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The Punisher is pro-gun control

Tim O'Neil at The Hurting has an interesting post on the Punisher. It's a contrast between the era that i'm currently in the middle of reviewing for my Timeline project and a contemporary run that i know nothing about. So it's half very relevant and half lost on me (although O'Neil provides context). What's interesting is that O'Neil says of the Punisher, "He's a right-wing revenge fantasy as it might have been designed by left-wingers who understood the precise limitations of the type." And then he goes on to describe his favorite run, which is Mike Baron's. And i've always understood Baron to be a conservative; certainly his afterward for the 1988 trade paperback collecting the 1986 Punisher mini-series (bottom of the entry) complains about 'liberals'. But his Punisher run is actually much more free of the negative tropes that one associates with the Punisher than you'd think. It's actually Carl Potts, who sounds much more liberal than Baron in that same trade paperback, and who who says some of the same things that O'Neil quotes Eliot Brown saying, that has the Punisher massacring minority gang bangers, Meanwhile Baron has him fighting corrupt South Vietnamese generals, white supremacist groups, and even Wall Street execs. To O'Neil's point, though, both Baron and Potts definitely present the Punisher as a kind of crazy person whose "stories took place in a universe that acknowledged that the Punisher was on the wrong side of the law and existed primarily in dialogue with - and as a foil, not a corrective - to more traditional superheroes like Spider-Man".


By fnord12 | April 27, 2015, 6:29 PM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link




Nonsense and the nonsencial nonsensers who nonsense them

Come with me, deep into the weeds of the Harry Reed injury conspiracy theory.


By fnord12 | April 27, 2015, 5:56 PM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link




Finnish populist speeding tickets

Four words that may seem like they may not make a lot of sense when put together, but they do.


By fnord12 | April 27, 2015, 12:33 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link




They Must Smell the Vegan on Us

Cause it's starting to feel like we're living in a Snow White house.

Last spring, we discovered robins had made a nest in one of the bushes on our back patio. This didn't bother us so much, but whenever we spent time on our back patio, the adult robins would freak out, sometimes nearly falling out of the nest. They also attempted a complex series of "stealth" approaches to get into the nest with food for their babies. We tried to explain to them it wasn't necessary because we could see them, but they never got the message.

We, ofc, couldn't contain our curiousity, so would periodically peer into the bush to see how the babies were developing. In case you were wondering, they're pretty hideous when they first hatch. Worse than human babies. When they finally get some feathers, they look less horrible. For the first week or so, they're just gaping mouths.

At some point, they turn into real birds. That's about when you should stop peering in on them because now they can see and when a big hairy head pops into their nest, it causes them to jump out in terror. Yeah...i got a panicked IM from fnord about how he thought he just killed the birds. It's ok! They're fine! In fact, i think the parents were grateful for fnord's help in getting their teens out of the nest for them.

Now, these stupid birds - despite the heart attack they nearly suffered every 10 minutes when they re-remembered the hairless apes that shared their territory, they not only stayed to hatch a second brood later in the summer, but came back this spring.

Fnord and i found this to be incredible enough. But now...

A week ago, we came back from a walk and as we approached our front door, a rabbit ran out of the front flower bed - a flower bed with no flowers or anything of interest for a rabbit to eat. But it didn't run away. It just ran a couple of feet and sat there, looking at us. WTF? That is not normal wild animal behavior. It should have kept running to get away from us. A few days later, the same thing happened again. Today, we discovered why it was hanging around.

It's living under my lenten roses.

That bush is 2 ft from my front door. Why the hell is it living so close to my front door??? That's not a safe, away from humans, place to put your stupid rabbit house!

And it has babies!

Here's my size 6.5 foot for a size comparison.


Babies that hide in the grass. Babies we thought were dead cause the one was too scared to move even when Fnord tapped it with his foot. Babies i nearly stepped on cause i am completely unaware of my surroundings and don't expect to have things in the grass that i need to be worried about stepping on. This is unacceptable.

What's going to happen next year? Am i going to come home to find the deer sitting on my couch watching Netflix?


By min | April 26, 2015, 2:58 PM | My stupid life | Comments (1) | Link




Attorney General Shouldn't Be an Elected Position

Eric Lipton from the New York Times just won a Pulizter for his three-party story on how lobbyists are buying attorney generals and shaping policies.

Here's the Intercept's summary of it:

The Times series explains that the current corporate onslaught is a response to successful collaborations by state attorneys general over the past several decades, including settlements in which 46 states extracted $206 billion from the tobacco industry, and 49 states forced the top five mortgage servicers to cough up $25 billion.

Public officials acting in the public interest was clearly a glitch in the matrix, and corporate America set out to eliminate it. In 2000 the GOP created the Republican Attorneys General Association, telling corporate lawyers to "round up your clients and come see what RAGA is all about" and then contribute because policy was being set "via the courthouse rather than the statehouse." RAGA raked in at least $11.7 million in 2014, including $2.2 million from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and $500,000 from Sheldon Adelson.

The Democrats founded DAGA in 2002, and it now siphons up big chunks of money from many of the same donors as RAGA, including Citigroup, Comcast, Coca-Cola and Pfizer.

RAGA and DAGA provide one-stop shops for influencing state attorneys general. Corporations donate; RAGA and DAGA distribute much of their cash to the campaigns of individual attorneys general; and some of the rest of the money pays for "conferences" that include fundraisers at which corporate executives and their lawyers can donate more to officials in attendance. Then after the attorneys general leave office, they can use the contacts they've developed to go work directly for the corporations.

