do so....

Why do we have such a law present here?

I didn't force them to have sex with me nor did I ever dupe them. I have married only thrice till now."

Maybe there shouldn't be a law against bi(or poly)gamy....but the wives are certainly entitled to know there are others in any society that respects at least contract law....and if he did not ever "dupe them", I would have thought each would have known about the others.

Oh, and ONLY thrice :-)

"Utopia is not an option"

Cute little catchphrase, and it captures the gist of our thinking about health care. Whatever we do, it doesn't look like we'll live forever. McArdle expands a bit on that theme, her point being that "rationing" happens one way or the other....it just seems we are a bit uncomfortable about admitting it.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Quote of the day

“It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a ‘dismal science.’ But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance.”
-Murray N. Rothbard

Monday, August 24, 2009

Great jobs for atheists!

Ok, it's only a parody, but the parody makes sense....if you are a Christian that is taken away in rapture, who is going to care for your pets?

As MR points out, this is a competitive market, with some merchants willing to promise not only to care for your pets, but not to have sex with them either....

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Quote of the Day

"A learning experience is one of those things that says, 'You know
that thing you just did?' Don't do that.'"
- unknown (If you know the source, please tell me - I got it unattributed in an email)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The ligher side of health care...

From Language Log:

It is truly almost beyond belief that the Investor's Business Daily could say in an editorial (which after much ribald mockery they have now fixed):

"People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn't have a chance in the U.K., where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless."

I'm sure you can spot WHY this would lead to ribald mockery!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Panem et circenses - funny in a different desperate way

We've had bread subsidies for quite awhile (at least CORN bread), but now they are taking care of the circuses.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Funny in a desperate way....

There are some odd reminiscences in the health care professions....

My favorites:
#5: Stay away from people named "Some Guy" or "This One Dude", because they for whatever reason, just punch someone in the face or hit them with a crowbar and run off. If I see them on the street, I cross the street to get away from them.

#6 Never, ever leave flashlights, shampoo bottles, beer bottles or any long, circular object on the floor because someday you will fall on it and it will somehow, work its way up your rectum.

If you have taken 7 home pregnancy tests that are all positive, and you come into the emergency department...chances are that test too will come back positive.

Fat and stuck with it?

McArdle is pretty sure you can lose weight...but not much....

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Partially in response to their libel suite, chiropractors are under major pressure against false claims in the UK.

Only on the web....

... does a layman like me get to discuss such matters in a semi-serious way with real linguistics professors.

I even got noticed by one of the professors (and an author of a book I bought) in a sort-of approving way:
Jens is quite right: ever since fuck became a human-denoting noun (You've killed my Burmese python, you stupid fuck!), it has been possible for the fuck to occur in NP slots on a fairly broad basis. But not as a semantically inert pleonastic epithet with the affective function of conveying personal irritation. —GKP

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

National Health Care - Bad idea or big mistake?

Megan McArdle weighs in, well worth reading.

My apologies to Dave Barry.

Health update.....

Quick update on yesterday, my first colonoscopy.
I declined sedation (benzodiazepine, the stuff that makes you forget most of the procedure ever happened). They did, however, give me an analgesic (just a little bit to relieve discomfort).....Fentanyl, a drug 100 times as potent as morphine. Apparently, some people find this opiate enjoyable, but after the initial hit (which was sort of a dizzy wave) I felt completely normal.

Fully, or almost fully, alert I was able to enjoy the roller coaster ride through my large intestine on the video screen. He took out two small polyps on the way out (they go in quite rapidly, most of the inspection is done during the slow extraction). Very minor discomfort, the USA is one of fairly few countries where sedation is the norm.

Afterwards, a broccoli, onion, and cheddar cheese omelet!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sherborne Lane sounds quite classy....

...but apparently it was originally "Shitteborwelane, later Shite-burn lane and Shite-buruelane (possibly due to nearby cess pits)".

I suppose local real estate agents insisted on the change.

But I find the older street names refreshingly honest.

'Skip' Gates - not much to say....

But I agree with Andrew Sullivan that if we are concerned about police abuses, there are other cases with higher priority.

Finally, a truly FAIR tax....

A tax on tallness.