The end result has been a kind of outsourcing of what citizens would expect their legal representatives to do themselves. For instance, The Times found:

  • Oklahoma's Republican Attorney General Scott Pruitt wrote a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency accusing them of "very significantly overestimating" the pollution caused by fracking; the letter was actually written by lawyers for an Oklahoma oil and gas company (which was a big supporter of RAGA).
  • Missouri's Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster instituted restrictive new rules for investigations by his consumer affairs division, rules that had been suggested by a senior executive at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
  • Plaintiffs' lawyers have encouraged many attorneys general, mostly Democrats, to file hundreds of lawsuits against businesses; the attorneys general then hire the outside lawyers to do most of the work in return for contingency fees, usually 20 percent of any settlement.
...
But here's the funny part: all the attorneys general questioned by The Times maintain that the money and lobbying have no influence on their decisions whatsoever. This means that the corporations doing the lobbying are engaged in a massive waste of shareholder resources. In other words, if the attorneys general truly believe what they say, they should consider filing a huge, multi-state lawsuit against their donors.

Ofc it has absolutely no influence on your decisions when someone just gave you a ton of money that helped get you elected. Why would anyone feel obligated to do some favor in return?

Plus, instead of shmoozing and politicking and spending time asking for campaign donations so they can hold on to their jobs for another term, mebbe it would be nice if the AGs could spend some time actually being the "people's lawyers".


By min | April 23, 2015, 1:04 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link




Why is fnord cranky today?

When i'm on hold, stop breaking in every 30 seconds to tell me that your representatives are still busy helping other customers. I know that; it's why i'm still on hold. Your insipid on-hold music is enough to let me know that i haven't been disconnected (which has already happened twice). When you turn that off to give me your dumb message, i think that someone is ready to finally talk to me, and i have to stop what i'm doing. If you'd just shut up i could sit here and work on something else until you're ready and i wouldn't be so cranky.

Also, why hasn't everyone adopted the "put in your phone number and we'll call you when we're ready" method? Getting disconnected sucks, but getting disconnected and therefore losing your place in line after waiting for 30 minutes really sucks.


By fnord12 | April 22, 2015, 12:31 PM | My stupid life | Comments (1) | Link




Thoughts on the Daredevil Netflix Series So Far

Fnord and i have watched the first 8 episodes. We'll prolly do some sort of sum up once we finish watching all the episodes. But, i needed to say two things.

1) I know you own a razor, Matt. I saw it in your bathroom. How are you going into court looking like you've got dirt on your face? Use the fucking razor! And it's not even electric, so how are you maintaining just the right amount of scruff every single day? Ugh. Scruff is not cute if it's your every day look. It just makes you look like you won't ever finish growing out that beard.

2) Vanessa is crazy in her crazy head. What the hell is wrong with her brain? Fnord says she hangs out with a lot of artists so she can't hear the crazy when the Kingpin talks, but c'mon. There might as well have been a flashing neon sign over his head in episode 8. When he asked if he was a monster, the answer she should have been shouting in her head was "YES!!!" and the verbal one should have been "Oh, I gotta go save my friend from this fake emergency that I asked her to text me about so that I'd have an excuse to leave buh-bye."

And these are the things i think when i'm enjoying the show i'm watching.


By min | April 22, 2015, 9:38 AM | Comics & TeeVee | Comments (6) | Link




SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

Ms. Marvel #14 - Takeshi Miyazawa is still on art and i continue to prefer it over Adrian Alphona's. Such a great range of expressions. Really perfect especially for the downtime romance stuff. Storywise i guess i'm just a tad disappointed. I mentioned a few issues back that the one thing that this book is lacking is subplots. There's really just the main story and that's it. That's not quite true since we do have Bruno not-so-secretly pining for Kamala, and there was a little movement on that front in this issue. But there's not much there, really (although it was handled well this issue). I took heart in the fact that the lettercol a few issues back said that the book was going to start focusing more on Kamala's Inhuman side as well as a romantic interest. But i assumed that meant those things in addition to the villain/adventure of the month. Instead those things have become the villain/adventure of the month. I still enjoy this book, as evidenced by the fact that it and Daredevil are the only two Marvel books i'm still reading. But i feel like it could use a little more depth to bring it from a good monthly story to a truly classic ongoing series. I guess it's all moot anyway, with the Secret Wars stuff coming up.

Now where's my banana? Ook ook ook!


By fnord12 | April 21, 2015, 4:10 PM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link




Ook ook

Tom Brevoort:

And don't get me started on comic book criticism. These days, the level of critical discourse in terms of reviewers is that of a chimpanzee most of the time. Critical acclaim is only worthwhile when the opinions of the critic are informed and applied with critical acumen. By and large, we don't have critics anymore, we have bloggers.

By fnord12 | April 20, 2015, 8:28 AM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link




Recap 66

It Looks Good On You, Though, Flerm


By min | April 17, 2015, 10:55 AM | D&D | Comments (0) | Link




It's like my conscience is talking to me

Recognizing that Movable Type is a dead platform, i've been doing a lot of hacking of the code lately. The good news is that no one will ever look at mine.

At least i can do it myself and i don't have to call this guy.


By fnord12 | April 17, 2015, 10:50 AM | Comics & My stupid life | Comments (1) | Link




Tentacles...

...can sometimes be a problem.


By fnord12 | April 16, 2015, 3:22 PM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link




Gender Pay Gap in 2014

From FiveThirtyEight:

Tuesday, April 14, is the 19th annual Equal Pay Day. The day is a symbolic representation of the gender pay gap: The average woman would have had to work all last year and into April this year to earn as much as the average man did in 2014 alone. But speaking in averages isn't always the best way to understand the wage gap. Factors such as race, education and workweek hours can drastically widen (and narrow) the difference between men's and women's pay.

For example, the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning nonprofit think tank, looked at the hourly wages for men and women across income percentiles and found that at every decile, men outearned women in 2014. The gap is largest at the 95th percentile, with women earning only 79 percent of what men earn in the same income level.1 The narrowing of the wage gap for low-income earners is largely due to the minimum wage, which is the same for men and women. But the lowest-wage occupations remain disproportionately female.

Happy Unequal Pay Day, ladies.

The post has several links you can click through plus a graphic. One of them goes to the Economic Policy Institute.

Though the gap between men and women's wages is smaller for lower-wage earners, there is still a significant gender wage gap at all levels of the wage distribution, particularly at the middle and the top. To close this gender wage gap, women need to see wage growth faster than their male counterparts. Although women have seen modest wage gains in the last several decades, the main reason the gender wage gap has slowly narrowed is that the vast majority of men's wages have stagnated or declined. The best way to close the gender wage gap is for both men and women to see real wage increases, with women at a faster rate than men.

Yay minimum wage, i guess.

In a society where there are still more single mothers than fathers, women are still not getting equal pay. At least in Chile, employers can claim it's because they're providing childcare.


By min | April 16, 2015, 8:30 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link




On the other hand, you really can't go wrong with a pet tiger

No one seems to know what to do with Wonder Woman. It's really not that hard. She's a super hero. Give her things to punch.


By fnord12 | April 15, 2015, 4:46 PM | Comics & Movies | Comments (1) | Link




This guy lives down the street

Click it for the full cartoon by Brian McFadden, but something about that particular portion struck me.


By fnord12 | April 11, 2015, 6:43 PM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link




Preserving Old Video Games Will Apparently Bring On the Apocalypse

Or the destruction of the video game industry, according to the Entertainment Software Association.

EFF, along with law student Kendra Albert, is asking the Copyright Office to give some legal protection to game enthusiasts, museums, and academics who preserve older video games and keep them playable. We're asking for an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's anti-circumvention provisions (Section 1201) for those who modify games to keep them working after the servers they need are shut down. Many player communities, along with museums, archives, and researchers, want to keep the games they own playable after publishers shut down the servers the games depend on. Section 1201 creates legal difficulty for these communities, which is why we've asked the Copyright Office to give them an exemption.

Section 1201 is often used by the entertainment industries not to prevent copyright infringement but to control markets and lock out competition. So it's not surprising that ESA (the trade association for the largest game producers), along with MPAA and RIAA, have written to the Copyright Office to oppose this exemption. They say that modifying games to connect to a new server (or to avoid contacting a server at all) after publisher support ends--letting people continue to play the games they paid for--will destroy the video game industry. They say it would "undermine the fundamental copyright principles on which our copyright laws are based."

If they aren't going to maintain the servers and no longer want to make money off the games, why shouldn't people who already own it have a way to keep playing that game? How many times have you gone back to play Super Nintendo Zelda? Yeah, mebbe some people would make some money selling it to people who didn't originally own the game, but how does that compare to how much video game companies already made on the old, unmaintained game and will continue to make on newer games? Having the ability to play an older game isn't going to make people suddenly decide they are done buying new games. Exactly how will it destroy the industry?


By min | April 9, 2015, 8:53 AM | Liberal Outrage & Video Games | Comments (4) | Link




Marvel Sales

February.


By fnord12 | April 3, 2015, 2:03 PM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link




SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

Elektra #11 - Well, goodbye! This was an interesting series. I can't say i'm too broken up to see it gone. But it definitely had it's moments. Mike del Mundo's art was the main selling point. He says in his goodbye blurb at the end of this issue that he was strongly influenced by Frank Miller & Bill Sienkiewicz's Elektra: Assassin, and that's what i liked about it too. Plotwise, i felt like things were too decompressed and meandering, and it's interesting to see that in his end blurb, writer Harden Blackman admits that he had no idea what he was going to do with the character when he started and that the editors had to get him back on track when he "lost the plot". In a sense that really makes this feel like a wasted opportunity. Even if the book was really intended as a vehicle for del Mundo, Marvel ought to have had a stronger strategy for the book. I feel the same way about Black Widow (which is still being published, but we dropped) and She-Hulk (cancelled). All books have a hard time staying afloat nowadays, and a book with indie style art and a female lead character especially could use all the help it could get. Marvel (admirably) decided to launch a number of books with female leads following the success/enthusiasm from Captain and Ms. Marvel, but "show up and throw up" was not a good strategy for keeping them on the market. I also have the more fanboy complaint of the casual use of villains, and that continues with the very end of this issue where a bunch of moderately powerful villains, most of whom in my opinion should be not members of an assassin's guild (but that may not be Blackman's fault), show up to get menaced by Elektra. I honestly would have liked this series more if Elektra got to actually fight those villains, preferably one on one, but actual super-villain fights were mostly shunted to the sidelines in this book. Still, there were some interesting moments, so i'm glad to have read the series even though at the same time i'm not too sorry to see it go.