My only reason for objecting to this one is that it is a bad precedent. What next, a tax on intelligence?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Medical Rant....

It's the 21st century. Truly and indisputably. Don't try to tell the doctors that.

They still give me multiple forms to fill out that require me to enter my name and address. Even better than that, they ask me to tell them who they are.

Then they ask broad questions with only the most tenuous relationship to the case that are particularly burdensome on those of us who feel compelled (I have no idea why) to answer honestly. "Are there steps in your house?" OK, I can see why that might matter when it comes to counseling me about my behavior after a procedure that might leave me woozy. "How many?"


Maybe they are trying to catch the person that has just a single step down into the kitchen or something, but how useful can that count really be? (There are 26 steps, by the way, including the stairs to the second floor, the stairs to the basement, and single steps down to the family room from both the breakfast room and the dining room) It must make a pretty big difference whether I live in a tiny 4-story house with ladders or a sprawling mansion that has twelve places with shallow single steps....

Then I am supposed to give my height, in feet/inches and in centimeters, and my weight, in pounds and kilograms. They can't do their own effing conversions?

Don't even get me started on the "recreational" questions. Do I smoke cigarettes? Yes, approximately one puff every decade or so.

I write software forms that allows users to enter information using the fewest steps possible. User friendliness is the first thing we think about. If I decided to make a hobby out of doing tonsillectomies on my friends without bothering to get a medical degree first they would have the law down on my butt so fast my head (or tail) would spin. But they haven't the slightest compunction about having rank amateurs designing their user interfaces.

Get with the program.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Some advertisements are a bit hard to swallow....

This one for Gaviscon must have been a bit embarrassing.

The video here does not have the badly phrased tag line, but the coloring is still a bit out there.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


always has insight.

And my wife always complains....

...that we only have a toilet on the ground floor and the basement. For four (or right now, three) people. It could be worse.


It's not easy moving from Germany to the United States. When I grew up in Germany, World War II was occasionally mentioned -- as a really bad time -- but nobody really dwelled on it. In America, on the other hand, popular comics still included the World War II comics like Sergeant Rock. Even Captain America was still battling mostly Nazi villains. It was considered very humorous to make gestures in my direction ("A German! Let us machine gun him!") Popular culture had Germans always ready to kill and torture innocent people. I so did not want to be a villain - there weren't, to my knowledge, even S&M clubs around where that sort of rep would make us popular.

Imagine my dismay when America came out in favor of torture - or at least winking at it. As long as our side was doing it, it was just "enhanced interrogation techniques." Orwell really knew his stuff.

One of the things that made me prefer Obama to Bush was that he didn't seem to want us to be the villains. Greenwald points out nothing has changed.

American Dream

Guy: That's the new American dream--fuck up your life so much that you get your own tv show.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Spotlight personality

Not only was Carl Michael Bellman a great composer of drinking songs, he had a whole genre of jokes named after him. One from my youth, before I knew it was a Bellman joke:
An Englishman, a Frenchman, and a German all died in the war and were sent to hell. The devil greeted them and said that he admired them for their bravery and wished to give each of them a chance to escape damnation. If any one of them could set him a task he could not perform, that one would be sent up to heaven.

The Englishman made the first attempt: one of His Majesty's greatest warships was sunk at Scapa Flow....can you restore it to its former glory? A hundred demons were set to the task, and it took them only 5 minutes to raise and repair the ship.

The Frenchman tried next: in the bombing of our cities, ten of our finest artworks were destroyed - can you bring them back and enrich our culture? A thousand efreets were dispatched, and the art was resurrected in 15 minutes.

As the Englishman and the Frenchman toddled off to eternal damnation, still pleased they had done something for their fatherlands, the German made his request: I'm going to fart now - can you paint it green?

Satan was baffled and the German was saved.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Flynn effect....

This not only has some interesting information about IQ, and how it seems to keep getting better (The Flynn Effect) - how do the curmudgeons who think the world keeps dumbing down deal with that? - it has one of the funniest corrections ever.

Of course.....

some of my friends are already doing this.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Word of the week


A good quote goes with this one, too:

Consult, for example, Ring Lardner’s humorous story “I Can’t Breathe”—the private journal of an eighteen year old girl who wants to marry a different young man every week. If surveyed on her preferred number of “sex partners,” she would presumably respond one; this does not mean she has any idea who it is.