Daredevil #14 - Based on the cover i wondered if maybe Darkhawk was in this issue. But it's really a daughter of the Owl. She's introduced pretty well. Seems more powerful than her father and starts off in an interesting situation with Daredevil that is handled well, as is the Owl/Shroud story which moves from subplot to main plot with this issue. This continues to be a really nice book. The ad on the cover informing us that the Netflix Daredevil sereis is starting soon makes me regret even more that Waid and Samnee are leaving, since that might have resulted in an influx of readers for a series that gets a lot of critical praise but only moderate commercial success.

Thanos vs. Hulk #4 - I've seen people complain that this series was a bait & switch, since Thanos turns out to barely figure into the story, with Annihilus being the main threat. And that is definitely true, especially since we know that this book was originally intended to be a story in Hulk Smash but was deliberately moved into its own mini-series with Thanos' name put first. But the truth is i would have gotten this no matter what, so i don't personally have anything to complain about. Well, i mean, i do, but not about that. I've enjoyed the series so far, but with this final issues some of the minor things that have been bugging me came to the forefront. The first is the scripting of the Hulk, which seems off. I've read a lot of dumb Hulk over the years, and he's never called people "dummies" or complained that the villain "flaps jaws too much". I get that that the Hulk has now had so many personalities that you can't officially write him "wrong", but a) this one is close enough to classic dumb Hulk that it feels wrong in an uncanny valley sort of way and b)for a story like this, you really want classic dumb Hulk anyway. The other thing is the big panels resulting in low content, which was especially noticeable in this issue which was mostly a fight. I liked the basic idea here, but it was probably worth 4 pages of story, not 20. I should start scoring comics with a panels-to-pages ratio and see what i think the sweet spot is. Anyway, this is over. Actually between this and Elektra ending, our pull list is i think down to just Daredevil and Ms. Marvel.


By fnord12 | April 3, 2015, 10:16 AM | Comics | Comments (2) | Link




Well then fuck the Board of Trustees

Fidelity Board of Trustees love genocide

By fnord12 | April 3, 2015, 10:05 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link




Nuts!

Diet by the Most Emailed list is probably not wise, but Krugman's post is still funny.

Here's the fish oil article. Except for the nuts, it's all irrelevant to us vegans but it's nice to hear we might not be killing ourselves even though we can't take fish oil supplements.


By fnord12 | April 1, 2015, 2:32 PM | Science | Comments (0) | Link




Ethics in Video Games

I thought this was actually pretty kewl.

Using data to create moral complexity in video games has become a specialty for Telltale Games, a studio whose titles -- including adaptations of both "The Walking Dead" and "Game of Thrones" -- focus not on battering enemies with weapons, but on asking players to make difficult ethical choices. Their interactive stories are a sandbox of morality, one where we're able to glimpse not just how we might respond in life-or-death scenarios, but also how we stack up against everyone else. Are we braver? Less loyal? More pragmatic? And how do we feel when our moral decisions are measured by the yardstick of our peers?
...
That sort of moral complexity is exactly what prompted Tobias Staaby, a high school teacher in Norway, to integrate the "Walking Dead" video game into the curriculum for his ethics class. Before each significant decision, he discusses various ethical frameworks with his students -- including relational ethics, consequential ethics, and ethics of duty or virtue -- and asks them to debate each choice before voting as a class on which way to go.

"Depending on what kind of ethics you base your arguments on, there are no evil decisions in 'The Walking Dead,'" says Staaby. "Rather, are you making decisions [to create] the best consequences or making sure that the action itself is a good deed?"

...

In his classes, Staaby observed a tendency for students in the same session to lean in a similar ethical direction over the course of the game as they debated and observed the opinions of their peers. "There's a culture that solidifies during gameplay," says Staaby. "The voices that are the loudest or most outspoken are often the voices that most students lean towards."

Dr. Praveen R. Kambam, a psychiatrist who consults with the media analysis group Broadcast Thought, says this tendency to be influenced by social feedback is what's known as a conformity bias. "In other words, [people] tend to look to the actions of others in deciding how they should behave," said Kambam. "This bias is stronger when faced with questions that do not have absolute answers, like moral questions."

The layered nature of identity in video games can complicate matters as well, since players make different decisions depending on whether or not they're role-playing the characters they inhabit. This gets particularly complicated in the second season of "The Walking Dead," where you play as an 11-year-old girl named Clementine. When you're faced with horrifying situations, will you make the decisions that you would make, or the ones you think she would make?

(I confess i keep reading the teacher's name as "Stabby" and then mentally giggling a little.)

I think it's interesting that Telltale games are trying to make people see beyond the usual "I need to blow all this stuff up so that i can get to the boss" strategy of gaming. The comparison between your decisions and those made by other players after every chapter must help keep it on the players' minds, too. I know that when we play D&D, it's sometimes too easy to forget that hacking through a bunch of opponents just to get through the dungeon isn't always the best solution nor the one you should be making if you are truly role-playing your character. It's certainly easy to forget when you have party members with different moral compasses. These are your companions. You guys fight trolls together. Ofc you want to support their decisions. But wait - you just condoned a cold-blooded killing of an unarmed opponent who posed no threat. And you're supposed to be playing a lawful good character! So, yeah, conformity bias.

Now, how do i play these games without actually playing them, because, as we all know, i get nauseous sometimes playing 2-D scrolling games. And it's only been two years since i've been able to just sit in the same room as fnord while he was playing a first-person shooter without getting a splitting headache.

Actually, you know what? I take it back. I don't want to play these sorts of games because i'd constantly be worried that i made the "wrong" choice. I've been conditioned to expect questions to have "right" and "wrong" answers and my brain would prolly explode if i tried to make it understand there was no such thing in this case. I'd end up anxious and whiny and nobody wants to see that.


By min | March 31, 2015, 8:17 AM | Video Games | Comments (0) | Link




It's all Michael Douglas Ever Wanted

McDonald's is considering letting its customers start their day whenever they want, bringing in an all-day breakfast in an attempt to juice up falling sales.

Link



By min | March 30, 2015, 1:03 PM | Movies | Comments (1) | Link




Time to Get Squatting

Update: Fnord tells me that weight lifting is considered "muscle-strengthening" and not "weight-bearing" and that what i'd actually have to do is jump and run. It's entirely possible that i responded with something highly uncomplimentary.



The Toast has an article up on bone health. Before we get into that, can i just point out that the author has a PhD in "bioarchaeology". It's like she went to a school that just said "What do you like doing? We'll create a degree for that thing." I either went to a shit university or i didn't take advantage of the opportunities at my school to make up a goddamned major that i might have actually enjoyed. I am so bitter.

Anyhoo, back to bone health.

There are two types of cell responsible for bone maintenance - osteoblasts and osteoclasts. Osteoblasts build bone, and osteoclasts take it away. The body is highly responsive to changes in activity, and bone is constantly updating itself accordingly. The general principle is that your body thinks what's happening now will happen forever. In response to more activity (known as physical stress), bone will accumulate more osteoblasts to strengthen itself. Each step makes tiny microfractures, which tells the bone "Come on, I'm breakin' here! Give me more strength!" and the osteoblasts pile on. In the absence of activity - during periods of prolonged sitting or lying down - the osteoclasts come in to take away unnecessary bone. Generally it gets sent out of the body in your urine. The basic principle is that the more activity you do, the stronger your bones will be.
...
I will now tell you the Secret Tricks to Maintaining Bone Density Doctors Don't Want You to Know: you had to build it in puberty, and you have to keep exercising to maintain it. As far as my research has shown, you can keep building bone and increasing bone density up until your 20s. After that, you can maintain or decrease your bone density. It's quite easy to decrease bone: just do nothing. To maintain it, you need weight-bearing exercise. Osteoblasts respond to microfractures, so the way to keep those osteoblasts occupied is by running, jumping, bouncing on your bosu, Zumba, those crazy-intense boot-camp push-ups. Things that (sadly) will not work: cycling, swimming, yoga. Not that those aren't healthy activities! They are still excellent for the heart, for weight maintenance, for stress. But they do nothing for your bones.

The bad news (for me, obliviously. i don't know what you do): i hate running, jumping, and push-ups. I'm also a HUGE fan of doing nothing.

The good news: i don't hate weight lifting (except split squats. split squats are the devil, i tell you. The. Devil.).

What about supplements, you say. Well, like most vitamin supplements,

There are a number of recommendations around the web, including eating eggshells, leaping like fleas, consuming 1200 milligrams of calcium daily, and taking various supplements. The problem with taking supplements is that if you aren't actively processing the calcium, you'll just pee it out.

Stupid expensive pee.

At this point, fnord and i can only work on maintaining the bone density we have. There's no way to increase it. That ship has sailed, my friend. [emphasis mine]

The best time to build bone is right around puberty, during the adolescent growth spurt. Yes, the time when you might get your period any moment and you smell terrible and your limbs are flying around all uncoordinated - this is when you needed to be doing the most exercise. (But watch out! Too much exercise, especially combined with eating disorders - I'm looking at you, ballet and gymnastics - and your periods stop and your bones get weaker.) Bones continue to grow with less velocity until the early 20s, stopping slightly earlier in women than men, and generally have completed their growth (in both length and density) by age 25. Sorry, over-25s: it's all downhill from here.

I guess now's the time to thank my mom for forcing me to take ballet for 9 years. Take that, osteoporosis!


By min | March 28, 2015, 12:36 PM | Science | Comments (2) | Link




Super Terrible Kindle Covers

I can't...*gasp*...stop...*wheeze*...laughing...OMG! He's a horse! And a MAN! *SNORT*

The Tumblr Kindle Cover Disasters is exactly what its name suggests: one hilarious, mystifying self-designed e-book cover after another. The covers run the gamut from catastrophic use of MS Paint to Frankenstein-like Photoshop jobs to morbid intrigue: What could possibly happen in Hide and Seek to merit that font?

Today might be the greatest day ever.


By min | March 27, 2015, 1:19 PM | Boooooks & Ummm... Other? | Comments (6) | Link




Never Forget to Take Your Fiber Supplements

Or microbes will eat out your stomach lining. Or something like that.

Fiber has long been linked to better health, but new research shows how the gut microbiota might play a role in this pattern. One investigation discovered that adding more fiber to the diet can trigger a shift from a microbial profile linked to obesity to one correlated with a leaner physique. Another recent study shows that when microbes are starved of fiber, they can start to feed on the protective mucus lining of the gut, possibly triggering inflammation and disease.
...
As gut microbes are starved of fermentable fiber, some do die off. Others, however, are able to switch to another food source in the gut: the mucus lining that helps keep the gut wall intact and free from infection.