F.Roger Devlin

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Ain't technology wonderful....

The headline pretty much says is all:

Pea shooter traditionalists decry use of laser sights at annual competition

A record NOT to break....

OK, Guinness Book of World Record made a completely understandable faux pas... and then compounded it by doing what seemed like trying to sweep it under the rug with bullying.

To be honest, I wouldn't be very surprised if it was just an ordinary trademark defense without consideration of content, but it still looks embarrassing.

For those of you who don't click through, they had a "break this record" link - understandable in most categories, but not a good idea in most deaths caused by an act of terrorism.

HT Overlawyered

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Quote of the day

Never will man penetrate deeper into error than when he is continuing down a road that has led him to great sucess." - F.A. Hayek

Synecdoche update....

A while ago, that was our featured word.

Interesting take from Overheard:
Professor: An example of synecdoche would be, "get your ass over here." You want all of them, not just their ass. But sometimes, you do just want their ass. And we all know how that goes. But that sort of thing doesn't happen in a classroom... usually.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Quote of the Day

"It's not that everything he says is wrong, but the bits that are true aren't interesting, and the bits that are interesting aren't true. "

- Megan McArdle

Sunday, July 05, 2009

For the man who wants everything - at once?

We have a review of the splayd here. The idea is familiar from that of the "spork" - a combination spoon/fork with a bit of knife thrown in as well.

HT to Megan, who got me there indirectly via the Venn diagram of combination cutlery.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Quote of the day

As I wrote at the time, the Times confused what people were emailing each other with what they would be willing to pay for. If those things were the same, poems about Jesus and pictures of kittens wearing hats would have replaced gambling and porn as the internet's most profitable content.
- Megan McArdle

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Meet the new boss, same as the old was....

Obama moves to reaffirm one of Bush's most blatant attacks on our civil rights.

If he thinks you need to be locked up, who even needs a court. The fact that it won't be in Cuba won't make it any better.

HT Coyote, who also links to an explanation of the missing frog legs.

Most informative retrospective on Michael Jackson....

This one at Language Log actually explains Ma ma se, ma ma sa, ma ma coo sa.

That practically BEGS an explanation of "chamone"!

Friday, June 26, 2009

How it works

Another good post from Coyote....

It really shows how politics and individual freedom are generally at odds. I suppose it is only natural, since politics is about controlling people and individual freedom...not. Nevertheless, the less you trust government, the more power you grant it, at least according to the guys cited here. Every day, the bucket goes to the well, but one day the bottom will drop out. Or so Bob Marley said.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Quote of the day

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.

- Voltaire, rationalist & satirist (1694 - 1778)

From Samizdata

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Quote of the day

"Microeconomics concerns things that economists are specifically wrong about, while macroeconomics concerns things that they are wrong about generally." -P.J. O'Rourke

Wonder dog from hell....

Apparently, the dog in this Balko post got several people imprisoned for over a decade because juries are gullible. A scary thought.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Beer and Mother Teresa's sex life....

A lot of people would find the relationship tenuous at best....but this item shows how "I am not fucking Mother Teresa" can be interpreted the wrong way.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Kama Sutra and Chess

A rather attractive grandmaster of chess is coming out with a new book relating chess and sex. Her name is Natalia Pogonina and she is also a model and a lawyer. Sorry, she's married to another chess player already in case you boys are salivating (HT MR, by the way). Quote:
We will be reviewing the most interesting openings and middlegame positions, and relating them to positions from Kamasutra. We surprise our readers by introducing the “love theory”, which is extremely effective for developing your chess skills and becoming happy in personal life. We will share unique training methods in “sexchess”, approbated by ourselves.

Yes, I feel like playing chess again all of a sudden myself.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Quote of the day

"A killer breaks a shop window, admits it, goes to prison, and gets away with a murder. But you don't accuse yourself of murder in order to cover up a broken window."
-- Andrei Makine, "The Crime of Olga Arbyelina"

Sunday, June 07, 2009

White Bride in a Goth Wedding....

In case you've been irritated by music videos that just don't seem to match the words, here is your relief.