In a recent study presented at the Keystone meeting, Eric Martens of the University of Michigan Medical School, postdoctoral researcher Mahesh Desai and their colleagues found that this fuel switch had striking consequences in rodents. A group of mice fed a high-fiber diet had healthy gut lining, but for mice on a fiber-free diet, "the mucus layer becomes dramatically diminished," he explained at the meeting. This shift might sometimes have severe health consequences. Research by a Swedish team, published last year in the journal Gut, showed a link between bacteria penetrating the mucus layer and ulcerative colitis, a painful chronic bowel disease.

A third group of mice received high-fiber chow and fiber-free chow on alternating days--"like what we would do if we were being bad and eating McDonald's one day and eating our whole grains the next," Martens joked. Even the part-time high-fiber diet was not enough to keep guts healthy: these mice had a mucus layer about half the thickness of mice on the consistently high-fiber diet. If we can extend these results to humans, he said, it "tells us that even eating your whole fiber foods every other day is still not enough to protect you. You need to eat a high-fiber diet every day to keep a healthy gut." Along the same lines, Swanson's group found that the gut microbiomes of his adult subjects reverted back to initial profiles as soon as the high-fiber bars were discontinued.

I guess pandas never suffer from ulcerative colitis, what with all that bamboo they can't actually digest. *shakes fist* Pandas!!


By min | March 27, 2015, 1:09 PM | Science | Comments (0) | Link




Marvel Sales

January. New writer with a slightly different approach to the analysis.


By fnord12 | March 27, 2015, 12:25 PM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link




Recap 65

Did You Notice All Those Albino Alligators Were Left-Handed?


By min | March 26, 2015, 9:52 PM | D&D | Comments (0) | Link




That's you, bro

I love when Windows Update demands a reboot (always at the most opportune time) and i begrudgingly tell it to go ahead, and then it complains that Windows Update needs to shut down before i can reboot. Like, seriously, dude? Should i really be trusting you to update my computer?


By fnord12 | March 26, 2015, 9:43 AM | My stupid life | Comments (1) | Link




Who Doesn't Like a Little Measles with Their Ebola?

Keeps things interesting not knowing which horrible disease will kill everyone you know. Link

The epidemic that already killed almost 10,000 people in west Africa also upended daily life and scuttled plans to vaccinate thousands of kids against preventable diseases. As a result, an additional 100,000 children may have been left vulnerable to measles, according to new projections. If those inoculation gaps are not addressed, measles could deliver a death toll rivaling the Ebola epidemic itself, warns a new study published today in Science.
...
Although one Ebola patient is projected to infect one or two other people, one measles sufferer can infect an estimated 12 to 18 additional people (assuming no one is immune to the disease via vaccination or natural immunity). To make matters worse, unlike Ebola, someone with measles may be contagious without showing symptoms.
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But the Ebola outbreak probably exacerbated the problem by further depressing inoculation rates, according to the new research in Science. With such alarming vaccine gaps a large outbreak could conceivably tear through communities and cause as many as 16,000 deaths, the international research team wrote. Their analysis assumes that the Ebola outbreak festered for about 18 months in total and led to a 75 percent drop in vaccination rates.

By min | March 25, 2015, 11:03 AM | Science | Comments (0) | Link




The Surveillance Act That Wouldn't Die

They didn't get CISPA to pass. Now they're trying again with CISA (Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act).

Cybersecurity bills aim to facilitate information sharing between companies and the government, but their broad immunity clauses for companies, vague definitions, and aggressive spying powers make them secret surveillance bills. CISA marks the fifth time in as many years that Congress has tried to pass "cybersecurity" legislation.
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Aside from its redundancy, the Senate Intelligence bill grants two new authorities to companies. First, the bill authorizes companies to launch countermeasures (now called "defensive measures" in the bill) for a "cybersecurity purpose" against a "cybersecurity threat." "Cybersecurity purpose" is so broadly defined that it means almost anything related to protecting (including physically protecting) an information system, which can be a computer or software. The same goes for a "cybersecurity threat," which includes anything that "may result" in an unauthorized effort to impact the availability of the information system.

Even with the changed language, it's still unclear what restrictions exist on "defensive measures." Since the definition of "information system" is inclusive of files and software, can a company that has a file stolen from them launch "defensive measures" against the thief's computer? What's worse, the bill may allow such actions as long as they don't cause "substantial" harm. The bill leaves the term "substantial" undefined. If true, the countermeasures "defensive measures" clause could increasingly encourage computer exfiltration attacks on the Internet--a prospect that may appeal to some "active defense" (aka offensive) cybersecurity companies, but does not favor the everyday user.

Second, the bill adds a new authority for companies to monitor information systems to protect an entity's hardware or software. Here again, the broad definitions could be used in conjunction with the monitoring clause to spy on users engaged in potentially innocuous activity. Once collected, companies can then share the information, which is also called "cyber threat indicators," freely with government agencies like the NSA.

When i read "defensive measures", i picture the goon squad in Brazil that breaks into your house to arrest you for not filling out the proper forms.


By min | March 25, 2015, 10:57 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link




Where Are the Women?

From FiveThirtyEight:

Movies take place in a weird alternate universe where men outnumber women by more than 2-to-1, and where it's strikingly rare for women to have a real conversation about something other than a man. This imbalance extends to how certain jobs are portrayed in movies, even as bit parts, and reinforces old gender stereotypes.

I recently started diving into the OpusData database, which tracks film releases, box office performance and -- most interestingly -- screen credits. For instance, you can look up every role since 19951 that was credited as "bartender." There have been 145 such roles with gender data, and about 85 percent of the time the performer playing that bartender was a man.

I pulled that data for a couple dozen careers, some considered prestigious, others specifically gendered.

The vast majority of these are supporting roles -- the scientist in the background as the protagonist discovers the deadly disease has mutated, the emergency room nurse holding the respirator as our hero is wheeled into surgery on a gurney, and so on. But they represent Hollywood's background, the fabric you may take for granted but that can strongly influence perceptions about gender. If every engineer on screen is a dude, that sends a message about who can be an an engineer.

Even in fields with a large gender gap in real life, what we see on-screen is even worse. Yeah, medicine and law skew male, but not as much as in the movies. In 2005, 30 percent of lawyers were women, but in this data set, only 11 percent of lawyers or attorneys were played by women. And according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, about 32 percent of doctors were women in September 2014, but on screen, only 10 percent were women.

This isn't really new. It's a message that Geena Davis has been putting out there for a while now. Here is an interview with her in a recent issue of the Guardian (emphasis mine):

[The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media] commissioned the largest piece of research ever on gender depictions in media. Spanning a 20-year period, it proved what Davis had feared: in family rated films and children's television, for every one female speaking character there are three males, while female characters make up just 17% of crowd scenes.

"What are we saying to kids when the female characters are hyper-sexualised, narrowly stereotyped or not even there? The message clearly is girls are not as important as boys, women are not as important as men and they take this all in completely unconsciously.

"Popular media is constantly hammering home the message that women and girls are second-class citizens. All the efforts that we put in to try and erase it, all the important things that we must do to empower women and girls, are being undermined by this unconscious message that women and girls aren't as valuable as men."

17%??!! I think we can all agree that women make up more than 17% of the population, so why aren't movies accurately portraying that? We're talking background crowd scenes here. Not major roles. You just need to be a warm body that can move and yet, even in this women are underrepresented.


By min | March 25, 2015, 10:22 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (3) | Link




Double Boiler

Eight people, three cabbages, five pounds of potatoes. That's a two pot-er. The biggest we have, please.


By fnord12 | March 22, 2015, 12:20 PM | My stupid life | Comments (0) | Link




Hopefully, you and me could now split some infinitives

The Grammar Nazi vs. Grammar Libertarian Wars continue.


By fnord12 | March 20, 2015, 7:55 AM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (1) | Link




SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

MINOR SPOILERS BELOW, but i'm probably the last person besides Min to be reading this issue in realtime so it'll probably be ok.

Ms. Marvel #13 - For the last two issues, i was like "Yeah, this is good, BUT...", but for this issue i'm unequivocal. As promised in a previous lettercol, we're seeing a few different threads getting juggled: Kamala adjusting to her Inhumanity, a love interest introduced, and a return to the focus on Kamala's family, which had been a bit lacking as the Inventor story was in full steam. So all of that plus a (local) super-villain fight. The one thing that i do find a little annoying is that it all gets tied back to the Inhumans thread: the super-villain and the love interest both turn out to also be Inhumans. I get that the idea is to show that there can be Inhumans that are bad or otherwise not affiliated with Medusa, but it's a big Marvel universe and i don't want this to turn into an Inhumans franchise book. But that's a minor point. One other thing i found a little weird, and it's really just a confirmation of last issue, is that Kamala is unfamiliar with Loki. I could see her not recognizing Kid Loki as the real Loki, but in this issue she talks about Loki like she's never heard of him, period. And she's supposed to be a huge Avengers fan-nerd. I'm fairly certain that the Avengers' origin, which was instigated by Loki, is public knowledge. Or at least i would have thought that someone like her that has delved deep into Avengers trivia would know about him. Oh well, another minor point. This was a fun issue, and i really, really liked the guest art by Takeshi Miyazawa. Tonally similar to Adrian Alphona but a little more grounded and less stylized. Interestingly, Miyazawa was the alternate artist for Alphona on the early Runaways issues, too. I actually like Miyazawa better and would love to see to see him as the regular artist. But maybe "regular artist" isn't an applicable concept at this point; the lettercol this issue says that Alphona will return "with issue 16 in the very special Ms. Marvel Last Days storyline" which i guess leads into Secret Wars and a reboot?


By fnord12 | March 18, 2015, 7:39 AM | Comics | Comments (2) | Link




Who funds Riftwar?

Buzzfeed:

Yet there it was in black and white: "RIFT AMONG PROGRESSIVES EMERGES ON TPP," read a headline in Politico's daily labor and employment tipsheet, Morning Shift. The short item detailed the emergence of the "Progressive Coalition for American Jobs" -- a group of "progressives and Democrats committed to leveling the playing field for American workers," according to the coalition's barebones website. The website adds that "it's critical that we give the president trade promotion authority and establish the Trans-Pacific Partnership."

There's something weird about the group, though: No one in the Washington, D.C., progressive community seems to have ever heard of them before


By fnord12 | March 13, 2015, 7:48 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link




Babies Come Pre-Polluted

And it's all because your grandparents were exposed to DDT.