There's actually a set of these (music videos with sound and subtitles replaced by new lyrics to match the actions), brought to my attention by the blog of the enticingly geeky Jacqueline.

Oh - I challenge you to watch my favorite without giggling at least a little.

Capturing MILF island....

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

Strutting my stuff in San Antone....

One of my missions on my San Antonio trip was....

I'd bought my mother one of those electronic picture frames a few years ago. More recently, I bought her another one (having forgotten about the first). She gratefully commented that the second one would get an honored place right next to the first in a box in her closet. So I figured it was about time I helped her set these things up with pictures of her loved ones. OK, mission accomplished, and they seem nicer now that they work for her.

During the process, I found out that she often needed to re-scale pictures, and spent quite a bit of time doing so. OK, me too. Not the only one, either - once my friend Heather's mom needed to resize a couple of photos to submit to an art show, and I helped out with that. So I decided to do what I do best (no, not "Tubthumping") and write a little application for her: now she just clicks on her "scalepix" icon, fills her "c:\shrink" directory with copies of pictures she wants smaller, clicks "Go" (or optionally, sets the desired width first if she doesn't want them 400 bits wide) and everything in the "shrink" directory gets shrunk. I can use that one myself at home, and anybody that wants one is welcome to a copy.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Detroit City

Home folks think I'm big in Detroit city.
From the letters that I write, they think I'm fine.
But by day, I make the cars,
And by night I make the bars,
If only they could read between the lines...

Nope, not making cars or bars here (shades of Rapture!), and no need to read between the lines...not that anybody thinks I'm big here. They're beginning to load people to my flight here.....so that was hardly worth paying the wireless charge.

You really feel like a homeless person when you want to find electric power at an airport!

Waiting for boarding.....

Sitting on the floor at the airport (to score some AC for my laptop) while waiting to fly from Rochester to San Antonio (connection in Detroit).

Listening to Sonic Youth's Destroyed Room, the book next to my laptop is BMOC - a fun and satiric read (although it could have benefited by a copy editor, or at least a spellchecker).

In a few hours I see my mom, haven't done that for quite a while!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Monday, June 01, 2009

22 years of marriage, many more of life!

Saturday was my 22nd wedding anniversary, tomorrow is my birthday. Jocelyn decided to make a combined gift for me....sort of a surprise. Yesterday I was to have some clothes packed away for mysterious purposes. Naturally surprises of this sort are bound to be a bit disappointing (how could they possibly live up to the odd things in your own imagination?), but it worked out fairly well.

Jocelyn had booked us a room at the Woodcliff. At 15:00 she had scheduled a couples massage at their spa(unlike the couples massage COURSE we had on the cruise almost 10 years ago, this was just us being massaged at adjacent tables, but it was still very pleasant and relaxing).

Then 17:45 she set up dinner at the restaurant there. I had lobster bisque and the thai spiced scallops, she had the pineapple marinated flank steak. 19:25 I took her to the Angels & Demons movie at Eastview Mall, less than a mile away (ok, but not great). Then back to the hotel bar for some jazz music and dancing....followed the next morning by a walk in Powdermill Park.

At trivia Sunday we got 13, not bad with Doug temporarily replaced by Sheila, and beating two of the other top teams, but far from the incredible winning score of 17. Then Jocelyn accompanied me to bring in my birthday with karaoke, doing "These Boots Are Made For Walking" (but not walking on me very hard) and accompanying me with Heather's help on "Tubthumping".

Celebrate, good times, come on!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Quote of the day

(he) thought, while he stroked the cat's black fur, that this contact was illusory, that he and the cat were separated as though by a pane of glass, because man lives in time, in successiveness, while the magical animal lives in the present, in the eternity of the instant.

- Jorge Luis Borges, "The South"

Thursday, May 21, 2009

If you didn't want to book the fright....

...how about a cruise?

Our guarantee

We guarantee adventure

We guarantee that you will experience at least two hijacking attempts by pirates or we will refund half your money back, including gun rental charges and any unused ammo (mini gun charges not included).

I'll stick with the frights....a flight to Texas on the fifth to see my mum!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Quote of the day

Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.
-Isaac Asimov

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Waiting impatiently for that fress feeling? Stinks?