Obesity stems primarily from the overconsumption of food paired with insufficient exercise. But this elementary formula cannot explain how quickly the obesity epidemic has spread globally in the past several decades nor why more than one third of adults in the U.S. are now obese. Many researchers believe that a more complex mix of environmental exposures, lifestyle, genetics and the microbiome's makeup help explain that phenomenon. And a growing body of work suggests that exposure to certain chemicals--found in nature as well as industry--may play an essential role by driving the body to produce and store surplus fat in its tissues. Evidence of that cause-and-effect relationship in humans is still limited, but in laboratory animals and in petri dishes data linking the chemicals to problematic weight gain are mounting. Moreover, the effects in animals appear to be passed on not just to immediate offspring but also grandchildren and great-grandchildren--potentially [emphasis mine] accounting for some multigenerational obesity.
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Scientists already know that humans are exposed to a potent soup of chemicals even before birth. Some of those chemicals, known as endocrine disruptors, may shut off, turn on or modify signals that hormones produced by the body would otherwise carry. That disruption appears to short-circuit regulation of energy levels and how the body reacts to stress, sometimes with disastrous consequences. Hundreds of contaminants typically found in consumer products, including dozens of flame retardants, numerous pesticides and endocrine disrupting bisphenol A, have been detected in the umbilical cord blood of newborn babies--which means that "to a disturbing extent, babies are born 'pre-polluted,'" according to the President's Cancer Panel.

The presence of these chemicals in the womb, in itself, does not mean they will cause any harm. Animal research, however, suggests that many of these substances may cause serious, long-term consequences. For example, tributyltin, an endocrine disruptor found in water pipes and used in plastics, increases fat mass, reprograms stem cells and produces more fat cells in mice across multiple generations, according to a study published in 2013. Meanwhile, when pregnant rats were exposed to pollutants including common plastics, agricultural chemicals and jet fuel, their great-grandchildren were more likely to be obese or have other disorders, according to research from Washington State University biologist Michael Skinner. As Skinner noted in the August Scientific American, "Some part of the increases in obesity, diabetes and other fast-rising diseases among baby boomers and more recent generations might have originated with their parents' and grandparents' exposure to pollutants such as DDT and dioxin." Some of this trend may be due to alterations that occur in sex cell DNA that are then passed on through affected sperm but more studies need to firm up that relationship.

Researchers need to discover some endocrine un-disruptors so that we can turn on the de-activated gene expressions and pass that on to our offspring.


By min | March 10, 2015, 1:16 PM | Science | Comments (1) | Link




Not traitors

Seeing the NY Daily News front page regarding the Republicans sending the letter opposing the Obama/Iran nuke treaty gave me flashbacks to 2001-2003 when anyone opposing the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions had their patriotism questioned. So i agree with Glenn Greenwald that we should criticize the GOP on the substance, not for 'undermining' the Commander-in-Chief.


By fnord12 | March 10, 2015, 1:15 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link




No context picture of the day


By fnord12 | March 10, 2015, 10:32 AM | TeeVee & Ummm... Other? | Comments (0) | Link




Surviving a Zombie Outbreak

2 problems -

1) New Jersey has the lowest survival rate
2) I have absolutely no clue where Glacier National Park is. I've never even heard of it until just now. Damn you, geography! *shakes fist*

Best places to hide during a zombie apocalypse

Eric Mack reports at Cnet that a team of researchers at Cornell University, inspired by the book "World War Z" by Max Brooks, have used statistical-mechanics to model how an actual zombie outbreak might unfold and determined the best long-term strategy for surviving the walking dead: Head for the hills. Specifically, you should probably get familiar now with the general location of Glacier National Park so that when it all goes down, you can start heading in that direction. The project started with differential equations to model a fully connected population, then moved on to lattice-based models, and ended with a full US-scale simulation of an outbreak across the continental US. "At their heart, the simulations are akin to modeling chemical reactions taking place between different elements and, in this case, we have four states a person can be in--human," says Alex Alemi, "infected, zombie, or dead zombie--with approximately 300 million people."

Alemi believes cities would succumb to the zombie scourge quickly, but the infection rate would slow down significantly in more sparsely populated areas and could take months to reach places like the Northern Rockies and Glacier National Park. "Given the dynamics of the disease, once the zombies invade more sparsely populated areas, the whole outbreak slows down--there are fewer humans to bite, so you start creating zombies at a slower rate," Alemi says. Once you hit Montana and Idaho, you might as well keep heading farther north into the Canadian Rockies and all the way up to Alaska where data analysis shows you're most likely to survive the zombie apocalypse. The state with the lowest survival rate? -- New Jersey. Unfortunately a full scale simulation of an outbreak in the United States shows that for `realistic' parameters, we are largely doomed.

I'm also a terrible runner. And have bad eyesight. I think i'm pretty much dead in any apocalypse scenario.


By min | March 10, 2015, 8:47 AM | Science | Comments (0) | Link




Ohhhh, it's Labor Day

We just had Daylight Savings here in America (and the SuperMegaHousehold is not handling the mornings very well, i can tell you). So when i saw on my day calendar that yesterday was Eight Hours Day in Australia, my mind leaped to strange conclusions (maybe due to the sleep deprivation). Like, is that how they handle Daylight Savings in Australia? They just have an eight hour day? That's crazy! How does that work?! But of course it turns out that it's just the day that they celebrate the implementation of the eight hour work day. Much less interesting!

This is the problem with the internet. You can immediately debunk all your strange and wonderful theories.


By fnord12 | March 10, 2015, 8:27 AM | My stupid life | Comments (0) | Link



No need to stop here. There's plenty more SuperMegaMonkey where that came from.