This has got to be the solution for YOU! (I don't know how GUYS manage to live without it)

Click here for Engrish.com

Booking that Fright....

Title is a reference to Engrish -- and of course, the fact that I'm flying to San Antonio June 5th to see my mom.

Just got back from running the 5k in the Lilac Festival...very chilly, my son teamed up with me, and his girlfriend teamed with her mom.

Last, but not least.....Leonard Cohen in concert Tuesday night - can't wait!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Saddest xkcd ever.....

I actually know people like this.....

Quote of the day

From Radley Balko:
Finally, the “crushing the testicles of children of suspected terrorists” viewpoint has a platform!

(regarding the fact that John Yoo, Bush's torture advisor, is now writing articles for the Philadelphia Inquirer)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Funny to anybody that gets those annoying "prizes"

comic about winning a prize

(as always, you can click on the picture to get to the original site, and do a mouseover to enjoy the cute text)

KEEP the sex quiet, won't you?

Although don't you think locking somebody up for being excessively passionate in their own home is a bit much?

Well, I suppose if you're British....

Sunday, May 10, 2009


Another good one. Some critics thought that they tried to cram too many characters into the movie at once, and they were probably right. The other just criticism was that we just HAD an origin story for the Wolverine in the FIRST X-Men movie, so why have another?

None the less, the story line was good, the performances were convincing, and the surfeit of characters mostly left you wanting more detail about the ones that were given short shrift.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Star Trek Zero.....

Saw it tonight. Verdict - enjoyable, touching, nostalgic.

I am especially impressed with the way they found young actors that really seemed like plausible younger version of "The Old Series."

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Sad life of a pig.....

Apparently, with swine flu pigs are even LESS popular in Muslim countries:
The pig is a curiosity in Muslim Afghanistan, where pork and pig products are illegal because they are considered irreligious, and has been in quarantine since Sunday after visitors expressed alarm it could spread the new flu strain.

"For now the pig is under quarantine, we built it a room because of swine influenza," Aziz Gul Saqib, director of Kabul Zoo, told Reuters. "We've done this because people are worried about getting the flu."

Sunday, May 03, 2009

One Hundred Days of...Obama

I listened to a good part of President Obama's speech on the radio while driving, and I must confess it sounded pretty good to me. On the whole, I've found his presidency somewhat disappointing so far - he presents himself very well, but hasn't made any of the difficult decisions that seem so necessary these days. On the other hand, Bush had the same problem with the decisions without even presenting himself well, so I guess much more would be too much to hope for.

This article goes into things a bit deeper, describing Obama as "an effective salesman of exhausted ideas".
On the economy, and specifically on the economic crisis, Obama came to office promising a sharp break from the past. Instead, he has added so much fuel to the fires that George W. Bush ignited—exploding already swollen deficits, using TARP monies (which were statutorily provided for banks) not just for auto companies but minor auto parts manufacturers, and giving the federal government more power to seize private companies than even Henry Paulson dreamed of wielding. Such has been the extent of Obama's me-tooism that he's taken to defending his record by pointing out that, hey, Bush started it!

The latter was actually a rare moment of transparency; Obama's typical M.O. is to proclaim a new era of responsibility while ushering in a new era of irresponsible debt, promise to close the revolving door of lobbyists and government while keeping it open, and vow to post all bills online for five days without doing anything of the sort. He says the bailout is "not about helping banks—it's about helping people," then gives more of the people's money to banks. He says he doesn't want to run General Motors, then fires its CEO, guarantees its warranties, and wags his finger about the company's surplus of brands. He says he's taking a battle-axe to the budget, then offers to shave $100 million off a $3.4 trillion tab. At his gee-whiz, interactive, online town hall meeting, he laughed off the most popular question asked by web viewers—should marijuana be legalized—with a lame joke before embracing the status quo like Jimmy Carter hugging a Third World dictator.

Well, it's not as though we had much of an alternative...I don't for a moment believe McCain would have done any better. Nor is the country likely to vote my way in picking somebody of a libertarian bent, whether or not they are a member of the Libertarian party. But one change has been occurring: more and more people are describing themselves as independent rather than Democrat or Republican.

Friday, May 01, 2009

A bosom makes a VERY good pillow....

You've probably heard this song, it got a lot of radio play, but I'd bet you never made any sense of it....the name is Brimful of Asha (click on the link to get a much deeper explanation), but apparently it has been understood as many other possible words, including "Grim Poodle Basher". Pretty much the only part that made sense to me was the "Everybody needs a bosom for a pillow" interjection.

Anyway, I really enjoyed reading the explanation in my link!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Mistresses are most expensive by the hour, wives by the year....

"girlfriends are cheapest all around"

From a comparison of sugar daddy economics highlighted in MR's "Business arrangements I would bet against".

Bonus: one of the commenters points to this arrest in a sex-for-security scam.

Quote of the day

"I am shy with women: therefore there is no God" is highly unconvincing metaphysics.
- Fernando Pessoa

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Journalism and Science - Peanutbutter and Chocolate fare much better...

The good professors at Language Log offer us another disgusted criticism of science reporting - this time the headlines pretty much promised us that Twitter would make us evil.

Yes, one more time a minor effect detected in a study is reinterpreted to yield headlines such as Facebook hurting moral values, says study and Facebook and Twitter 'make us bad people'. Not that the study actually involved Facebook or Twitter, read the article for a full description.

Professor Liberman offers credit where credit is due:
Kudos to Ben Goldacre, whose BS detector went off on cue, and who managed to get an early copy of the paper by some back-channel route ("Experts say new scientific evidence helpfully justifies massive pre-existing moral prejudice", Bad Science, 4/18/2009), and to Chris Matyszczyk at CNET, who was suitably skeptical on the basis of common sense ("Oh, so now Twitter is making us immoral", 4/15/2009). Chris also wins Best Line: "Your brain might, at this point, be scanning the thought that if all the subjects of this research were from Los Angeles, it might be surprising that the scientists found any moral compass at all."

And props to the 74% of respondents in that internet survey who weren't persuaded by this fake-scientific morality play.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Absolute zero might actually NOT be as cold as it can get....

At least that is my impression after reading this section of the tax topics.


.... adversity is always inspirational. Sometimes it can be funny as well as inspirational, like when somebody has a successful life after being a boy named Sue or a girl named Marijuana Pepsi Jackson.

HT Freakonomics

Sunday, April 19, 2009

(Shaw) Quote of the day

You have been badly brought up, little darling. Would any lady or gentleman walk unannounced into a room without first looking through the keyhole?
(Potemkin in "Great Catherine")

Smart Slime Molds

Interesting experiment described HERE. (HT MR)

Accentchuate the positive...

As much fun as it is to bash Strunk&White, it leaves people who really want a guideline to good writing stranded. This post spackles that gap.

For my single friends, or those with VERY tolerant spouses...

Will somebody please try this pick-up strategy and report back how it worked?

Judge not lest ye be judged?

I'm generally not a big fan of vindictiveness...the entertainment value of stringing the rascals up on lampposts after you've thrown them out is probably outweighed by the additional evasions and maneuvers that sort of policy induces. But the case of Judge Bybee (HT Uncommon Priors) finds me just a little bit bloodthirsty.

It's not easy going out into the world as a German. Even if you were born well past all the atrocities, and even your parents were merely children at the time, you are still faced with the prototype of the sadistic villain being the sadistic German. This makes it especially painful when your new adopted country stakes out the position that (non-consensual - I have no beef with the consensual kind) torture is really OK when it seems necessary or useful.

I don't know if the man is merely a well-meaning fool, but when Ackerman writes
Under the Constitution, impeachment requires a finding of "high crimes and misdemeanors." This is a high standard. Although Bybee's opinion fails minimum tests of legal competence, he may have acted in good faith. This should protect him from conviction. But his legal distortions might also be evidence of the abdication of his fundamental legal responsibilities. Instead of engaging in a good-faith interpretation of the War Crimes Act and the Geneva Conventions, he may have merely been responding to political pressures from the White House to liberate the CIA and the military from the rule of law.

Bybee should, of course, be given a full opportunity to clarify this matter at the impeachment proceedings. But at present, his only public explanation is his extravagant appeal to executive privilege. This cannot suffice. He should be required to take personal responsibility for his actions and explain why they don't make him into a systematic enabler of the war crimes that have disgraced America.

he has a point. I'd like to see the matter at least considered.


Not actually getting any, I don't really have to distinguish between the types on my own...but this bestiary could be used like your North American Field Guide to the species.

When I comment myself, I usually TRY to be:
The Droll - The mainstay of all fun sites, this poster regularly tosses out clever comments, plays of words, one-liners, amusing pictures. There’s a lot of these characters on places like Fark.com

but I fear that others would tend to classify me as:
The Lecturer - This is the buzzkill pedant who feels the need, even in a casual, light comments section to post a 1,000 word exegesis on what everyone should be talking about. Hey, thanks pal!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Hey, diddle-dee, a pirate's life for me....NOT

The site you reach by clicking the image below puts the whole pirate-killing thing in historical perspective.


Quote of the day - a Shaw quote

Haven't been doing these much...but yesterday's play inspired me.

You don't know what it is to be alone with a woman who has little beauty and less conversation. What is a man to do? she cant talk interestingly; and if he talks that way himself she doesnt understand him. He cant look at her: if he does, he only finds out that she isnt beautiful. Before the end of five minutes they are both hideously bored. Theres only one thing that can save the situation; and thats what you call being horrid. With a beautiful, witty, kind woman, theres no time for such follies. It's so delightful to look at her, to listen to her voice, to hear all she has to say, that nothing else happens. That is why the woman who is supposed to have a thousand lovers seldom has one; whilst the stupid,graceless animals of women have dozens.


Actually, the conversation is quite necessary...even beauty will only get you to the end of TEN minutes!

Good times with the merry monarch....

Last night we went to Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada to see one of the less well-known Shaw plays, "In Good King Charles's Golden Days". To my knowledge there has never been a bad production at Niagara-on-the-Lake's Shaw Festival, and this one didn't change things....although it is the earliest in the season we have ever gone, and there were a few rough spots (several stumbles in the overall elegantly delivered lines, plus a prop falling distractingly at the edge of the stage - the first time I've ever even noticed a flaw).

I had to explain a few things to my wife, as this play in particular is deeply steeped in history - it was meant to be quite obvious that "Rowley" was King Charles II incognito (to the extent that George Fox, founder of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), actually addressed him as "Charles Stuart" once), but Jocelyn did not pick up on that at first - even though the first act ended in an angry wrestling match between Isaac Newton and prince James (later to briefly be James II before being replaced, as Charles II had warned him in the play if he insisted on his Catholicism, by the Protestant William and Mary).

Before the play we had dinner at the pleasant (but pricy) Shaw Cafe - can't beat the convenience of eating right across the street, and food and wine were good. Just before the play we went to a wine ship and shared a flight ($10 canadian) of icewine...Jocelyn particularly liked the Cabernet Franc (a red).

Speaking of royalty, but not of stalking them, this little item here deals with the latter part, or the people who do it (HT MR).
Interestingly, one of the first cases of what we now call erotomania or de Clérambault's syndrome, the delusional belief that another person - usually of higher status - is in love with you, featured the British Royal Family.

de Clérambault described the case of a 53 year old French woman who believed King George V was in love with her and would interpret twitches in the curtains of Buckingham Palace as secret love signals from the monarch.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Bashing Strunk&White

What better way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their pernicious little volume than to give it the smackdown it deserves?

As the co-author of The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language summarizes,
So I won't be spending the month of April toasting 50 years of the overopinionated and underinformed little book that put so many people in this unhappy state of grammatical angst. I've spent too much of my scholarly life studying English grammar in a serious way. English syntax is a deep and interesting subject. It is much too important to be reduced to a bunch of trivial don't-do-this prescriptions by a pair of idiosyncratic bumblers who can't even tell when they've broken their own misbegotten rules.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Hume versus Brooks

Yes, it is an uneven contest, brought to you by the good professors of Language Log. This is a refutation of Brooks' piece, The End of Philosophy, taking a handicap of over 200 years.

Still....if philosophers had just written in a more readable style, would we still have to be rehashing their ignored ideas today?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

For people who like everything about porn ... except the sex.....

...they now have PG Porn right here.

Warning....it's funny, and there is no nudity, but the language is definitely NSFW (Not Safe For Work).

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

"It's all for your protection..."

Heard this on WBER, liked it so much I tracked down the lyrics, found (with the youtube video) HERE.

Lyric excerpt:
I do not have the things I want but I can’t find,
Just show me something real and make it.
Everywhere begins to be the same,
Other words we use that might contain,
An ounce of truth for every treason.
Where was it you said you had to go?
Life is just a game of ‘who you know’
The ones we love and mostly cherish.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

I happen to love the stuff!


Click through image to get to the source of these lovely graphs (now at a new address)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Bob (TM) wins this one hands down....

This must rank on the top ten list of obscure top ten lists: the ten worst Microsoft product names. It says something about the sheer awfulness of Microsoft naming that this was doable, though.

Interestingly, some of the worst names are associated with the words products (such as the inanely named "Bob"). Probably the biggest slap in the face, of course, was "PlaysForSure" - which, as the article points out
they didn't play at all on the world's most popular MP3 player, Apple Inc.'s iPod. For Pete's sake, they didn't even play on Microsoft's own music player when it appeared.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Quote of the day

I’ll get the speech about how wonderful I am. Basic rule, isn’t it? More wonderful you are at the start of the speech, the more dumped you are at the end.
- Coupling

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Friday, March 27, 2009

Robot Erotica.....

Or at least this is what they must gaze at in lieu of cuddling under the stars.

HT Coyote.

Toward more picturesque expressions....

Wasn't that a Reader's Digest feature?

(clicking on the picture will take you to the home site of that brilliant strip)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Another viewpoint on AIG....

...and "bonuses".

If this is really on the up and up, some people are really getting burned in a witch hunt.

I don't really have a dog of my own in this race, but I'm distinctly getting the feeling we might have done better letting things run their own course.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Intellectual Property laws abused to absurdity...

Rent seeking often brings out the sleaze, but this one takes the cake.

The Author's Guild is protesting that the new Kindle 2's ability to provide audio output of books is infringing on their copyrights by "performing" the work, thus interfering with the true audio book market. If audio books really didn't sound any better than a text-to-speech program output they simply don't deserve to exist!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Review: Duplicity

If you don't like to spend even a little time reading reviews, just go see it. You won't regret it (unless you absolutely must have car chase scenes and shootings, the movie is kind of deficient in those).

This is a movie about two bad people, but unlike too many movies about bad people these are people you are actually going to care about. It is witty, clever, and complex, but does not insist on leaving you baffled. For example, there is a particular conversation in the movie that you hear four times: the first time, it is just clever; the second time, it is puzzling; the third time, there is a good chance that you have figured it out; and the fourth time it makes complete sense unless you fell asleep during the movie, which isn't very likely.

The performances are uniformly impressive, with not just our stars shining but with their supporting cast fully equal to their tasks. Especially enjoyable are the two executives whose struggle forms the framework for the plot. Another spot I particularly enjoyed was the lady who was cruelly (but enjoyably) used at the airport.

Even the previews of other movies were unusually good last night, but I really don't think I liked it just because I was in a good mood. Go see it.

"another sad example of how the media grossly misrepresents linguistics"

(Click the picture for background info)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Primal Emo...

Apparently, there really is something universal about our music: emotion. A study using Western music and members of the African Mafa tribe who had never heard it before showed that anger, sadness, and fear in our music is understandable even outside our culture.
Fritz enlisted members of the Mafa, one of about 250 ethnic groups in Cameroon. He traveled to the extreme north of the Mandara mountain ranges, where they live, with a laptop and sun collector to supply electricity in his backpack.

Their studies showed that both Western and Mafa listeners, who had never before heard Western music, could recognize emotional expressions of happiness, sadness, and fear in the music more often than would be expected by chance. However, they report that the Mafa showed considerable variability in their performance, with two of twenty-one study participants performing at chance level.

Both groups relied on similar characteristics of music to make those calls; both Mafas and Westerners relied on temporal cues and on mode for their judgment of emotional expressions, although this pattern was more marked in Western listeners.

By manipulating music, the researchers also found that both Western listeners and African listeners find original music more pleasant than altered versions. That preference is probably explained in part by the increased sensory dissonance of the manipulated tunes.

HT Future Pundit